Thursday, December 29, 2005
Tuesday, December 20, 2005
A Hazy Shade of Winter
It is actually a beautiful wintry day today; it has been kind of hazy, all pale yellow and blue like a Turner painting. At one point some swans flew past which is always beautiful to see. We've had some blizzards this weekend and I imagine there is a fair amount of snow on the moors, but the weather forecast looks good for our journey down south tomorrow.
I am pretty exhausted; I have done way too much in too little time. I did however have the rather pleasant experience of very suddenly developing a full-on cold on Friday night, getting through a box and half of tissues, half a box of Lemsip before waking up on Sunday to find myself completely and totally recovered (apart from the red nose, which is not entirely inappropriate for the season). But a thirty-six hour virus? Me? Either that or it was a profound allergic reaction to something, but I am putting a positive slant on it and declaring that my immune system is getting stronger.
I am getting very nervous about the journey south, about being in a house with stairs, about coping around other people, but I know it will all be okay. [...] has said he won't put the (manual) wheelchair in the car; this way I won't get bullied into going out anywhere once I get to my folks'. We argued about this, but he is kind of right. My parents have been suggesting various outings which are far beyond me just now. I had to persuade him I was well enough to go at all, which wasn't helped by the fact he found me asleep, fully dressed, on the bathroom floor earlier today. I don't know how I got there, do I?
Oh and I'm almost certain that I've put rude jokes in my grannies' crackers. Ho hum.
If I have a chance, I might well check in with you at some point, but otherwise hope you all have a lovely Christmas, Hanukkah or Solstice and I'll hopefully be back at the end of next week.
Labels: General Nonsense
Thursday, December 15, 2005
|I only have four whole days before we head down South and I have way too much to do. So far I have written precisely two Christmas cards, have wrapped only some presents and still have four letters to write and six crackers to make. I also have a great deal of paperwork to sort out such that I can go into 2006 knowing that our accounts information is just as it should be. Then there is making sure all the clothes are washed and packed and so on. |
I am rather concerned by the fact that there are some of you who never use the word love in a non-romantic context. Mostly because I’m thinking I have identified another example of my social ineptitude. I once had a conversation where a good friend had been singing my praises rather, I interpreted this and responded, “Thanks; I love you too.” (Of course I was absolutely confident that this was what the other person was trying to say).
The prospect of hurting people’s feelings bothers me terribly and I have no desire to shock, but I have never really got a proper handle on social taboos. I know not to talk about fellatio over Christmas Dinner, but then I have never felt the need to raise that subject (except when as a child I couldn’t remember which out of fellatio and focaccia was the type of bread I liked).
That having said, I do remember feeling rather confused when I became sexual active, anticipating as I was, the climax that had been described to me as “a bit like sneezing, only nicer.” Well, at least I can’t claim to have been disappointed.
Anyway, point is, I hope I do not behave outrageously but I do believe that most things are better out than in, especially something as important as love. Whilst evidently I still have this difficulty with language and approach, but I would hate to feel it was impossible.
You’ll be pleased to know I do have a good old-fashioned British terror of physical contact, enhanced by pain and poor co-ordination. I can do hugs if I trust the person. I really struggle with this continental kissing business because I feel very vulnerable and frequently miss cheeks. But the one thing I can’t stand is if anyone chooses to touch me for emphasis, worst of all tap me for emphasis. No no no, you bastards, get away or I’ll set my Yorkshire Pudding on you!
Anyway, I am daudling about and blogging this nonsense because I have to write a few letters, including those to people who haven't heard from me since the summer. I have to write and say, "There isn't much news here, as I have been unwell all autumn and haven't done very much at all." which isn't exactly a cheery report. This is the main news, and the more I try to brush over it or sound philosophically positive about it, the more depressing it reads. I am even considering whether to make up an autumn of adventures for these two parties, who have no way of knowing any different.
Sunday, December 11, 2005
Not Snow White and the Seven Dwarves
Thursday, December 08, 2005
Something Fishy In the Sky
|A strange omen appeared in the sky over Whitby this morning. What could it mean?|
Labels: General Nonsense
Music Review 2005
|I know it's a touch early, but I am unlikely to buy any more music this year and am unlikely to be bowled over by the usual competitors for Christmas Number One. Feel free to pick this up as a baton, so long as you link back to me and let me know about it.|
Favourite New Album of The Year
Employment – Kaiser Chiefs
To be honest, I haven’t bought or listened to many new albums this year, but this was a very good one. Could have been improved by being an eight track album as opposed to the twelve – there were at least four really duff tracks which we could well have lived without.
