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There’s a video doing the rounds on Facebook. It’s a shot of the space shuttle during launch, taken from the SRBs (solid rocket boosters). You follow the rocket’s path as it charges upwards at phenomenal speed, breaking the sound barrier at around 1:20 before it finally separates from the shuttle and spirals in perfect circles back to the Earth before crashing into the ocean. It’s stunning and well worth a watch. Here:-

I’ve always been fascinated by space and the exploration thereof. The whole conspiracy theorist slant on man landing on the moon makes me chuckle. I have no idea if it really happened (although I suspect it did) but weirdly, I almost don’t care. It’s the actual space-exploring concept itself that I love. The idea that we leave this planet behind and go out there amongst the endless stars and planets, carving a new existence across the infinite void.

When I was younger (which did happen), I used to say that ‘seeing the Earth from space’ was right up there at the top of the list of things I wanted to do before I died. Incidentally, I’ve taken a tip from life’s optimists and that list is now titled ‘Things I Want To Do Whilst I’m Still Alive’. I’m under no illusions that this one will remain forever out of my grasping reach. Yes, I know all about the near-orbit trips and what-not, but let’s be honest; I could hardly afford to do the shopping this week. I’m highly unlikely to be booking myself onto that vehicle. But it’s OK. I don’t mind. I can experience the whole thing vicariously through footage like the above.

One of the things that struck me more than anything was the loneliness. As that rocket tumbles back from near-space, obviously you can still hear everything. You hear the propellant burning off, you hear the wind and most ominously, the creaking and groaning of the metal under incredible stress. It’s hauntingly eerie. And I love it. Ambient sounds are one of the most atmospheric things ever. I imagine that’s exactly how a drop pod would sound as it comes crashing down to deploy a bunch of hyped-up Space Marines to deliver some righteous vengeance. Although we did once speculate that perhaps the Imperium provided Administratum-approved Muzak inside the pods.

It’s things like this bit of footage that make me glad I chose to write and read science fiction. Because it’s probably the closest I came to living out number one on my list. Not only do I get to see the curvature of a world as my rocket ship accelerates away from it at impossible speeds, I also get to create it. To populate it. To give it atmospherics, weather conditions, natural history… I’ve done work on creating several worlds now in the course of writing my stories and it’s one of the most incredibly satisfying things. During the course of creating the most recent one, I spent some time on Google Images, looking for pictures that reflected what I was striving for. Here’s a sample.

I have a genuine hankering for the snowy wonderlands of our planet’s poles. The stark beauty out there is just to die for. Again, it’s that haunting loneliness and unspoiled wonder. And it should probably come as no surprised that this is also on my List:-

To see the Northern lights from somewhere… well, northern, is also on my List. It comes right behind the space one and is one that’s entirely more achievable. I’m already working out costings and a Plan to do just that. Of course, I know that actually seeing them isn’t always guaranteed, but if I can work my dream holiday out, and save up the pennies to do it, I can well and truly tick one of those things from the List. There are plenty of other things on there, so it’s not like I won’t have anything to strive for. I’ve achieved one of them. ‘To write and publish a novel’. I’ve achieved that one twice, now, and believe me, the thrill doesn’t get any less.

So item two on the List is a possibility. I count this as a win.

In the meantime, I shall continue to live out my space dreams happily via the medium of other people experiencing things for me. Felix Baumgartner chucking himself off the edge of space was amazing to watch, for example. A helmet-cam would have been outstanding, but well. Can’t have everything.

So until the day comes when I can just pop onto the ‘arc across the Earth and arrive at the other side in no time at all’ express service, I have to accept that I will never see the one sight that takes my breath away and brings me to tears every time. I tell you now. Crying when you can’t breathe isn’t any fun whatsoever.


Update over at Wordpress.


...still kicking around.


Update over at Wordpress. On parenting, choices and all associated shenanigans.


Stream of consciousness update over at Wordpress.

