31 May 2006

X Factor Again

Irrespective of anything else that may or may not be going on, James Hewitt and Rebecca Loos may have put in a lot of effort but they have systematically failed to hit a single note, in a single song, between the two of them.

Quite honestly I like James' attitude which is pretty gung-ho and he is being a gentleman in avoiding any suggestion that he feels he has a right to be on the show.

I just don't understand whats going on with the voting and why they are still in the running, purely on the basis that they both seem to be tone deaf.

Is anyone in the UK blogosphere actually voting for them? I'd love to know because I suspect that someone on salary (to who knows who) has a hundred mobiles on autodial, ie I suspect a fix.

Anybody want to illuminate me?


I am knitting a scarf. I am doing it with a very bloodyminded attitude, and in fact it is giving me satisfaction for that alone. I am an adversarial knitter.

All I need now is a curly moustache and dark opera cape to go with domineering utterances such as "Aha!" or "Pay me the rent or out in the snow with you!"

During a phonecall in which my mother declared that I had no purpose or discipline, she pretty much ordered me to take up knitting. To the uninitiated (and the forgetful, ie me a few days ago) this sounds incredibly similar to "Hey, you need to get a life, try standing on your head and twiddling your toes, it has to be an improvement." A purpose with no purpose for those determined to live purpose free.

Not so.

In actual fact at one time back in the seventies, knitting was fashionable. It was a matter of churning out product, of showing ability in that or crochet or tatting. Yeah, I know, kittens and pearls. "Oh don't mind me, I'll just get on with my knitting", or in other words, I grew to feel, "Give me a basic political or scientific construct to dissect and watch my brain behave like wet space dust / popping candy."

Once I willingly used my knitting 'skill' to create a Doctor Who style stripy scarf for a boyfriend; however after I'd gone through the delight of watching him accept and wear it, I found a bitter aftertaste in my mouth; a smouldering resentment of myself that I should fall into the trap of 'performing' for a man, like a puppy at the homeless shelter. I may as well have made him cookies it seemed - it all appeared to be part of a horrific, ritualistic dance in which the female tries to purchase security (and by that accepts it is unattainable on her own) by displaying her ability to serve a man and generally be Suzie homemaker.

I guess I suffered for watching my Grammar girls school change into a Secondary Modern, something which irked the remaining bastion of intellectual teachers and magnified their show of distaste toward anything less academic. I was damaged by the revelation that sewing and home economics, as certified courses, were only open to the girls who had no hope of a CSE and 'had to leave school with something'. The kind of girls who also got babycare classes, presumably because they were:
a) likely to get pregnant at the first opportunity and
b) likely to immediately drop the baby on it's head /into a bath of scalding water, barring the benefit of two years' concentrated practice.

We were taught, no, encouraged, to see such people and subjects as less than ideal. Aiming for University was everything. Reach that goal, they implied, and you may spend the rest of your years postulating in a laboratory or lecture hall, whilst lesser people do the 'menial' tasks. The underlying message genuinely was that those sorts of skills were for thick people.

I wasn't alone in falling for this - there are a whole generation of us who were in our most formative years when feminism reached its most aggressively militant phase. Feminist predecessors got us the vote, then we got equal pay, then we got to wear trousers (wow!) and then, still charging full steam but short of a target, the generation we were supposed to look up to began burning bras and talking about the clitoris on television.

They lied. They said this was intellectual freedom, and it should have been, it is now (thank you ladies) but for them there was fear when they claimed none. They expected ridicule and on the basis that the best form of defense is attack, they belittled men at every opportunity as a way to belittle everything that their own insecurities told them was wrong about their actions. Alright, society had given them those insecurities, but that's just peeling onions.

Needing a seemingly solid and rational reason to attack men, they pointed to family hierarchy and caricatured it. In the same way that every comedian had a mother in law who was fat, ugly, bossy and stupid, so it seemed every feminist was escaping a family life of indentured servitude and misery.

Men even played along - magazines and newspapers all deliberated on whether or not a man should hold a door open for a woman, when and whether it was 'acceptable' to 'go Dutch' on a date. After that there were years of discussion on what it involved to be a 'new man', a whole genre of movies and bad pulp fiction came out based on a heroine having to choose between Mr. Macho chauvinist and Mr. Acquiescent doormat.

I guess the whole of society was ready to say 'yes household skills are menial and demeaning' because we all, male and female, absorbed that message and moved straight on to the other stuff. Men did a number on us, so belittled what they called 'women's work' that when we stood up for ourselves we forgot to stand up for our skills at the same time. Instead we sacrificed them.

What did we teenagers know? We just sucked it up like little sponges, watching from the sidelines; too enamoured with the sparkly gifts of freedom to notice that in grabbing those we unquestioningly took on board the prejudices used to justify them. We downed tools on any 'home' skills we had acquired and neglected to pick up any more.

The after effect is that we now have several generations running around who completely fail to value home management as just that, management, and who have no idea how to do anything from scratch. Despots are remembered for massacring the intellectuals. Will our generations be remembered for doing something incredibly similar?

Go on, tell me what a woman's knitted cardigan would cost in the shops. In Monsoon it would set you back £50 to £70 ($93 to $131), even if it was a lacy one full of more holes than wool.

What would your wardrobe look like if you could sew silk?

So here I am, knitting with a fury to prove to my forgetful mother that I did once, and still can, and all the while working out what I think about it and why.

I admit I chose a fancy wool (more like sewing thread with tassles on it) to hide any mistakes, but I haven't made any yet.

I admit I am only doing plain knitting, not even stocking stitch, to keep the thing reversible. I think if I wanted to do a purl stitch I'd have to sneak off on the web and look for pictures, anyway.

I admit I have forgotten how to slip the loose wool over to make a stitch without completely letting go of the right hand needle, so its hard going, and at approximately ten rows to an inch even on large (4mm) needles, its taking shape very slowly indeed.

And I hate it. With a passion.
But I'm going to win. So I guess, for that, I love it too - this small but despised item will be controlled and created and forced to conform to my will.

Like I said, I really need a fake moustache.


And yes, my apologies, I have updated this a hundred times in five minutes and probably have more mistakes to find; it doesn't seem to be my day. I do not, however, ascribe that to the consequences of knitting, as its almost certainly more to do with this being half term. I wish kids had batteries - I'd take them out.

30 May 2006

Miffed now

A quick search on Technorati shows that if you use the individual words that comprise the phrases 'Doctor Uniform', or 'Drink mixed top', some braindead thieving bastard nicks your whole post.

I'm honoured when someone wants to link back or refer to what I have to say, but wholesale swiping to comprise a complete post at someone else's site with only a link back and without a single original comment (here or there) is out and out WTF behaviour.

Doctor uniform and drink mixed top - get a life. Shortly after you've gone and got a brain and a voice, please.

I wonder if its all automated or if they actually read to select. Put this blog on your Technorati watchlist for 24 hours and I guess we'll all find out.

Bless Billy!

My long-time-missing comment friend who goes by the anonymous name of Billy has come back. I am so pleased! He also managed to make me laugh out loud this morning, which, with the rest of the household asleep (lazy lot) takes some doing.

You'll have to go see his comment on the quiz two posts below.

Yes, Billy you are so right, the design of those quizzes and possibly most of this blog and in fact probably most blogs everywhere are all about self obsession, of course they are!

This is the grey world between the real one where things get done and a private diary, the ultimate tool for self analysis, home grown psychiatry, 'writing it out', because there's even feedback. Its not feedback from people who see you in your everyday mess, or people with preconceptions of your strengths or glaring weaknesses, if anything the nearest comparison is getting an English essay marked by one of those teachers who has no desire whatsoever to know how the students live outside of school, or even get their names right.

Its completely honest, straightforward and sometimes delightfully true and useful.

Yes, Billy, they should have included a mark for self-obsession, and at least in this public landscape of private thoughts I do admit that when blogging, 97% is probably a very fair guess at my score.


There are lots of awful things going on in the world, the most recently devastating being the Indonesian earthquake and as a new blogger I was often political, often spouting about this or that injustice. The thing is, where did I get the news from? From the web, from the TV, sometimes from other blogs. To be honest when others pass a strong opinion then its easy for me to throw my hat into the ring and say whether I agree, or disagree completely.

However, for me to announce these things as news is to assume that my (now fairly fixed) group of readers are missing vital information or worse, are indifferent and in need of correction. I prefer not to live on a soap box, putting myself and my opinions above others.

That wouldn't be self obsessed so much as totally self-centred and self-involved because at its core is a conviction that the writer is right and everyone else is irrelevant or at least stupid. In the end, on here, I guess we all dissect ourselves in preference to doing it to anybody else. After all it's only a blog, its not some elevated newspaper or documentary, nor a historical record of the ultimate truth.

Do you know the most wonderful thing about blogging?

