Monthly Archives: April 2009

We Stayed Out Past Ten And Drank Lemonade

I should be getting ready for my noon lecture, rather than sitting here in a nightshirt and hoody thinking whether, of my time-reduced options, I can have a coffee and a shower, or just one of those things.

However, instead, I’m going to blog. I’ve got eight minutes yet anyway until I really need to just get some clothes on and leave.

I said I was going to do the feminist rant thing soon, and I am. The other day a guy I know took me out for lunch – we went to a restaurant in a nearby town, and had a lovely (if expensive) meal. All the way through the meal, I was getting worried, because I knew I couldn’t really afford to eat at the restaurant he’d chosen, but he’d booked the table beforehand, so really, I had no choice. But we finished our meal, and I turned to get my purse out of my bag and start the whole ‘how are we going to split this’ conversation, only to find that he was already handing over his card to the waiter and brooking no objections: he was going to pay, of course, how could I possibly think otherwise? Truly gentlemanly and chivalrous in the old-fashioned sense of the word.

Now, on the one hand, of course, I can’t help thinking, ‘ooh, that’s lovely’. I was very grateful to him: this beautiful afternoon we had together was in one sense a gift from him to me. But on the other hand, I have a number of objections. The first is this: on some level, you feel obliged to someone who takes you out to dinner and buys you food and suchlike – and it’s too easy to assume that you then owe your date something. This page from a comic I occasionally read (yes, I’m still thirteen…) illustrates that quite well. And there are men (my date; let’s call him M wasn’t one of them) who would also think the same – they paid for you to eat, so you should damn well invite them in for ‘coffee’, and we all know what that means.

Of course, any man who thinks like that should probably be drowned like a kitten in a sack with his thumbs tied together.

Another objection is somehow harder to explain but also more logical. If a man is taking me on a date, making the decisions, handing over the money, driving me home, that somehow emasculates me. I know that’s a term usually used of men. It weakens me, turns me into something the man is essentially caring for and looking after, rather than sharing this experience with. I can pay my own way; I can choose a good wine for myself; I can get myself home; I am not a doll or a child. Nor am I a trophy to be showed off (‘look what I reeled in, becuase I’m such a gentleman’) or some kind of prize; and I am not going to like you any more because you flash your cash about. Just like you, I am a human being. Who just happens to be female.

I can’t really explain it. Perhaps in that case it was OK, because he knew as well as I did that I was about as impoverished as it is possible to be, and if I wasn’t, perhaps he wouldn’t have paid the whole thing – but I don’t think so. If that was the case, he would have suggested some other scenario entirely. And I was flattered, and I do like M in many ways, and I had a lovely day. He’s a wonderful person, but I think we fundamentally operate in totally different ways, see the world in a wholly different way. And with all these misgivings I have about this whole ‘date’ scenario, well, I’m not sure that M and I could ever really work as a couple. Because I’d like to think that if, one day, he was as poor as I currently am, I could offer to pay for dinner or drinks or whatever, and he would be OK with that, because we’d be working as equals. I know most of the men I am friends with think like that, but I don’t think that M would ever allow that. I think he’d be offended by that, and any man who thinks like that is really not my kind of guy. 

And, of course, he’s the friend I mentioned in my previous post. Politically we’re looking in opposite directions.

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Still A Good Feeling

I’m still really enjoying the fact that I no longer need Cloudlife, have no longer anything worthwhile to say on that score. Obviously depression, and public awareness thereof, is still something in which I am deeply concerned, and I hope to do that concern justice at some point. But right now I’m enjoying the break from thinking about all of that.

Meanwhile another friend was asking today why it is that I blog, and to be honest, I don’t know. Because it’s meant I’ve got to communicate with people I would never otherwise have encountered, and have conversations and debates I might not have otherwise had? Because it’s a creative outlet of some kind? I really don’t know, and I can’t justify it, but I don’t think I should have to.

The same friend then went off on one about my left-leaning tendencies being ‘idealistic’ and based on a fundamentally naive belief in the goodness of humanity in general. It isn’t. I’m no Marx. I’m no idealist. I’m just not completely selfish, either; and his arguments were based on ignorance: of my points of view, of the decisions and breakthroughs Labour has made in power, exactly who made the decisions and formulated the theories that got us into this economic mess, and so on and so forth. Prompted by that same friend my next post is probably going to be one in which I wade into feminism once again, and try and work out certain opinions of mine… watch and wait.

