Monthly Archives: July 2009

Here Is The Plan

I’m going away today with P – we’re going to a festival, the Larmer Tree Festival, to be precise, and I can’t wait. I’m then coming back on Sunday, and going straight off on holiday with my parents, to Wales, and then when I get back I’m going straight off to the New Forest to camp with some other friends. Basically I won’t be around until August, really. I’m probably going to have to take my laptop on holiday so I can keep on revising. I just can’t wait until September when I’ll finally be able to actually have a real break, rather than merely doing lots of work within an ostensibly holiday setting.

So yes, until I get back, so long, and let’s hope the weather stays as good as it is right this minute (it’s sunny while I type, so I hope you’re not reading this in a thunderstorm…!). May you have fun, may things be simple and happy and go well for you, good luck if you’re expecting results for anything (I got mine a few days ago and passed the lot, and got off on Special Circumstances for the one I had to miss because of the whole migraine/late night sex incident) and I hope they go as well as you expected, if not better, and certainly as well as you deserve. Which is very, of course, all you lovely people.

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It’s Friday, We Should Break Up

Shine has this tradition of breaking up with annoying things on a friday, be they taxi drivers or cockroaches.

So I am breaking up with Aunt Penelope, as my sister would call her. I’ve put up with the fact that she didn’t even barge into my life until I was sixteen, causing me years of anxiety and teenage self-loathing about my puppy fat and flat chest and lack of hips and the rest – and that was pretty bad manners, Penelope, as I’m sure if you think about it you’ll agree.

I was happy to put up with the two days of agony, and following two of comparably less awful pain, for four days out of every five weeks. If you’re going to be in faint-inducing amounts of pain when most of your friends are not, you may as well have a longer cycle, it only seems fair. I was happy to put up with the PMS because half the time it didn’t even affect me either because I was too sad or too happy for it to change anything.

But it seems that you are getting a little too enthusiastic about our relationship, Penelope. Relishing in coming to visit just as my exams get underway. That’s just not funny. It’s understandable, you have a schedule, I know, but it’s not funny. Then to come back – what, did you leave something behind? – two and a half weeks later? Oh, hilarious. I love you too. And then today, not only two and a half weeks since your last visit, but right when I’m finally leaving the house and going on holiday, right when you coudln’t be any more fucking inconvenient. No, I’m not happy. Not happy at all.

For crying out loud, I was so confused and in so much pain this morning that I ended up at the doctors where ideas such as pregnancy, IBS, ovarian cancer, and goodness knows what-all were bandied about. I was prodded and poked and asked all kinds of questions and there were no answers and then you go and show up, smugly, the one thing I had thought quite impossible.

I am not impressed.

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Quaked In His Boots As He Stood By The Door

Sunday 12th July 2009

I’ll admit it, I was a little nervous, going in. But a friendly man came over, shook my head, and asked me, ‘Is it your first time here?’

‘Yes, well, actually, it’s my first ever meeting full stop’ (cue Social Laugh, sort of an onomatopoeic ‘lol’ and equally meaningless in context)

‘OK, well, you’re very welcome. Do you know much about the Quakers?’

‘No, I don’t, is there something I could read or something?’

‘Yes, here, have a leaflet. Basically in a minute we all go through to the meeting room and we sit down and are silent for about an hour. In that time usually three or four people will stand up and say something if they think their ministry will help the group, and anyone can do that; and then we all shake hands, and that’s the end of the meeting. Here, your leaflet will say a bit more’

‘OK, thanks’ (relieved smile).

Those were the last words I spoke for over an hour. In the end only one person got up and spoke, telling us a few thoughts he had had about trust, and trusting in God, and how as far as trust goes, you don’t know what you can trust until you put your trust into it, rather like a bird fledging, not sure if the air will yet hold it up, but how else will it find out unless it is pushed out of the nest into mid-air to find out?

Meanwhile the silence was bliss. Not awkward, or boring, as my mother had worried before I left; no, it was space and time to think and ponder and actually, get pretty meditative. And it was wonderful to me to specifically sit there and actively think like that for that amount of time.

Then there were some announcements, coffee, cakes, and a Quaker wedding blessing – a couple that had got married in Leicester a couple of weeks previously had come back home to their old meeting house to be blessed in front of us. As in a Quaker wedding they stood up and made their own vows to each other without anyone else leading the ceremony, then other Friends stood up and one by one gave their advice and good wishes to the couple.

And then I went home. I’ll be back.

