Cleo's Patra

Jul 01

Seawater and Pleasure

One of my biggest regrets is never learning to swim. Sure, if I flail around hard enough I can usually stay afloat for a very short time, but it’s like watching a seal try to run. Funny to you, not to the seal.

We had a day off for once and decided to hit the beach. Took the usuals - towels, sun cream, enough food and drink to feed 40 people, minimal clothing and no modesty whatsoever. I just dozed in the shallows, elbows and feet firmly planted against the waves while watching the others in the deeper water playing water polo and using each other as impromptu diving boards.

It looked great. Really enticing. I mean how hard can swimming be? Even bloody cats can do it. Start to head out, and that’s when it happened. A wave smacked me square in the face. Wasn’t even a big wave, just a ripple, really. May not be able to swim, but apparently teleportation is one of my skills, because I were on dry sand in under a second. The fear was, once more, more powerful than the fun. Sucks sometimes.

The odd thing is when I were a kid, I loved swimming. Not saying it was terribly elegant even then, more walrus than dolphin, but me and my friends would go swimming most afternoons in the summer. It was a flooded quarry, pretty deep, but in easy diving range was an old car. Diving down and forcing your eyes open to see this rusting relic from the 30s was a special thing. Someone would steal a few matches and a couple of their parents cigarettes to both be smoked while drying and burn off the inevitable leeches. Salad cream and dandelion leaf sandwiches on bread so white it could flash blind you instantly were eaten, while we talked about the important stuff in life. The massive goldfish that someone had dumped into the quarry would rise to the surface as the sun hit the right spot to heat the water. Some of them were nigh as long as your arm. They loved bits of the bread and would fight over them.

It sounds boring. It were fun. Sometimes the better divers would go for crayfish and we’d cook the tails on sticks over a very small fire. People had been swimming there for decades before we started - it were an older sibling to younger sibling sort of thing, and we had rules. A fire in one place only, a naturally slightly hollowed chunk of limestone, and you would cut shitwood and stack it on the right in this little cave near the fire rock.

Then all that went. Totally stupid thing as well. We had a canoe. Nothing fancy, a 16 foot long one. Dad had the stern and steering duties, Mom and Sis were in the middle and I had the front paddle and was bloody proud of it. It flipped over one day, the wake from a speedboat on the lake. Me, being stupid, held on to my paddle and got stuck under it. It couldn’t have been more than a minute before Dad threw the canoe off me, but I can’t abide water out of my depth since.

I love the sea for the same reason I love flying. It’s open. Nothing between you and the horizon, and it’s somehow clean. The sea even holds you up, air, not so much. Yet I trust air more. I can breathe that stuff.

May 25

Thank You For Your Service

One of the more charming customs the American people have is that of thanking the military for their service. I have seen it in airports, in the streets, during marathons, even in PTA meetings. Setting aside a three day weekend is even more impressive, as is the habit of cleaning up and putting flags on the graves of the fallen. The first time it happened to me, from a young woman in the airport, it confused the hell out of me! Such respect for the armed forces is alien.

The British (and indeed European) habit is to ignore them all, except for Remembrance Sunday. You wear a poppy, observe 2 minutes silence and that is it. Forget about it until next year. Kipling’s lament of the treatment of soldiers, so eloquently penned in "Tommy" is the norm even now.

I think the main difference is most Americans worthy of the name treat the military as patriots, the walkers in the shadows so they can walk in the sun without fear. The front lines in the protection of freedom, liberty, and a way of living and thinking that is both new and precious in the world. In more socialist countries, we’re basically just glorified enforcers. Hell, Mob enforcers get more respect in a lot of ways.

Which leads me to the current VA scandal. It is something that a vast swathe of Americans is having problems with, as it goes against every instinct they have to respect and honor those who put themselves in harms way. Unfortunately, it is something we over here are used to. We don’t have a VA. You get injured and invalided out, you are treated in one of two military hospitals, then dumped into the NHS when you are no longer bleeding and can breathe on your own. There is no assistance other than what the Regiment can scrape together in an emergency. That usually amounts to a small wreathe and maybe a couple of pall bearers.

There are charities and groups which do provide some assistance for veterans - one, oddly enough, is run by the worst tabloid in the country (the Sun makes the National Enquirer look like Shakespeare) and does masses of good. Private donations of money, time, facilities. Care packages to active duty members. Americans do the same, I know.

So, on this Memorial Day weekend, I want to say “Thank you for your service.” Not to my brothers and sisters in arms. But to those of you at home, who got our backs, no matter what.

Apr 05

Nearly there.

There is a tree is nearly there. 6 more stories, and done. Two of the stories will only be available in a limited, 6 copy run. Oddly, the two stories that have been the hardest to write - one because it is intensely personal, the other because it involves a very private person.

