Saturday, April 30, 2005

Andrew Kelly 1958-2005

My Uncle Andrew died yesterday. It was quite unexpected until Thursday when the relatively minor problem he was in hospital with became suddenly more complicated. He was forty-seven years old.

Everybody is doing okay. Andrew had profound learning difficulties and pretty bad epilepsy along with an increasing collection of minor ailments, so there was always some fragility and this was by no means the first time that we had reason to fear for his life. My Granny's first response was that she thought he was about to die when his kidney's failed at twenty-three, so every year since was a bonus and a blessing. He died very peacefully with his brother's close by. Plus I know Granny was very concerned about what would become of him after her death. I guess at least she now know's he is all right. Catholicism helps with this sort of thing.

He lived with my grandparents up until his thirties so was a very significant character in my childhood, a playmate as well as being somewhat of a curiosity; this child in an adult's body. At one point, when a bad reaction to drugs wound up with him being under section, I used to come home from school to find him sat in his pyjamas on our garden bench having escaped the local mental hospital. He always seemed fine to me and it never seemed right for him to be dragged off by the psychiatric staff half way through whichever board game we were playing.

He didn't have a very good gauge of his own strength so we sometimes used to get pinched and pulled about in a painful if purely affectionate manner. Very occassionally he could get frustrated with his young nieces and once blutacked the enigmatic sign to his bedroom door "Keep Keep Wood Up". We thought this was hilarious at the time which is why it has stuck in my head. Weren't we evil?

He loved Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang and Lego, donating much of his collection to me at one point. He was also a fanatic collector of keyrings and bags, keeping one inside another inside another. He loved to spend time with us all and every visit or outing or humorous birthday card was welcomed like some tremendous treat.

Andrew had a very warm nature and an excellent sense of humour. Many of the most notable and dramatic incidents of his life were when things went wrong, when the drugs screwed him up or when the family struggled to get adequate provision for him. But the picture I have linked to at the top of his page, taken by my sister at my cousin Jenny's wedding in 2003 is pretty close to the way I shall remember him.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Bye-ee for now-ow!

How many nightshirts does a person need for nine nights? I have no idea. I don't know how often I change my nightshirt. I just do, when I need to. I mean, not when it is shuffling itself into the linen curboard, but I don't know, when I feel like it. I hate packing. It's like shopping. I defer these two tasks elsewhere whenever possible.

We're off to Suffolk tomorrow. Yippee! I know it's only visiting my folks but it shall be quite an adventure and I haven't seen them in six months.

While we're down there, I'll get to see my favourite Granny who has been very ill. My Granny Kelly is like rather a third parent to me, and is a very special lady - it is very difficult to come to terms with the fact she's eighty something and isn't going to be around forever. Hopefully I'lll get to see my good friend Vic as well. I really miss her and am developing my own teleportation device in my wardrobe so that I can see her more often.

I will also be obliged to visit my other grandmother, but the less said about that the better.

On our way down south we're dropping off a load of broken computer gear at a place called Airedale Computer Recycling outside Pontifract. It's really important to try and recycle white goods and computer equipment and it will be good to get all this stuff off our hands.

The fish have got one of those little disks which keep them fed for a fortnight, so they're all right, in case you were wondering. I shall try to check in with you at some point, but adios for now.

Frankly, Mr Shankly

Yesterday was a good day, but today I’m wading through the fog rather. I don’t know whether I shall blog while I am away, we’ll have to see. Today I have been trying get organised, which is never easy for me and also recording a tape for us to listen to during our journey down south. During this task I discovered my favourite song of the moment which is Every Day I Love You Less And Less by the Kaiser Chiefs. As soon as I heard it, I loved it, which is a rare event. It may just be today as it is rather irreverent. Download it. Go on. It’ll only cost you 79p and it may bring you a great deal of pleasure. It may not, but isn't it worth the gamble?

Other things I downloaded for our journey included Peaches by The Presidents of the United States of America. I always loved that song, it was one of the theme tunes to my early adolescence. I also recorded Love Will Tear Us Apart by Joy Division, Another Girl, Another Planet by The Only Ones and Have You Ever Fallen In Love With Someone You Shouldn’t Have Fallen In Love With? by the Buzzocks. Oh yeah and Frankly Mr Shankly by the Smiths. That one I would buy the album, but I can't afford to just now. I love that lyric. One of my biggest regrets about my chronic unemployment is that I have never had a job from which I could resign, playing that particular track over the tanoy. I shall copy the lyric at the bottom of this entry.

I don’t spend a fortune downloading, but I have a long list of songs I want where I have no intention of buying the album. Every now and again I download the equivalent of an album’s worth, usually from iTunes which is easier to navigate than anywhere else. I listen to most of my music through my computer. Couldn’t justify the expense of an MP3 player as I don’t move about that much.

I have a feeling as I'm typing this that none of this makes sense.

BTW one of my archives has a Googlejack with "Sandsend" and "cogniscient". That's cause I mispelt cognoscente in some bizarre manner and Sandsend is a place name. I am still searching for my very own Googlewhack. Does anyone know what the heck I'm talking about?

Anyway, Frankly, Mr Shankly by the Smiths (from The Queen Is Dead)

Frankly, Mr. Shankly, this position I've held
It pays my way, and it corrodes my soul
I want to leave, you will not miss me
I want to go down in musical history

Frankly, Mr. Shankly, I'm a sickening wreck
I've got the 21st century breathing down my neck
I must move fast, you understand me
I want to go down in celluloid history, Mr. Shankly

Fame, Fame, fatal Fame
It can play hideous tricks on the brain
But still I'd rather be Famous
Than righteous or holy, any day
Any day, any day

But sometimes I'd feel more fulfilled
Making Christmas cards with the mentally ill
I want to live and I want to Love
I want to catch something that I might be ashamed of

Frankly, Mr. Shankly, this position I've held
It pays my way and it corrodes my soul
Oh, I didn't realise that you wrote poetry
I didn't realise you wrote such bloody awful poetry, Mr. Shankly

Frankly, Mr. Shankly, since you ask
You are a flatulent pain in the arse
I do not mean to be so rude
Still, I must speak frankly, Mr. Shankly

Oh, give us your money!