The music is like a refined version of late seventies punk, with, deliciously simple hooks and riffs, but the mixing is refined. Most of it is high-octane with very funky use of some synths which sound like a lovely old Juno (in a good way).
They write about all kinds of daft stuff with relentless attention to rhythm and rhyme, but the daftness is intelligently done, in so far that they never actually annoy you and very often amuse. And they put the word pneumothorax in there, how cool is that?
By far the best newish album I bought this year was The Final Straw by Snow Patrol, but that was realeased last year and I am merely slow on the uptake. Every time I listen to it, I am baffled that I seem to be the only person on Earth who feels this is one of The Great Albums, the like of Automatic for the People, Led Zeppelin IV or Electric Ladyland. It rocks, I tell you! It’s bloody brilliant!
Favourite Album You Bought This Year
Astral Weeks – Van Morrison
Sigh. To say that I have fallen in love with the music of Van Morrison this year is not the cliché it sounds. I love the man’s voice, I love his way with words, the music effects me. It has been like having an entirely uncomplicated love affair in the comfort of my own home.
I suppose you know something is really good when you can't really put any of it into words. I made several attempts at this but I can't really describe his music or say what he writes about or anything. Anyone who has ears needs to possess this album.
Any other synasthesiacs out there who 'feel' music really need to acquaint themselves with Van Morrison . It is, in moments, better than Rodrigo. In the unlikely event that such person reads this, they will know what I mean. My apologies to everyone else.
Favourite New Song
Bloody Mother Fucking Arsehole – Martha Wainwright
I must say I am extremely taken by Martha Wainwright’s voice and would probably buy an album of her singing nursery rhymes. I cannot say, on the strength of this one song (the album is on my wish-list), that I respect her as a talented lyricist – it’s stream of consciousness stuff and far more passion than substance, but the magic is all in the delivery.
Marmite Boy, friend of the stars and all round lucky sod, actually kissed her! With tongues! Well, perhaps I exaggerate a tad.
Best-Loved Song For This Year
According to my computer, I have listened to All Along The Watchtower by the Jimi Hendrix Experinece more than any other single song this year. I don’t know whether this is anything to be ashamed of. I was really rather surprised that it happened to be this song.
All Along The Watcher Tower is a terribly exciting piece of music which demonstrates the genius of Mr Hendrix and Co in just four minutes. It is a bit like aural caffeine really, I guess that's how I've come to listen to it so often.
I was slightly embarrassed that All Along The Watchtower by Bob Dylan was number three – I have obviously had a bit of an obsession with that song in general. I did download All Along The Watchtower by Paul Wellar but it was extremely dull.
Most Hated Song For This Year.
I helped Hal set up an iPod for his little girl, which required downloading McFly and Busted onto my iTunes. I haven’t worked out how to obliterate the stuff from my computer and if I am complacent, I am occasionally subjected to one of these tracks for the short period before I am able to act on it. McFly’s Broccoli is probably not the worst offender, but perhaps typical of the genre.
The opening verse goes as follows
Everything was going just the way I planned
The broccoli was done!
She doesn’t know I’m a virgin in the kitchen
Cause it’s normally my mum!
But then she called me
And that’s when
She said to me [this line is sung with some passion – his heart is breaking]
She wasn’t coming round for tea
Now I have a clean mind but naturally realise this is full of blatantly genital and indeed oedipal references, coming round for tea being a euphemism for The Sexual Act, but I can’t for the life of me work out what the broccoli symbolises. Clearly it is a symbol – it is hardly a commonplace constituent of any romantic meal and it would never be prepared before the guest arrived. But broccoli? What is that?!
Basically it’s filthy muck and if I had a daughter I would ritually burn any McFly albums I found tucked under her bed, forcing her instead to listen to something wholesome, those nice Manic Street Preachers for example, or maybe The Cure. Something you can dance to.
Wednesday, December 07, 2005
I read the news today, oh boy
|Four good news stories from the last few days:|
From Monday it is possible for gay couples to register Civil Partnerships in the UK, which give them equivalent rights to married people. The British are so good at getting round this stuff; only the press, and then only the most sensationalist press actually used the phrase “gay marriage”. And indeed, from everybody I have spoken to abou this, it was not as if the British gay community were ever particularly wedded (!) to the term or concept of marriage as it exists within our culture.
