Viewpoints from Lockdown

Photo of a tulip from my garden
Tulip from my garden (c) N. A. Le Brun 2020

It’s funny how people see you as one thing or another but they never really get the full view. There’s a person I know who saw me, rightfully so, as shy. What she didn’t realise though, is that I can be anything but when you get to know me, when it comes to looking after those I love, or campaigning for human rights. That when I’m at a sci-fi convention and surrounded by my fellow geeks and nerds, I can let my flag fly free, and for a few hours at least, I become a butterfly, before I need to retreat back into my cocoon and recharge.

I’m a creative. My world is one of observation, introspection, only allowing certain people in close enough, and even then only allowing one person in the whole way. I’m happiest with my own company, or with the company of animals. And when I want socialisation, mostly I want the company of a few select people. But I’m also autistic. I’ve learnt how to put myself out there outside of my comfort zone. It’s tiring and it drains my energy levels. It causes me to want that alone time even more.

There are a handful of people that I have been in regular contact with since the lockdown started. For obvious reasons, one is my housemate. One is my sister, one is my closest friend, there are two others. Only three of these do I talk to daily. And even then our conversations may be short and to the point. It’s a case of checking in and making sure the other is okay.

I am happy with my writing, sketching, sewing, reading, colouring books, photography, baking, pets, and a wheel around the block. There’s no boredom here. I have been training for this my whole life. More so since disability took over to the point where a nine to five became impossible. If I need to curl up in my bed and take a nap, so be it. If I want to sit in the garden and meditate, why not? The calm and quiet is good for me. I’m also learning not to let the minutiae of the day drag me down.

Life can still be beautiful, even when the world seems to be in complete chaos. If you just find the time to sit and breathe. If you remember to say no to the demands of others. And if you just allow yourself to find that inner peace.

Snack Hacks – a definite hit in this spoonie’s house

I don’t review cookbooks as a general rule. Actually, as a general rule I don’t use cookbooks. My recipes come from long Saturdays and Sundays spent in the kitchen beside my mum or my grandad, or my own culinary experiments. If I really want to try something I might look up a recipe online occasionally and then I still adapt it to fit my needs.

But there’s a cookbook that was released on June 12th that I instantly put on pre-order the day I found out it was going to be released. I have to confess, I already knew that one of its authors is quite the foodie and culinary genius (even if others didn’t) and it just made it all the more tempting. Marketed at “gamers, coders, freaks and geeks” (am I giving away whose cook book this is yet?), I knew instantly that this was going to be a cookbook full of amazing recipes that would be worth a shot. And I also knew that as a disabled person, any recipe that’s going to involve a “Snack Hack” is going to be one that is probably going to be handy for me in the kitchen.

Snack Hacks by Claudia Christian and Mark Michel arrived on Saturday morning. By Saturday lunchtime I was cooking CC’s Sunday Blueberry Pancakes. Although I replaced he Blueberries with raspberry coulis (personal preference) made from frozen raspberries and just a tablespoon of maple syrup for sweetness.

As I said in my Instagram review of the recipe, I’ll be making these again. I just need to remind myself that they are a weekend treat because they truly are the best pancake recipe I’ve come across yet.

Today I made the Dragon Power Mac and Cheese and my review of that recipe is up on my Instagram too. Each recipe has a spoonie difficulty level attached and my honest opinion. I’ll be instagramming more recipe results as I delve further into the book. But I really am loving the healthy options inside!

I love that each recipe comes with its own “in game download” suggestion that creates an adaptation for the person cooking. The recipes give you background on which video game they are inspired by. “Hack Attack” pages give you handy hints and tips. There are “guest recipes” and information on Claudia and Mark’s love of food, the hacks they both use at home, and so much more.

I love the 8-bit graphic presentation of the book. It takes me back to my childhood and the games I used to play on Atari in my living room, the Sega Megadrive in my bedroom, or (yes I am this old), the BBC computer at school.