Sometimes I put all these thoughts about how life is (or isn't going) for me, and in the writing, they take shape. Sometimes I only manage to summarise them and 'get my head straight' whilst I write. I never start a post in Word or plan a subject, I always just open the blogger 'create;' field and see what happens. That way its all honest and fresh and any corrections are to do with how the thoughts sound, dressed in particular words, which in my case means reading over and backtracking to get rid of duplication and to put the same point in less angular terms, often changing one single word here or there.

By the end of many self-analytical posts I manage (I hope), to draw fairly sensible conclusions about giving up with the moaning and getting on with getting on. I draw my own path out of the mire, and the most wonderful thing that can happen is for someone to pass by, read, and then say that my words drew a path from them too, out of a similar mess.

The funny thing about that is that they probably only failed to see the route themselves because they are not as self obsessed as I am. It takes a huge dose of self obsession to learn to dig deep and unravel your own knots and I value and learn from the others I've found with that skill.

Of course the funniest thing of all is that the act (at my age) of completing one of the memes and quizzes of the kind that prompted your comment is the fallback tool of someone with nothing to say at all - we find them whilst surfing other blogs in a failed attempt to draw inspiration. Rattling through a few tick boxes just to have something, anything to fill a gap is actually the antithesis of that.

Its not the quiz that's self-obsessed, its the whole rest of my blog. This is my small, semi-secret self-obsession corner. My 'me' time. ;-)

29 May 2006

Sharon Osbourne - My Hero

I bloody love this woman!

We are half way through the first show of the UK live Celebrity X Factor.

Sharon, as usual, has systematically found something, anything, nice to say about the acts. If she couldn't speak on their singing voices she would compliment looks, confidence, dance moves, effort.


until we got to Rebecca Loos, then woah! Step away from the dominant lady! One of Sharon's comments was something like "I think next week you should sing with your knickers on, it might help warm up your voice."

Bleeping WONDERFUL! Classic! I bow at the feet of an absolute lightning sharp tongue. I am gone all proud and gushy.

She also told the young lady that there was a very bad vibe coming off her and generally, for reasons of her own, sliced RL to pieces without breaking a sweat. I am in pure admiration.

One thing I am certain of about Sharon Osbourne is that she has a heart of gold and usually goes to great pains to be an absolute lady. I admire her grace as much as her amazing ability to cut someone down to size and I am absolutely confident that whatever caused that delicately administered verbal massacre, it was something appalling. Somebody asked for that, because Sharon doesn't even flinch unless you have really truly pushed the limits.

Heres the cover of her book, which I am now going to have to buy:

and THIS is her website, not that she needs this link; it seems whatever she does the tickets are sold out before you look.

Sharon, if I could be so cocky as to pass an opinion, you bloody well rock!

Tags: ,

Ah. That narrows the choices then,...not.

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Extroversion ||||||||||||||||||||| 70%
Emotional Stability |||||||||||||||||| 53%
Orderliness ||||||||||||||| 46%
Altruism ||||||||||||||||||||| 70%
Inquisitiveness ||||||||||||||||||||| 66%

You are an Inspirer, possible professions include - conference planner, speech pathologist, HR development trainer, ombudsman, clergy, journalist, newscaster, career counselor, housing director, character actor, marketing consultant, musician/composer, artist, information-graphics designer, human resource manager, merchandise planner, advertising account manager, dietitian/nutritionist, speech pathologist, massage therapist, editor/art director.
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I do like the 'type' its given me, in a pathetic sort of way. Its true that I seem better at enthusing other people, bolstering their ideas, playing facilitator, cheerleader, you name it, than actually achieving anything in my own name. Happily and sadly, the cap fits.

Not sure about the job suggestions though, I mean, where do you start? Maybe 'mum' should be on the list and quite possibly it would be at the top, if the job had little things like finite hours and a salary.


Second thought - I challenge anyone to say that a half decent mum doesn't perform every single role on the list already.

Anonymous Blogging

I occasionally wish my blog was anonymous.

Once in blue moon I would like the safe opportunity to ignore the beam in my own eye and bitch mercilessly about the specks in other peoples.

Yesterday's disappearing post was a near example, and even then, on second thoughts, it seemed too cruel to leave in the public domain, simply because family and friends know that this is me. It's wonderful, even necessary, to vent, but not at the risk of this 'steam under pressure' being read and misread by those it refers to.

Resentment, anger, frustration, all these things are like tomato ketchup in a glass bottle with the lid off - leave them, hold on to them, fail to express them and they congeal until someone taps your bottle and gets the whole lot.

Something like one in ten people spend some time in a mental institution, normally occasioned by someone whacking their bottle with perfect timing, so the entire burgeoning contents erupts.

If you feel a little lunacy coming on, let it out now. If it turns up like a constant trickle, then let it do just that; trickle. Don't let the pressure build.

My (mercifully rare) need to explode comes when I have bitten my lip out of love or respect for the person who has offended, or even sometimes out of plain cowardice because I hate confrontation. When the umbrage continues to ferment and grow I seek a safe place to expunge it and then, and then I really wish this blog was it.

But it's not.

Hey ho.

27 May 2006

Apologies, Doppelgangers and Dr Who

Sorry about the prior post turning into a bit of an epic monologue. Its a pet theory of mine that the heliosphere stuff happened to augment and I was having totally selfish and self absorbed fun. Thats the apologies over.

As to doppelgangers and Dr Who, well I've documented any feelings I have about more than a passing resemblance to Maureen Lipman before now. This time it seems that her resemblance to a version of me landed her a job as the baddy-come-female presenter at the BBC on the brilliant episode of Doctor Who shown tonight.

There are three of us identi-kit wimmin in the family; one whose recent photograph I have seen, who resides happily in North Wales and is, I think, one of the Parrs, in other words up to her eyeballs in barristers and the like as the whole of that side, so I am told, have a tendency to 'take the silk'.

Our lot tend to take the Mensa test and keep the council house, its a be-bothered thing. Life's too short to stuff a plaintiff, and all that.

The other was my great aunt (?) whose childhood portrait (which I possess) and mine are absolutely identical. I don't even know her name, as that would involve phoning my mother who would rattle it off at me at approximately a hundred miles an hour somewhere in amongst the names of all my grandmother's sisters; which one married a famous Fischer, which married a Lord, who went where, what a constant source of shame I am not to have gone to University and married a nice young man, all peppered with frustrated grumbling either about how I never wanted to know these things so why am I asking now, or if her memory is firing on all its super-fuelled cylinders, how I ask this every year and never bloody write it down or else lose it. I can't win and generally I've already 'lost it' in some form or another before the call is done.

Great Aunt Whatever-her-name-was has only one claim to fame that sticks in my mind - apart from (apparently) being my absolute double, she was one of the very first female presenters on BBC television. If you know the names of any dark haired, slightly horsey looking women with a distinct similarity to Maureen Lipman who also happened to present for the Beeb 'back in the day', then do fill me in.

Sorry, writermom, I don't really sound remotely similar to Emma Thompson, but I suspect that Aunty Thingummy probably did, if that helps at all.

And thats enough about me and the BBC, for a while, perhaps, but "Ha!" Maureen Lipman owes me one, or she owes Great Aunt one, or something. Going to go get back under my box, now.

Heliospheres and London

Thanks to Purple Dragon, I've been to read the New Scientist article about there being a ripple distortion at the edge of the solar system.

It took them long enough to find it, I must say.

Theres one at the edge of London, too.

See, once upon a time just over a hundred years ago (which is nothing to them and anyway once upon a place would be more correct, as time is conveniently relative and they have long since mastered it), a couple of maverick alien superbeings tiptoed into a West London Planning Office at the dead of night after downing a few beers, and changed the plans for the Western Avenue, so that, as you head east to the city, one small insignificant B road continues on its level path from North to South whilst the larger, newer, heavier Western Avenue travels over the top. The original plans were to build a simple crossing; but no, a page or two of specs and resolutions changed here or there, and Bob's your proverbial. The Western Avenue began its ascent heavenwards, just in this one, very particular place, for no apparently discernible reason.

Half a dozen bored, tired, ageing Councillors on the planning committee needed their memories modified, obviously, but they were easy targets being both soundly asleep and rather vacant (even when awake). Conveniently they suffered the fate of all old buffers on all old committees the Universe over, in as much as they frequently if not constantly pontificated and prevaricated on the pressures and intricacies of their task, but nobody actually ever really listened. Not even (well, particularly not) their wives.

And so it was all done and sorted in record time, well before 2am one frosty morning, with the only possible 'casualty' if he can be called that, being the dazed and confused Greek gentleman from the all night kebab shop in Harrow 100 years later, who couldn't remember what his last two customers looked like even though he felt the need to try really hard, and who woke the next day with a new and pressing urge to live a little, which for him involved switching to the off-licence business for the sake of fewer lingering odours and reduced acne, and signing up to a local lonely hearts agency.

