Saturday, April 28, 2007

Eight films what I saw

My brain is still absent without leave. I found a meme I meant to do but even that was too taxing. However, I get withdrawal if I don't blog for a few days and I have watched a load of films this spring. So I decided to review all the films I have recently seen which have been released on DVD in the UK since the beginning of 2007, in under fifty words each. If I try to review anything properly, smoke will come out of my ears, but this way you'll at least know what to watch and what not to, given that my taste in such things is impeccable.

In order of least-liked to most-liked:

Borat - Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan. When you see truly bigoted people being taken for a ride, it is all fine and dandy, but some of the people involved in this film seemed both genuine and completely obvious, a combination of which made this embarrassing and uncomfortable to watch.

The Devil Wears Prada. I kind of hoped this would be funnier, but as it wasn't, I found it rather boring. However, it is most likely not my kind of movie. I instinctively imagine the book is better but it’s probably not my kind of book either. One for girlier girls, I reckon.

The Queen. It's very well done and everything, but I didn't really see much point to it. The film merely recounted events which were pretty much as anyone might have imagined events must have been. Still, Helen Mirren is great, even though it is quite discombobulating to find the Queen so sexy.

A Scanner Darkly. From the Philip K. Dick novel about one man’s downward spiral of paranoia fueled by recreational drug-taking and a culture of surveillance. The whole thing has been filmed and then made to look like a cartoon, which makes the whole thing even weirder than it already is. Um, interesting..?

The History Boys. From the Alan Bennett play, which feels very much like a play all the way through. With a few significant reservations, this was really good. [...], however, hated it so much that we had to stop it half way and watch Pretty Woman instead. Some people!

Pan's Labyrinth. This is great, but with surreality compounded in my case by fatigue and subtitles . It is about a little girl who befriends a faun, except with all the darkness and violence of the arse end of the Spanish Civil War, which is, of course, won by the wrong side.

Thank You For Smoking. I liked this film a lot. Our hero is a lobbiest for the tobacco industry, attempting to maintain a positive image for cigarettes. It is very funny, but it’s a kind of subtle wit which is rather rare in movies. Sort of Yes, Minister humour for the twenty-first century.

Little Miss Sunshine. I loved this film. It was one of those movies that makes you feel like you belong. It is a great film about the nature of winning and losing. I really ought to write a proper review some time, but please go and watch it in the meantime.

Edit: Meanwhile, as I didn't see until just after I published this, Timbo has also been going goggled-eyed.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Splashes to splashes, dust to dust

Klutz, 2000-2007Klutz the fish made her final journey to the surface of my Dad's pond yesterday. She survived travelling 250 miles in a dustbin - including the coldest night of the year spent in a carpark somewhere off the A1. Then there was the flood and having to stay several days in the dustbin whilst it was established that we wouldn't be able to set the tank up soon enough. Then she survived being transferred into a pond outside with other, far hardier goldfish.

So she did pretty well but the stress of all this probably got the better of her; she acquired some sort of fungus and despite our best efforts (and eighteen quid spent on anti-fungal stuff), she died.

Which is a shame. And more worrying, both Schmuck and their kid Lucky have symptoms. So we're setting up a Fish Intensive Therapy Unit to try to keep them going; I really would be upset if we lost all three of them.

Klutz will be fondly remembered. Being a fish, she didn't have much personality. She would swim about a bit, eat stuff and lay eggs. She was much like every other fish you are likely to come across. But she was our fish. And now there's only Schmuck left out of the four we started with. You may recall the way that Gimboid left this world.

But apart from that, everything is okay. On the nature front, we saw two swallows, which don't make a summer, but were still nice to see. And I think my head may be ever so slightly clearer today.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Fair to middling.

Sometimes it all seems perfectly fair. Not so much the bigger picture, although there is a temptation to build some poetry around that. Like the idea that illness is the only bit of tremendous bad luck I have really had in my life and I need this in order to balance out all the good stuff. But I know that’s crap. None of us get a fair share of good or bad luck; I could just as easily imagine it was a karma, a test from God or some much. Or that I needed to get sick in order to fulfil some destiny or other. Nope, the bigger picture isn’t fair or orderly, it simply is.

But the day-to-day, sometimes that all seems perfectly fair. This is really about stability as opposed to fairness. Times when whatever I do, I have a good idea how much its going to cost me. I walk the distance between here and there and I know how much it will hurt, how long it will hurt for and how many times I can do it without causing myself trouble tomorrow. Brain stuff too, to a more limited extent. Cause and effect. Consumption and expenditure, of a kind.

And at such times, it seems fair, even though it is a bit rubbish compared to the deal most people enjoy. Enjoy - now there’s an interesting word. Well, not terribly interesting, but I do think that it is enjoyable when life is so orderly. Pain and fatigue are not all bad; I remember it being nice to ache after you have done something worth aching for and there was a certain satisfied sleepiness at the end of an exciting or productive day. There still is, sometimes. Like a sprain acquired during a outlandish sexual experiment that makes you giggle every time it twinges. I should imagine.

When it seems terribly unfair, it does so for the silliest reasons. Like sometimes I have gone out somewhere or done something social when I knew full well what it would cost me, but it wasn't really worth it. I didn't get enough fun out of it to feel like this afterwards. And often I am most frustrated, not during relapse, but whenmy health is doing relatively well. Just not quite well enough to do as much as I feel I ought to be able to do.

Which I guess is where I am just now, really. A wave of fog, but not a nasty discombobulating one. I'm just struggling to write or do anything much useful. It's only been a few days and it'll pass soon enough. What's more, I am not suffering at all; I have been reading lots, watching films, painting a bit (badly, I made a terrible mess actually; I wasn't really well enough to try). I have read five books this month so far, which strike's me as a little excessive. But I really want to feel like I'm getting somewhere. Six weeks time it'll be the middle of the year already. And that's not fair.

No, I know, not much of a post as an exercise in stringing words together into sentences. I shall now go and do something else pleasant on this sunny afternoon whilst the rest of the world is at work. Poor me.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Guilt is a Useless Emotion #2

One of the reasons I don’t blog much about the environment, is because I personally believe that guilt is capable of destroying the planet, or at least altering the surface of the planet beyond a point where it is hospitable for human life. Really. Guilt, as opposed to greed or laziness, is the cornerstone of public resistance to expert messages on climate change. And yet it is quite difficult to talk about this stuff without inspiring that dreaded emotion.

