Friday, 29 October 2004

john peel meme

I have just been visiting my Blogging Brits neighbour, Fridgemagnet, and have been taken by his idea of a John Peel Meme:



1. Get at least five songs that you've never heard before;

2. listen to them;

3. write about them in your blog, and link people to them if possible.



I think it should be a rule that at least one of them is under 30 seconds and/or some sort of unlistenable noisecore, people shouting Japanese over jackhammers, or similar.
I am off to do this over the weekend and will post the results next week. Go on! You know you want to!



john peel meme

I have just been visiting my Blogging Brits neighbour, Fridgemagnet, and have been taken by his idea of a John Peel Meme:



1. Get at least five songs that you've never heard before;

2. listen to them;

3. write about them in your blog, and link people to them if possible.



I think it should be a rule that at least one of them is under 30 seconds and/or some sort of unlistenable noisecore, people shouting Japanese over jackhammers, or similar.
I am off to do this over the weekend and will post the results next week. Go on! You know you want to!



Thursday, 28 October 2004

run rabbit run, for your life

Noteable characteristics of my mother's family include an unbreakable addiction to tea and a love of music. These were always demonstrated at family gatherings when Aunt Edith came to visit when we were kids.

Aunt E never travels alone. At it's most bloated, her entourage used to consist of:

  • her mother
  • three female friends - 'Aunts' Clarissa, Flora and Nina
  • Flora and Nina's husbands
  • the couple who fostered Flora as an evacuee during the war
  • three dogs

Team this with the resident branch of the family - Ma, Pa (who generally used to hide, gibbering, during the visit), my grandmother and grandfather, Ma's Uncle John (who had been in the Indian Army during the 1920's), my sister and myself, and our dog - and you had a ready-made three-ring circus.

During the morning of the visit, my mother and grandmother would frenziedly prepare provisions, slicing cucumber in to sandwiches, baking cakes and scones. The visitors would arrive between 2pm and 3pm in the afternoon and divide in to different platoons. One would head for the house, to sit and chat. One would find Ma, wherever she was on the farm, and join her in whatever job she was doing. And one party would take the dogs for a walk around the fields.

At around 5pm everyone would gather in the house for tea, sitting around a dining table that normally took six in comfort. The enormous plates of bread and butter, sandwiches and cake would be laid out and we would fill and refill three tea-pots about a million times.

After the meal was over, we would remove to the living room and the ladies would get out their knitting. They could knit for Britain - indeed, between 1939 and 1945 they probably had. Their fingers moved so fast that you couldn't keep track of them.

As the evening went on, we would persuade Aunt Edith to play the piano ... ("play some of the old songs ..." :-)). We'd run through all the oldies-but-goodies - "Run rabbit, run"; "In the stores"; "Daisy, daisy, give me your answer do" and then move on to hymns. It would go on for hours. And then, about ten o'clock, the tea would come round again, and afterwards, the party would gather up it's knitting and leave for another six months.

Looking back, I suppose it was a relic from a bygone age even then. Now, it conjours up Georgian, Victorian and Edwardian evenings around the 'instrument', with everyone taking a turn. But it was also a characteristic of a family who seemed to have music at the heart of everything and although I poke fun, I do regret it's passing.

Tuesday, 26 October 2004

searching for a bedpan in the attic

Ma recounted a story while we were staying with her that I would like to share:



Before Dad went in to hospital for his angioplasty, he was in considerable pain, particularly at night. This meant that he had great difficulty getting out of bed should he need to. And it also meant that he was on a large number of painkillers, which, apparently (I can find no euphemistic way to put this) have a variety of different effects on ones bowel. (I had a brief look for an informative link for this and decided that it was too depressing).



So at about midnight one night, Ma decided that he would be more comfortable if she could find him a bedpan.



She looked all over the house and couldn't find the bedpan she was certain she possessed. The only place left to look was
the attic.



So, at about 1am, she found the loft-ladder, which was originally purchased in order to climb on the roof of my great-grandmother's East-End home and put out fires from incendiary bombs during the
Blitz.



At roughly 1.05am, she ascended to the loft.



At approximately 1.06am, the loft ladder became dislodged and fell down the stairs.



By this time, my father had fallen back to sleep.



He is very deaf.



My mother was stranded in the loft for three hours, during which time she had plenty of time to look for the bedpan.



Eventually her shouting woke the dogs up, who then began barking loudly enough to wake up my sister next door, who after a while heard Ma shouting for help and came and rescued her.



They never found the bedpan.




searching for a bedpan in the attic

Ma recounted a story while we were staying with her that I would like to share:



Before Dad went in to hospital for his angioplasty, he was in considerable pain, particularly at night. This meant that he had great difficulty getting out of bed should he need to. And it also meant that he was on a large number of painkillers, which, apparently (I can find no euphemistic way to put this) have a variety of different effects on ones bowel. (I had a brief look for an informative link for this and decided that it was too depressing).



So at about midnight one night, Ma decided that he would be more comfortable if she could find him a bedpan.



She looked all over the house and couldn't find the bedpan she was certain she possessed. The only place left to look was
the attic.



So, at about 1am, she found the loft-ladder, which was originally purchased in order to climb on the roof of my great-grandmother's East-End home and put out fires from incendiary bombs during the
Blitz.



At roughly 1.05am, she ascended to the loft.



At approximately 1.06am, the loft ladder became dislodged and fell down the stairs.



By this time, my father had fallen back to sleep.



He is very deaf.



My mother was stranded in the loft for three hours, during which time she had plenty of time to look for the bedpan.



Eventually her shouting woke the dogs up, who then began barking loudly enough to wake up my sister next door, who after a while heard Ma shouting for help and came and rescued her.



They never found the bedpan.




