Life, mental health

Magical Readathon 2020


Let’s be honest, the quarantine lock down is getting boring. There’s only so much Animal Crossing one person can play. Then I spotted this hash tag floating about in twitter: #owlsreadathon2020. Some of my book blogging friends were getting really excited about it all so I did some investigating and now I’ve been lured in.

Readathons involve reading a certain amount of books in a set period. This one is Harry Potter themed! You basically look through the career book, pick a magical career, and for every O.W.L required there is a prompt for a book. I’ve opted for the ‘Hogwarts Professor’ path which has left me with seven prompts. Here are the seven books I’m about to commence reading:

Prompt 1: A book set at sea or the coast

Book: A Pinch of Magic by Michelle Harrison

I tried reading this book last year but I wasn’t in a reading frame of mind. However, I remembered the town the book is set in as a coastal location and there was a boat on the front cover. This was the best bet I had in my collection for this prompt.

Prompt 2: A book with a white cover.

Book: The Cherries by D. B. Carter

I don’t have too many books with white covers so I was pleased that I was able to include this book in the readathon. It’s a book with kindness at its heart and about finding happiness after trauma and hardship. It’s also written by one of the nicest writers I know.

Prompt 3: A book to mostly be read at night.

Book: Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig

I chose this book mainly as a means of supporting my mental health. Times are tough right now, I’m not sleeping well, and I wanted to ensure my bedtime reading would be positive. Matt Haig’s books always have interesting reflections on mental health and life in general. I’m hoping this will get me into a good frame of mind.

Prompt 4: A book featuring a witch or wizard.

Book: The Wee Free Men by Terry Pratchett

This is a reread for me – I read it for the first time when I was about thirteen. It’s everything you would expect from a Pratchett novel and that includes a witch! I can’t wait to revisit this book.

Prompt 5: A book under 150 pages.

Book: The Iron Man by Ted Hughes

Do you remember the movie The Iron Giant? This is the book behind it. I loved the film as a child and I vaguely remember being read a version of it at primary school. A couple of years ago I bought a copy but I’ve not had an opportunity to read it until now.

Prompt 6: A book featuring shape shifting.

Book: Changeless by Gail Carriger

This is the second book in The Parasol Protectorate series. I read the first book last year and it’s essentially a steam punk fantasy series with a sassy female protagonist. There are vampires and werewolves involved so it met the shape shifting criteria and I’m hoping I’ll be able to read the next two books in the series when I’m done.

Prompt 7: A book selected at random.

Book: Call Me By Your Name by Andre Aciman

This is another book which got left behind last year. I picked it up on a whim during a shopping trip. Mr Robinson helped me by picking up a few random books and this was the only one from his selection that I hadn’t read yet. I’m not completely sure what to expect from this read so that’s quite exciting (fingers crossed it’s not awful).

creative writing, Evolved Energy Short Stories

#52 Knock, Knock!

The fifty-second short story in the Evolved Energy Series.

Previous

Three raps on the door were all it took to grab Eacal’s attention. Every paused boom reverberated in the empty rooms. He knew who was at his door. He’d know that knock anywhere but he didn’t know why they were at his house at nearly midnight. 

He pulled back the solid wooden door and a shock of black hair fell into his chest, limbs sprawling in all directions. Raw alcohol flashed into his nose. If Eacal was anyone else, he would have stumbled. As it was, he held the other man up like a brick wall. 

“You’re drunk.” Eacal laughed. 

The other man struggled onto his feet, pouting up at the brunette that had caught him. “You dropped me!” 

Eacal raised an eyebrow. “If anyone dropped you, it was the door.” 

“It moved!”

“Hicc,” Eacal cast his eyes carefully over his lawyer. “You’re really drunk. What’s wrong?”

Hiccup slalomed against the walls in his effort to reach the living room. He knew the route like the back of his hand but tonight the number of hands in front of his eyes had tripled. Eacal’s iron grip clamped like a vice on his left hip, steering him onto a plush sofa near the fire. Unceremoniously, Hiccup flumped into the cushions. 

“Don’t get all fiery with me. It’s hot!” Hiccup snorted at his own joke. 

Eacal’s eyes widened in utter disbelief. It would seem drunk was an understatement for the condition his friend was currently in. There weren’t enough Earl Grey teabags in his cupboard to sober up a mess this bad, so Eacal mentally prepared for an overnight guest. His younger self would have rushed to the kitchen for a bottle of something and moaned about having to catch up: his middle-aged self grumbled about not being in bed before eleven in the evening. With his son at a sleepover, and his wife on a “girl’s trip”, he could have taken the opportunity to go wild. Instead, he had watched reruns of a sitcom on the same sofa Hiccup was slowly falling asleep on. 

