The State of Magic: It’s Time.

Well. Where do we even start here.

In case you’ve missed it, at the weekend Magic cosplayer Christine Sprankle publicly retired from the game after enduring ongoing harassment following a game of “flip or rip” at a GP. Thus follows accusations of lying, accusations of deleting the posts in question, a number of well-known personalities in the community speaking out to corroborate Ms. Sprankle’s experiences, fans of the accused responding.

Yesterday it was revealed that a post on a secret “shitposting” MtG Facebook group invited its members to “draft” well known MtG women – women who play, who make content, who compete in tournaments and do well – based purely on how much they wanted to sleep with them. The comment thread that followed went about as well as you would expect, and included some particularly awful comments around the members of the LGBTQ community.

I’m not going to write about those in any more detail, because there are a multitude of responses from people who’ve been directly affected that are much more important than anything I have to say on the subject.

I’m writing this because boy, are we tired.

I’m tired of people calling out shitty attitudes being dismissed as a “social justice warrior” or a “cuck”. I’ll let you into a secret: if someone calls you a “cuck” it’s because they frightened. You’re coming too close to underminding them.

I’m tired of seeing people saying things like “she’s wearing a slutty cosplay to try and lure in vulnerable young men for their money”. Spoiler alert: she’s almost certainly not. Women don’t have secret meetings to come up with new and exciting ways to ruin the lives of men.

I’m tired of people relentlessly slamming Wizards for “becoming political”. If you think that responding to people noting that they tend to be treated differently to their male counterparts by increasing visibility and attempting to create a more balanced society is political, expand your world a little.

I’m tired of people being told that “it’s just a joke, if you don’t find it funny that’s your problem” (remember that?) or “grow a thicker skin”. As I’ve said before, if multiple people who stand as the butt of the joke are telling you that it’s not funny and you continue to make that joke, it’s not a joke. You are an asshole being an asshole on purpose.

I’m tired of people immediately dismissing any sort of feedback around inclusive MtG with “well, I’ve never had a problem” or “I’ve never been sexist”.

Just because you’ve never seen it happening at your local store doesn’t mean it’s not happening at all. I’m part of a community – locally and nationwide – that excels in being welcoming and inclusive but I’m not close minded enough to ignore the fact that we are a very small country and therefore very close-knit. What we experience is not the overall experience. This is just one of a multitude of points that people are either choosing to ignore because it doesn’t fit what they want, or they’re genuinely unable to grasp the concept.

People are bitching at Wizards of the Coast for not doing anything. That’s fine. You can do something. You can tell such an individual to stop, even if they’re not targeting you. You can report them to a judge or the tournament organiser if they don’t, or you feel uncomfortable doing so. If you don’t know who the judge or TO is, you can ask at the event. If nothing happens, you can escalate it, either through the judge programme or through WOTC themselves. Local game stores are their own little communities but they’re not islands, and any judge or tournament organiser worth their salt has that role because they want to work with communities to make them fun, welcoming and positive places for everyone.

That is how you fix it.


I’m upset. Over the past few days we’ve seen what the MtG community really is when you kick the stone over, and last night was the first time in over four years I’ve had to evaluate whether this is something I want to continue to be involved in.

I think I do. Because this community has done so much good for so many people. Look at all the testimonies of people who’ve found solace while they were being bullied, or while their lives were falling apart, or while they were desperately lonely. That’s the community I want to be part of. That’s the community I want to build. But half-assed tutting and saying “well that’s gross” isn’t enough. It’s time to actively challenge this behaviour. It’s time to stop ignoring it and letting it slide because it’s a little bit uncomfortable to speak up. It’s time to stop this bizarre idea of “alpha” and “beta”.

It’s time to get proactive instead of reactive.

It’s time to get angry. Not  death threats or abuse over the internet, because that’s not on, and it’s slinging lighter fluid onto a fire that’s already out of control.

It’s time to change. Please help us.


Top Ten Tuesday: Books I’m Reading Over Winter.

It’s Top Ten Tuesday! This week, it’s the top ten books on my winter TBR list. This list in general is longer than a Disneyworld ride queue, so it’ll need a cold snap of Game of Thrones proportions for me to make a dent in it, but these are the ten books that have come out on top.

Six of Crows – Leigh Bardugo

six of crows

I bought Six of Crows as part of my pre-holiday haul, and promptly fell asleep on the red-eye flight home with the book open. Not a commentary on the book, more a commentary on my ability to handle gin in the middle of the night.

I’ve heard nothing but heaps and heaps of praise for Leigh Bardugo, so I’ll be drinking a few “special” hot chocolates (add Baileys liberally) and getting stuck in.

A Shiver of Snow and Sky – Lisa Lueddecke

a shiver of snow and sky

Oh man, the cover for this one. I judge books by their covers all the time, and just LOOK at it. Have you ever seen a more wintery book? I’m pretty sure if you lick it it’ll taste of brandy, posh cheese and the way pine smells.