Monday, 25 October 2004

another ten(ish) facts

  1. I am a science-fiction fan. I did some of the SF bits of this course for fun a few years ago.
  2. I find statistics interesting.
  3. My first boyfriend was a transvestite, which wigged me out much less that I expected it to.
  4. Websites where the form is clearly more important than the content really piss me off.
  5. I am violently allergic to kiwi fruit.
  6. I can make bobbin-lace.
  7. We would quite like to have a family, but it doesn't look like it's happening.
  8. I think wasting healthcare resources on IVF is morally wrong - better to use them to help people who already exist.
  9. I used to service my own car, but then I got bored.
  10. I make wine. Some of it is actually drinkable.
  11. I ended up doing an archaeology degree partly because I got confused when I was filling out my UCCA form. I meant to put down anthropology. I enjoyed it though.
  12. I would like to sail around the pacific rim in a tall ship. I need to find out whether I get sea-sick first.
  13. I can type seventy words a minute, but only if no-one is watching.



another ten(ish) facts

  1. I am a science-fiction fan. I did some of the SF bits of this course for fun a few years ago.
  2. I find statistics interesting.
  3. My first boyfriend was a transvestite, which wigged me out much less that I expected it to.
  4. Websites where the form is clearly more important than the content really piss me off.
  5. I am violently allergic to kiwi fruit.
  6. I can make bobbin-lace.
  7. We would quite like to have a family, but it doesn't look like it's happening.
  8. I think wasting healthcare resources on IVF is morally wrong - better to use them to help people who already exist.
  9. I used to service my own car, but then I got bored.
  10. I make wine. Some of it is actually drinkable.
  11. I ended up doing an archaeology degree partly because I got confused when I was filling out my UCCA form. I meant to put down anthropology. I enjoyed it though.
  12. I would like to sail around the pacific rim in a tall ship. I need to find out whether I get sea-sick first.
  13. I can type seventy words a minute, but only if no-one is watching.



Friday, 22 October 2004

family visit

We are going to visit my family for a few days this week. We've been planning it for a while and they have known about it for a while. However, a slight hitch has arisen at their end. Previously mentioned Aunt Edith and her friend 'Aunt' Flora are coming to visit during the same period. Aunt Flora is also an ex-teacher, a primary head-mistress. She also has a beard, but as far as I am aware she plays no musical instrument of any kind. They are both in their eighties.



This has meant that B and I will be sleeping in the single bedroom, as on both a 'first come, first served' and a 'seniority' basis Edith and Flora have bagged the spare double room. This is not an issue, as we can take the inflatable mattress.



Ma has an issue though ... the single bedroom could also be described as 'The Room of Doom'. A large selection of the miscellaneous crap that has accrued in the house since 1956 is piled in there. Ma appears to be congenitally unable to throw ANYTHING away. Up to and including the early 1960's Vauxhaull Cresta in the top shed. Which is underneath the two bedframes, the four moth-eaten canvas deckchairs, the three broken spin dryers, the two washing machines, the rolls of rusting chicken wire, the two aquariums and three hamster cages, the broken fridge, the crates and crates of jars for pickles and jams, and, for some reason, a dove-cote.



So no room to move the stuff in to there then.



When I telephoned her yesterday, she was coming to the end of sorting the stuff out, with the help of
Edwin. I think that this probably consisted of shoving most of it up in to the attic, which already contains the accrued Furniture of Ages Past, all our baby toys (please note that I am 34 and my sister is 32) and a Silver Cross pram. Oh, and squirrels, who wait until everyone goes to bed and then don hobnail boots and run round and round and round*. I am hoping against hope that she then let Edwin burn everything that was left over.



I realise that I am a selfish and unpleasant daughter; but it is becoming increasingly clear to me that when my parents finally give up their mortal coil and move on to The Great Smallholding In The Sky, I am going to be the one who has to sort through the two big sheds (and we are, really, talking BARNS here - think
nissen-hut-type WW2 sleeping accommodation) and the four smaller sheds and the attic, and winnow everything out.



Questions: If a box hasn't been opened since 1956, can you morally chuck it out without opening it, on the grounds that if no-one has needed the contents for sixty years I am unlikely to find them useful? What is the correct method of disposal for rusty chicken wire?






*Please note that I do realise that squirrels are not nocturnal. However, I REALLY don't wish to think about the other options. Don't get me wrong, I LIKE rats, they are intelligent, loyal, etc. etc. I would love to keep one as a pet. But the idea of a surprised rat in hobnail boots falling through the ceiling over my bed as I am sleeping worries me ALOT. I am working quite hard at not thinking about it.





family visit

We are going to visit my family for a few days this week. We've been planning it for a while and they have known about it for a while. However, a slight hitch has arisen at their end. Previously mentioned Aunt Edith and her friend 'Aunt' Flora are coming to visit during the same period. Aunt Flora is also an ex-teacher, a primary head-mistress. She also has a beard, but as far as I am aware she plays no musical instrument of any kind. They are both in their eighties.



This has meant that B and I will be sleeping in the single bedroom, as on both a 'first come, first served' and a 'seniority' basis Edith and Flora have bagged the spare double room. This is not an issue, as we can take the inflatable mattress.



Ma has an issue though ... the single bedroom could also be described as 'The Room of Doom'. A large selection of the miscellaneous crap that has accrued in the house since 1956 is piled in there. Ma appears to be congenitally unable to throw ANYTHING away. Up to and including the early 1960's Vauxhaull Cresta in the top shed. Which is underneath the two bedframes, the four moth-eaten canvas deckchairs, the three broken spin dryers, the two washing machines, the rolls of rusting chicken wire, the two aquariums and three hamster cages, the broken fridge, the crates and crates of jars for pickles and jams, and, for some reason, a dove-cote.



So no room to move the stuff in to there then.



When I telephoned her yesterday, she was coming to the end of sorting the stuff out, with the help of
Edwin. I think that this probably consisted of shoving most of it up in to the attic, which already contains the accrued Furniture of Ages Past, all our baby toys (please note that I am 34 and my sister is 32) and a Silver Cross pram. Oh, and squirrels, who wait until everyone goes to bed and then don hobnail boots and run round and round and round*. I am hoping against hope that she then let Edwin burn everything that was left over.



I realise that I am a selfish and unpleasant daughter; but it is becoming increasingly clear to me that when my parents finally give up their mortal coil and move on to The Great Smallholding In The Sky, I am going to be the one who has to sort through the two big sheds (and we are, really, talking BARNS here - think
nissen-hut-type WW2 sleeping accommodation) and the four smaller sheds and the attic, and winnow everything out.



Questions: If a box hasn't been opened since 1956, can you morally chuck it out without opening it, on the grounds that if no-one has needed the contents for sixty years I am unlikely to find them useful? What is the correct method of disposal for rusty chicken wire?






