A classic, by Jeff Macnelly.

Perhaps the most bewildering aspect of the expat thing, now that I have learned to make a proper cup of tea, is taxation. Because I’m an American, I’m obliged to file tax returns with the IRS no matter where I live or who’s paying me. Because I live in the UK, I owe them a cut of my income (and rightly so), for enjoying the benefits of socialized medicine and well-maintained roads and Private Eye and the BBC and all the rest. But I’m self-employed, and most of my clients are in the US, so working out which country deserves to be paid tax first is a headache.

Actually, I’ll restate that: it’s more than a headache. If filing your 1040 and the assorted schedules is unpleasant– like having a root canal, say, where the anasthetic’s wearing off, and you’re cringing because you kind of felt that last poke with the gouging thingy, and you’re not sure if the next one will be worse– then filing in the UK is like having unanesthetized heart surgery while your mother-in-law comments loudly about how she can’t believe her son would marry someone who would scream like that. It’s only a scalpel.

There are also a number of layers of stupid: you need a national insurance number and a unique taxpayer number and THEN if you want to e-file, you must register and wait one week for a username and pin to be sent to you. That’s three magic numbers to remember. Compared to this, the IRS’s system– “Do you have a social security number? Dandy!”– is  a model of elegant efficiency, and I’m speaking as someone who pays someone else to do the IRS thing for her.

So the deadline is 31 Jan, and I’m hyperventilating a little because of that. I always imagine that they are going to find some horrible error and throw me in prison for a year.  Or more.


2011 is four days old and I have written more than I did nearly all of last month. This is not going to last, this momentum, but hopefully the discipline to work at things daily does. AoF continues to grow. It’s dreadfully wordy, but come March or April I should be in a position to start hacking away.

Edward I is doing all right, too. Currently taking the Douglas Adams approach: writing individual scenes, free-floating, and then will decide what the structure should be after I have about 200 pages of stuff– 70 or 80 to chuck, the rest to trim and swap around.

On New Year’s Day I dragged myself out of bed– no hangover, just a bad mattress at my friends’ place putting my back out of joint (I’m amazed their daughter isn’t crippled). I ran about 4 miles through the Warwickshire countryside. Cold, and with what they like to call a “heavy dew” falling from the sky. There was that particularly grim wetness to the ground that comes after snow has melted on it.

A horse leaned over its fence railing towards me, hopefully, I thought, even though I was zooming by on the opposite side of the road. It might have been looking for a carrot or a sugar lump or a hand warmer. It might have wanted to convert me to its religion. He looked a little evangelical: bony-faced and dour.

But most horses are like that, I guess.

this is what you get

This is what you get, and you deserve it.

This Jezebel article about a Daily Mail article (the Intertubes, they’re so meta) got me thinking about guilt. I go about my day feeling guilty all the time. I don’t spend enough time with the husband: guilty. I haven’t played piano in a month: guilty. I haven’t finished screenplay #2 yet: guilty. I ate the whole thing: guilty.

I’m not entirely sure where this all originates. I don’t necessarily know if understanding that would help me. I do know that it’s exhausting, and it’s pretty central to the protagonist of one of the things I’m writing: Nell, who can’t fix everything for everyone the way she feels she should.

Writing is cheaper than therapy. And possibly more useful. But you have to shake off the lethargy and actually do it now and then. Fortunately, I was better at this today. But now it’s past 1 am, and I feel guilty for staying up so late.

I was reading this post on the Guardian’s Books Blog about writing at night. Someone in the comments left a poem there:

Past one o’clock. You must have gone to bed.
The Milky Way streams silver through the night.
I’m in no hurry; with lightning telegrams
I have no cause to wake or trouble you.
And, as they say, the incident is closed.
Love’s boat has smashed against the daily grind.
Now you and I are quits. Why bother then
To balance mutual sorrows, pains, and hurts.
Behold what quiet settles on the world.
Night wraps the sky in tribute from the stars.
In hours like these, one rises to address
The ages, history, and all creation.

Vladimir Mayakovskiy, trans Hayward & Reavey

I’m kind of a philistine about poetry– a lot of it just makes me smirk– but this is lovely. I will file it away for Simon in West Chapel Service. Not as a speech, but as something to draw on.


It’s the winter solstice. Up here at the 52nd parallel, that means it was dark by 3:50. I couldn’t hack it in Alaska.

I deliberately roused myself at 5 am to get outside for a glimpse of the eclipse (this after hitting the sack at 2), but there was cloud cover, and snow like little styrofoam pellets sifting down. I waited a while to see if it would clear, but a strange ruddy blush came over the sky, and that was all. I went back to bed at 6. Loved ones in PA and CT and TX will have pictures for me sometime.

Hopefully the return of the light will get a fire under my butt. Although, if the usual motivation can’t get me going, nothing will:


BBC eclipse pictures here.

It’s snowing now, although the weather websites insist it isn’t. Here’s Zeno, Pig #1, surveying things earlier this evening:

zeno in the snow

"Dammit, those pigeons will see me a mile away."

(We call the cats “pigs” because they both snort while grooming themselves. )

It was only about 11F this morning, so I didn’t fancy walking to the gym. I pecked a little at book two– it’s hard to write a summer story when winter is all up in your face– and finished an essay for BOAT. Beyond that, it was dayjob and house cleaning. I am ready for the sun to come back. I am starting to get cabin fever. I’m sure the toddler and husband are, too. If I worked outside the home, I would feel happier when I saw them.

Of course, I’d also feel guilty about working outside the home.

There is so much I want to do that I can’t get started on any of it. Projects currently in progress:

  • Adaptation of book one
  • Re-re-re-re-re-re writing the dramromcom
  • Biopic screenplay (with bonus jokes!)

I baked a boatload of cookies, though.

Training: 4.5 miles steady (treadmill); 3 x 25 kettlebell swings @ 20 kg; 2 x 5 one-arm shoulder presses @ 30 lb; 3 x 10 push-ups, slowly; about 986 sit-ups (that’s what it felt like, anyway). And the ballet workout tape.

I claimed this blog more than a year ago, and keep meaning to get around to writing on it. I’d pick significant dates– May 1, the summer solstice, my birthday, New Year’s, pitchers and catchers reporting– and always forget. I’m quickly learning that there is no right time to start a project. Other than now, of course.

So. Now. Here we go.