Monthly Archives: September 2010

Funny Woman

Right, guys, I don’t get this.

In real life I’m frankly ridiculous. Most of the time I don’t process or edit my thoughts before I say whatever it is I’m thinking and so I just spout total garbage and most of the time people laugh and I really can’t tell if it’s at or with me any more and anyway I don’t know if I mind either way because I know just how ridiculous I am. Seriously, I say things like ‘ooh, you’ve got peas on your toes’ when I mean ‘I like your nice [green] nail-varnish’.

And then I write this blog, and 99% of the time I’m genuinely being serious and trying to think about a thing, and the truth is I’m about as informed as your average cat because, heck, my cat watches the 10’o’clock news every night, and Newsnight, and most of the time so do I but I don’t suppose either me or my cat could tell you anything about what’s just been told to us the moment the music starts rolling. I swear I mainly watch the news so I get to watch one of the weathermen, who I massively fancy but whose name I’ve forgotten.

I’m not going to claim I’m better at being funny, because it’s not as if I set out to make people laugh when I say ludicrous things about legumes and toes, but I’m, well, less worse at being funny than I am at being serious.

So basically this blog spends most of its time being an extended exercise in well-constructed BS, with extra added mopery. And yet I have little inclination to stop writing, at least, not right away.

Also I’ve just noticed that my housemate has planted salad matter in our windowboxes (I think). This makes me very happy. There are also herbs on the windowsill – and they’re germinating!

Now I’m just rambling, failing at being either funny or serious. Excellent.

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Babysitting – the Report Back

So I got back at about ten in the evening from babysitting, having been relieved of my duties about half nine, and then waited whilst C said goodnight to the two girls, and then we chatted a little as I left.

Goodness, I was tired after that.

We played for hours and hours, several breadsticks were painstakingly consumed, there were raisins, milk, all the cushions went on the floor, onto the sofa, into various locations around the room, and then back on the sofa again, we played millions of different imaginary games which each lasted about five minutes if that, there were tears and tantrums and minor injuries and a very grizzly one-year-old who went to bed probably later than he should have done, but then, didn’t we all?

So I’m very tired. I somehow hoped and believed we’d get through the evening with no tears whatsoever, and at first felt  terribly guilty whenever the littlest one cried, but he cheered up within seconds every time, and then the next one up only started crying when she got tired so we went to bed after that, with a book about the Eyes, one about the Digestive System, and then some Bible stories, a couple of prayers, and bed.

There’s no point in feeling guilty – children’s moods change so rapidly and so easily that you’re never going to get through an evening without some kind of a moment, and we didn’t do so badly, a lot of the time there was a lot of shrieking and giggling from all three of the entirely good-humoured kind.

It went well, basically.

What amazed me was actually, watching three children at different levels of development, the things they could do and the things they couldn’t, was how complicated the simple act of walking around a room is, and how amazing it is that as adults we fall over very rarely. How interesting that whilst the five-year-old was entirely capable of doing various complicated gymnastics whilst avoiding her two younger siblings altogether, the three-year-old couldn’t quite be relied upon not to gamely kick her little brother in the head in the middle of a particularly complicated leap. And isn’t it amazing that we do learn to do all of these things, and well? Watching them learn, and read, and be amazed by certain things and have other ideas go completely over their heads, watching them obviously getting the basics of social interaction – how to get attention and when not to do so, how to be actually incredibly kind and considerate to one another, how to share – watching these things being obviously in the process of being learnt, competently, it’s fascinating.

So, yes, I’m incredibly tired. I’m amazed that parents worldwide can and do manage to do this all day of every day, and still hold down a job and wear appropriate clothing and keep a house clean and fed and watered and have friends and all the rest of it. And yet I suppose if you’re doing it every day it is what you’re used to and thus just a little less tiring – I hope? And no, I wouldn’t forfeit the chance to be a mother for all the tea in China.

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DR

That means dissection room.

From this and the module booklet I have recieved I deduce that half of my labs this term will be human dissection.

The information I have?

“If you do not bring your lab coat you will be charged £2 to hire one out for the duration of the session. Disposable gloves are charged at 20p per pair. It is advisable to bring a large transparent bag for your textbooks (through which you can easily read the text)”. Because, my friends, my gloved hands will be covered in blood and guts and all sorts.

In November, with the Chamber Choir, I’m singing in the remembrance service for those who give their lives to science for us to dissect. I’m glad to be able to sing in it.

Oh, yeah, and the other half of my labs strike me as deathly dull from what I have read thus far. I am not excited about them. This is sad.

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Children

It’s funny, I’m babysitting for the Chaplain, C, tomorrow night, and I’m quite nervous. Her three children are five and three (the girls) and the baby, a boy, is fourteen months old.