*Please note that I do realise that squirrels are not nocturnal. However, I REALLY don't wish to think about the other options. Don't get me wrong, I LIKE rats, they are intelligent, loyal, etc. etc. I would love to keep one as a pet. But the idea of a surprised rat in hobnail boots falling through the ceiling over my bed as I am sleeping worries me ALOT. I am working quite hard at not thinking about it.





Wednesday, 20 October 2004

aga saga

I have become obsessed with range cookers. When we bought our house, the builders pulled down a partition wall in the kitchen kind-of-by-mistake (err, I told them to do it whilst B was out) and found a huge fireplace (so a good decision after all, thankfully).



It was immediately obvious that an aga or raeburn-type range cooker would fit in the space beautifully, but equally obvious that we couldn't afford one yet ... which is where we still are at the moment. However ... as the mornings are getting colder I am spending more and more time on ebay looking for the ideal range.



Pros: They keep the house lovely and warm; they become the heart of the home; you can cook brilliant toast on them; you can cook for a family of twenty easily; it will heat water for you and some of them will run central heating; you can put sick baby animals in the bottom oven (REMEMBERING TO LEAVE THE DOOR OPEN) and they get nice and warm and well again; your tortoise can get warm in the same way when it wakes up in the spring; you always have dry tea-towels; the kettle doesn't take very long to boil as it is always warming; and finally, they evoke childhood memories for me, as I grew up with a solid-fuel aga.



Cons: Even if we bought one on ebay for bobbins we would still have to pay out to have it fitted - this would involve putting a flue up through the floor of the bathroom and out of the roof and would probably cost more that we would pay for a second-hand range; it is environmentally unfriendly and expensive as it would be on all the time; we don't have a family of twenty, any sick baby animals or a tortoise; we already have a perfectly adequate combi-boiler and central heating system.



I am not letting any of this get in the way of a good bout of obsessive behaviour though.




aga saga

I have become obsessed with range cookers. When we bought our house, the builders pulled down a partition wall in the kitchen kind-of-by-mistake (err, I told them to do it whilst B was out) and found a huge fireplace (so a good decision after all, thankfully).



It was immediately obvious that an aga or raeburn-type range cooker would fit in the space beautifully, but equally obvious that we couldn't afford one yet ... which is where we still are at the moment. However ... as the mornings are getting colder I am spending more and more time on ebay looking for the ideal range.



Pros: They keep the house lovely and warm; they become the heart of the home; you can cook brilliant toast on them; you can cook for a family of twenty easily; it will heat water for you and some of them will run central heating; you can put sick baby animals in the bottom oven (REMEMBERING TO LEAVE THE DOOR OPEN) and they get nice and warm and well again; your tortoise can get warm in the same way when it wakes up in the spring; you always have dry tea-towels; the kettle doesn't take very long to boil as it is always warming; and finally, they evoke childhood memories for me, as I grew up with a solid-fuel aga.



Cons: Even if we bought one on ebay for bobbins we would still have to pay out to have it fitted - this would involve putting a flue up through the floor of the bathroom and out of the roof and would probably cost more that we would pay for a second-hand range; it is environmentally unfriendly and expensive as it would be on all the time; we don't have a family of twenty, any sick baby animals or a tortoise; we already have a perfectly adequate combi-boiler and central heating system.



I am not letting any of this get in the way of a good bout of obsessive behaviour though.




Tuesday, 19 October 2004

wherever you hang your violin case

When I left college, I couldn't make up my mind whether or not I wanted to move in with my boyfriend or not, so I went back to my parents' for a while. Then it became clear that I *did* want to move in with him, so I joined him in the dingy nurses home he was staying in in North London. We took turn-and-turn about sleeping on the tortuously uncomfortable cast-iron single bedstead and the incredibly uncomfortable parquet floor and we started looking for somewhere to live.



Our finances were slightly hampered by him working only eighteen hours a week and me not working at all; but eventually we found a quite cheap, quite large room in a shared house close to his work.

The house had three bedrooms upstairs and two rooms downstairs. The upstairs rooms were rented out to a group of friends who spent their spare time making replica chain mail and slaughtering orcs in the grounds of the local psychiatric hospital.




The two rooms downstairs were separated only by some glass french doors. We had one and Tony, the acting landlord, had the other, with his girlfriend Sharon. Rent was paid weekly on a cash-only basis - I made a tentative query about rent books on the day we moved in which nearly caused us to be asked to leave. Also on the day we moved in, we noticed that the double-glazing pane in the bottom of the front door was badly cracked. 'Smashed' would be another word you could use to describe it. It was still broken on the day we moved out, nearly a year later.



Tony was the son of the actual owner of the house. His family were from Naples and his real name was Antonio. The family had lots of connections in the local Italian community and Tony therefore had a problem ... Sharon was *not* italian. She was a dyed in the wool Londoner and his family didn't really approve. Despite this they'd been together for years - they had a volatile relationship which we experienced quite a lot at second hand through the glass doors, until we jury-rigged a wardrobe-and-blanket modesty-barrier and bought a TV. Sharon once tried to push Tony out of the car on the M25 at eighty miles per hour. He was driving.



Tony did building work on houses his father had bought and was doing up to sell on, but he also worked for other construction companies. During those periods, friends used to deliver building materials at odd hours of the night that would disappear in to the garage and then be gone in a day or two.



Every so often, beautifully manicured italian gentlemen wearing camel-hair overcoats and carrying expensive leather briefcases would visit Tony, and Sharon would go out to visit friends. However hard we tried not to, we could still overhear some of the conversation in the next room through the doors, the wardrobe, the blankets and the noise of the television. One day the visitor said:



"Antonio ... Uncle is NOT VERY HAPPY with you".



I started to worry about coming home one evening and finding a horse's head in the bed, so we began to look for alternative accommodation.





wherever you hang your violin case

When I left college, I couldn't make up my mind whether or not I wanted to move in with my boyfriend or not, so I went back to my parents' for a while. Then it became clear that I *did* want to move in with him, so I joined him in the dingy nurses home he was staying in in North London. We took turn-and-turn about sleeping on the tortuously uncomfortable cast-iron single bedstead and the incredibly uncomfortable parquet floor and we started looking for somewhere to live.



