Long Night

How many people do you know have a box with their name on it-and that of an artist- beside their bath?That David is taking liberties, I tell you...I feel as though I have been trodden upon by a hippopotamus, then gently steamed in a thick, lentil-based soup that I am then forced to breathe.

Yep, I'm off work, actually ill, not just "on the sick". Bah.

I knew something was wrong when I woke myself up dreaming of a carwash. The thick brushes were pounding my back, covering me in wet foam. Unsurprisingly I woke up sweating, my t-shirt clinging to my skin.

Apart from yesterday's sore-throat, I should have known I wasn't feeling too fabulous by my crazy over-reacting to things last night.

For indeed last night Mrs Gripes and I had a brief discussion about the upcoming Civil Partership. Brief mainly because I was swiftly losing lucidity as I tried to express my utter panic at anything even remotely resembling "marriage".

My panic was triggered by catching half of "Gay Vicars" on Channel 4. As joyous as I am sure the wedding of Debbie and Elaine Gaston was, it seemed to be presented as almost everything I wouldn't want when it comes to signing the Civil Partnership register. Everything from matching suits, to three tiered wedding cake, guests, gifts, bottles of Bucks Fizz... I could go on, but I might hyperventilate again.

The panic has been lurking under the surface for some time, if I'm honest. I've never wanted to be married. Maybe it's because I'm the child of twice divorced parents. Maybe it's because I grew up listening to Proper Little Madams (this particular song was a favourite around the house) Maybe it's because most weddings are tacky, uninspired events and I have an aversion to tulle and toasters... I dunno. But the whole "wedding" thing has never appealed. I rejoiced in the fact that as a lesbian I would never have to be faced with it. I dare say I was even smug about it. "Leave marriage to the poor hetties" I would chuckle, with a shake of the head...

My blurting expression of my fears of how our Civil Partnership would be marked pretty much led to a messy row- not a screaming match, more of a frustrated inarticulate grump- that achieved nothing except to upset both myself and Mrs Gripes.

The strange thing is, I'm not afraid of the commitment. It isn't the being bound to and responsible for another person that scares me, it's not the lifelong commitment to love and fidelity - we've promised those things to each other already - it's the ritual bit: the idea of ceremony; of being on show to be "approved"of; sanctioned; incorporated - no-one "approved" us getting together, why should anyone "approve" us signing a bit of paper that shows our intention to stay together?

The one thing we do agree on is that we love each other. I wonder if sometimes that gets a little overshadowed by the whole "everything else"? ( Wood? Trees? Anyone....?)

Right now my excuse is I feel like shit and I'm not thinking clearly. In a few days time, I hope I'll have no excuses and all shall make sense.

Work-related brown stuff/whirly thing interface

AAAAAAARGH!= NormalGood ol' Edvard Munch. So handy that he painted something that so entirely captures how I feel right now...

Anyhow, to cut a long and boring story short (not that it stops it from being any less dull, of course)
I am up past my nipples in work that I should have completed several weeks ago. Entirely my own fault- I am an arch procrastinator and would defer breathing if I had the option- and thus here's where I start paying in sweat (and I don't even want Fame!) trying to play catch-up and keep my slippery grip on the bucking beast that is employment...

To make matters worse, I would appear to have got some sort of lurgy (I had another exceptionally sweaty night over the weekend) and have got rotten earache as well as the voice of Mariella Frostrup after a night on the Romeo y Julietas, so my concentration is ...where was I? Oh, right. Yes.

So (and finally I get to the point) if I seem a bit on the quiet side blogwise, it's because I am actually getting on with some of the things I have been supposed to do for a while...

[Normal service will be resumed as soon as normal means "AAAAAAAAAARGH!"]


Holocaust Memorial Day

Gay Memorial Amsterdam
Holocaust Memorial Day

Today marks the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the former Nazi concentration and extermination camp, Auschwitz-Birkenau, in 1945. When I think about it, most of the people I love would have been executed or placed in concentration camps for one bitterly spurious reason or another, had we been living under Nazi rule.
A sobering thought.

For many it was reality and not a hypothesis.

We like to think that we live in more enlightened times, and yet holocaust is still a reality for many living today - and not just for the survivors of the Nazi Holocaust.