The most profound and easiest response to our guilt is denial. Denial can take many forms, sometimes the more absolute this is not happening as well as this change is not man-made through to this is someone else’s problem and nothing I can do will make a difference. Most of the people I talk to about climate change come up with a variation on one of these. But it is a defensive move, what they are really saying is, “Don’t talk to me about this. I don't want to feel bad about this. It is not my fault.”

And truthfully, it isn’t.

It is not your fault that climate change is happening! Were you present, powerful and in possession of all the facts, two hundred years ago when we started using fossil fuels in our technologies on a massive scale? I thought not. Therefore it is not your doing.

No living organism can exist without making some impact on the environment around it. Some things are pretty much condemned to causing harm to other things whenever their prosper; parasites as well as certain bacteria, viruses and fungi, for example. As someone born in the twentieth century, you were born into a world where we were already dependent on all sorts of unsustainable resources and practices. We were already using fossil fuels, which are by definition, a finite resource. Even if there is no climate change at all, this stuff will run out and before it does, there is likely to be a great deal more conflict and suffering over it.

Possible Outcomes for the Human Race according to our actions or inactions regarding Climate ChangeMeanwhile, unless the vast majority of scientists, who we regard as intelligent, good and conscientious on most other matters, have either made a horrible mistake or are attempting to purposely mislead us over a sustained period of time (in which case, we might as well start entertaining Creationism and Flat Earth Theory), this is also bringing about a dramatic change in our weather systems, one which is likely to become extremely dangerous to human life at some point – when and in what way remaining areas of genuine controversy.

You and I were born into a crisis situation, a crisis which people didn’t foresee and one that has only become glaringly obvious in the last few decades. It’s okay. Your conscience is clear. And indeed, if it all goes to pot, if the human species is overwhelmed by floods, hurricanes, famine and disease within tens or a few hundreds of years, it shan’t have been your fault either.

In fact, this isn’t about you and your conscience at all. To chose to act on Climate Change is a positive choice to make a meaningful contribution to everyone else around the world for many generations to come. Many of us who are alive today are not going to see many of the negative effects of Climate Change, not the real horrorshow stuff. But I believe we can fix this. We must.

On which subject, please listen to this years Reith Lectures with Prof. Jeffrey Sachs; this guy rocks, is optimistic about our ability to sort this mess out and won't make you feel guilty, I promise.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Here, there be monsters

The trouble with monsters is that they’re so damn reassuring. The stories are scary in parts, but afterwards you know you are okay because you can look around and see that there are no monsters in your immediate vicinity. You are not a monster. I am not a monster. Those people over there do not look like monsters. So we’re all safe; we’re okay.

Certainly more should be done about monsters. Oh yes. Because sometimes when you are walking home alone late at night you worry that there may be a stray monster hiding behind the bus-stop, ready to pounce on you. You hear stories. But afterwards, when you get home, you lock the door behind you and you know you are safe.

As monsters go, Cho Seung-hui is particularly reassuring. Ethnicity helps, alas; even here in the UK, we had the headline “Shooter was Korean”. Translates as he was other, a foreigner, he looked different from most of us. But the best and most important message is that he had been referred to counselling. I’m sure there’ll be a more scary-sounding post-mortem psychiatric diagnoses to follow, something more complex and with more syllables than depression. Then there had been complaints about his harassing women students.

So in summary, he is different from most of us in terms of race and disability and the motive was probably immense sexual frustration. As the days and weeks go on he will be presented as more and more other, one way or another. Eventually it will get to a stage where it seems ridiculous that anyone could not have seen this disaster coming. And everyone will feel much better.

Now, I’ll tell you a different kind of horror story.

I felt as most other people felt when I read about the shootings in Virginia. However, by Tuesday the media coverage here was becoming irritating to me; the analysis of nothing, the endless speculation about this or that, the voyeuristic dissection of events and characters. And I thought, my country is involved in an unofficial civil war one and a half thousand miles closer to home. Tomorrow they’ll be more bombings in Iraq; innocent people, just like these college students, people just as bright and bubbly and earnest and loving, will be have their lives snatched away whilst going about their daily business. But that will make for just a tiny wee headline.

The next day, over two hundred people were murdered on the streets of Baghdad.

No monsters. No profiles. No corpses reclining on the couches they couldn’t be coaxed onto in life. No names and photographs even. But ordinary people, faced with circumstances they considered intolerable, consumed with emotions they found overwhelming, chosing to commit evil. Not a good story. Not just because it’s more predictable and not just because it is perhaps easier for some people to sympathise with people who are the same colour and speak the same language as us. But because there is at all nothing reassuring about it.

There is nothing reassuring about the fact that most evil in the world – including our world, not just the war zones - is perpetrated by ordinary people. No, I will rephrase that. All of the evil in the world, including our world, is perpetrated by ordinary people. A tiny minority of those ordinary people, who made extraordinarily bad choices, have mental health labels and even fewer have one of those labels are what is officially described as a serious mental illness.

Cho Seung-hui was not a monster. If we pretend he was, we feel better but we learn nothing. If we pretend he did what he did because he was ill, we feel better but we learn nothing. He didn't snap, he hadn't become completely unstuck from reality; the guy planned this. And nobody saw it coming; people around him will be berating themselves for some time to come about any signs they might have picked up on, but there weren't any above an beyond the angst and morbidity that many young men and women go through. There wasn't nearly enough to suspect he was so very dangerous.

But the most important and frightening thing about the man’s psychology is that his own determination to gain infamy in death - which was what this was all about - completely overrided any consideration for the innocent lives he was going to take. He didn't care about those people at all, he thought himself and his vanity so very much more important. And he actively chose to commit a great evil.

Now that has little to do with an illness.

Some Americans who blogged about their own news story: Blue guesting at Avast!, Yanub and FlawedPlan have written about the mental health blaming exercise, Marymurtz is also turning off the media coverage and Midlife & Treachery is positive about campus life.

And a timely reminder, an article by the great Prof. Phil Zimbardo.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Sex and Gender: An introduction.

One of the phrases that folks type into Google only to find themselves here by mistake is:

How do you tell the gender of a goldfish?

Or more charmingly,

How can I tell if my goldfish a boy or a girl?

And even

Is my goldfish a lady fish or a gentleman fish?

(To which the answer is surely, a gentleman fish always holds the pond-weed to one side while the lady fish swims by.)

The reason such searches lead people here as opposed to more sensible resources on biology or fish-keeping is that there aren’t any boy fish or girl fish, lady fish or gentleman fish. There are merely male fish, female fish and ambiguous fish. The goldfish has sex. It does not have gender.

