Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Oh, baby, baby, it's a wild world

Everything is going fine here in sunny Suffolk (which is actually sunny some of the time). We’re going to make a flying visit to Hampshire next weekend – a real flyer, and it’s going to be totally knackering, but we will get to meet the baby.

The fascinating thing about Alexander is that he’s not nearly a person yet. Not a person in the sense that other people I care about are. He sleeps much more of the day than I do and doesn’t have a whole lot to say for himself. He doesn't even try to control his bodily functions. And whilst it is possible to teach him lessons now which he could carry for life, there will be no conscious memory of events which take place now. He doesn’t really know what’s going on.

And yet, everybody loves the little chap nearly as much as they are ever going to. The love will change, as we get to know him, as we have reasons to admire or empathise with him, as he becomes more recognisable as an individual. However, none of us have any great investment in what he is like and what he might achieve – besides hoping that he’ll be happy and successful at the things he tries for. And it just goes to illustrate that essential point; that love has absolutely nothing to do with abilities and accomplishments. I hope Alex learns this sooner than I did.

Here is an absolutely gorgeous picture of Alexander and my Dad taken by his Dad - uh, Adrian, that is. Watch this space for non-baby-related posts real soon I promise.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

A star is born!

Tinker has arrived!!! His name is Alexander James Taylor. He weighed eight pounds and a penny, was born underwater at home at 10:33am this morning. At last.

They were quite keen to induce Rosie today, but labour started yesterday and got going with a vengeance in the early hours of this morning. She took warm baths, drank raspberry leaf and used the TENS machine. Then she sat in the birthing-pool and inhaled vast quantities of gas and air. As a result, it sounds like it really wasn’t too bad as these things go and the midwife stated that she ought to write a book about this birth on account of how very smoothly, and according to Rosie’s meticulous plans, it all went.

Alexander’s first word as he came up through the water was blobolob -olob - only a second old and already a fan of his favourite auntie’s blog. As you can see he has very deep blue eyes – although some babies do have blue eyes which change colour within a few days, so we’ll have to see. And although it is rather early to tell, it does look as if this child is, in fact, ginger.

Initially his entire face was a little blue as his umbilical cord was wrapped around his neck, but this was dealt with so quickly that Rosie and Adrian only fully registered this after they read the notes later on. Rosie’s has had very little trouble feeding him. Adrian was heroic throughout, managing to wash the car whilst caring for R –pouring the cooling water from the birth pool out of their front window onto the Mini. Adrian is simply beaming and has done an absolutely excellent job of looking after my sister and nephew.

This is Granny Kelly’s first great grandchild, so she was ecstatic. She is generally in great shape and is off on a hot air balloon ride tomorrow.

Mum had a big cry and then started leaping about, dancing and singing a song which was a combination of various of James Brown’s hits. Dad was kind of quiet about it but I think he is also very happy.

Alexander shares his birthday with Katharine McCormick, Joseph Hegel and Lady Antonia Fraser. He is born on the 110th anniversary of the shortest war in history; the Anglo-Zanzibar War that raged from 9:02am to 9:40am on this day in 1896. So there you go.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Another girl, another planet

I think I’m going to have to leave my series about liberty and stuff for a while as we’re heading down south on Wednesday and I have a lot to do before then. I’m going to take my laptop with me as we may be a good couple of weeks, depending on when Tinker is born (click here to see a picture of my enormous sister). But if I do any blogging while away (oh come on, if?) it will only be general nonsense - as opposed to vaguely-thought-out nonsense.

Last week, I was looking for cards to give to R & A for when Tinker arrives. I have to buy cards on-line and in advance because I can’t pop out to the post office to choose an appropriate card and [...]’s selection is usually, well, anyway, I have to buy cards on-line and in advance. I buy some from my friend Vic, who takes pretty photos and I buy others from Charity Cards, who are a very good shop about which I have no complaints whatsoever (in fact I recommend them).

