If a 10 year old boy can....

...understand dissent, patriotism, freedom of speech and how peaceful protest works, why can't others? This story in the Arkansas Times (no, not a usual read of mine...) about a boy refusing to stand for the pledge of allegiance until LGBT people have true equal rights in the US, caught my attention.
- A future president or civil rights lawyer in the making? Oh, quite possibly. But even if not, it does make a change to read a positive story about young people...

FactCheck: TV charges at Selly Oak? - Channel 4 News (AKA Proof the BNP lies)

FactCheck: TV charges at Selly Oak? - Channel 4 News

Not that proof is needed, but nice to know, all the same.

Now, what's on telly tonight?....

In Memoriam, Margaret Thatcher - EP

In Memoriam, Margaret Thatcher - EP

I would really like this for Christmas (I have it on order, btw). For Halloween would be good too.  As soon as you like, really. Chop chop.


Not Always Right | Funny & Stupid Customer Quotes � Circle Of Strife
Meerkats? Meh..
Of course, myself and a fellow Shakespearean scholar came up with our own Eastenders inspired version: "Simon of Affens"( back in the depths of my past when I was ensconced in all things Stratfordian and, in Ophelia-esque fits of madness, even used to chat to Buzz Goodbody's memorial tree in Theatre Gardens behind the Swan Theatre - its a Silver Birch, I think ... ah, the pretentious bilge I used to spout! I say used to...)
I reckon it'd work. BBC4 commission, please.

Ships that pass in the night...

Live Ships Map - AIS - Vessel Traffic and Positions

...or indeed during the day.

I've been amusing myself with this over lunchtime - it is strangely compelling and addictive. Have I any particular need to know where a ship is at any given minute? Not really... but it's interesting... No, really. It is...Wait... Don't go... Oh.

Betrayed by a loved one....

Custard Creams can kill: Official • The Register

Killer biscuits? KILLER biscuits? The world is a terrifying place, I tell you - but biscuits becoming homicidal? I don't like it one little bit...

However, reading further I find that there may be grounds for exonerating the humble biscuit, for indeed it would appear that it isn't the biscuit's fault (what with it being inanimate and totally lacking in volition) No, it is the fault of stupid people....

...seven per cent of Britons have dropped a biscuit tin on their foot, three per cent have fallen off a chair reaching for vital nourishment, and an equal percentage have poked themselves in the eye with a biscuit.

Seven per cent admitted to have been bitten while feeding a tasty biscuit morsel to a pet or “other wild animal”. The most extreme example of biscuit-related mishap, however, was the case of the man who got stuck in wet concrete after wading in to retrieve a stray biccy.

Falling off a chair or poking oneself in the eye? Wading into concrete? These people do not deserve to eat biscuits. They malign the good name of biscuits. They make me fearful of the day when we will see official safety instructions and health warnings printed on the wrappers of biscuits. What other injuries can people sustain eating foodstuffs? Impaled by a baguette? Blinded by a prune? Garotted by a liquorice shoelace? I am fearful for the future of humanity, truly.

(I think I may have to have a cup of tea and ginger nut, I'm so upset. I'll eat it carefully, though, don't worry...)

Strange Meeting

"It seemed that out of battle I escaped
Down some profound dull tunnel, long since scooped
Through granites which titanic wars had groined..."

(My apologies to Wilfred Owen)
Today, my boss and the chair of the board will be meeting with some faceless civil servant in a vain attempt to reverse a decision regarding the ending of funding of my project. I'm not going to be at the meeting, instead I've been looking at statistical evidence to justify the continuing need for my work and will be briefing the high heid yins before they jolly off to Victoria Quay. (The statistical evidence is compelling, incidentally: essentially youth homeless figures in Scotland have remained more or less static for the past 5 years - in spite of an overall drop in the total number of young people, meaning that there is an increase in percentage of young people in Scotland becoming homeless even if the total number has dropped slightly.)

