Friday 26 September 2014

Don't know where I want to be

Out all day with lovely friends, eating olives and pasta and tiramisu, washed down with white wine and cappuccino, who could ask for more.  We're nattering away about life and love and the universe, as usual, but my brain is also partly drawn to the music playing in the background.  This is hard for me as I'm no multi-tasker but I'm recognising songs by Jungle and tUnE-yArDs at least. There's so much  too that I don't know... is it my age or is it just that it's a little more eclectic than usual restaurant soundtracks?  Some of it sounds alright... maybe it's the association, I'm happy and with people I love, perhaps like when you hear music on the radio when you're driving in the early hours of the morning and it takes on an ethereal quality that it wouldn't necessarily do if heard on other occasions.    One track, though, I don't know quite why, it takes me momentarily away from the conversation.  Quite simple, yet so bittersweet, a lazy rhythm, a less-is-more song, one of those that touches me in ways I really can't explain, nothing obvious - but I know I want to hear it again. I don't have Shazam... the only way I'm going to be able to track this down later is to catch a part of the lyric and see if I can find its source on the web when I get home.  I write it on the back of my cheque-book:  "I don't know where I want to be..."

I don't think I'll ever find it with as little to go on as that, but I do and here it is.

Wednesday 24 September 2014

Well all you've got to do is do it

I've just set myself a new challenge... one picture every day.

Not for others, just for me.  I spend most days making pictures for others, and it's usually all very lovely and frequently challenging plus I like being paid, but when I'm not working I often just stop drawing.  Then I thought: that's mad, I used to draw just for fun when I wasn't doing it for a living, and now I'm not?  So I took a huge piece of paper, cut it into a zillion rectangles about the size of a small business card and I'm going to make one picture every day just for fun (whether working or not).  Anything, in any style, it's only small, and if I have no more than five minutes spare then that's how long it'll take.

Today I had no more than five minutes spare.

A good friend used to be a sea Captain and tomorrow he celebrates fifty years since his first voyage as a young merchant navy cadet, his first day of many at sea.  So that was today's inspiration.

Don't know ahout tomorrow's but must do it.  Probably no surprise that this song's going through my head right now (well, the main bit, not the one-minute intro which frankly I prefer to skip!)

Nice legs 

Sunday 21 September 2014

This could be some kind of feminist rant

'Miss World' finalists 1969

I absolutely adored Miss World when I was a kid, back in the days when it was a whole night's family viewing. It was one of the most watched programmes in Britain, broadcast into our 1960s/70s brown and mustard living rooms via the BBC before it was deemed too outdated and politically incorrect to show as mainstream entertainment. I loved the array of young women representing exotic countries I'd often never heard of, with their varied hairstyles and their imaginative national costumes. I had no concept of what “36-24-36” meant, no thought as to whether or not a contestant's breasts or legs made her more attractive or more likely to win (nor perhaps to my Dad's embarrassment at seeing curvy 20-year-olds in swimwear strutting their stuff on screen while his wife and daughters ooh'd and aah'd over their personal favourites. Pan's People on ToTP probably made his cheeks redden a little too.) I just loved their pretty faces and outfits, and to my naïve pre-teen self it was equivalent to an exciting, glamorous, gorgeous parade of beautiful dolls.

Like most young girls I'm sure, I wanted to be like one when I grew up. I longed for a mass of shiny, jet black hair and wished I had an olive complexion...well, that was never going to happen... but it was an innocent enough ideal. Then I got used to the fact that I was just the way I was: pale-skinned and fair-haired and, as adolescence foisted its preoccupations with image upon me, I found that experiments with blue eyeshadow, Stablonde and an under-wired bra could at least temporarily enhance the features I was born with.

So now it's all changing. You don't have to stick with what you're born with, do you? You can get it all sorted. Lips and breasts appear to be the most popular things to transform, and you can do it while you're still young, while you're still growing as a person, with pure, fresh skin and a healthy, fully-functioning body.  You can pick your new anatomy as if from a menu: those tits and those lips and how about that buttock augmentation while you're at it. Wow, what a great idea. What a great fucking idea.