However, naturally they have a range of New Baby cards which are fairly typical. Most of them are either baby pink or baby blue, celebrating the joys of unambiguous gender and thus initiating the process of gender conditioning. By far the worst example was this one, which reads on the front;

A baby girl
Absolutely wonderful!
And you know exactly what lies ahead…

- her first Barbie at three
- clothes conscious at four
- borrowing make-up at five
- obsessed with her hair at eight
- practicing [sic] high-heels at ten
- eyeing up the boys at twelve
- first Cosmo at thirteen

and then the moods, the spots, the piercings...

The first time I read Casino instead of Cosmo, which was confusing. This sort of thing is so depressing. At least in the eighteenth century certain accomplishments were expected of a little girl. Imagine a child has just come into the world and on account of the contents of its nappy, it is condemned to be completely preoccupied with its appearance - it is defined by the preoccupation with its appearance, the attribute over which it has the least control and which is least likely to bring it any happiness. Okay, so everyone likes to look good, but it does not maketh the man by any means, or indeed, the woman.

I thought I would write a rant about this, but on reflection, it needs very little analysis. Instead; a little nostalgia...

I had a Barbie doll. I also had two Ken dolls and an Action Man. My main childhood solo occupation was playing with Lego, but when I played with my dolls, most of my games involved the Action Man (a sinister looking thing with eyes that moved from side to side via a lever in the back of its head) kidnapping Barbie. The Ken dolls – one blond, one brunet and both mutually enamoured with Barbie – would then set about her rescue. Their characters were based somewhat upon Ilya Kuryakin and Napoleon Solo and most of my play consisted of their adventures and conversations. Dad helped me make them a speedboat (I wanted to make a car, but Dad steered me towards this less complex project). It was painted in blue Hammerite and had seats made out of vinyl flooring that somehow managed to look really cool. The dolls started off with really camp clothes – a pink tuxedo, a garland and pair of loud Bermuda shorts and of course Action Man’s khakis – so I had to make sensible clothes for them to wear.

I guess I presumed that girls didn’t have adventures, they just got abducted by dodgy-eyed men with fluffy penguin henchman (I seemed to have several soft toy penguins). But on the plus side, they could quite happily have two boyfriends who remained the best of friends. Neither of these ideas played out in experience - apart from the penguins, of course.

I did become conscious of some aspects of clothes early on. I knew that sometimes if I wore trousers I could be mistaken by other adults for a boy and thus get away with far more low-level naughtiness and dangerous behaviour. I can also remember being bothered at one come as you please day at school (day when we didn't need to wear uniform) that I was the only child in class who did not possess a shell-suit, then the height of fashion. With hindsight, I am quite proud of the fact.

My first interest in make-up was the casualty make-up we put on in The Badgers (St. John’s Ambulance Brigade for wee ones). Bruising was my speciality but I could do a nice gaping wound if required. I had a brief flirtation with cosmetic make-up in my late teens and early twenties when I became very conscious about my remarkable texture and colouring, but I am still not sure how to put it on and not look ever so slightly like a clown.

I don't think I have ever been obsessed with my hair.

I only got into high heels when I could no longer walk any significant distance anyway; you can wear three or four inch heels in a wheelchair and it doesn’t make a great deal of difference. Can’t combine them with a short skirt though – it is simply bad form to sit with one’s legs crossed in a wheelchair, as well as being bad for the circulation.

Eyeing up boys at twelve? Twelve year old girls, in my experience, are completely and utterly baffled by boys and their relationship to them. Just a short time ago, everything was fine, but suddenly they've gone all odd; they don't smell too good, they don't look too good, you've got to try not to giggle at the fluctuations in their voices and it's no longer possible to hang out in the uncomplicated way you used to - and will do again when you all get over yourselves in a few years time. The state that twelve year old girls are in themselves means that while boys may be a source of bewildered preoccupation, it's not eyeing up so much as giving anxious sideways glances to.

And I have never bought a copy of Cosmopolitan Magazine.

