The Cosmic Soiree

Ugh. How long has it been since my last post?

Let us not go there. Instead, let there be sunshine and positivity and yes, a quick update!

I’ve been following the arrival and flypast of the New Horizons probe at Pluto, in the last couple of weeks. The new discoveries and photos have been astonishing. What we once thought of as a cold grey dead rock on the edge of the Solar System has greatly exceeded expectations. You probably know that the data will be feeding back from New Horizons at a rate of 1kb/s which means it will take 16 months for everything to download. There will be more amazing stuff to see. I can barely contain myself!

On 30th June, we had the conjunction of Jupiter and Venus in the night sky. I read about it online about ten days beforehand and began to check the early evening sky on a nightly basis. The sky was solid with cloud cover on the first few nights but eventually there came an evening of clear sky. I remember it was a Sunday and I think it might’ve been the night of the second episode of Humans which is currently running on Channel 4. I went out into the garden during the commercial break as it was near sunset, and there they were. I continued to observe them when I could for the next few nights. Sadly, we didn’t get to see the actual conjunction this far East in the UK. The photo on the right shows how close together they appeared to get for us. Despite not seeing them actually conjunct, it was still quite something to see these mighty planets as they slowly took each other by the hand and swung around each other in the sky.

Venus and Jupiter in near conjunction, 30 JUN 2015, taken by me ,Leonie M.Smith

Venus and Jupiter in near conjunction, 30 JUN 2015, taken by me, Leonie M.Smith

Creatively, I seem to have quietly ventured out of the brain fog that addled my inspiration. As a result, I’ve got a handful of short story ideas bouncing around. I’d like to go through all my old short stories and see what else I can find, and possibly put together a collection. I can’t really go forward with Seven Worlds until my editor is ready, so this is something to do in the meantime. Something to sharpen the wits and clear out the dross in my head, if you’ll indulge me.

I’m also about to embark on a course called “Reading Macondo”, discussing the Macondo novels and stories by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. I have a fascination with South America and I’ve long loved Marquez’ works. I link my creative renaissance to re-reading One Hundred Years of Solitude and the other novels in that collective. Such imagination was always going to lead me home from the barren wastelands of my creative drought. I don’t know why I didn’t think of it sooner!

It’s been raining since 9am here. It’s now about to tip over into 4pm and it hasn’t stopped once. I like rain but this is ridiculous. I won’t need to water the garden tonight but my poor courgette plant and tomato plant are both pretty sodden. We had two lovely courgettes from the plant but all the tiny vegetables that have attempted to grow since those two have gone rotten. They became horribly waterlogged after a torrential downpour, several nights ago. We’ve had a couple of those, lately. It was like the freaking Exorcist poltergeist got up there and threw down, bigstyle. I was half afraid the Isle of Ely would become a proper island again and the sea would rise, and the rest of East Anglia would flood and they’d install a customs point at the south entrance to the city and only let through anyone who knew someone on the island and OH MY BOB my imagination went wild!

Thankfully it didn’t come to anything so much as that. Just tiny rotten courgettes. Dammit. I could go into a massive rant about how this is July and we were promised a hot summer by the press, but I won’t.

Instead I’ll end it here, post this now and get my ass back to Mars. And I don’t mean the chocolate bar.


Playing with Light by user duchesssa on

Playing with Light by user duchesssa on



Itchy Impetus

But having said that: I struggle to create, these days.

The ability is there but the inspiration is not. I came up with a short story idea, a few weeks ago. A near-future set SF thing. I tinkered with it for days but just couldn’t get the tone right. It was just excruciatingly cheesy, however I framed it. I’ve worked out the structure and if I ever get it to work, I’ll share it with you.

I had an oddly creative dream last night, though.

(Yes I know. Other people’s dreams are boring. I’ll keep this brief, I promise.)