I need it, and the next time I bundle myself up in more wool than a sheep and head into town I will have it.

The Northern Lights – Phillip Pullman

northern lights

I’m preparing for everyone to windmill slam the “Unfollow” button, but I’ve never read any of His Dark Materials.

I know. I can hear my mother preparing the emancipation papers as I type.

I’m going to “acquire” them from the bookcase in my parents’ house over Christmas and read them in order to rectify this situation. Plus the Book of Dust hype is real at the moment. My mum has that too. Bingo.

The Gift – Alison Croggon


This is a reread, but I’m including it because it’s long overdue. I love these books. I talk about them whenever I can. I’m sure everyone’s sick to death of me talking about them but I don’t care. They’re awesome and I could read them again and again. So I’m going to. Sorry TBR list.

Knots and Crosses – Ian Rankin

knots and crosses

I am slightly ashamed that I’ve never read any of Ian Rankin’s books, given that he’s so local I’m surprised I haven’t bumped into him. Crime fiction isn’t a circle I usually move in, however given my taste in comfort TV (as I talked about last week) I’m starting to think that I should explore it. And what better place to start than a local legend?

Killing Floor – Lee Child

killing floor

My dad’s a massive Lee Child fan and has all the books in hardback. In the spirit of widening my horizons, this is another one I’ve picked up. I read Killing Floor years ago and never got round to getting to the rest of series, so let’s whack on some Slade and go for it.

The Cost of Living – Rachel Ward

cost of living

I was turned onto the Cost of Living through the Sunday YA Twitter chat. Reading everyone’s reviews and hearing (or reading!) Rachel Ward talking about it has hyped me up, plus after years and years in retail I’m so ready for some retail worker sleuthing. Gimme.

Blackbird – ND Gomes


Um hello, mystery novel set on Orkney. I am already obsessed. I’ve seen this one all over Twitter and had resolved to read it before I realised where it was set, and as someone who loves Scotland and loves books set in Scotland and thinks there should be more books set in Scotland…

Plus the cover is awesome and I love mysteries. Sold.

Daughter of the Empire – Raymond Feist and Janny Wurts


This is a Sean book. High fantasy really isn’t my thing at all, and I got less than a quarter into Magician by Raymond Feist before I had to admit defeat, but this was recommended to me as being “sort of entry level” by Sean, so I’ll give it a go. I’ve already read a few pages but I sort of…drifted away and read something else, so I really need to go back to the start and slog past the slow start and hope that I can be persuaded!


A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens


I’ll hold my hands up and say I’m not a fan of the classics. I never have been. I’m trying to read more widely, even though they don’t particularly inspire me. Dickens is a bit too old and dusty for me, but since it’s Christmas, this seems appropriate.

Also the Muppet movie version. Obviously.


What are you reading over Christmas? If you’re sitting going “Oh my GOD she’s not reading my favourite winter book” let me know. Scotland is cold and I don’t go outside, so I have plenty of time.

Hey Kids, Rock & Roll: a love letter to the album that changed my life.

Alright folks, buckle up, to mark the 25th birthday of one of the greatest albums of all time we’re going into the past. It’s going to be like an episode of Doctor Who, but without any green screen.

One of my earliest memories is listening to Michael Stipe singing The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonight and thinking that whatever bastardised version of the lyrics I came up with was the title of the song. This carried on until I was nine years old, when I picked up a copy of Automatic For The People and took it the US with a CD Walkman. It was the only CD I brought along on that two week holiday. I only knew that one song. Bit of a leap of faith.

I remember bits and pieces of that trip. The vineyard wedding, the carousel in Martha’s Vineyard. Poison Ivy in the garden. My sister being ill on the last night in the top bunk.

But the whole experience was soundtracked by that album.

It’s hard to underestimate the impact Automatic For The People has had on my life. It sparked a lifelong obsession: I came home and accumulated every single R.E.M. release I could possibly find, starting with the newly released Reveal. I wouldn’t go anywhere without that CD Walkman and a hard black case full of discs, in case I wanted to switch from Green to Fables of the Reconstruction.

There were at least four years where the only albums I ever bought were R.E.M. records.

It was the soundtrack of years where the divide between what was cool and what was not became a gaping canyon, around the time I began to realise that I couldn’t sing or dance or play football. I tested out of primary school spelling tests and won an award for being the most exceptional pupil in my year (I’m not bragging, that’s literally what it says on the certificate) but I fit somewhere between the girls and the boys, accepted by neither. Which when I was nine, was a lonely place to be.

It took a long time – as in, into my late teens and early twenties – before I came to be comfortable with who I was. It was music that took me there, bands that would lead me further down this path that Buck, Mills, Berry and Stipe started me on. Nirvana, Rancid, Green Day, Nine Inch Nails. Bands that have shaped my tastes, my writing, my life. Something to run through my head when times were dark, or just a song that I fell in love with on the first listen and repeated over, and over, and over.