The purpose of this midnight operation was not to initialise the London bubble, not at all. The bubble had existed for a very long time by then and had been around well before the weather forecasters figured it out and quite outrageously tried to claim it as a new invention, much in the same way as John Braxton Hicks discovered and therefore allegedly invented practice contractions. The idea was simply to allow mere mortals to see the edge of the bubble, with their own eyes. In truth the real purpose was nothing more than stage one of a bet, a wager that even if you realigned the horizontal entry point to allow for maximum visual distortion upon entry, humans were still too stupid to work out what they were looking at.

Guess who won.


The history of the bubble itself is really quite amusing, if you consider that all those so-called pompous weirdos (think absolutely everybody from Sloane Square, for example) who postulate loudly that London is the centre of the Universe, have actually been perfectly correct all along. The bubble is simply the last, ultra slow moving ripple caused by the droplet of pure potential that hit the space-time continuum in the place now known as London, a microsecond after it achieved its current geographical position (as opposed to being under water or attached to France). The timing was impeccable, 'they' had been watching closely. They still are.

Obviously, although there are other ripples between here and the edge of the solar system, the smooth, circular wave effect is eventually always going to warp and buckle when it hits the sun, which sits there as a (if not 'the') giant and essential rock in the pond of human potential; the earliest and most necessary addition to an otherwise flat area of nothing-much-at-all. Human scientists may think that the interstellar magnetic field is pushing in, and it is, after all it used to own this place and it can get quite funny like that. The fact however remains that it is not pushing any harder in one place than another, merely that the sun is briefly in the way of the sparkle, for lack of a better word, pushing out.

Just as the voyager probes are heading towards a sort of no-mans-land in space, the so-called heliosheath beyond the edge of the heliosphere, which must be traversed before reaching interstellar space, so there is also a broad sheath of oddness between the lip of the London Bubble and normal human life, roughly equivalent to zones three and four on the London Underground map. Once again the edge of this transitional area may be spotted by observing the resultant weather patterns, and you will find that the Council houses at the back edge of Southall, just before Heston, Hayes et al, suffer the most frequent implications of this, where cloud formations seem to sit in one place for longer than normal with the edge invariably coinciding with the rooftops, so that the world can be sunny in the front garden and raining out the back all afternoon; or vice versa.

The houses most affected sit on the same stretch of road as (and just east of) the Grand Union Canal, but then everyone knows that William Jessop, along with Isambard Kingdom Brunel and all the great civil engineers of the 18th and 19th centuries knew a whole lot more than they ever let on. Hanwell Three Bridges, Brunel's creation just up the road, or to be specific just up Jessop's Grand Junction Canal as it was then called, is conveniently close to the insane asylum (fewer questions, see). This edifice, an engineering marvel of its time, mixed things up a bit by deviating from his normal formula, which generally involved starting with the Canal at the bottom and putting both the road and railway over the top. This rearrangement was deliberate, taking account of the same principle of maximum distortion which relied on the horizontal exit point being at just the right height to hit the curving overhead bubble at an angle of optimum disturbance to the human senses. He managed to wangle it so that road users and railway passengers alike got exactly the same effect.

Three Bridges was Brunel's own cheeky attempt to allow others to physically sense the exit from London air (or more precisely wannabe-London air with its heady mix of true but geographically more elusive potential for genius, bogged down by intermarriage to cloying, dullard social climbing middle-management jobsworth types) back into the next, wider ripple zone that we mortals consider to be normal space. It was a remarkably unsubtle plot to those in the know, and cost him his membership to a few secret societies and good London clubs, so it's really rather tragic that the plan never worked. At least, it worked very well, except that nobody other than the initiates fathomed what was going on or why, the normal hoi polloi simply accepted the refreshing sensation of feeling somehow unfettered once they were beyond the bridge; hence the later bet.


I'm not at liberty to explain this for now, but should you ever wish to experience the stronger, inner phase transition, the one at the point of entry to the bubble pure, then its very easy and best to set off between five and seven p.m. on a weekday. I recommend going by car.

Although you can see the rift point at a distance from the gates of the BBC Scenery Dept, Western Ave, Acton, thats really about as near as its safe to go on foot without being permanently affected. Sometimes, if you stand for any while at the bus stop across the road from the Beeb in an effort to travel away to the suburbs, you can sense the faint hum of temporal distortion. Sometimes, if you stare too keenly at the bridge in hope of a double decker going your way, it feels as though the whole world throbs in time with the blood travelling through your veins. Sometimes the siren call to abandon the bus stop and walk over the bridge on foot, towards London, is tempered only by a deep, embedded almost animal instinct that if you did that, you may just never be seen again in your current spiritual form, and you may not care about it, either.

Closeted in the electrical field produced by a motor vehicle, its just about safe to cross the bubble lip with no lasting after effects. Pick the time given to me, above, and on a clear day you will be struck by the optical illusion as clear as if the bubble were made of soap. The rainbow effect is on another level and only experienced, not seen, but before you will arise an image of the top third of the Post Office Tower, magnified several times over and seemingly parked at the top of the incline. The construction of the tower constituted stage two of the bet, but I am not at liberty to divulge whether Bedford or Yeats, or even Lind, Benn or Butlin were initiates of the secret society and complicit with the plan, or whether our drunken superbrained friends simply adjusted the positioning of available sites and installed the whimsical idea into certain heads, in the first place.

The odd thing is that stage two was never originally imagined and was eventually conceived as a way to underline things. It was a double or nothing addendum to the original bet after the stage one bridge construction was met with gormless silence. However, if the day is foggy or damp, if the sun is uninclined to support this magnificent and startling trick of the light, then the original side effect is still available to your senses if you care to try.

I know this is daring, and a little dangerous, but; you could always pick that time of day to drive from the Western Avenue onto the Westway with the car windows open. Uhuh, I thought that would shock you, but trust me, it can be done, and I have unwittingly managed it myself several times with, I am told, no discernible long term effects. Here's the trick. If you were to listen to music on the car radio, but turn that off just before ascending, you would find that, at the top of the climb, you will not only be surrounded by white noise, but also that within the fizz-buzz audio distortion of entering the bubble pure, your mind will irresistibly pick out the purest, most complicated music from the grey drone of nothingness. It doesn't even matter if you were just listening to the Happy Mondays, as there is every possibility that the top of the incline will play you a full blown Bach concerto. Be alert that after effects may be reduced by a very stiff drink, or six, as soon as you get where you're going.


Of course many questions remain. Why was the potential-droplet introduced? What does it mean to me? What experiment did it comprise and are they still testing? Do they have any other little side bets going on and how much are they interfering? Are there aliens deliberately messing us about in Westminster, or Alperton? What beer do they prefer and do they rate kebabs higher than fish and chips?

I would love to tell you. I would also need to ask permission, first.

This post was written by and remains the intellectual property of Cheryl aka the Mad Baggage - drop by my blog and see the Creative Commons licence on it. This makes Drink Mixed Top at assholegame.com the blog of a lazy thieving bastard wanker incapable of original thought, IMHO. Just so you know. To repeat that then, it is the opinion of Chery at http://madbaggagerambling.blogspot.com/ that the author/creator/administrator of the site http://assholegame.com/ is a lazy thieving bastard wanker incapable of original thought. Got that?

26 May 2006

Newsflash: The BBC Has Not Been (completely) Taken Over By Mindless Droids

I was, rather embarrassingly, a virgin working at the BBC back when Terry Wogan did his not-very-famous-at-all-actually sketch about the dance of the BBC virgins on the roof of Television Centre, that giant seventies-looking question mark (no really, go aerial) in the middle of White City.

I say middle, but White City seems to be a back end to something or other, all on its own. Any roads or pubs local to Shepherds Bush willing to claim White City as their back-end please, well, please just keep very, very quiet about it. OK?

The sketch was all about no virgins showing up because there weren't any.

I was offended.

Which probably explains why I still was one.

Contrary to popular opinion the cybermen didn't retire from earlier series of Dr Who and go on to replace every level of staff at the 'dear old beeb' aka 'aunty'.*

How do I know this? because the BBC are blogging, and badly at that.

*Whoever coined those phrases was a propoganda genius, albeit possibly an evil one. Wogan again, wasn't it? It could have been his cyberman doppelganger. The terms instantly characterise this giant corporation with its multiple levels of bureaucracy as some dear old duck in the corner, slightly drunk, slightly incontinent, very dotty, but well meaning and lovable and liable to still be singing 'Knees up Mother Brown' when she's wheeled back to the home.

Badly can be good. Badly can be human. 'Badly' can say that the writer, whether a nobody or a famed and feted face, is actually (even if secretly) just like you and me. Three things are certain in this life, and one of them is "doing a poo", to quote my dear but scatalogically obsessed friend Scaryduck.

Badly as in with humour, desperation or the odd spelling mistake says "Hey I'm not [insert name of superhero], I go to the crapper just like you. And sometimes I smell bad."

Then there's bad badly, which only goes to prove that I need to work on my vocabulary. There's badly as in boringly, flatly, devoid of colour, personality, too short on allegories, metaphors or even just pictures.