Our finances were slightly hampered by him working only eighteen hours a week and me not working at all; but eventually we found a quite cheap, quite large room in a shared house close to his work.

The house had three bedrooms upstairs and two rooms downstairs. The upstairs rooms were rented out to a group of friends who spent their spare time making replica chain mail and slaughtering orcs in the grounds of the local psychiatric hospital.




The two rooms downstairs were separated only by some glass french doors. We had one and Tony, the acting landlord, had the other, with his girlfriend Sharon. Rent was paid weekly on a cash-only basis - I made a tentative query about rent books on the day we moved in which nearly caused us to be asked to leave. Also on the day we moved in, we noticed that the double-glazing pane in the bottom of the front door was badly cracked. 'Smashed' would be another word you could use to describe it. It was still broken on the day we moved out, nearly a year later.



Tony was the son of the actual owner of the house. His family were from Naples and his real name was Antonio. The family had lots of connections in the local Italian community and Tony therefore had a problem ... Sharon was *not* italian. She was a dyed in the wool Londoner and his family didn't really approve. Despite this they'd been together for years - they had a volatile relationship which we experienced quite a lot at second hand through the glass doors, until we jury-rigged a wardrobe-and-blanket modesty-barrier and bought a TV. Sharon once tried to push Tony out of the car on the M25 at eighty miles per hour. He was driving.



Tony did building work on houses his father had bought and was doing up to sell on, but he also worked for other construction companies. During those periods, friends used to deliver building materials at odd hours of the night that would disappear in to the garage and then be gone in a day or two.



Every so often, beautifully manicured italian gentlemen wearing camel-hair overcoats and carrying expensive leather briefcases would visit Tony, and Sharon would go out to visit friends. However hard we tried not to, we could still overhear some of the conversation in the next room through the doors, the wardrobe, the blankets and the noise of the television. One day the visitor said:



"Antonio ... Uncle is NOT VERY HAPPY with you".



I started to worry about coming home one evening and finding a horse's head in the bed, so we began to look for alternative accommodation.





Sunday, 17 October 2004

b-world



B's inner world contains:



  • Postcards, but no stamps to send them with (sic).


  • Blue-lit walk-way tubes a la Manchester airport, with beltways that people ride round and round on gently, thinking pleasant thoughts and waving gracefully as they pass each other. (Think the robot from the scene in the ice-cave in 'Logan's Run' - "Fish, plankton, seagreens ... protein from the sea!").


  • Probably Jenny Agutter as well.


  • Model trains to ride on.


  • No clocks. Or, indeed, time.


  • Instantaneous transport from one place to another.


  • Cheese.




b-world



B's inner world contains:



  • Postcards, but no stamps to send them with (sic).


  • Blue-lit walk-way tubes a la Manchester airport, with beltways that people ride round and round on gently, thinking pleasant thoughts and waving gracefully as they pass each other. (Think the robot from the scene in the ice-cave in 'Logan's Run' - "Fish, plankton, seagreens ... protein from the sea!").


  • Probably Jenny Agutter as well.


  • Model trains to ride on.


  • No clocks. Or, indeed, time.


  • Instantaneous transport from one place to another.


  • Cheese.




Friday, 15 October 2004

scaring the postman

I got woken up by the postman this morning, trying to deliver my finally-located purple polyfiles.



I pounded down the stairs, fumbled with the keys, opened the door, took the parcel, signed the bit of paper on his clipboard, said thank-you-and-goodbye, went in, locked the door, thought to myself "it's lovely that our postman is so cheerful and friendly", put the parcel down and realised that my pyjamas were open and I was flashing not just a nipple, but a WHOLE BREAST.



Thought "Shit. No wonder he was grinning like the
Cheshire Cat" and went back to bed to start the day again.

scaring the postman

I got woken up by the postman this morning, trying to deliver my finally-located purple polyfiles.



I pounded down the stairs, fumbled with the keys, opened the door, took the parcel, signed the bit of paper on his clipboard, said thank-you-and-goodbye, went in, locked the door, thought to myself "it's lovely that our postman is so cheerful and friendly", put the parcel down and realised that my pyjamas were open and I was flashing not just a nipple, but a WHOLE BREAST.



Thought "Shit. No wonder he was grinning like the
Cheshire Cat" and went back to bed to start the day again.

Thursday, 14 October 2004

wants v. needs

I was having a conversation about happiness with someone the other day - specifically relationship-type happiness.

They were arguing that doing things to make yourself happy to the detriment of your family and friends was a Bad Thing and should be avoided.

I was arguing that making oneself happy is ones primary responsibility, and if it makes other people incidentally unhappy then that is, as Mistress Matisse has eloquently put it in a recent post, "not your dog".

I've been mulling it all over over the last few days and I've come to the conclusion that we are both right. The trick is in making a distinction between what you need to make you happy and what you simply want.

Examples of stuff I want: a bigger bath, B to somehow not be away quite so many nights in the busy season, the entire collection of SF Masterworks and my mother to be less mad.



I don't actually need any of these things for my long lasting happiness.



What I actually need for my long-term happiness is emotional support and security, laughter, a basic level of material security, and intellectual stimulation. I would be prepared to alter my life and the lives of those around me if I felt that these needs weren't being met on a long-term basis. I wouldn't for the wants.



And that's the difference. The trick though is identifying the two categories and being rigourously honest with yourself about what goes in which.

wants v. needs

I was having a conversation about happiness with someone the other day - specifically relationship-type happiness.

They were arguing that doing things to make yourself happy to the detriment of your family and friends was a Bad Thing and should be avoided.

I was arguing that making oneself happy is ones primary responsibility, and if it makes other people incidentally unhappy then that is, as Mistress Matisse has eloquently put it in a recent post, "not your dog".

I've been mulling it all over over the last few days and I've come to the conclusion that we are both right. The trick is in making a distinction between what you need to make you happy and what you simply want.

Examples of stuff I want: a bigger bath, B to somehow not be away quite so many nights in the busy season, the entire collection of SF Masterworks and my mother to be less mad.



I don't actually need any of these things for my long lasting happiness.



What I actually need for my long-term happiness is emotional support and security, laughter, a basic level of material security, and intellectual stimulation. I would be prepared to alter my life and the lives of those around me if I felt that these needs weren't being met on a long-term basis. I wouldn't for the wants.



