In Case of Emergencies...
Honestly, I'm fine.

(I've got my own Christmas grumbles but, much like the Christmas turkey, they'll stew and stew and be served up ad infinitum at a later date...)

But not everyone has problems that can be talked over with friends, family, partners....
Sometimes you just don't want to bother them, even if you do. Sometimes things are just desperate - and the period between Christmas and New Year can seem bleakest of all.

So, The Samaritans really can help. Even if it's just a friendly voice. Even if you don't think anyone can help.

I know.

A few Christmases ago, they helped me...

Gripes' Christmas Message

One of my favourite paintings at the National Gallery of Scotland.

The Wicked Fairy at the Manger (by U.A. Fanthorpe)

My gift for the child:

No wife, kids, home;
No money sense. Unemployable.
Friends, yes. But the wrong sort –
The workshy, women, wogs,
Petty infringers of the law, persons
With notifiable diseases,
Poll tax collectors, tarts;
The bottom rung.
His end?
I think we’ll make it
Public, prolonged, painful.

Right, said the baby. That was roughly
What we had in mind.

Chez Gripes this year, Christmas is a secondary event. Far more important than this mere quasi-religious consumerist trifle is my sister’s birthday. This year she is coming to Edinburgh (yay!) and we are going en famille to the zoo. [In case you were wondering she has no kids and will be 44 this year. She is, however, a hard-core Primary teacher…thus the zoo trip, I suspect.] I wanna see the polar bear! Is it still green I wonder…?

Before this, of course, we have to get through Christmas. Blah blah, gifts, blah blah, food, blah blah, bloody awful episodes of Eastenders… And before we even get to that, we have to grit our teeth and visit She-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named: Mrs Gripes’ Maw.

As “the lodger”™ -of almost seven years standing- I am met with quizzical looks and a degree of circumspection whenever I visit Mrs Gripes’ Maw. She saves her venom for her daughter. Sneers, swipes, and passive-aggressive snipes (along with gleeful tellings of the most recent deaths) are delivered and endured for the duration of the visit. The journey home is always fast- and the air in the car is always filled with Mrs Gripes making the air as blue as that from the exhaust of a M8 Motorvator Coach: ho ho ho-ly living fucking Christ on a bike, that woman is a cu.… (Oh you get the picture…)

And even before we get to enjoy the festivity of Mrs Gripes’ Maw, we have The Christmas Shop: Tesco Super-Duper Megalithic Warehouse of Everything Ever (except that one thing you need…), a list and an army of frustrated, sharp-elbowed shoppers, desperate for the last bag of sprouts (or else their entire identity and Christmas happiness will be but nothing- nothing -and life shall have no meaning and darkness shall descend upon the world…) to be followed by drinks with the Stupidest Neighbour in the World Ever! Could my life get any better?

Actually, I’m looking forward to it.

So -happy, merry, safe, loving Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, Yule, Saturnalia, Tirupavai, Tohji-Taisai, Festivus …Christmas even, whatever - and (unless I cannot resist the urge to blog meaningless drivel over the next week/fortnight) I shall return to full Gripey glory in the New Year.

Love to you all! (has someone drugged me? Have I succumbed to Christmas cheer? Oh lawks a lordy…Nurse! More tinsel!)

Sleeping with me...

Last night, in my snot-filled insomniac way, I was thinking about all the women I have ever slept with. Not just the (poor) women with whom I have pawed, nibbled and frotted (although I was thinking about that too... *sigh* So few, so very few…comparatively) but those with whom I have simply shared a bed while making zzzzeds... Most of them were very accommodating; a few kicked me out of bed within and hour. And rightly so.

I have come to the terrible conclusion: I am a horrible person to sleep with.

Firstly, I can’t stand being cramped: I cling to the side of the bed like a mountaineer clings to the side of a cliff if I feel my space is being invaded. This is fine, but if you sleep with a cuddler –and most people I have shared sheets with have been cuddling types- it seems a little stand-offish to say the least. Should you invade my space still further and make me risk tumbling to the floor, my response is an assertive shove, some profound whining and if all else fails, to get up moaning, waking my sleeping partner and thus ensuring grumpiness all round...