Somehow the BBC's new comedy blog has single-handedly managed both; sorry Steve. It smacks of good people fettered to a formula, a remit to 'go out there and relate to bloggers, make them like us, but don't stop wearing the suit and keep writing it like a press release'. I think the quiet statement at the top of the page mentioning a 'the comedy team' might be a giveaway. Too many cooks, perhaps?

I suppose that representing a corporation, you speak on behalf of said corp, ergo may not under any circumstances express an opinion.

There was one early attempt at appealing to the bloGrz (or however the educationally deprived teens spell it today), with an article ending in a kazillion exclamation marks. It was like putting a big pink bow on Bernard Manning in a bad mood. A good effort, but; no. Obviously a wee touch of conflicting vision, there; it went all serious again straight afterward.

What have they got left to make a small section of a serious corporate website look like a blog?
  • Daily updating - ptah - the main site updates constantly anyway so in this case that's no selling point
  • Room for comments - no the comedy blog team have decided against. This is IDIOTIC. The blog sense of community can only be compared to a major city (say London) in a blackout - everyone is on a level, everyone feels welcome to chip in and voice an opinion, mostly politely, to whatever stranger they come across and everyone goes away from the experience feeling validated by these tiny, mostly shallow pleasantries and exchanges. This is why the word 'community' was first used and then stuck like glue. If you don't allow comments, you set yourself apart. Neil Gaiman just about gets away with it apparently because he is both famed and accepted to be a very busy man (he blogs a lot about how busy he is), but even that makes me fight an urge to assume he's a bit up himself. Sorry Neil. (SEE EDIT)
  • Trackback list - nope. Daft as above
  • Similar links list, of the variety used by sites which take themselves seriously, such as Technorati (see Newsweek). Not even the humble, commoners version, WhoLinksToMe. Feh.
All in all then, of all the BBC blogs, the comedy one is the odd one out, the one that isn't actually a blog at all, which makes me wonder whether the powers holding sway over that one are at all chummy with the 'head of interactive' who, says Newsnight Editor Peter Barron, in his latest daily 'by subscription' email, thinks "99% of all blogs, including some of the corporation's, are crap".**

I just don't understand how 'one' equates to 'some', unless he and I differ on what consitutes fecal matter, or there are some long lunches being enjoyed.

To be fair, the rest (if they appeal to your interests), whilst having very similar layouts, are human, humorous, honest, and encourage comments. I've bookmarked Paul Mason's Newsnight blog, not because I even watch the programme (I don't, usually) but because its a good blog. ** Peter's daily emails would also make an excellent blog, although I guess that would conflict.

Just to prove I am stalwartly contrary, or human (or something biological and carbon based anyway) I refuse yet again to use the inverse pyramid model and to get the summary of this post in at the top, to stop scrollers and hook their interest. I'm not a fame hound or a pseudo-journalist (liar liar liar!) and I don't give a hoot, scrollers can scroll off.

However, if you have ploughed through thus far, then the revelation which generated this foamy chemical residue spewing from my brain is:

Tonight, Newsnight on UK BBC TV is doing a spot on bloggers and blogging.

That's it. I am trying to work out whether to feel like a family member who has just found out that little Johnny's face will appear in a commercial for 5 seconds some time tonight, get the popcorn in and grab the comfy cushion early by way of celebration; or whether to blink stupidly and be somewhat dismissive about how these big companies are so slow on the uptake, even the ones that are supposed to be at the forefront of whatever it is they do.

I think I'll have to watch, to work that one out.

EDIT: Mr Gaiman's blog has 2,588 subscribers, just on bloglines and I have no idea how many on the more popular blogrolling, or other systems. I kind of hoped the link would send one or two new visitors over to look, but also expected it to disappear amongst millions leading to his site and never be spotted. Silly me. I now have my claim to fame, hehe, a comment from a prolific and famed (and very busy) author. Wow. I've gone all fluffy. Its quite scary to be noticed by your heroes. Off to splash my face with cold water and slap it around a bit.

Calmer Classrooms

A while back I blogged about a system called calm classrooms, a range of music designed to promote alpha waves - calm bodies and alert minds. They are now called calmer classrooms, a gentler name which acknowledges its place as a tool for already succesful teachers.

The original post is here (lots of technical info, link to sample and news reports) but of more pleasure to me were the comments:

Le Laquet, a teacher, said she wanted to download and play it to her UK primary class

Fineartist, another teacher (a 2006 Walmart teacher of the year, actually!), was off to recommend it for the brain gym programme at her US college

Zilla used it perfectly - only noticing a change in mood when it stopped - she said she felt annoyed! That's not strictly true (although I know just what she means), Zilla simply felt the contrast between returning to a natural state for her (given the day, issues etc) and the assisted calmer state that had been caused by the alpha waves in the music.

Writermom loved the sample and intended to test its effect on her ASD son.

That's exactly what I did, except, by making contact with the composer, I managed to get hold of one of the last sets of CDs available for now. The ten long tracks (10 CDs!) vary tremendously from the tweety bird sample (off disc 1) through calm seas, stormy seas and off toward rock music, so theres something for everyone, yet all of them work the same magic. Aspergers Son uses them on his personal CD before and after school, very willingly, and the results appeared in the news report at the bottom of this post, as well as an article in the Special Needs press.

The good news is that the system is now available as a licenced download, so that as many licences as required may be bought by a school or organisation, then the music can be accessed and selected via the net for playing straight into the classroom or wherever the licensed teacher/individual happens to be.

The really excellent news is that CalmerClassrooms.co.uk is offering interested parties a 30 day free trial, so you can play the stuff 24/7, experiment with whether it helps and is beneficial to you or your class, get to know all the different tracks and generally evaluate before committing to a year's licence.

Anyone interested in this offer should visit the calmerclassrooms website, or email info@calmerclassrooms.com, quoting reference CW30.

Pass the word!

Click to enlarge

25 May 2006

Now I Know Why I Don't Live In Belgium

Nuff said. Click the picture, but only if you want to sit there with your mouth open like a confused zombie.

Thursday Thirteen

Thirteen things I need to do in that sort of 'niggly list at the back of your head, after everybody else's emergencies, one day' kind of a way.
  1. Get clever enough to put this list in pretty colour boxes
  2. Find out who I am
  3. Find out what I want to do
  4. Find out what I'm good for right now
  5. Do it
  6. In a way that I get paid for it
  7. Admit I am getting older
  8. Stop thinking that one day, when the kids are a bit bigger, concentrating on my looks wont be too little too late!
  9. Work out how to be on top of paperwork and housework all at once - so far I seem to only do one to procrastinate about the other
  10. Read the entire top twenty bestsellers
  11. Lower my writing skills to that level and rattle off my own bestseller (joke)
  12. Find an academic passion
  13. I just know theres something else I'm not seeing, but I can't see what it is!

Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!

24 May 2006



Spring Fever?

Ready to do more than I do now, but I don't know what.

Ready to be more than I am now, but I don't know who that is.

Ready to go out from where I am now but I don't know where to.

Is this spring fever, or perimenopause, or just timing?

How about you?

Letter Meme

Thanks to Annie over at Somebody Once, I am finally tagged for the letter meme. Admit it, you've seen it going around, huh?

I have to come up with ten facts about me/my life (what a chore! rofl) based on ten items beginning with the letter I have been given. Annie gave me J. There are very few airy-fairy words beginning with J and this is going to be quite severe and un-fluffy, I imagine, so here goes nothing:

  • Jam (jelly across the pond). I hate it, in all its forms. Can't stand the stuff, especially strawberry or raspberry. My mother thinks everything about me is a 'fad' or a 'phase I'm going through' and gets very offended when I 'haven't grown out of it yet', even after forty years. She pushed the boat out for us when we visited recently and bought cream cakes as a treat. Inside the bun, under the cream? A thick layer of red jam. Puke puke pukety puke puke. So she's sitting there like this is pure heaven and I'm trying to silently control the gag reflex and find reasons to run from the table for a pint of water. Mother doesn't hold with drinking water either - it should be tea, only when everybody is ready, in very small cups. Honestly I can't even tolerate Victoria sponge. I admit this aversion may be more pathological these days, having been force fed jam bloody sandwiches for years in my childhood.
  • Jasmine. I bought a jasmine plant from Asda near my mum, then had to carry it all the way home on an eight hour coach trip. Mum had this bright idea of wedging an empty cereal box over it, to protect the buds. It worked. I got the thing home, it bloomed and smelled heavenly for a week. I woke up one morning and there it was, dead. Humph.
  • Jinxed. Sometimes I feel like I have been. :-)
  • Joy. This post sounds really whiney so far, doesn't it? I surprise myself in reading it back. I think joy is the best sort of happiness, because you can find joy in the middle of a farce. Sometimes, however, especially in print, others can't see that you are laughing at the sheer ridiculousness of life. Trust me, its all true and I'm still laughing.
  • Jumpy. I guess I am. My sense of humour is coloured by the life I've had, so its very dark and far too dry for some people. Nothing on this earth makes me feel more uncomfortable than writing my laughing release; some sarcastic, scathing, venomous little expression of the black comedy that is my life, only to get a comment from someone that is all 'how sad'. You can say 'oh shit' or get heavy with the expletives in support and its much appreciated, but I don't do sad, don't even go there with the sad thing. I do angry, furious, self pitying, but its all full on. Sad is so, so drippy actually, that the use of the word makes me angry. Am I weird? Very probably.
  • Joke. My all time favourite joke because it so perfectly encapsulates the way the world runs on Murphy's Law, Sod's Law and the Peter Principle:
Jim and Mary were both patients in a Mental Hospital.