Sex is biological. It is not strictly binary, but a question of typicality; the typical male of any given species of animal has goolies that look roughly like this (that’s your mental picture, not mine), is about this size and shape and has this kind of chemical and physiological activity going on at the various stages of its development. Similarly, the typical female. Sex is determined in biology according to which group of typical attributes any given organism most closely resembles. In humans and other mammals, there is a focus on the external sexual organs; whether an organism has an inny or an outy. Of course some organisms, in all species including human beings, have both an inny and an outy, some have one or the other but carry sex chromosomes that don’t match and there can be all number of other ambiguities. But these exist naturally; mutations happen, need to happen. Sometimes this means an organism cannot reproduce.

However, goldfish don’t have innies or outies – in fact, a female goldfish’s vent or cloaca (the all-purpose exit) sticks out a bit whereas the male’s goes in. Similarly, most birds don’t mate by penetration; if you are in Europe, are reading this in daylight and look out the window just now, you will be probably be able to see what they get up to, the feathery little fornicators!

Thus, the widest defining criteria of the sexes is the reproductive role; females produce eggs and males fertilise them. What happens next is hugely various – in goldfish, the entire business takes place outside the body and my observations seem to suggest that it is followed by profound embarrassment, resulting in an attempt to eat up all the evidence.

However, big trouble with this is that sex depends on reproduction taking place. Many organisms are not actively reproducing for long periods of their lives – humans being an obvious example. If a person does not or cannot reproduce, cannot produce eggs, cannot fertilise eggs, are they technically sexless?

So you see, although sex is biological fact and facts are immovable, we are looking at something fairly messy, something which is not easy to put into a few neat sentences which summarise the situation of all life on Earth. Just be grateful I didn’t get onto plants.

Gender is something quite different. The first place most people come across the word gender is learning non-English European languages. You use different articles according to the gender of the noun. French nouns, for example, have two genders, masculine and feminine, whereas nouns in Spanish and the Teutonic languages have the addition of neuter. In English we still sometimes treat ships, vehicles and countries as feminine. And that’s what gender is; the quality of being masculine or feminine. In language there are historical rules about which is which. In society, it is more complicated.

Obviously, when applied to people, there is a supposed correlation between gender and biological sex, but there are some major differences.

The first is that gender is completely and rigidly binary; you are either a man or a woman, either a he or a she and it is other people who make this initial determination. Obviously, you arrive in your Birthday suit and everyone present can assess your inny/outy status. This determines whether you are dressed in pink or blue and for the first few years, this is how other people will decide what you are. People really don’t like being uncertain, even when you are far too young to care. Later people will judge you partly by your body shape, skull structure and voice, but also your gait, the clothes you wear, your hairstyle and other behavioural traits that have nothing at all to do with biology.

Thus it is more accurate to ask for someone's gender when finding information about them. It is far easier to determine, and it covers the possibility that someone has chosen to embrace a gender other than the one that corresponds with their sex. It is also the case that if you ever put the word Sex on a form, a proportion of the populace are compelled to answer "Yes please!"

However, despite the immovable concept of two genders, the parameters of the two genders are always changing. Clothes and make-up are obvious, if very superficial, examples; who plays the peacock, which gender should be ornamented, has swung back and forth throughout history. But it gets much sillier than that.

For example, a feminine body-shape. Again, it’s kind of superficial but for that reason it’s very easily understood. With sex, there are some typical characteristics associated with being female, but gender demands an archetype where there is none. Western fashions of the twentieth century alone have seen the feminine ideal be petite, then supermodel tall, boyishly straight, then curvaceous, stick-thin then big-breasted. Folks use the word natural to talk about hairlessness, make-up, shaping underwear. Similarly, different cultures in the world today idealise completely different shapes and sizes and focus on all sorts of different areas of the body to define what is feminine.

Of course, part of this is about aesthetics, but that’s the whole point; gender, our very expectations – as well as our idealisations – of femininity or masculinity, are effected by the aesthetic tastes of a particular time and place. And everything else that’s going on.

And thus we have the tremendous quandary of nature versus nurture. Or sex versus gender.

People start treating you like a boy or a girl from birth, sometimes even earlier. And this effect is not to be underestimated. There have been studies performed which demonstrate that women will usually treat even the smallest babies differently according to their beliefs about their gender; allowing babies supposed to be feminine to cry for significantly longer before feeding and comforting them. Why this happens is immensely complicated and the effect it has is probably quite subtle, but it is there all the time. By the time children can be observed exercising choices, it is already impossible to determine to what extent those choices have been already conditioned by the world around them.

Thus when behavioural difference arise in men and women – again, we must speak of typicalities, typical differences in behaviour and aptitude – it is almost impossible to say which traits are conditioned and which imply a difference in wiring, in hormone levels, in brain architecture. Indeed, our wiring, our hormone levels and our brain architecture as adults have been influenced by our life experiences. If you have never been asked to perform a mathematical task, then you may arrive at adulthood with that area of your brain somewhat underdeveloped.

Ultimately, it’s all a big mess and muddle and nobody really has a hope of dissecting it.

However, it is important to be aware of. It is important to be aware of this very fundamental way in which we are shaped by society and to actively resist it whenever it causes a problem, particular in ourselves. Many people enjoy gender; it helps to enforce a certain order on things, define a role – especially for women. That’s why, in my humble and highly controversial opinion, women have a far greater investment in gender, just as women dominate the opposition to it. Different women, obviously.

But resistance for resistance's sake is no good either. There is a great danger that resistance can wind up with us just swapping our baggage for the baggage of the other gender. Masculinity and feminity are both silly and restrictive in their different ways. However, they also have their good points.

Mary Wollstonecraft was dismayed by her particular society where all the virtues worth having were believed to be the property of men alone; bravery, justice, strength and wisdom. Women weren't expected or encouraged to be these things, and indeed, their restricted lives and lack of education meant that few of them were. These days, there are also certain virtues with which are often accredited to women, such as empathy and compassion.

It is therefore far better to attempt to combine the best bits of both these constructs in deciding who we're going to be, rather than attempting to throw off what we've been given in its entirety.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Blogging Against Disablism Day, May 1st, 2007

To read blogs against disablism, please go to the May 1st Post.

Skip to: How to participate in Blogging Against Disablism Day : HTML code for links and banners : Accessibility : Language Amnesty : Leave a Comment

Blogging Against Disablism Day, May 1st 2007Last year on 1st May, with the invaluable help of Lady Bracknell and with the support of many other bloggers, I hosted the first Blogging Against Disablism Day where almost a hundred and fifty people joined together to write about disability and rail against the discrimination that disabled people continue to face. Both disabled and non-disabled people wrote about all manner of subjects, from discrimination in education and employment, through health care, parenting, family life and relationships, as well as the interaction of disablism with other forms of prejudice.