All this and yet clearly, I turned out all right. I am perfectly normal in every conceivable way.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Window Shopping

Tinker has obviously inherited the family’s sense of punctuality, anyway. The world remains in suspense, but I'm taking a break from the heavy stuff anyhoo to do some shopping.

First off, our friends who run the soap shop in Whitby are now on-line. Honeyz sell handmade soaps, bath-bombs, massage bars, 'soap cakes' (like this one on the left) and so on. It's all suitable for vegetarians, none tested on animals and so on. It all sounds absolutaely delicious with Patchouli and Lime bathbombs and Cinnamon and Orange soap.

Yes, this is an unashamed plug, but as well as orders, they would be very interested in feedback about how it is all looking.

I had been meaning to make a puppet to help me communicate with my niece or nephew when he or she finally emerges into the world. However, since the birth is imminent, I decided I must buy one instead.

I love glove puppets. And my very limited childcare experience suggests that children are captivated by them – just sew two buttons on an old sock and make it speak with a lisp (because, you know, snakes lisp). We’re sorting a webcam out so that I can speak to Tinker through Skype and I figure that, not having the kind of face which is naturally entertaining to small children, I may need a puppet sidekick to keep those conversations going.

The best puppet shop I found on-line, and the one I finally bought from was Puppets By Post. You can get almost any animal you could think of in puppet form. They even have seagull puppets and the bizarre biblical camel (which is wearing sunglasses, as all the camels did in the Bible). They have a troll puppet which comes with a hedgehog finger puppet, so one could recreate the sinister dialogue that might take place between these two. They also have a range of what they describe as signing puppets although I don't know whether that means what it sounds like.

After much deliberation I bought a rather plain but cute bear puppet. It cost £8.50, is supposed to cover your entire lower arm and has a working mouth, which I thought was important. It is sweet, isn't it? But not too silly. It doesn't have a name yet, if anyone has any ideas.

And whilst on the subject of shopping and stuff, when I was really bored and looking at jumpers at Dorothy Perkins, I noticed that some of the jumpers were described as boyfriend jumpers. What the heck is a boyfriend jumper?

Is it supposed to attract a boyfriend? Replace a boyfriend? Resemble a boyfriend? Although they are all quite long jumpers, they do vary rather in shape and colour. I quite like this shape jumper but they have such dull colours. Apparently this autumn's colours will be red, grey and black and white. Well there's a surprise...

Friday, August 18, 2006

Liberté, Égalité, Pornographie

Once again, we are invoking the Law of Sod. My brother-in-law is playing organ for a wedding this afternoon, my sister's midwife has a dinner party booked for this evening and my sister has had some pains, like period pains but sharper that last a minute - although so far only at twelve hour intervals. Could this be early labour? Could it? When is this little imp going to show itself?!

These facts combined with the fact I am writing about a rather adult matter today, Tinker is bound to be born today such that in twelve or thirteen years time (s)he will be reading his or her favourite aunty’s blog, thinking I wonder what Auntie Goldfish was writing about the day I was born

As I said on Wednesday, the trouble is that most of the battle for equality between men and women, non-disabled and disabled people, straight and queer etc., etc., is to do with positive freedom. Women, for example, are no longer literally enslaved – we have an equal amount of negative freedom under the law. We are slaves to no man but societal attitudes, within ourselves and all around us, prevent us from always being our own masters, so to speak.

Pornography is a very good example of where a real conflict arises between liberal Rabid Feminists* like myself and those folks who have the same egalitarian aims, but believe this struggle should be conducted with some degree of coercion.

I am going to be very specific (thought not explicit) about the subject matter here, because there is absolutely no controversy around the fact that many women and others are terribly exploited, subject to all manner of violence and intimidation within the currently illegal sex industry. We may disagree about how to help them out of those situations, but no feminist is unconcerned about any situation where crimes are being committed against women.

There is, however, a controversy over whether prostitution, including pornography, is wrong in all cases and in order to address a fraction of this enormous topic, I want to simplify the area we are discussing. The British Board of Film Classification gives us these guidelines for films released in the UK under certificate R-18. These prohibit all sorts of activities where consent is ambiguous and greatly restrict the distribution of this material. We shall also presume that this law is rigorously upheld; that nobody participates in the making of this material (or views this material) having made any verbal objection.