One day while they were walking past the hospital swimming pool, Mary suddenly jumped into the deep end. She sank to the bottom and stayed there motionless.

Jim promptly jumped in to save her. He swam to the bottom and pulled Mary out.

When the medical officer became aware of Jim's heroic act he immediately ordered him to be discharged from hospital, as he now considered him to be mentally stable.

When he went to tell Jim the news, he said: "Jim, I have good news and bad news.

"The good news is you're being discharged because since you were able to jump in and save the life of another patient, I think you've regained your senses.

"The bad news is, Mary, the patient you saved, hung herself with her bathrobe belt in the bathroom. I am so sorry, but she's dead."

Jim replied, "She's not dead, I put her there to dry."
  • Justice. The world should run on justice. It doesn't, but if you come near me it bloody well does. The most basic counselling skills courses look at your own life, how to refuse to be put on the triangle of aggressor, rescuer and victim.
Aggressor says: I will abuse you because I am better than you and you are nothing.
Rescuer says: I will do it all for you, because you can't do it, because I am better than you and you are nothing.
Victim says: I can't do it, I am nothing, so Aggressor, its all your fault, and Rescuer come and do all the work, so I can sit here being useless.
    Good, huh? So when you think about it someone can even 'play victim' whilst really being the aggressor because they either lay blame on you all the time or run you ragged. I personally try very hard not to play, and that's my idea of justice.
  • Janet and John books. Lots of people of around my age in the UK will go into raptures about the first reading books they had at school, all about Janet and John and their dog and their friends. There's even a series of comedy fridge magnets based on suggesting there's something kinky going on. I feel left out, as we didn't have those books, we had the unfairly uncelebrated Red Lorry, Yellow Lorry books. "The big red lorry goes up the hill. The big red lorry has pots and pans." Bloody hell, where did my photographic memory go? They always used to worry that I couldn't really read the individual words, because I only had to see and hear it once to know what every page said, never mind which word represented which bit. I guess I unlearned it for my teachers' sake.
  • Juggling. I've never been that enthralled by juggling, until I saw this. I can't juggle for love nor money. I have fantastic balance, but precious little hand-eye coordination.
  • Job. Since I had my first kid 23 years ago, I've only ever done 'jobs', squeezed in among moves, family crises etc. Never had a passion, a purpose, a career. Now the last of the special needs offspring has a senior school, now the youngest child is a year away from seniors too, I still don't have a passion, but I think I'd like to start with a job. I want one. I just haven't got the first clue what. I'll probably end up as a virtual assistant, because if my parents hadn't had my testicles removed at birth, I would be the original grey man, in as much as I thrive on paperwork.
Flippin' Eck! What a nasty letter! I don't even have any relatives whose names begin with J, not even their middle names. I was completely struggling there.

So, has that scared you right off, or would you like to play? If you would, say so in the comments and I'll tag you by emailing you a letter.

Players so far: 266k, Doris, Stegbeetle,

23 May 2006


Translation for my American Friends: "Cooee, there wouldn't happen to be any employment out there that I could shine at, would there?"

Beautiful, practical, intelligent (did I say beautiful?) woman with an evil eye for the truth and detail, who is a dab hand at all things office, all things liaison, all things research. Especially good at translating bureaucrospeak into plain English and foiling governments by filling in 68 page grant applications etc, correctly. Can string a sentence together, can keep her mouth shut. Can mix with anybody, can mix drinks. Can switch from invisible to dominant in 0.3 seconds, depending on whether the work requires ears, eyes or a sensibly heeled foot.

Fidelity bonded once, CRB cleared not too long ago. Prefers underdogs, quirky types and individuals to rat-race kings and jobsworths.

Intensely creative, but needs a starting point.

Wouldn't happen to have one of those, would you?


If you want to know what it feels like to be unable and unwilling to blink for four and a half minutes - click HERE.

I have to say I found myself swearing at the producer half way through for shifting the camera shot and sometimes cutting off the picture of his balls in full flight. Hehe.

Too Much Talc

22 May 2006

Buck-stop Mum

A story. I do do them once in a while, you know.

What do you do when someone sucks the air out of your space? When the psychological knife-play that they relish so much, feels like oxygen starvation? Pressure at the base of the skull, pain and heat at the top, queasy neck and gills, a throat made of sandpaper that couldn't swallow solids if your life depended on it? Laboured breathing; eyes constantly blinking but dry? Ice blood in your arms and the inability to close a fist?

Come to think of it, does that describe a condition, and what's it called?

Not exactly a panic attack? Shock? It feels more like a short circuit, or a heavy blow to the head. Here I am nearly an hour later, still feeling like I'm on some sort of evil pre-med. I felt my aura go 'thwrup' as it imploded. Heck it probably turned inside out from the speed that it shrunk in its own defense.

Only those we love can do this to us. Only those we have invested ourselves in; those we have hope for or faith in. Those we always see through rose coloured glasses no matter how many times they kick us down.

This woman was an abused child. She refused to crumble; she's not rushing around living out a hollow painful urge to please people and be seen as worthy. She was praised and supported and to all intents and purposes it looked like she had survived.


Now she is an adult herself, her fun is to make damn sure that as many others as possible feel like abused children themselves, by the time she's done with them. She doesn't get her self validation by seeking praise to lift her up, she does it by seeking people to crush and stand over.

Who but a mother would keep coming back for more, keep believing the apologies, keep being desperate to have her precious baby returned whole, keep refusing to accept the damage as intrinsic to the person.

But there comes a point where this spiritual vampirism saps so much from you that you feel so insubstantial, so ungrounded, so battered that you could lean on a wall and fall through.

So the big question now is what to do.

Fight or flight is screaming through me, although I froze at the time. If someone recorded her verbal cruelty and used it as script for a soap opera baddy, then some well meaning soul of limited capacity would have felt it their God given duty to save the world by exterminating the actor, probably inside the first week.

How do you cut off your most damaged child, your firstborn? I don't want to retaliate. I'm not sure that running, shutting her out, would do any more than give her ammunition to bolster her aggressive view of life.

Of course its all academic, if relating to her is actually going to kill me. I think I need to go and lie down.

21 May 2006

Free Association 172

Triggers set by Luna Nina.
  1. Yours :: truly
  2. Charcoal :: grey suit
  3. Platitude :: There, there.
  4. Graduation :: gradient, incline (like 1:4)
  5. Hungry :: hippo
  6. Somewhere :: out there, tra la tra la
  7. Nurse :: Nursey in Blackadder
  8. Freak :: show - out house!
  9. Unbelievable :: suspect, dubious
  10. Walk :: like an Egyptian

20 May 2006


You Are Indigo

Of all the shades of blue, you are the most funky, unique, and independent.
Expressing yourself and taking a leap of faith has always been easy for you.

Thats just bollocks.

I do it, but I don't find it any easier than complying with expectations, because there are too many expectations in this world and whatever you do, its impossible to 'get it right' according to everybody. Hung for a sheep as a lamb, as they say.

The way I see it, all you have to do is say this to yourself, every day for a month, in the mirror, in the voice of a proper Jewish mother:

"But darling, people will always take the piss!"

Once you have fathomed, acknowledged and accepted* that somebody out there, every day, is going to mentally discard you as pathetic or unworthy; once you have worked out that its their loss, once you have woken up to the fact that someone (or possibly several people, or so what if its everybody?) will think you are at best irrelevant and at worst a total jerk whatever you damn well do......

.........then you are free.

Because you may as well be exactly who you damn well please, or even set out to shock if you like, because its not going to make one iota of difference to the number of stupid people passing their stupid judgements. The freedom is amazing. The only critic left that matters one jot is yourself, your conscience.

It will, however, make a difference to the number of heart-on-the-sleeve, daredevil, honest people who see you as a sibling adventurer and treasure you for it. Try.

*Accepting it is the hard part - too many people run their lives in fear of what certain people would say, and many that break away do it by 'pushing back' - the energy they expend to act in defiance of these unnamed people ends up being expressed as a counter attack. There are more choices than the roles of victim and aggressor (or equal combatant). Acceptance is like agreeing to differ, with forgiveness thrown in.

100 Questions

I try to never copy the 'other half' on blog memes.
I'm not sure if that stems from a need for supposed individuality, or whether its because the culture on the blog circuit he uses encourages people to help themselves, not to tag, whereas I like to be invited!

