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Marzipan Cat Zombies

Published April 20, 2020 by Naomi Rettig

Phil pushed the bookcase against the door then wiped the sweat from his forehead with the bottom of his Captain America t-shirt. He noticed his hands trembling and balled them into fists so his friends wouldn’t see.

‘That’s pointless. Cats can’t open doors,’ said Joe. He slumped onto the bed next to Rohan.

Phil looked across at his two friends. Joe was wearing his Chicago Bears top. His dad had sent it to him and he always wore it unless it was in the wash. His scruffy brown hair looked extra tussled after running here. Rohan’s turban still looked immaculate but his shallow breathing and sweaty face betrayed his fitness level. ‘Just in case. Cats don’t normally turn into marzipan and eat people either. We don’t know what they can do now.’

‘I don’t think they’ll be able to open doors.’ Joe fiddled with his neon green shoelace.

‘Well, just in case. Humor me.’ Phil paced across to the bed and kicked Joe’s foot.

‘Hey, guys, c’mon,’ said Rohan. His chunky glasses magnified his big brown eyes blinking back the threat of tears.

Joe placed his hand on his friend’s shoulder. ‘Sorry Ro, you ok?’

‘Of course he’s not ok numb nuts, he just watched his sister being bitten by a marzipan cat and then turning into marzipan herself.’ Phil pulled up his desk chair and sat down opposite Joe and Rohan.

Joe stretched out and lightly kicked Phil’s leg. ‘I’m aware of that number nuts. I saw it too. And old Mrs. Terry on the corner, all her five cats had marzipaned. She had no chance.’

‘What’s happening guys? What we gonna do?’ Rohan’s eyes flicked back and forth between Joe and Phil, like a mole emerging into bright sunshine.

Phil sighed and stared at the skateboarding scab on his knee. He had to be brave for his friends. He tried to keep his voice as steady as he could. ‘I don’t know.’

‘When will your mom and dad be back?’ Rohan threw his question in Phil’s direction.

Phil rubbed his eyes, his hands slightly trembling, he clenched them again. ‘I don’t think they’ll be coming back. It was on the TV before you both got here. It’s all over the place, the cats, they’re everywhere. The news said to stay wherever you are and don’t go outside.’

Joe pulled his legs up onto the bed and tucked them under himself. ‘They can’t be everywhere.’

‘They’re everywhere,’ said Phil through gritted teeth. ‘It’s marzipan madness out there.’

Rohan knelt on the bed, spying out of the window. He could see yellow cats, lots of yellow cats, almond assassins, prowling and pacing along the hydrangea-lined neighborhood. ‘They are everywhere. What we gonna do Phil?’

Joe frowned. ‘Why you asking Phil not me?’

‘Phil’s the eldest.’

‘Ro we’re all thirteen.’ Joe raised his eyebrows and shook his head.

‘Yes, but Phil’s still the eldest.’

‘By five days.’

Phil stood up. ‘Hey, I think who’s the eldest isn’t really important right now.’

Rohan sat back from the window and trailed his finger along Saturn’s rings on Phil’s duvet cover. ‘Yeah, well, I was just saying.’ He shrugged while staring into the universe on the bed. ‘I dunno what to do.’

‘We can stay here? Wait for help.’ Joe nodded at his own suggestion.

‘Help won’t be coming.’ Phil sat back down on his chair and swiveled back and forth. ‘Everyone bitten or scratched turns to marzipan and dies.’

Joe turned and took up Rohan’s spy post at the window. ‘Why aren’t the cats dying? When they turn to marzipan, why aren’t they dying, like the people?’

‘I don’t know. I didn’t create the mutant marzipan moggies did I?’ Phil dabbed sweat off his forehead again. He wanted Captain America to be real, to swoop in and save the day.

‘Didn’t they say on the news?’

‘They don’t know. But the people, after they’ve turned and are dead, they come back to life. Zombies.’

Joe spun away from the window and looked back at Phil. ‘Shit.’

‘So they are ok then?’ Rohan blinked hopefully towards Phil.

Phil smiled. ‘Yeah they’re fine.’ He dropped his smile like a hot potato. ‘Of course they’re not ok, they’re made of solid marzipan, doofus. You saw your sister. Did she look fine?’

Rohan ran his fingers along the hem of his camouflage shorts as a make-do comforter while staring at the fabric planets. Joe slumped under the window and bit at his nails. Phil rotated slowly on the chair, trying to think what to do. What would Captain America do? A clock in the shape of a rocket ticked behind Phil on his desk. The tick-tock silence was broken by loud meowing and human screams outside.

Joe spun around to look out of the window again. ‘Jeez. Mr. Howard has turned. He looks like a Simpson. He’s trying to get into the Kiplinski’s porch.’

‘If no help is coming we’re going to have to kill the cats ourselves,’ said Phil.

‘And just how d’we kill them?’ Joe got up from the bed and started to pace the small room. ‘I mean, I know how you’d kill a normal cat, but one that’s made of fucking marzipan?’

Rohan looked up from the planets horrified. ‘Your mom would freak at your language.’

Joe stopped his pacing. ‘My mom is probably almond paste right now. I don’t think she’d fucking care.’

‘You’re such a grown up.’ Rohan pulled his knees to his chest and wrapped his arms around them.

‘Fuck fuck fuckity fuck.’ Joe continued his pacing.

‘Hey, c’mon, both of you.’ Phil stopped moving on the chair. ‘We have to eat them.’

‘What?’ Joe stopped pacing.

‘The cats,’ said Phil. ‘It said on the news, the only way they can be stopped is by eating them.’

‘Eating them?’ Rohan grimaced.

Joe held his hands up. ‘Can’t we just chop their heads off?’

‘If their heads are chopped off they just morph back together. Same if you squash them.’ Phil mimed squishing and growing with his hands. ‘They just go back into their cat shapes. Guessing it’s the same for the people too.’