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Relativism (A Rant)

I had a good sleep last night and am now feeling much more with it. So today I’m going to rant about relativisim. This week the new pope and the vampire ruler of the opposition spoke out against it, but this is very silly because relativism is a logical error, not a moral philosophy. To argue against it is only a notch up from saying “No more non sequiturs!” or “An end to tautology!”. Since I am sure that Benedict XVI will be checking out my blog first thing this morning (Hi Benny! Congrats on the promotion!) I shall explain.

Relativism, in these term at least – in physics it mean something else entirely – is what happens when someone asserts that the moral truth of any given situation cannot be discovered, because the situation is only relative to the myriad influences effecting it. Uh, an example from The Simpsons. Bart begins to suspect that his employer Fat Tony is a crook so confronts him on the matter;

Fat Tony : Bart, um, is it wrong to steal a loaf of bread to feed your starving family?

Bart : No.

Fat Tony : Well, suppose you got a large starving family. Is it wrong to steal a truckload of bread to feed them?

Bart : Uh uh.

Fat Tony : And, what if your family don't like bread? They like... cigarettes?

Bart : I guess that's okay.

Fat Tony : Now, what if instead of giving them away, you sold them at a price that was practically giving them away. Would that be a crime, Bart?

Bart : Hell, no!

Rarely does anybody commit a crime or any sort of wrong-doing in isolation; something lead up to this, something provoked them, the victim may be a wrong-doer themselves or perhaps they can afford whatever harm is inflicted on them – usually when you hear the phrase “victimless crime” the truth is that there is a victim but it is a massive and wealthy entity – the Inland Revenue who you’re holding a few quid back from, software giants whose software you’ve pirated, a major chain-store whose low-cost product you slipped into your pocket.

And even as you read that you’re thinking that shop-lifting is a far more serious offence than software pirating – almost everybody you know has pirated software on their machine whereas you don’t know anybody who would go into a shop and actually steal stuff off the shelves. Maybe some of you are thinking that software is generally dearer than most items you could easily shoplift, so that is the greater offence. And everybody fiddles their tax return, right?

I’m not suggesting for a minute that anybody is going to burn in hell for this stuff or indeed that any of the above arguments are valid to some extent. However, the fact is that just because a offence appears to have little or no impact on others – and maybe you even feel like your taxes are badly spent and software giants are some evil imperialist power who deserve the losses – this doesn’t stop the principal of what you’re doing being wrong. It may be much less wrong than a lot of other things, but it is still wrong.

Relativism is the argument that eventually all the extenuating circumstances outweigh one another and there is no absolute right or absolute wrong. This is the argument to end all arguments as to be consistent, somebody who asserts this must then remain silent on all other issues – after all, anything if there is no right or wrong then it is pointless to voice an opinion, since that’s just your opinion, nobody need listen to it or take it into account in anyway.

Somebody could come up and punch you on the nose and you have no comeback. Their act of punching you on the nose is only relative to whatever act, knowingly or otherwise, you committed to provoke them, plus other things like this person’s background, what kind of day they were having, any genetic or cultural predisposition they have for punching you on the nose.

Morality is not all black and white, it is a spectrum of grey – but a spectrum, not just a general grey fuzz. The vast majority of issues can be identifies as being more than fifty percent black or more than fifty percent white. Although I believe in absolute moral truth, I recognise and fully acknowledge the fact that much of the time it is illusive, I am no more likely to be getting it right than anybody else and there are many circumstances where I struggle to put my finger on which side of the dividing line a situation sits.

The truth is that I have never met anybody who really doesn’t believe in absolute morality, it’s just that many people reject the idea because of the hash that organised religion and imperialistic governments have made of the subject.

Organised religion recognises absolute moral truth, which is great. This moral truth is unchanging and unchangeable; it is the same now as it was tens of thousands of years ago. Unfortunately, organised religion, being run by mere mortals, often makes mistakes. The biggest mistake it makes is about the fact that moral truth cannot and must not be applied in exactly the same way in all contexts. If you consider the absolute rules of physics, you can see that although the principals stay the same, these principals need to be applied in different ways to produce similar outcomes in different circumstances.

When I was young I read the Bible from cover to cover and was completely grossed out and shocked by Leviticus, which is a bit like a hygiene manual for the immensely superstitious; if you have this discharge, you must sacrifice this many pigeons. Leviticus is the book of the Old Testament, which talks most about undesirable sexual practices. It made so little sense to me and seemed inconsistent with other parts of the book.

However, I later began to understand that at the time of Leviticus, the Hebrew posse were out in the middle of the dessert, starving and with rock bottom immune systems. Any outward symptom of illness, any bodily fluid which could potentially spread disease, including menstrual blood had to be treated with the utmost caution. Non-procreative sex was a waste of resources, and indeed any unnecessary bodily contact was to be avoided. They didn’t have any soap or warm running water and certainly no sanitary products or condoms.

This is why the Old Testament manages at times to contradict itself and the teachings of Jesus; as Blackadder would say, “Needs must when the devil vomits in your kettle.” I couldn’t begin to list the number of ways in which the Catholic Church needs to reconsider how certain principles are applied to the modern world and it isn’t my place to do so.

However, it would be of benefit to the entire world, Benny-boy, if you recognised the difference between relativism and undesirable social change.


Today has been pretty miserable. My brain still isn’t working, not really well enough to start writing on here but I am kind of down and I need to let off. It’s goth weekend here in Whitby and if I sit by the window I can watch all sorts of weird and wonderful looking people walking past, like characters out of science fiction movies, manga comics and period dramas. I wanted to go to the Bizarre Bazaar, a fantastic market selling everything from ornaments that would make your grandmother blush, jewellery which would breach the offensive weapons act, heavy-duty handmade corsets, lace parasols, New Rock boots (the ones with thick chunky heels and an excess of laces and buckles) and everything velvet and leather and lace and generally black. And then there’s the music of course.