I’m now 26. Those opening notes of Drive still make my arms prickle. I have argued with people until I can feel my pulse in my neck about whether Everybody Hurts is a depressing song. (Have you people even listened to the lyrics?) I’m trying to convince Sean to make a stop in Georgia on our honeymoon to the US so we can go to Weaver D’s. (The diner with the “Automatic For The People” sign that inspired the album title.) It all started, this common thread that has run entwined with my memories and my life, with an Alba portable CD player in an old house in New Paltz, surrounded by unfamiliar street names and sunlight.

I’ve had favourite songs since then. I’ve had favourite albums. But none of them have ever blown the doors in my life open quite like this one, and I’m quite sure none ever will.

So here’s to you, Automatic For The People, in all your jangly baroque glory. You’re still my go-to choice when I need a record I can sit through without skipping a single song, you still set off an abundance of emotions in me, and I’m still finding new things I didn’t know. For an album that’s nearly as old as I am – and that I’ve been coveting for over fifteen years – that’s pretty good going.

Self-care: do it your way.

I only realised as it was coming to a close that last week was National Self Care Week. It’s probably just as well, or I would have spent it vegetating on the couch until I started to smell of pyjamas, wine and special fried rice.

I’m a firm advocate of the concept, but the phrase “self-care” makes my teeth hurt. I think it’s because everything I see when I’ve googled it (as I have in the past for inspiration, before I wised up) is all a bit…twee and samey. Instagrammable.

Yoga. Meditation. Find unexpectedly beautiful things on your way to work. Unplug all your electronics. Run a bath that looks like you’ve melted Care Bears into it, light a bunch of candles and turn into a raisin.

self care

I have a bitter, sarky Scottish wee heart, and none of it moves me.

Don’t Google it. Seriously. You don’t need to. You already know what you like. Self-care isn’t about completely reevaluating your hobbies or buying stuff. It’s about prioritising yourself and making time to do the stuff that you know makes you happy. You don’t have to book a spa day or buy five million different types of things that smell if that’s not you.

I don’t doubt that these work for LOADS of people, but I’ve found trying to do something and finding that it doesn’t work can actually compound the problem. (“What’s wrong with me? Why haven’t I reached nirvana? Now I’m EVEN MORE STRESSED.”)

Here are my five favourite things to do when I feel like punching someone into the sun that I have yet to find anywhere else. And quite right, because they’re mine, and it doesn’t matter if someone else would say “you should get out more” or “that’s not good for you”. I don’t care, get out of my house.

Make the bed every morning

Sean put me onto this one, and it’s a good one. Basically, before I go to work or go for breakfast or whatever, I make the bed and make it look super good. I get to go about my day knowing that I’ve already achieved something and if I have a really shit day you can come home and crawl into a bed that looks amazing.

This is the only one I would recommend giving a shot. If you have a family member who can slip a hot water bottle into it before you get home, jackpot.

Video Games

I’ve loved gaming for most of my living memory. It was my seventh birthday, when I got my PlayStation, that the love affair really kicked off. I’ve got enough games consoles in my house that I could play three a day for a week and still not repeat. I’m engaged to an ex-competitive World of Warcraft raider. It’s a way of life.

I have three categories of game.

  • Huge open world games, preferably with a good plot, so I can potter about and look at the views and complete quests and enjoy the story. Currently I’m playing through Horizon Zero Dawn for this reason.
  • Old favourites, like Skyrim, or Destiny. The ones I can play with my eyes closed, recite the dialogue off by heart and know that they’re going to be awesome. It’s like having your best friend come round and put a duvet round you and feed you crisps.
  • The Mindless Game. I’ll probably be set upon for suggesting that Minecraft is “mindless” but systematically digging holes, laying railway tracks and building a dream house on a hill is incredibly therapeutic.


Sitting in my pyjamas on my laptop

What am I up to? Nothing. Sometimes literally. Sometimes I’m just refreshing Twitter. Sometimes I’ll fall down the Wikipedia rabbit hole. Regardless, there’s something about staring at loads of mundane crap on a screen that lets my brain switch off while my body is still awake.

I find if you can walk the thin line between being chill enough to function and descending into procrastination madness, it’s a great way to engage brain shutdown for a while. Installing software like f.lux also means there isn’t angry screen glare to contend with either.


I mean if you haven’t guessed that I like writing by now…

For me writing is the ultimate escape. “If you don’t like the world you live in, make a new one” has been the justification for most of my daydreaming since I was in high school. Writing is a distraction from everything that’s going on and it lets me pour myself wholeheartedly into something to escape from anything that’s threatening to overwhelm me. It’s a rubber ring in an empty sea.