This is great news as far as I am concerned. I would say ‘long overdue’ but I think perhaps we needed to wait; the backlash would have been far greater and more dangerous ten, let alone twenty years ago.
To me, civil partnership and marriage is about defining next of kin, property rights and children. Romantic partnerships are things which happen inside individuals and communities; no rings or sheets of paper could make [...] and I stronger and he is as much part of our family as Adrian, my actual factual brother-in-law – at least to those members of the family whose opinions and support matter. Religion only enters into marriage in so far as religion enters into every aspect of the lives of someone who is religious - such a person could not conceive of marriage outside the institution of church (or whatever), but then they couldn't conceive of spending Sunday mornings (or whenever) outside the church either, or eating forbidden foods, or wearing clothes which aren't consistant with their beliefs.
The Turner prize was awarded to Simon Starling on Monday. I used to defend it, I am not opposed to conceptualism or installation art; some of that stuff is very interesting. Perhaps I am getting old, but I am decidedly unimpressed by someone telling me that they merely did something. To me, art has to be about an interaction between the artist and the audience – and as, Oscar Wilde said, art’s role is to conceal the artist from view and act like a mirror on the audience. Recent Turner winners have been all about the artist, not the art. The way we respond to art – in the widest sense of the word – should tell us something about ourselves on some level. I look at Shedboatshed and sense that someone is trying to bullshit me.
However, the BBC News website did a Mock Turner Prize, the winner of which was this very interesting photograph (tin foil falling into a pan of water). I really like this. I have to say none of the other shortlisted pictures were outstanding, but there was some interesting stuff in there. I certainly think our own Pete Mentalas ought to enter if they run it next year.
Also on Monday, people with progressive health conditions including MS, cancer and HIV have been awarded protection under the Disability Discrimination Act from the point of diagnosis. As I understand it, previously they were only protected one impairment had manifested itself, so if you were sacked once word got out you were ill, you would have little or no protection. So that’s great.
And yesterday David Cameron has been elected leader of the Conservative Party. I am really pleased about this and was impressed by his speech. I cannot imagine that his politics will ever seduce me, but we desperately need a viable opposition and he sounds like he might actually achieve it. Least of all, he described as scandalous the under-representation of women and ethnic minorities in the party. In the last election there were more Conservative parliamentary candidates called Philip than there were female candidates...
Saturday, December 03, 2005
Fall on your knees, Oh hear the angels' voices!
|One of my favourite aspects of Christmas is the music and I’m not talking about Slade. As children our Christmases were always very musical as, despite having nothing to do with Church, we were always in choirs, Rosie was in various orchestras and Dad in brass bands. Then there were traditions at home like Carols from Kings and all that. I actually envied my friends whose folks made a seasonal pretence of religion, taking them to midnight masses and the like.|
Through much of our childhood we didn’t have a car so we used to bus down to the various services and concerts in town and then, generally having missed the last bus home, walk the mile or two so home in the dark and quiet. On such nights there were always shooting stars. At least I remember this being the case – not several in one night, but I would spot at least one or two. We inherited rather manky sheepskin coats from some dead relative or other which R and I objected to wearing except on those December nights when they were fully appreciated. Magical times.
Later on, our high school included a church on its 'estate', so we used to have proper carol services in there, the choir entering in candlelit procession to Once in Royal David’s City. Rosie got to do the solo eventually.
The first carol service we went to at high school I was too young to be in the choir and Mum and I developed a terrific attack of the giggles. My Mum was always nervous about going up to the high school. It was a public school at which we had assisted places so we were relatively poor compared to most of the other girls, pony people, you know? Mum has never had much social confidence and seemed to have this inferiority complex when it came to the parents of my school-friends. She is beautifully spoken but has a bit of a Suffolk accent – what Hal, amateur linguist, kindly describes in myself as peasant inflexions - and imagined that the gold-chain handbag brigade were turning their noses up at her.
The first thing that happened was the vicar arrived and the vicar was enormous, at least seven foot tall and I am ashamed to admit it that this seemed very funny. We obviously had to try and contain it, which of course made it all the funnier. Then of course they opened with the reading about Adam and Eve and the sins of woman, being read with some zeal, and this began to crack us up. Then, as became a tradition in school carol services, we sung the little known carol Three Kings From Persian Lands Afar which none of the congregation knew, but were all prepared to have a go, until the choir broke off into their harmonies and the whole thing fell apart into a rather nasty dirge. Mum and I were sat shaking with suppressed laughter.