All in all, whether you’re a gamer, a Babylon 5 fan, a disabled foodie (or all of the above like myself), or none of these things, this cookbook is one that’s definitely worth having in your kitchen. I can’t wait to try the following recipes over the next week or so:

Slime Dressing

Crashbreaker Chips (which will go with the aforementioned slime dressing)

Claudia’s Deadly Disc Summer Citrus Pie

Mad Bomber Apple Pie Poppers

And who knows what adventures will await after that? My love of cooking is back. These recipes are making it so much fun and easier for this disabled foodie to access the kitchen!

10th June 2019

Am I still your buttercup? That’s the question that’s been playing through my head. I know we’re still rebuilding bridges right now and I know that that takes time. But it’s the question that’s been on my mind for a while. I know that without a doubt you are still ma chou, my witchy woman, my Chóvihánni. You never stopped being. You never will.

It isn’t a question that needs an instant answer. In fact it’s not one I’m expecting to be answered any time soon. I’m not expecting answers to anything right now. I don’t want to pressure you into anything. I never have. I never even expected you to love me in the way you have or even like me.

None of the questions I have right now need an instant answer, but eventually they will need one. And my saying eventually doesn’t mean this week, or even this month. However, and I know I keep saying this, we do need to talk things out in the near future.

It isn’t fair of you to expect me to hold on for conversations, etc., that you promise but that get put off indefinitely. I am worth more than that. I feel like you expect me to fit around you and just accept it. I told you I would never be a yes person, and I won’t. I will always support you and your endeavours, I will always love you. I get your need and desire for freedom. But I also deserve to have a conversation with you where I am not the only one letting it all out more than once every couple of years.

If we are going to stand a chance at rebuilding things, then we both need to put the work in. And I’m happy to listen to what you need from me in return to make things easier/rebuild things. But I do expect that we will both put in the effort. That means no more running, for either of us.

I am not prepared to be anyone’s ego boost. Nor am I prepared to not have my needs taken into consideration. I will always take the needs and desires of those I love into the consideration but I expect the same to be done for mine. Now I’m not saying you see me as an ego boost but I do need to get my feelings out as and that’s what these journals are for.

And to be honest I want to fix things and rebuild what we had, but it will take both of us and it will take more than emails and journals. But I shouldn’t have to be the one asking for time with you. I shouldn’t have to be the one to say “if you have an afternoon free….” If you really want to spend time with me , you will. If you really want to make things better between us again, you’ll find a way to meet me in the middle and put the effort in.

I’m not trying to be harsh or demanding, I’m not putting pressure on you. I am simply being honest. Because with all the will in the world, I can repeat myself until I’m blue in the face or until my hand drops off from writing, but it will take more than my love and effort alone to rebuild things.

A bientôt Lunegosse, ma cherie

I’m busily writing a whole new world right now, and it’s a scary prospect. I have to admit. I can’t quite believe that it’s happened. I’ve said goodbye to The Lunegosse Tales after 19 years with the publishing of The Final Battle. All three of her books are now out in the open. And yes I did say 19 years. She first came to me when I was almost 18. I started writing her story when I was 18 and at uni. I still have those first chapters, in my handwriting on A4 lined paper at home.

The Lunegosse Tales were always meant to be a trilogy. I always knew that. I never knew that they would see the light of day when I began to write them. I also never knew that almost twenty years after I first put pen to paper, I would be saying goodbye to the young girl with the dark hair who for almost half my life has been a steadfast fixture in my mind.

Lunegosse – Moon Child. You can tell I’ve always been obsessed with the Moon. Ever since I was a tiny child, she’s been my guiding light. I’ve always felt safe when I could see her in the night sky. I’ve always talked to her through my bedroom window. Always told her my dreams, my wishes. Maybe it’s the romantic in me, or maybe the Romani. Heck it might even be the Cancerian. But the Moon has always held a special place in my heart. That song from Fievel Goes West, “Out there somewhere,” has always held a special significance for me. As if I would one day find that special someone who was thinking of me too.