Still, She Weevil and Stegbeetle have now both done the following list and made an excellent job of it, so I am magnanimously ignoring my childish sense of being snubbed by Husband (who knows I love memes and couldn't even be bothered to tell me he'd found this one), and joining in the game.

There ought to be 100 questions, but a few have disappeared. If you google for the text of the very first question, you will find the list in its entirety and I can tell you that the missing questions are aimed at kiddywinks and not real adults - stuff like 'Where can you imagine yourself being proposed to". I guess I could have tweaked that to read 'indecently proposed to' and put it back in the game, but, nah.

Tag yourself, please, but let me know in the comments so I can come and see:

1. Name one of your scars. How did you get it?
Little half moon dip on my left cheekbone from a punch. Well it wasn't the punch, it was that it swelled too fast afterward and the skin split.
2. What is on the walls of your room?
No pictures in the bedroom at all if that's what the originator meant by 'your room'. Husband's bloody awful 1970s painted mirror dominates the living room. Round in my computer corner, here, I have a wallmounted flat screen, a calendar and pictures done by the kids.
3. What does your mobile phone look like?
It doesn't, as I don't have one.
4. What music do you listen to?
Radio 1 all day.
5. What is your current desktop picture?
Nothing - its the plain blue. The rest of the house is way too cluttered so this is my calm corner.
6. What do you want more than anything right now?
A day off from answering questions, the fate of wives and mothers.
7. What do you miss?
Being able to go out of the front door without marshalling the troops or getting their approval or scheduling around their needs/activities.
8. What time were you born?
I forget. I don't think I was clock watching at the time.
10. What ended your last relationship?
Far too many things ended it before he even left, but I'd have to say the final act was him trying to throw me out of a window, failing, landing me back awkwardly and breaking my toe.
11. Do you get scared in the dark?
Yes. I get scared in the daylight too; if there's something to be scared of. Otherwise no.
12. The last person to make you cry?
97 year old Ellen at her husband's funeral yesterday.
13. What is your favourite cologne/perfume?
Elizabeth Arden Red Door
14. What type of hair/eye colour do you like on the opposite sex?
I have to guess a man wrote this, what a visual question. I mean who gives a toot what colour his eyes are?
15. Do you like painkillers?
When in pain, yes.
16. Coffee or energy drinks?
Coffee. Energy drinks are carbonated. Carbonated drinks do slow but bad things to your bones.
17. What is your favourite pizza topping?
Pepperoni with extra chillies.
18. If you could eat anything right now, what would it be?
Sherbet orange water ice
19. Who is the last person you made mad?
Eldest daughter.
20. Do you speak another language?
So people tell me. Generally they start with a question that begins "Are you speaking....".
21. What was the first gift that someone ever gave you?
Stupid question. I think you got a free nappy in the hospitals in those days.
22. Do you like someone?
23. Are you double jointed?
Disconcertingly flexible but no, I can't touch my wrist with my thumb and understand that's the test
24. Favourite clothing brand?
Don't care.
25. What is your dream car?
a crushed one - no exhaust, no petrol, no damage, no noise. Kill the cars.
27. What do you think of marriage?
I think it protects people if they are both well meaning and honest, but can be too easily manipulated to be a trap for one person.
28. Would you fall in love knowing that a person is leaving?
Right, so the author of this list thinks falling in love is a conscious choice. Interesting.
29. What is the best way to tell someone how much they mean to you?
That depends on them. I guess the best way is to love them enough to find out their 'best way' and use that.
30. Say a number from one to a hundred:
yeah ok I said one - now what?
31. Blondes or brunettes?
32. What is the one number you call most often?
there are three - husband at work, my mum, my big daughter
33. What annoys you the most?
I am an equal opportunity grouch.
34. Have you been out of England?
Yes, and they even let me back in.
35. Your weakness?
No time for fools. No, I guess my weaknesses are fear and comfort - same as everyone else on this earth.
36. What was the last gift you received?
Husband brought me home a bar of extra dark, bitter chocolate.
37. First job?
Trainee Quantity Surveyor
38. Ever done a prank call?
Yes. Used to ring up enquiries from a phonebox and ask how far it was to Timbuctoo, on a dare. Hey we were all ten once
39. What were you doing before you filled out this form?
Getting young daughter ready for a trip out
40. If you could get plastic surgery, what would it be?
I'd have husband taller and slimmer (hehe)
41. How many times have you been in love?
I really can't think!
42. What do you get complimented about the most?
Pfft. Err....
43. What would you do if alcohol became illegal?
Get used to it and learn to be even sillier whilst sober.
44. What do you want for your birthday?
No idea at all.
45. How many kids do you want?
I've got four and that's my lot
46. Were you named after anyone?
No. They wanted a name that couldn't be shortened. I was nearly called Rosemary but mum couldn't bear the thought of me being known as Rosie
47. Do you wish on stars?
48. Which of your fingers is your favourite?
I would have to say middle right - the 'perch and rotate' signing finger
49. When did you last cry?
Apart from the snivel (12) above, my last full, swollen faced, irrational, sit-back-and-watch-yourself 'wtf is going on' end of the world scenario was all afternoon one day two weeks ago when Husband was away on a training course.
50. Do you like your handwriting?
Yeah its OK, but like breathing, if I become conscious of it then it changes.
51. What is your favourite vegetable?
Onions, no, garlic, no onions. All varieties of edible allium.
52. Any bad habits?
No. They are all charming quirks.
53. What is your most embarrassing CD on the shelf?
I don't have any CDs because I so rarely buy any as I am married to a typical male with a record, cassette and CD collection that would take three librarians a year to catalogue. I guess the easy answer is anything of his that I don't like. Or maybe the Pinky and Perky Pop Party CD. I might have to force daughter to keep that in her room.
54. If you were another person, would you be friends with you?
If I was another person I'd have different ideas of what makes someone nice, so without actually being them instead of me, I wouldn't have a sodding clue about that, now would I.
55. Have you ever told a secret you swore not to tell?
Yes, very frequently in my 'youth club' years, when swearing secrecy seemed so easy up until the other party's reasons why I should tell became so pressing.
56. Do looks matter?
Yes definitely. Not the fat/thin, fashionable/rich sort of looks, but if ever someone has really hurt you, try noticing someone else similar without feeling wary before you even speak to them
57. How do you release your anger?
Creatively when possible, but when stuck indoors with kids, etc, usually by frantically playing mind numbing cards on Windows, or washing up faster than Superman.
58. Where is your second home?
Under a tree just above the White Horse, Frog Firle, looking out across the river valley to Alfriston.
59. Do you trust others easily?
Yes, too easily.
60. What was your favourite toy as a child?
61. How many numbers are in your cell phone?
Zilch, zero, nada, zip. No phone.
62. Do you use sarcasm?
Now is that a clever question?
64. Have you ever been in a mosh pit?
Had to look it up, but hell yes - no good going to see a really good band if you can't get close enough to make faces at them and find space to dance.
65. What do you look for in a guy/girl?
In? Brains, backbone, heart and guts would be a good start.
66. What are your nick names?
Chez, Shez, Shelle (I HATE that!!!), Chug. I don't like any of them.
67. What is the most pain you have ever experienced?
Thats relative. Physical pain?
68. Do you untie your shoes when you take them off?
69. What was the last thing you spilled?
A cup of tea when I stirred it too hard this morning.
71. What's the last furry thing you touched?
Someone else's dog while I was out just now, a 'Rough Collie'. Amazing; so much fur on it that it looked like an anorexic lion.
72. What are your favourite colours?
All of them except the awful, dreadful, dark blue green that next door has painted her front porch and that I have to stare at out of my kitchen window every time I wash up, which is, like, about six times a day.
73. What are your favourite bands/singers?
Waterboys, Kirsty MacColl, and I like a lot of the new stuff.
74. How many wisdom teeth do you have?
75. Do you want everyone to answer these questions?
Yes. Enough to spend an hour retyping this to get rid of the block capitals in the questions.
76. Who are you listening to right now?
Husband has the TV on, greatest songs of the seventies (yeah, I know!) but at least its not football - he just has this mental block; in his world the TV button is his alone on a Saturday afternoon. I think the band is Cockney Rebel. Well I know it is, I just asked him, Lord help us.
77. Last thing you ate?
A single square of Lindt 70% cocoa dark chocolate.
78. The last person you talked to on the phone?
Big daughter.
79. What is the first thing you notice on the opposite sex?
Bum, shoulders and height.
80. Favourite thought provoking song?
Whole of the moon.
81. Favourite thing to hate?
People who cough or sneeze or yawn without looking away or covering their mouths. Especially on the street or in a bus.
82. Favourite drink?
Aqua Libra
83. Favourite zodiac sign?
84. What is your favourite sport?
Winding men up
85. What is your hair colour?
L'Oreal 7.3.
86. Eye colour?
Dark brown.
88. Siblings?
Two, two brothers.
89. Favourite month?
Bloody hell all this trying to push us into camps. No preference, they all have their merits.
90. Do you like sushi?
Don't know, as husband doesn't like fish. I like smoked salmon if that counts.
91. Last thing you watched?
Cinderella Story movie on the TV this morning, with the kids. For about five minutes.
92. Favourite day of the year?
The first hour of New Year's Day. All clean slate, wishes and hugs and high hopes, preferably under a clear, inky blue sky with all the stars out. That's nice.
93. Are you too shy to ask someone out?
I wouldn't know
94. Summer or winter?
95. Kisses or hugs?
Depends who with, what for and all that. Handshakes. (lol)
96. Relationships or one-night stands?
97. Who is most likely to answer these questions?
You tell me
98. Who is least likely to answer these questions?
I guess this was originally an intra-office email then, when people could be expected to know who you were on about?
99. Biggest fear?
It being too late. I don't want the end of my life to be like that moment in a restaurant when as soon as your order is placed you absolutely know you wish you'd chosen a different thing and now there's not a damn thing you can do about it.
100. Is anyone in love with you?
So I am told.