I’m always nervous before babysitting – this is a keep-them-entertained job rather than a putting them to bed job, or a merely showing up after they are in bed and watching telly until the parents come home (with any luck) job. Of the three perhaps putting them to bed would be scariest – children have routines and many of them are very precise about how things must be done, and then they get critical, potentially grizzly, and it’s horrible for all of you.

Thankfully in living memory that’s never happened to me – I only know this because my sister and I could be quite like that when we were little. Obviously showing up after the kids are in bed is about the easiest way of earning money that anyone has ever invented, but it’s also not particularly rewarding, and often quite boring. So really this is about ideal – I’m babysitting before bedtime, so we will get to play some games or something and rather enjoy ourselves.

Children always scare me, but then you show up and what you have to do becomes obvious – they’re usually keen to show you things, want to do certain things, and have set ideas about what happens next. And all you have to do is keep everyone happy and, by and large, that’s fine. As a babysitter, with very little moral authority, you’re a sort of servant, an experimental subject, almost another toy, with certain special powers (like operating the scissors or doling out biscuits) which the child doesn’t have, and a certain clownish fascination value.

So, really, I’m quite looking forward to it.

And this is a job which is barely five minutes from my front door. Winner.

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Driving Test

Driving test 7.30am tomorrow. Wish me luck, pray, cast spells… Please?

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Small Things Matter The Most

It’s about the small things, really. They all add up and before you know you’ve fallen, body and soul. It’s the flick of their head as their fringe falls in the way again, the way they use their hands, the shape of their mouth when they think, or suddenly grin and seem like the child you never knew them to be.

It’s the woodpigeons in the eaves and the creak of the radiators, rising and falling like the slowest of breaths through the pipework in a house you’ve missed for years.

It’s the trace of a childhood lisp in a voice you know and love, the way you can never remember a person’s voice without having to think specifically of something they’ve said.

It’s hills you know like the back of your hand falling into the contours you’ll always have etched into your retinas, and the way that boat is still moored to the middle of a pond you rarely see these days.

It’s the way that throw at home never ever seems rid of cathair, and the way that the small black cat you’ve loved for nine years now never appears to have a mouth, slips into the edges of rooms, and then hugs you unexpectedly.

It’s the most unrehearsedly beautiful smile on the face of a young woman looking up into the lens of a camera; and the exact same smile reflected in the face of the old man telling you all the things you never knew, prayers no-one ever heard – except, thank goodness, God, because it all worked out in the end and that young woman became a wife and mother, not a nun, and see that smile, how happy that made her.

It’s the massive grin on the face of your youngest cousin as you say, yes, of course you can have the last yorkshire pudding.

It’s how the houses of friends smell different from your home, and how catching the faint smell of a certain brand of floor-polish or pot-pourri or something can drop you right back in there and make you smile, wistfully, thinking of home or of years gone by and days spent happy in other houses.

It’s little moments, phrases or words you’ll remember forever without meaning to remember them, random snatches of a few seconds imprinted forever in your mind with perfect clarity.

It’s the first taste of plums, damsons, blackberries, each potato from the garden, the first early morning mist, the first frost, and the first day it begins to feel like Spring might actually happen this year when even yesterday you couldn’t quite believe it.

It’s birthday kisses at midnight, knowing there are people out there who treasure the memories you treasure too, and beautiful naive boys who know about the stars.

It’s loving the entire world, sometimes, dancing down the street and attracting curious glances and throwing out smiles so bright they probably bounce.

If this is the way my world adds up, then yes, I can hardly count my blessings. If, just sometimes, I can see it all like this, then life really does seem too short sometimes.

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A Difficult-To-Phrase But Nonetheless Necessary, Justified And True Defence

I’d like to say now that I’m well aware that I’m probably going to end up generating a lengthy, flamey comment-thread for the following, and that I am probably not going to get involved in said discussion because, I hope, I’ll be able to say everything I’m trying to say here, and express it well enough that I don’t need to say any more, and anyway I am fed up of all these dogmatic, opinionated and slightly bullish arguments that end up happening once you get truly embroiled in the blogosphere, and I don’t want to get involved. I know that what I’m about to write may well seem contentious, and I’m sorry, but this is what I think.

Right. Deep breath.