The funny thing is, one of the reasons I took this job was that I had been assured at least 3 years funding (there's not a great deal more longer-term than that in the voluntary sector, so three years is a fair whack...) and where I was working previously couldn't really assure me of more than a year. Within three years, you can make lasting changes and actually put project work into action: within one? You can't even get the paste ready to paper over the cracks.

And so, once again I am entrenched, fighting for funding, having been misguided and misdirected by management, having had meaningless promises made - and not being able to completely focus on the real work that might just make a difference because I am having to beg for pennies.

- Spare any change? Because as far as I can tell change is long overdue.

The Missing Link


If you are one of the (very) few folk who reads my blog via an RSS reader, or other social media link-aggregator thingy, then you will be missing out on some of my fabulous links to other stuff I read.

For example, as part of my ongoing commitment to disabuse people of the idea that the Daily Mail is anything even vaguely resembling a "news" paper, I would heartily recommend checking out Daily Mail Watch and The (new) Daily Mail Oncological Ontology Project - the latter of which takes on the Daily Mail's classification of inanimate objects into two types: those that cause cancer, and those that cure it.

If you are looking for other kinds of sustenance, might I recommend The Food Pornographer (whose postings often make me wish I had a better lunch) and Cake Wrecks - ugly, down right bizarre and often hilarious cakes sold by commercial bakers and mocked beautifully by the Wreck team.

There are others, of course, who write personal blogs about things and stuff - and very well too, I might add - but I'll leave those for your own exploring. In addition, should you be a reader who would like a linky on my blog, then let me know and I'll see what I can do. No promises, mind you. I'm capricious like that.

* and if you can't see the image, well, it is VERY funny. So there.

Oh, indeed.

So, the Tories are trying to convince people of the panic-inspiring, bleak hopelessness of "Broken Britain" via analogy to cult, compelling TV programme "The Wire", are they?

To quote from one of the series (corrupt) politicians: Shiiiiiiiiiiiiiit!

There are several reasons (many of which covered in the many and several areas of the media like, here and here) why this is daft, however very few have touched on what is perhaps the single most important reason: the "William Hague Baseball Cap Test of Coolness".

As you might recall, William Hague, poor deluded William Hague, once attempted to be "down wit' da kidz" by wearing a baseball cap and shorts and sucking on a coconut cocktail at the Notting Hill Carnival. He was widely ridiculed. And rightly so.

Chris Grayling, bless his socks, is also trying to be all cool and "with it" by citing a very cool, gritty drama that has caught the media's attention (but not really that of the viewing public - not because it isn't good - it is, it's brilliant television - but because it's been scheduled, inconsistently at that, at stupid o'clock and been about as well promoted as Norwich City football club have been these past few seasons...). By doing so he is being a total tool try-hard, much as William Hague's ogling at the bogling in 1997.

As much as it has successfully gained headlines, by comparing Britain's crime hotspots with those of The Wire's Baltimore Mr Grayling shows a pretty poor understanding of what the show is about -and a very weak understanding of what sorts of crimes actually are being committed in the UK.

Added to which, one gets the feeling that Mr Grayling hasn't watched as far as series three, which focuses on politics. In particular the ambition and corruption of ruthless men and women who will say anything to get/keep power - and the broken promises, statistical fudging, posturing and political powerplay that follows their political ascents/descents.

As ever the most incisive views some from the streets and might well be applied here: As Omar puts it, "How you expect to run with the wolves come night when you spend all day sparring with the puppies?"

Quit yapping, Grayling. Ya feel me?

Love Film? Who doesn't?

oh yes, click http://www.lovefilm.com/y8kpam7nw/visitor/sign_up_1.htm you know you want to
I apologise in advance. I am about to ask a favour - and I am going to be very blunt and upfront about it. So, here goes....

If ( and there really is no compulsion here, no guilt trip or anything) you were thinking idly about joining DVD/Game/Blu-Ray rental service "Love Film" and maybe wanted a free trial, I was wondering if you might do me the favour of using this linky here to sign-up.