And that's the difference. The trick though is identifying the two categories and being rigourously honest with yourself about what goes in which.

Wednesday, 13 October 2004

long-distance bus journeys with the damned

At 10.55 my bus arrived. I boarded. There were some free seats near the front, so I sat down, blew up my little pillow and made myself comfortable. As I settled myself down I became aware of an odd smell emanating from the front of the bus. Several fellow passengers were clearly also aware of it, and one or two were looking at me suspiciously. I shuffled my feet and got out my book.



On the other side of the aisle, three or four rows to the front of me was a woman I mentally labelled as a new-age type, from the way she was dressed. Soon after the bus pulled out she mentioned the strange smell to the hostess, who made vague reassuring noises and moved on.



The man in the seat in front of me started some rather robust bantering with the hostess - she was from Yorkshire and he was from Lancashire - and then asked for a cup of coffee, which she brought him. He then started rustling in a plastic bag, presumably for something to eat.



The smell became worse.



As we pulled in to Bristol bus station, the New-Age Lady suddenly jumped out of her seat and ran towards the back of the bus, screaming "he's got KIPPERS in there!".



General uproar, chaos and confabulation.



The hostess tried to part the man from his kippers, pointing out that the smell was causing quite a few other passengers distress.



He protested that they were lovely kippers and he'd bought them only that morning, fresh, from Sainsbury's in Swansea.



The driver became involved. The bus would not leave Bristol until the kippers, lovely or not, went underneath in the luggage storage.



Kipper Man held out. The other passengers started to become restive. We had flights to catch.



Eventually he gave in ... the kippers were bagged up and put in with the luggage. New-Age Lady refused to return to her seat and was re-housed near the back of the bus. Kipper Man spent the rest of the journey grumbling and emanating less specific smells that were still startling in their intensity.



At Reading, at about 1 am, the bus pulled in to the stop - a gyro outside a deserted supermarket. Four people with reserved seats were waiting to get on. Kipper Man was travelling on a stand-by ticket, so he had to leave the bus and wait for the next one, to make space for them. Before they got on, the hostess disinfected his seat and the floor around it.



As we pulled out of Reading, he was left standing beside the bus-stop, holding only his bag of kippers, lonely in the night air.



long-distance bus journeys with the damned

At 10.55 my bus arrived. I boarded. There were some free seats near the front, so I sat down, blew up my little pillow and made myself comfortable. As I settled myself down I became aware of an odd smell emanating from the front of the bus. Several fellow passengers were clearly also aware of it, and one or two were looking at me suspiciously. I shuffled my feet and got out my book.



On the other side of the aisle, three or four rows to the front of me was a woman I mentally labelled as a new-age type, from the way she was dressed. Soon after the bus pulled out she mentioned the strange smell to the hostess, who made vague reassuring noises and moved on.



The man in the seat in front of me started some rather robust bantering with the hostess - she was from Yorkshire and he was from Lancashire - and then asked for a cup of coffee, which she brought him. He then started rustling in a plastic bag, presumably for something to eat.



The smell became worse.



As we pulled in to Bristol bus station, the New-Age Lady suddenly jumped out of her seat and ran towards the back of the bus, screaming "he's got KIPPERS in there!".



General uproar, chaos and confabulation.



The hostess tried to part the man from his kippers, pointing out that the smell was causing quite a few other passengers distress.



He protested that they were lovely kippers and he'd bought them only that morning, fresh, from Sainsbury's in Swansea.



The driver became involved. The bus would not leave Bristol until the kippers, lovely or not, went underneath in the luggage storage.



Kipper Man held out. The other passengers started to become restive. We had flights to catch.



Eventually he gave in ... the kippers were bagged up and put in with the luggage. New-Age Lady refused to return to her seat and was re-housed near the back of the bus. Kipper Man spent the rest of the journey grumbling and emanating less specific smells that were still startling in their intensity.



At Reading, at about 1 am, the bus pulled in to the stop - a gyro outside a deserted supermarket. Four people with reserved seats were waiting to get on. Kipper Man was travelling on a stand-by ticket, so he had to leave the bus and wait for the next one, to make space for them. Before they got on, the hostess disinfected his seat and the floor around it.



As we pulled out of Reading, he was left standing beside the bus-stop, holding only his bag of kippers, lonely in the night air.



Tuesday, 12 October 2004

a nice relaxing massage

I had four phone calls yesterday asking if we were a massage parlour. It seems possible that today, somewhere, someone is contacting their printers and complaining that they've got the phone number on their cards wrong. One chap took quite a lot of convincing that we were actually an office. Due to my slight paranoia I didn't want to say that we were also a private home.



When I lived in Wales, I was in the Yellow Pages under 'Complementary Therapists' - there was no section for 'Reiki' or 'Spiritual Healing', so I got quite a few wildly off the wall calls. The weirdest went like this:



Me: Hullo, Ally speaking.

Caller: (slighly tentative) Hullo. Do you do massage?

Me: (very professional, I can already see a number of ways this might go) No, sorry. I do energy work, reiki and spiritual healing. I can give you a number for a colleague of mine who does do aromatherapy and swedish massage though, if that's what you are looking for.

Caller: Oh. Only I am looking for someone who will iron me through a wet sheet.

Me: (tries not to laugh)

Caller: I used to visit a lady in Cwmbran who did it for me, but she's moved away.

Me: (still trying not to laugh)

Caller: Is that the sort of thing you'd be prepared to do?

Me: (successful in not laughing. professional voice back on again) No, I'm afraid it's not. I work OFF the body, in the energy field.

Caller: Do you know anyone who would?

Me: No, I don't think so.

Caller: Ok, thank you anyway.

Me: No problem. Thank you for calling. (hangs up phone and sits on floor giggling to self for ten minutes)





a nice relaxing massage

I had four phone calls yesterday asking if we were a massage parlour. It seems possible that today, somewhere, someone is contacting their printers and complaining that they've got the phone number on their cards wrong. One chap took quite a lot of convincing that we were actually an office. Due to my slight paranoia I didn't want to say that we were also a private home.



When I lived in Wales, I was in the Yellow Pages under 'Complementary Therapists' - there was no section for 'Reiki' or 'Spiritual Healing', so I got quite a few wildly off the wall calls. The weirdest went like this:



Me: Hullo, Ally speaking.

