This roof animal thing has really gotten out of hand, and I’m bitter.

Why am I bitter?

Because it’s almost one am there is a bloody rat on my roof. A really big rat. He will not leave.

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This is not the rat in question, but it does represent his vile nature.

I’m going to call him Frank. Frank the Rat…which does make him sound somewhat less like a rat and more like a 1930’s gangster.

Anyway I threw an empty egg carton at Frank and let me tell you, Frank could not have given less of a shit. You have heard the expression ‘couldn’t give a rat’s ass?’ well I found the rat, the ass belongs to him and he isn’t giving it to anyone.

My cat Harry followed me outside. Harry was disinclined to intervene with Frank on my behalf. Harry is a very big cat, more like a small purr filled bear than a tabby, and it’s not like he’s never eaten a rat before…however Harry is not what you’d call motivated. 

So, unwilling to throw anything else onto the roof, I’ve some back inside and stuffed tissues into my ears so I don’t have to listen to Frank scurrying about on my roof. I don’t know what he’s doing. Rat stuff I guess.

I’m going back to bed.

Dammit. Frank has started a fight with a bird which is loudly screeching at him. This is a surprise because it’s one am and dark and birds are supposed to be sleeping.

Why won’t you sleep Mr Bird?

Why do you hate Frank so much?

Frank as far as I can tell is still on the roof and Mr Bird sounds like it’s in the oak tree so I don’t think Frank is hurting Mr Bird but Mr Bird is seriously pissed at Frank. Maybe Frank, true to his nature, told one of Mr Bird’s secrets.

Did Frank start an animal mafia war in my garden?

Mr Bird has gone quiet.

This is ominous.

Did Frank whack Mr Bird?

I may never know, because while I was typing this a mosquito bit me and in an effort to kill it I just smacked myself in the face. I’m taking that as a sign that reporting on my garden’s animal mafia’s turf wars can wait for another night.

 

 

Alternate title: Sometimes the universe is good to me; or, how my friend Cam ended up with a goat on his roof.

I have had my fair share of run ins with roof dwelling animals in the past. Everything from amorous possums to rats to whatever it is that skitters about in our ceiling cavity muttering about humanity’s end being nigh. But this, this was something else.

I got a text message over the weekend from Cam, asking me if I knew anything about the goat on his roof. In fairness this is actually a reasonable question, as he and I do double duty as worst enemies for each other too, and if he does end up in a terrible animal related situation, it is sometimes my fault.

However the goat was not my doing.

Nor is this photo. But this is indeed the goat in question. He has been named Angus McBastard.

Nor is this photo. But this is indeed the goat in question. He has been named Angus McBastard. (photo credit Cam Gibbs)

My friend lives in a quiet port town that has been overrun with hippies. Said hippies are mostly harmless, but they do have a tendency to own livestock that they’re not always well equipped to look after, so when this particular goat threw off its completely insufficient barriers to freedom it made its way to my friends house and proceeded to eat every vegetable in his veggie garden. It’s hard to blame the goat in this situation, if I was him I would have done exactly the same thing. The goat then decided that its position in life had not yet been sufficiently elevated, and it was high time it clambered up somewhere.

That somewhere being the roof.

It then refused to move.

As Cam asked me after it was over ‘do you know how hard it is to make a goat go somewhere it doesn’t want to go?’

Well, no matter how hard you think it is, it’s harder than that.

After much cursing, slipping, falling and general dragging of said goat my friend managed to get it down off the roof and  back onto the property it was supposed to be on but not before having to get it back though a hedge it has chewed its way through. The goat is 100% OK, Cam is battered, muddy, bruised and now smells quite a lot like goat…although that is a situation that may have been ongoing even before the arrival of an actual goat. I can only assume Angus the goat is biding its time until it can eat all of Cam’s vegetables again.

This whole saga improved my entire weekend. I am rarely so happy as when Cam is being harassed by wildlife. He has never once come off best in any confrontation with mother nature (case in point he was once trapped in his car by an angry flock of geese).

Then I found out that goats on roofs may be becoming an epidemic in New Zealand. This story is about Kevin the Goat:

 

 

Kevin is a menace. And sort of awesome.

Kevin is a menace. And sort of awesome. (photo credit Rob Stillwell, instagram.com/rob.stillwell/)

 

Kevin, who I should stress is an entirely different goat to the one who is terrorizing my friend is what I can only assume is the vanguard of an army of goats who want to colonize our nation’s precious roof space.