Still worth the writing, even if the only people who read those are the people involved.

Mar 24

I Don’t Do Charity

OK, the title is not 100% accurate. Someone I know and trust - yep, I’ll pass them a few bucks if it is for a third party. You know„a sponsored run, a cycling event, a failed and embarrassing attempt at growing a mustache. Those, I can cope with. I work with the church, giving my time. Guess that counts, though it doesn’t feel like it.

It’s the others. They want cash. Always have a sob story, and never, ever pay back. I mean never. It gets old.

That is why I will only donate to someone I know well, for a third party. Got tired of being fooled

Feb 12

Detestation Time

Was trawling through Free Republic. Everyone needs a reason to hate themselves, after all. Came across this little gem on a Micheal Sam’s thread:

"how do you undress and shower and pee or poop in front of a bunch of guys knowing that one of them is staring at your butt and fantasizing?….its not natural….."

Where the hell do you even fucking start? Oh, I know …..

Why the hell would someone be fantasizing about your saggy ass in the first place? Think you are God’s gift to both sexes or something? Fer Christs sake, assume some basic fucking dignity and some basic fucking humility here. Some men prefer men. Not exactly an exotic concept - it’s only been around and documented for millenia.

Sure - homosexuality being a sin is mentioned in the bible, for you “pick and choose” bible thumpers out there. Three or four times. The sin of hubris is mentioned dozens of times. And what, pray tell, is more prideful than considering anyone would be inflamed with lust just on seeing you?

Don’t even think about taking the mote out of someone else’s eye until you have taken the entire fucking forest out of your own.


Feb 02 -





Like, forreal. You wanna play any video game out today? You don’t even need to spend 600$. You can…

Signal boosting - because fuck that noise about being able to be fired for being trans.

(Source: thewomanfromitaly)


I used to write for a site. It was fun, I enjoyed it, they paid me for it and the readers enjoyed it.

It is shut down. Two years of answers and blogs, simply gone without a trace.

I had copies. The worst sound you want to hear as a writer is a crunch under your foot first thing in the morning. You hope like hell it is something minor, like a contact lens, a cat’s body part or your soul. When it is your back up drive containing everything you have written, you scream.

Jan 16

The 24 hour MRE guide

Carefully open the pouch. Extract the crackers, peanut butter and jelly. Eat them.

Thoroughly lick the empty PB and J pouches. Dispose of them neatly. Retain the cracker wrapper.

Extract the breakfast pouch. Attempt to trade it for more peanut butter and crackers. You will be rejected both verbally and physically, so expect that. Return the pouch to your kit. You are not that hungry yet.

Extract the breakfast pouch again. Read the instructions. Notice a distinct lack of hot water on the route march. Return pouch to kit. You are still not that hungry.

Take a sip of water from your camelbak. It is disgustingly warm and flat with a hint of chemical to give that j’nai sais quois that all high end restaurants go for. Hey, it’s warm! Dig out the breakfast pouch again. Open carefully and add some water. Using the kit enclosed spork, stir and stab vigorously to ensure your meal is well hydrated, has the correct texture and is totally dead. Add salt and pepper to drown the taste. Eat. Idly look at the lizards on the rocks and wonder what they taste like. Dispose of the packaging neatly.

Attempt to continue marching with a boulder in your stomach.

Stop for lunch. Dig out the lunch pack. Read the ingredients. Decide that today is the first day of your diet. You’ve been meaning to shed a few pounds. Your Sargent has other ideas. Resentfully open the pack. Add the water. Vindictively stir and stab the contents. The flies which have plagued you all morning suddenly depart in a hurry as you start to eat. You don’t blame them, and regret using your entire condiment pack on breakfast. In desperation add the dehydrated orange juice to the mix. It improves the flavor.

Now it is dinner. You are in a safe enough zone to have a small fire to boil water. Sheer luxury. Take out the dinner pack. Try to make out what it is in the dim light. The only words you can clearly see are the phrase “Suitable for Military and Prison Use” and the expiry date of a decade ago. A quiet whisper in your ear. For the low, low cost of three cigarettes and a swap of duty, the guy next to you will let you have 6 drops of hot sauce from his personal stash. Bastard. We are supposed to be a team here.
You have no choice but to agree. Someone on the other side of the bivvy is begging people to trade him his vegetarian entree for something that doesn’t taste of cardboard. At least yours has some beef flavoring (artificial) in it.
There is one more pouch. It’s a pudding. Supposedly. Chew on it endlessly. Keep the packaging to force feed to the quartermaster.

More hot water. Make yourself a cup of instant tea. No worries about milk, it’s in there, if you want it or not. Tip in the sugar. Stir it enough to get the worst of the lumps out. Drink and enjoy the moonrise.

Don’t get rid of the main pouch. There is one thing left in there. 5 squares of toilet paper, and you are going to really need them in about 4 hours.