Watching grim documentaries

I love true crime documentaries. I love apocalyptic documentaries about weird shit like nuclear reactor leaks and earthquakes. I love Air Crash Investigation and Seconds From Disaster. I have so many things recorded on the Sky planner I could probably survive being snowed in for a week and still not have to go to the TV Guide. They’re so grimly fascinating.

The one downside of this is that every time I go on a plane and there’s even the slightest bit of turbulence I assume that the horizontal stabiliser is going to fall off or that the rear cargo door is going to fly away and take half the plane with it. It’s great fun flying with me! (See: the time I went to Florida, cried because it was windy along the Eastern Seaboard and had to be fed Kalms tablets and gin.)


Life can be like struggling to grab onto the shore while someone kicks you back under the waves, and sometimes it’s difficult to look after yourself and keep on top of life as well. It was nearly a month before I hoovered my house recently which is horrendous and gross, but I was well aware that if I started doing housework after a day at work I’d go to bed completely done with everything.

It’s not the easiest thing in the world to re-prioritise, especially if you’ve got responsibilities, but take it from me: you can’t be the best version of yourself if you don’t look after yourself.

Give yourself a break. The world can wait.


A round up of books

I keep thinking “Right, Kirsty, given that you’ve got the word ‘Paperback’ in your blog name, maybe you should talk about books some more”. I keep meaning to review books that I’ve read and liked, but of course I never get round to it. Life and all that.

So to start off a trend of actually talking about books, here’s a quick run through some Books I Have Read And Thoroughly Enjoyed In The Last Few Months And Not Talked About Yet.

Editing Emma – Chloe Seagar

Editing Emma

Rare is the book that makes me ugly laugh out loud in the middle of the night, but Editing Emma managed it. I won a copy through Twitter after sharing my most embarrassing teenage moment. (My orange stripy hair has finally redeemed itself after over a decade.)

Editing Emma is of the best YA books I’ve read this year. As well as being hilarious, it’s refreshingly honest about what it’s like being a teenage girl in the social media age. (I hate writing that, because it makes me feel like an old lady, but it’s true.) It’s refreshingly honest about what it’s like being a teenage girl full stop, actually, and there’s things touched upon that are very rarely, if ever, mentioned in YA. I loved it.

There was a particular scene involving a Facebook messenger mishap that made me cringe so hard I nearly turned myself inside out. WE’VE ALL BEEN THERE. DON’T TELL LIES.

Hings – Chris McQueer


I wasn’t sure what to expect when I picked up Hings. Having finished, I’m not entirely sure what I’ve experienced. It’s the most bizarre series of stories I have read in a long, long time. I loved it.

‘Korma Police’ features a house raid in a curry-prohibition world. There’s a story where the world wakes up with backwards knees. ‘Bowls’ is a crime saga set against the backdrop of Glaswegian bowling greens. There’s a story called “Pish The Bed”. It’s like a series of Burnistoun sketches on a cocktail of drugs. It has to be seen to be fully appreciated, but I would thoroughly recommend if you like surreal escapades through working class Scottish communities. You probably do. Even if you don’t know it yet.

Plus some stories are written in Glaswegian dialect. Why not leave a copy of Hings on your coffee table to intrigue and perturb any non-Scottish friends or relatives? It’s the ultimate Christmas party game.

Beneath the Skin – Sandra Ireland

Beneath the Skin

Sandra is a fellow University of Dundee creative writing graduate whose writing I always thought magnificent, and it took me a shamefully long time to pick up Beneath the Skin. I went out on a mission at the Edinburgh Book Festival with my plastic glass of wine this year and picked up a copy

It checks all the important boxes. Army vet suffering from PTSD takes a job in a taxidermists. Set in Scotland. Creepy, mysterious characters. Sweet characters that warm the heart. Chilly sense of unease that never really goes away and means you have to keep reading to find out how all the loose ends tie up. Added points for stuffed birds. Everywhere.

Oh, and just in case you thought I was biased, Beneath the Skin has been shortlisted for the Saltire First Book of the Year Award. It’s marvellous. Ask for a copy for Christmas.

The Outsiders – S.E. Hinton

The Outsiders

I knew of The Outsiders before I saw it in Barnes & Noble in Orlando. I’d seen it described as the first “real” YA book – in that it was among the first, if not THE first to deal with realistic teenagers and their peers and surroundings. S.E. Hinton was only fifteen years old when she started writing The Outsiders (and eighteen when it was published), which explains why it’s so authentic – and in the author notes of my copy she says

“At that time realistic teenage fiction didn’t exist. If you didn’t want to read Mary Jane Goes to the Prom and you were through with horse books, there was nothing to read.”

It’s gritty, unforgiving, controversial then and now because of its depictions of violence and gang culture – but I’m a firm believer in “controversial” books for young adults, because teenagers deserve not to be patronised by people telling them they’re not old enough or mature enough to deal with difficult topics in literature, and the controversial books are the ones that often deal with issues that affect young people. They deserve to be read and discussed.