It was a great success, and as early as March this year, folks began to ask about this year's Blogging Against Disablism Day. So here it comes.

I am not very good at rousing calls, so if anyone is in need of one, I shall refer you back to Lady Bracknell's magnificent One in Seven.

How to Participate in Blogging Against Disablism Day

1. Leave a comment below to say you intend to join in. I will then add you to the list of participants on the sidebar of this blog.

2. Spread the word by linking to this site, displaying our banner and/ or telling everyone about it.

3. On Tuesday, May 1st - or as near to as you are able - post something on the subject of Disabilism, Ableism or Disability Discrimination (see Language Amnesty). You can write on any subject, specific or general, personal, social or political, anything which states an objection to the differential treatment of disabled people.

4. Come back to Diary of a Goldfish to let everyone know you've posted and to check out what other people have written.

This year I am also going to ask folks to place their posts in a category (on the day, not in advance) where possible. Last year, Lady Bracknell and myself read every single post on the day and determined which category the link should go under so that the day was archived in a manageable way (as you can see here). That is simply not be doable this year, at least not within any useful timescale after the event.

HTML codes for links and banners

You can copy and paste the following in order to create a link to this post

or you can copy and paste one of the following onto a blog post or sidebar in order to display a banner which links to this post. I'm afraid the banners are my doing, a somewhat rush job and may be subject to some interpretation. If anybody wants to come up with their own design, you are more than welcome.

Blogging Against Disablism DayThis is the black and white banner which reads Blogging Against Disablism.

Blogging Against Disablism DayThis is the colourful banner which reads Blogging Against Disablism

Edit: You can also have narrower banners, didn't want to clutter this post up too much (ha!) so I put them here.


Everyone is welcome to join in with Blogging Against Disablism day, disabled and non-disabled, as long as you wish to blog against the discrimination that disabled people experience. Last year, I was rather surprised to have questions from people with mental health impairments who wondered whether their experience counted as disability. Of course it does! My one regret was that I initially turned down a person with Body Integrity Identity Disorder (a condition where a person feels the need or desire to acquire a physical impairment, most commonly an amputation or paralysis). As it was, despite my apprehensions, their contribution was entirely in the spirit of Blogging Against Disablism and so they were included in the final list.

If anybody has any access issues, please speak up. I am not an expert in this area. Alternative blogging formats, such a podcasts or video are more than welcome. If you cannot leave a comment on this blog for any reason, please e-mail me (this is temporary e-mail address and will only exist until Blogging Against Disablism is over this year).

Last year the issue was raised that holding this on one day meant that people who were not able to blog that day for various reasons might be left out. This year, I should take the opportunity to emphasise; if you want to do it before hand so that it's done, or if you are late with your post, I am not going to exclude you from the final list. Obviously, it would be good to have as many posts as possible on 1st May, that's the point, but so long as you do it thereabouts, that's fine.

Language Amnesty

The language we use around disability and discrimination varies widely, and talking about language is a very important part of understanding the way that disabled people are perceived by society. Language is a completely legitimate subject for discussion on Blogging Against Disablism day, but I do ask that we allow other people to use the language which they feel most comfortable with. Differences may include the way that disabled people are described; as disabled people, people with disabilities, the disabled, etc.; as well as the very word for the discrimination we experience.

Ableism or Ablism is the term more commonly used in the United States and thus more prevalent on the Internet as a whole. Then there's the simple and perhaps most easily understood term of Disability Discrimination. I am using Disablism because that makes sense to me in the context of my own disability politics; that is to say that I happen to think it is a better term. However, given the breadth and depth of the issues we are facing, I don't wish to argue this too strongly.

If you would prefer to use Ableism or Disability Discrimination, please do so. If there is an interest, I can even create extra banners for this purpose.

Right, is there anything I missed?

More Banners

I have lied about when this was posted to keep the Blogging Against Disablism Day announcement at the top of the page for a while longer. I have however created more banners for the purposes of placing them on narrow (150 pixel) sidebars. They are exactly 150 x 200, if that's of any interest to anyone.

Blogging Against Disablism Day, May 1st 2007This is the code for the black and white one:

Blogging Against Disablism Day, May 1st 2007This is the code for the colourful one:

I may add to this post if anyone else has any ideas or requests.

Monday, April 16, 2007

How many kinds of sweet flowers grow in a somewhat neglected garden?

I was going to write another serious boring post today, but instead I shall show you pictures of flowers. Charles Dawson has been sharing the manifestations of spring in his garden and I've been watching the ongoing progress of spring over on Kethry's Blog.

It is really great having a garden, even though we've done almost nothing with it so far and being rented accomodation, there's not been much done with it in the recent past. All we've done is put a picnic bench out and some pots full of pansies, which I didn't bother photographing today.

Fortunately, I like weeds! Perhaps I have some sort of affinitywith them, I don't know, but I think they're really pretty I like daisis and dandelions and nettles - of which we have two varieties! We also have some things with long stalks and tiny white flowers which were impossible to photograph.

Nettles with white flowersWhen I attempted to discover the names for our two varieties of nettles and to work out whether or not they stung, I discovered that next month they're holding a Be Nice To Nettles week. And so we should. I think. Probably.

Nettles with purple flowersApparently what we have here are Purple Dead Nettles and White Dead Nettles or as I prefer, the Purple Archangel and White Archangel and neither of them sting. The bumble bees seem particularly keen on the white ones. If I like, I can mash the stuff up and make a detoxifying tea for my kidneys or a compress for my wounds. Like in The Outlaw Josey Wales. Very useful stuff.

Bizarrely, we also have one or two proper flowers and I could do with some help with identification. Is this flower, on the left a poppy or a tulip? There are two of them so far. I thought tulip, but then I thought, perhaps it is a poppy? Thus I display the true depths of my horticultural ignorance.

I know that these are bluebells on the right, of which we have a few scatterings. Not as many as Sally got to see the other day.

I suppose bluebells may be considered a weed as well. Who cares? I am kind of rambling on at this stage such that the photographs don't run into one another, can you tell?

Possibly a primulaAnd is this here a primrose? Or perhaps a primula? Any ideas? It is just sat there in the middle of the lawn, which needs cutting. I am wondering whether it is possible to rescue the thing?

In other news, I have nearly given up reading my news on the BBC News website after, following the news of futher discussion of the latest Mental Health Bill in parliament, they decided to have a Have Your Say debate entitled Should the mentally ill be detained against their will?