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Time For Tea, I Think

Yesterday I played in a concert which is held every year. An amateur orchestra, local to where we used to live, in which my mother plays, needed someone to be a double bassist. I’m a cellist, so I just had to play all the bass parts and do my best to play them in the lowest register I could manage. Anyway. Amateur orchestra, amateur choir, the musical societies of this town all get together each year to give their own version of the Last Night Of The Proms (In The Park). So a huge tent is set up for the orchestra, red, white and blue petunias in boxes are ranged in front of the orchestra, and (this is the plan anyway), as the day begins to end, golden and warm and balmy, the people of this town turn up with their picnic chairs and blankets and baskets full of sandwiches, wine, Pimm’s, beer, their union jack flags and silly hats, and listen and sing along to such gems as Jerusalem, I Was Glad (both by Hubert Parry), Pomp and Circumstance March No. 4 (better known as ‘Land of Hope and Glory’) and Nimrod, from Elgar’s Enigma Variations, and other pieces of that ilk. Pretty British, I think you’ll agree.

Well, this year, we topped it. Record audiences turned out to see the concert, and have a nice day out with their families, and it rained, and rained, and rained, from before the point where they even started arriving. They all knew what they were letting themselves in for. So, gamely, our audience in their hundreds turned out with cagoules and Barbour jackets and umbrellas, put their picnic chairs down and then put their picnic tarpaulins over their knees, waved their umbrellas and flags enthusiastically, sheltered their sandwiches under coats and umbrellas, and cheered all the way through. We had to give encores of everything.

Bizarrely it made me terribly proud to be British, that I live in a nation where if you’ve decided to have a picnic and a bottle of wine and a nice day out you do so no matter the weather. Where people are mad enough to go to the beach because that’s what they want to do, even when it’s pouring down with rain. In Italy or Greece or somewhere we would have probably cancelled the concert and all gone home, but no – it was the Last Night of the Proms and that, quite simply, is that.

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National Blog Posting Month

I don’t know what I think about this idea, but I’m going to start with the title. ‘National Blog Posting Month’, we are told, according to the NaBloPoMo site, is a worldwide event – anyone in the world can and should join in and attempt to post something every single day. So in which case, why is it called ‘National’? National to who? The abbreviation ‘NaNoPoMo’ is annoying for its excessive mid-word capitalisation, the sound it makes, and the absolute and utter silliness of it. I know it comes from NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month, which is where bloggers all over the world (again) attempt to write a 50,000 word novel in one month on their blogs. Personally I think if you’re not good enough to be a published novelist, you shouldn’t inflict your novel-based dreams on your readers, however good a blogger you are; and if you are good enough to be a published novelist, then why the hell are you giving us a novel in an annoying you-must-wait-for-updates 30-segment format?).

However, annoyances with the name and such over, I think it could be a good idea. Some people have used similar challenges to get some discipline into their writing or whatever it is they use their blog to do, by writing a poem every day, or a description of a random object, or by taking and posting a photo each day, or whatever. It can be a useful exercise in whatever you use your blog to do.

Personally I write whatever the hell comes into my head as and when I think about it, and I hope that once in a while whatever that happens to be makes people think enough to reply or to keep coming back for more or to post a whole blogpost as a response. It’s a way, for me, of communicating with people about the things that worry me, make me laugh, concern me, confuse me, about the stupid things I do, and the less-than-stupid things I do, the issues that make me spit feathers. I don’t do it to become better at writing. I don’t do it for any kind of release, I don’t think. In fact, that’s it, I don’t ever think about why I am here, I just am.

So no, I won’t be intentionally doing National Blog Posting Month. Seeing the NaNoBloMo09 tag under the next 31 posts would do my head in, and I won’t actually be around for much of the next month anyway, and of course, you all know that I post very nearly every day as it is, so all it will do is serve to annoy me.

A lot of things annoy me.

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Am I, Though?

See, this is the thing. I wouldn’t call any of the males my age ‘boys’ any more, because that feels just too young. Depending on who they are, I can call them ‘guys’ or ‘blokes’ or possibly, possibly ‘men’. But for us girls, there’s either ‘girls’ or ‘women’ and nothing really in between unless you’re being funny and calling us ‘ladies’. Not only that but ‘girls’ is supposedly appropriate for female human beings up until, well, I don’t even know when. I was once at a small village cinema (once every fortnight the village hall was hired out, equipped with someone’s DVD projector and stocked up with wine rather than the usual artillery of custard creams, tea, and lemon squash (seriously, who drinks lemon squash outside of school/village fetes and nursery?)) and it was announced in the interval (there is always an interval at these things) that ‘the girls’ would bring round ice-cream. The girls were in their seventies if not more; but then they were probably a decade younger than at least half the audience, and a good deal more spry. I assume the epithet was partly in jest, though.