Caller: (slighly tentative) Hullo. Do you do massage?

Me: (very professional, I can already see a number of ways this might go) No, sorry. I do energy work, reiki and spiritual healing. I can give you a number for a colleague of mine who does do aromatherapy and swedish massage though, if that's what you are looking for.

Caller: Oh. Only I am looking for someone who will iron me through a wet sheet.

Me: (tries not to laugh)

Caller: I used to visit a lady in Cwmbran who did it for me, but she's moved away.

Me: (still trying not to laugh)

Caller: Is that the sort of thing you'd be prepared to do?

Me: (successful in not laughing. professional voice back on again) No, I'm afraid it's not. I work OFF the body, in the energy field.

Caller: Do you know anyone who would?

Me: No, I don't think so.

Caller: Ok, thank you anyway.

Me: No problem. Thank you for calling. (hangs up phone and sits on floor giggling to self for ten minutes)





Monday, 11 October 2004

ken bigley

I realise that most of the bloggers in the UK have probably been commenting on Ken Bigley's death ... however, I still want to put my twopennorth:

  • He had apparently worked widely in the Middle East, and therefore presumably knew the risks he was undertaking.
  • He had weighed these up against altruism and the financial rewards and made the decision that taking the risks was personally worthwhile.
  • Thousands of Iraqi civilians have been killed in the conflict. They had no choice about whether to become engaged with it or not.
  • Hundreds of soldiers have been killed in the conflict. Ditto.
I have deep sympathy for both him and his family. However I feel that the media have made a circus out of the event and a similar hysteria has been whipped up to that which occured when Princess Diana died. It is out of proportion to the event itself and does not make any of the issues involved either easier to understand or to address.





ken bigley

I realise that most of the bloggers in the UK have probably been commenting on Ken Bigley's death ... however, I still want to put my twopennorth:

  • He had apparently worked widely in the Middle East, and therefore presumably knew the risks he was undertaking.
  • He had weighed these up against altruism and the financial rewards and made the decision that taking the risks was personally worthwhile.
  • Thousands of Iraqi civilians have been killed in the conflict. They had no choice about whether to become engaged with it or not.
  • Hundreds of soldiers have been killed in the conflict. Ditto.
I have deep sympathy for both him and his family. However I feel that the media have made a circus out of the event and a similar hysteria has been whipped up to that which occured when Princess Diana died. It is out of proportion to the event itself and does not make any of the issues involved either easier to understand or to address.





dating alan titchmarsh

Slid in to a surreal conversation regarding Alan Titchmarsh. I can see his appeal, such a reassuring voice and very firm, craftsman's hands. He would always know how to get the best results from your marigolds and would be a fiend with the end of a garden hose if you stepped out of line in the relationship.



B disagrees. He thinks Alan is far too nice to be so over-assertive and would be horrified at the very thought.




dating alan titchmarsh

Slid in to a surreal conversation regarding Alan Titchmarsh. I can see his appeal, such a reassuring voice and very firm, craftsman's hands. He would always know how to get the best results from your marigolds and would be a fiend with the end of a garden hose if you stepped out of line in the relationship.



B disagrees. He thinks Alan is far too nice to be so over-assertive and would be horrified at the very thought.




Friday, 8 October 2004

being john noakes

Last night I dreamt that I was trying to herd a galloping baby elephant (real player clip) round and round in circles.



I have spent the last two days trying to find someone to sell me A5 purple folders.

  • I have spoken to the manufacturer, who sells them in bulk to wholesalers, but doesn't retail them.
  • I have spoken to about a thousand wholesalers, but they only sell to retailers.
  • I have spoken to about a million retailers, who only sell them in packs of assorted colours and don't want to have to sit down and pick out all the purple ones.
  • Aaarrgghhh.
R has gone out to scour the area's stationery shops.



B has gone to do a four-hour get-out on marginal sleep after getting home from his last job at 5.30am.



I am producing the contents of forty packs of marketing information, with nothing to place said information in when I have done it.



I want to lie down under the table with some nice, soothing, wet newspaper over my face and have someone massage my feet.



being john noakes

Last night I dreamt that I was trying to herd a galloping baby elephant (real player clip) round and round in circles.



I have spent the last two days trying to find someone to sell me A5 purple folders.

  • I have spoken to the manufacturer, who sells them in bulk to wholesalers, but doesn't retail them.
  • I have spoken to about a thousand wholesalers, but they only sell to retailers.
  • I have spoken to about a million retailers, who only sell them in packs of assorted colours and don't want to have to sit down and pick out all the purple ones.
  • Aaarrgghhh.
R has gone out to scour the area's stationery shops.



B has gone to do a four-hour get-out on marginal sleep after getting home from his last job at 5.30am.



I am producing the contents of forty packs of marketing information, with nothing to place said information in when I have done it.



I want to lie down under the table with some nice, soothing, wet newspaper over my face and have someone massage my feet.



Wednesday, 6 October 2004

give your rabbit a treat

We once had a rabbit that lived behind the fridge. Ma had rescued it from a nest that the dogs had dug up, and brought it up on Bengers Baby Food fed out of a dropper. He got very tame and became convinced that he was a puppy, curling up on the rug in front of the fire with the dog and climbing on top of the dog's head when she sat up. The dog was pretty embarrassed by this, not least because she'd been responsible for eating the rabbit's mother.



When Bengers became too old to keep in the kitchen - and when the environmental health inspector told Ma, very politely, that it was probably not a good idea to have a rabbit in the kitchen while you were making apple pies to sell to the general public - a Bengers Repatriation Programme was put together.



Bengers was given a home outside in a hutch and a pen for a while, and then taken down to the bottom of the field and released in to the wild. Every night Ma would go down to say goodnight to him and take him a 'finger of fudge'. Five hundred other rabbits would head for their rabbit holes when they saw her coming, and one would pelt towards her to get it's sugar fix.



Motto: Make sure that the sweets at the checkout are placed so your rabbit can't reach them.



give your rabbit a treat

We once had a rabbit that lived behind the fridge. Ma had rescued it from a nest that the dogs had dug up, and brought it up on Bengers Baby Food fed out of a dropper. He got very tame and became convinced that he was a puppy, curling up on the rug in front of the fire with the dog and climbing on top of the dog's head when she sat up. The dog was pretty embarrassed by this, not least because she'd been responsible for eating the rabbit's mother.