Not even Should some mentally ill people be detained against their will? which wouldn't have been a very pertinent question, considering that some people with mental health impairments always have been detained against their will for periods and all that is suggested is a change in the criteria and process. It is an important debate. Proposed changes include detaining people who are anticipated to behave dangerously, and detaining people who are not felt to be able to benefit from treatement - such as people defined as having Personality Disorders (horrible diagnosis that). But these issues are really complex and really extremely important for disabled people and society at large. Should the mentally ill be detained against their will? is a bit like saying Should all immigrants be deported?

See, did manage a little bit of serious and boring, after all.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

The Violent Femmes

Sexism never pisses me off more than when it involves children. When it involves children and violence, well, then I get really very cross.

For those outside the UK, there have been a number of murders of boys by others boys in London in the past few months. My count is six; three stabbings, three shootings, “gang warfare” they reckon, although they are just kids. To be honest, I find it deeply upsetting. Part of the reason I don’t want to have children myself is that the idea of children being hurt causes an almost physical revulsion in me. It doesn’t matter if they are big tough grumpy teenagers. Or indeed, big tough grumpy and black.

However, six killings in two months involving mostly black male children in our capital city and our Communities Minister Ruth Kelly insists this problem is about isolated individuals. Six isolated individuals dying in similar circumstances in the same city within a space of weeks. Meanwhile, what about white female children? One killing in the last few years, a slight drop in rates of crime among young women, but a few very nasty, highly publicised incidents. Naturally, it's a outrage.
BBC news: Violent girls making the headline.
The article is one of those standard finger-wagging exercises. Women or girls are perceived to have begun to indulge in a previously male-dominated vice. The causes of this vice must be gender-specific, something wrong with girls, as opposed to something wrong with the concerned individuals or society in general. Just as many imply that those boys in London are killing one another because they are black, not because of anything in themselves or in the culture they occupy – or, far more likely, a deadly combination of both.

But this article really did take the biscuit, the link to it posing the question: Is violence among teenage girls misguided feminism? Then they quoted an expert who stated (among far more sensible observations, to be fair)
"And it's not a way of attracting boys either like some girls might think. Boys might find aggressive women in music videos attractive, but they don't want to take them home and marry them."

Which is an important message for all fourteen year old girl bullies in the UK in 2007; contrary to appearances, beating up on a person is no way to land yourself a husband.

Okay, so girls gone wrong; a brief explanation.

Remember penis envy? Freud came to the conclusion that much of the neuroses he came across in the upper-class young women he saw were due to penis envy. Thing was, these women were consumed by envy for their brothers, sometimes their husbands. Meanwhile, they were deeply frustrated with the sort of lives they got to lead; very proper, very passive and downright boring. Well, it is obvious why this was the case. Why else would a woman be ill at ease in a highly restrictive feminine role and envious of her male counterparts if what she really really wanted wasn’t the facility to pee standing up? Thus penis envy.

Similarly, these girls, this ladette culture. Clearly, it is the same sort of thing; girls trying to act like boys in all the wrong ways. For male attention. Or to be like the boys. Either way, it has something to do with penises. Everything has. Then again...

Why do some boys and men behave in an aggressive way, have fights, get drunk, sleep around and so on? Has this got anything to do with their relationship with women? Well yes, it’s in there. But there is also the fact that human beings have strong emotions that need to take vent, and tend to take vent in the easiest, most socially acceptable way possible. Loutish behaviour isn’t socially acceptable in the wider sense, but is acceptable among the peer group (in certain peer groups), whilst putting two fingers up at parent-figures, the authorities and, very often, women – who are a complicated bunch and frequently the cause of young masculine frustration.

And what about the women? Well, there is the fact that human beings have strong emotions that need to take vent and tend to take vent in the most socially acceptable way possible. (Psst, just to clarify: women are human beings.) Loutish behaviour has become more acceptable among the peer group, whilst putting two fingers up at parent-figures, the authorities and, very often, men – who are a complicated bunch and frequently the cause of young feminine frustration.

Is this a problem? Of course it is. People get hurt and people can get killed. This sort of violence is particularly dangerous because it is relatively easy to seriously injure a person through luck rather than judgement; you hit them too hard at the wrong angle, they fall badly and that’s it.

Is this a gender specific problem? No.

In the nineteen-twenties and thirties, only a tiny wee number of road accidents involved women drivers. Did this mean that women were inherently better drivers? Well no, because only a very small proportion of drivers were female. Permit women to drive, and inevitably there is an increase in road accidents involving women. Stop men driving altogether and all the road accidents will involve women drivers.

So this is a by-product of increasing sexual equality? A downside to feminism?

Well, if it is anything new, yes. I am unconvinced that there hasn’t been violent bullying among girls forever, which has only become more visible by a general increase in the possession of weapons among children and phenomena like happy slapping. Certainly, girls have always been proficient verbal bullies, which involves a great deal of aggression and sadism, even in the absence of physical assault.

There aren’t that many differences between the factors which lead girls to violence than those which lead boys. The biggest difference is cultural; our culture is jam-packed with movies, songs and images which associate masculinity with violence or specifically, good men overcoming the problems they face through violence. But girls are just as capable of becoming frustrated, frightened, power-hungry and generally discontented with the world as boys are.

And the solution is the same in both cases. Nothing about re-educating girls about how to be girls, as the article suggests, but about educating all children to be decent human beings. To teach children to respect one another - something which is pretty hard to do if you don't first teach them to respect themselves. To provide children with role models and the means to vent the frustrations of life, particularly young life, without causing harm to oneself or others. Sports, including the Martial Arts. Music. Drama. The Visual Arts. And to give those children who tend to fall victim to bullying, tools for empowerment and resilience (because whilst all bullying is a bad thing, one does have to cope with small-time tyrants throughout life).

Of course, some children will always go wrong for all number of reasons. Some boys, some girls.
But we're not going to make any difference to anybody if we cling onto fairytale ideas about what girls or women ought to be like.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Some of them want to abuse you, some of them want to be abused

Recently, there has been much debate about how to control nastiness in the blogosphere. Anna suggests that doing away with anonymous comments would solve much of the problem (something Charles Dawson wrote about some time ago). In a way, I agree with her; there’s not much excuse not to devise some screen-name. But most of the anonymous comments I have received have been very nice, some deeply moving and I have occassionally used the facility myself when contributing to discussions of a very intimate nature.

Mike at Troubled Diva weighs in on the responsibility of publishing systems like Blogger, who, as Mary discovered among others, really don't seem to take their responsibilities seriously when it comes to harassment and defamation. Mike also writes about the use of the word 'friend' when referring to everyone with whom you share links with on Myspace, Twitter, etc.