I for one welcome our new goaty overlords.

 

I realized today that there are certain aspects of my health that I really have to get under control, or I am going to end up dying in a way that makes my cancer treatment look like a terrible waste of public health resources. In fact there are a few ongoing major threats to my survival: cancer, depression, high blood pressure, poor diet and horrific yet somehow hilarious accidents.

It was a tragic art installation accident officer. We told him not to mix with abstract concepts and farm machinery but he wouldn't listen!

It was a tragic art installation accident officer. We told him not to mix abstract concepts and farm machinery but he wouldn’t listen!

Cancer I can’t really do much about, if it comes back I’ll have another go at poisoning seven different types of crap out of it.

The same with depression. I’ll treat it as well as I possibly can with every (medically proven) technique at my disposal.

However I should probably do something about the fact that my body is starting to look like a garbage bag full of melted cheese. I wasn’t in great shape prior to the whole cancer business but semi-regular gym sessions and occasional MMA and Jiu Jitsu sessions kept me in reasonable trim even if I did sometimes commit crimes against entire carbohydrate groups.

The croissant people know and fear me. To them, I am DEATH.

The croissant people know and fear me. To them, I am DEATH.

Then when I was in chemo I gave myself some doctor sanctioned permission to eat whatever I felt like, whenever I felt like it. It was important according to my oncologist that I not lose too much weight.

Not a problem doc.

Actually I did lose weight during the month of vomiting, but when I could eat I absolutely went for it. I didn’t just eat my feelings, I ate my sense of abstract thought too.

It was delicious.

However now that I am sort of back to what I call real life, I find I need to get back to looking after my health. I’m not up for martial arts quite yet, although I do look forward to sweaty hugs from my Jiu Jitsu friends when I am.

I do more or less know what I’m doing exercise wise. I’ve had some excellent (if frequently exasperated) trainers in my lifetime and the things they taught me stuck. Most of the things they taught me stuck.

Some of the things.

I probably won’t catch fire if I go to the gym.

 

This post doesn’t have a point, except to say that if you see something shambling down the street that looks like someone shaved a bear and then made it go jogging, that’s probably me.

You want me to run how far?

You want me to run how far?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You know how when someone loses a limb, they can end up having problems with ‘ghost limb’ where they feel like the missing arm or leg is still there (and what’s more, it hurts)? Well when you’ve had an orchidectomy it turns out you can get ghost nut.

I imagine it like this, but angrier.

I imagine it like this, but angrier.

I know this because I currently feel like someone has given me a solid boot in a testicle that is no longer there.

This seems unfair.

The pain comes and goes, but there really isn’t a good time to endure sudden groin pain. It’s one of those things that would normally make me angry and want to punch things but I really feel like trying to punch my way out of this problem might end up being counterproductive.

Still, I suppose it could be worse. I could be haunted by an actual ghost testicle. I’m not sure what a ghost testicle would do (probably just float around making a nuisance of itself like a real testicle) and I don’t necessarily want to give it a lot of thought, but nothing about the situation seems like it’d be good.

What would you even say to the exorcist?

 

 

I have failed to keep every single New Year’s resolution I have ever made. Even the year I resolved to make no resolutions whatsoever was a wash straight off the bat since that is, in fact, a resolution.

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Every attempt at weight loss, every determined new year effort to cook more, write more or at least make sure I’m wearing pants before answering the door (if you are one of the two Jehovah’s Witnesses who came to the door a while back, early Sunday morning isn’t a good time for me) has gone very badly.

I would like to blame this on the position of the stars, or basic human psychology. I can’t.I have no one to blame but myself (who is by far my least favorite person to blame) The truth is that wild ambitions, poor co-ordination and general laziness is a poor combination when it comes to goal setting and achievement. It’s always gone so badly that I had actually thought that I was through making any plans at any point between December and February just in case (although I would like to note that I didn’t make it a resolution). Still, with everything that happened to me in 2015 it actually seemed weird not to go into 2016 with some goals in mind.

But they can’t be the same old goals or I’ll be doomed to failure. Sooner or later I’m going to answer the door in my undies and this whole business will unravel.

They have to be achievable goals.

They have to be things I can know I’ve achieved at the end of the year.