The reason? Really simple: if you join up here you will get 30 days free trial (instead of the standard fortnight) And me? I'll get 30 days free too.

I'll also be honest about what I think of the service from Love Film: it seems fine to me.

- Can't say I've explored it fully, but it does what it says it'll do - sends out DVDs etc, no late fees, free postage. It does box sets too (I'm waiting for the release date of "Fringe" seeing as we dumped our Sky subscription over loss of service matched by stupidly expensive pricing policies...) and it is cheaper than a bloated cable subscription. In addition it is very handy for watching those films you sort of wanted to see at the cinema but didn't quite think it was worth it, or just plainly and simply missed.

I'm not a huge promoter of stuff and nonsense, but I thought this was worth a punt.

Thanks (and I won't trouble you with ads for stuff again. Well, not unless I think it is really worth it, anyway).

The Daily Mail: bringing vitriol to the masses since 1896

Lots of people arrive at this blog post looking for information on Karen Krizanovich & David Quantick's marriage. I would like to make it clear (if it isn't clear from this now dusty and mildewed post...) that I have no insight at all into their relationship past or present. I have no complaint about Ms Krizanovich choosing to write about her marriage. I don't like her persona or choice of material in this case, but that's personal taste. My gripe is with the Daily Fail's Mail's editorial position in conjuring stories out of thin air to create publicity for films or products -  or people. It isn't news. It isn't even gossip, it's payola. Readers deserve better. If you would like to read more of my blog, that's fine. Otherwise, gossiphounds, click through and happy journeying. I probably ought to write an update soon about how much I truly hate the Daily Mail...

Ye gods and little fishes. The Daily Mail is mean-spirited, smug little paper, isn't it?
I'll freely admit to perusing its pages from time to time (online only...I'm never parting with a penny for the rag and never even consider clicking through the unnoticed adverts) on the basis of "know your enemy." I can quite confidently sift through the lazy bilge that passes for political analysis with little more than a grunt of disgust, but every now and then an article gets published that leaves a nasty, greasy smudge in my mind.
Now, I've never met David Quantick, much less been married to him, but I've seen him on TV and heard him on radio a few times. Seems like a witty, perceptive and clever, but otherwise unexceptional, bloke-ish sort of bloke (I know, damned with faint praise or what?). I've never met Karen Krizanovich either (although I remember her Agony Aunt column in "Sky Magazine" when I was 14 ...) although I know her reputation is one for which the adjective "acerbic" was created.
-But bloody hell - she has surpassed herself here: I know divorce can be a horrible thing, but suggesting (based on no medical evidence, but rather through watching a Hollywood movie) that her ex-husband might very well be suffering from Asperger's Syndrome, seems a sneering smear too far and a serious kick in the freshly divorced balls for Mr Quantick.
I repeat - there is no medical advice or information on which Ms Krizanovich has based her "diagnosis," rather she has watched a film. A film starring Hugh Dancey nonetheless - not exactly glowing in A-list radiance (although he's not a bad actor, to be fair). And the Daily Mail seems to find it acceptable to publish vitriolic puffery concerning the breakdown of a marriage between a journalist and her writer husband as though it were in some way incisive, insightful and informative.
And that pretty much sums up their approach to journalism all over: bitter and mean spirited, based on scant evidence and lots of opinion.

Dr Teeth & The Electric Mayhem Band

It has been a bit of a funny month.

It started well enough- lovely holiday at my sister's place which happened to coincide with Cowes week (and the yachties were much more subdued than in recent years - which made it far more pleasant!) M'beloved and I particularly enjoyed watching the Extreme 4os (sort of 40ft carbon fibre catamaran-zippy sailing-type boats), although we couldn't exactly follow the racing, what with not really knowing anything about yachts and yachting, or even knowing where the race started and finished, or how long it lasted. Or anything, really. Pretty sails, though. Pretty, pretty sails...