Jan 07

Read A Little Dream For Me

Reading literature takes you to a place where you can dream of the possible…… reading dull manuals puts you to sleep and teaches you nothing.

Like most parents and grandparents, I walk the fine line. Teaching the kids useful skills and how things work without crushing their creativity and sense of wonder about this most amazing universe we share. It gets difficult at times. Throwing something into the air and watching it fall to the ground is an endless source of amusement to a one year old.

[size=8pt] A Newton’s Cradle is proof that Mommy or Daddy is a wizard, and is handy for enforcing bed times.[/size][/center]

But, by the time they are three, they want to know why. Not only want to know, but demand to know. You are on the spot now. Your kid thinks you know absolutely everything about everything and trusts you completely when you explain things. Think work pressure is bad? Try the sad look on their little faces when you say those three words, terrifying to a child: “I don’t know.” It is a crisis of faith, worse than any monk or nun has suffered, since their all knowing God is right there in front of them. The person they rely on for food, tickles, silly songs at bath time, and to deal with the monsters under the bed is no longer perfect.
It’s harsh. Tempting to put it off or brush it off. “You’ll understand when you are older” has prompted more than one child to to invent a [url=]time machine out of a cardboard box[/url] and various toys in order to get to the magic age where they understand all things.

You got a choice here. You can lie. You can study all night and work out how to explain infinity to a three year old. Or you can teach them magic.

[size=8pt]Not this type[/size][/center]

If you think about it, reading is a form of practical magic. Depending on the book you pick, a person’s hopes, knowledge, dreams or nightmares is piped directly into your brain. No speaking needed. It is right there, their voice in your head from miles away and years past. Ink squiggles on pounded wood have the ability to whisper to you. Tell you things you never knew, take you places you have never seen, show you emotions you will hopefully never feel. You breath a sigh of relief. Your kid can read, and beyond asking what the odd word means, you are free and clear. No more worries about explaining things.

Yeah, right.

The “why” trickle just became a fire hose, blasting questions at you mercilessly. Kids don’t have filters. The idea that the sun is a big ball of nuclear explosions and the idea there are sharks that can fly are both equally valid in their eyes. Sure, you can flat out tell them “This book is real, this book is for fun and not real.” Do that, you may as well park them in front of the TV for all the good it will do.

One of the favorite games we have is to read something out loud. The person reading is terribly proud of themselves. Sometimes they stumble on the big words and get prompted with a quiet whisper, but everyone listens. It can be absolutely anything. A fairy tale, a local newspaper article, a chapter on grafting fruit trees - anything. Then the paper, pens and crayons come out. The only rule is it has to be related to what they just read or heard. It can be writing, drawings, blueprints. Whatever they want. Just to keep the balance between creativity and information alive.

Jan 02

The Case Against Intelligent Design

Intelligent Design (ID) crops up from time to time, as a sort of middle ground between Evolution and Creation. Like a red headed stepchild, it is rightly despised by both sides.

A moment’s thought can prove that ID simply cannot exist.

Since ladies come first is the only polite way of dealing with things, we will look at them first. They seem to have it good on the surface. Far more visual acuity than men, a much broader range of hearing, more sensory nerves per square centimeter of skin, faster reflexes, and a higher pain tolerance.
Sounds great, doesn’t it. Scratch a woman and find a super soldier. Except for certain times of the month, when the charming, witty, sarcastic person sitting next to you is suddenly subject to crying fits and insta-rage. Sure, you get used to it, but it’s a poor design if looked at from an efficiency standpoint. At the time a woman is most vulnerable, with a nice blood scent to attract every carnivore in the area, she goes nuts. “Body not pregnant? Defcon 3.”
It is far worse though when she does get pregnant. Hot and cold at the same time, willing to eat things that would make a goat puke and culminating in squeezing a large living being out through a rather small opening.

That is an intelligent design?

Of course, women have it easy compared to men. Any God that designs “in his own image” such that the simple action of crossing your legs too fast leads to instant and paralyzing agony is less a merciful God and more one vindictive SOB. Maybe he’s a civil engineer. Only they would combine a waste system with a recreational area. And don’t get me started on the prostate. Take a vital part of the reproductive system - something we are supposed to use constantly, according to both command and the vagaries of women’s hormones - and wrap it around the bowels. No sex? You are also not going to have a decent crap.

In more general terms, your spine has a 50 year lifespan. Your knees, somewhat important for doing basic tasks such as moving, have a similar lifespan, substantially shorter than the threescore and 10 we are told is the norm. An organ we don’t even use can explode at random and kill you.

Taking this evidence, we may draw one of three conclusions.

Evolution is imperfect.
ID does not exist.
ID does exist, but the designer is a bit of a dick and really doesn’t like us much.