I feel myself getting agitated and saddened even just writing this. I'm trying to articulate why the increasing desire for unnecessary cosmetic surgery troubles me as much as it does, and I feel this wave going through me, a jumble of thoughts and words jostling to be expressed, not just from some inner feminist angle, but as a compassionate human being. There are so many layers and strands to it that I must try and be eloquent and understanding if I'm going to say anything, but at the same time it makes me feel some kind of desperation. I felt that the other day when I was directed to a story in the news about a model called Victoria Wild. She has spent £30,000 on plastic surgery to make herself look like a 'sex doll'.  You can read the article and see her pictures here - or just do an image search on her name.  I think you'll find her new look shocking.

Mr SDS says to me, “Why are you worrying about it? Why even think about it? If people are stupid enough to do that to themselves, that's their problem, not yours...” and I know that basically of course he's right – but I suppose it's the bigger picture here that disturbs me, not just the more extreme individual examples of Victoria and a few other young women like her.

The bigger picture brings up so many questions that I struggle to find comfortable answers to. For a start I wonder how this exaggerated look could ever be perceived by anyone as being some kind of zenith for female sexual attractiveness. Then I question the increasing normalisation of cosmetic 'enhancements' and the fact that they are so readily available. And then I consider the underlying motivation – that any young woman can still be led to believe her only value in society is as a sexual object, to the point that she would resort to such lengths to reach such a disproportionately placed goal.

Insecurity is a word that gets liberally banded about when the subject comes up and I don't doubt its presence. I'm sure all women have at some point in their lives felt insecure about their appearance (and no doubt a number of men too). As a teenager it seems that one of the most important things in life is one's sexual attractiveness; that's fair enough, we all know what hormones do. Fair enough too is the naïve assumption at that age that our all-important shagability rating might be based on the most obvious physical attributes. I understand the relevance and desire for beauty – we can't help that some aspects of physicality are more appealing to us than others, and most of us would probably rather be better-looking than we are, it's how we're wired.  But, as well as the infinite variations in personal taste, part of the process of maturity is the understanding that appearance isn't the be-all and end-all. If your inability to grasp that, or your insecurity, or if the pressure on you from society is such that you'd volunteer to have parts of your body cut open, that you'd undergo potentially life-threatening anaesthetic, risk post-operative infection and/or be injected with toxins, then surely those issues should be psychologically addressed, not physically indulged?  (Please note, although I'm sure you already realise, I'm not talking about the need to rectify genuine deformities or disfigurement.)

The woman mentioned above says that, since her plastic surgery, she "has never been happier”. Prior to this she apparently had an inferiority complex.  Her comment obliges me to feel it's not my place therefore to try and contest that or to prevent her from finding a solution. How mean-spirited it would be of me not to want her to be happy in whatever she opts to do. It's her body, her choice, her life, and not mine.  And thus, there's a general expectation that the response of a tolerant, open-minded person must be to support this and not to judge. We're proud of our liberated society and the fact that women in particular, oppressed in so many ways throughout history, can do as we please with our bodies and make our own decisions, whatever they may be and however opposite they may be to another's.  But does that really include this strange obsession for mutilation?  I don't see this as liberated, not properly, healthily liberated - it's too skewed.  How often do you also hear a woman say "I did it for myself, not for anyone else!" . And I do believe that she believes that.... although, when you put it in context, it often boils down to the same thing - it's the hope of endorsement that boosts the ego, the confidence that comes from meeting expectations.   So, cosmetic surgeons continue to advertise their service as just that – a service, to help you feel better about yourself, to be what you've always wanted to be, to be in control. To be sexier - preferably in a way that focuses on ridiculously stereotypical ideals. Although I know it's an extreme example, it doesn't seem too many steps away from helping an anorexic to lose weight because they believe they'll only feel good about themselves when they're thinner.

Of course I know it's also about making money from people's insecurities... which makes it even more desperate.  But at what point did we as a society allow the sinister 'quick fix' of surgery to replace the option of counselling, advice, acceptance? And when did the unnatural become seen as desirable? To compliment a woman on her fake breasts is surely no more meaningful than telling someone with a wig that they have lovely hair.

Oh, I'm exhausting myself... I should be more detached, I know. It's not hurting me personally, nor anyone I know.  I think I'm just feeling it for womankind...   We got so far - I don't want us to fuck it up.

Besides, don't we all know, deep down, that the sexiest part of us all is our mind?