We even saw this bit of nonsense: a completely daft promotional boat shaped like a boat shoe. Madness. Yachty madness.

And we saw lions and tigers and lemurs (Oh.... what? Not bears?) at the Isle of Wight Zoo - made famous on Sky (apparently) through the series Tiger Island.

We also ate lots of icecream, went to one of the Isle of Wight's least curated museums (and there are many) where I also viewed some real Edwardian porn on an ancient "What The Butler Saw" machine. All in all, who could want more?

Then back to work, and as Caron Wheeler so rightly sang with Soul II Soul, back to reality.

And the reality is a shit storm.

In a fit of complete and utter incompetence, the grant bid I toiled over for weeks has been turned down. Or rather the biggest part of it has been turned down - leaving me with a real possibility of redundancy come March (again) unless something happens. Worse still, it needs to happen either at the civil service end, or from my organisation's board figuring something else out and wiggling the figures. Either way, I'm fuming. All the more so because I warned the CEO and the depute (and even raised it with the board) of the possibililty of the grant funding being axed if it wasn't incorporated into the larger organisational bid (I mean - who creates an internal market when there are barely half a dozen people in the damn office?) and was ignored because "this is how things have been done for years and there've been no problems before."

If this model of thinking were to be followed, I would be chiselling this entry in ogham on some bits of stone. Or maybe we would still be living in caves. Or maybe still half in half out of the primordial swamp. Or just existing as a single cell entity, floating about, not even bothering to consider dividing.

I am not happy.

To add insult to injury, I had a filling drop out of one of my teeth and the dentist refilled it WITHOUT GIVING ME ANAESTHETIC! (cue Dr Teeth video and blog entry title...)

Like I said, funny old month.

A Strange "Ahhh" Moment (-not for ophidiophobics)

BBC NEWS | World | Asia-Pacific | Snake 'befriends' snack hamster

Not much to say, except, "bless".


Hielan' Types

Edinburgh has been invaded by bad kilts. Unusually, there is a reason behind this.

This weekend sees "The Gathering" (sounds distinctly Sc-Fi and sinister, doesn't it?) - the "worlds largest gathering of clans and Highland games" -which means that there are even larger numbers of Canadians and Americans than usual roaming the streets and being ostentatiously proud of their heritage. And, wearing vast quantities of bad tartan. Badly.

M'beloved and I were curious about The Gathering and had considerered wandering down to Holyrood Park towmorrow to gawp at the tartan adventurers but, taking into consideration the price (expensive!) and the clientele (loud!) not to mention the music (massed pipes!) we might give it a miss.

(We did note several real highland types heading to the meeting of clan chiefs this morning: they merely looked extremely rich and had nary a spot of tartan in sight... )

A Rare Info-mercial

I am not known for my overly effusive reaction to things. Quite often a sardonic raising of the eyebrow is as good as it gets. I am also, believe it or not, reputed to be something of a cynic.

I know. You are stunned.

So, perhaps it will come as a huge surprise to you learn of my positive, sincere and enthusiastic promotion of a product. Ready?


I love Graze.com boxes. There, I've said it.

Graze.com bozes are little boxes of deliciousness that get delivered through your letterbox by a very enterprising company. They have recognised people's desire to eat more healthily while pandering to the inherent laziness most people have when it comes to doing something about it. They also know their foodstuffs and ensure that as well as being healthy, the boxes are crammed with deliciousness, ensuring that the healthy eating does not equate with difficult or dull. So far, my Graze.com boxes have contained bakewell tart mix, milkshake mix, apple, pineapple, honey cashews, wasabi cracker peanuts... and I am already drooling at the thought of what next week's will bring!

Should you wish to try this delicious phenomenon for yourself (and live in the UK...), well you can. And for free!
-Yes, free!

Pop this code (7WDPMVDL) into the appropriate box at www.graze.com , fill in your details and you too will get a free parcel of lovely. If you don't like it, you can cancel your subscription and spend not one penny...

Here endeth the promotion.

(Normal cynicism will be resumed shortly.)

