Tuesday 10 May 2016

Stresses And Smiles.

It is fair to say that the last two weeks have been somewhat manic. What with the start of exam season (which meant lots of invigilating for Yours Truly), visitors from antipodean lands and preparations for EM-con, there has been very little time to squeeze in writing or blogging let alone any running to clear the mind.

So, you might feel that I've been somewhat stressed and anxious. True, the invigilating takes it out of me. Hour upon hour of mind-numbing seriousness does tend to cause a certain amount of atrophy in the cerebral area. This followed by maniacally running around the house eliminating every last piece of dust and detritus before an old childhood friend comes to visit can raise ones blood pressure as can the comment, “You have a cat. I die if I go near cats.” But a cup of tea in the garden can soon relax one's nerves and belay any fatal asthma attacks.

As for one of the largest comic cons in the East Midlands: yes, this took an insane amount of preparation which in turn led to anxious nausea, dizziness, tears and tantrums. But what an event it was! I had a great time meeting up with readers of my Sam Spallucci books and making new friends and acquaintances.

One such person was a delightful young lady by the name of Frances. She came up to my stall, supported by her crutches, and we got talking. It turned out that we had a major life issue in common: defunct ears! However, whereas mine require, at the most, a day or two in bed or the occasional use of a walking stick, this young woman's auditory issues dominated her life completely, so much in fact that her balance was almost completely non-existent and she had been forced to have one of her inner ears removed and replaced with a cranial induction hearing aid.

However, what is the one thing that I shall remember most about her? Is it her wobbling from side to side as we spoke? Is it her telling me how she had dreaded the surgeon removing part of her skull?

No, it's neither of these. It's her infectious smile. This brave young woman refuses to let her physical disability ruin her life. She takes what she has and and just runs with it.

She is a shining example to us all.

Don't forget, you can catch up with my writing bits and pieces at the following places:

Wednesday 20 April 2016

Hail The Conquering Hero!

Yes yes yes! I did it. I am practically bouncing up and down as I devour my well earned celebratory beans on toast. What might you ask is this achievement of which also proud? Have I discovered the meaning of life? Have I successfully split an atom using nothing but a Stanley knife, a g-clamp and duct tape? Have I finally completed my life long dream to sing bare chested in a boy band to a horde of screaming fans.

A.S.Chambers at his triumphal arch.Well it's none of these. This morning I accomplished something far greater.

I ran non-stop for 4.7 kilometres.

Okay, I can here the bemused silence from here so I had better explain. 4.7 kilometres is the distance from my house to the local Sainsburys whilst travelling along the river Lune. I have been running along this path now roughly twice a week since the beginning of the year. As the months have progressed my running distance has steadily increased so that the amount I run supersedes the amount that I walk.

Well, today saw me run the whole length of the path with no walking or breaks whatsoever. What's more, I managed it in a sweet thirty minutes.

Now I know that's no record breaking feat and I don't think I'll be booking into the London marathon just yet, but let me put this into context. Before January I had never run consistently like this before. My Ménière's disease would not let me. I would jog along to the end of the street and the world would spin as Quasimodo played a bell concerto in my ears. Today however, I feel totally upright and high on endorphins. The tinnitus is still there but rather than Big Ben I hear the gentle tintinnabulation of gentle summer wind chimes.

This is a victory. The sight of my triumphal arch (the gate into Sainsburys) marked a turning point in my life. This my body; it does not belong to Mister Meniere's. With effort, grit and determination I can make sure that he never claims ownership of it ever again!  

Don't forget, you can catch up with my writing bits and pieces at the following places:

Tuesday 19 April 2016

Bring On The Cartoon Bluebirds!

It's amazing what a little drop of sunshine can do to lift one’s spirits. For the last few days weather here in Lancaster has been dull, damp and downright depressing.

A.S.Chambers in sunny LancasterToday, however, I woke to find a bright sky, flowers nodding in the garden and cartoon bluebirds serenading Schroedinger, my kitten, through the kitchen window. Okay, so I made that last bit up, but you get the idea.