Anyway, silly examples aside, I don’t really feel like a girl any more. I am old enough to realise that nobody but nobody really has a clue what they’re doing or how, that we all go through life not quite sure if we’re doing it right, that just because my parents are my parents doesn’t mean that they actually know everything and that they were probably just as nervous when I was born as I think my cousins might be about the idea of having children. If I’m old enough to have long ago realised that being an adult doesn’t mean suddenly having all the answers, doesn’t that make me an adult? Rather like Socrates and his ‘wisest is he who knows he knows nothing’.

And therefore I don’t think I am a ‘girl’ any longer, because being a girl implies not having grown up yet. I still have a lot of growing up to do, but I need no-one to mother me while I do it. Yes, in the context of my family, I am one of ‘the girls’. If I’m in a game which happens to be girls vs boys then yes, I am a ‘girl’. But as a definition, purely, it doesn’t quite fit. Don’t you agree, ladies?!*

And in which case, just exactly what am I?!

*I am definitely not a lady, merely because I know no lady capable of the millions of stupid, embarassing, and unladylike things I do pretty much constantly, from the constant swearing and the filthy mind, to the complete inability to be elegant however beautiful my pearls/heels/handbag, and utterly unbelievable and frankly life-threatening clumsiness.

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On The Bright Side

Revision itself may be head-numbingly awful, for all that I am genuinely interested in at least some of what I am revising. However there’s something about revision time which turns every break into a major treat – a cup of tea suddenly seems like heaven, while the chance to sit down with a glass of water and some water biscuits, prunes, almonds and pine nuts (my house isn’t very good at snack food) an unalloyed joy, especially when accompanied with a good old dose of Grey’s Anatomy, current Mindless Viewing Of Choice. So yes, currently I am in the lap of luxury, curled around the help of clothing that currently dominates my sofa, with my laptop, aforementioned snack, tea, water, and blanket. Just for half an hour.

Then it’s back to the desk, with a steaming cup of tea, which in itself will be wonderful. Meanwhile I finally fixed my glasses, which are 0.25 dioptre stronger than the spares I’ve been wearing since Christmas. I wear my glasses all the time; and just now I switched over to the newly-fixed and stronger glasses, and they gave me a headache within ten minutes. Explanations?

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The Red Gilt Pages Were Only The Start

I’ve finished Twilight now; and so here are my thoughts. In my previous post I said:

My other (massively patronising) theory is this: kids younger than me, who were introduced to the idea of reading and enjoying actual books through Harry Potter, will then have progressed on to these books. From Twilight, perhaps they’ll move onto adult real literature with ideas and themes they can really get their teeth into and learn to actually love reading.

Well, yes, on one hand. On the other, this book made me very angry, from my usual feminist-rant perspective. This book portrays an idealistic relationship between Edward and Bella in which they never more than kiss – and in which whenever they do kiss, he jumps back if she doesn’t stay completely stock still. Let me put that more plainly – the moment she starts to get really into the kiss, starts to exhibit any form of passion, he steps back. The way she tightens her hands round his back and clenches her fists in his hair is portrayed as strange, un-womanly, and wrong, rather than an unthinking expression of her sexuality and a perfectly natural response to a good kiss with the man she supposedly loves. And therefore she is supposed in her own mind as well as his, and for no particularly I-am-kissing-a-vampire-this-is-probably-dangerous reasons that I can think of or that are ever explained, she is supposed to stay still and not really respond in anyway, like a doll or a child or the perfect victorian woman.

Furthermore, it seems to me that the further into the book one gets, the more Bella relinquishes any power she may have had to Edward. He makes all the decisions, and everyone is surprised when Bella has an idea worth the mention. He is her protector, her stalker (in the name of furthering his cause of protecting her), he looks out for her, and with all his special vampirey powers they are in no way equal – there is nothing Bella can do that Edward can’t do better, it seems.

This book is the worst kind of wish-fulfilment story in many ways – Edward is the perfect hero, and Bella is the perfect damsel-in-distress – as Lucy Mangan says she is a “bloodless cipher”, weak, ordinary, although apparently more beautiful than she herself realises, and subordinate. It comes as no surprise that Stephanie Meyer is a Mormon. Bella spends the entire book sacrificing things and slowly fading away into the background – starting by taking on all the housework from her father, ending by wishing to still her own pulse so that Edward will not be tempted by it to do any more than kiss her and thus risk getting all hot under the collar and either biting or sleeping with her – entirely taking all responsibility for how Edward feels and acts onto herself in the ultimate act of self-sacrifice; and finally, begging Edward to turn her into a vampire because that would make it possible for her to stay with him forever. Of course the author doesn’t let this happen because then she would no longer be a seventeen-year-old girl, she’d be an ‘old one’ and there would be no reason from then on in why she couldn’t sleep with Edward, or rather, any reason to hold off from doing so indefinitely, and in the moral compass of this novel that would be indescribably bad.

In the defence of the novel, to me this was a reasonably entertaining read. Objectionable in many ways, but with the suspension of disbelief comes the suspension of one’s normal moral compass so that one can empathise with the characters at hand. However it is not a novel I would feel happy about handing over to impressionable teenage girls, who might not see all the millions of flaws in Edward and Bella’s anachronistic, imbalanced relationship, who might put it on a pedestal for themselves to aim at, thus longing after a damaging, emasculating relationship with what what Lucy Mangan not exaggeratedly calls a ‘proto-rapist’. Edward is a gentleman in the most damaging sense of the word. Bella is utterly spineless. If I had read this when I was younger and more impressionable god knows what I would have been looking for in a potential boyfriend but it certainly wouldn’t have been the partnership of equals I’ve otherwise always wanted. Quite honestly, in the wrong hands, I think this book could do some damage.

I’ve rambled on for quite long enough. What do you think? Am I as usual being a bit too mad about this?

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I Bowed To The Pressure

Yes, I bowed to the pressure, I did, I’m sorry, I’m a terrible person, how will you ever forgive me. Is that enough grovelling now? I bought Twilight, is what I did. I figured that if the entire female population of the Western world, bar literature students, is raving about this book, there must be a reason, yes?

It’s not actually too badly written. The plot is so far serious wish-fulfilment – the hero is beautiful, troubled, enigmatic, sarcastic, all the things a young girl could wish for in a man; and the heroine is a normal, average girl, of little self-esteem and in many ways if not all your average teenager, perfectly fitting in with and cold-reading exactly (as if that was a difficult thing to do) how it feels to be in school. So yes, wish fulfilment, and vampires. Personally I am (guiltily) enjoying it. What it does, it does well, and I know it’s not new or clever or interesting, doesn’t tell me any more about human nature or make me think in any way, but I’m enjoying it, so there.

I just thought I ought to see what all the fuss was about for myself before dissing it utterly. The red gilting on the page-edges is possibly a step too far, though…! My other (massively patronising) theory is this: kids younger than me, who were introduced to the idea of reading and enjoying actual books through Harry Potter, will then have progressed on to these books. From Twilight, perhaps they’ll move onto adult real literature with ideas and themes they can really get their teeth into and learn to actually love reading. I know this is hugely patronising, but for the sake of the book industry and because reading good things is good for you, I’ll patronise whoever I like: I think books like this are potentially A Good Thing if they have the effect of making people read because it’s enjoyable, so that people realise there is more to books than dissecting in tedious detail Shakespeare plays or Wide Sargasso Sea or Lord of the Flies. Not that those aren’t all good books – I personally love them, but I didn’t love studying them and I’m not alone, and it’s a shame that people are put off reading because they associate reading with the endless discussions of theme, context, gender roles, and so on, all of which is made into this utterly formulaic tedium by the nature of the curriculum we’re made to follow; rather than associating reading with enjoyment and pleasure and total involvement in the book in front of them, preferably accompanied by a cat, a comfy chair, and a cup of coffee.

I’ll let you know what I think when I finish the book, meanwhile, as to whether it is actually any good. And I’m sorry that in this entry my grammar was shot completely. Heaven knows why I’m still awake.

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No Less Severe

Regular readers will know that I’m doing a whole host more exams in August because I failed the January ones on special circumstances. I don’t really know anyone else to whom this applies, which means I’m the only poor sucker I know stuck inside revising this summer. If it was paid work it would be OK – I’d be in a workplace, I would have to get on with it because I’m being paid for it. Here only my guilt and interest (when I can muster it) keeps me working, and this means I’m not working well, because I’m distracted by all the lovely summery things I could be doing. It’s beautiful weather, I could take myself off for long walks, I could schedule trips to Home Town, I could ring up friends and go for lunches and stuff, but I don’t have the money, and I don’t have the time, so I sit at home procrastinating and totally failing to work. It’s the worst time of year and the worst circumstances under which to have to revise and it’s a struggle. But such is life. And I know I am very, very lucky to have had my case taken up so positively by my head of year, and so well-put to the exam board. I know there are plenty of people around who haven’t had that luxury, who don’t get that second chance. So I can’t really complain.

Anyway, I have to get some photos printed off. Right now, of course. There’s no possible way I could do an hour’s work first, oh no. So I’m off into town, probably. Unless the guilt kicks in…

(oh, yes, and if this keeps up I’ll actually be passably good at the piano by the time I go back to university…).

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