Anyway, getting my fists out and thumping that table again was something I haven’t done in too long. Another good feeling, still.

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Rain.

I love the rain.

Last night, A and I went out for a walk in the rain to try to make me wake up so that I didn’t end up going to bed at 7pm and then waking up in the middle of the night. We set out along the route I usually run, and ended up storming round paths in the Botanical Gardens that I’d never come across before, and everything was beautiful, colours so intense, dripping wet and that bruised grey sky colour you get in serious rain; and down the hill to the other park that I run home through, and grass that crushed and sponged beneath our feet, under the dripping trees, beech and ash, and along the path to the children’s playground.

We reminisced about childhood, how much we used to love seesaws, swinging really high, and climbing onto the roofs of playhouses. We looked at each other. The decision remained unsaid.

It was really space-age, and brilliantly designed, and in the rain, laughing like children, blind through our rain-covered glasses, we ran in, tried out everything, ran for the swings, and suddenly I was in my own world, soaking wet, I didn’t care, high, higher than I realised, eyes shut, face into the wind, nothing but me and space for miles and miles. I opened my eyes and there were three of us – another girl we weren’t sure whether or not we recognised, lost, completely alone, and happy, too, I hope. She looked like she needed the space.

I wandered off and hopped from stone to stone across the river, and then, well, I couldn’t get any wetter, so I waded right in up to my knees and splashed, laughing, all the way back to the swings, climbed out, calling to A, and we wandered home, cold and wet and blind as moles and perfectly, ridiculously happy, laughing like kids, untired, could’ve taken on the world. Instead I lobster-boiled myself in the shower – one of those showers that’s bloody amazing because of how much you need it.

Anyway, it was a wonderful day, and for that I thought it was worth mentioning. Something about going back to childhood once in a while being just the most lovely thing.

Today, meanwhile, I felt like I was play-acting as a grown up, sorting my laundry into white (or roughly quite light) and dark, and taking all the shower curtains down for a wash too, and having a good old spring clean. At least, that was the intention. Instead I found myself getting through the laundry, and then getting roped into doing A’s radio show with him. Poetry. Google Forge Radio if you really want to hear a) my voice and b) me making a total idiot of myself and c) some rather good poems featuring ‘Tea’ (today’s poetry theme). There may be a listen-again function – look for ‘Cricklewood’. Well, please don’t, but it’s up to you.

Anyway, that’s it, what I’ve been up to recently, in a nutshell. Now I need tea. How grown up… .

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I Don’t Adapt Well To Change

My mother just got her hair cut and, having seen it now for fully five minutes, I like it, it suits her, and it was what I was advising her to have done. But the minute she walked through the door, even the small changes that she’d had done shocked me a little, and my immediate response was a little strangulated – to which she cuttingly commented, ‘You don’t like it, do you?’. I do. Now. Once she’s washed it again and got that glossy sticky GHD look out of it. But I’m always surprised by change and it takes me a while to adapt. Isn’t that the same for everyone?

Now I’m scared that she thinks I don’t like it and that that will change her feelings about her haircut and make her less confident of it, and I really hope that’s not the case, because it oughtn’t to be, but it’s exactly the way my thoughts would go. Which is daft: it’s a good haircut.

Now I’m worrying about this too much. I annoy myself sometimes.

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Soundtrack To My Life (uninteresting as it doubtless is)

Meanwhile, here’s a heads-up: Song-a-Day has rather successfully provided a significant chunk of my recent life-soundtrack. Does exactly what it says on the tin: a youtube video each day of a song the anonymous writer thinks his/her readers should know about if they don’t already.

It’s a great and interesting concept, and it’s fun wondering what prompted the writer to choose particular songs on particular days, making up backstory or a character for this shadow. I suspect it’s someone not unfamiliar to some of you who come here often, but whoever it is, they’re not giving up their secrets just yet…

On that note, I was wondering about anonymous comments by Ipso Facto, of Song A Day, and others, and wondering how far it is possible to guess the gender of a writer based on their writing style. What do you think?

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The Fear

My personal Biggest Ever Fear isn’t spiders, or small spaces (spiders are oddly cute, and small spaces, well, yes, they do scare me). It’s not crowds, or being alone, or losing people; it’s trying to pick up a new skill or something and completely embarassing myself and doing badly in the process.