The gradual dehumanising of one group of people or another by those with contrasting ideologies allows for the possibility of persecution, degradation, denial of basic human rights and even genocide -the unsavoury euphemism of"ethnic cleansing" hiding the brutal reality. We think of Bosnia and Serbia. We think of the Kurds. We think of Rwanda.

But where next? Unless we actually start learning these lessons from the past, it is only a matter of time until another group of people are disempowered and degraded. It is our responsibility to ensure that we recognise the shared humanity in all - otherwise we too could be unwitting persecutors, standing by while one part of humanity is crushed out of existence.

Forgot to say...

Firstly, thanks for the cake toasts. Oddly enough, it actually does mean something to me...

Secondly, you may notice some template-type changes going on round here (the grey was even starting to depress me - but I'll be tinkering and fiddling about with this template a bit more, I fear) I'm hoping the mood will be "restrained moaning" rather than "all-out nihilist".

Please let me know of any fresh glitches: I can't promise to fix them, but I promise to swear vociferously at my laptop and stare blankly at a page of html for you.


Today would have been my mother's 65th birthday.

She retired at 60, at the earliest possible opportunity, having planned a range of pleasures in which she would indulge once she had the free time. She loathed her work almost as much as I loathe mine - similarly, it was not the work itself she disliked but the incompetent, mindless managers, the penny-pinching petty bureaucracy and the rise and rise of "efficiency and rationalisation" over standards of good service and positive relationships with clients/customers. (She worked as the manager of a local branch library and was renowned for setting "memorable" passwords for the computer system: "w@nker bo55es" being a particular favourite....) Unlike most, she made her displeasure well known - and she was good at her job and popular with customers, so the w@nkers couldn't do a damn thing about it...

Not all were pleasures, as such - she was fierce when it came to the idea of "social justice" - but I'll list a few of her plans, so you can get an idea of how she envisaged her retirement:

  • Get involved in a "Pensioners Rights" group, so she could get some very rude chanting going.
  • Return to doing some voluntary work for the Citizen's Advice Bureaux.
  • Rejoin the Labour Party - so she could tear up her membership card and quit... again. (Previously she had quit the party over the dropping of Clause 4 from the party's constitution... There are a million and one other things she would have wanted to quit over since then.)
  • Go to Unison conferences as a retired member and spend much of the time in the hotel jacuzzi flirting with other retired -or indeed not so retired-members (there was precedent for this - and indeed a fuchsia pink and diamanté swimsuit just for the purpose).
  • Continue her work with the local Bookstart charity (she used to get furiously angry when people said they had "never read a book" and believed that you should start kids young to give them the best chance) She wasn't much into "charity" -unless you count charity shops- but books for kids was the exception.
  • Travel more. She had been to France a couple of times, but really had her eye on the shopping opportunities in NYC . She quite fancied New Zealand, Australia, a tour of Europe... pretty much anywhere except the Norfolk Broads, which she hated with a profound and abiding passion.
  • Eat more cake - cake was a passion, as were steamed puddings and custard (she was a connoisseur of custard and, considering she had no sense of smell had a surprisingly sensitive palate...)
  • Watch more film - the local independent cinema offered pensioners matinée tickets for a quid. Always with a keen eye for a bargain, she planned every other Wednesday afternoon to be spent watching "arthouse" cinema, even if she didn't actually like it.
  • Buy more shoes.
My mother started to get ill a few months into her retirement, but put-off going to the doctor because it didn't fit in with her plans. Eventually it became too much: she was scanned before Christmas and by her 61st birthday she had been diagnosed with cancer of the pancreas: prognosis - terminal. She died four months later. Ironically, towards the end one of the very few meals she could eat was custard, so at least she could fulfil one of her plans, albeit with no pleasure whatsoever.

Now, I'll admit that I get a bit "low" around this time of year, but one positive thing of which my mother's birthday serves to remind me is that tomorrow is never guaranteed; plans can never be certain; today is all that counts. So I make an account of all the things I like in my life and all the things I want to change and I try my hardest to either enjoy them more or change them - and to not put things off until it is convenient, but to start doing something now. Both my sister and myself have already changed our lives for the better, learning from this experience and neither of us "plan" retirement: it just might never happen. It isn't easy, but it is necessary.