When Bengers became too old to keep in the kitchen - and when the environmental health inspector told Ma, very politely, that it was probably not a good idea to have a rabbit in the kitchen while you were making apple pies to sell to the general public - a Bengers Repatriation Programme was put together.



Bengers was given a home outside in a hutch and a pen for a while, and then taken down to the bottom of the field and released in to the wild. Every night Ma would go down to say goodnight to him and take him a 'finger of fudge'. Five hundred other rabbits would head for their rabbit holes when they saw her coming, and one would pelt towards her to get it's sugar fix.



Motto: Make sure that the sweets at the checkout are placed so your rabbit can't reach them.



Tuesday, 5 October 2004

bright lights and white tiles

b4b.jpgThe bright lights reflect off the white tiles and the mirrors and hurt my skin. I have been awake all night and I am exhausted. My arms are hurting where I have been cutting myself. I am crying enormous gulping sobs that I am trying to stifle by pressing my hands over my mouth, but which burst out despite myself. I am looking for somewhere to hide, but there is no-where to go where I can be alone. A woman comes up to me and asks "Are you alright?". Then she corrects herself - "Clearly you are not alright. Is there anything I can do to help you?". I shake my head and by hyperventilating manage to get the sobs to stop for long enough to say "No, thank you". She looks at me for a second or two, worried, and then turns away. I go in to one of the cubicles and I lock the door and sit down on the lid of the toilet and try to get myself under control.

I am at the station and I have missed the train that I have been awake all night waiting to catch. There is another one in an hour and fifteen minutes and it feels like time has stopped. I have gone in to the ladies toilets to find somewhere to hide from people's prying eyes. I am conscious that people are looking at me curiously and I am fighting a desire to run and run until I find somewhere safe. Only there is no-where that is safe, as partly I am running from myself.


I was in my first year at college and I had fallen in love with a friend from school who had by co-incidence got a place at the same college and by a double co-incidence been placed in the same halls of residence. We spent a lot of time together and I started to think that my feelings might be reciprocated. One night we went out for a few drinks and then came back home and sat in my room. We started cuddling and progressed to lying on the bed, kissing. I was happy - clearly he was interested in me as more than a friend. However ... as the kissing progressed I started to get uncomfortable. He was obviously very aroused and didn't pick up that I was becoming unhappy with the speed things were going. I didn't want to upset him or make him think I wasn't interested ... but finally I spoke up. I said "I don't think this is a good idea". I can hear the words aloud in my head now. He didn't pay any attention. I lay under him, scared. Suddenly everything had shifted. He wasn't behaving like my friend Kev. He was behaving like a scary stranger. He said "This won't take long".

Afterwards he lay on top of me for a while, before rolling off. I can still feel the physical sensations - him flaccid against me, the sticky dampness between my legs. I didn't know what to do. He said goodnight and went back to his own room. I lay down on the bed again and after a while got up and had a bath. I thought about it. We were friends. I loved him. He couldn't have heard me. I could have pushed him off. I could have shouted out. But why didn't he stay and hold me afterwards? Or talk?


But that wasn't the worst bit.

The worst bit was that he didn't want to be friends any more. He told me that he wanted to be part of the 'JCR' crowd and that I wouldn't fit in with them. We had to organise accommodation for the next academic year fairly soon afterwards, and he told the other people in our halls of residence that I was unstable and that he had serious reservations about sharing a house with me. And when we went home for the christmas vacation, he told all our mutual friends at home that we had had a one night stand and that 'it didn't mean anything'.

I felt effectively cut off from all my support network. I felt that I couldn't come out and tell people what had happened, as I wasn't sure what actually HAD happened. I liked him a lot. I'd been happy kissing him. I hadn't made more fuss, or pushed him strongly away. I didn't want to say "I was date raped by Kev". It is a terrible thing to accuse someone of. So I kept quiet. I did try to talk to my mum about it. I explained what had happened and she said "Perhaps he couldn't stop", which was no help at all. If he had still wanted to be friends afterwards, if he had been prepared to discuss what had happened then I would have been okay. But he walked out of rooms when I walked in to them and he made it clear he didn't want anything to do with me. Life became very difficult as the interactions between us had an effect on the people we lived with. By this time they were probably believing his statement about me being unstable - by this time, I was.

As the year went on, I became more and more distressed. I started buying a bottle of cheap brandy every week with my shopping and drinking it alone in my room. I bought a sharp kitchen knife and kept it under my pillow and when I felt bad I would get it out and hold it as I sat rocking. It made me feel safe. If I felt really bad, I would put it against my arms and draw it along, making cuts that stung.

My work started to suffer. I was still suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome at the time, so my tutors attributed it to that and no-one asked me what was wrong. I don't know if I could have explained if they had. I started going away at weekends, using up all my student grant on train fares. I had a succession of one night stands, not enjoying them, but to prove that I was attractive and worth something. It didn't make me feel any better.

Towards the middle of the summer term, I steeled myself and had a conversation with Kev. It didn't go well. He asked me why I had told our friends at home that we had slept together. I replied that I hadn't. He told me that Richard had know about it and had asked him about it. I reiterated that I hadn't told anyone. He was angry with me, blaming me for everyone knowing. I didn't understand why it was a problem for people to know and I didn't understand why he was blaming me, when it was him who had essentially used me, sacked me off and then told everyone I didn't mean anything to him. So I decided to go to see Richard in Birmingham and confront him about what had been said. I was starting to doubt my own memory of what had happened.

This is how I ended up in such a state in the ladies room at the station.

Richard said he had been joking with Kev when he had asked him how we were getting on together at college ... he had been really surprised when Kev came out with a blustering justification of his version of events. Our conversation gave me a handle to hold on to. I was still in a very bad state - I can remember standing on top of a very high wall in Birmingham city centre and wondering if the drop was tall enough to kill me outright if I jumped off it. I decided it wasn't, so I didn't jump. After that I did start to pull myself together slightly and begin to realise that I hadn't done anything wrong, but had been treated appallingly.