Okay, so… as I understand it, there are three main objections that feminists might have to pornography in this context.

The first is that the involvement of any financial transaction presents an obligation which means that consent can not be as easily withdrawn. If participants feel unable to withdraw consent then they are effectively being raped. Thus paying someone to perform sexual acts amounts to rape.

Sage has written a couple of excellent posts (and promises more) which have begun to explore this massive issue.

However, there is no circumstance under law whereby payment is considered such a heavy obligation. If you are in someone's employ and they ask you to commit even a minor offence, then a criminal court will not consider your mere need to be paid extenuating circumstances which detract from your own responsibilities. Threats and a fear of violence are another matter; money is never enough.

Choosing to have sex when you don't want to have sex is a pretty grim prospect but is not the same as being forced (by whatever means) to have sex when you don't want to - one involves a choice, the other doesn't. That's not to say that prostitutes can't be raped; consent can be withdrawn at any time whoever you are and in whatever circumstances. However, it is up to adults to indicate the withdrawal of consent - just as the law obliges adults to refuse if they're employer asks them to do anything about which they have moral reservations.

The second objection is that pornography is such an inherently degrading experience for the participants that the consent cannot be taken seriously in any case. Participants perhaps fail to effectively resist their own degradation because they are fulfilling the role assigned to them by others who consider them as purely sexual objects, and their self-worth is entirely tied up in this role. In other words;

If participants had a genuine choice, they would not choose to do this.

The circularity of this argument is reminiscent of the reasonable man who disapproves of male homosexuality; the reason we know that participants do not have a genuine choice is because they choose to do something that, given a genuine choice, they would not choose to do. Ouch!

There are lots of reasons I can think of why people would have cause to regret participation in pornography. It could also be that participating in pornography is motivated by insecurity and low self-worth, and does turn out to be a big mistake for every single one of the people who do it.

However, such is the nature of all our relationships and behaviours. We simply cannot be protected by the law from making mistakes when we think something is a good idea at the time. Many marriages are entered into for totally the wrong reasons and end horribly, but once again, as adults, we are entitled to the choice. Anything else would be another form of oppression and we would never learn anything about ourselves. We would be kept as children.

A far more powerful (to me at least) argument is to do with the positive freedom of men and women in general. It asserts that If pornography didn’t exist, society would treat men and women in a more equal fashion.

This argument goes like this:
The way that groups are represented in the media has a profound effect on the way they are treated in every day life.

Pornography represents men and women in such a way which is detrimental to sexual equality.

Authorities should attempt to censor the media in order to protect people who may suffer the knock-on effects of unequal treatment.

Therefore, pornography should be censored.
The first premise, I have absolutely no doubt about. We can of course argue over degrees. For example, there used to be a theory that the use of pornography encouraged the viewers to commit rape, but empirical studies suggest otherwise. It is also theory which angers me very greatly because it is only one step away from blaming the victims; if images of naked women can be to blame, then why not scantily-clad women on the street or indeed any woman who isn't covered from head to toe and accompanied by a male relation at all times? However, that’s another subject - even in the absence of such a dramatic effect, there is no doubt that that all media has the potential to influence attitudes and ideas.

On the second premise, I am not expert enough to judge! Obviously, there are going to be examples of pornography which represent the relationships between men and women very badly indeed. However, the thing which categorises the pornography I happen to have seen is that both men and women are presented as creatures entirely preoccupied with sex and for whom sex is a highly enjoyable experience.

Now, men and women have a lot else going on in their lives apart from sex. But most of us do have and enjoy sex. I am not sure how this portrayal could be more harmful than commercials on prime-time television, where for example, women are obsessed with wrinkles, hair colour, their weight and the whiteness of their sheets.