Literally, I’m currently playing a game of chess over Facebook with a friend (a friend who has seen me fall down stairs, dance like an idiot, and sport noodle tentacles due to an incident involving a total independent-self-feeding fail (to be fair to myself I was using a prawn cracker as a spoon and I had something I really needed to say just as I put a giant mouthful in my gob. But never mind).

Anyway. I’m playing chess with this guy, and I haven’t played since I was about nine and anyway I was useless at chess even then so it’s safe to assume I’m not exactly Bobby Fischer now (is he even a famous chess player, the obvious reference I’m going for here?).I’m inexperienced, I don’t know how to think or plan like a chess player, and it scares me to the extent that I’m practically breaking a cold sweat. I’m just too terrified of making a stupid move and suffering an ignominious chessmate. I know I’m going down, but I want to do so without personally feeling that I’ve lost my dignity. I don’t want him to think I’m stupid – which is daft, he knows I’m intelligent; probably more intelligent than he is, and he knows it, so he’s not going to think I’m stupid (at least no more stupid than he did when I was making a total fool of myself with those infamous noodles). I just get impossibly scared  of being caught out being incompetent at something, even if it’s something ludicrous that no-one would expect me to have off pat, like, say, climbing. That’s half the reason I barely made it this term: I should have made more progress than I have.

Anyway, does anyone have the foggiest what I’m on about?

What scares you?

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Maybe They’re People After All

OK, up to a point I shall take back what I said about Britain’s Got Talent, at least: the response, the good-nature and utter joy of hte audience in this video is touching.

But I take it back only up to a point: she couldn’t have been in the least bit less good than she was to have stayed in, because her manner and her looks and the fact that she *wasn’t* a photogenic, nubile twenty-something or a cute child were all hugely against her. In her favour, well, That Voice.

Incidentally I found the video on another blog I read but have never blog-rolled, which you can find going by the name of The Golden Lasso.

And while we’re on the subject of blogs I read, this, by my friend Gee (yes, a friend from the Real World!), was just set up today. She’s a good writer, from other stuff I’ve seen. Expect good and interesting things, if she keeps it up!

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Tonight’s The Night

I object hugely to shows like The X Factor and their ilk, I really do. Basically getting ordinary people up on stage for the purpose of humiliating, laughing at and abusing them, whether you’re a judge or just watching it yourself on the telly you’re still to blame – it’s not my idea of fun, at all. It seems to me something like the bullying that happens in the school playground, where you’re never quite sure whether you’re more upset by the dripping sarcasm and cruelty of the ringleaders, or by the willingness of supposedly neutral others to stand around and watch and laugh.

However I have been mightily cheered by the discovery of John Barrowman’s Tonight’s The Night, which has just hit our Saturday screens. First off, I love John Barrowman, and if he wasn’t gay/twice my age/infinitesimally likely to ever actually meet me, I would marry him. His incessantly smiley, confident and confidence-giving persona puts everyone at ease, and he’s the perfect host for this show. The second reason I love it is that he opens and closes every episode by himself performing some utter showstopper, and he’s the ultimate West End performer; singing, dancing, acting, and oh! that smile. To be honest Reasons Number One and Two are about the same: John Barrowman, full stop.

The show itself is also brilliant: it’s about giving people the chance to perform, to get up on a stage and just do something they’ve always wanted to do, be that perform a song with McFly, belt out ‘Good Morning Baltimore’ from Hairspray, or even perform a Cossack dance routine. And it’s all about enjoying watching people live those dreams, however good or bad they are – their talent isn’t what matters so much as their enjoyment. It’s a thoroughly good-natured show.

Then the other features of the show: Workplace Wonders, where in last weeks episode, a bunch of accountants from London (who’d originally got together to do a charity pantomime) performed ‘Material Girl’, going head to head with the Surrey waitresses’ ‘Candyman’, for the audience to vote (the winners go on to the ‘Workplace Wonders’ semifinal in a couple of weeks time). The ‘mystery celebrity’ bit, where a mystery celebrity goes against John Barrowman to master a specific performing skill: this week it was Some Famous Rugby Player (please don’t ask for names, I’ve already forgotten if I ever actually knew!), and they both had to master pulling lots of tricks with a football (you know the kind – keepie-uppies, kicking it up into the air and catching it on your shoulders/neck muscles), all choreographed (sort of) to music.