Friday 19 September 2014

David Bowie and the Spiders from Malaysia

A really crap Photoshop job

You know I love spiders – please bear with me here – I know not everyone does. Seems I've had more than the usual number of close encounters lately; is this telling me something? But what? Yesterday I found the biggest one ever and it seemed particularly, spectacularly, legful. I swear I counted nine. And I counted them twice. But by the time I'd come back with my camera it had, of course, literally legged it. I also found a huge, lifeless one at the bottom of the birdbath this morning, fished it out and left it on a leaf to dry in the sun hoping that it might somehow survive. Five, five, hours later it was up and running about - you have to be patient bringing spiders back from the dead*. Federica (or her successor) is back in residence too.

Anyway, please forgive me the arachnid indulgence; I really just wanted to mention David Bowie. I just found out, whilst researching the possibility of nine-legged beasties (I know) that there is a davidbowie spider. It's large, yellow-haired and endangered.  Say what you like.  When it was newly discovered in Malaysia in 2009 it was named after him to raise awareness of threatened species. There's a neilyoungi too!  Whoever next?

Three posts in four days, what's going on?


Thursday 18 September 2014

Go, Gogo Penguin, go!

Inspiration comes from the most unexpected places sometimes.  Here is Gogo Penguin and her little sidekick Mammal Hands.  With thanks to The Swede at Unthought Of Though Somehow for his post here (where you can hear the real bands).

Tuesday 16 September 2014

Help the aged

I was at the dentists yesterday, waiting to check in at Reception. The customer in front of me had to fill in some forms and the Receptionist was carefully explaining what she had to do. In a very high voice, one of those voices which contains a pre-recorded smile, she slowly spelled it out: “Now, you need to read this through, yes? - do you have your glasses? - ok, and then you need to write your name in this box here, you see this box at the bottom here, yes? And then you take it with you and give it to ...” etc, etc. and of course I wasn't surprised to see that the person she was speaking to as if they were four years old was more like 80. I shivered, not at the prospect of opening wide and dribbling in front of my lovely Iranian dentist, but at a possible future I – and you, my dear friends! – may face. Being talked to like a baby. Oh no!

The old lady, who seemed perfectly compos mentis, duly toddled off with her form and the Receptionist cast an aww-bless type of glance in my direction. I know she was well-meaning, patient and kind, and I'm sure the same traits will apply to the mere whippersnappers upgrading my new remote-controlled Google hip joints in the years to come, years that are not quite as far away as I'd like. I realise the world will no doubt seem faster and madder and even more confusing but I still don't think that, assuming I'm in sound mind, I'll want to be spoken to in a manner which insinuates that the best things in mine might be playdough and piggy-back rides.  On the other hand, perhaps that's best? Perhaps you just have to act it up a bit, swallow what pride you have (left), leave your hearing aid at home deliberately and let everyone treat you like a toddler on Calpol. Then go home and have the last laugh...?  I don't know.

Tuesday 9 September 2014


It really did sound as if he was having sex in our bathroom.

Keith The Carpet Fitter was in there on his knees with a bucket of latex. There was a lot of grunting and some shockingly loud sighs and groans. I felt quite embarrassed at his oral exertions; I had to keep stopping my mind going to places that I knew it really didn't want to go to, a bit like when you see Robin Trower make his facial contortions... you know what I'm saying.  There was a final, triumphant “Yesss!” as he crawled backwards out of the bathroom, then one more deep grunt as he stood up, before beckoning me to show off his handiwork which was (well of course) the levelling screed he'd just laid on the concrete floor.  I was quite relieved.

Mind you, when it comes to making involuntary noises, it could just as easily have been me using one of these.

Have you ever tried one?  Oh god, I recommend it.  It's best when someone else uses it on you, but still pretty damned amazing if you do it to yourself. Your skin will tingle in ways you didn't know were possible, your eyes glaze over in ecstasy and you may well find yourself begging for more more more you filthy whore. You may also make a noise like Keith and pull a face like Robin so it's probably best not to whip it out of your handbag or manbag and have a quickie with it in Tescos.  Although... if everybody did that it would certainly make shopping for spaghetti hoops a very different experience.  Who'd have thought your head could be so erogenous?

This is pretty sexy too

Monday 8 September 2014


Her name is Jane.

She is eleven - a year or two older than me and, it seems, about two feet taller. The tallest girl in the school. Dark haired, a ponytail secured by pink plastic bobbles that make me think of bubblegum, or sometimes swept back off her forehead and kept in place with an Alice band. She always seemed nice. She taught my friends and me how to do handstands and we all like her.