In addition -and on a somewhat lighter note- out of respect for the memory of a woman with a passion for patisserie, I resolve today to eat a cake. I would be honoured if you would join me...


Politics, whales and dyspepsia: a weekend

So, Liberal Democrat Member of Parliament Mark Oaten enjoys the company of men "Brokeback Mountain" style...

So what?

I'm completely unconcerned with whether or not Mr Oaten enjoys the pleasures of rimming, watersports, fisting - whatever- with young chaps/constituents of the pay-per-hour variety. (although I am deeply amused that he backs "Trade Justice". Oh, how unfortunate...) I'm not even particularly bothered that he's a "married father of two." Tough luck, wifey - you marry a career politician, you should expect a certain amount of deceit, and hey, the kids will love their dad, whatever (after all, Cordelia Gummer got fed spinal cord in a bap and she hasn't hacked her father to pieces yet, has she? Has she?).

No, my main concern is the sheer stupid arrogance of a man who pays for sex with men, hypocritically condemns someone else for being caught in a similarly compromising position and still stands for the rather high-profile job of being leader of his national party, fully expecting his "little secret" to remain hidden.

Now that sort of arrogance shows a degree of delusion that really is beyond the pale. He paid men for sex and expected them to keep quiet about it, knowing that the tabloid press would be waving bundles of used notes at anyone who might just have the faintest hint of scandal...
What was he expecting?I mean, really?

Oh yes, and the whale died. Somehow I had a feeling it might: it was being lined up for a guest appearance on Celebrity Big Brother and it died of shame...

(As for my dodgy tum: much better thanks. I might brave some soup later. I'll spare you any further details, but let's just say all is "quieter")

Laurel Hester Update: VICTORY! LAUREL WINS!

The Big Gay Picture || Laurel Hester Update: VICTORY! LAUREL WINS!

About bloody time.

*plink plink fizz*

Feeling much better, thanks.

..even if I will be eating nothing more challenging than porridge for a day or two.

-and isn't "Armitage Shanks" strange sounding ?

*goes back to drinking peppermint tea*

Seeing an old friend...

Or to be more precise, a former meal.

Oh dear.

Last night Mrs Gripes and I succumbed to laziness and had a takeaway from one of Edinburgh's many fast food outlets- for the first time in pretty much a year.

Initially all seemed well... Delicious, even.

Today, about 24 hours later, all seems less than well.

I have a concrete mixer for a stomach and as for the rest of my alimentary canal... Well, let's just leave it at, "unquiet".

Bleurgh. Lovely start to the weekend...

Quick off the mark...


Earlier today a whale is spotted doing the tourist thing in the Thames (probably didn't fancy the London Eye much and thought the Natural History Museum a bit macabre) and within minutes, some smart-alec hasn't just blogged it, but has set up an entire blog about it.

Now, I could be cynical here and point out that it has been set up by a Public Relations firm, ergo it's a bit of self-reflexive PR puff... but the other part of me - the marshmallowy-still-believes-in-truth-peace-and-happiness-yadda-yadda-yadda piece of me- is marvelling at how flexible, reactive and accommodating the blog world is-

-and of course wondering where the whale keeps his (wait for it....) Oystercard!

*harpoons self to save further embarrassment*


-Whale has now decided to return to the sea: obviously had bought a cheap-day return and needs to make the return journey before rush hour...

Good Fake, Bad Fake

ceci n'est pas un ecrivain

AlterNet: MediaCulture: Good Fake, Bad Fake

I'm not usually much of a direct-linker, but I particularly enjoyed this. No fakin'...


Me Me Meme...

Oh cobblers. I got tagged. I'm ambivalent towards memes, to be honest (and possibly too polite to ever decline a tag...) -they seem so samey... Or maybe that's just because I have such a limited range of answers... *shrug*. Anyhow... This would appear to be a "four things" meme. Bear with me...Oh, you might learn something. Probably that I'm a curmudgeon (and now very late for work. Damn!)