Anyway, I couldn’t. Whitby Goth Weekend is at the Spa Pavilion which in my experience is fully wheelchair accessible, but it involves crowds. I did try to get as far as town just to have a look at the people but I had to turn back. I was so tired, and suddenly being surrounded by other people made me panic and retreat and come home and back to bed. I don’t have a phobia, but fatigue makes the whole world a scary place. And being in a wheelchair makes you feel naked at such times. I really can't articulate the point I want to make so I won't bother trying. And then there’s this envy thing which is still going on this week. I guess at least if I'm ever up to joining in with Goth Weekend I wouldn’t need make-up (if I was a Dulux paint I would be sea breeze white because my skin has a slight hint of blue).

[...]’s gone out this evening but there was no way I was up for it so I wasn’t even invited. And he stated that I’ve been ill and grumpy all week. [...] doesn’t often observe the subtle ups and downs of my health or mood so it must be bad. I’ve hardly touched my book this week and I’m behind on correspondences.

All sorts of other little things have gone wrong. [...]'s had trouble with the order for his outfit for R&A's wedding. The television died just as we were sitting down to watch a film. It was ex rental when we bought it six years ago, but it was bad timing. But much worse things happen at sea and I've really no right to complain. This is not a really bad spell. It's just a very frustrating one, because it's not like I'm so ill I am forced to abandon everything, but it's not allowing me to do much with the little energy I've got.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

On the Election and Racism (A Rant)

First, a great little satirical animation at Spin On. Especially groovy for fans of The Clash and those of you who have a thing about squirrels (I know a lot of you do).

Secondly a test to see if you are racist from Harvard University. The test is for your subsoncious responses. I am not racist, I just don't like foreigners - especially those bloody Anglo Saxons! Those Angles from Denmark, those Saxons from Germany, coming over here, taking our jobs, building huts on our land, civilising us Celts and Romano-Britons (Italian-British) with their culture and technology. Of course, only have they been here five minutes as our guests when they start bringing over the Christians - that's right - bloody mono-theists! Next theyl start building churches - if I went over to Vatican City, I wouldn't expect to be able to erect a Heathen Temple, but it's one rule for them and quite another for the rest of us. And of course the rest of us, having been enslaved during the settlement, it's us what have to do all the work, scroungers they are, the whole lot of them. Bring on the Norman Invasion, that's what I say - that's the Normans who started off as Danes also but moved across Europe to France where they adopted French language and culture.

But on a serious note: Multiculturalism. It is pointless to write this here, but I keep screaming at the radio everytime the word is discussed.

There are three main definitions of culture.

1. The totality of socially transmitted behavior patterns, arts, beliefs, institutions, and all other products of human work and thought.
2. Intellectual and artistic activity and the works produced by it.
3. The growing of microorganisms, tissue cells, or other living matter in a specially prepared nutrient medium.

Now, according to definition 1., Multiculturalism is a bad thing because if everybody is doing their own thing and most especially, living under different moral codes, then the result is chaos. I don't mean when one group doesn't eat pork or another wears a certain item of clothing, but for example, if you had some strange group who liked poking one another's eyes out then that would be breaking British Law which would classify such behaviour, even under consent, to be assault. The law has to be the same for everybody in order to protect everybody equally.

However, by definition 2., Multiculturalism is about creative diversity and can only be a good thing. And as for definition 3., well yoghurt never did anybody any harm except those with lactose intolerence.

So you can't say whether Multiculturalism is a good or bad thing unless you first define the word. Of course some people say that even by definition 2., Multiculturalism is not great because it threatens the British Way of Life. But since we are living in Britain today, then surely the way we live is the British Way of Life, even if that doesn't involve warm beer or cricket, which frankly for most of us it doesn't.

Tomorrow I will rant about relativism. I bet you can't wait.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Sausages and School Days

This has got to be the weirdest news story of the week. A chap is driving along with his window open when a car passes coming the other way and he feels a sudden pain in his nose. When he looks down there is a frozen sausage and a whole lot of blood in his lap. His nose has been broken by a frozen sausage that flew through his open car window. Explain that.

Last night I had a dream in which it didn’t hurt and I didn’t need the wheelchair so long as I ran everywhere I wanted to go. It was only when I slowed up that it hurt and I had to sit down or else collapse. I run a lot in my dreams. Before I was ill I used to love running. Sometimes I would do it just for the hell of it, in any open space I came to. I was never fast but I could go for a long way. That was me and all physical activity; not much speed, loads of stamina. My co-ordination was never very good either but being tall I was expected to be good at tennis and netball (netball, my American friends is a sort of sexually repressed basketball; you can’t bounce the ball, you must stand still keeping one foot flat on the ground when the ball is in your possession and only girls in pleated skirts and knee-high socks are allowed to play. We even had garters as compulsory uniform to hold our socks up. And grey flannel gym knickers which we called baggies. There is nothing sexy about grey flannel gym knickers.)

Cross country running at school was great because we were surrounded by real countryside, so we would run down to the River Orwell (after which George Orwell took his name), along the bank a bit, up through the fields and back onto the school grounds. Yeah, I did go to a bit of a posh school, but I had an assisted place, a sort of scholarship for bright kids living in terrace houses.

Being a little socialist, I didn’t want to go. But on balance, it was fun, I’m glad I did just because it expanded my horizons so much. I felt like a freak that didn’t fit in but I imagine I would have felt that way wherever I was and at least at this school I had lots of excuses for being on the edges; I was working-class, I didn’t have a pony and I was proud of the fact. But what a place like that does for the imagination…

The building was a eighteenth century mansion which sat on a hill above the river, with landscaped gardens, a stable-block, chapel and a bit of a wood where there was a stone headstone to a pet dog that had belonged to the family when this had been a stately home. There were some modern school buildings and a massive theatre and sports-hall that had was brand new the year I got there. There were eighty acres of grounds to wander round (and navigate in between lessons). And it was so very easy to find somewhere to be alone indoors or out. And as soon as you were alone, especially in the old buildings, you had the feeling that you weren’t.

The education was also very good, I can’t fault it even though I haven’t managed to do anything with it. And I did have good friends and I did have a lot of fun. And I continued to rebel against the widespread, deep-seated snobbery, both individual and institutional. I think all that fighting back prepared me to deal with crippledom. Ah well, I really am rambling today so I best shut up and go do something useful.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Oh god, I'm talking about the weather!