However, the absolute killer came when the choir sang Deo Gracias from Benjamin Britten’s Ceremony of Candles which in Church Latin is of course pronounced “Day-O Grassy Arse”. And in Mr Britten’s arrangement involves a great deal of impassioned repetition of the phrase “Grassy Arse”. There was much bladder-compromising hilarity between the two of us in a Church full of pony people.
Later on when I joined the choir and we were back on the bloody Britten, I tried to explain this anecdote to my more refined colleagues, but nobody understood what we'd been laughing about.
The last Christmas before I got ill we did a hell of a lot of carolling. At this time I was a sort of honoury Catholic having rallied them into a protest against Jeans for Genes day at school. I can’t remember why I personally objected to Jeans for Genes day, but I demanded that we be allowed to donate to an alternative charity for the privilege of wearing civies because of our religious beliefs (!) and proposed we should all wear skirts that day as a peaceful protest, which my obedient followers obliged with. The teacher who was in charge of charitable activities was terribly impressed with my passion and later volunteered to run a Religious Education A-Level course with me as her only student. To this day I don’t know whether Catholics should have any objection to the charities that benefit from Jeans for Genes, like Great Ormand Street, Muscular Dystrophy charities and the like – probably not. I think my trouble started when I played the part of Jesus and gained three eleven year-old disciples who kept following me around and asking me for words of wisdom for months afterwards. Kind of went to my head.
Anyway, we did a great amount of carolling with the Catholics, all around the posh houses in town where nearly nobody ignored us and people handed us notes for our pains. Someone gave us thirty quid! But we weren’t bad and had bothered to bring song sheets such that we could complete entire carols. In my memory, we even had a lantern but I think I might have just made that up.
On my fifteenth birthday, Dad, Rosie and I joined an informal bunch of carollers in the Maternity block at Ipswich hospital where R and I had been born – probably Justin too I should think. R and I sang all the harmonies, there was a fairly decent range of voices and we did sound rather splendiferous even if I say so myself. Not a single baby cried that Christmas Eve night – there was one heavily pregnant woman who gave out an agonised scream during The Twelve Days of Christmas, but in fairness it does go on a bit. It was really magical to be there with all this new life around us and to think that my tiny little self might have heard such music a few hours after I was born. It was a very special time and coincidentally, the last carolling I got to do.
Every Christmas morning, Dad and Rosemary would go playing carols all around the wards with the brass band and it occurs to me with hindsight that there may have been far more worthy causes, folks who would have benefited more than the new mothers and bairns from hearing a few sung carols – as opposed to windy carols, which just isn’t the same thing. But my Dad’s office was in the maternity block so perhaps other staff did the same thing on other wards. I hope so.
My favourite carol is probably Oh Holy Night which is just gorgeous.Silent Night, of course, in either English or German is pretty special. My least favourite carol has to be The Little Drummer boy. I can’t stand that carol. I hate it when pop singers and crooners do carols in general – why do they do that? I do like Mike Oldfield’s version of En Dulce Jubilo but that was something quite different.
Since there are so many cat lovers out there, I must recommend the music of Jingle Cats – Christmas carols sung by cats – or at least cat-noises which have been sampled and played with and set against a really basic accompaniment on a very cheap and nasty keyboard. It is awful beyond description, but it must be heard. If you have iTunes search on there and listen to clips, otherwise I’m sure you can buy the CDs from somewhere… ebay has one of their albums up for auction just now.
Friday, December 02, 2005
|If you make any adjustments to your blog Template, save the whole thing as a TXT document. I don't know how I managed to lose my entire Template, but I had this old version saved from last time I was conducting experiments. This means that some of you I like to are currently not linked to, but I'll work all that out tomorrow. |
Labels: General Nonsense
Thursday, December 01, 2005
|Often at this time of year when I’m not very well, I regret missing out on the local community celebrations. From The Whitby Gazette;|
"Whitby's Christmas Lights turn-on was disappointing for the large crowd of people who supported the event after Scarborough Council switched them on in the middle of the day and did not turn them back off again.
The event was attended by Castleton singer Alistair Griffin but his job was reduced to just turning on the lights of the Christmas tree at Dock End.