Towards the end of the year I met someone visiting from another college and spent a weekend with him. It wasn't going to go anywhere, but he was a kind man and listened to me as I talked. I managed to tell him what had happened and somehow that lanced the worst of the wounds and gave me some self-esteem back.

In my second year I went in to a shared house with Kev and four others - I was determined I wasn't going to be pushed out of my group of friends because of him. It was very hard. In a way though, I succeeded at university BECAUSE of what had happened rather than despite it. I was determined that I wasn't going to drop out because of him. So I didn't ask for my accommodation to be changed although in retrospect I could have. It would have meant explaining what had happened and I still couldn't admit that even to myself. I took it a day at a time and if some days I couldn't get out of bed and on other days I needed to cut my arms, I got through it.

In the end, I graduated with a 2.1 and later went on to do an MSc. I understand from mutual aquaintances that he is an estate agent in London, which I try to view as a kind of poetic justice.

Monday, 4 October 2004

plumbing the depths

In response to Scaryduck's request, I should in all fairness probably mention my plumber-with-bowel-trouble story.



Great plumber. Corgi registered. Charges £25 a day, which I realise will make readers in the South East want to start gnawing their own legs off. Always seems to be on the sick from his main job, but happy to come out and have a look at your problem if he's well enough.



Visit always involves listening to an unexpurgated history of his colon since his last visit and a description of his bowel movements during the day, and, if you are particularly unlucky, the weekend.

It also usually involves a full update on his family's doings - none of whom I have ever met or am likely to - in mesmerising detail.



The trick is to eat something bland before he arrives and remember never to offer him caffeinated beverages.



plumbing the depths

In response to Scaryduck's request, I should in all fairness probably mention my plumber-with-bowel-trouble story.



Great plumber. Corgi registered. Charges £25 a day, which I realise will make readers in the South East want to start gnawing their own legs off. Always seems to be on the sick from his main job, but happy to come out and have a look at your problem if he's well enough.



Visit always involves listening to an unexpurgated history of his colon since his last visit and a description of his bowel movements during the day, and, if you are particularly unlucky, the weekend.

It also usually involves a full update on his family's doings - none of whom I have ever met or am likely to - in mesmerising detail.



The trick is to eat something bland before he arrives and remember never to offer him caffeinated beverages.



rotovating your way towards a hip replacement

Edwin, who is 'the boy who does the heavy work' on my mother's farm, is waiting for his second hip replacement.



He is seventy six.



He had his first hip replaced about six months ago. We finally convinced him to go to see his GP to get referred when you could hear the hip popping in it's socket as he walked.



Oh, and he couldn't move around without two sticks.



This became apparent when someone had to go and find him one lunch-time ... he had started rotovating in one of the greenhouses and left his sticks at the top of the span. When the rotovator ran out of fuel at the bottom of the span, he had no way of getting back to his sticks.




In a way this was funny.



He is waiting to have his second one done now, and Ma is desperately trying to get him to ease off on the heavy work until afterwards.






rotovating your way towards a hip replacement

Edwin, who is 'the boy who does the heavy work' on my mother's farm, is waiting for his second hip replacement.



He is seventy six.



He had his first hip replaced about six months ago. We finally convinced him to go to see his GP to get referred when you could hear the hip popping in it's socket as he walked.



Oh, and he couldn't move around without two sticks.



This became apparent when someone had to go and find him one lunch-time ... he had started rotovating in one of the greenhouses and left his sticks at the top of the span. When the rotovator ran out of fuel at the bottom of the span, he had no way of getting back to his sticks.




In a way this was funny.



He is waiting to have his second one done now, and Ma is desperately trying to get him to ease off on the heavy work until afterwards.






Sunday, 3 October 2004

fat elvis throws hysterics

We did a gig for an insurance company yesterday. They had decided that the best way to entertain and delight their staff was to ask for volunteers for a 'Stars In Their Eyes' mock-up and then ply everyone with so much alcohol that people would have to be stretchered out to the buses at the end of the event.



B was doing the lighting (no budget, silk purse, sows ear etc. etc.), R was operating the dry ice (R: "I've never done this before. Any advice?" B: "Yes. Don't put your head in the ice hopper.") and I was operating the follow-spot.



The performers were pretty much a nice crowd, who were largely doing it for laughs - we had a Tom Jones, a Shania Twain and Johnny Rotten, among others. The guy playing Elvis however, had a bad case of ego and endeared himself to no-one. To start with there appeared to have been a case of mistaken identity - he had neglected to specify which Elvis he actually wanted to be, apparently seeing himself more as early, guitar-toting star rather than the drug-raddled, burger-bloated King he more closely resembled. He then offended the dressmaker by telling her that the costume she had slaved over for him was 'tat' and that 'Elvis would never have worn it'.



Despite his hissy fit it was a fun event to crew and we whiled away the time between the end of our part of the show and starting the get-out by trying to guess which punters or potential stars had been the ones shagging in the toilets. "Tonight Matthew ... I am going to be ... falling down drunk and copulating with my co-workers in the gents lavatory".





fat elvis throws hysterics

We did a gig for an insurance company yesterday. They had decided that the best way to entertain and delight their staff was to ask for volunteers for a 'Stars In Their Eyes' mock-up and then ply everyone with so much alcohol that people would have to be stretchered out to the buses at the end of the event.



B was doing the lighting (no budget, silk purse, sows ear etc. etc.), R was operating the dry ice (R: "I've never done this before. Any advice?" B: "Yes. Don't put your head in the ice hopper.") and I was operating the follow-spot.



The performers were pretty much a nice crowd, who were largely doing it for laughs - we had a Tom Jones, a Shania Twain and Johnny Rotten, among others. The guy playing Elvis however, had a bad case of ego and endeared himself to no-one. To start with there appeared to have been a case of mistaken identity - he had neglected to specify which Elvis he actually wanted to be, apparently seeing himself more as early, guitar-toting star rather than the drug-raddled, burger-bloated King he more closely resembled. He then offended the dressmaker by telling her that the costume she had slaved over for him was 'tat' and that 'Elvis would never have worn it'.



Despite his hissy fit it was a fun event to crew and we whiled away the time between the end of our part of the show and starting the get-out by trying to guess which punters or potential stars had been the ones shagging in the toilets. "Tonight Matthew ... I am going to be ... falling down drunk and copulating with my co-workers in the gents lavatory".