‘I can’t eat people,’ said Joe, clasping his face with his hands.

Rohan wiped his hands down his thighs. ‘I can’t eat cats. I’m a vegetarian.’

‘It’s bloody marzipan. Without the blood. Perfectly vegan and fine for your religion.’ Phil twirled around in the chair to face Joe. ‘Just like eating the marzipan fruits your Auntie Gayle gives you at Christmas.’

‘Eating a non-moving marzipan apple the size of my thumb is a bit different to eating a full sized marzipan cat in attack mode. Or a relative,’ said Joe.

Phil stood up and walked across to Joe. ‘We can stun the cat, or person, first, by whacking them with something and then eat them quickly.’

‘Can you stun marzipan?’ Rohan asked.

Joe shrugged. ‘At least we won’t have to worry about finding food.’ He attempted to laugh but just made a snorting noise.

‘Maybe we can make a pact though.’ Phil patted Joe’s shoulder. ‘I don’t think any of us want to eat our own family.’

Rohan gasped. ‘No!’

‘Gross,’ said Joe.

Phil looked across at Rohan, then back to Joe. ‘So why don’t we agree that if we get in a ‘situation’ with family one of us others will deal with it.’

Rohan started to cry. ‘I can’t.’

Joe slunk over to the bed and sat next to Rohan. ‘Look Ro, I know it’s hard but we gotta pull together here.’

‘No, I mean I can’t. I can’t eat marzipan.’ Rohan stifled his sobs. ‘My diabetes. I haven’t got my insulin with me.’

‘Shit.’ Phil kicked the bookcase. He’d forgotten about Ro’s diabetes. Why didn’t he bring his insulin pen with him? Why did he have to think of everything all the time.

From the other side of the door there was a hiss of a cat. Phil leapt away from the bookcase and door and almost landed on Joe’s lap as he launched himself onto the bed. The cat started scratching at the door.

Joe gripped Rohan’s knee. ‘Christ, maybe it’ll go away?’

The scratching at the door continued.

Rohan swallowed hard. ‘How can marzipan make a scratching noise like that?’

Joe realized he was holding Rohan’s knee and let go. He frowned at Rohan. ‘I don’t know, shall we open up the door and find out?’

Rohan hugged his legs again and lowered his head.

‘Sorry Ro,’ said Joe. ‘I’m not feeling myself.’

Phil shuffled across the bed a little. ‘You’re looking a little yellow Joe. You feel sick?’

Joe shook his head. ‘No. Just a bit spaced. Like you? Don’t you feel spaced?’

‘Wired. I’m feeling wired. Not spaced.’ Phil turned his head to Rohan. ‘Ro?’

Rohan shook his head and edged away a few inches from Joe.

Phil stood up slowly. ‘You haven’t been bitten have you?’

‘No,’ said Joe. He stared at his laces.

Rohan slid off the bed and stood next to Phil. ‘Or scratched? You might not have felt a scratch while we were running over here.’

‘No, I’m fine.’ Joe clenched his hands.

‘You’re definitely more yellow now. Look.’ Phil pointed to Joe’s bare legs, not covered by his shorts.

‘It’s the light in here.’ Joe grabbed the pillow from the bed and tried to cover his legs.

‘Shit Joe, you’re turning, look at the scratch on your arm!’ Phil took a step back, bumping into the chair.

All three boys looked at Joe’s arm. It was definitely yellow. There was a gaping gash, about an inch long, and thick yellow pus paste oozed out from it below his sleeve.

‘No! Oh God no. Guys you have to help me!’ Joe cried as he stared at his changing body.

‘We can’t do anything,’ said Phil, gripping onto the back of the chair. ‘There’s no cure.’

‘Then you have to kill me.’ Joe stopped crying and sniffed. He held his arms out. ‘Eat me.’

‘Jeez Joe! You’re not fully turned! I can’t eat you.’ Phil grimaced.

Joe lowered his arm. ‘Ok. Well, get ready.’

‘I don’t think I can do this,’ said Phil. He sat in the chair shaking his head.

‘You have to,’ Joe pleaded. ‘Rohan can’t or he’ll go into a hypo.’

Rohan shifted slightly from side to side, sniffing.

Phil looked at his friends scared faces, he needed to keep their spirits up. ‘There are bits of you that I really don’t think I can eat.’ He nodded towards Joe’s crotch.

‘Christ Phil! You can’t leave just my wiener running around after people.’ Joe rubbed the pus paste into his arm as a bit more oozed out. ‘What kind of sicko does that.’

‘What kind of sicko eats your wiener!’ Phil made a snorting noise as he laughed and stifled a cry at the same time.

Joe laughed and wiped yellow tears away with his sticky fingers.

‘Can’t you just leave?’ Rohan mumbled. ‘You could eat that cat on your way out.’

‘Wow. Really finding out about my friends now.’ Joe smiled at Rohan.

Rohan limply smiled back. ‘It’s because I’m your friend I don’t want to eat you.’

Phil took a step closer to Joe. ‘C’mon Joe, take one for the team. I’d leave if it was me infected.’ He placed his hand gently on Joe’s shoulder. ‘I’d push you out the door but I don’t want my fingers sinking into your fat marzipan middle there.’

‘I’d eat you if it was the other way around numb nut.’ Joe stood up and stepped towards the door. ‘I’ll eat the cat, then run away from the house, draw any others away.’

Rohan wiped his eyes. ‘Thanks Joe.’

‘Sorry bud.’ Phil’s voice cracked.

Joe nodded. ‘Get ready to slam the door.’ He started to shove the bookcase out of the way but his thumb mushed into the wood. Sighing, he scraped it off, remolded it, and stuck it on his forehead. ‘Unicorns rule.’

Phil laughed. ‘Numb nut.’ He dragged the bookcase away from the door and held the door handle. He locked eyes with Joe. ‘Ready?’