“Do you want a glass of water?”

Hiccup’s eyes pried themselves open. “Yeah. Water is good. It’s blue like your eyes. You have really blue eyes. Did you know that?”

“I’m familiar with my eyes, Hicc.” Eacal swallowed.

He could hear his best friend’s rambling from the kitchen – even over the sound of the running water. His own mouth began to feel drier than his Mother’s attempts at chocolate cake, and so he poured an extra glass. Dealing with a drunk Hiccup was not unprecedented. In their youth they had seen each other drunk so many times that they normally didn’t give it too much thought. Tonight was different. 

“One glass of water.” Eacal smiled as he placed the tumbler on the coffee table. 

Hiccup’s vibrant green eyes never left Eacal’s face. “Why’re you always so nice?”

“I’m not,” Eacal smirked. “You just happen to be on my list of people I like.”

“Like Felicity?”

Eacal paused for a moment. “My wife’s not all that likeable at the moment.”

“You still married her,” Hiccup snorted. “When you could have married me.”

Silence rang through the living room. Eacal felt as though he were swimming in uncharted waters, but he couldn’t seem to pull himself to safety. They were on the verge of opening up Pandora’s box after spending over a decade locking the contents safely away from view. 

“You’re very drunk, Hicc.” 

“Ok.”

“I’ll see you in the morning.” Eacal scratched at the back of his neck and left his best friend in peace. 

(All characters, setting, plot etc. belongs to me – Erin Robinson) 

Life, mental health, Parenting

In Isolation

I’ve nearly spent a full week in total lock down. We’ve had some really tough decisions to make and, as a family, we’re struggling to adjust to our new normal. Coronavirus has changed our life for the foreseeable future. It baffles me that some still don’t take this seriously. It’s not a game if there are lives at stake and it’s very obvious that lives are at stake.

Mr Robinson is not a ‘key worker’ but his office is still open. That means he’s still using public transport to go into the city and spend all day in close proximity with many other people. This led to us having to make one of the roughest choices we have ever been faced with. Ultimately we decided that Gabe and I would go into self isolation with my Mum and sister – I’m asthmatic, as is my Mum, and our steroid medication for asthma is often linked with reduced immune system. In short, our chances of survival if we catch Covid19 are not as good as if we are healthy.

There are people in the UK right now complaining about not being able to go to the pub, moaning about not being able to sit in their favourite cafes, and stubbornly visiting elderly relatives. Last week I literally made the decision to separate our family. That’s not a joke. My kid is talking to his Dad from two metres away through a partially opened window. I haven’t even been able to hold my husband’s hand in nearly a week. I can’t risk getting sick. I don’t want to die and leave behind my husband and toddler.

We don’t know how long this situation will last – at least twelve weeks. That’s three months of our family unit being ripped apart because of this virus. It will be longer if people don’t abide by the regulations and, let’s be honest, there are large groups of people not complying. Panic buying is still happening. Parks are still crowded. I fully expect the country to go into a full lock down in the very near future.

But we’re not alone. My family have made tough choices but so have many other families across the world right now. We will cope. I may have to practice Voodoo on the creators of children’s TV shows but we will cope.

creative writing, Evolved Energy Short Stories

#51 Bullseye

The fifty-first short story in the Evolved Energy Series. 

Previous

Overhead, the speakers pulsed out a smooth R&B ‘classic’ that Hiccup was sure hadn’t been popular for at least eighty years. It wasn’t his style but that didn’t matter. What did matter was that Eacal was currently so engrossed in his game that he was unconsciously rocking his hips to the beat of the music. Back and forth. Back and forth. In the blue filtered lights of Saul’s bar, Hiccup thought his best friend resembled a wave in the ocean. 

“Stop staring at me.” Eacal called over his shoulder with a smile tingling his voice. 

Hiccup snorted. “Hurry up and take the shot.”

A shrug of the shoulders was enough to remind Hiccup that Eacal could never be rushed. Everything moved to his personal rhythm. Not too early and not too late. Eacal would take his time: always. 