I was living in a house my parents nearly bought in the mid 80’s. It was before Dawn, the faintest flicker of light over the roof tops in the cul-de-sac but I knew it wouldn’t get any lighter than this. Two of the streetlights fell over and blocked the road, which put motorists in danger, but I couldn’t ring anyone to say that there was a problem as it was too early and no-one would be manning phones in the Highways department. I remembered that there was a red and white striped workman’s tent by a hole at the end of the cul-de-sac, and I stole two orange flashing lights in there which I was going to hang on the fallen streetlights. I couldn’t get them to work, though. I took one of them apart and put it back together, but it still didn’t work. Then some workmen arrived and found me in the middle of the street in my nightie, crying over these wretched lights. They didn’t speak to me, though. They just set to work, removing the fallen streetlights. The dream ended here.

It occurs to me that this dream is about my recent lack of creative voice. I don’t know what I want to say, anymore. This leads me to realise that I need to find things I want to say, about myself, about the world and everything (and everyone) inbetween. So it’s a step forward. A small inroad on reclaiming the itchy impetus of creativity.

Not yet a rallying cry to the army of ideas, but I can hear their thundering hooves, faintly in the distance. Hurrah, I say! Hurrah!


Streetlights on a Winter night by user ColinBrough on

Streetlights on a Winter night by user ColinBrough on

Cake and The Crutch of Creating

Dreams are as fragile as gossamer threads, aren’t they?

You get to 40 and you look around, and you realise how many of your contemporaries have let go of their youthful ambitions. People who wanted to be musicians, writers, artists, actors… now bogged down in the mundane world of bills to pay and other responsibilities that soak up their time.

This is not to say that everyone lets go of their youthful dreams of pursuing a life in the arts. I have plenty of friends who still create music and art and stories. These are people who create because they need to. I’ve continued to write, because I need to. I’m fighting an internal battle as to how much I write about my fight with my long-term anxiety, but I’m making a little progress now. I’m chipping away at the anxiety, by challenging the smaller difficulties.

(That’s another post to come, I feel.)

I need to write. I express myself better through the written word than through my voice. When talking, I get nervous. I jumble my words. I forget important points and try to insert them but do so too late and make a complete fudge of it. So I retreat back behind the keyboard.

I’d stay here all the time, if I could. I’m comfortable here. I’m not always comfortable in the real world.

Gah, I’m rambling. I’m not even sure what point I’m trying to make. All blog posts should have a point, shouldn’t they? Even if it’s only “cake is good”.

(Yes, cake is good in all it’s forms. I had a Maple Pecan Slice earlier and it was very gooey and nice.)

I guess what I’m saying is that I’m not normal. I live with my head in the clouds. Sometimes I walk in a world of my own invention, when I’m chiselling away at my trilogy. It’s the only way I get through the days when my anxiety is bad.

That, and cake.

Lajla's layer cake by Lajla on .

Lajla’s layer cake by Lajla on .


Paying It Forwards

557 days. And counting.

I’m all for paying it forwards.

You know – someone (possibly a stranger) does you a favour and you don’t get the chance to repay them, so you “pay it forwards” by doing a favour for someone else. (Possibly a stranger). There have been so many times online where a complete stranger has said something to me or written/posted an article that has been so helpful, that all I could do was to pay it forwards and try to do the same for someone else.

So here are two people I don’t know personally, who have made an enormous difference to me and my frame of mind, of late. Maybe they’ll help you too.

1) The wonderful American comedian Maria Bamford. Searingly honest about her mental health issues and her relationships with her family, and brilliantly funny at the same time. She shows her vulnerable side yet is confident on stage, voicing a whole cast of different characters. Here’s a lovely article about Maria in The Guardian. The following video has a little swearing and a knife drawer but the message is one that a lot of people will feel better for hearing.

2. The excellent American comedian Paul Gilmartin has a podcast that has been one of my most regular listens, in recent times. The Mental Illness Happy Hour not only has guests who come on and talk to Paul at length about their difficulties but he talks about his own struggles, past and present. He also has a website for the show with an active forum and a set of surveys you can answer, some of which he reads out on the show. As he says: it’s not a substitute for proper mental healthcare, more like a waiting room that doesn’t suck. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not great at sitting in waiting rooms. I’ve never been as comfortable in a waiting room as I am listening to his podcast. “You’re not alone”, he reminds us at the end of the show. All of us who suffer with mental health problems need to be reminded of that, now and again. Go visit the website at

I pay these forward, in the hope that at least one person gets comfort from one or both of these people’s works. I try to be a good person. I want to help! Sometimes it’s not easy to help when you’re weighed down by your own troubles, but I keep trying. It keeps me going, I guess.