Personally, I would suggest that such representation may be far more dangerous, for four reasons. Firstly, it meets a far wider audience than pornography, an audience including children. Secondly, it portrays women in everyday settings and situations; in the home, in the office, making it far easier to associate these made-up women with the real women of one’s acquaintance. Thirdly, the activity of viewing is far more passive (one is not attempting to manoeuvre a chieftain tank at the same time) and therefore, I speculate, the audience is more vulnerable to subconscious influence.

And of course, pornography is designed as a means to an end. Commercials are designed to influence. Their primary goal is to influence one into spending money, but they play on whatever aspirations, fears and insecurities they think may help them. These inevitably include all the baggage we carry about sex, sexual attractiveness and gender roles.

I’m not suggesting the law should interfere with commercial advertising, I am just suggesting that there may be more dangerous influences than pornography which we simply do not have the power to control outside some totalitarian state.

The third premise… I have written before about free speech more than once; and basically, I cannot find it in myself to argue that footage of one of the most natural acts in the world (and perhaps a few not so natural acts) should be banned. Not when you are talking about highly regulated production and distribution; nobody is subject to this stuff who didn’t choose to be.

I hope that may have made things a little clearer for folks who take the opposing view; I feel this is a rather clumsy and simplified explanation of some very highly complicated - and very important - arguments.

Next time, I shall talk about... well hopefully Rosemary's baby will be born before then and you and I can take a break from the heavy stuff. But at some point soon I shall write about how we put all this back together.

* Rabid Feminism is a new faction of feminism, inadvertantly invented by Lady Bracknell's Editor. So far this movement includes only myself and in the tradition of the factionalism that exists in most equality movements, I intend to keep it that way...

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Liberté, Égalité, Fratenité #1

No sign of Tinker yet, but I read on-line at that the prostaglandins in seamen are proven to increase the likelihood of you going into labour... So I have advised my sister to make haste and get herself down to the dockside as soon as possible.

Contrary to common misunderstanding, liberalism and egalitarianism do not automatically go hand in hand and one of the aims of these ramblings is to address this issue. However, in order to explain that properly, I am going to start by discussing an important example of when the aims of liberalism and egalitarianism coincided exactly. The following contains euphemisms of a adult nature, which are in fact very childish.

There was a time in Britain when no man could take a leisurely stroll up the Kyber Pass of an evening without the risk of arrest and imprisonment. This was a profound infringement on negative freedom; not being able to do what you like in the privacy of your own home. The laws in question actually applied to the act performed with men, women or animals, but were essentially used to prosecute homosexual men.

In 1957 the Wolfenden Report recommended the decriminalisation of using the servants' entrance and other male homosexual acts on the grounds that non-violent private practice between consenting adults caused no harm to anyone but (perhaps) the parties involved. Even then, any real or imagined harm individuals might bring on themselves was felt to be in a private moral sense, a matter of conscience for the individual, not the domain of criminal law.

This and many other UK legal decisions of the twentieth century adhered largely to John Stuart Mill’s Harm Principle. Basically this states that people should be allowed to do whatever they like without interference, the only condition being that their actions are not harmful to other non-consenting parties. A search for the best summary of this landed on this blog entry at Philosophy, et cetera. I could write an essay or too on this myself (indeed, I was obliged to some years ago) but the link is very good if you're interested.

As everyone knows, the recommendations of the Wolfenden Report were realised in law ten years later, which was a little too late for some (In between the Chatterley ban and the Beatle's White album).

In opposition to the Wolfenden Report were the likes of Lord Devlin and his famous man on the Clapham omnibus. He argued that any threat to public morality is a threat to society itself, and that public morality is, at least in part, defined by the feelings of an ordinary reasonable man. This reasonable man, who happens to be riding the omnibus to Clapham Common, presumably having found himself out of luck on Hamstead Heath…

In a sense, Devlin’s argument was for positive freedom. He was not suggesting that male homosexuality was against nature or against the Word of God and ought to remain criminal on those grounds.