I read The Outsiders in one sitting on the plane back from Orlando. I adore it.

Fangirl – Rainbow Rowell


Fangirl is the first RR book I’ve read, but the first time I heard of Rainbow Rowell was a Tumblr post criticising Eleanor and Park for the way it portrayed minorities. So I picked up Fangirl based on the title – I, a fellow fangirl, can appreciate a kindred spirit when I see one – but not without a little trepidation.

I loved it.

Rowell has a really glorious prose style that’s warm and witty (as horrible and cliché as that sounds, it is!) and so evocative without ever feeling like it’s layering it on thicker than

It was sweet, it was relatable, the characters were so vibrant I felt like they were my friends after I’d finished the book. It’s up there with the best impulse book purchases I’ve ever made.

I’m not sure about E&P, but we’ll see.


What’ve you read recently? Let me know!

Some thoughts on International Men’s Day

Happy International Men’s Day! I’m pretty sure they couldn’t have found a more controversial event this year if they’d invented “Kicking Puppies into Puddles Day”. You know how every International Women’s Day there are cries of “When’s International Men’s Day”? It’s today! Here you go!

I’m still seeing a lot of complaining about IWD today, but you do you, guys.

Snark aside, I think it’s marvellous that we’re encouraging men to talk about some of the issues they face. IMD is (in an ideal world, anyway) not about point scoring and helicoptering your willy and getting together in the pub to talk about how much women are ruining your lives. While the official IMD website lays out exactly what they hope to achieve, I’m going to focus on the two of the biggest issues I see currently.

I’m sure everyone will have noticed by now that I think that mental health is A Big Deal. If not, hi! I have this drum and I bang it a lot. Anyway, I like to highlight men’s mental health whenever the topics some up, because the statistics are frightening .

Men are three times more likely to commit suicide than women are.

In the UK, a man attempts suicide every two seconds.

That means that the number of men who will have tried to kill themselves by the time you finish reading this blog post will be in double digits.

Phrases like “man up”, “grow a pair”, “don’t be a little bitch” etc are so ingrained in our vernacular that they slip out without any second thought. But when you’re saying “man up” to someone, what you’re really saying is, you’re acting weak. You’re acting like a woman. Man up.

Statistically, nearly half of men who contemplate suicide feel like they cannot talk about their feelings. I wonder why?

This ties into my second point, the idea that “boys will be boys”, the idea of being A Man™. The idea that if you show any sort of traits that can be linked to being in any way effeminate, you have to “man up”.

We’re in an era now where we’re redefining everything. Which is good! It’s 2017, and while some things that are “traditional” are harmless (every Christmas Eve my family watch White Christmas and eat more cheese than is normal for any human being) traditional gender things aren’t always…particularly positive. I’d have been burned for witchcraft years ago if your worth as a woman was defined by how well you could cook and keep house. The idea that men should be these massive, hard-centered golems that never cry and projectile vomit the moment anything pink is placed near them is so outdated they’re showing reruns of it on Dave.

The problem starts much, much earlier than that.

If you’ve looked at Kinder Eggs recently you’ll see that there’s often two different wrappers, pink and blue. Girls and boys. Girls toys and boys toys.


It’s generally accepted for a girl to play with cars and Meccano, but watch the reaction if a little boy wants to play with Barbies or Disney Princesses, or anything else that’s “girly”. There’s an excellent thread on Twitter by the “Let Toys Be Toys” campaign that dives into the reasons why this segregation has such a negative impact on men. It’s an excellent read.

It’s permeates everything. Cocktails? Girl’s drink. Fiat 500? Girl’s car. Housework? Girl’s job. These are all actual things I’ve heard people say, as a throwaway remark. I’ve worked in shops that sell toys. I heard parents – mothers and fathers – saying this regularly to their sons. Imagine reacting that quickly in telling your child they can’t have a toy because it’s for girls. Imagine the message that’s sending out – not just about girls and women, but about themselves.

You can’t do that. That’s for girls. You don’t want to be a girl do you?

Man up.

There’s a lot of blacklash against this way of thinking, some of which I read not ten minutes ago. Rather than opening minds, we’re subverting our boys, perverting them. We’re confusing them. We’re making them think that they have to grow up and want to be a different gender. We’re forcing them to be something their not.

I’ve never heard anyone saying this about a girl who likes to play football. I’m just saying.


International Men’s Day shouldn’t be a chance to “one-up” women, in the same way that International Women’s Day shouldn’t be about relentlessly trashing men. Contrary to popular belief, most women don’t want to conquer the world and force everyone who identifies as a man to submit to our womanly overlord tendencies. I just don’t want to have to worry that whenever I post something about Magic or games I’m going to get a negative response.

If we put energy into building each other up, or working to change perceptions, or just opening up understanding that there are things to work on, think how much better the world would be.

Think how much better we’d all be.

So happy International Men’s Day. Love your fellow man. Lift each other up and realise that being a man might be broader than what you think it is.