I mean, it’s not Great TV, but it’s a break away from the bitchy, competitive mean-ness that seems to go along with reality TV, especially Saturday night fodder, these days. It cheered me up a lot. Cheesy, definitely. Daft – as a brush. But very good-natured. If you want mindless comfort-watching I’d recommend this. I’ll be following it on iPlayer, that’s for certain.

(Tonight’s The Night is shown on BBC 1 at 6.55pm on Saturday nights)

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Things About Which I Am Currently Annoyed

  1. My old school friends and their total inability to be organised and know basic information about when they’re at home and when they’re at university, and their total fear of speaking up and actually saying, any chance we could do such-and-such a date instead.
  2. The fact that I was talked into organising this sodding meal in the first place. I am not a natural organiser and it’s something I absolutely hate doing, but I realised it was a bullet I had to bite. Well, frankly, damn-blast-and-bother the lot of you. Organise yourselves, next time, yes? (I am positively angry about this).
  3. People who at the grand old age of nineteen are totally unable to write wall posts in proper English, with a fair stab at good grammar and spelling (I’m not asking for perfection, I’m just asking for basic things: ‘you’ is not spelled ‘u’; ‘thanks’ has ONE ‘a’ and ONE ‘s’, not three: ‘thaaanksss’ – what, quite honestly, is that?; and it is frankly unnecessary, the vast majority of the time, to put more than one punctuation mark at the end of any given clause or sentence).
  4. People who write as appallingly as that and then wonder why they’re not considered bright enough to do the degree course of their choice.
  5. People who tailgate people who are driving up to the speed limit already, in a residential area, for-Christ’s-sodding-sake.
  6. Reasonable men. I like my men bloody annoying and difficult to get hold of, otherwise I’ll think you’re Way Too Keen. Thankfully the man in question will never read this. Nor, if he has any sense, will he assume it’s him I’m addressing. That would just be annoying (which would probably actually scan quite well with me…). But I’m not sure how to get past it, or if I actually want to. I suspect not.
  7. Everything Else Ever. It’s just been one of those days.

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Strange Transformation

I seem to have turned into Social Secretary Extraordinaire these past few weeks, sending messages and emails and invitations flying all over the internet to try and see as many of my old friends as I possibly can before I go back to university. It’s maddening and complicated, but I’ve got most of it done in advance and lots of things seem to be coming off pretty well, with a fire evening planned, one lovely meal been and gone, and another at least hopefully happening next Monday and on Friday, a night out, hopefully taking in some of the more infamous local clubs, if it happens, and assorted other things involving coffee and good conversation. 

But the point I’m mainly making is this: I’ve always been a bit scared of organising actual things before, on anything more than a purely ad hoc basis, doing a ring-round, starting with the people I’d most like to see, and then adding others if it seems to be that most people are around that day; because, of course, I’m scared of rejection, failure, that people won’t be able to make it, or can’t really be bothered to fag out for an hours drive just to see me (and who can blame them? It’s a boring drive), or worse still, that if I organise something in advance, the people I want to see but only in company of other people to bolster it out can make it and I’m left with a really awkward group and a really awkward event.

But what I’ve realised is this: Already I’ve had to cancel one thing I was organising, and I might have to cancel another thing. In the sheer bulk of events I find I’ve suddenly got responsibility for, that’s not too much, but it is a significant chunk of People I Really Wanted To See, which is a shame. Anyway, Realisations: it doesn’t matter, cancelling something. If you have a potentially awkward group, it very nearly always works out unless there is actually A Situation going on (awkward exes, jealous girlfriends, an ex-mistress, personality clashes, we’ve got ’em all…), and even then, these things tend to iron themselves out. We’re not fifteen any more; our lives don’t revolve around the next nailbitingly silly teenage drama.

What I’m saying is, actually, I’ve had to put myself out there in the absence of T, who usually organises most of the social interaction of which I partake in the holidays (I’m sorry, that extremely pompous phrase just wandered into my mind, and I had to say it…) – she’s on an Erasmus year abroad – and it’s meant I’ve seen people I wouldn’t otherwise have seen, and learnt things about myself, and sorted out events and such by myself. I feel like a grown-up!!

More honestly, it’s been good for me, and I’ve learnt a lot and become more confident and organised (and heaven knows I could always do with more organisation, I’m useless), and I like it.

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