Gather ye round and pray charge yer glasses with yer favourite grog, and I'll tell ye a tale of pirate derring-do on the Spanish Main, I will, ahaarrgh.
Or maybe not.
Busy, busy time these past few weeks. Work (the real-life work that barely - just barely, and occasionally not even then - pays the bills) has been insane and surreal. The past couple of years of falling circulations has finally forced the company I work for to take a long, hard look at itself and decide that the only way to stop itself from getting in real trouble is to have a roots-and-branches restructuring, buy in busloads of outside consultants and human resources people, and drag itself, claw by withered claw, into the twenty-first century.
The company's actually in pretty good shape financially, but the papers, in common with pretty much every newspaper in the world, are not doing so well, and the company has set out to try and remedy this.
It's all been a bit of a culture-shock. Suddenly we have an HR department. Suddenly we're doing focus groups. Suddenly there are new and clear-cut demarcations between departments. Suddenly there's a culture of openness and collaboration which would have - and indeed has, I think - offended a number of the older members of staff, which is a shame because we could use their experience. Suddenly we're having brainstorming sessions refereed by outside consultants. It is, best beloved, all a bit weird but rather fun at the same time.
The upshot is everyone's in fear for their jobs and trying desperately to prove their worth to the company, which is why my workload keeps going up. As I said, busy, busy.
In addition, I made a rather rash promise to Jetse DeVries some time ago that I'd try and write a story for his anthology, Shine. Or, as it seems to be rendered, SHINE. Shine is an anthology of optimistic science fiction stories - yes, I can hear you laughing and I know you're way ahead of me here: hutch, write something optimistic?
Actually, in real life I don't deserve the Duke Of Gloom nickname. I'm quite a sunny soul, really. And I thought it would be a good exercise to actually try and write something that wasn't a complete downer from beginning to end. But I couldn't think of anything, so I sort of forgot about it.
Then one day a couple of months ago the mighty Marianne Plumridge posted something on her Facebook about taking pain meds. Except she had a Freudian Moment and typed `paint meds' instead, and I got the little lightbulb over my head all of a sudden.
So the result is `Dali's Clocks,' which I finished last night and sent off to Jetse, with just a couple of days until the deadline. I've been working rather desperately to get it finished, which has meant a lot of late nights after a lot of long days at the office, and it's actually not too shabby. It's only the second short story I've written this year, though, which is annoying me because I should be doing more than that.
Is it optimistic? Well, it ends with one of the lead characters in jail for thirty years on industrial espionage and terrorism charges and the genome of the entire human race rewritten, but compared to having Britain put to the sword by elves it's practically I Love Lucy. Now all we have to do is wait and see if Jetse likes it. The chances are slim, but you never know.
I got the advance reading copy of Under The Rose at the beginning of the week, and it's such a lovely book, it really is. And unexpectedly chunky. I knew it was quite a big book to start with, and we picked up some stories along the way, but I hadn't realised quite how substantial it would turn out to be. You could easily maim a small child with it, if it came down to you or him. And if the reaction to the cover is anything to go by, it's going to do rather well. Which will be a first for me.
In State Of The Cat news, as of Kuron's last blood test a week or so ago all his important numbers are now either in or just fractionally below the low-normal range, which we take to mean that the drugs have finally got some traction on his anaemia. His doctor - one of the doctors who advised us it might be kinder to have Kuron put to sleep - has pronounced himself very pleased with the results. So there you go.
One worry is that he's losing weight again. He's actually very bony now, and we're feeding him stuff with a syringe just to make sure he's eating something. We're continuing, as per doctors' instructions, to ramp down the steroids he was prescribed for the inflammatory bowel disease and which he's been on now for the best part of a year. He's down to half a tablet every other day, and next weekend we stop giving them to him altogether. The doctor up at Potters Bar wants to see him again and see if he can do something about the weight loss, but at the moment Kuron seems as bright as he was before he got sick - ie, he sleeps most of the day, then wanders about in the middle of the night howling for attention.
Obviously we're still not out of the woods yet, and he's never going to be well again - he'll always have to have the medications - but the signs are better.
So, how's with you?