Secondly, I am hot. Not in a "phwaor, you are irresistible" sort of way (*listens for voices of demurral and is deafened by the silence*) but in a "-Are you ill? Do you have a fever? Jesus, you’re on fire you sweaty bastard!" sort of way. This means that I quite often kick off the bedcovers (ensuring that sleeping partner gets a quick draught to the kidneys at best, a light bruise at worst) huff and puff, noisily... and worse: feel tacky and damp with sweat. After a particularly burny spell, I have been known to have to change the sheets several mornings in a row, they’ve been that damp... This is an all year round phenomenon, worsened when I am ill or drunk, noontheless... Alas.

I also have an ability to sleep with my eyes open, a sleep-talking/shouting habit and very vivid dreams/nightmares that often wake me up - the knock-on effect of which is to waken the neighbourhood… All this on top of the persistent bouts and battles with insomnia. An awake me is a mobile me and that just isn’t easy to sleep next to

Mrs Gripes grinds her teeth, snores and has devil claw toenails. Otherwise, she’s fine... It’s a miracle we even share a house, let alone a bed...

That aside, today will probably be the last blogging effort from me for a while. Apparently, it’s Christmas. Who knew?

(Christmassy blog-effort to follow. Oh you lucky people...)

The year is nearly Donne...

by John Donne

‘Tis the year's midnight, and it is the day's,
Lucy's, who scarce seven hours herself unmasks ;
The sun is spent, and now his flasks
Send forth light squibs, no constant rays ;
The world's whole sap is sunk ;
The general balm th' hydroptic earth hath drunk,
Whither, as to the bed's-feet, life is shrunk,
Dead and interr'd ; yet all these seem to laugh,
Compared with me, who am their epitaph.

Study me then, you who shall lovers be
At the next world, that is, at the next spring ;
For I am every dead thing,
In whom Love wrought new alchemy.
For his art did express
A quintessence even from nothingness,
From dull privations, and lean emptiness ;
He ruin'd me, and I am re-begot
Of absence, darkness, death—things which are not.

All others, from all things, draw all that's good,
Life, soul, form, spirit, whence they being have ;
I, by Love's limbec, am the grave
Of all, that's nothing. Oft a flood
Have we two wept, and so
Drown'd the whole world, us two ; oft did we grow,
To be two chaoses, when we did show
Care to aught else ; and often absences
Withdrew our souls, and made us carcasses.

But I am by her death—which word wrongs her—
Of the first nothing the elixir grown ;
Were I a man, that I were one
I needs must know ; I should prefer,
If I were any beast,
Some ends, some means ; yea plants, yea stones detest,
And love ; all, all some properties invest.
If I an ordinary nothing were,
As shadow, a light, and body must be here.

But I am none ; nor will my sun renew.
You lovers, for whose sake the lesser sun
At this time to the Goat is run
To fetch new lust, and give it you,
Enjoy your summer all,
Since she enjoys her long night's festival.
Let me prepare towards her, and let me call
This hour her vigil, and her eve, since this
Both the year's and the day's deep midnight is.

[Sod Christmas for a moment and indulge me: this is one of my favourite poems -and one only gets a chance to really feel it once a year… ]

" can stick your ' ology, Beattie"

I am on holiday.
I am still in my PJs, unwashed and barely breakfasted.
I am watching pish on TV, thinking about maybe - just maybe- switching it off and listening to some music or reading a book instead.Nibbling on a couple of satsumas... A nice relaxing bath, maybe...Indulging in a soapy fantasy of being lathered-up dexterously by a firm-handed...*drifts off*

I have been interrupted by work-folk phoning and asking me for completely daft information about nothing in particular five times already this morning! FIVE TIMES!
-Things they could have asked me last week, the week before... Even things they could ask me in three weeks time: it's not that urgent, folks! It's education, not brain surgery...


Naturally, I don't.

Information duly supplied, I can't quite get myself back into restful fantasy mode again. So much for holidays...

BAH bah humbug.

I Want to Vanish...

Fade out again...
I Want to Vanish (Written: Elvis Costello)

I want to vanish
This is my fondest wish
To go where I cannot be captured
Laid on a decorated dish
Even in splendour this curious fate
Is more than I care to surrender
Now it's too late

Whether in wonder or indecent haste
You arrange the mirrors and the spools
To snare the rare and precious jewels
That were only made of paste

If you should stumble upon my last remark
I'm crying in the wilderness
I'm trying my best to make it dark
How can I tell you I'm rarer than most
I'm certain as a lost dog
Pondering a sign post

I want to vanish
This is my fondest wish
To go where I cannot be captured
Laid on a decorated dish
Even in splendour this curious fate
Is more than I care to surrender
Now it's too late

I want to vanish
This is my last request
I've given you the awful truth
Now give me my rest

(For a RealPlayer audio clip of June Tabor singing this, click here )

I do. I really do… Cause?