Well, it's a lovely sunny weekend here after a week of truly gruesome weather; dark skies and rain. The river is full of detritus from upstream where apparently there's been flooding; bits of tree, fence posts and the like. Earlier in the week I watched a football float past. I thought there must be a good story in that. Not a very good story but still.

I have a complicated relationship with the weather. People often say, "Oh the nice weather will make you feel better." when in fact it often has the opposite effect. I don't suffer too badly with the heat like lots of crips do, but some of my darkest depressions have come in the late spring or summer when everything looks beautiful and I've been holed up inside on the sofa or in bed. However, this summer I have my electric wheelchair so I can trundle down to the beach if I so chose. We have a lovely, sloping sandy beach here in Whitby although it's at the bottom of cliffs so my chair will need lots of juice to get back up the cliff paths. We also have access to a car and thus the purple moors, plus we've got two trips planned down south; one to my folks' in just over a week's time and one to Rosie and Gingernuts' wedding.

So I am actually looking forward to summer for once and the weather has cheered me up, together with a higher dose of codeine which is neither knocking me out or stuffing me up or doing any of the things I was anxious it would do. Under my new tablets Other unwanted effects it lists "a feeling of extra well-being". So I'll have to look out for that one. If anyone notices me acting too chirpy they'll better confiscate my pills and call an ambulance.

Also after a week of frustrations my writing started flowing again yesterday. I wrote some really good dialogue between two characters who previously didn't seem to be able to express themselves in anything but a stilted, tactless way. Yesterday they got talking like real people with tension and subtlety.

My only real trouble at the moment is that I can't have a bath without falling asleep. Every blooming day this week, when I've got in the bath I have promptly fallen asleep, waking up cold and sniffling and generally miserable an hour or so later. But if that's all I've got to worry about life isn't too bad.

And aah! I have a big henna stain on my arm! Yes, I have been making my hair red again. It's become a habit now. I like having red hair, but you know in the six weeks it's been red, only one person has commented on it. Only one. I know when I visit my folks they'll notice and thoroughly disapprove.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Note to self

Things I should not do when I'm miserable;
  • Click on the Next Blog button at the top of this page: it only leads to right wing Americans claiming to be Christians whilst listing all those texts and persons who ought to be burnt.
  • Read the news. About once or twice a week I read something which interests or amuses me. The rest of the time it is human tradegy or else old men bickering over words and numbers.
  • Listen to flippant rock music. If it makes me cry, I feel humiliated since the lyrics are banal. If I cried whilst reading Christina Rossetti or Emily Dickinson, my tears would be dignified.
  • Check my e-mail. My hopes are raised when I begin to download some messages only to see that they are from eBay telling me that I have been outbid on something I can't afford to pay more for.
  • Watch any of the Lord of the Rings films. Tolkein presented a surprisingly depressing view of the world if you think about it too hard.
  • Read Lord of the Rings. I am at page 832. I was at 822 a year ago. I'm not getting anywhere fast with that one.
  • Drink lemonade. I thought the fizziness and sugar would cheer me up but instead it's given me gas.

Friday, April 15, 2005

A Party Political Blogcast

There is nothing impartial about this blog. Please vote Liberal Democrat on May 5th. They rock. The thing is about them is that they want to make everything fairer. None of their rhetoric is based on fear and hatred. They seem to be the only party who place social responsibility at the centre of their policies - everybody else seems to be trying to tell me that I personally will be better off under them, which frankly isn't my prime concern when I'm thinking about who is going to run the country. Plus Charles Kennedy looks just like my nearly-but-not-quite brother-in-law, the man my sister is to marry in ony four months time less a day. I know. I told her, I said, "he's ginger", I said, but would she listen?

I don't think the Lib Dems have much chance of victory this time, but it would be against my conscience not to vote or to vote tactically. And anyway, locally we have a Lib Dem counsellor who is absolutely excellent; always involved in local matters, issues newslettes to let all local residents know what is going on.

If I did vote for someone else, I'm not sure who I would vote for. I don't trust anything Labour says or does. They really have messed things up on so many levels, so many pledges in writing which they have renaged upon and all the good they have done seem to be token gestures. The War in Iraq was a total cock up, not because it wasn't a just war, but because most of us were told so many conflicting versions of events by our own Goverment that none of us really know what it was about, whether it was right or wrong or anything. The thing about Newspeak is that, although meant to confuse and deceive, the lines have to at least appear to remain consistant or else people notice the cracks. I think lots of us have noticed the cracks, with the war and with the use of statistics about how all our lives are getting better.

As for the blues, the first sixteen years of my life were spent under the Conservatives, during which time life experience taught me to dislike them. And they've got it all wrong about many of the issues they seem obsessed with. MRSA kills a tiny number of people compared to, for example, flu in the elderly who remain impoverished and neglected in their own homes. And as for immigration, it is not possible to limit the number of asylum seekers in good conscious - of course, they should control immigration, kick out undesirables etc, but fireman don't have quotas of the number of people they should try to rescue from a burning building.

Sometimes I despair of this country, but then I always remind myself that those who shout the loudest are not necessarily representative of anybody but themselves. And whoever gets in on May 6th is not necessarily representative of the majority since so many people, dissillusioned by the above, chose not to vote at all.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

News from the Fish Tank

In the literal fish tank, some of the snails’ eggs have hatched and now we have tiny little snails, about the size of ants except with shells and no legs and living in the water. Having named the first eighteen snails Albert, I’m not sure what [...] intends to call these newcomers, if indeed they survive. Meanwhile, there are at least two fry from the three fry that were doing quite well insofar as they hadn’t been eaten yet, that still appear to be prospering. They are solid black now with distinguishable fins. They might yet be on the menu, but here’s hoping.