Love the women in your lives. Love your kids. Love yourselves. Love each other.

Out To Sea Again

One Dundee memory that’s never left me, in all the rollercoaster years that have followed, is walking down Nethergate in the evening rain with neon puddles all over the road. I was listening to Wonderful Life by Black and I thought yes, it is.

But not for me.

Back then I had one goal. Don’t fall apart, and that was a big ask at the time. It was winter inside and out when I was at uni, and good weather was a long time coming. But even in the worst times, there was progression. Second year, third year, fourth year. Graduation. Masters. Graduation. Rarely was I left without a path, although it was a dark, lonely one.

Sometimes I miss that.

blog photo 1

You know, you’d look at me and think “what on earth do you have to complain about?” And you’d probably be right. I have my family, a fiancé, a mortgage we can comfortably afford. I have two cats that let me scoop them up and squeeze them like big teddy bears. I have more friends than I’ve ever had, friends who turn up at our house with regularity, who bring me cake and drink my coffee and sleep on the couch when we’re done dicking about in the living room.

And I love it.

So why do I feel like a winter morning, when the sun is pale and struggling and never really rises?

blog photo 2

When you say you’re tired, people say “me too” or “wow, how late were you up last night?” and you want to say no, I’m tired, marrow-deep and thread-thin.

I quit my job. Not the wrong decision, but it feels like taking your hands off the wheel in a car with no brakes and accepting the crash. Like telling yourself to put one foot in front of the other and realising after months of walking you’ve been travelling in circles.

I wish I could be one of those people, energetic all day, every day. Those people who find joy in everything, in other people and wearing scarves, and small talk with strangers on a train that smells like beer and too many lives.

I wish I could sink money into useless things that would keep me afloat. House a revolving door of junk, a museum of temporary relief.

Sometimes I wish I had faith, something intangible but omnipresent, the green light at the end of Daisy’s dock. A candle to warm my hands on when the weather turns cold and I can’t see where the doors are.

blog photo 3

This isn’t a cry for help, I’m lost, not bereft. I’ve been lost often enough to know that the fog will lift eventually, but boy is it difficult when the clouds never clear from behind your eyes. Your arms are always tired and you just want to eat mashed potato.

The reason I can tell I’m OK is because I can still find moonlight.

I saw the first robin this morning. My sister is coming to visit soon. Morrisons sell gluten free curly fries.

It’s a wonderful, wonderful life.

Maybe not yet. But it will be.

blog photo 4

Images from Pexels.


Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Books I Want My Future Children to Read

It’s Top Ten Tuesday, and this week it’s books to hand down to your future kids! Or someone else’s kids, if they’re not really your bag.

Fortunately, I learned to read at some stupidly early age (my parents found out when I innocently asked who Colin Montgomery was after seeing his name in the paper my dad was reading) so I have no shortage of material from my formative years to choose from.

With a little help from my mother, here’s ten books that I’ll be forcing into the grubby little hands of any future kids I have.



Yes, this is a real book, and yes I did produce it and triumphantly yell “DOGGER!” in the middle of Waterstones once to prove it to my mum.

We can forgive the name, given that it was released in 1977. (Believe me, I googled VERY carefully to find the date.) It’s a beloved classic, a boy with his favourite toy dog and what happens when it goes missing at the funfair. Reach the end without crying. I dare you.

Harry Potter

harry potter

I mean, come on. Do I even need to elaborate on this one? Harry’s consumed my life since I was in single digit numbers and my future children will be force fed the books once they’re old enough to understand. If they’re not looking for their Hogwarts letter at some point I will have failed as a parent.

The Famous Five

famous five

Another classic. I can’t think of an Enid Blyton book I DIDN’T love to be fair, but the Famous Five were always my favourite. Who didn’t want to go on an adventure with all your friends, a remarkably intelligent big dog and lashings of ginger beer? With a combined age of less than fifty they seemed to be more competent than every single police force in the series.

That Book About The Jumper

I can’t for the life of me remember what this book was actually called, but one of my earliest memories is getting a bus to the library in Inverkeithing and insisting that my mum check me out this book about a favourite jumper. Remember it Ma? I had a real vested obsession. (No pun intended.)

Old Bear Stories

old bear

Find me a more perfect childrens’ series. Spoiler alert: you can’t. I can’t formulate the words to describe how nice these books are. Even as an adult all I have to do is think about Little Bear’s Trousers or hum the theme tune and I regress into a fugue state.

In fact, I think I might go out and buy the whole lot and never leave the house ever again.

The Gruffalo

the gruffalo

This one’s a little past my time for picture books, but having a mother who worked in early years education meant that I have had the praises and relative merits of pretty much everything Julia Donaldson has ever written. There’s something charming about the Gruffalo, warts and claws and all.

Plus we – as in my entire, adult family – always end up watching The Gruffalo and The Gruffalo’s Child on TV every Christmas morning.

