Wednesday, July 28, 2010

iShoes backstory

I used to publish a fanzine. A science fiction fanzine. My original fanzine was called Barmaid and I loved doing it whilst I was at home with my kids. I even had a semi-regular publishing schedule. Then I went back to work and I didn't have a lot of spare time to lovingly craft bijou sentences about interesting topics so the zines came out less and less often. 

After a time I realised I wasn't publishing a series of coherent fanzines, more occasional, stand alone zines without much relationship to each other. For a while I published one off zines including 'Talking Shit' when I worked in the sewage industry, 'Adverse Camber' when life was all uphill and trying to throw me off the road, and so on.

I missed the regular zines, and the Nova Awards, so some years ago I tried to get my act together to write more regularly and called the supposedly new regular zine Joie de Vivre, more in hope of a bit of joy than actual experience. I achieved four zines in this series over about four years and gave up again.

Ever hopeful, once my masters was complete, and I had more time on my hands (hah!) I introduced iShoes, a sparkly new fanzine with covers featuring my fabulous shoe collection and an intention of writing about some of the environmental issues that were giving me cause for concern.

My biggest problem with producing a consistent zine is a complete lack of organisational ability. I once bought a book called something like 'How can you save the world if you can't find your car keys.' I can't tell you the exact title of the book because I've misplaced it. And that was what I did with my pieces of writing. Scattered around my house I have envelopes with half baked ideas scrawled on them, note books with introductions and excuses, buried on my laptop I have similar out-of-date scribbles. There were very few coherent fanzines produced. iShoes, in paper form, came out three times. 

Friends have suggested that I get a Live Journal, or Facebook or any other new fangled IT fad that comes along and I have resisted but, some little time ago now I started producing a blog for the company I work for, ECUS. This has been fun, if intermittent (there is no pattern here, move along now), but it was the face of my company and could not be frivolous, extreme or rude. Which leaves my writing urge somewhat unsatisfied. Therefore the iShoes Blog. I envisage this as both a place to indulge my writing cravings and somewhere to store my writing that is accessible so that I can maybe think about flinging the best bits into a paper fanzine. Maybe.

So lets see how it goes.

The saga of the 3, introduction

I'm sort of thinking that this may be a series.

I live in Sheffield. It is a hilly place. A very hilly place. And I live at the top of a hill like the great north face of the Eiger. Well not really but it is steep enough for Ian to refuse to ever attempt to walk up it. Last winter in the ice it was more dangerous than the fastest skeleton bobsleigh run. Yes, I chose to live here. One of the reasons was the 3 and 4. Unlike the 80 family of buses that drop me at Hunter's Bar, the foot of the horrid hill, the 3 and 4 trundle gently along Psalter lane and  end up at the top of my road. When I had to get to work in the ice I slithered up my mildly sloping road and bused into town on the 3 then out to work on the 40. 

The service has never been very frequent. At best the buses were only every half hour, once an hour in the evenings and Sunday, but it has been reliable and, importantly, ends up at the Intersection, near to the rail station, and is therefore great for visitors and for me when I conscientiously travel by public transport for work. 

On Monday, without any obvious notification, the service changed. Sally and her friends waited for an hour in town at the usual bus stop. When the second bus didn't turn up they went to the Intersection to ask and found that the 3 had been cancelled and the 4 had been relocated to Arundel Gate (up a hill). 

My neighbour comments, 'I got caught out on Monday morning (which is apparently when the new service came into effect). I saw no signs on the buses or bus stops to warn us! I was very unimpressed when I nearly missed my 8.20am train on Monday
morning because I didn't know the bus times had changed and had to catch another bus and run at full speed across town to get to the train station. I caught the train by the skin of my teeth - not impressed with First Buses at all!'

I am signed up with Travel South Yorkshire to receive notification of changes to the timetables of the 3 and 4 but I can't find any record of a notification and I didn't see any signs at the bus stops either. 

Having discovered this unannounced* downgrading of our service I looked on the South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive website to find where to comment. Apparently their 'job is to encourage you to use public transport'. It's not clear on the website how they do this or how to comment but after trawling around for a good while I found their customer charter. I will be contacting this organisation today to see why my lifeline bus has been cancelled and why I didn't know about it.

*I'm sure it wasn't unannounced. See The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy to see how bad changes are usually communicated. Further investigation reveals that there is a link at the bottom of the Travel South Yorkshire page called 'July Bus Service Changes' but how would I know to go looking for it? Especially when I am signed up to be notified of changes to my service. 

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The etiquette of nakidity

Given that it's summer holiday time with lots of non-regulars in my home, we have issues of etiquette. 

Generally it's quite easy. I am allowed see Sally without clothes, she can see me in the same condition without embarrassment. Similarly, I can see Ian in all his natural glory. The permissions are not transferrable, however, which means that I am the only one of the three who does not need to worry about clothing for nocturnal loo excursions, which is rather relaxing (for me).

However, in the last few days there has been a plethora of young people in the house. Jack, my son, and Sally's friends, Amy and Jess. It's required being awake enough in the middle of the night to find my big purple dressing gown to avoid levels of young-person-horror that would lead to the destruction of all life on earth due to the intensity of blush levels. This has required a level of consciousness I usually try to avoid. I'd like to have an open discussion about the misguided prejudice for apparel (where it inconveniences me) but my concern for the continuation of the biosphere is such that I think their delicate consciousness requires me to be discreet. Never mind. They've all gone and I can revert to massive unconcern and semi-consciousness in the night. Hurrah!

Teaching my dictionary to be middle class

We’re going out for a team meal tonight at Zeugma Iki, a fab Turkish restaurant on London Road. I’m really looking forward to it. Not only will the existing team be there but Danielle, my charming ex-boss, and Julia, our sadly missed former marketing manager, will be joining us. This has all been arranged via e-mail over the last three months or so and today the final directions needed sending out. I dashed off a quick email which Outlook kindly ‘proof read’ for me. Apparently iki (two in Turkish), Waitrose and Primitivo were not in the standard Microsoft dictionary. They’re in mine now. At some point it would be quite interesting to analyse all the non-standard words in various people’s dictionaries.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Lending out my books

So Jack is heading back to Oxford and he's 'borrowing' some books. He's burrowed through the boxes of books stored under the eaves to find all my Pratchett books, leaving the stacks in disarray, and then asked for some other light reading. What to loan? I picked out Tiger! Tiger! by Alfred Bester, After the First Death by Robert Cormier, The Rape of the Fair Country by Alexander Cordell, Four Ways to Forgiveness by Ursula LeGuin (the paperback), The Worlds of Theodore Sturgeon and Miss Mole by E. H. Young. I hesitated and then took the Cordell back as it's no longer in print. It's not that I don't trust him but I'd be very grumpy if that didn't come back or was damaged. It's fragile enough as it is. Pan didn't print on high quality paper and it's an 1969 edition. Anyway, I'm not sure what 'A tremendously lusty novel' of industrial Wales would mean to a generation who have never seen heavy industry in this country.