Neither man bothered to mention how pointless an endeavour this was. After all, Hiccup would most definitely cheat, and Eacal would definitely not cheat. Eacal would throw out the accusation, Hiccup would deny all knowledge, Eacal would grudgingly apologise, and then they’d drink vodka. 

“What’s the point of this?” Hiccup sneered up at the circular board on the wall. 

“To hit the target?”

Hiccup drummed his fingers against the table. “But it’s so easy.”

“For us, maybe,” Eacal exhaled and, in the same breath, released the dart into the air. “But if you do it without your powers then you’ve got to be precise. That takes skill.”

“Precision isn’t your strength.”

Eacal laughed as his dart lodged itself into the wall. “Oops.”

“As I was saying.”

“Don’t be so smug.” Eacal smirked and stepped back to give Hiccup access to the board. 

“We’re yet to find a game you can beat me at,” Hiccup flashed his set of pearly teeth at his best friend. “And you’ve had so many years to find one!”

Refusing to bite, Eacal leaned against the wall. It was true, he never won a game. Not sports, not strategy, not even the crossword puzzles at the back of the paper. Most of the time Hiccup’s tendency to cheat was to blame, but more often than not it was Eacal’s inability to take games too seriously. If he was willing to concentrate, he could have at least landed the dart on the board. 

Through the air, the slender metal spike flew from Hiccup’s fingers. Effortless. The point rammed into the bullseye with the same level of precision Eacal had come to expect from the man who had thrown it. A smile twitched at the lawyer’s mouth. A triumphant smile. At the sight, Eacal was reminded of exactly why he didn’t mind losing – that smile was his prize.

(All characters, setting, plot etc. belongs to me – Erin Robinson)

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Life

Coronavirus

It’s the only thing people are talking about right now. What’s most interesting is the amount of people talking about an overreaction. For most people, it IS an overreaction because their worst case scenario is a nasty flu. However, if you’re elderly or you already have some health conditions then your worst care scenario is death. Genuine death.

The problem isn’t all the people who are healthy enough to survive it. In fact, in the UK, they are not doing much to stop the general populace contracting this virus. The problem is all the at risk people the general population could pass the virus to, because those people could die.

I have asthma. I’ve talked about it a lot on this blog before and it’s a condition which effects the respiratory system. Asthma on its own, if flared, has the potential to kill me. Coronavirus attacks the respiratory system so instead of only fighting the virus, I would be fighting my own health condition alongside it: that’s the real risk.

In the next few weeks the UK is set to ask elderly people and people with certain conditions to isolate as much as possible. Asthma is one of those conditions. But what about Mr Robinson who has to travel to work every day and, therefore, is likely to carry the virus back home with him? And if they close his office, who is paying our bills? These are the wider issues which, for me, are sitting alongside ‘if I get this, I could die’.

Flu kills so many people on its own every year and that is why the at risk groups are offered a vaccination on the NHS. I get my flu injection every year because I don’t want to take the risk. With coronavirus, we don’t currently have any means to protect those of us who will be hit the hardest. We are literally relying on people being sensible, and the government.

Right now the UK is doing next to nothing. Why? Because its not ready. There’s not enough ventilators, and there’s not enough staff, and there might not be enough beds. They are in a ‘delay’ phase which is not aimed to stop the virus spreading, but to buy the government time when the virus reaches horrendous proportions.

The conflicting advice doesn’t help. People are being told to only shop for a few days at a time while simultaneously being told they may need to self isolate for seven days. So which is it? Am I stocking for three days or seven? And how can I stock at all if every shop nearby is selling out of essentials?

Right now my family is relatively prepared for any changes coming our way. Just keep in mind the elderly people and disabled people who may not be able to get prepared in advance.

creative writing, Evolved Energy Short Stories

#50 Departures

The fiftieth short story in the Evolved Energy Series

Previous

Hammering bullets of water smashed into the pavements. Water sloshed over the side of the wooden shelter and a thick stench of rotting damp permeated the air. Time was of no consequence. The feeling in his feet had vanished hours ago and he couldn’t remember when his charcoal suit trousers had last been dry. 

A figure emerged in the night with water cascading from strands of his hair. “You look like Hell.”

“Don’t, Saul.”

Saul bit his lip, sighed deeply, and barged his way into the shelter. “Couldn’t you have picked a better night for it?”

The other man shrugged with a blank glaze over his eyes that Saul had never seen before. When no response came, he tried again. “Hiccup-”

Henry.

“Well you’re not too depressed to correct me.” Saul smirked. 

“If I ever reach that stage, feel free to shoot me.”