Instead, imagine that this man on the Clapham Omnibus was both disgusted and preoccupied by the idea of male homosexuality. The mere idea that this might be happening caused him to be very upset and confused about his place in the world. In order to allow people the freedom to go through life undisturbed by morally corrosive thoughts of naked men giving vigorous consent in the privacy of their own homes… we must infringe upon the negative liberties of a minority.

However, this argument is very weak. For one thing, any argument that involves a reasonable person or a reasonable idea is circular. If I say, a reasonable person prefers jam to marmalade then my defining criteria for reasonable person would have to include a preference for jam over marmalade.

Secondly, there are perhaps many private behaviours which different non-participants would find abhorrent – certain religious practices for example, are entirely blasphemous to members of other religions. And whilst Devlin did use the phrase public morality, what he was talking about was private behaviour - he wasn't talking about anything that non-participants would be subjected to in any way.

Unchanging uniformity in private sexual practices, family life, religious belief and so on does not seem a particularly viable or desirable objective. Of course, the law steps in when someone is being subject to violence or abuse, and we have the institution of marriage and now civil partnership which provides certain securities in civil law (not criminal law). However, it would be a truly totalitarian world in which private behaviours were more closely regulated.

Right, well, these are important arguments and a very important precedent which I shall refer back to later. However, the vast majority of egalitarianism is concerned not with negative freedom, but with positive freedom; to be one's own master.

Once we achieved basic negative freedoms for women and minority groups which mean we are no longer literally or virtually enslaved, the chasm that lies between that point and the point where we become our own masters is all about positive freedom. And that's where, in some cases, liberalism clashes with some of the strategies employed to bring equality about...

This blog was originally entitled Liberté, Égalité, Enculé, but I am always afraid to swear in a foreign language in case it is much much ruder than I imagine it is.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

The Two Concepts of Liberty

I figure I can get away with a series of serious and abstract posts this week as it is almost bound to be interrupted by the birth of my niece or nephew, cute baby photos and accompanying slush. Today is the due date, but no news yet. Is he a she? Is she a he? My brother-in-law says he is still hoping for a puppy...

For a while now I have been wanting to write about what the word 'liberal' means to me. This is partly because I find this word massively misused just now; in American English it seems to mean something quite different and thus British English speakers seem to have got rather muddled. But I also wanted to discuss the way that my liberalism interacts with my egalitarian beliefs and strategies. Spotted Elephant has been in despair at the lack of dialogue between her own Radical Feminism and more liberal or ‘sex-positive’ feminism so I want to get onto that too.

Today I am going to start with this matter of what it means to be a liberal. To me, liberalism is concerned with the maximisation of negative liberty. The concept of positive and negative liberty was touched on by James Medhurst recently, but I’ll start afresh in my own words, because this is a completely different subject.

A hero I have mentioned before, the great Isaiah Berlin, wrote an essay called Two Concepts of Liberty (available in the book Four Essays on Liberty). He proposed that freedom (as experienced by citizens under a governing body) could be described as either positive and negative; I am my own master or I am slave to no man, as Izzy put it.

Negative freedom is basically freedom from interference; freedom to do and say what you like without being censored, censured or locked up. For example, we have the negative freedom to smoke cigarettes in our own homes without interference, but we do not have the negative freedom to smoke in anyone's place of work. To have negative freedom is to be slave to no man

Positive freedom is freedom to do stuff. These are the freedoms which a government provides and protects for its citizens. So for example, the state insists upon its young citizens receiving a free education; an education provides all sorts of knowledge and opportunities which we would not otherwise enjoy. To have positive freedom is to be one's own master.

This differentiation is not terribly easy to understand. However, the next point I am going to make is that often negative and positive freedoms are competing interests and one must be sacrificed for the other. Hopefully by explaining this, it will begin to make more sense.

Imagine that as of today, it was no longer illegal to carry about weapons and firearms of any kind. You would be horrified! Why? – in terms of negative freedom, you would be more free; currently, in the UK, you are not allowed to carry a knife over certain proportions without inviting interference from the authorities.