While the weather has been grim, I've been curled up on the sofa trying to concentrate on the latest adventures of Daredevil whilst Mister Meniere's has been dancing round the living room, shaking his ample booty in my face and calling me a loser.

So today, accompanied by the first of the spring sunshine, I have donned my fedora and headed into town to find a sunny seat and start on my next Sam Spallucci book, Dark Justice. As I sit upstairs in a local coffee shop, I can see people going about their day-to-day business with a a lot more bounce in their steps. Their heads are up, looking around at the newly-illuminated city and gone are the large hoods protecting them from the elements. Like the first flowers poking up from warming earth, people are crawling out from under the covers to finally start enjoying the new year.

This puts me in a good mood so, in the eternal fight with Mister Meniere's, this round belongs to me (and those sweet little cartoon bluebirds…)

Don't forget, you can catch up with my writing bits and pieces at the following places:

Wednesday 13 April 2016

A Tale Of Inspiration

I do enjoy my morning runs by the River Lune as it snakes it's way through the centre of Lancaster. Not only is the fresh morning air exhilarating but I actually find running by the sleeping dragon quite inspirational in my constant battle with Meniere's Disease.

River LuneWhen I first arrived here as a student back in 1990 I was told about how the Romans founded the city. The story went that they decided that the hill by the Lune would be an ideal point to set up shop as it had a perfect view all around for keeping an eye on pesky Celts and possibly a few sneaky Picts.

However, there was just one little problem.

The river was in the wrong place.

In order to ensure that they were firmly secured, the river needed to go around the base of the hill and not in its existing straight path. So it was that the Romans did to this force of nature what they did to just about everything else: they subjugated it and bent it to their will. They dug a new path for the Lune that gave the river it's familiar kink around the base of Castle Hill, they settled Lancaster and the rest, as they say, was history.

There is, however, one problem with this story.

It never happened.

Recent archaeology has shown that the river was never moved. It has always been in the position that it occupies and resolutely flows from hill to shore blithely ignoring all who stand in its path.

So this is the true inspiration for me. A river that refuses to be cowed by the actions of others stands as an example for me in my constant battle against Mister Menieres. My journey may twist or turn, but as I continue I shall build in strength and power until one day I shall overcome and see the ocean blue.

Don't forget, you can catch up with my writing bits and pieces at the following places:

Wednesday 23 March 2016

A Fairly Pants Day.

So, today is a fairly pants day. Those close to me would say that I've been overdoing it but how can I overdo things when what I do is a fraction of what other people are capable of?

One thing I hate about Meniere's Disease is being treated like I'm made of eggshell. I still remember the days of my youth when I would cycle for miles and miles, run with carefree abandon through fields of nettles and other such youthful nonsense. Now, however, spending a morning staring at a computer screen whilst entering invoices makes me want to vomit and attending a comic convention for two or three days takes over a week from which to recover.

So, I get told that I'm overdoing it and I need to rest.

But what if I don't want to? What if I want to live a normal life like someone without stupid little sacs of imbalanced fluid inside their ears? Is that too much to ask for?

I think not.

I don't want to spend the day feeling constantly tired or depressed. I don't want to dread having to cook my tea because that means standing up for half an hour watching vegetables boil whilst the room is spinning.

Right now, I would kill for normality.

But in doing so, would I lose what I am, a survivor?

I have this constant battle every day and, so far, Mister Meniere's has yet to win the war. Yes, he may gain the occasional victory, but even now, sitting here with the fug of gloom encompassing me, I know in my heart of hearts that tomorrow will be another day. I will meet people who shall make me smile and I will receive all manner of cuddles and love from my furry friends.

So yes, today is a fairly pants day.

But that doesn't mean that tomorrow will have to follow suit.

Don't forget, you can catch up with my writing bits and pieces at the following places:

Tuesday 15 March 2016

Mister Meniere's Fails In Liverpool!

The weekend just gone saw Yours Truly in his natural habitat: the comic convention. I pootled down to Liverpool for its first ever MCM convention. The idea, as ever, was to introduce new readers to my books, sell fantasy figurines and have a fun time making new friends and catching up with existing readers and other traders.
However, I had a stowaway in my little Citroen Berlingo.

