Author Archives: Chancery Stone

How the average woman feels about her body. EVERY DAY…

Great little film on one woman’s struggles all her life with her body image. And she’s a gorgeous model, so imagine what it’s like for the rest of us….

Jacky O’Shaughnessy on her body

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One for the sexist, racist cnuts




Possibly the finest song ever written for internet haters. Indeed, possibly the ONLY song ever written for internet haters.


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The Boy Who Took My Hand



I was leaving my local library the other day when someone came up behind me and took my hand. I didn’t think anything of it, so it took me a minute, because I’m unsteady and/or unwell most of the time just now (new meds), and hanging onto Max has become a way of life, but it felt ‘wrong’ somewhere in the back of my mind. The hand was too hot and dry, but more importantly it seemed somehow different. I looked down and there was a small boy, maybe five years old, of Middle Eastern descent.

I was so surprised at first I just kept walking. Then I laughed and said, “Hello. But I’m not your mum.”

He looked up at me and his face was a picture. It was shock, horror and then what can only be described as abject terror. There was no embarrassment there, as far as I could tell, but he let go and bolted back into the library to where his actual mother was coming through the foyer. The bona fide mother was a fairly short, round, Turkish-looking woman in a beige coat, with jet black hair and black glasses. She was also about twenty years my junior. She was not wearing leggings, a Mickey Mouse T shirt and sandals, nor did she have a shaved grey head with a punk mop of curls on top, big-ass earrings and an armful of bangles. In other words, she looked nothing like me.

She didn’t seem to have the first idea what her son had done, although the way he grabbed her hand and stuck to her side like a limpet probably made her think I had attempted to abduct him.

I was inexplicably tickled pink by this encounter. Partly because it was so novel. It’s not every day someone comes up to you in the street and simply takes your hand. Partly it was because we were both walking along the road, both oblivious to the fact that we were holding drastically wrong versions of our partner. And partly it was because no-one has ever taken my hand like that. I didn’t know it quite yet, but they hadn’t.

I don’t know if it’s tragic or wonderful that it’s taken me to the age of fifty-seven to feel this magical sensation, but hey! I might have died and never felt it, so let’s look on the bright side.

I was perplexed at first as to how I hadn’t noticed it was a tiny child and not a six foot male. He’d come up behind me and slid his hand into mine, so not seeing the physical difference is explicable, although how he could have mistaken me, God alone knows, since I bore zero resemblance to his mother. But maybe he was looking at his feet, or out at the road or something – who knows?

But the almost euphoric gratification I felt – I couldn’t put a name to it. When we were laughing about it afterwards I heard myself say, “It took me a minute to realise it wasn’t you,” but what struck me was that the first thing I registered as wrong was not the huge difference in size (and hairiness) but the heat and dryness of his hand. The sheer experience of his hand – it was just wrong. Max doesn’t suffer from sweaty palms, in case that’s what you’re all thinking – these hands just felt different, like snakes are supposed to feel. And I say that with love.

But it was then I realised that wasn’t the strangest thing to have first struck me, although it should have been, it was because what really told me I had the wrong person in tow was the way he took my hand. He wasn’t leading me or taking possession of me. It wasn’t habit or distracted reassurance, it was surrender. He didn’t take my hand, he gave me his. It was a handing over, a coming into port. He was offering himself to be led. He, in effect, just handed his care over to me.

It was such a phenomenally different feeling I just kept turning it over in my mind. And yes, I get ‘overemotional’ these days (a term designed by men to describe their lack of human emotions), but I swear this wasn’t that. This was a real, genuine discovery. I couldn’t fathom it.

I used to have a little brother. I still do, obviously, but he’s no longer little and I no longer take his hand, but I must have held a child’s hand before. I’m pretty sure I’ve even done it as an adult, on those rare occasions I’ve been somewhere and had to take on that task.

No, maybe not, on consideration. But I did definitely have that responsibility as a child. Why then don’t I remember ever experiencing this before? Is it possible that my own brother never had this security with me? That he never did hand his trust over to me like that? Am I, or was I, missing that gene even as a child? Does a child have to be brought up a certain way to hand over his trust like that, or does it take a certain type of child, and neither me nor my brother were those people? Did neither of us ever feel secure enough to hand over anything to another person, even as children?

Who knows? But I can tell you this, it’s a great feeling. I’ve never understood why people have children, other than force of habit. I’ve always considered them chiefly an ego-trip for men, and everyday sexism for women. I think most people have them simply because it’s a cultural norm we all buy into. It’s tradition, innit? And I don’t mean that as cynically as it sounds. There are many people who enjoy children and who actively want them; it’s just not most of the people who actually have them.

I wouldn’t have believed that feeling existed before that day. I wouldn’t have believed that there was any particular way to take someone’s hand, other than obvious things like people grabbing you out of cars and throwing you on the driveway before a beating. To have experienced that subtlety of feeling is by no means an odd thing for me; subtlety of feeling is my stock in trade, but for it to exist at all, and to have never encountered it before, that’s an oddity.

But I’m glad I did feel it. I admit it sent me into a flurry of wondering if I should have had children: ‘Should I foster?’ ‘I should have adopted’. But I realised that one tiny feeling does not a lifestyle make, and there would be plenty of times when the kid would be screaming or yelling or being such a pain that it would more than negate a tiny moment of hand holding.

But boy it was good. Really, really satisfying. To have someone just put their hand into yours, with all that confidence, that surety that you would protect them, see them safely home. Truly, a gift rarer than pearls.

Thanks, weird little kid – whoever you are. You made my day.


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The night I met Danny


I met Danny last night. This was unexpected because in all the years since I wrote the book I have never met him. I’ve always thought it was odd. He was in my head so much, for so many years, why had I never actually met him? I’d met John, even talked to him once or twice, but Danny was a cipher, as big a mystery as he was when I first set pen to paper.

My very first thought on meeting him was one of pleasant startlement. I even thought the words, “Oh, he’s actually real.” It was more elated than that banality would suggest: a piquant mix of surprise, sadness and delight. I did a double-take, unintentionally alerting him to my presence, the way you do when you see someone you know, or you are attracted to a stranger across a room. You don’t want to stare, or be caught gazing for more than three seconds, or whatever it is, in case you reveal too much of yourself, but your brain has to catch up, yell at you loud enough, rummage through a mental filing cabinet trying to save you from yourself and get you moving again before you blurt out something inappropriate.

Not in this case. I knew him instantly, even although he didn’t look exactly like I expected him to. But then they never do.

We were in an old disused shop in West Cumbria. That’s West, the industrial side, not the pretty side that everyone knows. DANNY is set in the forgotten side, the abandoned side, the side of old open-topped mines and abandoned industrial ports and agri-farms that aren’t big enough to cut it in the EEC. Only right we should all have been bundled into an old disused laundrette or dry-cleaners.

We’d all been in the same night club, and there had been a drugs raid and the police had simply rounded everybody up and shoved them in this shop until they could sort out who’d seen what and been where. It had soiled maroon carpeting and all the counters had been ripped up, with dangerous holes in the concrete floor and odd circles cut out the black-stained nylon where God-knows-what had passed through them.

Danny was sitting against one wall on a grey plastic stacking chair. Him and four other boys, and the first thing that struck me about him was “God, his hair really is that colour”. Let me tell you, that boy’s hair is dark. I am not at all surprised that people (annoyingly) always think it looks dyed when they meet him. To be honest, I always thought they were all suffering some kind of mass delusion brought on by lust and erotomania, but it’s a real genuine ruby red. It would be rich chestnut if there was enough brown in it, but there isn’t. The red on the book jackets isn’t right at all, but there, book covers never do live up to your idea of someone.

Secondly, his hair is softer, the ‘curls’ more like ringlets/waves. I always thought his hair would be tightly curled, if chaotic, but it’s not. If I had to pick any ‘jacket boy’, I’d say his hair looked most like the boy on the Hope House cover, although not in colour. We definitely got the colour wrong.

On the tail of that realisation, I thought, “He looks so young“. I hadn’t expected that, that he’d be so young, so not quite formed. He was more narrow-shouldered than I expected, although still as lean, slightly hollow. He was dressed in a black shirt and dark blue trousers. If I was forced to describe them, I’d call them midnight blue jeans – not denim, just cotton – kind of soft, brushed-looking and a brown leather belt.

He was sitting forward, hands dangling between his legs – with the other boys, but not of them. He looked like he’d been rounded up with strangers, like he’d been there on his own, like the proverbial lone wolf wandering about in the club, lonely or predatory. I’m not sure which.

To be honest, he didn’t look like he could, or ever would, be with anyone. He sat back and looked up, caught me entranced, like a rabbit in headlights. His eyes narrowed, focussed, as if to say “Do I know you?” As if he was reaching far into his memory, trying to dig for someone he knew years ago. Trying to catch some tenuous connection that I was unwittingly handing out to him.

But I saw a glimpse, perhaps under it, perhaps running ahead of it, perhaps there all along – just disguised because it was the politic thing to do; I saw that inch of calculation – although that isn’t fair; maybe resignation is a better word – that look of ‘What does she want of me?’ But by then I’d moved away, been shepherded into a back room where there was a perfectly round, deep, drilled hole in the floor filled with a mess of mixed coins. Drug money? Bloody strange drug money, but not for a hole in the wall town like this, I suppose. Kids buying ecstasy tablets with loose change. That was Maryport, at least at two in the morning in this surreal dream world.

I was half-interested in the weird hole in the floor, but more drawn to what was behind me. Danny, actually sitting there, like a real live person.

I turned round, saw him in profile, still sitting there on the end. He didn’t look at me until he stood up some minutes later, being herded out again: the police were done with them, or they were being taken somewhere else. Who knows?

He looked up, as his body was turning away, looked directly at me, as if he’d known I was there all along and had merely wanted an excuse to look back, as if he was grabbing at a last chance. He looked as if he was in handcuffs – why, for God’s sake?

He raised his head; that little upward tilt that men do with their chins. It’s almost peculiarly Northern, working class, something of strong, silent types. It’s a sort of “Ayup” of recognition, done without words. A thing that men generally do in salute to other men. It’s an acknowledgment.

He’d acknowledged me. He knew who I was.

We couldn’t speak, we couldn’t talk. We’d never be allowed to actually meet, have any kind of remotely meaningful connection. We were ships passing in the night. Two people who had come so close, who knew of each other, but not each other. He was saying “I see you, I know who you are. You are not my enemy.” No-one would ever be his friend. He was beyond that. Locked out forever. But I’d got close enough. I’d met Danny, in the flesh.

And the thing I felt about him most? The single strongest thing that struck me about him? It wasn’t his beauty, or his allure or his captivating perfection. Sitting in that chair, resigned, separated somehow from everyone around him, the one thing that struck me above all else, when I got past him actually being there at all, was how very sad he was. Sadder than sad. Beyond all sad.

And I realise I never did him justice. I don’t think I ever really captured him at all. And I’m more sorry than he’ll ever know.


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The Woman with the Electric Teeth


I have electric teeth. What this means in practice is that on the lower right-hand side of my mouth my teeth are ‘lit up’, galvanised, alive in a way that acts almost like a conductor.

It’s funny really, when you think about it, because I used to believe I was sensitive to electricity. Up until I was about thirty, I regularly electrocuted myself, albeit in a very minor way. I couldn’t touch escalator handrails (still can’t), shop counters, anything where a lot of metal/plastic/nylon carpet was combined with humming overhead lighting.

Younger still, I blew up lightbulbs at a truly alarming rate and regularly electrocuted my boyfriend when he was foolish enough to take my hand. We joked about it, but it was such a regular occurrence that I actually became fairly phobic about touching a lot of things and to this day I always put my forearm on an escalator handrail before I will touch it with my fingertips.

So it seems only right now that my mouth has actually come alive with electricity. I’ve become a living parody of my younger promise.

My little brother used to sleepwalk, and when I was left to baby-sit him I regularly used to hear him jump out his bed and run across the overhead floor. The only trouble was, when I went up to tell him off he would be fast asleep in his bed, not faking it but deeply asleep. No way could he have run across the floor, yet I’d heard distinct footfalls. What’s more, when I’d go out to the lower hall to yell up at him on these evenings, the light I’d put out would be back on again. I could have sworn blind that light was out, yet here it was, bright as a button, mocking me with its tungsten glow.

It was only years later I read about poltergeists and how young girls aged 11 – 14 from dysfunctional families often produced these phenomena, such as thumps and bumps, lights going on and off and, if they were very disturbed, actually moving objects.

Well, at least I wasn’t very disturbed; I could just turn lights on and off and make things go bump in the night. No Exorcist manifestations for me.

I lost this dubious ‘skill’ with time, just as the number of my electric shocks and exploding lightbulbs has dimmed with age, although it’s still me who blows up most of the lights in the house. When they’re going to go, it will be my fading electric current that will do for them.

I even stopped wearing synthetic fabrics in my thirties because the static made them unwearbale: riding up, clinging, giving me and everyone else near me shocks. I couldn’t take anything polyester off without lighting up like a Christmas tree. It hurt my teeth to walk under electric pylons, and I still find their ‘singing’ on wet days unnerving, like one of them is going to shoot power down to me, its soulmate.

So why then, given this banal little history of tidal electricity was I surprised when my teeth became fully electric?

I wasn’t.

Actually one of the strangest things about the electrification of my teeth is that other people with this disease – and yes, it is an actual disease – suffer the tortures of the damned trying to accept it. Not me. And trust me, this Zen flow isn’t normal for me.

I’m the woman who walked around with a crippling case of gallstones for a year and a half because I wouldn’t admit defeat and was determined – determined I tell you – to cure myself with the only drug available.

Diligently, every day, I worked at it: hypnosis, a punitive diet (I lost almost five stones in weight, although it’s more embarrassing that I had that much to lose than that I was that tenacious.) I was in acute pain all day, every day. The only break to the monotony was the odd attack, every week or so, that rendered me unable to move, eat or lift my arm above shoulder height. I lied to doctors about how sick I was, just so I could go on using this archaic and downright useless drug (Ursodeoxycholic acid, and don’t waste your time; it doesn’t work.). And at the end of it all, I failed, and had to lose the gallbladder anyway. It nearly killed me. Not medically – that was a breeze – but emotionally. I felt an absolute failure, like I’d let my poor body down; that’s how much I don’t accept things.

But my electric teeth? Oh, I cried, and I still do. I run into emotional walls, sometimes once a day, but cry, “Why me, Lord?” like all the other sufferers seem to do? Nope. Deny it’s happening, search everywhere for another reason, a better disease, a cause? Yes, maybe a little, but I go for an MRI next Tuesday, so I imagine that will be the end of that.

It’s common for no cause to be found on MRIs for Trigeminal Neuralgia – the real name for my electric teeth – so I may well join the many others who have been left abandoned, up the creek with neither boat nor paddle to get back to shore.

Will I be sad? Damn right. Crushed probably. Without a diagnosis of an artery or vein pressing on a nerve, a tumour or cyst, or MS (which is no better, because all you’ve gained is MS and Trigeminal Neuralgia) there is nowhere else left to go but down.

It’s a degenerative, incurable condition. This means they can’t fix it and it gets worse with age. Sometimes unmanageably worse. It’s known as ‘the suicide disease’ for a good reason – this is it. And I’m not a cheery soul to start off with.

It’s rare; they estimate only 1 person in every 100,000 people get it, and while it’s common for people to first think they have toothache when they get it, what is less common is to actually have it inside their mouth, like I have.

What this means in practice is I get electric shocks in my mouth. I get them randomly, whenever the Trigeminal Nerve feels anything that triggers it. In my case, so far, temperature change. What that means, in practice, is any variation in temperature is registered as an electric shock of pain. This isn’t like an electric shock; it is one, in the sense that the stimulation feels exactly the same. Doubtless there is no electricity running though me (but given my history, who knows?), but as far as my brain is concerned, there’s a hundred volts or so, right there, every time the wind blows.

This, in turn, means when I go outside I get shocked, when I come inside I get shocked, when the wind blows in my face I get shocked, when I stand over a chiller cabinet, or an air vent, or I yawn, or eat, or drink, or brush my teeth or shower (I admit, that’s an odd one, but hey, that’s the joy of this disease) I get shocked. In short, everything in life gives my mouth a burst of pain that brings strong men to their knees.

Fortunately, and I mean that, there are drugs for this. Not its own drugs – oh no. These drugs are for epileptics. Anti-convulsants. They dampen down/slow the nerve impulses (TN is thought of as hyper-excitable nerves) and thus stop the shock sensations.

After mistaking my condition for a dental problem (everybody does), and sensing something didn’t ring true in the dentist’s diagnosis, I went on the internet, that home of the barking and the life-saving, and found a disease that fitted what I had so well it was like it was made for me. Great. (That’s sarcasm, not joy.)

I went to the doctor’s, after two weeks of pain, a lot of confusion and anxiety, and a weight loss of ten pounds. And I’m not particularly overweight any more (I did learn from those gallstones, you know), so I couldn’t afford to lose ten pounds in two weeks.

I cried. I try to never cry with medical professionals. It puts you at a disadvantage. The doctor diagnosed my condition immediately, and came to the same conclusion as me (without any prompting), Trigeminal Neuralgia. Even then I wasn’t as crushed as I should have been, I was just so fucking relieved – medication. NIRVANA!

The drugs seemed to take an age to work, but eventually they did, and the shocks stopped. Just stopped. It felt like I’d died and gone to heaven. Who cared if I was so nauseous I couldn’t move, or that when I did move I fell over? Who cared that I had to go round shops hanging onto cabinets, leaning on something or someone for support at all times? So I looked drunk; was so stupid I couldn’t even remember the word for salt and had to go through a lexicon of every word that began with a ‘sol’ sound (I still do), I was saved. I’d seen the light. Western medicine had turned off my electric teeth.

Now, some months down the road, I’m still in pain. I have acute ‘sensitivity’ in my ‘hot zone’. I’ve had to put meds up and back down. I hallucinated at 800mg of Carbamazepine and had to live in a house infested with spiders, including a giant tarantula-esque thing that lived in the stencil above my bed (it’s a bird) that would come out the wallpaper at night. I saw oranges on park benches and sparrows in the fruit department at Asda-Walmart. I got so used to these I learned to tell what was real from what wasn’t all by myself, although I did have to ask occasionally.

And now here I am, haunting forums where all the crackpots hang out. People who sound like the world’s worst hypochondriacs. Poor sods who are either half-crazed with pain or medication or simply years of just not being believed – the misunderstood Atypical Trigeminal Neuralgia sufferers. They don’t have the dignity or medical recognition of Classic Trigeminal Neuralgia’s shocks but are instead tormented with almost constant pain; pain that no-one has any explanation for, or for which there is little help.

I’m glad I’m not one of them. My pain might be more ferocious, but I have meds that tame the beast – at least for now.

You never know, if all else fails, maybe there’s a life for me on the road as an old-time circus freak.

The Woman With the Electric Teeth (drumroll please…………..)


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It was August…


Yes, DANNY 3, the final (complete) volume is coming to you at the end of August 2012 – hopefully. God willing.

What will you all (i.e. me) do without it? Sigh………

My terror of the unknown aside – HOORAY, freedommmmmmmmmmmmmm! – to quote the evil Jew-hating, misogynistic, wife-beating, drunken, really, REALLY evil – did I already say he was EVIL? – Mel Gibson.

I will pass the halfway mark of the first major edit this evening. Those of you who have been with me from the start will know this is the nasty edit, the one that is covered in more bruises than one of Mel Gibson’s wives (bear with me, I’m jumping on a bandwagon here). It is covered in virtual highlighter, sneering remarks, weary Essays to Myself and, finally, in desperation, notes that just read “NO!!!”

But the second edit is always easier, and kinder. Then you start to see it shape up, and the worst excesses, repetitions and good old-fashioned I-must-keep-writing-no-matter-how-bad-it-is passages all start to melt away and the gold starts glimmering through.

What can I tell you about Volume 3?

Well, it’s name would be good, but unfortunately, I don’t know that yet. It’s a toss-up between The Changeling and ‘Tis Pity He’s a Whore. But The Changeling is winning currently. Feel free to bombard me with comments if you have a preference. Which I will ignore.

It used to be working titled The Serpent’s Tail and/or The End of the Beginning. This is because the book is cyclical; it stops where it begins, as it were. (Volume One’s very first title was The Beginning of the End, which I’ve always liked – still do.) You could, technically – and I’ve always imagined this to be true – finish reading Volume 3 and go straight to read Volume 1 and suddenly it all would be perfectly understandable. All those people who found DANNY 1 unbearably baffling would now be filled with enlightenment.

However, I have never put this to the test. Ever. And I’m scared to. So if anyone takes on the experiment after reading 3 please do put me out my misery and tell me if it works.

Or don’t. If it doesn’t. I’d rather keep my (delusions) illusions.

The book is being externally proofread, the pedants and Grammar Queens among you will be glad to know. One of its fans, Angelika, herself a writer, is proofreading the volume for me (see her masterwork here: Angelika Ranger – Hallowmere Fantasy Series, so hopefully she’ll pick up what I miss, and there will be a drastic reduction in floating “, missing ,,,,,,, and totally absent ……..

Not to mention hilariously awful errors such as the doozy from Road Movie: “knocked the sir out of him.” (It should have been air, in case that’s still baffling you. Little helpful note – if you can’t fathom what some fuck-up is supposed to be, just look at a keyboard. S sits right next to A, for example. Yes, Spike Milligna and I owe a lot of our success as comedians to the keyboard.)

So, volume 3. Well, let’s just tell you one thing about it and we’ll leave the rest of it for you to discover yourself.

When I was writing it, I intended it to finally tell the truth. Not so much to reveal the family’s true history (which you never discover – sorry), but to let you witness all the events that are related second-hand in all the other books. However (you knew that was coming, didn’t you?) I found that although I set out with the best of intentions, the boys had other ideas, and they insisted on telling me different stories, dragging me off to scenes I hadn’t witnessed, made me voyeur to things I had no idea had occurred. This gave me terrible bother.

Terrible, terrible bother. For a start, there was a constant worry of ‘How does this mesh with the facts?’, then there was the anxiety of timelines – did they match? Hell, no. Then there was the fretting about not covering things that needed to be covered, and events that were memorable, and that people would expect to read about, simply not being there. Then I just got tired of the bitching moaning and said, “Oh, fucking shut up and let me have peace to write.” And so I just told the story. In other words, I obeyed the writer’s first law, I got out my own way.

Afterwards, I had to go through it all again, amplified by being able to see concretely in front of me the ‘shortcomings’ of it as a comparative document. It just didn’t match.

It’s taken me many years since then, and many soul-searching hours in the dead of night wondering if I needed to rewrite it, to realise it’s deliberate, and exactly what should have happened. In the first volume they tell you DANNY – as umbrella for the Jackson Moore Story – as they want themselves to be. In the second volume, they confess DANNY as they know it sometimes was, but more often as their hearts nostalgically remember, and, finally, in the shape of Ian, and through Ian’s memory, they let all of that go and let their hidden voices rise to the surface. It may still be lies, but they are heartfelt lies.

But in Volume 3 you see it as it was. No, not the same events perhaps, but the events that actually mattered, the events wherein the truth was shaped, before it was hidden by lies and deceit and manipulative shenanigans. In fact, even their manipulative shenanigans (and that’s very much ‘their’, not ‘Ian’s’) are shown for what they really are – as often as not, lonely, sad, hurt, angry and just trying to survive.

Yes, it is finally August…….

 

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