Joe nodded and smiled at Phil and Rohan. Phil yanked the door open and Joe shot out, Phil slammed the door behind him. Phil leant against the door and closed his eyes. Rohan sat on the bed, leant forward, and held his head in his hands. Cat screeching and scuffling outside the door was agony to listen to. There was a final high pitched feline howl then the landing fell silent.

After minutes of stillness, Phil stopped leaning against the door and turned, pressing his ear up against it. ‘Joe? You still there?’

‘Yes,’ said Joe from behind the door.

Rohan lifted his head from his hands. ‘Why didn’t you run?’

Joe’s voice sounded muffled. ‘I don’t want to die out there on my own. I’m scared.’

‘He’s going to fully turn any minute.’ Rohan whispered to Phil.

Phil nodded, then talked to the door again. ‘Did you eat the cat?’

‘No. Well, I tried to eat it, but it’s very struggly. I ate its leg. It’s not happy with me. It’s just staring at me now. I’m sorry’

Phil placed his hand flat against the door. He would have probably stayed too. ‘I’m sorry too.’ He turned and looked at Rohan, and raised his eyebrows.

Rohan nodded and stood up from the bed. Phil slowly twisted the door handle and opened it.

Joe was sat on the floor, not only was his skin bright yellow but his hair had turned from dark brown to yellow chunky strands. His thumb was still on his forehead.

Phil opened the door wider. He could see an angry looking marzipan cat in a crouching attack position further along the landing. ‘Put your thumb back where it should be, I can’t take you seriously.’

‘If you’re going to be marzipan, we will too,’ said Rohan.

‘No you should stay safe.’ Joe shuffled to his feet, removing his thumb from his head and molding it back onto his hand. ‘I’m just being selfish.’

‘You’re not being selfish. You’re just scared like we are.’ Phil shrugged. ‘No one is safe. If we don’t have our families we only have each other, but if we don’t have each other what’s the point in hiding out.’

The cat rocketed itself through the doorway, hissing and lashing out in a frenzied Catherine Wheel of almond rage.

‘It got me!’ Rohan stumbled back rubbing his leg.

‘Me too,’ said Phil.

The cat limped back out on its three legs, its tail twitching like a caffeinated cobra. Joe shuffled into the room and slumped his sticky body onto the bed.

‘D’you think we’ll still know each other when we turn?’ asked Rohan. ‘You know, when our brains are marzipaned?’

‘Yeah, sure we will.’ Phil put his arm around Rohan. ‘Friends and numb nuts forever.’

Joe widened his mouth into a Joker’s grin. ‘Marzipan’s for life, not just for Christmas.’

How Not to Behave at a CT Scan

Published June 18, 2018 by Naomi Rettig

While in hospital I had a CT scan, or CGI scan as I kept calling it. I’ve had one in the past, but this time it took place when I was off my head which resulted in the 5% of my aware brain being totally embarrassed by 95% of me.

I’d been out of it all morning leading up to the scan, my anxiety had shot up to maximum levels at the thought of the claustrophobic scanner, I was on a lot of morphine for the pain, and my temperature was high, which always distorts my brain. I didn’t realise that the combo of all this would result in me losing all filters in my brain and not knowing when to shut up.

It was a strange experience, instead of just thinking my thoughts, they were all coming out via my mouth, and even though the tiny reasonable part of my brain was listening and telling me to stop talking, I couldn’t. I had no control of my mouth, even though I could see peoples facial reactions to me. I’m sure most of them thought I was a complete loon. I certainly did.

It started when the porter, Steve, arrived at the ward to take me for the scan.

‘Are you my taxi driver?’

He humoured me. ‘I am, jump in.’

‘I haven’t got any cash to pay you.’

‘Don’t worry, I’ve switched the meter off.’ What a good sport.

I climbed into the wheelchair and he attempted to put a blanket across my lap. ‘I don’t need that, I’m far too hot.’

‘I was thinking of your modesty.’

‘Oh, don’t worry about that, everyone has seen everything before.’ I can assure you everyone hasn’t seen everything of me and I was wearing a nightie that went down to my ankles. We set off. ‘Is it far? I don’t fancy a long journey today.’

I was assured it was just down one floor in the lift then straight into the scanning rooms. And it was. It was a busy day as when we arrived in the waiting area there were three neat rows of people in wheelchairs, about nine ahead of me. Steve parked me in the front row.

‘Are we going to watch a drive-in movie?’ I asked loudly. I should point out too that because I’d been nil by mouth all morning, for the scan, my mouth and lips were like cotton wool so I was slurring my words due to my tongue trying to cling like a limpet to every surface in my mouth.

Steve said we weren’t watching a movie and went to inform the scanners I was there. The scan lady came out to find me slumped over (I felt like I was going to pass out in the heat), she got me to sit back in the wheelchair and felt my forehead looking concerned.

I indicated to the room on the right, ‘I don’t want to go in that room as it sounds like a 3D printer and I’m not looking my best today, can I come back another day when I look more presentable.’

Deciding I was delirious with the temperature the scan lady upgraded me to going in next. ‘I’ll just go and load her details into the machine’, she said to Steve.

He said he had to go and pick someone else up, I waved cheerily goodbye to him.

The scan lady asked a paramedic, who was with their own patient two rows back, to stand with me to keep an eye on me while she popped back into the room. The paramedic lady did this reluctantly, she tried not to make eye contact with me. I asked her if she had a slush puppy she could plug into my cannula in my arm to cool me down. She just said no and remained looking ahead. I then told her my slush puppy flavour order of preference. I didn’t know I had an order of preference.

The scan lady came back out and wheeled me into the room where there was another scan lady waiting, the paramedic went back to her own patient with relief. The scan room was heavenly. It was so cold.

‘You have the best room in the hospital’ I told them, although they probably knew that already.