But of course in reality, most of us would be far less free. I imagine some of us would feel unable to leave our homes at all, and certainly most of us would be quite afraid of being hurt or killed at any time.

Effective Law and Order provide us with a great deal of positive freedom; the freedom to go about our daily lives in relative safety, not to be afraid all the time, and not having to make special provisions to keep ourselves and our loved-ones safe.

As with so much in society and politics, this balance must be negotiated and reviewed ad infinitum. However, as I say, as a liberal I want each of us to have as much negative freedom as we can possibly be afforded. And it is entirely natural that authorities will generally attempt to take as much as we allow them. That is not just a throwaway all power corrupts remark; if you’re in charge of something, you naturally want as much information and co-operation as you can possibly acquire. There is always a danger this goes too far – a danger we have to live with, but a danger we be ever vigilant for.

Isaiah Berlin was very concerned about the threat of totalitarianism and discussed the ways in which authoritarian or totalitarian regimes use positive freedom to sell themselves. Hitler talked a great deal about the freedom of the German people – the positive freedoms of economic prosperity, national pride etc at the cost of… well, at the cost we all know too much about. During the Cold War, there were all sorts of draconian moves to control the speech and behaviour of ordinary people on both sides, and on both sides this was done in the name of freedom. I’m sure I don’t need to draw attention to the way that the word “freedom” has been banded about in recent conflicts...

And here, now… As I have said above, the freedom to go about our daily business and not feel in danger is a very precious one. And currently this is under threat from pseudo-Islamic terrorists, who may strike at any time and have no compunction about taking their own lives and the lives of tens, hundreds or even thousands of people. But then our government start locking away people without charge... this could be said to be a very dangerous time for both positive and negative freedom, and the challenge will be to find a way of maximising both.

Hands up who made it down this far? Promise, this time the next bit is almost guaranteed to be more exciting than this was. Look, here is a picture of a kitten as a reward for your efforts.

photo © Mihail Manolov for CC:Attribution-ShareAlike

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Book Meme

cross-posted at Blogging Bookworms

I was very pleased to be tagged with this Book Meme by Midwesterntransport.

1. One book that changed your life?

Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah
by Richard Bach. There are many others, but I read illusions at a time when I seemed to have acquired very strong convictions about my place in the world and the very rigid limitations that I faced. Illusions changed that.

(WARNING: That book does involve one rather problematic portrayal of disability.)

2. One book you have read more than once?
A Christma Carol gets read most Decembers. It is the story of Christmas for me and a fantastic story in its own right.

3. One book you would want on a desert island?
On Desert Island Discs they always allow one book plus The Bible and The Complete Works of Shakespeare. So I will pretend I have those (although I might use Leviticus and Henry VI Parts 1, 2 and 3 as kindling for my camp fire).

Uh... odd choice but Lolita. Nabokov writes so beautifully, this is a book I can pick up and read a delicious passage at random.

4. One book that made you laugh?

Good Omens
by Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaimen. I haven't read it in a while but I remember that being a really very funny book. And I'm not usually very keen on Terry Pratchett.

5. One book that made you cry?

Skallagrigg was the last book which really opened the flood gates. I am outraged at this point as I have just discovered that you can't currently buy Skallagrigg on or com. Here is my review of it from last November.

6. One book you wish had been written?

I wish I had finished my novel before now. It's working title is To Fear The Light.

7. One book you wish had never been written?

Midwestern had Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus and whilst I can't say I've ever wished that a book hadn't been written, those sorts of books certainly annoy.

8. One book you are currently reading?

Honestly? Okay, it's The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner by James Hogg. I'm not getting on with it, to be honest, but I am curious about the subject matter, which is the concept of Calvinism, predestination and so on at the time of the Jacobite rebellion. Yeah, I know.

9. One book you have been meaning to read?

Not so much meaning to read, but meaning to finish. I received Lord of the Rings for my twenty-first birthday which is now approaching years ago. I am about three-quarters through at my last attempt but I am determined to finish it. Similarly with War and Peace which I quite enjoyed in parts up until page eight hundred and something when I could simply go no further.