As does chocolate.


Pier to Nowhere by michalina on

Pier to Nowhere by michalina on

A Glimmer Of Hope Like A Caramac Wrapper

558 days. And counting.

I haven’t posted for a few days again, and there’s a very god reason for that.

For the first time in aeons, I only went and had a MOMENT OF INSPIRATION!


This has resulted in a whole new and original short story. I haven’t finished it yet. I haven’t got the tone right yet. It’s not funny. (I’m still looking for the funny.)  Tragic. Poignant. That kinda thing. It’s new underwear, not the sort I usually wear, but it feels good. I have plans for sharing it with you when I’ve finished it. Special plans!


Ah, I can’t tell you how lovely it is to be working on something, again. It’s like the clouds have parted, and a chink of light like a little speck of golden foil, has fallen on me. I couldn’t be happier, right now.


Jumping Joy by lusi on

Jumping Joy by lusi on

Everyone’s A Comedian (Except Me)

562 days. And counting.

I used to be funny, you know.

It wasn’t that long ago, either. I used to be able to write funny comments and crack jokes with ease. See amusement in nearly everything. I used to make people laugh, dammit!

And now? I’m the lone straight woman in a world full of comedians. Everyone else seems funnier than me. If you can get behind the facade, I’ve lost my comedy sparkle. I know there will be one or two of you reading this, who know me personally. And you won’t agree with this statement. You think I’m as funny as ever. But inside I’m not. I’m not feeling the funny. My comedy moments are lamentably few and far between, these days.

There are two obvious reasons for this. The first is that I’ve had Writer’s Block for a long time. I’m not quite sure when it started – sometime after I wrote draft one of volume two of my trilogy. Perhaps even before that, as the second one is a lot less funny than the first one. It’s more than a year, anyway.

The second (and this is also a big admission to myself) is that my anxiety and mild depression are more challenging now, than they had been for a long time. I’ve had some real Agoraphobic lows in my life, where getting out of the house was extremely difficult. I’m not that bad, right now. My boundaries are much further than the house: I can walk for miles around Ely. It’s half a mile walk down to town, for a start. It’s when I have to get in some kind of vehicle and venture outside of Ely that my recent problem arises.

(More about that at a later date.)

I’m also at a weird place with medication, atm. I had to stop taking the tranquilisers I was on, as the pharmacy was no longer to obtain them. (Long story.) I’m now taking a daily Beta Blocker, and taking an extra one if needed, in the evening. I only take an extra one if I’m going out somewhere.

*reads back* So this is turning into a regular chucklefest, isn’t it? That’s what I’m looking to address, though. I need to find the funny again. Find MY funny. It’s out there, somewhere. It’s hiding in the long grass. Or down the back of the sofa. Or in Quebec. Out there. Over there. Or just there. I don’t know exactly where, or even roughly where, but I need to find it. I’m entirely sick of this dreary apathetic version of myself with no vim and no verve. I’m so bored of me that I spend a lot of time ignoring myself. I keep hoping I’ll get the hint and go away. It’s tragic because I used to be so entertaining, too.

So let me find my old self by searching for the funny. There’s not much else to do around here, is there?


Haha very funny by drgonariaes on .

Haha very funny by drgonariaes on .

Make That Difference

Election Day, tomorrow.

I won’t bang on about it. I just simply want to share a sentiment I heard on Charlie Brooker’s excellent Election Wipe show, just now.

“You don’t have to stand up and be counted. You can sit down and be ignored if you like. Because that’s your democratic right. You can choose to not matter.”

I choose to matter. I choose to make my voice heard. And if you live in the UK, and are eligible to vote: you should too.