Mister Meniere's.

When I leave the snug safety of the protective cave that is my home, Mister M will always try to do his best to ruin the event. This weekend was no different. Setup for the convention was on Friday, so Friday lunchtime saw me driving down the M6 with bells a-ringing and stomach a-fluttering. I gave them the finger by turning the Pet Shop Boys up loud and singing along to some camp eighties' classics.

Mister M was not deterred so easily. After setup, all a tired Austin wanted to do was to crawl into his hotel bed and snore away the wee hours. At 2am Mister M said it was playtime. The rest of the night was spent listening to bells and voices stamping on my auditory nerves. So it was that a slightly haggard Austin had to appear bright and breezy on the first day of the convention even though, deep inside, he felt like curling up under his stall and hiding.

As the day progressed my emotional state declined and I started to question my whole career path as Mister M cackled with glee in the corner and at six o'clock I drove back to my hotel in an exceptionally bleak mood.

However, Mister Meniere's had failed to take into account one crucial factor in his plot to overthrow the happiness of Yours Truly: other people!

The next day saw me stagger into the convention looking like Death's great uncle Horace. The traders next to me chatted away and it turned out that they had felt shocking the day before too. They had been tired from travelling and the day had gone on far too long for them. Another trader came and said, “Hi!” then went and bought me a decaf americano which both warmed me and cheered me.

Then my readers came and visited me. With each praise of my books and each purchase of my latest escapade, Mister Meniere's was thoroughly thrashed into submission.

By the end of the day, I was somewhat weary but also bright and cheery. As I packed up and headed home I couldn't help but whistle happily to myself.

So, to all the folks who unknowingly aided me in my silent battle in Liverpool, all those who came as unwitting knights in shining armour, I say, “Thank you!”

Don't forget, you can catch up with my writing bits and pieces at the following places:

Thursday 10 March 2016

The Great British Conundrum

I sometimes get asked, “Why are you a vegan?” Now, I have to say this isn't a question that comes my way very often but, when it does, the part of me that is British suddenly becomes very uncomfortable.

There are certain things that Brits are known throughout the world for doing thoroughly and with great style. Queuing is one of them – look at the lengths we will go to for that new book or for a reduced price dishwasher in the January sales. Complain politely is another – hence our abhorrence for automated telephone systems (we would much rather have a nice polite chap on the other end of the phone with whom we can discuss our grievance in a civilised manner).

One thing we are not so good at is expressing or explaining our personal beliefs whether they be political, social or religious. We look at our American cousins and shudder at the brash televangelists or we scratch our heads when we see French lorry drivers blockading their ports. This sort of thing tends to be inherently alien to us as we would much rather sit at home and grumble into our newspapers about something rather than grab it by the neck and choke it into submission.

So when I get asked about my particular lifestyle choice, I tend to stare off into the middle distance before giving a bemused shrug and saying, “I just am.”

Don't forget, you can catch up with my writing bits and pieces ate the following places:

Tuesday 8 March 2016

The Sleeping River Monster

Had a really good run this morning even though Mister Meniere's was trying desperately to convince me to remain in bed. He thought he had achieved a cunning victory over me this weekend when he prevented me from going to see Deadpool on Sunday and his hopes of hitting me around the head with a large haddock were running high. However, both yesterday and today I managed to drag myself, albeit somewhat unsteadily, out of bed and today I even managed to reap a reward with an increase in my running distance.

A.S.Chambers - Low LuneI was also treated to this nice shot of the River Lune winding its way to the millennium bridge.
Normally, Lancaster’s river is a fairly lazy beast – it slouches down low in its bed and protests when it gets assaulted by flocks of swans. However, just before Christmas last year, this sleeping monster rose its head and burst its banks. A feat quite unbelievable when you look at it in this picture yet something which the city is still recovering from with many businesses still closed.

I see my Meniere's rather like the River Lune. I'm always aware of its presence. It's there, trickling away in the background with my tinnitus happily jangling and jingling in my inner ear. Then sometimes there's a splash and I suddenly feel dizzy or nauseous for no particular reason. And other times there is a torrential downpour which causes it to burst its banks and flood my senses with an overload of saturated information. I collapse in a heap and retreat to the safety of my bed for a number of days.