One more teaching day to go.
A weekend spent bickering with Mrs Gripes.
Bloody Christmas looming.
Realising that I have thrown out several hundred quids worth of videos/teaching materials.
The beginnings of my annual festive cold/laryngitis.
Homesickness (for a home that never existed)

Bah humbug.

"-But... But.. didn't Phidippides* die?"

What do you mean Paula Radcliffe would have shit a kidney to get here faster?
*Europe’s “The Final Countdown” plays in the background*

Two more days of teaching to go.


Seems like a marathon… And a long marathon at that.

Yesterday a couple of my colleagues went into such a vituperative rant that even I was silenced momentarily (and I can be histrionically vicious with the best of them). The most amusing part was hearing the plans they had for the dismembered head of Managerzilla. Usually they show a tad more professionalism *cough* Well, OK, not much more professionalism, but they are usually more covert. The venting stopped briefly when Managerzilla walked past – but continued as soon as she was barely out of earshot. Oh, happy times… Christmas spirit and all that.

Anyhow. Like I said, two more teaching days.

Most office based folk have no comprehension of the sheer scale of knackerdom teaching at the arse-end of term creates and so I receive scant sympathy from my nearest and dearest (although my lovely sis shares my pain as she has a herd of excitable first year of primary school kiddiwinks under her charge. *shudder*) My students switched off some time last week and those that do still turn up have that loathful look in their eyes, as if to say , “Do we have to?...” or even “Can’t you just die?…” It makes the teaching bit require that little bit more effort and I am sucking the dregs from the bottom of the tank as it is (-which may well bugger my carburettor, should this metaphor be taken to its conclusion…) My response to their apathy has been to warn of impending exams and glower. Veiled threats are traditional, I believe. Ho-ho-ho…

Two more days to go.


(* Phidippides... just in case you weren't sure )

"Dream a little dream of me..."

I’m starting to think my subconscious doesn’t like me.

Last night I dreamt I was Carol Thatcher’s secret lover.*shudder*
To be fair, she was very nice to me; took me out to fancy restaurants, booked us into bijou hotels, never mentioned her mother… And she was strangely vulnerable and insecure in private (insecurities which I naturally tried to assuage…) -But… But… Carol Thatcher?!
Aw, c’mon subconscious! Can’t you do better than that? Please?

My dream life is often a very troubled affair. Apart from the mundane re-workings of daily life (-all day I’m at work, then all night I dream about it. How very restful…) and the usual panic/insecurity dreams, I have periods where I have very lucid, very realistic, very odd dreams.

Other dreams have included clubbing Charlotte Church to oblivion with her own artificial leg; spending all night up to my chin in a pond of mud, waiting for “the king of the frogs”; eating a mandolin to music as a cabaret artiste; working as a stripper, but never taking off more than my duffel coat and, recurrently, that the wallpaper is trying to send me messages - but I can’t quite figure out what it’s saying until I rip it off the wall and it dies. Er… Yes.

I’m not sure analysis is helpful at this point. Strong sedation maybe, but analysis? No…
But if anyone has any suggestions as to how I could have more pleasurable or even restful dreams, I’m all ears.*

*I’m rather hoping that that particular image won’t trigger a horribly literal dream, but if it does, you’ll be the first to hear about it, medication permitting.

What a Dumbo...

I did a foolish thing today.

While drying myself after a shower I took a long look at myself in the mirror. (I've lost almost six stones this year - at least I fit in the mirror these days...)

Oh dear.

My arse now resembles that of a somewhat hard-living elephant, albeit slightly less grey.


Whip Crack Away...

I'm a rhyming slang for what?! Jeez willikins...

Hmm. Well, I survived.

Actually, I was so well prepared I think I surprised her, and thus defused her ire somewhat (nothing more irritating than someone actually having reasonable answers to every accusation you can level, is there?)I even got to throw in a few barbed comments of my own.