If Only They Could Talk

if only they could talk

When I was little I wanted to be a vet, before I realised my ineptitude in maths and science might be a hindrance. It did lead me to James Herriot, and his stories of veterinary practise in the Yorkshire Dales. Fun for the whole family.

I have vivid memories of lying on the sofa ill as a child with books piled around me, reading about prolapsed uteri, obese Pekingese dogs and the best way to treat mastitis.

The Polka Dot Horse

polka dot horse

This was – ironically, given the plot of the book – a forgotten favourite from when I was REALLY small. I haven’t read it for years, but I can still remember the pictures of the lonely little wooden polka dot horse rolling down the street in the dark.

Fortunately, it has a happy ending, but if this doesn’t make you want to weep, I fear you.

Wild at Heart series

wild at heart

OK so I LOVED these books as a child (see above re: veterinary dreams) and absorbed pretty much the whole series when they were sent to me from the US by my auntie Fee. I didn’t find out until years afterwards that they were written by Laurie Halse Anderson, who in my later years became my YA lit hero and the author of some of my favourite books. Now I love them even more.

Dorling Kindersley Eyewitness

I’ve always been a huge nerd and I loved these non-fiction books. Probably the reason my general knowledge is as broad as it is. In particular, anything involving animals and space. Or animals IN space.

And a special bonus shout-out to…

Every single electrical appliance my parents bought in my childhood. I had a bizarre proclivity for reading instruction manuals, which meant that as a youngster my understanding of how to work the TV, VCR, kettle, washing machine and hi – fi was sounder than that of my parents. It also meant that I was remarkably easy to entertain – just stick me in the middle of the room with a file full of instruction books and I was happy for hours.

Then I’d fix the clock on the oven.


Share your favourite childhood books with me! Or if you know the jumper book I’m talking about, y’know. For nostalgia’s sake…

Here you leave today…

Florida! The obligatory holiday roundup, delayed due to the fact that I’ve spent quite a lot of time over the past few weeks wanting to leave the planet. I ended up leaving my job instead. Oy vey.

Before we start, shout out to Dan who came round a while ago and informed me, when conversation turned to this blog, that he “doesn’t care about the content, [he’s] here for the tone and the sarcasm”. Thank you Dan, I’m delighted to learn that I’m giving the fans what they want.

The rides

Last time I came to Florida I was ten and refused to go on anything that I thought might upset my fragile disposition. For this trip I decided that since I am now (allegedly) a grown up I should probably do theme park stuff, since I’d spent an entire month’s mortgage payment on the tickets.

This approach had mixed results.

It got me on Space Mountain, which I loved, in probably the biggest surprise of the trip given my jangly nerves and my preclusion to suffer from motion sickness. I went on it three times, entertaining Megan and Andrew with my “rollercoaster noises” all the way through. (A demonstration of these noises can be provided upon request.)

Then there was Expedition Everest.

It’s worth pointing out that Megan and Andrew actively conspired to get me to go on Expedition Everest. They knew if they explained it I’d refuse, but if I enjoyed it I wouldn’t be scared any more. Exposure therapy.

So they told me it was a higher up version of Thunder Mountain. “Sounds neato!” said I, skipping into the queue.

Reader, they lied to me.

I certainly don’t remember Thunder Mountain shooting off backwards in the dark and culminating in an 80ft drop. Once I realised I’d been had all bets were off and I spent the rest of the ride terrified, which culminated in this now-iconic photo.


At least my dad appears to have found serenity throughout the experience, whereas I could barely walk when I got out of the ride vehicle. At least my family have stopped lying to me.

Circue Du Soleil

Prior to this trip I had no idea what Cirque du Soleil was. I assumed that it was ballet-type twirlings with ribbons and shit, and I wasn’t particularly enthusiastic.

As you all know I live to be proven wrong, and I was. Highlights included the clowns – who I could have watched for an hour and a half on their own – and the little Chinese girls who have more co-ordination and talent at about ten years old than I have ever had.

Honestly if you’re anywhere in the world and Cirque du Soleil are performing, go.

My Birthday

Remember when I said I was going to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios for my 26th birthday?

I was summoned to Hogwarts instead.

So off I went to Diagon Alley to get my school supplies, including robes (which I wore until I got unbearably warm) and a wand. Ollivander’s wand shop both looked and smelled exactly like I always imagined it would, although I was quite perturbed by the face that my family kept elbowing me in the back while we were waiting.

It made sense when I was duly summoned to perform wand choosing ceremony. It’s very cool – right down to the “I wonder…” line just before you get given YOUR wand, and then the wind starts and the lights go mental like they do in the movie and CHILLSSSSSSS. My mum cried.

The whole thing is very, very authentic – there’s a real Hogwarts Express steam train, a real Hogsmeade and a real Hogwarts castle containing my favourite ride in the whole of Florida, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. I didn’t know being swung around on a hydraulic arm could be so much fun.