In addition the lantern-lit procession had just two lanterns, there were no song sheets at Dock End so individual carols lasted around one verse before everyone forgot the words and the hot soup which was supposed to keep everyone warm never turned up."
I especially liked the concluding line
"In contrast, Christmas lights in Scarborough town centre are wired up to allow a big switch on and this year's event was hailed as one of the best ever."
|This is an odd thing I felt inclined to write about but it has been an odd day. I realise I probably spend more energy on washing my hair than any other single task I carry out on a regular basis and it is especially problematic during the winter when I can’t afford to sit around with wet hair. The state considers clean hair to be a luxury. Any social services care package won’t include it and difficulties experienced washing one’s hair is excluded from consideration in DLA assessments (at least it was last time I looked).|
Obviously the first thing you can do is to cut your hair short or preferably shave it off. Shaving it off is likely to leave your head rather cold, it would probably itch a bit and a short hair-cut needs to be kept short. Despite cutting my hair into a brutal bob just six weeks ago, it has since grown long enough to put into a pony-tail.
Beyond this, one must find ways of reducing the frequency of washes. Our grandmothers would not have dreamt of washing their hair every day or every other day, which seems to be the norm for most folks these days. I have heard that if you don’t wash your hair at all for six weeks, it eventually begins to clean itself, but I’ve never been able to stick it for six weeks.
There are certainly likely to be days when it needs washing but nothing can be done about it. I have scarves around my head when this is the case. These are also a great way of keeping warm, since much of our body temperature is lost through the head. Nomads is the best place for Fair Trade multicoloured scarves.
There is such a product as dry shampoo, which comes in an aerosol can and does improve the appearance of greasy hair – although this is very much a temporary measure. An emergency tip is to brush face powder or talc into your hair - it absorbs the grease so it does look perhaps slightly better than it did before, but um, somewhat greyer. At the end of the day, there’s nothing disgusting about hair which is a bit shinier than hair that has just been washed; if it can’t be done, it can’t be done.
But when it can… I have to wash my hair in the bath, because I don’t have a shower and can’t manage bent over at the sink. Unfortunately, immersing my head in warm water almost guarantees that I fall asleep. If I am alone in the flat, I have a small alarm clock which I set to go off in twenty minutes time to avoid sleeping while the water cools down around me.
If you need to condition your hair, use leave-in conditioner – using the stuff you have to rinse out doubles the wet section of the job, you usually have to hang around while it works and it is far more slimy and a potentially irritant when it gets in the bath water. The cheapest and most pleasant-smelling I know of is Boots’ Coconut & Almond Oil Leave-In Conditioner. You can spray it on your hair while it is wet or when it is dry, whenever you like.
If you have to rest before you begin to dry your hair, have two towels ready for the purpose, preferably in situ over a radiator or other heat source. I am currently experimenting with a microfleece turban from Lakeland Limited, which seems to be particularly absorbent.
When I get out of the bath, I dry myself on a bath towel but then I have to proceed in a state of undress until my hair is dry. Of course I get extremely cold for a short time, but making myself any more comfortable poses the risk of going to sleep with wet hair wrapped in a damp towel. While asleep, I then cool down and remain cold for a greater length of time only to wake up with all sorts of aches and stiffness and a bad case of the sniffles.
In order for the flow of blood to your arms, which hold the hair-dryer, to work with and not against gravity, you need to lie on the bed on your front with your head dangling over the edge. I also think having your head upside down speeds the process, but I haven’t quite grasped the physics. Pace your drying, swapping hands and taking breaks etc.
I find the application of moose on one’s hair does seem to make it dry much quicker. Presumably I’m not doing my hair any good, but hey. I am fascinated by the blurb on all cosmetic products. My can of moose poses the question, “Who is in charge of your style? You… or your hair?” and goes on about micro-hold technology and all kinds of made-up crap. The other day I was looking at cleanser which was supposed to cure my acne and it read “The tingling sensation tells you that your skin is perfectly clean and clear of impurities.” and I’m thinking, the tingling sensation may have something to do with the fact that alcohol is the third ingredient on the list…
Do store hair products like moose in a sensible place. Even my “Hoots mon” joke didn’t go down well with my beloved when my can exploded in the bedroom late one night.
And don’t forget, that when you’re done get up very very slowly after you’ve had your head hanging upside down or else you are likely to pass out.