In the metaphorical fish tank, I went back to the doctors today and had a bit more luck. This time I got both my painkilling drugs upped. My doctor is very good really and a very groovy mountain-climbing motorcyclist to boot (although he doesn’t do both at once – as far as I know). So I’m feeling much more positive about my pain situation, which has been very bad in the last... maybe six weeks it's been worse. So it means more codeine, which makes me dizzy and uncoordinated and grinds my digestive system to a virtual standstill, but I can live with that. Worse things happen at sea, you know? Much worse things. Scurvy. Being attacked by pirates. Losing a limb to a shark or a sea monster. Getting seduced and subsequently drowned by sirens. To name but a few.

Today I am listening to Gary Numan. I absolutely love some of his songs, but most of it is rubbish. Now there's a critical analysis for you.

Monday, April 11, 2005

And now for something completely different

In a couple of weeks we’re going down south to visit my folks who live in Lakenheath, which is in Suffolk but close to the Norfolk and Cambrigdeshire borders. The presence of Americans from the nearby airbase makes it a rather bizarre place; elements of your quaint English countryside village, except with a tattoo and piercing place (called “Grin and Wear It), a nail bar, a Chinese herbalist and a tanning cubicle in the corner of the post office. Plus you get those horrid massive 4x4 vehicles with tinted glass and wheels the size of… very big round things. Like the Canyonero out of The Simpsons.

And then there’s the Americans themselves who are pretty gigantic. I mean, not in a floppily doppily way, but in a tall and chunky, slightly intimidating way. But they all address my mother “Ma’am” and she’s in heaven – ever since she turned fifty she turned into that character from Little Britain (the radio show, not sure if she appeared on the television series) who declares “Ooh, he’s gorgeous!” about every male under the age of thirty-five.

Then there’s the gospel churches. There may be thriving gospel churches in the cities, but there is something decidedly unBritish about that sort of worship. Imagine the Germans doing it. Exactly, it’s a similar principle. So when we overhear impassioned re-wordings of pop songs expressing adoration for Jesus in the centre of an East Anglian village, it makes us giggle. When the British are singing passionately in unison, clapping our hands in time, it is probably that song about the four and twenty virgins who went to Inverness.

Anyway, looking for places we might go and visit while we’re down there, I was checking out Cambridge and I found this rather interesting take on the city’s history at Visit Cambridge. Now, you have to take into account the fact that about half our Prime Ministers went to Cambridge University, then people like Gandhi, Francis Bacon, Betrand Russell, Lord Byron, Wittgenstein, Milton, Shelley etc, etc. But Visit Cambridge doesn’t mention these people. Instead it says;

“Even if you have never visited Cambridge, it has still touched your life as the place that inspired Darwin, Newton, AA Milne, Wordsworth, John Cleese, Graham Chapman, Eric Idle and Stephen Hawking. Today it is inspiring thousands of Cambridge students and leads the way in new and emerging technology.”

Hmm, seven names. Two of them perhaps the most important two men ever to have lived on the planet, one of them probably the most renowned scientist of the modern age, one great poet and then there’s the three Monty Python boys and a chap who wrote books about a soft toys....

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Weird weather and feeling better

Well after I wrote that I had a rest and then I played my guitar for a bit and began to get excited about one of my positives; I'm going to get a program called Adobe Audition so I can record and edit my compositions into the computer. I can play more than one guitar part and do some wailing over the top of it and stuff. It is a very expensive program, even on eBay although it is readily available via P2P - I'm a good girl and follow the rules as far as I possibly can. And frankly I had the trial version of Audition and it is a lovely piece of software - I wouldn't want to cheat the guys who put that together, even if they don't get the bulk of the money. I can also use it for the RNIB volunteering thingy I mentioned, which I intend to do as soon as my decks are a little clearer.

Meanwhile, this sunny April day got windy and snowed. It snowed. Horizontal snow. The flakes must have started falling in Sweden given the angles at which they were passing our windows in Whitby. It hasn't been very cold - I'm down to one layer much of the time and we've had the windows open earlier in the week. Now the snow has gone, the water in the river has calmed and the sun is so bright I have had to pull down the blind so I can see the screen. Weird weather.

Now I'm drinking funny coffee. It is funny coffee because it is decaffeinated, with skimmed UHT milk and fruit sugar - i.e sugar which is about a fifth of the calorific value of normal sugar. It is even funnier because I don't drink coffee and every now and then I have one of these and really really enjoy it despite it's complete lack of anything which might give you a buzz.

So now I feel better. Thanks for your patience.

Friday, April 08, 2005

Whinge, whinge, moan, moan.

Sorry guys, but that's how it's got to be today. I feel really miserable.

My pain is really bad again. The TENS helps a great deal, but you can't stick the electrodes everywhere all at once and you can't have it on all night. I went to the doctors on Wednesday afternoon, a complete waste of time. The folks who went in before me took half an hour - which I think is good; if they needed half an hour, they should have half an hour. Anyway, whatever was wrong with them was obviously much worse than what was wrong with me and my doctor, who is usually pretty groovy, was in a great hurry with me and just didn't seem to be listening. It must be hard if you've just told someone they have a week to live to then have to deal with someone with a relatively minor problem, especially something subjective like pain. I felt rather exasperated and at the time I was in a great deal of pain such that I was afraid more emphasis would result in tears so I didn't press the matter. I came away with a prescription for quinine and I'm not really sure why. What's quinine? I thought that was something to do with malaria. I don't have malaria. I live in Yorkshire.

Yesterday was a write-off, brain didn't work much at all and I slept all afternoon. Not well, as they decided to start fixing the roof and banging above me - I must have been knackered because it never woke me up properly, I was just aware of this constant banging. I slept a good ten hours at night despite this but had horrid dreams. Dreams get me down so much. Sometimes they're great - I have really powerful vivid dreams and the good ones are better than the very best movies you've ever seen. But the bad ones are awful. Last night I dreamt that both my grandmothers died. Neither of them are in a good state just now and I am very worried about one of them; the one I'm closed to. But my dream was ridiculously painful - my granddads both came back from the dead, one of my cousins drowned (for some reason the entire dream took place at sea). The trouble is I have these horrid dreams and then I can't shake them off - it's almost three in the afternoon and I still haven't managed to do anything distracting enough to put it out of my mind.

It is also almost three in the afternoon and I have achieved nothing.