They asked me to lie on the scanner bed. ‘Ooh look! I’m coordinated!’ The runner on the scan bed was purple and so was my nighty. I explained that I wasn’t drunk, it was because my mouth was so dry that I was talking a bit funny. They relaxed a bit.

I led down, and the one lady asked me to put my hands above my head. I did. ‘Am I going hang gliding?!’

‘No, I’ going to inject dye into your veins to we can see everything on the scan much easier.’

‘I’d prefer to go hang gliding.’ I don’t think I would, I don’t like heights, or flying.

Now I kept amazingly still during the scan. But that’s because I had reached maximum capacity anxiety and had therefore disassociated my mind from my body, it doesn’t happen often, and I can’t control it at will so it’s not a great party trick. When I emerged from the scan however I came out of my trance and continued sharing my thoughts with the two ladies. ‘That was great! I felt the dye going through all my veins down my arms to my abdomen and I pretended I had been struck by lightning and was turning into a superhero.’

‘Oh, that’s different, no one has told us that before,’ one of them laughed.

‘And then the whooshy fast stuff was like NASA space training.’ There was no whooshy fast stuff, but my brain thought there was. ‘Although I must disclose I have never done NASA space training, so It’s what I imagine NASA space training to be.’

After more laughing from the ladies, they asked if I could sit up unaided. I wasn’t sure. They asked how I’d get out of bed normally, sit upright then swing my legs out or swing my legs out as I sit up? This seemed like the most difficult question in the world. I’ve never thought about how I get out of bed before. ‘I don’t know, move me like a Lego figure and put me where you want me.’ They did. ‘Can I stay with you for the afternoon, you’re the best and your room is so lovely and cold.’

‘We’d love to let you stay all afternoon, you’ve made our day, but they need you back up on the ward.’

‘A superhero’s work is never done.’

I was wheeled back out to wait for Steve. ‘I highly recommend going in there,’ I told the glum crowd. ‘It’s the most fun you’ll have all day.’ Steve took me back up to the ward. My three other inmates were in bed as it was ‘quiet time’ (more about that in another blog).

As I entered our room the girl in the next bed whispered to me ‘how did the scan go?’

‘It was great! I did hang gliding and space stuff.’

She looked at me confused. ‘Oh, you’d better have a lie down then.’

I got into bed and fell straight asleep, dreaming of what kind of superhero I’d be.

Hospital Hallucinations, Visions, and Delusions.

Published June 17, 2018 by Naomi Rettig

While in hospital I had the most vivid hallucinations that were scary, unnerving, and downright freaky. For three whole days I thought I had lost my mind and was expecting to get transferred to the psych ward at any moment. Then in a moment of clarity I asked the nurse what antibiotics were in my IV drip. Metronidazole. Of course. I had these in tablet form from a dentist once and I saw a Zulu warrior sat on my sofa, and a grapefruit dancing in my bedroom. I stopped taking them and made a mental note not to take these ever again. Unfortunately, when being admitted to hospital and asked what I was allergic to I had only mentioned penicillin. I was kept on metronidazole for another day until my consultant switched them for a different variety, gentamicin. So, I’m blaming the antibiotics, but it could have been that combined with the morphine I was on, and the temperature I had distorting my brain too.

If you’ve never hallucinated it’s scary as you can see things that aren’t there, and no matter how much you tell yourself it’s just your brain playing tricks, because you can see it so clearly you can’t convince yourself it’s just a mirage. I can’t remember all my hallucinations but here are the ones that I can. It would have been freaky enough to dream these, but to see them was terrifying.

Dancing biscuits. My fellow inmates and nurses were witness to me shouting ‘make the biscuits stop dancing’. Embarrassing to look back on, but at the time I’d been tormented by a five-foot custard cream and a five-foot pink wafer with arms and legs dancing, jazz style, next to my bed for hours. Every time I opened my eyes they were there, grinning at me, dancing. They weren’t nice friendly grins, I found them darkly menacing.

Velcro Bryan Ferry. I opened my eyes and the hospital walls and ceiling were covered in Velcro. Bryan Ferry popped up in a bright yellow Velcro suit and proceeded to sing ‘Let’s Stick Together’ whilst flinging himself to the walls and ceiling. When I ignored him, a bed appeared to the right of me (there was no bed on my right-hand side) covered in Velcro and he wrapped himself around the bed in 2D flattened style, still singing. I had to whisper ‘not now Bryan’ to make him stop. He then sat on the bed that wasn’t there with his back to me and kept looking slyly over his shoulder at me to make sure I was watching him.

Eight grim reapers. At one point I opened my eyes to see not one but eight figures in black hooded cloaks gathered around my bed. This seemed like such a revelation that there was more than one grim reaper. I shouted ‘There’s more than one! Everyone has it wrong, there are loads of them!’ plus ‘That’s so unfair, eight of them and one of me, I don’t stand a chance.’ Goodness knows what people must have thought I was looking at.

Headless patients. Looking around the room and seeing the other three patients minus their heads made me physically vomit. (I was vomiting a lot though, so my stomach didn’t take a lot of persuading to purge itself again). Two were sleeping minus their heads, the third was flicking through a magazine with her hands, but there was just a neck stump, no head.

The scariest hallucinations though were ordinary people stood in front of me, talking to me, that weren’t there. There was a lady with short hair in an orange and blue horizontally striped jumper that I found particularly creepy, she would talk to me about her dead children then stare at me. I did wonder at one point if I was doing a ‘Sixth Sense’ and seeing dead people.

I have never experienced audio hallucinations before. I now have. I hear voices in my head most of the time, but I ‘hear’ those with my mind as a running commentary, as I guess do most people. But I’ve never heard things externally with my ears that weren’t there, so I didn’t realise it wasn’t genuine at first. There was a lady in bed three whose hearing aid kept whistling. When she fiddled with it trying to tune it in it played Jingle Bells. ‘What kind of warped person buys an elderly relative a hearing aid that plays Jingle Bells’ I thought to myself. This happened a few times. I was cussing whoever bought it for her. It was only when the hearing aid started to play Motorhead’s ‘Ace of Spades’, in its high-pitched tinny sound, that I realised my brain was messing with me.