10. Now tag five people.

Naturally, I tag all the other members of Blogging Bookworms - which is currently six, but I'm sure I shan't get into too much trouble for that.

The Wall

The wonderful thing about coming up from a bad patch is that you get write the all rules afresh. Everything has come to a halt, so how you start it again, is up to you – you don’t have bad habits because you have slept them off - in my case, quite literally.

So now I am going to try to be very good. I am going to pace all my activities perfectly. I am going to be the model patient. About time too - less than two weeks to the lurgy's tenth anniversary. Last night as I was going to sleep I calculated that I have probably consumed an average of 2kg (uh, four and half pounds?) of prescription medication every year since I have been ill. I am not sure if this is a lot or not much really. Actually, now I'm thinking I need to do that sum again...

In the comments to an earlier post I mentioned that whilst the texture of my ceiling is extremely smooth and dull, I do have this lovely wall opposite the bedroom window. Today is a grey day; usually the colours are brighter. And I could spend some hours pointing out all the faces and animals which can be seen (although I admit, now it is a photograph, they are not as clear as they are in real life).

Today is a year since The Wedding of The Century. Which gives me an excuse to phone up Rosie and Adrian and find out if there are any signs of Tinker's imminent arrival.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Poetry Corner - Boing!

First off, I should put in a notice that Ballastexistenz is asking for other autistic contributors to participate in Getting The Truth Out, an excellent response to the rather odious Getting The Word Out. I imagine you'd need some guts to put yourself out there, but I reckon it is an important message, if any auties happen to be reading this.

I am still feeling grim, but significantly less so today. So I guess my theory is working out, right?

This poem is even sillier than my normal standards given the context, but I do mean it. Only I haven't yet got the brainpower to articulate it in prose, let alone some sort of sensible and meaningful poetic interpretation.


However far I’ve had to fall
And hopeless, it may seem,
Often in the darkest deep
I find a trampoline!

Just when all the world above
Is a distant fading light,
My feet may meet that canvas sheet
And hurl me into flight!

It may not send me all the way
That one almighty spring,
But just now being half-way-up’s
A truly wondrous thing!

So now I have to set about
A slow and steady climb,
Which may require my patience
And it will take me some time.

So rather than a crumpled heap
Deep down in the abyss,
I'm now over half-way-up
And grateful to the Swiss!

(because uh, it was a Swiss chap named Kurt Baechler brought the great sport of trampolining to Europe, of course - everyone knows that!).

Previous Poetry Corners: Ode to my TENS machine/ I just want my body to work/ My fair-weather friend/ St. Valentine's Day Massacre/ Impossible (a villanelle)

Sunday, August 06, 2006

The Law of Sod

I have a theory. Should I declare that I am having a hiatus from blogging until I feel much better, so I'll stop worrying about my blog and my lack of postings, well I have a theory that this will mean that tomorrow or maybe the next day, I will feel miles better, get back to normal and then feel guilty for this act of melodrama.

So I am going to test this theory, thus:

Now follows a hiatus! I may be gone some time!

I am okay, just sleeping. I have been awake for precisely four hours today, spread out over the day and now I am going back to bed.

In the meantime this was the best news story this last week. Note that this took place at Wookey Hole, from where the Dalek was stolen last year and where two rabbits were married in April. That's Somerset for you.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Thank You For The Cactus, whoever you are.

Thank you very much to the kind person who sent me this tiny little cactus, no bigger than a peanut. I have named it Albert. It is in its own plastic dome which could be attached to a keyring if I wanted. Albert is very sweet indeed and has cheered me up no end.

Unfortunately, I do not know who sent this lovely gift. All I know is that it came from this shop; Cactus Heaven.

I have my suspects, who may be reading this, and thank you very much if you are. Doubly thanks because the mystery has allowed me to suspect, and therefore think fondly of - and feel loved by - more than one person. Almost as if I received several such cacti, only each of them as special as if I had just received the one. If you see what I mean.

And I'm getting stronger.