In creating The Lunegosse Tales, that was one of the main themes that I wanted to convey. A family in search of a long lost family member. A child in search of who she was. The Search for Lana, the first book in the trilogy is a play on words. One that I hope comes through when readers have read the book. The dual nature of searching for the one we’ve had to give up and finding the family we never knew. But I hope that I’ve also created an emphasis in the books on the fact that family isn’t just blood. The ties that bind a family together are love.

I’ve changed so much since I began writing The Lunegosse Tales. I’ve grown and matured, and I think that’s enabled her to grow and mature as well. Although the time it’s taken her to grow and mature has been considerably less than the time it’s taken me when you look at the time span of the books. The world we live in now is a very different place from nineteen years ago as well. The Twin Towers have fallen, the UK is in the middle of this awful Brexit mess, Trump is president of the United States. On a personal level, I’ve lost my mum, my uncle, created a whole new life and family for myself, and become a disabled rights and LGBTQ activist.

But one thing that hasn’t changed in all that time, is the need for stories. The need for creativity. My desire to write and to give people something to read. I’ve had that for as long as I can remember. And whilst I’m always going to remember Lunegosse and her friends and family with fondness. I’m going into the next chapter of my writing with enthusiasm. Who knows where Bibliothecam Angelus (my next book) will take me? I’m sure it will be just as much fun as The Lunegosse Tales and The Stolen Generation have been.

Why Barbra Streisand should be held accountable for her comments.

If you have followed me for any length of time, you know that I’m fairly vocal about the fact I went through molestation, emotional, and physical abuse at the hands of my father. You will know that as a result of this I am living my life with C-PTSD. That I regularly have flashbacks, nightmares and panic attacks, and that I’m working to deal with these things. You will also know that as a result of untreated C-PTSD, General Anxiety Disorder and depression, I have attempted to take my life five times, and planned it a further two. The last time I planned it being five years ago this May.

Life as an abuse survivor is difficult. It is a life lived with shame for the abuse you have been through. It’s fear that you will be abused by others. Sometimes it’s being abused by others. It’s being in a position where you are very often left dealing with trauma that haunts you for the rest of your life in one way or another. And just because I everything can look good on the surface doesn’t make it so underneath.

Ms. Streisand has stated:

“His sexual needs were his sexual needs, coming from whatever childhood he has or whatever DNA he has,” she said. “You can say ‘molested,’ but those children, as you heard say [the grown-up Robson and Safechuck], they were thrilled to be there. They both married and they both have children, so it didn’t kill them.”

Quite frankly for this alone I would like to sit down and talk to her. I want to explain to her that she is beyond out of line. I do not care if the allegations are false or true. I do not care if, as many believe, the men are after money, I want her held accountable for her words. I want her to realise that words like that have an impact.

What would she say if someone told her that people who survived the Holocaust and went on to have families clearly didn’t die so they are fine? And before you jump down my throat, please remember with the exception of the fact I’m not Jewish I hit many of the checkboxes for the camps, I’m disabled, autistic, have mental health issues, am Romani, I’m lesbian and non-binary… I could go on….

Her words are uncaring, extremely disappointing, and as an icon within the LGBTQIA community, a community with an extremely high rate of sexual abuse, appalling.

Dear Barbra,

I respectfully ask you to look at what you said.

I am not about to voice my personal opinions on what Mr Jackson did or didn’t do. But I will voice my opinions on your horrendous comment.

You have chosen to alienate people with an opinion that does not and will not sit well with people. Are you trying to be controversial? Or are you really that metaphorically blind that you can’t see the damn wood for the trees?

International Womens Day 2019

I always feel a little out of sorts when it comes to International Womens Day. I mean I am female-bodied, but I don’t identify as female. So where does that leave me in the grand scheme of things? There are Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminists who would say that today has nothing to do with me. But I’d beg to differ. You see, I am a woman, I’m just not female. My sex and my gender are not the same thing. To be honest, gender and sex are very complicated in and off themselves. Neither really makes much sense, except that both are very much social constructs in the sense of the binary.