Four jobs you've had in your life: Market trader, Theatre in Education "performer", dramaturg, Photo-processing gimp

Four movies you could watch over and over: Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid, Naked, Some Like It Hot, Best In Show

Four places you've lived: Norwich, Leamington Spa, Stratford on Avon, Leicester

Four TV shows you love to watch: EastEnders, News 24, (I'm struggling now...TV just doesn't do it for me anymore...) BBC Dramas/Serials... er....Black Books (back in the day....)

Four places you've been on vacation: Hopton Holimarine (near Gt Yarmouth: I was five! I had no choice!) NYC, Amsterdam (and I didn't so much as touch a spliff), the Isle of Wight

Four websites you visit daily: BBC News, PopBitch!, work e-mail portal (yawn) The Guardian online

Four of your favorite foods: organic carrots, bitter black chocolate, toasted marzipan, ripe brie

Four places you'd rather be: I'm happy here, thanks. It's a World Heritage Site with stunning architecture, a coastline, a parliament, the biggest cultural festival in Europe- maybe the world- every year....Fer gawd's sake, what more could I want?

Four albums you can't live without: There's no one single album or even four albums, that I couldn't live without. There are artists that I enjoy (Ani DiFranco, Kate Rusby, Kirsty MacColl, Billy Bragg) but no particular albums...

Four to pass this meme along to:
Heh. Ok...

Random, Sassie, WWDD and 30something...

Nyahhhhh! (and/or anyone else that fancies it...) Now, go play...


eye'oles, ear'oles and arse'oles...no, that's rissolesOh. And is it just me that finds something very frightening indeed about the fact that Lidl are selling "Special Burns' Night Haggis" for 44p?

I know what goes into haggis, I even like haggis, but the thought of what goes into a 44p haggis scares me...

(Jamie Oliver has a lot to answer for...)

Buy Buy Baby, Baby Buy Buy....

evil! evil! They make me spend money!
(-by the eBay City Rollers, of course... *groan* S'OK - you may throw things at the screen for that one; perfectly permissible...)

eBay should have its own wing at the The Priory or the Betty Ford or something; it is both addictive and destructive. You think I exaggerate? Oh, let me tell you stories....

A (fairly long) while ago, I first dipped my toe into the sharky waters of eBay in order to buy a handy-dandy pair of noise-cancelling earphones. I researched them, I even went to a real music shop to try them out (they were asking over £100 for a pair though, and I wasn't prepared to pay quite that much) and then I tracked them down on eBay - for half the price, even including shipping from the US: a deal was born. I was very happy. My ears were happy, certainly. (Of course, if I'd waited a couple of months I could have bought a similar pair for half the price I shelled out, but I wanted them NOW - eBay eased the deal and made me think I was getting a bargain. Clever eBay.)

Not so long ago I was looking for a signed box-set of books. Having water-skiied around the 'Bay a few times, I was confident that I would get a bargain there - and so I was fairly taken aback when I saw that the books I wanted had price tags of £60-£70 ...£60?!! Fucking hell? What were they printed on? Vellum produced from the bellies of baby guinea pigs? Even so, I contemplated it... I even prepared a bid, using a cunning "sniper" eBay tool. Lucky for me I did...

I'd forgotten the golden rule of eBay: research your item first. A very quick search on Amazon revealed that - bloody hell - I could buy the exact item for half the price on eBay. But people were paying £70? I was confused. Confused but not stupid, I cancelled my snipe/bid before it was actually placed and waved my plastic in the direction of the other e-tail megalith. Chastened, I decided that maybe I should lay-off the eBay habit for a bit.

And then I saw a total anorak collector's item. A signed piece of publishing ephemera, never actually released to general retailers. My Gollum-like heart gave a little jump of joy. "Oh my preciousssssss. I'll haves you. Yesss..." Forgetting my promise to myself to give eBay a break I lined-up my snipe. I hovered over my "watch" list. I waited...

Disaster! Someone had placed a bid. Someone I actually knew had placed a bid. Someone who I knew wanted it at least as much as me had placed a bid. Bugger.