The downside however is that I was have been so worked-up and adrenaline fuelled that last night I barely slept (and when I did, I was troubled by some very unsettling dreams...)which means that today I am... jumpy.

-I still reckon I've got it coming to me at some point, so I'll take heed of the words of Ani DiFranco, "smile pretty and watch your back"...


"Do not forsake me , oh my darlin'...."

I don't want to hurt you...
*tips hat*
My evil line-manager has called a meeting for today - with all the high heid-yins and me - and as yet she has not disclosed the full agenda.

I've been receiving clippy e-mails for days, sniping at minor procedural things I (in common with the rest of the staff, I might add) have overlooked -and worse, heard about other swipes and stabs secondhand from people who seemed to think I deserved a "heads up" that Managerzilla was on the rampage...

As far as I am aware, I have done nothing wrong. Nothing worth a full meeting, anyway. Nothing really worth an e-mail, truth to tell...

So why does it feel as though I am facing a shoot-out?
*polishes guns*

* Should I not survive, tell Mrs Gripes I love her - and bury me with my boots on...

Love Resurrection

On all fours for me Jodie, you slaaaag...
Jodie Foster was easily my first proper crush. Whether it was from seeing her first in"Freaky Friday" or "Bugsy Malone" I can't remember, but Jodie has been tattooed on my lesbian heart for years. She was even, in a roundabout way, my excuse for liking the works of Stephen Sondheim (althoughI don't advocate attempted assassination as a means of attracting the attentions of anyone, frankly... )

Growing sophisticated and blasé over the years, I had dismissed my crush on Ms Foster as being little more than a dykey "rite of passage" - much like the listening to kd lang CDs/playing pool/pretending to find Rhona Cameron funny. Oh, how wrong I was...

I've just seen Flightplan (or Panic Room in the sky, as I prefer to think of it...) and my lust for the dimunitive Oscar-polisher has been thoroughly rekindled: all that athletic searching, relentless singlemindedness and close-ups of wriggling through confined spaces has made me come over all peculiar... She even wears a graze beautifully... Where was I? Oh yes...

The film itself is OK, albeit so utterly contrived that the suspension of disbelief is nigh on impossible in parts ( & Sean Bean pretending to be "posh" is particularly funny!) but Jodie? *quiver* oh, she's something else - and thoroughly wasted in such tosh. I really do wish she'd make better movies (and get her kit off in them, naturally) *sigh*

I'm now fearful that my other teenage crushes might be re-awakened: I'm not sure I'm ready to lust over the memory of Lindsay Wagner -well, not without building up some stamina first: she was bionic, after all...

Work is the Devil

I am probably about three nosebleeds away from quitting my job, I feel that stressed. This week I’ve been in tears on at least three occasions just thinking about having to make the journey to work. I can’t sleep, I can barely crack a smile. Mrs Gripes has a semi-constant look of consternation. (I’ve been getting the shakes when talking about my work… not a good sign). Things are grim at Gripes Mansions.

Part of my job involves working with a group of “vulnerable” students, many of whom have issues that touch a little too closely on those that I have had to deal with myself. This has created more than a few problems for me, making me rake over my own past, sift through the wreckage and salvage something positive from it all (and the positive that has been salvaged? – at least it’s all in the past. Oh, marvellous…)

Another part of my job involves working with people who are “learning resistant”. Joyous, I’m sure you’ll agree. I get very little support in this – the college approach to teaching and learning is probably the least “teamly” I’ve ever encountered- and yet am expected to “meet team targets” – if I’d ever been told what they were, I might be able to comply, but communication isn’t an institutional strength.

And then there’s my line manager. The woman is without a doubt the most devious bully I have ever met. She is a mean spirited, petty, mendacious, vicious, gossiping harridan (and those are good points…) currently she has set her vitriolic sights on me. Everyone gets a turn; it is my misfortune to be the current quarry. Her favoured modus operandi is to be very selective about the passing-on of vital information – then disproportionately crowing and reprimanding in turn when things go wrong. This week she changed both the staffing and timetabling of an event less than half an hour before it was due to happen. Naturally, things went wrong. Apparently, that things didn’t go smoothly is my fault…

On top of the usual pains and displeasures of teaching (and of being at the bottom of the food chain when it comes to decision making…) this has all served to make me feel lower than a slug’s slidy bits. Like I said, I am seriously thinking of quitting – or at least of looking for a very different job.

Any offers?