PS - I'm not joking, by the way. They really are delicious. I never joke about food.

Under the Weather

It almost seems churlish to complain about the weather when it has been so unusually clement. Certainly, there have been downpours aplenty, but overwhelmingly it has been warm. Hot even. But more precisely, muggy, clammy and/or humid also fit the bill - and that's the worst kind of hot.

Both m'beloved and myself fair badly in muggy weather: grumpy, sweaty, short-tempered and impatient with the world, we are not great company in high humidity. There can be no move to Sydney for us, no journeys to rainforests, no waiting for the monsoons in the far east. No, we are temperate people, who like cooling breezes and air that is made from air and not soup.

Worse still, m'beloved is completely slain by IIH in the relentlessly humid weather, as opposed to the more usual almost unbearably debilitated, so neither of us look at the weather reports with huge glee (I have no medical reason, of course, I'm merely fat and grumpy...)

Anyhow, the long and the short of it is, I've not written much recently what with being a weather-opppressed miserablist of the highest order, m'beloved's poorliness and work being the kind of soul-destroying grind that even Dante would have blenched at when conceiving of Purgatory and Hell. I do apologise. And I will attempt to write something more... "more" soon.

Hope you are well. Warm, isn't it?

Why isn’t the opposite of disaffection “affection”? (and other anti-BNP/political thoughts)

Unfortunately, I am neither surprised nor incredulous at the election of two BNP MEPs.  Low voter turn-out always favours smaller parties in that they gain a larger share of the vote while not necessarily increasing voter numbers .  In many areas the BNP’s total vote has shrunk rather than grown, notably in areas where they have previously been successful: something of a comment on the quality of representation, one might say. No, I’m not surprised or shocked. I’m just saddened. But at least I can see how it has happened. 

Some of the factors involved in this sad event include the current frothing at the mouth over the Telegraph’s “revelations” regarding MPs expenses, ensuring the media-consuming public’s almost complete loss of faith in all mainstream parties and benefiting smaller parties who have had no part in the debacle (more due to not being elected to Westminster rather than any principle, methinks). 

As much as I agree that there have been stupidly greedy- and just plain stupid-  expenses claimed by MPs from all sides, I would have to say that I am more interested in fixing the system than castigating those who exploited it  (although, can there be two words more certain to furrow the brow than “career politician”?) [ Former MP  Tony Clarke has some very interesting views on how this problem can be avoided… http://tonyclarkeindependent.blogspot.com/2009/05/localism-is-key-to-cleaning-up-politics.html  and no, they don’t involve shooting anyone, nor making pointless “protest” votes] 

Let’s not forget the impact of The Labour Party’s  version of “Murder on the Orient Express”, each minister taking it in turn to knife Gordon Brown back, front or anywhere they can reach. There is a kind of rough justice to it after Gordon’s long public sulk as Chancellor undermined laughing-boy Blair, but it has shown a divided and desperate-looking Government nonetheless: Gordon himself must be extremely rattled - after all, if you now count Peter Mandelson as on one of your allies you must know your time is limited, surely? 

Add to this a general lack of understanding of what it is the European Parliament does, apart from regulate the curve of bananas and herd Eastern Europeans over the Channel in order to “steal our jobs” (and become our human-trafficked prostitutes, I suppose…) – an ignorance perpetuated by the mass media refusing to actually explain how and why Europe works , preferring to focus on the gossip of politics rather than the substance  -  is there any wonder that people don’t see the necessity of voting in the European elections ? 

I don’t agree that the people of the UK have made a radical jump to the right.  Yes, we have racists and reactionaries of all kinds, but it’s more out of fear and ignorance than a real fervour for fascism.  The people of Great Britain aren’t a hugely dogmatic lot, on the whole: we like choice (tins of biscuits, variety packs of cereal, multipacks of crisps), and we trust in plurality; we like moderation and hesitancy and we don’t trust extremes of anything (including weather) or fanaticism (except in sport - and even then we are thoroughly aware of, expectant even, of our failings) and generally we distrust those who do. 

