Alt. life:

What’s going on here then?

Good question… I’m afraid I’ve never been altogether sure! Broadly speaking, I’m not one for standing still and change isn’t something that particularly bothers me – consequently I feel that my blog should reflect that and be capable of accommodating a degree of diversity and change.

This page is an attempt to capture that feeling. It’s very much experimental and isn’t terribly structured or formulaic I’m afraid – think of it as a sort of scrapbook. You will find it a little grubby and unwashed behind the ears at times.

What goes here? – Stuff that doesn’t fit so easily within the main bloggage… writing that’s unrelated to sl or, for that matter, rl – perhaps a touch of rampant fiction.  Short stories, maybe even just random notes intended to provoke the imagination – often a little more edgy or darker than what you might be used to from the everyday sweet and innocent me. 

The truth is, this is an unstructured and evolving space that will change on a whim, and if you like it, hate it or want to add your own critique, thoughts or observations, please feel free.

Only the most recent addition will feature on this page. To see previous works, please visit the Alt. life: Archive page.

Seren. x


18 November 2021

Take my advice: Never try to pursue your dreams! At worst, you’ll fail dismally, at best you’ll end up with something that falls far short of what you aim for, and – trust me – that can be worse than failing dismally. There are few things in life less satisfying than being stuck with something that’s a poor substitute for what you really wanted; it’s like settling for supermarket own-brand chocolate… It might look the same, come in similar packaging, and hold the promise of sweet delights – but it’s never going to be a patch on Cadburys!

Don’t misunderstand me, you may be one of the fortunate few who gets to see their dreams come to fruition, but in my experience that requires solid graft, complete determination and utter single-mindedness – qualities that most of us lack in the quantities that realising one’s dreams demands – let’s face it, if pursuing our goals falls into any of the ‘too’ categories… Too difficult, too expensive, too far-fetched, it’s just too bad, and whatever we are aiming for is going to stay completely out of our reach. Alternatively, we can hope for our dreams to simply fall into our lap, thanks to good-fortune on a lottery-winning scale. Well, good luck with that! My advice, for what it’s worth, is just accept that life rarely gives you a shot at the big time, and live with the fact that your dreams are more than likely to remain just that: Only dreams.

My own life is testament to that particular reality. Let us rewind back through the years to the fresh-faced and impressionable youngster, who always wanted to be a fireman – heaven knows why: It just appealed to a boy who had what could probably be considered as an overly-romanticised notion of what fighting fires, rescuing puppies from burning buildings, and being ridiculously heroic was all about. Or maybe it was that I simply liked the idea of tearing through traffic in a big red fire engine, with sirens blaring? But, let’s just move forward a few years from there, to the quiet and studious young lad who, realising that fire-fighting involved a far greater degree of physical fitness than he was willing to commit to, turned instead to the more academic, and less strenuous exercise of literature.

I was an avid bookworm. I’d devour books, sometimes in a single sitting, and it suited my temperament perfectly. Here was a solo pursuit that didn’t require sporting prowess, could take place any time at my leisure, no matter where I might be or what I might be doing, and it allowed me to escape to the far-flung destinations of imagination. I’d read anything, and everything, from the Reader’s Digest in the dentist’s waiting room, through to the classics, comics, and pulp fiction – I loved it all and, inevitably, the first stirrings that one day I too might become an author, took hold.

How difficult could it be?

Remember what I said about dreams? Well, my dreams were simple: To become famous, and see my name in print, in big embossed gold letters, stamped across the covers of best-selling novels, with my picture on the flyleaf, rendered in tasteful monochrome. I’d be interviewed on chat shows, with Michael Parkinson enthusing about my latest blockbuster, and I’d become a permanent feature in Richard and Judy’s Book Club. No doubt, the BBC would turn my work into a prime-time serialisation; and Spielberg would pay record-breaking sums for the movie rights. I’d be every housewife’s fantasy from Fort William to Falmouth. And, one day, just maybe, the Nobel Prize for Literature might even come knocking!

So, yeah, dreams – but, you’ve if you’re gonna have a dream, then it may as well be a dream worth having.

Except, of course, things didn’t exactly work out as planned. Or at all, really.

My Lindt Chocolate level literary ambitions, in due course, became Lidl’s imitation Mars Bars.

And, like I said, there is nothing as frustrating, irritating and as deeply unsatisfying as knowing that what you have might very distantly resemble the dream, but can never live up to the expectation.

Oh, I went about everything the right way, learned the craft, got the qualifications, applied my every waking hour to the pursuit of writing excellence, but that simply wasn’t enough. I was in a cut-throat buyer’s market, and competition was both stiff and spiky. Rejection, followed rejection, followed rejection, and I realised that if I was really going to make it in this business, my professional credentials needed a serious beefing-up – I needed to get a foothold inside the business; anything, just something, that would get me started on the literary ladder to success.

Well, that didn’t exactly work out as expected, either.

I got my foot in the door at… Well, let’s not name names, we simply call it The Dictionary – capital T, capital D. You’ll know it as the go-to reference for any word in the English language, the standard against which all other dictionaries are measured. I know it as my downfall, the dream-shatterer, the cheap chocolate bar that leaves a bitter taste in your mouth and makes you realise you’ll never get to enjoy the Thornton’s experience.

If you want to be an author, any job, in any capacity, in any aspect of the publishing business is a good thing, right? Wrong! I started as a junior staffer, and over the years, worked my way up through the ranks… Senior Researcher, Section Lead and now, Head of Department, but not a writer, and certainly not an author. What I have become instead is an employee of a company that produces a prestigious reference work, about as far from my dream as that little kid who thought he could be a fireman.

Yes, of course, Head of Department is a fine title, especially for a company that constantly strives to refine and redefine the very language of literature itself, but fate and fortune has conspired to deny me of any solace even in that.

You see, the Department over which I preside is about as far removed from literature as it’s possible to be in this business. I am Department Head of, AARDVARK. Acronym Advisory Research: Dictionary Verification And Record Keeping.

AARDVARK! The irony isn’t wasted on me that my department, like its backronymic animal-inspired moniker, is largely unknown, misunderstood, and rarely sees the light of day. And the similarities don’t end there – my role involves more than its fair share of grubbing around, and poking my nose into things that most people would rather avoid, much like the activities of my department’s biological namesake. The majority of my time is spent attempting to validate completely contrived and moronically made-up collections of letters that artfully – and often, not so artfully – serve as an aide-memoire to collections of mostly meaningless constructs, barely understood outside the confines of the niche industries for which they’ve been coined, and business-specific technical terms. It’s the stinking backwater of linguistics a wasteland of mostly useless and lamentably forgettable nonsense… It’s the breeding ground for Jargon, buzzwords and business-speak, but whereas even those are mostly real words, my world consists of jumbled alphabetic combinations which have the misfortune of following a phonetically memorable pattern.

Unless, of course, you’re not in the know… In which case they are utterly meaningless.

And that, my friends, brings us full circle – the justification of my role as a custodian of our rich and ever-evolving language: because somebody has to write the blessed things down and record them for posterity, and that somebody is me!

Living the dream, I am – but not quite the one I’d hoped for. Instead, it’s the Dreadful Realisation Everything’s A Mistake.



2 Responses to Alt. life:

  1. Carol H Tucker says:

    very poignant attempt to get into the mind that is wandering away….

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