Miscellaneous memorable moments

  • Telling Megan and Andrew that I’d give them $10 each if they could recreate the “lift” scene from Dirty Dancing in the pool. They didn’t, but it was hilarious to watch, particularly given Andrew nearly accidentally drowned my sister.
  • “Meats cheese millet” – the ultimate gluten free breakfast.
  • Chef Brandon in the Boathouse in Disney Springs, who promised me a gluten free Bundt cake that would change my life. It did, and when I confirmed this with the waiter Brandon was duly whisked back out so I could tell him in person. He sat with us at our table, told us how to make it ourselves and then gave me his business card so I could email him when I got home if I forgot anything or had any questions. I LOVE BRANDON. He’s the real MVP.
  • Watching the video of the Irish family trying to catch the bat in their kitchen at least once every single day and laughing until we cried every time.
  • Not dying on any of the flights (score!) and only bursting into strangled tears once when we hit turbulence. Apologies to the nice Australian man on the end of our row – I was the Scot who cried and needed to pee a lot.

I miss Disney World. Who wants to go back, and drink Le Fou’s brew in the sun and watch the fireworks?


See Ya Real Soon.

“The Problem”: old jokes, community, and girls who game.

Most people who know me have probably heard me talk about a trading card game called Magic: the Gathering. I’ve been playing since 2013 and I’m currently heavily involved in running and sustaining our local player community.

Which is why when I saw this Daily Mash article in my timeline and realised it had been shared by a local store with a slightly patronising “Now remember lads, it’s just a joke!” tagline, my eyes rolled so far back in my head I could examine my own spinal cord.

I, along with others, suggested that presenting the article in that way was perhaps not a positive reflection of the community. I was (predictably) accused of not being able to take a joke. The joke, of course, being that men who go to gaming stores are all sweaty neckbeard virgins who panic at the mere thought of a woman, and that the women who go are there for literally any conceivable reason other than they want to hang out and play games. (Spoiler alert: WE JUST WANT TO HANG OUT AND PLAY GAMES.)

I was also told that the problem lies with me if I have a problem. Let’s get real. Anyone who thinks that is missing the point so wildly it looks deliberately obtuse. I really don’t care what people spend their free time laughing at in their own little groups, and if there are people that still actually think this flogged to death meme is funny then crack on. “Lads”.

This is not an isolated incident. Oh it’s rare – I’d go so far as to say almost unheard of – in Scotland, where there’s a tight-knit, inclusive community who aren’t afraid to shout if something’s not right. But widen the net and you see that this “joke” is actually being played out in stores all over the place. Women being asked where their boyfriend is, women receiving comments like “man, I can’t believe I just got beaten by a girl” when they win. Women who, despite making up around 40% of the total player base, are not going to events. Meghan Wolff from the Magic: the Amateuring podcast wrote an excellent article two years ago on this topic, after encountering – as we all have – people who, in her words, “don’t believe it’s even an issue and who don’t want to be convinced”.

Am I looking into this too much? There’ll be thousands who would argue yes, that I’m a snowflake who looks for excuses to be offended, or that I’m a “feminazi” looking for an excuse to throw my weight around and stop all the boys from having a good time. Maybe that’s what they meant when they said the problem lies with me. Maybe that’s what you think too.

But let’s be absolutely, categorically clear. It doesn’t.

The problem lies with sixteen-year-old Sally who’s just come across Magic and wants to know where she can play locally. She is going to see that post and never attend an event. Why would she? It’s not a huge step to assume that the community will be full of men who’re going to patronise her, avoid her, assume that she’s there for a reason other than to play a game she enjoys.

The problem lies with fifteen-year-old Jimmy, who’s going to think that by hanging out in his local store, this is how he’s going to be perceived by people, who’ll make the correlation between “game store” and “any main inept character from The Big Bang Theory”. Even worse, he’s going to see that article being shared and think that his local store will have a laugh at his expense. Because that’s what it looks like.

The problem lies with twenty-two-year-old Molly, whose hobbies exist in traditionally male-dominated spheres, like gaming. Molly has to specifically create a gender-agnostic gamertag because if she doesn’t she’ll get messages saying “get back in the kitchen you whore”. Molly will look at that post and think, what’s the point?

I’ve spent the best part of the past four years watching, actively working to grow our local player base, listening to feedback from people who perhaps don’t feel comfortable or welcome in these spaces and trying to do better. I like to think I have a decent understanding of the nuances of creating a good community, and I’m afraid not being an asshole to your customers when they’re in your store simply isn’t enough. We know this. Scotland knows this. It’s why most of our shops and players and judges and tournament organisers are so wonderful.

And therefore I would ask you to consider, that if you post something and have to double down and argue with the numerous people pointing out the way that it reflects on your community – people who are the butt of the joke you’re inviting your customers to laugh at – that an entirely different problem lies very much with you.