They, in the end, are these:

1. Don’t die

Seems important to all the other goals. I’ve done it before, so it seems like I should be able to not die for another year. Really if I can’t manage this I’ll be extremely disappointed in myself.

2. Tempt fate

See goal 1.

3. Wear pants

It can’t hurt to try, especially when I’m at work.

4. Write another book

This is what I was doing before the whole cancer business. I wrote one. I’d like to write another one.

5. Fail entirely to be attacked by birdlife.

A surprising number of people I know seem unable to do this, but I think I’m up to the challenge. If not, then I still get goal two on this list.

6. Get rejected 100 times

I should clarify, I mean get my writing rejected 100 times.

I stole this one from writer Sarah Gailey (who has an awesome series of tweets livetweeting the Star Wars movies. If you haven’t read them then you can find them collected here, here and here.) I don’t have any control over whether or not the things I write get rejected or not, but by targeting one hundred rejections it means I’m going to have to write a bunch of stories and send them out. This will be good for me.

Bad for literature as a whole, but good for me.

7. Go places, do things

I like staying indoors and writing things on computers. This does not lead to me getting out a lot. I have no intention of stopping writing things on computers, but I’ve been stuck indoors for four months and I think my life in general would benefit both from going to places that are not my house and then doing things that don’t involve glaring at a screen until words appear on it. At the moment this is tough, I’ve got all the get up and go of a concussed sea slug.

8. Read books

I’m in the middle of reading one right now so I think unless something goes terribly wrong in the next day or two I’ve got this one on lock. If anyone is interested it’s called Wake of Vultures by Lila Bowen. It’s a monster story set in the Wild West (or at least, a Wild West) and it’s fantastic. I’m going to be sad when this one is over, but fortunately it’s the first in a series, so I have more to look forward to.

9. Eat something that is both delicious and unhealthy

We can do this. You and me. We can do it. We can be heroes.

10. Do something for a charity

Actually I can do this one right now. I signed up for kiva.org and made a small loan to an entrepreneur. Kiva is a microlending organization that organizes small loans for businesses in the developing world. Their repayment rate is close to 100%, and they do an enormous amount of good in the world. What’s more, Kiva itself doesn’t take a cut of the loans, all the money goes to those that need it. Yes, this is me prodding you to do something for a charity too. Doesn’t have to be Kiva of course, pick your charity and go to it.

 

What are your New Year’s resolutions, achievable or otherwise?

I wrote this last week and didn’t post it for some reason. The week after was pretty much the same thing repeated though, so it’s still as relevant as a post of dream buffalo can be. I’ve been so unwell I haven’t been able to do much in the way of writing, but I hope to get a few posts in this week.

-Andrew

 

I’ve had a bad few days.

Actually it’s been a pretty bad ten days.

I knew my last run at chemotherapy would be bad, but I had no idea how bad it would be. I constantly vomited for days on end, so much I burned my throat and while the general upchucking has stopped I can’t really talk. When I do try to speak above a whisper I sound like I’m speaking through a Darth Vader voice synthesizer from 1988, complete with elderly battery and broken hardware. It’s also been painful, and pretty emotionally rough. My wife has been amazing, looking after me while I’ve been alternately bedridden, vomiting or in hospital. I can see why people used to fully hospitalized while they went through high dose BEP chemo in the past.

By the way, I got thoroughly ticked off for not calling the hospital sooner about the vomiting thing. It was done in the generally friendly and caring way of nurses and doctors everywhere in oncology, and yet I was left in no doubt that I had in fact been a stubborn idiot in assuming there was nothing that could be done.

So, if you are one of the unlucky few that has to go through this, when the hospital gives you a card and say ‘call us’ they mean it. Don’t wait.

The throat burning has put me in a weird position. Obviously I haven’t been able to eat until lately, and even then it’s only in tiny amounts. I haven’t always been lucid (hence the lack of blog posts) and have generally been feeling a bit sorry for myself, so I turned to a previously unknown comfort:

Cooking shows. 

I couldn’t choose a favorite, although I did just see Nigella Lawson make a margarita ice cream that is going to be in my face’s future. I’ve watched Jamie Oliver and Rick Stein travel to exotic locales, and Michelle Poh do amazing things. I have watched a lot of YouTube food bloggers.