It's nearing the end of dinner-time and Ruth and I have been playing with a skipping rope by the willow trees behind the classroom. Ruth has gone inside to the toilet and now Mrs Rumbelow, the dinner lady, has come out and rung the big brass bell, summoning everyone back. I'm pulling my cardigan on and gathering up the skipping rope while the other children head to the classrooms when Jane appears in front of me. She starts pushing me. I think she's just playing - joking - but when I look up at her face her eyes are black.  My trust evaporates.  She's smiling, but it isn't a kind smile, it's cruel.

Now my back is against the slim trunk of the willow tree; I feel small, weak. It's as if she has grown even taller. She grabs the skipping rope and starts tying it around the tree, and around me. I feel it cut into my thighs as she pulls it tight. Wraps it round one time, wraps it round again, and then again.  My eyes search the playground but nobody is there. Nobody to help me. My mind is flooding. All I can think, all I can feel, is hurt and confusion and fear. The rope hurts. And I am confused by Jane, Jane from Mrs Barker's class, Jane with the dark hair, tall nice Jane, doing this to me, for no reason. I've never felt endangered before.  I plead.  She taunts me, ridicules me.  I wonder if I am going to die. Jane is going to tie me to the tree and kill me.

She carries on pulling at the rope, contemplating knots, tight knots. My hands are trapped behind my back. I wriggle.

She is definitely going to kill me.

So I kick her. It's a huge gamble. I've never kicked anyone. Never hit, punched, thumped or struck anyone. I know it might make it worse; then again, how much worse?  So.... scared out of my wits, I kick her as hard as I can. Really, really, really hard. I strike the most powerful, violent blow to her bare bony shin that I possibly can. She flinches. Stops. Visibly shocked, she seems to shrink.  She drops the rope, turns around and runs... runs away, leaving me to wiggle out of the rope, free myself and race, panting, back to the classroom.

I'm trembling.  I feel amazing.

At school the next day she doesn't say a word. Neither do I.  Nobody ever knew.

Tuesday 2 September 2014

September is yellow

Being wished "a good weekend" doesn't usually cause me to raise an eyebrow but last week it surprised me when I read it in an email, because it seemed an odd thing to say on a Tuesday.  Then I received another message signing off the same way and thought I should check the calendar.  It was better exercise than a facial workout when my raised eyebrow was quickly followed by my dropped jaw as I suddenly realised it was (of course) Friday.  It had been Friday all day as far as I was, well, unaware.  Tuesday had long gone and I hadn't even noticed.

The days of the week just blur into one for me most of the time.  For many weekends of the year I'll be working but often I'll get some freedom on a random weekday; there's no pattern.  As Mr SDS is in a similar situation, we're all over the place.  The routines I grew up with, the ones I'd once thought were programmed into me forever, are now as meaningless as a footprint in melted snow.

It's true, the weekend sometimes still has a different 'feel' to it, probably due to other people's activities, but it's not like it used to be.  I rarely get 'that Friday feeling' (although it can be artificially induced with an Indian takeaway and a bottle of wine) but then neither do I suffer the Monday morning blues.  I do quite miss experiencing a kind of communal weekly mood, though.

The days of the week seemed even more defined in the era of my childhood when we knew that Saturday was for shopping, nothing was open on a Sunday, people ate fish on a Friday and Monday was 'wash day'. I'm not even sure if my mum did do the washing every Monday, but thinking about it still evokes a romanticised memory of linen pegged out on the line on a cool but sunny morning in the school holidays.

Perhaps that's why Monday is always a crisp, starchy white in my head:  Monday

At least it's not blue.  Saturday and Sunday are yellow.  For some reason, Wednesday is green.  Every day of the week is a colour as is every month of the year; January is mauve and September is yellow.  They follow the pattern of their leading letters (S is always yellow).  Reading up on it I find that this mild form of synaesthesia is not uncommon, and I'm sure if we were to analyse what is in our heads when we think of certain things there could be many which link to our senses... even if the idea of it doesn't actually make much sense. 

Anyway.  Is it too early to wish you a good (yellow) weekend?

Update:  Reading the Wiki article (link above) about colour/letter synaesthesia I was pleasantly surprised to see that several commonalities have been recorded - I never knew this before.  Yellow is frequently attributed to S apparently, and others that I perceive do appear to be the most common such as A being red (absolutely!) and O being white or black (white in my case).  I've never spoken to anyone about this who experiences it too but there must be many!
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