So, when this inundation catches me off guard from time to time, I just pile up the sandbags and hunker down in the knowledge that given time the floodwater will recede and life will eventually return to what I consider to be normal.  

Don't forget, you can catch up with my writing bits and pieces ate the following places:

Thursday 3 March 2016

Mister Meniere's in the driving seat.

Another Thursday; another run. Finally managed to kick Mister Meniere's out of the driving seat and took full control, although it was rather exhausting. Mind you I did manage to find a handy sign post to catch a quick power nap against, so that helped.

A.S.Chambers nappingMeniere's Disease is a funny old thing. I'm constantly aware of its insidious presence: tinnitus jangling away, that feel of travel sickness rolling around in the background. However there are definitely certain things that act as triggers and will inevitably cause a full blown attack.

I have two big fingers on the trigger of my inner ear, both of which have been firing potshots at me this week. First, the lack of sleep the other night caused by a rampaging kitten (see Previously On Dizzy Deviant). Second, and this can be the more debilitating of the two, the anxiety caused by unfamiliar situations.

This weekend sees me tootling down to Buxton for UNICON. This was a last minute, spur of he moment decision which, at the time of booking, felt like a great idea. However, as the days trotted past, the subconscious of Yours Truly started to chip away at the granite edifice of my confidence.

“What if they didn't get your payment?” it would whisper. “What if traffic’s bad? What if it's a dead loss? What if you get stranded in snow? What if a meteorite hits the convention centre?”

So, by midweek, I was a gibbering wreck and Mister Meniere's twirled his waxed moustache, proclaiming, “Mwahaha! You are mine for the taking!”

Overthinking things really is not a good idea…

Don't forget, you can catch up with my writing bits and pieces ate the following places:

Tuesday 1 March 2016

A Nocturnal Feline Causes Havoc.

So, no running this morning because my good, old, constant friend Mister Meniere's is in the driving seat. I'm all bells a-ringing in my ears and I'm swooping and swaying myself around the house as those little sacs of fluid bang together deep inside my head.

It's funny how something so small can cause such deeper repercussions. It's almost like an ant overthrowing an international bank. There's a domino effect of symptoms that lead onwards to the ultimate conclusion that today is just not going to happen.

And what, may you ask, caused this exacerbation of my lifelong condition? Well, it is small, has four feet and a tail, is covered in soft, black fur and answers to the name of Schroedinger.

Yes, I was bounced on at two in the morning by an over-exuberant kitten. Now, if this had been, say twelve hours later, I would have been, “Yo, Kitty! Let's play.” However, in the supposed still of the night, his playful actions were less than welcome and resulted with said feline being shut in the dining room until sunrise and Yours Truly feeling like he had just gone twelve revolutions on a waltzer.

But, hey ho, Schrodie's cute and I always forgive him. It just means that today will see very little work achieved.

Don't forget, you can catch up with my writing bits and pieces ate the following places:

Monday 29 February 2016

The Dizzy Deviant starts his diary.

My name is Austin Chambers. As well as being an author, I am a lifelong sufferer of Meniere's Disease (that's the dizzy bit) and a lover of all things weird and wonderful – from horror novels to fantasy art, from top hats to delicious vegan cuisine (that's what some folks would call the deviant bit).

Dizzy Deviant enjoying a run
The general purpose of this blog is to ramble on about how these and various other random things affect my life. It will be scribbled on my version of the back of a fag packet (my phone) whilst sat in a local café consuming a post-running breakfast. So don't expect the entries to be exceedingly deep or the length of War And Peace as when I've finished my beans on toast and my cup of tea I shall stop, get up and stagger home stiff and achey in the knowledge that all this exercise lark is really good for me, honest.

So, now I had better get on with the rest of the day and start bashing out another Sam Spallucci book before I have impatient readers hammering at my door.

And with that, I finish my breakfast and today's blog entry.

Cheers, Austin.

Don't forget, you can catch up with my writing bits and pieces ate the following places: