Ten To Midnight

Christopher Fowler
pyeople I type it again. pepople And again. peoytle Do you mean peyotl? people One word done. Onto the next. That's what it's like. Fatigue hits you like a wall. The Husband, who doesn't really believe that illness exists unless it's very visible, says that ME is a 'fake illness'. I know it's not because I watched it land a friend in hospital for several months. Well I don't have ME, just a growing level of exhaustion that makes you think twice about standing up. Now superimpose that over a complex plot chart involving Bryant & May, acrobats, a rage-driven murder, the lost underwater town of Dunwich and a bizarre Square Mile scam, and you get a typical Peculiar Crimes Unit novel - but it's all in my head and I just can't get it down on paper. What gives? Under the cotton wool my mind is sharp, but physically lifting my hands over the keyboard wears me out. My nurse, who is full of home wisdom, says that others grow impatient because they can't see the world from my side. What they would see is a different list of priorities. 1 Manage pain 2 Concentrate on standing without shaking, walking around objects, negotiating stairs etc 3 Try not to let body fail me in public 4 Concentrate on what other person is saying 5 Attempt to respond normally It's ten to midnight. I could give up, I guess. Set aside the endless notes, get comfortable and watch movies instead. But I need to write, so at the moment I'm contenting myself with assembling blog entries - until such time as I can finish the next Bryant & May book, chapter by painstaking chapter. Hey, it's my dream and I'll achieve it - even if it's only in my dreams.  


Andrea Yang (not verified) Wed, 23/11/2022 - 17:40

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Sorry to hear the struggle is exhausting you. Maybe you could dictate your story or ideas for someone else to type up - would that be more or less frustrating? Hoping you find some peace. Your nurse sounds like a keeper.

Helen+Martin (not verified) Wed, 23/11/2022 - 18:14

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Your frustration must be maddening. Believe me we would really like to be able to help you and we would come and do typing shifts if it would help but I wonder if dictation would be even more tiring. Now, if we could put a light weight helmet over your brain, a helmet that would trap all the authorial details sparking away in there then perhaps that would be a stress free alternative.

BarbaraBoucke (not verified) Wed, 23/11/2022 - 18:39

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

I'll try to say this, although it will probably come out haywire. I had a lifetime of my mother drumming into my head - what is someone else going to think if you do that, say that, wear that, etc. Someone else is going to think what they think. It is within you to write - it's part of who you are. So keep on - even if it's one word at a time - even if things come out (temporarily) like a word from Jabberwocky - don't let go of the dream. Rest when you need to and then return to Arthur and John and Dunwich and all the rest. When it's 4pm in California and midnight in London, I'll give a positive thought to the fact that you just might be trying to hammer out a bit more Bryant and May and wish you well.

Jo W (not verified) Wed, 23/11/2022 - 22:35

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

I think I’ve said it before Chris, just do what you want to do, when you can. Right now, wrapping up in a warm blanket and watching films pass before your eyes seems like a good option. X

David+Ronaldson (not verified) Thu, 24/11/2022 - 09:02

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Bryant and May vs Cthulu? Marvellous!

Brooke (not verified) Thu, 24/11/2022 - 14:39

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What others who also care about you have said.
You're probably not getting sufficient nutrition to sustain energy and cold exacerbates fatigue. As Jo suggests, warm blankets and rest are indicated.

When you feel up to it, Microsoft 365 Word has a dictate feature built in; I tried the prototype and it works well. You actually have a document.
But I think you are an Apple Head; I'll cast about for compatible solutions. Doesn't iphone have a recorder?
Hugs and stay warm.

HR (not verified) Thu, 24/11/2022 - 14:51

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

I don't usually add comments on here but always read them. But I just wanted to emphasise what Helen + Martin said: lots of us here wish we could materialise in King's Cross and do typing shifts for you.

(And I say that as someone whose first associations with King's Cross weren't exactly happy - my first 'home' in London was a bizarre, grim hostel [with bizarre, grim inhabitants] in King's Cross Road. Over 30 years later, it's still the single worst place I've ever stayed in.)

So do when you can, as you can, and know that all your invisible typists out here have got your back.

BarbaraBoucke (not verified) Thu, 24/11/2022 - 16:15

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Brooke - I'm not sure if this is what you are meaning about a dictation feature with Apple, but I just looked that up on my Mac and there is a dictation feature "attached" to the keyboard. One has to go to System Preferences to turn it on. I have no idea how it works, but I am passing along the information for what it's worth.