There are those who would argue that genitals do make your sex/gender. Others would argue it’s down to whether or not you have XX or XY chromosomes. But hey, kids, it’s really not as simple as that. There are women who are born with female genitals who have XXY chromosomes or XO chromosomes. There are men born with XXY chromosomes and male genitals. Intersex people exist. Transgender people exist. Non-binary people exist. Some species of animal have been known to change sex because they loose an appendage (octopi), some because of an overwhelming number of a particular sex being in their particular group (frogs), and there being a need to reproduce. 

So the fact I’m non-binary, or several of my friends are trans women, shouldn’t stop us being included today. We are just as worthy of recognition as every other woman on the face of the planet. And before you argue we’re going against God…. Whose God? Because my Gods and Goddesses made me perfect just the way I am, and they intended me to be non-binary, lesbian, and fabulous as f*ck.

On International Womens Day we often forget that we should be uplifting all women’s voices. The LGBTQIA+ women, the women of colour, the disabled women, the autistic women, the women who come from poorer backgrounds, the infertile women, the women who live on the street, all women deserve to have their voices heard, respected, and listened to. Because every woman is worthy.

It’s taken me a long time to realise that I’m worthy. I was beaten (literally, emotionally, and sexually) into submission from a young age. I still carry around some of those issues. Okay, a lot of those issues. I still struggle to deal with that that means for me in regards to where I am with accepting myself and my self worth. But I am worthy. I am worthy of being included, and if you’re reading this and struggling today, let me tell you this:

SO. ARE. YOU.

You are worth so much more than you realise or know. And you will always be welcome to fill out the contact page on my site if you need someone to boost you up and remind you that you are worthy. That you are perfectly able and capable of finding that self-worth. It may take a long time, and I may not have the answers. But I can promise you that I’ll tell you those three words.

I was born with a severe heart condition.
I should have been dead by my fifth birthday.
I was abused by my own father.
I was bullied at school.
I raised my brother.
I took care of a disabled mother and uncle.
I was abused as an adult.
I’m LGBT.
I’m disabled now myself.
I have physical and mental scars.
I’m in therapy.
I’m on anti-depressants.
I have severe chronic pain.

If I can come out of all of that and find my self-worth again because of a another human being giving me the time of day, then I should do the same in return, and pass it forward. Five years ago I was suicidal. Today, I want to live. I wake up each morning with a song in my heart, because I’m still here.

I’m not going to lie and tell you it has been easy or it’s easy now. It’s not. It can be a hard slog. But if you’re reading this and you’re wondering where you fit in to today’s picture, if you’re even worthy to count yourself a woman on #IWD, then let me tell you, that you are.

You my dear reader are beautiful.
You are intelligent.
Your smile lights up a room.
Your ability to get this far means that you can try another minute, another hour, another day, another week, another month, another year.
I know it doesn’t always seem like it, but you are perfect just the way you are.
Your imperfections, the ones you see that no one else does, are there for a reason. And they make you perfect in your own right.
You don’t want to be the same as everyone else, they are boring.
You my dear are magical.

Book offer ending tomorrow at midnight

Only two days left now to snap up my ebook offer! So what are you waiting for? Click the payment link and you can walk away with all three ebooks for £4.99! That’s right! When you purchase The Stolen Generation, you get the first two books in The Lunegosse Tales free! https://www.paypal.me/NatLeBrun

Sailing Somewhere – on a cruise ship with Suanne Braun

There are three types of theatre my Theatre Studies teacher told me she hated like the plague. The first is pantomime. Well whilst I don’t hate it, I certainly have to be in the right mood for it. The second is musical, something I find a tad ironic considering she seems to perform in a lot of them. The third is dinner theatre. In all honesty I don’t think she knows what she’s missing. Especially as Sailing Somewhere fits into the last of these categories and it’s leading lady has done all three types of theatre.

It’s always, and I do mean always, a treat to see Suanne Braun perform. Especially when you find yourself in an intimate theatre setting where you’re sat (unintentionally) in the front row, or on this occasion at one of the front tables by the maître d’. Sailing Somewhere is no exception on that list of treats that have joined my list of favourite shows in the past twelve months, and three of them have involved performances by the wonderful Ms. Braun. It’s filled with humorous moments and also has an extremely heart-wrenching core that caused me to sob amongst strangers for the first time in a very long time.