Happy new year, y'all!

Dear Mum (2012 Remix)

This is more important than linking out, so...

Dear Mum

That time of year again. Seems to come around so fast these days. I suppose it’s true what they say; that as you get older, things seem to go by so much more quickly.

2012 hasn’t been quite so hectic as 2011, but no less fun and interesting for all that. The biggest thing of course is that Jamie turned thirteen back in February. You’d be amused to note that he is now not only taller than me, but he also has bigger feet. When he answers the phone, I feel like I should check it’s him and not his dad. He’s no longer a little boy, but a young man – and a very lovely one at that. He’s polite, well-mannered, bright and smart. Everyone says he’s nice, that’s not just me.

Have been ‘out and about’ a few times this year with the whole writing thing; went to an event back in April down in London and then another in November. Still enormous fun, although the writing has slowed a bit. The second book came out in July and has been pretty well received. I’ve finished a third and it’s with the editor now. You were right. I CAN do it.

Both myself and Ben have changed jobs this year, although Ben wasn’t very far into his before he broke his leg. I personally blame him for saying back in January that he ‘didn’t want to do another retail Christmas’. Be careful what you wish for, as they say.

I’ve had a couple of really lovely weekends away with my friend Nik. She’s turned into such a rock for me; someone I can talk to. I’ve missed that sort of closeness in my life since you died and I just know you’d have loved her too.

Is it weird that I still have moments, sometimes days, when I still miss you as though you only went away yesterday? That I still have those moments of ‘I must just ring mum and tell her…’ only to then go through that ice-cold realisation that I can’t? Sometimes, I tell you anyway. Many times when I’m in the car I’ll hold a one-sided conversation with you. Maybe I’m a bit crazy. Well, that’s nothing new.

I dream about you a lot. I don’t mind. I like dreaming about you because it means I get to spend time, no matter how fleeting it may be, talking to you again. Sometimes, grandad’s with you, and we always catch up. I love that there’s this part of my consciousness that will always ensure you are somehow near and your timing is always amazing. You lend me strength and love at the times I need it most. Just the way you always did.

I miss you. I’ll always miss you. The pain has mellowed into something deep and regretful. I have said, on many occasions, that there are so many things to be grateful for. We never had any ‘bad blood’, there were no things left unsaid and I didn’t have to worry that you knew I loved you because it didn’t need saying.

You have been, even in the twelve years I’ve lived without you, inspirational in the way I’ve brought my son up. I know how proud you’d be of him. And I know you’re probably keeping that same eye on him that you always have. He takes his options at school in the New Year. In a couple of years, he’ll be doing his GCSE’s. Can you imagine that?

Dad’s full of talk about his bees. It’s been truly lovely to see him so animated about something and I can’t wait to see how he gets on with the process. No doubt I will have much to update you with next year. Assuming we get past December 21st without the Earth imploding or whatever’s meant to happen to it (according to the Mayans, who were so smart they became extinct).

We’ll be putting up the tree tomorrow night, just as we’ve done every year on the 10th since you died. Ben will supervise from his sick bed, Jamie will put three baubles on the tree then go and find something else to do and I will end up doing it all. I don’t mind, though. I do it for you, really, not for anybody or anything else.

On which subject, this is also for you, care of David Harkins.

“You can shed tears that she is gone
Or you can smile because she has lived
You can close your eyes and pray that she will come back
Or you can open your eyes and see all that she has left
Your heart can be empty because you can’t see her
Or you can be full of the love that you shared
You can turn your back on tomorrow and live yesterday
Or you can be happy for tomorrow because of yesterday
You can remember her and only that she is gone
Or you can cherish her memory and let it live on
You can cry and close your mind, be empty and turn your back
Or you can do what she would want: smile, open your eyes, love and go on.”

On which note, I’m smiling, opening my eyes and going on.

Love you, mum.






Update at Wordpress...


Blog update at Wordpress.