Civility Enforced, pinched by permission from Unreliable WitnessMeanwhile, the Unreliable Witness gets very shirty about the idea of a Blogger’s Code of Conduct, as proposed by Tim Reilly. When I first saw this suggested logo, with Her Majesty the Queen endorsing (or perhaps personally enforcing) civil conduct, I envisaged a uniquely British code of conduct, which could insist on the correct spelling of all sorts of words, as well as accurate grammar; fora, instead of forums, correct use of the concepts of inference and implication, I am nauseated as opposed to I feel nauseous etc., etc.. Fortunately, I decided this would amuse me and no-one else.

I have been very lucky in so far as this blog is rather obscure and unpopular (no, sorry, it is a refined taste, a blog to which only the most sophisticated reader is drawn), my commenters are all very lovely people and my writing style tends to have a sophorific effect on trolls, imps, hobgoblins and others of the more malevolent creatures of t'interweb folklore.

Despite this, I have long thought about writing some sort of Commenting Policy, just for the record, in case anyone challenges the decisions I make. One of the best examples I have seen is Andrea's House Rules and House Rules Redux. Unfortunately, I'm sure that those folks determined to leave unpleasant comments wouldn't actually click on such a link, let alone read it. In fact, all the unwelcome comments I have ever received haved been from folks who clearly haven't read a single word of content. Often they are placed merely to draw others across to another website. My favourite of these was (from a personal blogger, not a spambot);
I don’t know whether I like this site or not. Try to be more Christian!
Another commented on the length of my penis (again, a real blogger), which offended me even though the assertion was quite accurate - alas, I really am lacking in that department. However, such things are easily deleted and those sorts of people never come back.

However, none of the baddies in all this - those types I assume to be adolescent boys who find themselves with a box they can type in and just have to write something, or indeed those folks who, for whatever reason, are set on persistent harrassment and abuse - are going to pay the slightest bit of notice to guidelines, whether these are guidelines I devised myself, or guidelines we devised as a community.

The only real cure is increased consciousness and enforcement of the law. You're never going to stop people being arseholes. People can be arseholes wherever you go, they just are sometimes, and you can only feel sorry for them and shuffle away. However, in all the cases where on-line nastiness has moved from annoying to disturbing, the law is being broken.

The law and the Internet don't always mix too well because of the local nature of the former and the international nature of the latter. What's more, there are some brave bloggers who are breaking the draconian laws of their own countries in order to blog, in order to speak up about human rights abuses, political corruption and the suppression of free speech.

However, as I understand it, blogging clients such as Blogger, Wordpress and so on do have a legal responsibility that their software and crucially, their server space, is not used for criminal purposes in the country where those servers are held, which I guess would be the United States. Nobody should be able to use those machines to incite hatred, arrange criminal activity or harass individuals. They wouldn't allow us to post child pornography, would they? So why let anyone break the law with words?

Edit: Someone mentioned the other day about a glitch in Blogger causing their posts to be "Don't allow comments" by default. Typically, this hadn't happen to me until I posted this one...

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Drug trafficking and another purple hair disappointment

We met our new GP this morning, who couldn't have been lovelier. I was just a touch nervous, as I guess anyone with chronic illness is when meeting a new GP, hoping that they get it without too much explanation. But she got it. Indeed, the doctor was one of these rare people who you have to deal with, who it turns out to be a pleasure to deal with.

The only negative is that this particular local health authority refuse to pay for certain drugs which are available over the counter drugs. The cost in itself isn't a problem; it will cost me just over £1 a week to pay for my own paracetamol. The problem is that buying the stuff without prescription, you can only buy thirty-two tablets at a time. That's four days' worth, if I'm taking maximum dose.

This rule was put into place as a suicide prevention measure. Paracetamol overdose provides a very nasty and very slow death through liver failure, but being cheap and widely available, it has long been a popular choice for self-poisoning. Truthfully, you would pretty much guarantee liver damage and risk complete liver failure and death if you took all thirty-two tablets, but not as much as if you took a hundred, which is how many I used to get on prescription (which was okay, because the prescribing doctor can judge that I wouldn't take them all at once).

There is, of course, nothing to stop you stockpiling or from buying several lots of thirty-two tablets from several different shops in the same day. Indeed, someone suggested that the real reasoning for this restriction hinges on the restorative mood-lifting powers of exercise; a brisk walk between the two chemists might be enough to make someone change their mind...

Unfortunately, this poses a logistic difficulty for me, since I can only buy four days worth from a given shop on a given day. After some calculation, the only long-term option is to ask help from my folks. If both my parents and ourselves buy paracetamol at every opportunity, and then get them to smuggle the goods over the Suffolk/Norfolk border in the dead of night (safe passage signaled by a torch flashing Morse Code), I should just about have enough.

In other news (News? What news? You're rambling on about nothing, woman!), I tried to make my hair purple and it failed. It changed the colour of my hair, and it is a fairly interesting colour, but far more reddy-brown than purple. I shall maybe photograph it when I have good light. I guess that it is because, despite coming into contact with nothing more nourishing than water and bicarbonate of soda (really), my hair is in pretty good condition; it's just not porous enough to take in the colour. I shall have to think again, especially as following your encouragement, I am quite determined.

Me with not purple hairEdited, Friday Morning: Here is my hair, having been dyed purple from a start of somewhat orange. It is probably a touch more purply and interesting than it looks in the photo, but not much.

I feel rather ashamed of this appalling photograph which demonstrates my inability to achieve (attempt) a straight parting, as well as the fact I am having something of a bad face day and look like I may have been dead for a few days. Ho hum, I don't care if you don't, you wanted to see my hair colour...

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Guilt is a Useless Emotion #1

I reckon, if we’re really going to save the world, we have to get shot of all this guilt.

Truth is, there is some comfort in the hair shirt. Punish yourself enough, and you feel better about it. Enter a cycle of sin and repentance and you don’t have to worry too much about putting right your mistakes, let alone doing the right thing in the first place. It is liberating, to accept that you are a repentant sinner; doing any actual good in this life is a bonus.

For this reason, both in terms of my egalitarian beliefs as well as environmentalism, I am strongly opposed to making people feel guilty. If you succeed in making people feel guilty, you have lost them.

It’s like with nutrition. Anxiety about weight and health has created an entirely false morality around nutrition. We talk about the naughtiness of certain foods even though (sorry in all that) there is nothing naughty about a chocolate cake. If it is a stolen chocolate cake, particularly if it was stolen from a small child on its birthday, well that’s pretty naughty. However, if you just bought it with your own money (as opposed to money obtained in an armed robbery), well you are entitled to it. You can eat it all by yourself, every last crumb and they’ll be no thunderbolt. I promise. Cross my heart and hope for a slice.