It is strange. Things are going really well in so many ways just now and yet a couple of off days really get me down. I can't concentrate on the positives at all. But I do know that these have been the worst few days in a few weeks and even then they've not been so bad; just frustrating. So overall I guess my life is pretty good.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Alternative uses for a six stringed instrument

Today I am listening to the Lute Suites by Bach played by John Williams (on guitar, not lute – the fraud!). They are very pretty. They are much prettier than Ozzy Osbourne. But you knew that already, didn’t you?

Last night we went to a Chinese restaurant called Ming’s Palace. I think it’s great but I don’t really know much about food. I had a fortune cookie that said, “Your true friends will never let you down.”

We went with our friend Pete and his friend John. John from San Diego trying to immigrate to Whitby. At the moment he’s living in Ireland. Pete and I had an argument about whether Oliver Cromwell’s intentions were truly democratic. What do normal people talk about? I mean really? All my conversations are about sh*t like that, big issues. When I talk to young people, I find myself saying stupid things like “What do you want to do with your life?” When I talk to my family and friends I ask if they’ve read any good books lately or what music they’re listening to. Of course I ask them how they are but so long as they’re okay, I don’t care – I mean, I don’t care if they’re a little tired this weekend because they’ve had a busy week, I care if they’re really struggling and the world’s imploding on them for some reason, but all that well I had a mild headache last Tuesday crap I really have no interest in. As for the weather, well this is the UK. It rains, the sun shines, it sometimes snows. It’s not as if any of my kith and kin are fishing or farming folk who need to be tuned in to that stuff.

I used to think it was because I was ill and spent so much time by myself, but it has been pointed out to me that I was always like this and then I discovered my diaries aged thirteen and realised that yes, I was always up my own posterior about matters of life, death and the universe. I mean, thirteen year olds are supposed to think about clothes and social politics (as in who’s whose friend and who is going out with whom etc, petty stuff). I seemed very concerned about the greater scheme of things, whether or not there was a God, the nature of free will and my purpose on Earth. I did have a very thirteen-year-old self image though and charted the progress of my acne about my face with full colour illustrations. Mind you, I still do that now…

Bach rocks.

No More Tears - Ozzy Osbourne

I can’t write this afternoon, I have tried and tried and nothing’s happening so I have decided to review this here Ozzy Osbourne album since I said I would.

To be honest I found it a little boring. Boring in that I actually fell asleep while having it blasting pretty loudly through my headphones. It’s supposed to hard rock; I wasn't sure I would like it but I didn't anticipate boredom. I mean, it wasn’t really bad; it was quite comfortable to listen to and if it had been really dull I would have got up and done something else instead of just sitting and listening. I mean, I do have issues with falling asleep all the time. I nodded off during Dark Side of The Moon when I first listened to it.

Anyway, there are some catchy little riffs in there and this fellow Zakk Wylde, the guitarist, is something else; he made my ears prick up and listen a good number of times. I kind of wanted Ozzy to shut up so I could listen to an hour of this guy. But the orchestration from song to song is incredibly similar and dare I say it, decidedly unimaginative. Perhaps this is a problem with a genre I don’t know a whole heap about; perhaps any music which sits rigidly within one genre is apt to be rather samey. I don’t think the production quality on the CD helped although it’s allegedly re-mastered. Percussion sounded especially dodgy, rather light and tinny and my headphones are really very good.

I have decided that rhyming the words desire with fire is should be a Cardinal Sin, which is why U2 will burn in rock hell (actually U2 will smoulder pathetically rather than burn, rather like their music – no, not really). Anyway, the whole desire/fire faux-pas was committed liberally along with many others and I can’t say any of these lyrics moved me, even to amuse me. I don’t know why I bother criticising the guy’s lyrics when song titles include Zombie Stomp and Hellraiser. Although Hellraiser the song is better than the film which I saw for the first time the other day, but that’s because the film was utter pants except for the kinky fetish costumes, but I think perhaps that was the point.

No More Tears is probably the best track on the album, all seven minutes and twenty-four seconds of it. While I was checking the reviews of this before I bought it (for £2.50 plus a quid postage on eBay) someone compared it to Stairway to Heaven, but well, NO WAY. Still, it is kind of funky. I also like Zombie Stomp, despite the fact that it is everything you would expect from a song of that title and more besides.

Ozzy Osbourne’s voice falls a little short of dulcet and perhaps this was part of my problem. I didn’t realise that it was possible for a Midlands accent to come through so strong, but the guys voice reminds me of Simon Le Bon from Duran Duran. My goodness! That’s it! During the eighties you never saw Duran Duran and Black Sabbath in the same place at the same time, did you? Their lyrics, though rather different in content, were equally banal. You never saw Simon Le Bon and Ozzy Osbourne in the same place and indeed, the more that Osbourne has been on telly and stuff, the less you see or hear of Le Bon. I bet none of their tour dates have ever coincided. My gosh. Ozzy Osbourne is the satanic alter-ego of Simon Le Bon. What’s more, when writing about Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, Robert Louis Stevenson once said;

"I send you herewith a Gothic gnome, interesting I think, and he came out of a deep mine, where he guards the fountain of tears."

Gothic gnome = Ozzy Osbourne! It all makes perfect sense. No wonder he has had such problems.

So in conclusion, I was not exactly bowled over by this supposed classic by Ozzy/ Simon, but it's not rubbish and I shall persist. I must admit now on the third or fourth time through and now I’ve woken up a bit, it is getting better. And if I have offended anyone’s ethical sensibilities by reviewing the guy’s work, here is a link to the Bat Conservation Trust just to show I care. If I have offended anybody’s musical sensibilities, then please don’t lynch me, bite my head off or pin me down and crimp my hair (which for some reason is what I imagine an enraged mob of Duran Duran fans would do).

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

My Top Twenty Albums Of All Time (today at least)

Now this has shifted in recent months because of Snow Patrol and because I lent Abbey Road to a my friend R from Wargaming who hasn’t given it back yet so I’ve had less exposure to my previous favourite.