Saul’s gaze lingered momentarily on the dark circles underneath his friend’s emerald eyes. “You been here the whole time?”

“Yes.”

“I hate to say it,” Saul shifted as he squeezed water from his fringe with his thumb and index finger. “But if you were doing the whole running away thing, then I think you were supposed to actually get on one of the coaches.”

Hiccup jerked slightly as his trademark muscle spasm reared its ugly head. “I was going to.”

“But you didn’t.”

Against his usual nature, Saul chose not to remark upon the hiccup that his friend always hid perfectly. He knew their tentative relationship was at stake. It was a credit to his tactical abilities that he decided not to go into detail about his two hour long search for the man in treacherous conditions. 

“Wanna come back to my place?”

Hiccup lifted his eyes and blinked as though he’d been stunned by a stray beam of sunlight. “Your place is dirty.”

“And warm.”

“And it smells like stale beer.”

Saul raised an eyebrow. “And you’ll have company.”

“You?”

“Yeah.” Saul conceded. 

Hiccup stayed quiet and still as he watched the rain peter off into a light drizzle. Nothing and no-one could have rushed him: Saul didn’t even try. The source of Hiccup’s pain may not have been present but the ripples could be felt for miles. They both knew, in the shared vibrations of their emotions as they skirted around the surface of their telepathy, that this night meant more than either was willing to label. 

“He’s never going to leave, is he?” 

Saul clasped one hand tightly around the other man’s shoulder. “Not a bloody clue, but let’s go get a beer.” 

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(All characters, setting, plot etc. belongs to me – Erin Robinson)

creative writing, Evolved Energy Short Stories

#49 In The Background

The forty-ninth short story in the Evolved Energy Series

Previous

Looking out the window was a fruitless endeavour when the glass pane was smogged over with condensed steam. It was a small price to pay for the best coffee in town. Hiccup chose this particular cafe for its reputation: not for the tea options which would, admittedly, have been his preference. Eacal didn’t drink tea. 

As though he’d summoned the devil in question, Eacal burst through the main doors. A tingling chime resonated from the doorway, marking his arrival as though his bulking frame didn’t draw enough attention. Every eye on the room traced the man as he made his way towards the intoxicating scent of his favourite drink: and, of course, his almost-favourite person. 

“You’ll never believe what I just found out.” He grinned like a kid in a toy shop. 

Hiccup delicately poured tea into his waiting cup. “Don’t gossip, Eacal.” 

“Fine.” Eacal shrugged and dropped into the empty chair. 

Hiccup’s eyes narrowed. “Tell me!” 

The delight very nearly split Eacal’s face in two. “Hah. Ok so, did you know that Saul can sketch?” 

“You mean like art?” 

Eacal’s head bobbed like a dashboard dog. “Exactly like that. He does cartoons and he sells them in the market.”

“Saul?” Hiccup’s voice raised an octave. “Our Saul?”

Eacal rolled his cobalt blue eyes. “How many other Sauls do you know, Hicc?”

“Two.” Hiccup blinked. 

“Oh for…” Eacal pinched the bridge of his nose. “Our Saul.” 

Hiccup shook his head. “I think you’re mistaken. Saul wouldn’t be caught dead flogging artwork in the market. He likes a low profile.” 

“He’s hiding in plain sight!” Eacal beamed.

“That’s a terrible hiding strategy,” Hiccup sniffed. “How did you find this out?” 

Suddenly, Eacal’s attention was dragged towards the warm mug in front of him. His eyes pointedly focused on the murky brown liquid. Hiccup groaned. “You stalked him!”

“I didn’t stalk him.” The tips of Eacal’s ears turned pink. 

“No?”

“I just happened to be in the same place, at the same time.” 

Hiccup laughed cynically. “Yeah that’s a likely story. You need some professional help.”

“Shut up!”

“I’m serious,” Hiccup leaned forward in his seat. “You can’t go around following people, Eacal. You’re not an investigator anymore.” 

Eacal’s bottom lip curved outwards of its own accord. “It wasn’t like that.”

“You follow Saul,” Hiccup began to count on his fingers. “You follow Wyatt, and I know you follow me.”

“I bloody don’t!”

“Really?” Hiccup laughed cynically at his best friend. 

“I don’t need to follow you,” Eacal mumbled into his caffeine hit. “I already know your schedule inside and out.”

(All characters, setting, plot etc. belongs to me – Erin Robinson) 

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