Yes it’s torture. It’s the best sort of torture, and one I subject to willingly. My mind appears to be able to appreciate the food even though my mouth and my stomach can’t, and far from making me feel sick, I actually feel oddly satisfied seeing Rick Stein plate up an enormous bowl of Sicilian spaghetti. So really it’s not a bad thing, more a way to keep my mind and body happy while I recover.

Except…

Except, I really want a pizza.

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While not just any will do, I would be quite happy with either an exceptional New York style slice, a cheesy deep dish Chicago pie or a charred, mozzarella laden Neapolitan endorsed masterpiece. I have not actually eaten any of these pizzas in my lifetime. I’ve made my own approximations, and I’ve certainly eaten enough pizza, but these pizzas in their truest form exist only in my mind and a kind of bizarre cheese and topping baked fantasy that tugs at both my dreams and my waking thoughts. It is purest fantasy…and it’s gotten weird. 

I dreamed of pizza last night. I dreamed about buying it, eating it, enjoying every mouthful. Then I dreamed I went back in time and selected the precise ingredients, even making the fresh mozzarella from a very placid water buffalo 1water buffalo are, typically, not really very placid creatures and picked the fresh basil. The tomatoes fell off the vine as I walked over to collect them. I’m not sure why I didn’t realize I was dreaming when they broke into slices and the buffalo helped me out by kneading the pizza dough, but it all seemed very normal at the time. Then we baked the pizza and ate it.

It was the greatest pizza never made.

I woke up with a real sense of loss that I had not in reality consumed my dream pizza. I watched a few shows about making perfect pizza, but suddenly they didn’t hit the spot anymore. I had been forever ruined by a pizza cooked up by my subconscious mind. I question my subconscious’ qualifications as a pizza chef. I certainly question its knowledge about the general helpfulness and relative dangers of water buffalo.

I don’t know if (probably as a teenager) you ever dreamed of a person who never existed and then woke up sad that you’d never get to meet them (or, let’s be honest here, see them naked) but it was very much like that…only more so. With cheese.

I told you it got weird.

Cancer has given a me a lot to think about. For a while there I didn’t know who I was (more on that in a future post) and I at least in part still don’t. Physically I’m a raw nerve and twitching muscles…and yet despite all this I have somehow made the time to be sad about a dream pizza made, at least in part, by a friendly water buffalo.

I like to think that, across time and space, a connection was made.

 

I wish there was a point to all this beyond ‘my brain is stupid’ and ‘I still really want a pizza’ but there isn’t.

Now if you’ll excuse me, Rick Stein is on.

 

Other stuff:

I wrote an article over at the Evil League of Evil Writers called Taking Good Things from Bad Experiences and then Writing About Them. The ELOEW have been supporting me since well before this cancer business, and have helped me in ways too numerous (and evil) to recount here. If you have any interest in writing or publishing, I recommend them without reservation.

I have a webcomic named Cthulhu Slippers, a (sort of) office comedy set after the apocalypse. I just posted an update there if you are interested in such things.

Have you seen Jenny Lawson (The Bloggess) and her amazing Twitter based record of humanizing awkwardness? Pee first, put down any hot beverages and go check it out. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Footnotes   [ + ]

1. water buffalo are, typically, not really very placid creatures

I was going to write a post called ‘all the way down in the dark’ but I accidentally mistyped it as ‘all the way down in the duck’ which seemed like a much better idea for a blog, and it reminded me of the time my brother got attacked by a goose.

It’s not the first time this has happened.

While he was in the middle of a farmer’s market, a goose launched itself at my brother in a flapping, feathered ball of rage. This was in no small part because geese are vicious, ornery creatures at the best of times and tend to unleash hell at the slightest provocation. The ancient Romans used to use them as guard birds because they are so territorial.

You ESPECIALLY.

There are many kinds of goose, and they all hate you.

Despite that, I find it hard to blame the goose, because it was mostly my brother’s fault.

The problem was not that he was bothering the goose in any meaningful way, it’s just that he does an amazing impersonation of a goose. No one is quite sure how or why he’s developed this amazing skill, or why he can do something that looks an awful lot like a mating dance while honking in an uncanny fashion. I just assume he was blessed or cursed by some sort of careless goose god.

I’m not 100% sure why the goose was even there. But while my brother was considering a purchase a solitary goose wandered up behind him and honked.

He honked back.

As I said he does an absolutely incredible goose honk.