I don’t know whether he hurled a heavy object at the CD player when Maxwell’s Silver Hammer was playing, thus destroying my CD or whether I converted him to such an extent that he has stolen my CD, the first album I ever bought. The very first. If it is the latter at least the lad has taste. Actually, if it’s the former he has taste as well; Maxwell’s Silver Hammer sucks – although I heard an interview with Gene Simmons (from Kiss) in which he said this song defined him. Hmm.

This morning I got Ozzy Osbourne’s No More Tears, another of Rob’s recommendations. I know; Ozzy Osbourne. Ah well, I’ll try anything once… before I resell it on eBay. I’ll keep you posted.

To be honest, unlike my All Time Top Twenty Pick of The Personal Pops this list probably shifts about on an almost daily basis. I just wanted an excuse to rave about some of the music I love really and my brain isn't working yet this morning.

20. Blood Sugar Sex Magic – The Red Hot Chili Peppers
19. Garbage - Garbage
18. Chorus - Erasure
17. Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band – The Beatles
16. This is My Truth, Tell me Yours – The Manic Street Preachers
15. OK Computer - Radiohead
14. Automatic For The People - REM
13. London Calling – The Clash
12. The Tumbleweed Connection – Elton John
11. Teaser and The Firecat – Cat Stevens

10. Appetite for Destruction – Guns’n’Roses

The lyrics are usually rubbish, occasionally offensive and the mere sound of Axle Rose’s voice compels me to OD on Strepsils. However, Guns’n’Roses are a bit like the Alien sequels or Spike Milligan poetry or Carl Hiassen novels or frozen pizza; you know there’s something fundamentally wrong with it but it can be quite delicious all the same. And it’s all so unpretentious; these guys sing about sex and drugs and rock’n’roll as opposed the Arthurian legends and such you get so many rockers wailing about. Appetite for Destruction is my hand-down favourite from the albums I have listened to, certainly the most fun.

BTW Carl Hiassen writes really dark comic novels, it’s like reading Ray Chandler except with a bit of Burgess-esque ultra-violence thrown in just when you’re taking the guy seriously. They’ve all got titles like Skin Tight, Skinny Dip, Strip Tease, but they’re far from trashy. Honest.

9. Graceland – Paul Simon

A work of genius. Paul Simon is a fantastic song writer and succeeds where others fail in pulling together a truly eclectic sound with the help of Ladysmith Black Mambazo. Includes classics such as Diamonds on the Soles of her Shoes and You can call me Al. This album has a lot of sentimental significance as this is something my Dad has always listened to a lot on car journeys. My Dad hasn’t got great taste in music, certainly never talks about a band or artist or even a classical composer with passion and probably has a secret collection of Jamie Cullum albums under his bed, but he does like this and we used to sing along to it together quite a bit. Then he saw Ladysmith Black Mambazo in concert and has since insisted on dancing to it in that style...

8. By The Way – Red Hot Chili Peppers

The Chili Peppers are true poets and like Paul Simon, do a very good job of mix and match styles, although more across genres than georgraphy. I personally think that with By The Way, they arrived, but other Peppers fan they sold out or became middle-aged. There are still plenty of songs to jump around to in there, as well as the fantastic Zephyr Song which you don’t jump around to but you certainly can’t sit still and listen to it. Or at least I can’t.

7. Moseley Shoals – Ocean Colour Scene

Ocean Colour Scene didn’t do a great deal before or after their 1996 single success with The Day We Caught The Train but this is a fantastic album. All the songs are great and it flows on one song to another… I’m trying to think of the word for this. It isn’t a concept album, but do you know what I mean? A little known gem. [..] says they sound like The Beatles, but actually they sound far more like The Rolling Stones, except frankly the Stones weren't nearly so consistantly melodic.

6. Led Zeppelin IV

Everybody ought to possess this album because it is probably the best rock album ever - and I'm being as objective as possible, taking into account other tastes as well as I my own. If you are going to buy one rock album it ought to be this. Includes Black Dog, Stairway and When the Levee Breaks. These guys can do things with guitars that Shakespeare couldn’t do with words. Okay, so Ring-Wrathes crop up in the lyrics but we can forgive them that much, surely?

5. Electric Ladyland – The Jimi Hendrix Experience

There are some duff songs on this album, some weird kind of psychodelic nonsense, but the good songs (Voodoo Child, All Along the Watchtower, Long Hot Summer Night etc) make up for them with interest. Hendrix does things with guitars that Led Zeppelin couldn’t do with guitars. See about my synaesthesia for just how much I enjoy Hendrix. Of course there were other members of the band but on the sleeve they all look like accountants in Austin Powers type fancy-dress, so in my mind they played little to no creative role.

4. New Adventure In Hi Fi - REM

This really ought to have been REM’s biggest selling album but no-one’s ever heard of it. Also, to be fair it is not an album I would recommend to someone who doesn’t know much REM, because it is a bit contemplative and quirky. It includes some of Michael Stipe’s best stream of consciousness type lyrics, is the last album with Bill Berry on board and the last album before REM started sounded rather bored. Sorry, but much as I may kneel and sacrifice chickens at the altar of REM, they do sound like they’re rather be out fishing or playing golf in their last few albums. Your drummer is supposed to be the one that spontaneously combusts and is replaced every couple of months but it seems that REM couldn’t cope without him. Anyway, this is a brilliant album.

3. Abbey Road – The Beatles

It is the best album by probably the best band in the world ever. I’m not one of those who believes everything The Beatles did was fantastic and nobody comes close, but well, hey, they did some brilliant stuff and Abbey Road is a wowza album. Includes Come Together and Here Comes The Sun. The best part is the eight track medley beginning with You Never Give Me Your Money. That’s a musical trip and a half, it doesn’t matter if the lyrics go through meaningful, silly, daft, surreal back through daft, over to obscure for a bit before back to meaningful. So altogether perfect - apart from Maxwell’s Silver Hammer which makes Obe-li-de Obe-li-da sound like Bohemian Rhapsody.