19 May 2006

Dr Finlay's Casebook and the mystery of life.

Ok, so, as far as I can tell, my head is working just fine.

A couple or three hours after finishing that teensy beano down the pub, my stomach has decided it's definitely and loudly on strike but the rest of me - yeah, we're on.

Up for anything.

So here is what my head was doing in the pub. Be warned, it plays out like a game of consequences; its in frames, with little jumps in between.

So I wanted to catch my big son before he got my last drink (a double) and ask him to make it a coffee instead.

I stood up. "Oh sweetheart" says I, and three men looked - husband (from the pool table), son, and a very nice young barman/cook/landlord who for some unearthly reason thought I meant him. He even came over to hear me properly.

Much giggling and thanks and apologies and I completely forgot what I wanted son for in the first place whilst the somewhat flustered young man scurried back into the kitchen like a blushing rabbit.

Yeah, ok, but for the purposes of this tale (and my warped reality at the time), rabbits blush. Accept it and move on.

Anyhoo, for some unearthly reason I decided that he was gay. I think it was the charming way he went such a profuse beetroot colour and ran for cover. I went all motherly at him. He couldn't see, he was in the kitchen, but metaphorically and all that. In spirit.

So then - bam - I remember the name of the lady in Dr Finlay's casebook; Janet. This was a puzzle that my subconscious had been working on ever since the grand opening of Big Brother, when Shahbaz entered the house. What with his super effeminate love of knitting and his soft Highlands accent, even before we could recall the lady's name, husband and I were sat in front of the TV cooing "Och, Dr Finlay!" at each other and p****** ourselves laughing.

No dear, try and keep up, that was last night. We were completely sober then. Honest.

Anyway, as the name came to me in what seemed to be a Eureka moment, I decided to tell son, in a voice that would make the actors from Balamory want to heave, that there was a 'Janet' on Big Brother and that 'she' was totally adorable, (sorry, 'toootally adoooorable, Doctor', with a slight squeak to it), even if she was six foot something and adorned with exterior genitalia.

Mine host had chosen that moment to return from the kitchen. He still looked like a rabbit, but more like a disconcerted, slightly nervous rabbit with an upset stomach.

This seemed like the perfect moment to find a sofa and slump into it as gracefully as possible, to concentrate on pretending my lips were stuck together with superglue. It seemed like the sensible thing to do.

George, dear dead George was still on my mind, and we stared at our glasses morosely and agreed that no-one could safely face the concept, at this stage, of having a tipple in his honour. A drink to the dead is always the poison of their choice, which in this case would have meant a single shot of good scotch. No one felt they could safely afford that much stomach lining at this juncture, so it was a sombre and regretful moment, as we should have drunk his health first thing, but when we arrived the purpose had been to calm nerves, not continue the cause.

Big daughter was mentioned, and her dealings with my mother, her gran. I asked big son, on daughter's behalf, how long it takes gran to let go of a 'good idea' once she's come up with it, specifically planned swimming trips and other treats she has suggested to daughter for the next time they are in the same town.

Son, who lodged with her for a while when he fished out of Grimsby said, flatly, "Never" and then it struck me that my mother had always, always portrayed herself as a gumboots girl - no time for nonsensical stuff like frilly emotions; or anything with frills, for that matter. The words 'my mother' and 'pink', for example, had never crossed my mind in a single paragraph, let alone sentence, yet it seemed that her confessions of wishes were all incredibly girly; that there was a feminine woman in there somewhere, that had successfully hidden from me in all my formative years. How do you reconcile a soul that has wishes and dreams and hankerings, with one that barks at her children that 'if you don't have spots or a temperature, there's nothing wrong with you.'? One that seemed somehow superhuman and unstoppable?

I didn't have a childhood so much as emotional bootcamp, which is just as well, because I'd hate to be the simpering type. If we ever hit a battle field, thanks to my mum I'd be the girl with her hand in someone's open wound, holding a heart or a torn jugular to stem the flow, not the one at the back having a very balletic fainting fit at the sight, with far too many medics rushing to see if she was alright.

Me? Resentful of fainting Floras? Never.

Mum said there are two kinds of women, lions and mice. Its just that, looking back, it seems that society never gave room for a woman to be both capable (strong, fiery, passionate etc etc) and also interested in, say, doing things in girly pairs, or shopping for beauty treatments. So I never saw that side to her. Maybe she was too busy to see it for herself, either.

I am so, so sorry to take you on a supercharged run around the houses in the telling of this. All these truths about my mum came to me in a split second. It was one of those drinker's revelations that happen in a blink and then take three hours to explain.

So where was I.

Oh yes: QED my mother is the reason I have such an affinity for and strong parenting instinct towards gay men.

I mean it's obvious.

No? Oh Okay then.

See, barring minor details like being female and straight, I am a gay man and so is my mum. We are each a screaming contradiction between nature and nurture, a bundle of sensitivities, hopes and dreams wrapped up in a package that society sees (and we ourselves see) as impermeable, practical, functional. We feel we have a set of standards to uphold and a nature that can only emerge under set and prearranged conditions.

We are the keepers of secrets, the people in permanent uniform for the sake of our own sense of dignity and propriety.

So maybe that's all bullshit, but any inner child, screwed up as he or she may be, has a hard time hearing rational argument, so at least until after the hang-over, that's where mine is at.

Except it explains why I want to be every gay boy's auntie and why when I see a transvestite on the bus I want to hug her for her brass neck and offer to go out shopping for eyeshadows and shoes.

When he was alive, George was so misinformed about such things that he and his wife boycotted Brighton, for genuine fear that they might catch AIDs from the chinaware if they stopped anywhere for coffee. It made them the prisoners, nobody else, but I had to wonder whether George, from a higher, freed perspective, might now approve of the way my mind was working.

Or maybe he just couldn't have given a tuppenny fart, either way.

'Ello Yoyo

Back from a funeral swiftly followed by six (relatively swift) vodkas with Red Bull. At the time they felt somehow necessary.

The combination of mortal clarity and alcohol fuelled leaps of intuition, I have resilved (fuckety fuck fuck) have helped me to resolve several issues in my life, most of which, like a glimpse of eternity and the 'Big Plan' in the best dreams, are fast fading.

The one that remains is the link between my mother and my subsequent drive to parent gay men.

More later when that makes more sense. I mean it makes perfect sense now, as long as I don't try to put words to it.


In Honour Of George Stripple

Apologies to TT friends and other visitors - will catch up tomorrow.

George Stripple was our neighbour. We'd known him for about ten years and in that time he'd become a friend to us and our children.

An East End Barrow Boy, on his own on the streets from an early age, he'd learned the tricks of several trades, not all legal. The ones we know of (or know a very little of) revolved around the war - the start of a jam making company and the removal of colour from precious, rationed petrol, so that agricultural fuel could be sold as for civilian use. Sold to the police from the station across the road, apparently. The system involved a filter and boot polish, so he said.

He showed us his photos - of his first shop, of life in the forties and fifties but the one that meant the most to him was a group photo of all the barrow boys that he employed as his market trader business took off. All around 12 to 16 I would guess, all under George's wing as he had been in their position on his own. He was out making a purchase when a bomb hit the warehouse and wiped them all out in one go. Sixty years on and it obviously still put a lump in his throat.

Generally speaking, having had to work hard, duck and dive for most of his life, his habits were highly disciplined and he didn't think much of modern society. The prisons, he said, were bloody holiday camps these days. When he heard that some cells even have TVs installed, he was speechless. In his day a TV was a luxury that few had access to on the outside; so, he said, was a roof and a warm bed. Bloody holiday camps.

He would 'go off' the neighbours in turn and when we first met, warned us away from becoming friends with any of them, saying they were all spoilt and greedy and thought they were too good for anyone else. We were alright, he said, because we came from London and had half an idea. "Oh them" he'd say defiantly, "They think their shit don't stink."

We thought the world of him.