Firstly, put yourself in the shoes of The Catholic Church, as it were. Imagine you’re an ordinary, good Catholic soul. You believe that no-one should have sex outside of marriage and that sex is for the begetting of children and therefore you do not understand, really, how anyone can end up ‘in trouble’ and therefore needing an abortion. You can’t see that motherhood is perhaps a huge sacrifice and very difficult for some people at certain stages in their lives, and you probably haven’t even seriously considered the possibility of rape (but then, let’s be honest, when justifying abortion as a woman’s legal right you’re mainly thinking of the but-if-we-have-an-accident luxury-of-choice angle, and not the rape/congenital or genetic deformity/risk to mother’s life angle, whatever you might say). You (Catholic you) can’t see how pro-life is possibly a dangerous and slightly tyrannical view to take because in your mind, abortion is murder. But then, from the other side of the fence, we liberal pro-choicers think that your opinions are dangerous and tyrannical, and we think we are absolutely and dogmatically right, and let’s be objective for a second and all just agree that these are opinions, each backed up by valid reasoning, whatever you might think about the reasoning in general.

So, let’s work on the assumption that Catholics by and large – both lay church members and the clergy – are intelligent, thinking people, at least to a similar degree that we would agree that non-Catholics are. This is an assumption I personally hold but some of you more ‘liberal’ types may not see it like that.

You as a good Catholic soul, therefore, are part of a church full of reasoned individuals, and there’s been a trend in the mainstream media over the last few years, which, really, is quite worrying. It started with a vague anti-Islamic sentiment, being liberal and modern and therefore deeply opposed to the veil as a symbol of male oppression of women, gradually giving the public the impression that actually, all Muslim women aren’t allowed to go to school or be interested in things or read or talk or, well, anything really. And then Atheism got cool, and suddenly everyone was at it (hello, Dawkins) and there was all that stuff about women priests, gay priests, women bishops, the lot, and of course, we, the sheep, by which I mean your average Joe, were told a version of the story which has most of the Church down as a bunch of misogynist rightwing nutters, and so it goes on, and before we know where we are actually the mainstream media is basically just opposed to organised religion in any form.

And the more there’s that kind of slew in the way things are understood and the opinions we are fed about them, the less objective the coverage of those things becomes.

So when a handful of priests, it turns out, are paedophiles, and as we all know paedophilia is a journalism honeypot, someone, somewhere, is swinging objectivity around by its ankles and flinging it out of a first floor window so hard that poor old objectivity is probably still in orbit, somewhere. I am not for a second saying that kiddy-fiddling is in anyway not a despicable and terrible thing, or that it’s not an utter tragedy and one of the absolute worst things that could happen to a child. I’m not for a second saying that anyone who has committed such crimes does not deserve severe and fitting punishment. What I’m saying is, when did mature, respectable people suddenly decide it was appropriate to come out with gems such as this utterly tasteless song (which features a lot of swearing from the very first split second, so be careful when/where you play it) (and from Tim Minchin, too, who can be so genuinely witty and brilliant)? Someone else I know (the friend of a friend) has this to say, which is pretty representative of things I have heard otherwise normal, rational people say recently: “if the Pope is god’s right hand man on earth and by extension infallible then therefore paedophilia should not only be excused but compulsory across the entire world”.

The Pope is not a paedophile. Can we just clarify that for a start? He is in fact the head of an absolutely huge organisation with millions of members globally. He is technically in charge of priests across the world, with a huge and complex heirarchy beneath him of cardinals, archbishops and bishops who are in control of more local areas. It’s organisationally highly complex. The Catholic Church is also under a lot of pressure, constantly criticised from right and left, by other churches, by itself, by other countries and faith systems (and yes, I do include atheism under that heading, atheism is as much a belief as theism) for views which are perhaps difficult to comprehend but nonetheless well-meant and concieved. It’s an ageing church, and a changing one, and its PR isn’t good.

And then, somewhere, hundreds of miles away from the Pope, a handful of priests are doing the most terrible and shocking things to children in their charge. Firstly, it takes a long while to reach the ears of the Pope. By the time the Pope has heard about such incidents, local bishops and archbishops have usually made their own decisions about what to do with the priest in question. The bureaucratic cogs from the Vatican have hardly had the chance to get into gear – and nor should they have to. Because in many cases, local justice systems have become involved, and priests charged and sentenced.

We should blame neither the Pope nor his Church for what has happened. This is an old man, and a figurehead, and it is the responsibility of the justice system, not the church, to deal with this sort of crime. Tarring the entire institution and most specifically the Pope with this brush is akin to blaming the entire state school system and the Minister for Education for the tiny percentage of teachers that fuck their pupils. It’s ludicrous.

It’s a terrible fact that, in any profession that involves a certain level of exposure to children, there will be a handful of people who abuse that position of power and trust to do the most terrible things. It is the responsibility of a good justice system to do its best to safeguard against such awful things happening and to make sure that if they do, those responsible are removed from their position and kept away from children and, to a point, punished.

Perhaps the Vatican has not handled their presentation of the situation particularly well – they’ve made themselves look a lot worse than they are when that was almost certainly their fear – that by publicising these things, the Church would look bad, at a time when looking bad is far too big a gamble, given the way the general public views the organisation as a whole.

What I’m saying is, I feel very sorry for the Pope, for the Vatican, and for the Church. I feel sorry for the victims of pederasty both within and outside the Church. And I am frankly ashamed of the rest of you, who somehow have begun to believe that all the Catholic clergy are paedophiles, that there is nothing about the Church that is not in some way objectionable, despicable or downright stupid.

So I just wanted to stick up for the Catholic Church. Someone needs to do it. Most paedophiles in the world are not Catholics. Most are relatives of the children in question, or teachers, or other carers. Even as percentages (percentage of priests who are paedophiles compared with percentage of, say, teachers who are paedophiles, and so on) the figures put Catholic priests as being less likely to commit those kinds of crimes. And this was a paper put together by an American Jewish academic. I’m sorry I can’t find it for you – I did try.

All I’m saying is – our society is great at being liberal and thoughtful and considerate when it comes to politics, social injustice, the Third World, the health service, and so many other things. Why is it that these days when it comes to religion all we can do is shriek and wail and see things only in black and white?

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Holiday Diary

I have been away, as you see. In that time I have taken at least 38 photographs, using both film and digital cameras. I have knitted nearly a foot of stocking stitch 97 stitches wide (it’s going to be a cardigan, and has the advantage of being something I can knit without thinking and therefore I can knit whilst watching telly or holding a conversation and not watching what I’m doing). I have washed my hair every day. I have been to Mass, but not taken Communion because I am not a Catholic. As such, I have lit a number of candles and sent up a number of prayers. I have been walking out in the most beautiful city and I have eaten in two brilliant pubs. I have witnessed the tail-end of an argument and been part of another. I have looked at hundreds of photographs, many over fifty years old.

And I have heard stories and histories and theories and tales of places I have always dreamed of. I have heard my history, from a time before I was even the vaguest thought. I have heard of love and politics and fear and sacrifice and faith, of money and stones and hills and sieges, of knights in armour and years in the army, of universities and coincidences and friends long lost. A whole rich tapestry of things that are in many ways a part of me. I have heard so much that I can’t hold it all in my head and have come away with the most tantalising, blurred impression of all of these things. And I want to hear all these things again and have some way of committing this all to my memory and passing it all down to generations that will follow.

In short, I spent the weekend at my grandfather’s house, with my sister. Primarily so we could learn to develop our own photos, but we also went out for a delicious lunch and caught up with other branches of the family – my great-aunt, and her children and grandchildren, who are, I suppose, my second cousins? Or third? Of course, I went to church with Granda, and as you may have gathered, we heard a lot of the old family stories and saw a lot of the old family photographs.

And now I’m back in the real world. Ho hum.

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Where's Wally?

Guess where I am? From the photos it should be obvious. Which, by the way, are all film shots I’ve taken on my Granda’s camera. I developed the negatives myself, and scanned them in, and later today I’m going to print shots from them. Exciting, no?

And that’s your lot for now, folks.

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Minor Rant

As if it’s not enough that the entire internet seems to have worked out that I am a girl in my early twenties and therefore probably either pregnant or concerned about my weight or desperate for horrible cheap shoes or plastic surgery; as well as all manner of other highly well-targeted but to be honest slightly offensive advertisements – spammers are getting insulting as well.

I get quite a lot of comments on this site which get sorted straight into spam, full of the usual links to porn, penis-enlargers, and claims that they can help me make a squillion pounds on this blog. And every day or so I delete the whole lot, not without scanning through them first because once in a while something lands up in ‘spam’ which is actually a real live comment from a real human being who has something to say and isn’t trying to scam me or sell me something.

Anyway, I’ve got a couple of messages like the following recently and frankly it really pisses me off:

‘Why have you deleted my post? It was very useful information and i promise atleast one person found it helpful unlike the rest of the comments on this site. I’ll post it again. Tired of obtaining low numbers of useless visitors to your site?…’

And so it goes on in the usual spammy vein. But yeah, Mr Spammer, you have just singlehandedly riled me and abused all the people who comment on this site and that is neither funny, big, nor clever. Whoever thought this was a good idea in terms of getting themselves and their shoddy business out on the net is really not thinking straight. Or just embracing flame culture in all its overblown hideousness.

So yes, I’m a bit cross, with an invisible bot out there somewhere and whoever it was that set it up. And as usual massively curious as to the question of whether there is anyone out there who falls for these things.

But then, the internet is full of stupid people. Someone right now is wrong on the internet.

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