2. Tea for the Tillerman – Cat Stevens

To illustrate the pointless transience of this list, it was only a week or so I was telling my nearly-but-not-quite brother-in-law that Teaser and The Firecat was my favourite Cat Stevens album on account of it having If I laugh and How can I tell you that I love you?. However, it also has Ruby Love, for which the CIA should have put a tail on the guy and stopped him getting on planes in case he was tempted to do an impromptu performance. No, Tea For The Tillerman is probably my favourite for having Hard Headed Woman, Wild World and Father and Son. And the other songs are very pleasant, gently philosophical without being saccharine. A really great album.

1. The Final Straw – Snow Patrol

I know I keep going on and on and on and on about this album but it is really good. It may be a phase for me but it has gone on two months now. This is a brilliant album. It’s brilliant. Will nobody listen to it apart from me? Please? Someone? Sometimes being in on a secret can be draining. Buy it now. For just 7.99 – I went to the trouble of finding the cheapest price on-line for you and everything.

Monday, April 04, 2005

Random musings on my fellow man

As I have probably described before, I’m always blown away when I contemplate the miracle of our existence; the complexity of the world, especially the human body and brain. It is all totally amazing and yes it is very difficult to accept that this is the produce of milliquillizillions of totally random events. It is a miracle that we exist as we are, by anyone’s definition. This is not to say I can happily swallow the idea of a creator God, especially not a creationist God; no offence folks, but that’s just silly. And pointless. I mean, what is there to fear from evolution? All manufacture has a process; evolution does not eliminate the possibility of a creator God. The whole Semetic thing about Adam and Eve and Kickmebot fits in to this; we became quite literally naked and when we did we discovered sin since everything before that point was innocent, instinctual.

Kickmebot? you may well say. My Dad used to offer us and any other small children present the following riddle;

“Adam and Eve and Kickmebot went down to the water to bathe,
Adam and Eve were drowned but who you do think was saved?”

I had a very violent upbringing… Anyway, no, the miracle of our existence. The thing I was pondering today is why we’re so amazed when things go wrong. I mean, it’s not amazing at all. It’s a wonder that any of us are walking upright – something we’re not exactly well designed to do. It’s a wonder any of us get past our first few months since this whole standing lark results in a narrow pelvic floor and a low birth weight so that we’re all incredibly dependent on our parents for a period of not months but years.

The most miraculous part or ourselves is our brain. I mean, science has barely begun to work out half the stuff it does yet. But it’s also the thing which malfunctions most often. Everybody has irrational thoughts, unnecessary worries, obsessions and then very many people – one in four, one in six, depending on your stats, has it go very wrong and becomes depressed, imagines their lot is to suffer and may even contemplate self-destruction – the most irrational thing in the world.

It’s all to do with emotion (duh - patience with me this afternoon, please). Emotion is another one which I find hard to believe developed as it is in a random way. Certain sorts of emotion make evolutionary sense; love for your child and love for a partner with whom you may bring up your child. Fear makes a lot of sense too. It’s all the in-betweeny crap that we have to go for, our domestic anxieties, our insecurities and grudges. I know it all stems from the same sort of thing, but why do our lives have to be so complicated? Painfully complicated.

Of course I am rabbitting on about this because of stuff going on just now, but today I find myself despairing and wondering at the human race in equal measure.

Hmm, [...] watched the Matrix films again this weekend and I think I have caught that bug of pseudo-profundity so bad I can't make a single salient point. I did find a great article though about how the Wachowski brothers are suing God. All true.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Poetry Corner: Ode to my TENS machine

Since the blogsphere is awash with disturbing angst-ridden poetry, I thought I would add my own contribution.

Ode To My TENS Machine

I want to tell the whole wide world about my darling TENS,
My little matt black box and I are very special friends.
He stays close to me all day long, he never leaves my side,
I tingle when I feel those soft electrodes on my thighs.

He came straight to my rescue when my agony was heinous.
My love for him is deep; in fact it is quite transcutaneous.
This love it has no side-effects; those drugs can be so icky,
Though when I pull the patches off he leaves me rather sticky.

I knew that it was meant to be as soon as I first saw him,
He stimulates my nerves so that I produce more endorphins.
He stops me curling up with pain; he stops that horrid spasm,
Alas however, he falls short of making me [feel any better than as I have described above]

He is the answer to my prayers; the dream I have been chasing,
After just a week he needed his battery replacing.
However much my body aches I know he’ll make amends,
My love, my life, my tingly-wingly, darling little TENS.

Like a nun in a nudist colony.

Things are going better since my earlier post but I just read over what I had written and found the above simile. That's terrible. Do you understand the self-doubt thing now? Yes? Good.

Drat and double drat!

Sorry to do the old blog-as-a-dumping-ground on you, but today I am immensely frustrated. Mostly because I'm very tired, but at the same time extremely restless such that I can't sleep for long or lie comfortably doing nothing, not even next-to-nothing like watching a film or something and yet my brain simply won't engage with any task I ask it to perform. Only now at four in the afternoon has it found the capacity to string written sentences together, but not good ones which is why I am blogging and not doing any proper work just now.

It doesn't help that it is a truly beautiful day outside and I am too dopey to do anything about that like leaving the flat for the first time in a week. Coupled with this mental fatigue is the feeling that someone cut all the strings that were holding me up right and I am flopping about all over the place. Nevermind, I have had a little sleep now so maybe I will wake up and feel better this evening.

Last night I had a very strange dream about carrying my manual wheelchair around everywhere I went. Carrying it.

Ah well now I'm being spoken at and I can't think and write and listen all at once, that's for sure.

Friday, April 01, 2005

Megadoubts and Getting Better.

See, my cold is loads better today and I had a solid nights sleep, so today I'm going to be very well behaved, rest often and try and be productive in the meantime instead of the aimless meandering between tasks which dominated yesterday. Yesterday I decided my Five Good Things were nonsense, but today I can breath again and I stick by what I said.

Last night I had megadoubts about my novel and decided it was really bad. Not just slightly, but really, all wrong, complete rubbish. This morning I have concluded that it is nothing I can't get over - if such concerns were justified, then I'll just have to stick with it a little longer.

Today is April 1st, so we're a quarter of the way through the year already - aaah! I would do an April Fools blog but I'm too nice and frankly unimaginative this morning. Now I'm going to get on with some work.