For a good ten minutes I held an internal debate on issues of morality surrounding Bay:
  • people are out there to make money;
  • money has no morality;
  • an auction is open to the highest bidder;
  • I could easily place the highest bid;
  • eBay is the free market in its purest sense;
  • I have as much right as anyone else to make the highest bid;
  • I want it, I have the means to buy it, ergo I can buy it
  • .... But it's a friend who wants it!;
  • could I look the aforementioned friend in the eye knowing that I had sneakily outbid them?;
  • does friendship have a monetary value?;
  • if yes, what price and does this bid come close to it?;
  • if no, how could I admit to having snatched something from them?;
  • would it be the equivalent of stealing?;
  • would I steal from a friend?...

Yes. Quite.

So, I removed my sniping bid. There'll be other items - friends can't be bought and sold, however.



I am sort-of a fan of Mozilla's Firefox browser: I like its tabbed browsing, its handy extensions, its cute furry logo ... er....

I am not so big a fan of how its Firefoxy gremlins manage to lose all your saved extensions data should, for completely-hypothetical-oh-yes example, your laptop become unplugged and lose power unexpectedly, crashing your machine and thus your open browser....


Now some of my handy tools (for cookie handling, log-ins and the like) have disappeared and I can't get them back!

Worse still, I can't actually remember some of my passwords.... (which shouldn't come as any surprise: I can't remember my mobile phone number either)

Which makes me wonder: are people's memories worsening these days, seeing as we have a plethora of technology to "do it for us" or is it just me showing the first signs of vCJD? *sigh*

(-back to the guesswork for me... Gah...)

OK, OK... I'll stop this relentless gloom...

See my vest, see my vestmade from real gorilla chest...

That Pete Burns is to be potentially jailed for possessing a gorilla fur coat has been tickling at the lurking corner of my mind that deals with useless information (which, to be fair, is the biggest bit of it...)

Then it came to me, while I was scrubbing at my pearly-whites and wondering why my skin was looking so yellow...


(as Bart says, it's catchy! - Catchier than You Spin Me Right Round Baby , anyway...)

And if that doesn't leave you with some horrid songs playing in your Internal JukeBox, then nothing will!

* evil cackle*


I thought I'd avoided the "first day back at work blues" really well...

I'd prepared as much as I could (and for one particular class, their lessons are now planned-out until the edge of doom...) I thought positive thoughts, I adopted a wryly amused persona, put my head down and charged through the day. I chatted amiably with colleagues - even gave some advice about a shared class. Normal.

I survived.

Then I got home.

By about 8:30 I was agitated and distracted. By 10:30 I was in a foetal position on the bed, snivelling. By half past midnight I was in full "lock me in a cellar and feed me with pins" mode, feeling bleak, useless, overwhelmed...

Mrs Gripes did and said all the right things (bless) - we even had a one o' clock in the morning camomile tea-party- and I did eventually get to sleep, although the dreams I had were far from restful, filled as they were with images of my incompetence and panic, peppered with memories of all my failures, disappointments and vacillations and populated with the sneering, accusing faces of everyone who has ever told me I'm worthless, everyone who's ever trodden on me, made me feel like shit...

This morning, as the sun rises and spreads its thin, cold light through the clouds, I am feeling pretty hopeless. I know I will get through the days/weeks/months (- & I've got a lot of work to get through, what with one thing and another) - and I'll suppress the feeling pathetic, stupid and feeble as much as I can- but right now, getting dressed, slapping on a fake smile and facing a class is about the last thing I want to do.

So much for avoiding the "back to work" blues...

There's always room for one more soul down in the Human Zoo*

* from "Wishing the Days Away" Billy Bragg, on Talking With The Taxman About Poetry

Sometimes it's the small things -the accidental things- that make you stop and think. It could be the glimpse of a headline on a newspaper, a certain colour of sky, a perfume of someone half-remembered as you walk through a crowd, a passing word or phrase, anything.

During a civilized afternoon of drinking delicious liquids and indulging in idle yet meaningful chatter, Fuzzy made the comment that I saw my relationship with Mrs Gripes as being like some sort of welcomed "cage"- and at the time I think I probably nodded, sipped my Thé Saint Géran and- being me- changed the subject.

But it has troubled me; caught me full square in my soft underbelly and winded me; made me close in on myself and wonder several things: is she right and -regardless- is it a cage protecting the world from me, or me from the world?