Sailing Somewhere is the tale of a lounge singer on a cruise ship. She’s quite vivacious and rather bawdy on the surface, but when you scratch underneath, there’s so much more there. The depth of character and the difficulty of the life she’s led aren’t the easiest part for any actor, seasoned or otherwise, to undertake, and not only does Suanne do so incredibly well, she does so with a layer of depth that I honestly hadn’t seen in her performances until tonight, and I have always known that she’s capable of depth in performance.

With the play being set around the life of a ship’s singer, you’d expect there to be music involved, and the piano playing that accompanies Suanne singing is expertly done, with some wonderful moments of comic brevity. The musical score itself is divine and the book compliments the script perfectly. Suanne’s depth of performance carries on over into her singing. The sheer amount of emotion that is pushed through every song pulls on your heart strings as we go from the typical cabaret style song at the beginning to the heartbreaking lullaby for her daughter Zoe.

I might be a sadist in that I enjoy opening night performances as an audience member and in my amateur theatre days I enjoyed them as an actor, so seeing tonight’s opening night was my ideal chance to see the performance as close to raw as possible. And if that was a performance with first night glitches and snags, we as audience members didn’t notice them, at all. In fact, I’m sure that there may have been one or two ad-libs in there somewhere that covered them up if they happened at all.

The show has been written and directed by Matthew Hurt, with songs by Conor Mitchell. Both of whom have worked amazingly well together to produce something cohesive and, well, perfect for Suanne’s skillset. With Musical Director, Noam Galperin, Stage Manager, Reuben Batdorff, and Producer, Zoë Simpson.

Sailing Somewhere is being performed at Crazy Coqs at Brasserie Zédel until 2nd March with Saturday’s performance sold out from what I hear, so get your tickets now!

As always, my usual disclaimer – I have not been asked to write this review, any review I place on my website is because I think something is worth talking about and deserves to be put out in the universe.

Goodbye 2018….

This year has been an interesting one. As with all others there have been some ups and downs and I’m sure there are so many things that I could mention that will get missed along the way. I’m not going to pretend it’s all been a bed of roses, because that wouldn’t do the year justice, but I know that with the bad I’ve been able to better appreciate the good. So here’s a run down of the points I want to make in no particular order.

We finally moved out of Yorkshire and to one of my favourite cities in the world and I couldn’t be happier for it. I feel alive again. I’ve lost weight, and I’m finally getting the healthcare that I deserve. Not saying that my old GP wasn’t fab, she was, but the other healthcare there was useless.

Moving out of that awful flat means that both my asthma and J’s have improved tenfold. That bathroom was awful and there was no sign of it being fixed before we left.

I published The Stolen Generation on Amazon and received some good reviews for it.
I made some amazing new friends through autistic activism and began to support Autistic Inclusive Meets with some of Redbubble profits.

My Patreon is slowly starting to make some headway and I’ve been publishing monthly stories for my patrons.

I started a short story series called the Intergalatic Miltary Series, two of which can be seen on the aforementioned Patreon.

I’ve also made and lost some friendships this year, and that’s been tough. Really tough. I learnt the hard way this year that sometimes people are just not what they seem. Sometimes helping someone leads to them stabbing you in the back and causing more drama than its worth, and quite frankly I’m tired of the high school attitudes that accompany that drama.

My heart has taken a beating in several ways this year. Friendship issues not being the only source of that pain. The loss of a dear friend who I had spent many long conversations with shook me to the bone. Clay Cross, a gentle giant of a man who came into my life through another mutual friend passed away on 11th December 2018. He was an absolute sweetheart with as open a mind as they come. He never judged, but he loved and protected fiercely, and the world is a sadder place without him, but the skies have gained another star.

As we head into 2019, there are so many things I hope for, but the one thing I want more than anything else is to remind myself that I am worthy of love, respect and dignity. That I deserve to be treated properly and that I’m not longer going to take any of the nastiness that people have decided to throw my way over the past.