Paul c (not verified) Thu, 24/11/2022 - 16:32

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Once again l'm lost in admiration at your courage. Please just write a plan for the remaining chapters and ask one of your crime writer friends to complete it. You could then just enjoy yourself
I recently survived some grim heart surgery and wouldn't want to knock myself out the way you seem to be doing. Be selfish and do you what you want. Respect as ever.

Peter T (not verified) Thu, 24/11/2022 - 16:34

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

As all the above. I'd not offer a typing service as poepel is my normal level - left and right hand, or is it sides of the brain, not in synch. It's worth trying the Microsoft voice to text. I'm wondering what would come out if Arthur Bryant used it.

BarbaraBoucke (not verified) Thu, 24/11/2022 - 18:50

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Paul C - I hope you are staying warm in the cold winter temps there, and going along well on the path to recovery from your heart surgery. Take care.

Paul c (not verified) Thu, 24/11/2022 - 19:53

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Thank you, Barbara - you're very kind

SteveB (not verified) Thu, 24/11/2022 - 22:31

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Chris, I hope you don’t give up, though I know it’s not for me to say.
All the very best to you and your husband.

Anna-Maria Covich (not verified) Fri, 25/11/2022 - 01:24

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

I don't think most people realise just how far beyond exhausted it's possible to get and how much like a mental prison it can be to have to think through brain fog. And how frustrating it is for someone whose mental agility was their biggest strength to suddenly struggle to keep track of a single sentence being spoken. I don't know how many times I've missed half of what was said because it took too long to tune in or I tuned out midway through a short sentences. I am interested I'm just tired.
I don't know how well it will transfer between conditions, but I find that in managing my ME, if I pinch my pennies I can get more for the pound level activities. My (shortened) mantra is why run when you can walk, why stand when you can sit.
I use a stick or walker when vertical because it saves a LOT of brain power (a shocking amount really), if I don't have my stick I use the dance/yoga trick of focusing my vision on a single, stable point across the room to help me balance. I try to wear reading glasses to read and write, even though my vision is fine, because it's easier. I have a motel kitchen type set up in my bedroom, because that's where I spent my time, but I recommend putting a kettle anywhere you plan to drink your tea. Think about where you want to be, what you want yo do, and make your world fit your schedule as much as possible (ignore conventional design and use).
Sensory processing takes a lot of energy, as does staying warm. Do what you can to help these.
Even speaking! I don't know how to ease that one, but I've had days when the whole process of translating thoughts into words into sounds into muscle movements has been on manual because my brain shut down, and did a whole year of postgraduate study with only the speech part of my brain able to process language. That was really weird.
I really must finish my blog pieces on my tips for fatigue. It's mostly written, but I got sidetracked.

Jan (not verified) Fri, 25/11/2022 - 07:52

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Hiya Chris why don't you give this dictation thing a run?

Sounds like a good idea Brooke is suggesting here I know you don't write like this + it isn't your preferred method of getting you story told plus all the delicate wordsmithing that makes it comical or gets the finer pointing the tale across.

As you're up against it here though why not be giving this idea of Brookes a try?

It'll do more than create the outline. Then you can go back + give your most crucial scenes and best jokes a going over.

You 've said before about adopting new ideas and tech and stuff -which isn't exactly a strong point of mine - but your'e good at this sort of stuff so best be cracking on! You want to get this book done But you don't want to knock.yourself for 6 doing it. Take a chance.

Or tell me to henceforth - no worries!

Stephen Groves (not verified) Fri, 25/11/2022 - 10:07

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Hi Chris,
You could always get Pete to write it.
All best

Christopher Fowler Fri, 25/11/2022 - 10:44

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Have you seen Pete's handwriting?It's like a spider having a heart attack in an inkwell.

Stephen Groves (not verified) Fri, 25/11/2022 - 10:58

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All best

BarbaraBoucke (not verified) Fri, 25/11/2022 - 13:20

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Anna-Maria Covich - Thank you for all you wrote. I don't have ME, but I deal every day with issues you wrote about - although not on the level of yours. I have residual balance and dizziness issues from a type of Labrythinitis and fatigue as one of the lead-ups to migraines (but not the migraines). I really appreciated what you wrote because it helped me with some ideas about how to cope with things when they rear their little heads, which is often. Take care.