(I'll wilfully ignore the question of accuracy for now- perception is never reliable, after all- but the implications of being caged in some way have stuck in my mind like a burr in the pelt of a thick-furred beast.)

-If the latter, how fragile and damaged must I seem that I need to hide behind someone else, how mealy-mouthed and timorous, how cowardly? If the former, what hazard could I present, what force or storm could I stir up, what appetites could I need sated?

-Worse still, if she is right (and I'm not sure a metaphorical cage is something I want to live in) what does it say about me that I choose to live encaged? How long can I survive in captivity? What would I be if let loose?

Celebrity Big Brother?

Generally speaking, reality TV shows drift past me; I watch the occasional five or ten minutes here or there (to keep up with my students, if nothing else) but apart from that I tend to like my entertainment scripted, performed by professionals an/or crafted by cinematographers. I'm funny like that.

Celebrity Big Brother is my weak spot, however. It's not just that I am suckered into the "cult of celebrity" (although I probably am - even though I stopped reading Heat magazine years ago I regularly find myself hanging around the PopBitch! site like a mackerel around a sewage pipe, hoovering scandal) it's the scary combinations of famous folk-often renowned for vast egos- scrabbling around to resurrect/start a career, fighting to seem the most... something (cool, mad, reasonable, versatile, normal, employable...etc) it's fascinating.

This series of CBB however is unnerving. Taking the Barrymore issue out of the equation, it seems an odder than usual barrel-scraping of housemates: a tall, cross-dressing sportman and his ex-Baywatch ex, some minor musicians, someone famous for shagging famous people, someone famous for having been in a documentary once and then getting her norks out, an actress who peaked thirty years ago, an acid-tongued one-hit-wonder cosmetic surgery addict, a narcissistic MP and an "ordinary" lass, having to pass herself off as a minor-musician/one-hit-wonder. The whiff of desperation emanating from some of these people can almost be tasted through the TV screen.

But you can't take Barrymore out of the equation. Whatever you think of him, whatever you think has gone on, whatever take you have on his life, he remains a figure who is as infamous as famous - and who the producers must be counting on to bring some kind of dangerous notoriety to the show, maybe even to break down in front of millions. This makes me very uneasy.

- I'm not sure I want to be part of such a vicious intended manipulation. I'm not sure I can watch...(-and I'm fairly sure that's not what the producers are hoping for).


Rather than actually prepare for the the return of my classes *shudder*(I have been putting it off and putting it off... and now I have a sack of essays to mark, three different courses requiring the creation of fresh schemes of work... and I've just discovered a rotten-to-the-point-of-melting banana in my work bag - I'd been blaming the rank smell on one of Mrs Gripes' cats. Oops) I have been tinkering with my blog template.

Look at it. Horrible, isn't it. Barely a *spingle* in sight. And as for that calendar over there... What does it do? I know it's January - but will it tell me any more than that? Nope... *sigh*

Makes my blood run... well, not cold exactly, more tepid -which is probably as it should be... But at least it works. Well, sort of...
Doubtless I'll fiddle with it some more sometime. * deep sigh*

*deeper sigh*

Everyone else seems to be making all these profound statements about self improvement and introspection and all I can do is fiddle about with the window dressing. (Which probably says as much about me as it needs to, come to think about it...) I'm sure 2006 will bring about some major changes in me and and my little world - but I'll be buggered blue with a bargepole if I'm going to pre-empt them: I'll change as and when necessary, not because a calendar tells me I should. The blog needed fiddling with (no tittering at the back there...) so I fiddled. Should my life require the same, I shall do likewise.

If it seems uncharacteristically bullish of me to swerve at the chance of some sanctioned introspection, I would point out that it does fit rather well as part of my scarcely suppressed truculent iconoclast nature. So *blows raspberry*.

(-Less grouchily - any suggestions as to how I could gussy-up this blog template still further, please don't hesitate to get in touch. I'm all, er... eyes.*shakes head* Oh, darn my head today - it just ain't workin' right, I tells ya...)

If things have already gone pear-shaped, resolution-wise....

good doggy
... remember, you have 28 more days until Chinese New Year (so you can re-resolve then, should you feel the need...)

Happy etc... blah blah blah...