Other auditory hallucinations included hearing people say my name and start talking to me, except when I opened my eyes there was no one there. And I could hear a rock station on a radio. I thought it was the woman in the next bed listening to the radio, quietly but not quietly enough, and for a couple of days I was thinking ‘why can’t she put headphones like the rest of us’. I then realised it wasn’t her (she checked out of hospital and it was still playing), it was my brain playing tricks on me again. It was so weird though, I could clearly hear the host introducing artists, new rock music, and I could hear this music and lyrics I’d never heard before so clearly. I can’t remember any of the songs now but at the time of ‘hearing’ them they were all new to me. I wish I could remember them so I could write them down and sell them on to musicians and make a fortune.

As well as hallucinations I had delusions. Only a few thank goodness. I was convinced one of the catering staff was a cyborg. She walked down the corridor exactly like Robert Patrick in ‘Terminator 2’ and as she walked past my room her eyes scanned in, with a slight movement of her head, just like the T2. That was enough for me, my brain told me she was a cyborg, I believed it. I wouldn’t make eye contact with her or I’d pretend to be asleep when she came around. I also believed we were all being given drugs via our drips that were keeping us sleepy and docile, and that the hospital was a front for top secret experiments on our bodies. Whenever I woke up I would scan my body for any signs of unauthorised incisions.

The visions I had were both terrifying and amazing. When I closed my eyes to escape the hallucinations I had visions. No escape from my brain. The inside of my eyelids became a film screen and I was shown weird and wonderful images by my mind. The horrific images my brain showed me were so repulsive I’ve buried them in a filing cabinet never to be talked about, I’ll just say I was disgusted I could create vile images that make ‘The Human Centipede’ look like ‘The Teletubbies’.

There were weird images, that felt like psychic images. I could see the bottom half of a body buried in mud, blue denim jeans, brown boots and a brown satchel type bag buried with, but that was all, then my mind would flicker onto another vision. There was an exquisitely animated film that made me cry as it was so beautifully shot. It was a Swedish girl in the woods, and the animals she lived with and the music was so haunting. They were made of a weird clay type pottery and painted in muted colours, and it was stop go animation. I can’t remember much more now about the story, but at the time it made me weep with joy.

There was a story of two blue and yellow birds that were unseeable by human eye, they lived in human noses, one in each nostril. They were soulmates paired for life but would never see each other as they couldn’t leave their respective nostrils as their jobs were to protect the nose from invaders like pollen, bugs, germs etc. The birds were the happiest creatures, even though they couldn’t see each other they would tweet to each other through the nasal cavities and just knowing the other was there was enough for them. They had such a pure love for each other it was beautiful. They’re names were Geoffrey and Viola.

My brain made a complete Disney animated movie called ‘Vegas to Alaska’. There were four Alaskan Malamute dogs (Montana, Iowa, Utah, and Vegas) that performed in a Las Vegas show. They weren’t mistreated but had a working dogs life, having lived there performing in shows all their lives. Due to animal shows getting less customers they were dropped from the bill and the owner was selling them on. Three sold quickly but no one wanted to buy Vegas, he had been born with one ear and couldn’t bark/talk like the other dogs. The owner was due to fly to Florida, so he gave Vegas away to a random stranger, Ben. Ben had stopped in Las Vegas on route home to Alaska and had lost his dad’s money gambling. He was feeling such a loser but couldn’t say no to taking Vegas home with him.

The film followed their bonding trip in Ben’s red pick-up truck from Las Vegas to Alaska, Vegas taking pure joy from simple things like riding in a vehicle with his head out the window and feeling a breeze on his face, something he’d never experienced before. It was basically a love story between man and dog, about learning to trust, learning to value the small stuff, and learning to love life. I enjoyed it.

A short film that played in my head was a beautiful love story starring Tom Hardy. He played a man, finding out his sister had been mistakenly switched at birth. He only found this out when he’s contacted by his birth sister’s ‘brother’ explaining she needs a kidney. Reluctantly he agrees to visit her in the hospital and when he meets her he agrees to donate, telling her ‘I will always be a part of you and we will go on magical adventures.’ They fall in love, but not a sexual love, a pure love of humanness. They move in together and are inseparable, they make everyday life into wonderful adventures, but then she is stabbed in a random petrol station robbery and dies in his arms. It was called ‘The Day my Kidney Died’.

A comforting vision I had was a huge belly of a monster hovering above my bed, it was peach coloured and furry, with an outie belly button. But the belly button opened like a lid and inside was a fluffy baby monster curled up. I climbed in and the lid closed, and I snuggled with the fluffy baby monster. It was lovely.

There was so much more that played in my head but unfortunately I can’t remember anything else. I was too out of it to write it all down at the time, a Dictaphone would have helped but I didn’t think to ask my mum to bring one in for me. ‘Can you bring toiletries, spare nighties, and a Dictaphone in case I hallucinate.’ Mental note – buy a Dictaphone and carry it with me always.

And while I’m glad I escaped and left my hospital hallucinations behind, the creative part of me would like to have some of the visions return, maybe with an on/off switch. Oh, and yes, I do feel bad that I left my fellow patients to the mercy of a cyborg.