In 2019, I have a list of goals that will be achieved and I intend to stick by them. 

Writing wise:

  • I will be publishing The Final Battle – the last in The Lunegosse Tales Trilogy.
  • I’ll also be bringing out the trilogy in one book.
  • I will be publishing a short story every month on my Patreon.
  • I will be submitting more short stories to magazines and anthologies.
  • I will be aiming to publish more than one book in the coming year. So watch this space as there are a few percolating in my mind right now.

Art wise

  • I intend to make more #ActuallyAutistic designs on Redbubble and my other POD sites to support Autistic Inclusive Meets.
  • I intend to work on producing new designs in general.
  • I will be offering some existing sketches and some customised pieces for sale.

Personally:

  • I’m going back to therapy, spending time working on myself, and looking after me. That means that if I need a break I’ll take it. This is my life and I’ll live it the way I choose to do so.
  • I’m not going to live my life for anyone but myself.
  • I’m going to focus on my health and doing what I can to make the best of my life.
  • I’m getting a new wheelchair.
  • I’ll be doing more social things.

Activism wise:

  • I’ll be attending more protests
  • I’ll be keeping my voice strong in the communities that I’m an activist for.

To those who have wronged me in 2018 – I forgive you.
To those who have harmed me in 2018 – I forgive you.
To those who have thought of doing either of the above in 2018 – I forgive you.
To those who have chosen to walk away from me in 2018 – thank you for being in my life as long as you were, if you choose to come back, you may find that you are welcome again, but trust may take some time to rebuild.
To those who I lost in 2018 – may your spirits soar, you will be thought of often.

#StayTrueandStaunch – Fanatical About Fanatical

Whenever I decide to write a review about something I’ve been to see it’s usually with a hint of the fanboi in me. And sometimes I feel extremely guilty about that fact, but when it comes to Fanatical – A Sci-Fi Convention Musical I have no need to. It’s a musical that literally pulls at the heart strings of fandom. It’s extremely clear that Reina Hardy and Matt Board know fandom at an intimate level, the script and the songs are sheer genius (and if you know me, I don’t say that lightly).

I really don’t want to spoil people when it comes to the plot. But I can honestly say that every single science fiction, convention going geek, like myself, will find themselves in the characters of the musical. And see reflections of other familiar faces too. It’s also, for the Gaters amongst us (Stargate fans to the unknowing), particularly poignant, as Suanne Braun (SG-1’s Hathor) plays Trix, the con organiser who has worked her behind off to pull together a convention for Angel 8 fans. And knowing a few con organisers myself, I can honestly say, I definitely recognised a couple of them in her character.

The music in this show is lively, it sticks in your head, and J and I may have walked back to the station singing one of Trix’s songs from the second half whilst creasing up in giggles. I’m currently praying for a soundtrack (Reina tweeted me about hoping to get funding), because it’s definitely one I would be singing along with in the shower (and the living room, the kitchen, the bedroom…).

Screen Shot 2018-11-24 at 7.45.20 PM

The only downside to today was the size of the audience. Fanatical may be a small show in terms of musical theatre audience size, but it deserves to be filled to the rafters every night. Sophie Powles epitomises every fangirl who has found her connection with a strong female character in her role as Andra, whilst Eddy Payne’s Baxter will be familiar to every man who was once that awkward sci-fi fanboy. Stephen Frost is as Scott Furnish is every single fan’s experience of a worst nightmare – meeting your hero when they are in a bad mood.

The set is recognisable as a convention for those of us who walk (or in my case usually wheel through) those hallowed halls. The touch of the Pop Vinyl collectables was a nice one. I got the opportunity to look at them during the interval and I have to say, as a collector, it did make me smile. I won’t deny that I’ve scoured convention floors looking for particular Pops, or collectables (my Janeway tree ornament that took 3 years to track down for example). The costumes sum up every single convention you’ve ever been to, a mix of cosplay, con crew shirts, and the odd geeky t-shirt too.

If you’re a sci-fi fan, whether you love musicals or not, this show has to be on your must-see list before it closes on December 8th. You’ll love it!