The goose wiggled and honked and seemed friendly, so he did his goose dance for it. This requires no small amount of effort, especially in front of a crowd of people who are wondering what the hell you are doing. According to him, shaking your metaphorical tail feather takes a lot of skill.

Anyway everything seemed to be going well. The goose was suitably entertained and so were the people watching, until he made a critical error.

You see, no matter how good his impression of a goose may be, he does not in fact speak goose.

And at some point in his dancing and honking, he had somehow managed to say ‘motherfucker’ in goose.

The goose took it badly.

It pursued my fleeing brother across the length of the market and eventually latched onto his leg and started biting him. My brother is very careful about not harming animals, even when they’re attacking him, so he stood helpless for a moment while he was subjected to the world’s most embarrassing savaging. Eventually the goose got in a properly nasty bite and he decided to at least try shaking it off his leg.

This worked a little too well, as they were standing next to a small hill.

The goose rolled all the way down the hill, took a moment to assess the situation,  decided that begging for bread was a better use of its time and waddled off.

Sadly for my brother, people had noticed. As he walked through the market he heard whispers of ‘…kicked a goose’ and noticed a rising tide of anger. He wisely decided that no one was going to believe him if he tried to tell them that it was merely a good goose dance gone bad and he’d better leave.

In reality he managed to get out of the market without any more trouble from man or bird, but in my mind’s eye I like to imagine he was pursued off the property by a pitchfork wielding (it was a farmer’s market, it could have happened) mob made up of equal parts furious market goers and enraged geese.

I like to think there’s a good lesson in this for all of us: don’t mess with geese. 

 

Yesterday afternoon I felt a tiny tickle on the top of my head and I reached up to brush off what I thought was a leaf. At that same moment my cat Connie launched herself at my head.

A moment later she ran away carrying a very large spider in her mouth, which she crunched up under the dinner table. Since then she’s been watching me to see if more gigantic, delicious arachnids turn up on my head.

Apparently delicious.

I AM LESS DELICIOUS THAN YOU MAY HAVE BEEN LED TO BELIEVE.

 

I also managed to punch myself in the face.

I’d fallen asleep on my right arm and woke up when a fly landed on me. Half asleep I went to slap the fly away, but my arm was no longer my own and instead I belted myself solidly in the eye.

I really wish I could say that that is the first time I’ve done that, but a few years ago I managed to break my own nose doing almost the same thing. I’ve endured a broken nose a lot of times over my life so it’s not as bad as it sounds, but it was embarrassing to have to say ‘I did’ when he asked me ‘who did this to you?’.

I am clearly no danger to insects and arachnids of all shapes and sizes but if you need to get rid of me then I’m your man.

 

I just scared a courier away from my house by burping.

In my defense the burp caught us both off guard, and I didn’t know he was there until it was much, much too late.

If my throat hadn’t been occupied I like to think I would have screamed DUCK AND COVER before unleashing hell, but as it was the burp ripped its way out of me like I was Ellen Ripley having a bad dream.

There was a moment of silence afterwards. The spiders dropped off the ceiling.

The cats hid under the bed.

The courier stared at me. I stared back. He very slowly put down my parcel on the ground by the front door.

“Uh…” I began. I was going to apologize as best I could but he didn’t give me the chance. With an expression on his face somewhere between disgust and abject terror this professional deliverer of things turned and ran away. It wasn’t a professional ‘I have places to be jog’, it was a ‘Oh Lord what is going to come out of that guy next?’ run.

I’m not proud…but I am a little amused especially as now we’re going to have to move house so I never have to see that poor, scared little guy again.

I wish this was a cancer euphemism of some kind, but it isn’t. My smallest cat Connie just sauntered up to my largest cat, a giant placid tabby named Harry and…uh…’spritzed’ him. Harry, for his part, did not see the comedy inherent in the moment and promptly chased Connie out of the house. I don’t really blame him, getting peed on doesn’t seem like a fun way to get woken up from a nap.

I want it noted that I tried really hard not to laugh, and I did wipe Harry down once I managed to get him to hold still. Most of the time I’m OK with the cats cleaning themselves with their tongues but by giving Harry a bath with a damp towel I felt like I was doing him a solid. He’s now watching the cat flap to make sure the Phantom Widdler doesn’t come back in. I don’t have the heart to tell him that the Phantom Widdler already came back in and is now sitting in the spare room.

I can only assume she’s plotting something.

Eeeeevil.

Just look at this little monster.