Unfortunately for those who want to lose weight, this morality around the nutritional value of food (as opposed to its origins, production and transportation which have real ethical consequences) doesn’t dramatically alter the way most people eat. For one thing, it is inconsistent; read enough of the wrong sort of magazines, and you will read every food product there ever was condemned as fattening or bad for your internal Feng Shui or whatever. So folks end up simply accepting that they are bound to feel guilty about their weight, guilty about very much of the food they eat, and little changes. If I lost a pound for every time I heard someone say, “Oh, I mustn’t eat this, but…” I’d be nothing but skin and bone.

I did encounter a chocolate cake at the weekend. Five women in the room ate some, but not one merely accepted the offer without condition.

“Only a very small piece for me, please.”
“Oh I mustn’t, but I suppose it is Easter.”
“Do you happen to know what the GI is?”
“I just know it’ll go straight on my thighs.”
And I, by far the podgiest in the room, declared, “I’ll have as much as is left after this lot, thanks!”

Not really, but arguably, guilt around food does more harm than good because ‘bad’ foods become an indulgence, a digression with which we reward our good behaviour or comfort ourselves. After all, where there’s no straight-forward avenue of repentance, guilt doesn’t feel good; it actually makes you feel extremely sorry and extremely powerless. So we rebel against it.

As with chocolate cake, as with the rest of the universe. It is this rebellion which does so much damage for those of us who believe we can make the world a better place. It is at the heart of all backlash, all denial about privilege, inequality, the impact of our actions upon the environment or any other ethical subject there is. It also cause conflict between those of us who share very similar objectives.

But worst of all, it can stop us from accepting responsibility, which is quite a different creature.

Monday, April 09, 2007

The Long and Winding Road

Yesterday was a very long day. The main drama was entirely unbloggable, several levels of unbloggable. It involved someone being told something that they shouldn't have been told in circumstances where I shouldn't have known either about the something or the telling. The principle conclusion being that some human beings behave in very strange and illogical ways, and I am probably related to most of them.

Mostly a good day though.

I got to meet my two youngest cousins at last. I had thought of them as babies, but they’re not even toddlers any more. They are however, extraordinarily active and extraordinarily noisy. Happy with it, though, which is the important thing. Best line of little girl to twin brother; “Pooey! You smell like pyjamas!”

I said the wrong thing to my Gran. During a lengthy discussion about her medical problems, she complained (as she often does) that if she was the Queen Mother, doctors wouldn't stop until they cured her of all her ailments. I gently suggested that just now, Gran was doing ever so slightly better than the Queen Mother. Big Mistake.

I got to see my Granny Kelly who has put on weight and looks about ten years younger than she did this time last year.

I was invited to the wedding of two people who I have neither met nor had any contact with whatsoever.

I got an Easter Egg. I really didn’t expect to get an Easter Egg.

It was beginning to get dark by the time we got home, and we saw a fox, two rats and seven deer. Seven deer. Not all at once; most of the deer seemed to be grazing in pairs by the side of the road. I’ve never seen so many; in fact, I can’t remember seeing a deer so close to the road before and it’s fairly rare to see a fox.

Right now, my Mum, Dad and [...] are attempting to put the kitchen ceiling back. Sounds painful.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Happy Easter.

So I think my hair is probably going to turn purple sometime next week...

I had a really lovely day yesterday, unexpectedly. I woke up early enough to watch the sunrise, which it was very pleasant, but condemned the day as far as I was concerned. But then I fell back to sleep and was woken up several hours later by the phone ringing and my folks inviting us out. We went for a walk in the forest, and it was completely gorgeous. We saw a lizard. It was a Common Lizard. There are 4796 species of lizard in the world, apparently, and the one we saw was the common one. Great. We didn't take our camera though; I'm sure you would have mesmerised by the sight of this thing, which was not only greenish-brown but also somewhat speckly. It would have taken your breath away.

Then we came home and had a picnic at our newly acquired picnic table in the back garden. All of which was very nice indeed.

Tomorrow I am going to visit my grandmothers. It is rather strange to me to be actually doing stuff on the Easter weekend; it usually passes utterly without event. This year, it wasn't until Thursday that I even reaslied Easter was upon us. Anyway, some serious resting up required today.

Hope you all have a great Easter weekend, whatever you are up to.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

The Great Purple Hair Dilemma of 2007

As you’ve probably gathered, my hair is one part of my appearance I have regular crises about. This is because it is the one thing I have some control over.

Veronica Veronese by Dante Gabriel RossettiI tried to dye my hair purple last week, but as a friend wisely pointed out, purple was one of the last colours they managed to invent an effective dye for, so it seemed unlikely I would be able to develop such a thing myself out of herbs and berries. My concoction involved a large quantity of henna, and now I look rather like Veronica here. I didn’t seriously expect it to work, if I’m completely honest. I shall call my concoction Agent Orange in tribute to Eternal Sunshine.

So after much arm-twisting, I was persuaded to buy some purple dye. It arrived today and suddenly I am in crisis.

Do I want purple hair?

There's a bit of guilt in here. During the first couple of years I was ill, I used to feel terribly guilty about wearing colourful nail varnish. Because really I should have been at school and at school, where I wouldn’t have been allowed to wear nail varnish. Similarly, I feel guilty about the idea of having purple hair when, if I was in regular work, I wouldn't get away with it.

Veronica Veronese, mirrored and purpleAnd I'm thinking, if I have purple hair, will people think, no wonder she’s not got a proper job, she has purple hair?

Or will they think, ah, there’s the Goldfish, you can tell she is an eccentric artistic type as she has purple hair?

Or will they think, poor woman, not only has she been crippled by the Dreaded Lurgy, it has also turned her hair purple?

And is it all right to have purple hair in rural East Anglia? In Whitby, nobody would have blinked a heavily powdered eyelid, but there might be a lot of porphyrophobia around these parts.

Also, and this does occur to me, perhaps I am (ahem) too old to have purple hair? I am twenty-six; maybe I really should have got all this sort of thing out of my system in my teens. I don't much like it when people who grow up, but most people do and most people expect me too. And what will my mother think?!

I am also conflicted because the dye is called Manic Panic, and I'm not sure I am very comfortable endorsing a product which uses mental health terms to advertise cosmetics (although they are punks, and punks may be a special case). But then the colour is called Purple Haze and I like that.