The first time I met George and his beloved wife Ellen, I took to them instantly. The dear old lady who was their next door neighbour at the time was enthralled by the local Baptist Church, which had its own bus to collect the elderly members of the congregation and see them safely home again. It was her world, her social life and she would often encourage Ellen to come along with her. George was having none of it.

When I signed up briefly with Dorling Kindersley as a way to meet the neighbours and went to take a party invitation round, his first question to me was "You're not from the Church are you?"

When I replied that I was not he said "Oh thank xxxx for that, that bloody woman next door keeps trying to get us to Church. I told her we were naked sun worshipping satanists."

How could you not love someone like that? God loves an honest man, and I never took that to mean law abiding, so much as straight talking. That makes George about the most honest man I ever met.

I won't be online much today. We're off to his funeral this afternoon.

Rest in peace, George, if the concept doesn't drive you up the wall, and if it does, then I hope Heaven has a place for your sharp mind, slicing wit and tendency to be up at the crack of dawn sorting out the world. I hope theres jellied eels up there too, and petrol lawnmowers and a chorus of barrow boys waiting to get you a pint.
This post written by and property of Cheryl the Mad Baggage

17 May 2006

Thursday Thirteen

Thirteen things sitting on my side desk, that shouldn't be there but don't have proper homes.
  1. A very small, very light 'mini stitch' sewing machine, bought in desperation when I had to do this.
  2. A School Certificate For Excellent Behaviour, awarded to Daughter in March this year.
  3. A pack of tarot cards, loose, held down by a chunk of an amethyst geode
  4. One and a half pairs of earrings
  5. A single packet of gummed paper chains, there ever since we didn't use them at Christmas.
  6. A cotton wool pleat and a bottle of nail varnish remover.
  7. A fir cone, scavenged by one of the kids last autumn
  8. An empty Ambi-pur plug in air freshener
  9. One hair bobble
  10. One pistachio nut, where the shell didn't open during roasting
  11. Two miniature bottles each of hotel shampoo and conditioner.
  12. The star shaped top off a rubber stamp from Daughter's Tracy Beaker craft magazine collection.
  13. A pot full of Birthday cake candles and holders

You know whats so good about this TT thing? When I looked at this particular desk space (about 2 foot square), I thought it was a right mess, but reading the list above it looks more family oriented and eclectic. This may or may not be a good thing, as the lack of guilt this engenders might mean half the stuff is still there this time next year. Oops.

Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!

Out Of Order

I stole the following, completely, from fuzzbox over at blugstuff, where I have lurked for many moons.

Its his article. He wrote it. If you want to add a comment then it would be manners to comment on his blog not mine, but speaking personally, I'd sooner you just copied the whole thing and blogged it, to spread the word.

Paris Isn't The Only Hilton That Sucks

Something has come to my attention that flat out sickens me. It is starting to become big news but since it has just come to my attention, I thought that I would speak my piece about it.

Fran O'Briens Steakhouse, located inside The Hilton Hotel in the Capitol, has been serving free steak dinners to veterans from Bethesda Naval Hospital, who have been injured during the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. The cook there went so far to make sure that all guests would enjoy their outing that for one patient who had lost his lower jaw, he perfected a way to puree a steak and make it not only edible but tasty.

During lease negotiations the owners of the steakhouse requested that the hotel fix a lift so that handicapped veterans could have fair and equal access to the restaurant as the law prescribes. The only entrances to the restaurant were a stairway, ( the escalator broke in 1998 and the hotel will not fix) or through a service lift located through the security desk and a coat room. Instead of installing an elevator to fix the problem, Hilton Hotel Corporation chose to provide equal access by evicting the owners and closing the restaurant down. Nothing like good sound business decisions, huh.

It will be a cold day in hell before I ever stay in a Hilton Hotel or any of their subsidiaries: Conrad Hotels, Doubletree, Embassy Suites, Hampton Inn, Hampton Inn & Suites, Hilton Garden Inn, Homewood Suites, and Scandic. Another suggestion that I have seen mentioned is the letter writing campaign with a twist. When you are staying at a hotel ( not any of these listed ), use that hotels stationary and write a letter to Hilton Hotel Corporation telling them just what you think of their attitude towards veterans and the handicapped addressed to:

Thomas Keltner,
Executive Vice President,
Hilton Hotel Corporation,
9336 Civic Center Drive
Beverly Hills, California 90210
FAX: 310-205-4599

Taken from Blugstuff by fuzzbox

What's Up, Doc?

Found the link below over at The Moai's place, Kalahari Lighthouse.

It is a wonderful list of phrases in the Yorkshire dialect, composed for the sake of European doctors who might come over to practice in the UK having only learned the standardised version of the Queen's English. These are all to do with the body and physical conditions such as menstruation.

The fact is that, barring a few references to football teams and numbers (I always thought a number two was something else), most of the words seem to be in common usage across most of the country.

That's when I thought of you guys, specifically my American friends, as this might help clear up a few word choices in some of my older posts, or those of any other Brit friends whose blogs you read.

Oh I have to correct myself, I say 'niggling', not 'noggling', and I hadn't heard about fishdocks before. But I jolly well have now.

Aspie-rations Of The Heart.

A fairy tale, without the fairies.

After a decade or so of marriage and one or two revelations about the resultant offspring, a man's wife announced that, of the two of them, he was almost certainly (read blatantly, as she's a tactful soul) , the one with the Aspergers gene.

In truth this was debatable, but he accepted the charge quite willingly, knowing the alternative was to consider other reasons for his ineptitude. Reasons such as running away from home at 16, not to face the wide world and make his fortune but to live with his doting granny; or simply being a late developer, remaining a little too long as one of those self indulgent, egocentric types - wedged firmly into the teenage condition otherwise known as 'What's in it for me?'

This blindness was a small scar on an otherwise good heart. His love for his wife was never expressed as nights out or romantic gestures or compliments, but by emailing her jokes, needing to read things aloud to her if he found them amusing or important; by phoning her every single day (sometimes twice a day) if he was away from home.

One morning, well into his middle age, he woke up in a hotel bed, off on another jaunt for his employers, and realised he had never sent her a real letter. Never. He rectified this.

The missive was received with curiosity and enthusiasm and a suspicion that, on this trip, he must for once be bored out of his mind. His wife was startled then, to put it mildly, when on his return he hugged her to him and referred to it as his first ever 'love' letter to her.

A month or so passed until, one night, having watched a television programme about health and the ageing process (and learned of the three activities which stave off heart disease, namely laughter, exercise, and orgasm), they retired to bed, to read. She chose to continue a book which had occupied her during his absence. There, acting as a bookmark, was the letter.

Nothing would have been made of this, except this night he decided to pay her attention. He decided, as soon as she had settled into her book, to interrupt her and make her laugh:

Her: Aww pack it up!

Him: Come on, you have to have your fifteen minutes of laughter, Its good for the heart.

Her: What, thats as opposed to my orgasm then is it? Bastard!

Him: I'm too tired!

Her: You were bloody born too tired. Oh well you have a jolly good chuckle to yourself then dear. Sod off.

pause as they get back to their books

Her: Oh darling look, I've found your love letter to me. Aww that's so special. May I read it to you?

Him: Uhoh.

Dear, Not 'darling' you note, just 'dear'
Sunday Morning. Well OK but a date at the top of the page would have told me that. Lots of news so far, then.
As I lay here on the bed thinking of you - aha! Things are looking up! - and the kids - Hmm - it dawned on me the little things I miss most. OK getting better again, here comes the second paragraph.

Noise being one - you rotten swine! - it is quiet this morning - see, I KNEW you only wrote this because you were bloody bored - (compared with last night) and the TV doesn't replace the joyful noise of Son and Daughter killing one another.

Last night they had a birthday party for someone in the hotel which got a bit loud. The crooner they got in as entertainment was crap and very loud. Well ha. Now you know how I feel when you put some god awful band like Kraftwerk on full blast on a Saturday morning.
It finished around 11.30 but then there was a slow troll of people (drunk) coming up to their rooms. So, lonely, bored, jealous, and I think I'll write to the wife. True so far? Ok, here we go:

I look out of the window this morning to see more rain. The forecast is for a fine afternoon (yeah I bet). Oh darling! Bless you! I must be the only woman in the whole world whose love letter contains a weather report.

I am missing you more than ever and cannot wait to get back for a cuddle and the rest. Hang on matey - lets get this straight - the story so far appears to be 'I miss the kids, I missed a party, its raining, get ready for a bonk'. Right?

Tell Son that I love him lots for being 'the man about the house' and Daughter for being an angel. Oh my God you've surpassed yourself, not only a weather report but added neolithic sexism, just for good measure. Guaranteed to have any woman hot and waiting, I'm sure.


Some women might move heaven and earth to find a man that it was near impossible to offend. He was, and is, such a man and by this time was not only laughing himself (even more) stupid, but positively revelling in it. Orgasm schmorgasm.


Her: Right, fucker. I'm going to bloody blog this.

He feigned fear, dragged all the duvet off her to huddle it under his chin and continued laughing.

Revenge is sweet.