Another Year Older

Published January 31, 2018 by Naomi Rettig

Another year older and what have I done?
I’ve held on to my sanity and had lots of fun.
I went to a boot camp and did a zip wire,
Screaming so much like my ass was on fire.
I went to a film set and had my throat slit,
It looked really gory but didn’t hurt one bit.
Inglorious in concert and Wayward Sons too,
Electric Six was a blast, and Dick Valentine, woo!
The Emmerdale weekend was of course a highlight,
If I ever missed that my year wouldn’t seem right.
Met Michael Madsen at London Comic Con,
A chat with him and my legs were gone.
I went to a wedding that was full of romance,
I felt all happy and in a love trance.
I relaxed in Jersey with walks along the beach
And got mugged by a seagull with the loudest screech.
I left my job as it was getting a strain,
Went back to my old one for the sake of my brain.
Book number four was hot off the press.
And I ate too much fudge, I must confess.
I met lots of new friends to add to the collection,
I really do have such a wonderful selection.
If this following year is even half as much fun
I’ll be a bouncy, jolly, happy bun*.

*Unless I meet Judd Nelson, where I’ll spontaneously combust,
And drift of in the atmosphere like sparkly purple dust.

Post-Christmas

Published January 1, 2018 by Naomi Rettig

As I laze here in post-Christmas slump
I’m drinking coffee via a pump.
I look like I’ve eaten an inflated space hopper,
I could explode any time, like a giant party popper.

I’ve scoffed so much sugar I’m turning into fudge,
You’ve done the same so please don’t judge.
I need to roll off the sofa and partake in exercise,
But to the muscles in my legs this might be a surprise.

Bring out the salad, it’s time to detox,
My skin’s breaking out like some kind of pox.
A healthy new me will now atone,
Oh, look over there, some rogue Toblerone.

Mugged by a seagull, named Steven.

Published November 4, 2017 by Naomi Rettig

I set off for a challenging two-mile coastal walk. Probably not challenging for most people, but this was involving climbing up high then descending onto a beautiful deserted bay that can only be accessed on foot, a challenge for me. It was scary at some points as the wind was up, would I get blown over the cliff tops? Would my knees cope with the steep drop down? Would my phone get signal to phone the coastguard if I couldn’t climb back up out of the bay? And if not how long would my hotel biscuits, that I’d packed in my bag for emergencies, last for?

At many points in the walk my little miss negative kept telling me I couldn’t do it. I had to keep reminding myself that I could, and when I couldn’t convince myself I resorted to bribery. ‘If you climb that cliff you can have an ice-cream.’ ‘If you make it down there you can have an ice-cream.’ My inner five-year-old responded to the ice-cream bribe, and I climbed, scrambled, and completed my walk.

Walking back to the bay that I’d started from, all I was thinking about was my ice-cream reward, my prize for being an awesome adventurer. Guilt free too as my Fitbit was telling me that I’d burnt eight hundred calories on my walk. I was a smug adventurer. I felt epic.

At the ice-cream kiosk I requested one scoop of rum and raisin. The lady asked if I wanted a flake in that. Feeling like I’d trekked from outer Peru, I declared, still smugly, that yes, I would like to have a flake in that. That was my mistake right there. Floored by a flake.

Holding my ice-cream in my hand, like an Olympic torch, I started strolling off towards a bench along the promenade. I was going to take a deserved seat, relax in the tranquil setting, and savour my rum and raisin heaven. I was going to do that, but that never happened.

My mugging happened so fast. I felt a smack on my head, a blackness in front of my face, and my ice-cream was snatched from my hand. With my hand still in ice-cream holding pose minus the cone, I realised I’d been attacked by a seagull. The smack on my head was its wing, the blackness in my face was its fat body. I’d screamed loudly when I was hit on the head, which drew the attention of a couple on the beach and two pensioners behind me. I wish my natural reaction hadn’t been a loud scream. I wish I hadn’t drawn attention to what happened next. I have never been so ashamed of myself.

As the seagull lifted the ice-cream, via the flake handle, with its mangy webbed feet, the flake snapped in half. My ice-cream plummeted to the floor, presenting itself at my feet. All the build up to my ice-cream, the longing, the desire, the deservedness, the anticipation, all lay at my feet on a dirty walkway. My emotions exploded at the seagull, still flapping by my head, brandishing half a flake at me. I swore. In public. ‘Bastard!’ I shouted at the seagull. Aggressively. Just as loud as my scream. I was instantly mortified at myself. I’d let myself down.

The intrepid heroic explorer had been replaced with a potty mouthed fishwife. I could feel the pensioners disapproval boring into me. A lady on the beach laughed, then covered her mouth to disguise this. I picked my ice-cream cone up. Taking a tissue from my bag I wiped down my ice-cream to removed traces of the pavement. I then walked to the furthest bench on the beach to eat it. Steven the seagull followed me. Bastard. As I sat on the bench he landed at my feet. I told him ‘you have got to be joking.’ He wasn’t. He stood there, his greedy beady eyes focused purely on my ice-cream. His eyes were indeed on the prize.

So, my image of relaxing to the sounds of the sea while slowly enjoying my rum and raisin ice-cream didn’t materialize. Instead I got mugged by a seagull, swore angrily in public, disappointed some pensioners, and shoved and ice-cream down my throat in world record speed.

The flake was my mistake.

HOOP Boot Camp Summer 2017

Published July 10, 2017 by Naomi Rettig

When I signed up for a weekend HOOP (helping overcome obesity problems) boot camp six months ago, I really didn’t know what I was expecting. I certainly didn’t expect that I would meet the most wonderful people who would inspire me, encourage me, and enlighten me. But I did. And more.

I was anxious about meeting new people and spending a weekend with total strangers. I didn’t need to worry at all. I was so nervous arriving at the camp, but I met my first new friend Lucy who instantly made me feel relaxed. And with each person I met after that I felt more at ease. I was worried about sharing a room but I was paired up with Emma and felt we were a perfect match, we instantly gelled and suddenly sharing a room wasn’t a big deal at all. So much so we asked Yvonne to join us as we’d clicked over dinner Friday night. Each lovely lady on the boot camp with me was so nice, I started on Friday with strangers but left on Sunday with new friends.