It will be a fairly dark purple as I have no intention of bleaching my hair before hand. And it will eventually wash out. And if I do do it, I am going to wait at least until the end of next week, after I have met and made a good impression on my new GP.

But what do you think? Do you think? Can't you see this is important, dammit?!

Next time I shall return to far more trivial matters. In the meantime, check out the 35th Carnival of Feminists at the F-Word.

Edited: I also told you that the Disability Blog Carnival was today, but it's not until next week. I appear to have lost a week. Then I read something that said today was Maundy Thursday. I was completely oblivious. Is this Easter Weekend coming up then? What? How? My apologies if I befuddled anyone else.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Coming out of my shellsuit

Bit brighter, thank you all. This may prove unpopular as it is a bit of a is this just me?

I generally stay away from discussions around class, mostly because they oversimplify a very complex and subtle subject. Plus, nobody wants me in their camp; I’m too far up my own arse to be working-class and far too poor - and far too free with the word arse - to be middle-class. Should I claim to be one or the other, I am duly disowned. During one discussion, some friends and concluded that the three of us made up the Impoverished Intelligentsia. But alas, that doesn’t really stick – the other two were plebs, quite frankly.

Anyway, I have just about had enough of the word chav. It is one of those words and phrases that, like political correctness, have slipped into our language, starting out as a joke and quickly becoming something otherwise sensible people talk about in a serious way.

For readers outside the UK, chav is a slang word which has sprung from nowhere in the last few years. It’s definition probably comes close to what US Americans call White Trash, although as far as I know, colour doesn’t come into it. The etymology is probably from the Romany words chavi or chavo (male and female child), but others have said it is an acronym for Council-Housed And Violent or Council-House Associated Vermin.

In other words, poor people. Or perhaps, in fairness, poor and unpleasant people. But one gets the distinct impression that poverty is more important than unpleasantness.

There have always been slang words for what the speaker regards as the dregs of society; pikies, neds, townies, scallies or, where I come from, the lumpenproletariat. However, the popularity of chav seems particular sinister because it has become so universally accepted as a concept and used in all manner of contexts, by all manner of speakers who would not otherwise use this kind of word.
“But it isn’t a class thing,” I am told. “A chav has tastes vulgar tastes. They wear bling, loads of cheap bulky gold-imitation jewellery, baseball caps and designer sportswear. They listen to R&B music, are obsessed with celebrity, eat fast food and drive those silly modified cars with the lowered chassis and holes drilled into the exhaust pipe.”
So it isn’t about money, just aesthetic snobbery? Okay, aesthetic snobbery I can do. I personally despair of those poor wretches, those six and a half billion or so, who don’t share my sophisticated tastes in music, films and books. To say nothing of those hapless fools who don’t dress with nearly so much style, panache and crushed velvet as I do, only there are rather a lot of them. Yet I don't think that's quite it.

I know plenty of well-educated and high-earning people who listen to R&B music, eat fast food and drive cars which can hardly be described as sensible for their needs. Whether they hide behind irony or not. And lots of determinedly middle-class people are completely obsessed with celebrity – or more, completely obsessed with observing how other less sophisticated people are completely obsessed with celebrity, before analysing the celebrities in question and demonstrating remarkable expertise on the subject they are so enthusiastically disinterested in.

But that’s fine. Different folks, different strokes. I am told,
“You’ve missed the point entirely! A chav is a thug, a yob, a person who gets hideously drunk, starts fights and has unprotected sex; the women have many children, all by different men, none of them work, they all live off benefits which they supplement with the proceeds of petty crime. And they’re taking over the country!”
You can tell all that from a tracksuit and a sovereign ring? Wow.

I am not that na├»ve. I instinctively feel that if I’m going to be mugged by anyone, they are more likely to be wearing a tracksuit than a dinner jacket. There is undoubtedly a relationship between socio-economic status and certain sorts of crime, anti-social behaviour and other social problems. However, if we want to talk seriously about social issues, we cannot place people in tribes and dismiss an entire tribe as being responsible for the downfall of society, muddling cultural, aesthetic and intellectual differences with criminality and sweeping social trends. Any society that begins to profile its parasites, however informally, is making a big mistake. And if our society is in downfall, then all of us, as members of said society, have both some responsibility for what is happening and the power to intervene.

Frankly, we should all read more George Bernard Shaw, about the undeserving poor and all that. However, I shall end on an entirely different literary note with the most powerful poem I know about the complex class system in the United Kingdom, by Mr John Hegley.

A Poem About The Town Of My Upbringing And The Conflict Between My Working Class Origins And The Middle Class Status Conferred Upon Me By A University Education.

I remember Luton
As I'm swallowing my crouton.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Someone saved my life tonight

The mad scientist that lives in the attic at the top of my head has had his chemistry set out again. I can hear the bubbling and spluttering and occasionally there's a little explosion from in there, black steam and a funny smell. Yesterday was seriously grim. I very almost deleted this entire blog for no reason whatsoever. Wanton destruction, I think. I went into My Documents and instead purged a load of a hundred or so files instead. Kind of hoping it was all trash anyway...

By mid-afternoon I was in that awful numb state where you can't feel anything. This is nasty, I haven't felt like that in years. When you literally can't taste anything and you play a piece of beautiful music which usually has you bawling your heart out and nothing, completely cold. Horrible feeling. Dangerous feeling. I had been fine on Saturday. I think.

A rather troubled night, all sorts of bizarre dreams (deeply regret watching Pan's Labirynth with my head not firmly screwed on). Then this morning I woke up with my beloved alarm-clock leaning over me with his arms around me, and it felt like he had there and then just dragged me up out of whatever I had been drowning in. Really I was just getting my wake-up hug, which I frequently sleep through.

And I felt miles better, completely better. Euphoric, in fact.

And then I tried to sit up.

Among all manner of other nonsense, I had been dreaming about a gigantic woman who had sat on me by accident. I was rather embarrassed because this woman was huge, she was fantastically fat, bigger than anybody ever is in real life, about ten foot tall as well and looking like something out of a Terry Gilliam animation. And she had accidentally sat down on top of me and I really didn’t want to say anything or draw attention to myself in any way because I knew she would be terribly embarrassed if I did. So I politely allowed myself to be squashed. As you would.

Which probably says more about what my body was up to than my psyche, as it hurt. A lot. It still hurts. And I still feel altogether rather fragile, a little blue and very tired.

So perhaps it is something viral. Or some Lurgy event that won't make any sense. I have decided, reassured myself that what I felt yesterday must have been something like that; I was getting rather down about my book, but even I don't take it that seriously. Nothing worth jumping from a great height for, not by a long chalk.

Stupid, stupid brain.