Brooke (not verified) Fri, 25/11/2022 - 13:39

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Dear Chris, it's "Thanksgiving" here in the States, a holiday I refuse to celebrate. With 4 days of downtime, I decided to investigate dictation apps. .
Google Docs is highly rated.
Both Mac OS and Windows.
Free with Chrome installation.
Syn and share features..
Voice recognition is quite good.
Re the latter, I opened a blank doc, turned on the microphone and on the same laptop, turned on an MR James story on YouTube.
Docs immediately started transcribing the story very accurately. Docs even corrected itself when it recognized an error. For example, Docs first translated the phrase "to be successful" as "to be sexy" but immediately erased it and wrote the correct phrase. Downside, the app keeps bugging you about punctuation. I wasn't doing anything except listening to the story and watching Docs work hard. After 10 minutes, I had a 4 page document to edit, save, share, etc. Not bad. Caveat, my laptop runs on Windows 11 pro and has 30% more processing speed than usual; not sure about machines with less CPU.

But using technology maybe just as fatiguing for you, requiring thought and speech, even if you can do it wrapped in a down blanket and sitting in a supporting chair.


Helen+Martin (not verified) Sat, 26/11/2022 - 01:31

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

If nothing else, Chris, note that anything we can do that might help you we will and are doing. Not only that but Anna Maria's piece on fatigue was revelatory of the power of that seemingly little problem.
Brooke, I know why you don't feel like celebrating a holiday that as well as having some nasty aspects has gotten out of hand and is now a moment to spend oceans of money. Nevertheless, stopping for a moment to be grateful for the good things in one's life is not totally bad.

linda+ayres (not verified) Sat, 26/11/2022 - 11:21

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

If love and good wishes from all your readers could help you would have all the strength in the World. A whole chapter composed of words that google/word processor thought you meant well that would certainly give endless debate.

Anna-Maria Covich (not verified) Sat, 26/11/2022 - 11:25

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

I will try to finish my writen version, but in the meantime, in case its helpful yo anyone, here's the presentation i did of my tips and tricks. It's a long time since I've done any presentations like this, so it's not the best and I ran out of time and the end is a bit rushed. It's ME centred, so may not be entirely relevant, but there's a lot of more general advice on living on a limited energy budget

Brooke (not verified) Sat, 26/11/2022 - 13:39

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Helen, thanks for the thought. President Lincoln declared the last Thursday in Nov as a national holiday to be thankful for bounty and to pray for peace. Well, it started as a good idea.
Have you read Indigenous Continent, Pekka Hämäläinen?

Joan (not verified) Sat, 26/11/2022 - 15:02

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Brooke, our Canadian Thanksgiving is in the rear view mirror now, but I like to think of it it as a Celebration of Autumn and Family. There certainly is a lot of darkness in the world but on the other hand there is a lot of goodness as well.

Brooke (not verified) Sat, 26/11/2022 - 15:43

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Hi, Joan. I agree with you about lots of goodness. I just came across UK "warm banks," places people can go for warmth when they can't pay their utility bills. Great idea. Another place to donate instead of buying turkey (poultry I hate) and tatty presents. Cheers.

Cornelia Appleyard (not verified) Sat, 26/11/2022 - 16:07

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Even better, some of the warm banks are libraries.

Helen+Martin (not verified) Sun, 27/11/2022 - 01:11

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No, Brooke, I haven't read Indigenous Continent, but I'll look for it. On another note, Kamloops, up in our Interior is applying to hold the Indigenous Games and that would bring 6,000 people to that small city. The band chief there is a very vigorous woman.
Cornelia, we call them warming centres and most libraries are included.

Ace (not verified) Sun, 27/11/2022 - 15:16

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

You might also think about a transcription service. Could be a more efficient approach to at least getting the 'vomit draft' out of the way. Perhaps consider a novella rather than the usual long form work. But think about yourself first and foremost.

KB Molesworth (not verified) Fri, 02/12/2022 - 17:59

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Chris, you have amazing friends and readers, they are so well informed. I learn so much in these posts. I love your ideas for a new Bryant and May book, and really looking forward to it.

Wayne Mook (not verified) Wed, 07/12/2022 - 09:02

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

That typewriter reminds me of the one in Garth Marenghi's Terrortome, it's an ancient Chinese qwerty-typewriter in the story with extra keys sticking out. Very much in the Darkplace TV series mold & feeling, the book even has a terror break. Priceless puncturing of cheap but pompous horror.