The food was delicious. I was again anxious about this aspect of the weekend. Was I going to have enough food? Was I going to like the food? How would I cope without sugary sweet food? Again, unnecessary worrying. I can’t praise Brian Powlett highly enough. Fresh heathy food, cooked to perfection. Packed full of flavor and incredibly filling, I didn’t feel hungry once. I’m now following his Facebook page ‘Knife of Brian’ (should have known he’d be awesome with a Monty Python reference) and will be trying his recipes myself. Who knew I’d get excited by salads? Not me.

I also needn’t have worried about the activities. Saturday morning started with a walk. It was about a mile I think, some people did a bit of running, some people walked a just little of the way, and some people didn’t take part. It was all about what you felt comfortable with, no pressure. We were then split into two groups. One group worked out with tyres, one with resistance bands. Again, if you didn’t want to take part, or if you needed a breather, that was no big deal. After breakfast then we had the option to do canoeing. I was going to do it but after seeing Barbara and Helen fall in the river (they handled it with such good humour!) I got spooked and changed my mind (flash back to falling in a boating lake aged eight). I will have another go though next time, as everyone who did it seemed to have a great time. Myself, Yvonne and Sarah opted out so we got to play boules with Mark (more about him later). I wasn’t counting but I think I won 😉, and we all beat Mark.

We then had the option of mountain biking. Sitting on a saddle the size of a paperclip was uncomfortable and, unless I have a saddle the size of an arm chair, I won’t be doing it again. I’m calling the tiny saddles ‘magic saddles’ because they managed to turn my apple-catcher knickers into a thong. If you didn’t want an intimate wedgie you could have gone for a trike, or a wider seated tandem bike, but that was tougher to pedal and steer, kudos to Yvonne for steering the trike and Liane and Sarah getting up a hill on the tandemt, I had to get off and push my bike on that bit.

After lunch, it was activity time again. You had the option of harness work (climbing wall, tree tops walk, zip wire) or archery. I chose the harness work as I wanted to challenge myself, I’ve done archery several times before. Wearing full harness gear is most unflattering, and in some circles would be classed as fetish wear, but I’d rather be safe and look like a trussed up chicken than fashionable and deadly. I wasn’t good at the climbing wall, trying to get my size nine trainers on a pokey-out-bit (not sure of the technical term) the size of a broad bean was too hard for me. Others made it look easy and shimmied up to the top quickly like Tom Cruise in the opening to Mission Impossible II (Jane, Diane, Vicky, Sue B). Sue A showed what perseverance and having another go can do, as she didn’t manage to get very high the first time but had another go after and her determination and sparkly inner magic got her to the top.

Zip wire was next and, wowsers, what a challenge. I struggle to get up on rung three of a step ladder, so just climbing to the top of the zip wire tower was an achievement. Emma was first to volunteer, what a star, and she nailed it like a carpenter. One by one everyone overcame their fears and launched themselves over the edge. Most of the time I was up there I was saying to myself in my head that I couldn’t do it and I would just go back down. But when it came to just me and Yvonne stood up there, things changed. I’m sure she won’t mind me saying she was having a wobble, and after standing on the edge changed her mind and got unhooked. I was giving her a pep talk and saying she could do this and she would feel fab if she did it, and as I was saying this I was thinking ‘well I can’t be saying this to Yvonne and not do it myself’ what a hypocrite!

So, I bit the bullet and told Alex (the activities man) I was going for it. I told him I wouldn’t be able to look down so I was going to look up into the trees and he would have to guide me to the edge like I was a blind person, which he did marvelously. He has the patience of a saint. I told him I don’t normally swear but I may do. But I didn’t swear, apart from a ‘Holy Moly’ as I jumped, and I didn’t cry which I thought I would. I bizarrely did a little high pitched nervous singing and screamed the entire way down, which resulted in a sore throat and revocation of my forty-year vegetarian status due to consuming a buffet of small insects mid-air.

I’d like to thank Sue and Jane for helping me down from the harness after I eventually come to a stop – I thought I was going up for another go at one point as the bounce back was quite far. There might have been else behind me helping me down too but I was in too much of a state to see, so if anyone helped me, then thank you so much. I was holding onto the metal rope so tightly I just couldn’t physically let go. I haven’t gripped anything that hard since someone tried to steal my Toblerone once.

I am so proud of myself that I did it but I wouldn’t do it again. I’m not destined to be an adrenalin junkie. I’ve never been so glad to touch the ground. I nearly did a Pope and kissed it. We’d run out of time to do the tree tops walk, but that was good because that’s when Sue had that second go at the wall and smashed it, meant to be.

Zumba was on offer after that but I was so wrung out from the zip wire I gave it a miss. The ladies that did take part were fabulous though. I could see Lucy outside my window dancing (as I was recovering) and she was marvelous.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t very well Sunday morning. I had a bad head and the warnings of a migraine coming on so I knew I had to head home. I missed out on boxercise and yoga, I hope yoga is on offer at the next camp as I would have loved to have tried that.

I felt very emotional travelling home on the train, I was upset I’d had to shoot off without saying proper goodbyes to everyone, but that probably would have probably set me off crying like the Niagara waterfalls, so a lucky escape for everyone else. I felt emotional because in the space of forty hours I’d met the most inspirational people and formed friendships that I know will last a lifetime.

Mark Flewitt and Heather Jayne Wynn, the coaches on the weekend, it’s difficult to put into words how much of life changers they are. You couldn’t wish to meet more supportive, empathetic, positive people. It’s like sorcery how a speech from Mark can really change how you think about yourself and make you believe in yourself. I wouldn’t call it going to boot camp, I’d call it going to reboot camp. Like a computer reboots itself to get rid of the nasties and the gremlins inside, this weekend rebooted my gremlins and nasties.

I will be eternally grateful to mark and Heather for rebooting me, grateful to Brian for making me want to embrace healthier foods, and forever grateful to have met all the lovely ladies I shared this experience with, you are all sparkly stars in a sometimes dark world, so keep sparkling.

Anxiously Anticipating an Action Weekend

Published July 5, 2017 by Naomi Rettig

I’m travelling so far out of my comfort zone that I’ve had to renew my passport and apply for a visa. When I booked an activity boot camp weekend six months ago it seemed like an exciting thing to do. Now that it’s less than forty-eight hours away it seems far, far away from exciting. Excitement and fear has a thin line. I’ve crossed the border, and I’m entering terror town.

I did something similar when I was ten years old. There was an outward bounds school trip which involved a two-night stay, lots of walking, sharing bunks, early mornings. This equaled lots of crying, anxiety and counting down the minutes to go home. I think this emotional response might be repeated this weekend. I should have had a flashback moment to this memory before booking. My brain is an ass at times.

Anxiety number one: I’m staying in an outwards bounds center. In a forest. I normally stay in no less than four star hotels, in cities. There are going to be insects, that will try and devour me. And no room service. I haven’t even checked if there’s any Wi-Fi there, I fear not, and that will send me into palpitations and a technological detox. It will be the longest I’ve gone without watching television. I don’t know if I’ll cope with that, I may have to be air-lifted to a multiplex cinema.

Anxiety number two: I’ll be sharing a bedroom. I haven’t slept in a room with someone else for fourteen years. I’m a light sleeper and must wear earplugs to obtain sleep when I’m by myself. I’ve packed five pairs of earplugs as I might have to ram them all in if I’m sharing with someone who snores, or breathes. My ear canals will be stretched to ear lakes.

I sleep nude. And if it’s hot, I sleep on top of the sheets, nude. It’s predicted to be hot this weekend. I’m going to have to wear a nighty. This means I will have no sleep as I’m also a fidgeter in bed and will end up with my nighty strangling me at various stages of the night. Death by nighty.

Anxiety number three: We’re having our meals cooked by a professional chef. Most people would think this is a lovely treat. Not me. I’m worried I won’t like the food, as I’m a fussy vegetarian who dislikes salads, dressings, and onions. What if I get hungry and have to eat my own arm? I’ve shaved it in preparation. Do I take emergency flapjacks with me? I’m not going to be able to eat them though, I’ll be with people all the time. I don’t want to have to lock myself in a toilet cubicle to eat, my high gag reflex won’t cope with eating in these conditions. I suppose I could wait until lights out and lick it in the darkness. But how could I smuggle flapjacks in? Bags might be searched, I might have a body pat down for contraband. I could hide them under my boobs, there’s room there for a whole traybake.

Anxiety number four: Communal bathroom. Those two words send frozen darts down my spine and straight to my coccyx. I have a phobia of swimming pools and don’t go swimming because the thought of putting my bare feet where someone else’s bare feet have been makes me feel physically sick. So, the thought of sharing a shower and toilet with eleven strangers is horrendous. I will be taking wet wipes with me and wet wiping myself clean.

Anxiety number five: Outdoors. I dislike going outdoors in temperatures over 18 degrees. Our activity days are forecast to be 25 and 20. This makes me want to cry. I need an air con suit as my portable air con unit isn’t that portable and doesn’t work outdoors. I hate being sweaty and uncomfortable. This weekend will just involve me being sweaty and uncomfortable. I have purchased a sun hat and will be basting myself in factor fifty.

Anxiety number six: People. I’m going to be spending forty-six hours with people. I never spend that long in company. My maximum is a ten-hour shift in work, and then I have to spend the following day in solitary confinement recovering from IPI (intense people interaction).

Anxiety number seven: Activities. Where do I start? I have an active mind but my body is as active as neglected plasticine. I will be doing climbing – I hate heights and I have long nails which are going to make it difficult to grab onto the wall and stop myself plunging to instant death, so I’m going to have to cut them short. I will feel naked. I don’t think I’m going to be able to pull myself up the wall. It’s going to be like a game of vertical twister. And I was never any good at the horizontal version.

I’ll be doing abseiling – very quickly to get it over with. I’ll probably forget to bounce off the wall intermittently and hurtle straight down breaking both legs. I’ll be doing a zip wire. I’m not going to be able to jump off myself, whoever is behind me is going to have to push me. I think I might scream so much I will be heard in Denmark. If it’s a high zip wire I may catch small birds in my flight path with my open mouth.

I’ll be doing canoeing. I’m a good swimmer but petrified of going under the water and getting trapped there. I’m also frightened I might spook myself by thinking ‘shark’ and end up panic paddling off down the river and into the ocean. If spotted off the coast anywhere please do throw me a life buoy, or a flapjack. If it’s hot I may tip myself in on purpose and go for a swim, but if anything touches my leg I will add yellow dye to the river. I will also be doing mountain biking, walking, orienteering, and optional aerobics classes.

These are some of my anxieties and that’s without adding in the five-hour public transport journey to Norfolk involving three train connections, one of which National Rail ticket sales have given me seven minutes between one of the connections. So, I will have been sprinting even before the activity weekend starts.

Is it too late to book a spa weekend instead?!

Heatwave

Published June 22, 2017 by Naomi Rettig

Slow flowing blood boiling just like hot jam,
My legs are swollen and smelling of ham.
Sticky sweat coating me with salty brine,
Telling myself it’s going to be fine.
Internal organs cooking up a treat
Turning to a Full English in this heat.
I have no energy to try to speak,
My limbs are heavy and feeling so weak.
My make-up’s melting all down my face,
My lungs constrict like I’ve run a tough race.
I’m tetchy, snarly and starting to growl,
Factor fifty plastered on with a trowel.
Handfuls of ice cubes go into my bra,
The sanest idea I’ve had by far.
Hating happy people loving the sun,
I want it to rain and spoil all their fun.
With my red face looking like salami
It’s not a heatwave – it’s a heat tsunami.