This isn’t to say we should do nothing and that the BNP will just fade away. Unfortunately, by making false promises through cheap rhetoric, they have managed to exploit a group of people who feel powerless, voiceless and disregarded: the white working classes.  The legacy of Thatcherism (yes, her… and I know it was thirty years ago, but the effects of her awful social policies are being felt still ) is a devalued,  de-cultured working class with no solid sense of who and what they are.  The mass media has helped diminish them still further:  chavs, louts, neds, ladettes, the “Shameless” estates, binge-drinking , drug-dens and knife-crime – when was the last time you remember reading or seeing a positive story about the working classes? Why wouldn’t people who feel such a loss, and loss of leadership, not vote for people who claim to have answers, who claim to be listening, who claim to offer easy solutions and obviously apportioned blame? The BNP have homed in on people looking for answers to problems and offered empty, hate-filled promises. 

It is a certainty that there will be a general election within the year.  It is not a certainty that the BNP will storm the opinion polls and re-ignite far-right politics in the UK.  I know I'm almost certainly preaching to the converted, but if we are to avoid encroaching fascism we have to take responsibility for it: fight it in communities by offering education, opportunity and good clean hope; work together to come up with community based solutions where big party solutions don’t fit, not leaving any room for the far right to creep in and take over.  Pick a single issue if you must, but stick to it and work at it and involve everyone. Make the good news. Use alternative media to tell the world about it.  Reclaim your culture and question when you don’t hear your voice represented in the media, local and national government: don’t just sit back and say how dreadful it all is: change something -  yourself.

"...one auspicious and one dropping eye"

So, congrats to Carol Ann Duffy, I think.

To be honest, I'm not completely sure I'd want anyone to be poet laureate (A poet for royal occasions? Really? In this day and age? Oh dear...) and yet there is something pleasing about still having a position of cultural importance for a poet at all. Generally, I prefer the Scots title (and role) of Makar, currently held by Edwin Morgan: it seems somewhat more of the people without being too portentous or indeed pretentious. However, continuing the tradition of laureate is still hopeful, culturally. It still says something about valuing poetry and the arts, language, and people who explore the feeling and thinking world and that can only be good.

Which brings me to the sadder part - the death of U A Fanthorpe - with painful irony the day before the first female laureate was announced. Fanthorpe was a contender for laureate after Ted Hughes, albeit a somewhat reluctant one (she even wrote a poem advocating another poet, Peter Porter). Never flashy or glamorous, her writing was technically beautiful and often wryly funny. The poetry world will feel her loss keenly.

ATLAS (by U A Fanthorpe)

There is a kind of love called maintenance

Which stores the WD40 and knows when to use it

Which checks the insurance, and doesn’t forget
The milkman; which remembers to plant bulbs;

Which answers letters; which knows the way
The money goes; which deals with dentists

And Road Fund Tax and meeting trains,
And postcards to the lonely; which upholds

The permanently rickety elaborate
Structures of living, which is Atlas.

And maintenance is the sensible side of love,
Which knows what time and weather are doing
To my brickwork; insulates my faulty wiring;
Laughs at my dryrotten jokes; remembers
My need for gloss and grouting; which keeps
My suspect edifice upright in air,
As Atlas did the sky.

Intermittent Fault

I have not been in what one would generally describe as a particularly good mood of late. Nothing so dreadful as to ring any alarm bells, but not so good that I'm not keeping an ear open to hearing them (if that makes sense). If I'm irritated by this low level persistent bad mood, then I can only imagine how it is for anyone close to me. (Sorry!)

It more or less began with news of the death of an old schoolfriend. We hadn't been close (or even in touch, really) for years, but the memory of him as a vibrant, talented, ambitious, gentle young man - how I remember him fifteen to twenty years ago - is so vivid it is hard to think of him as dead. I could carry on and eulogise but I won't: I don't think here's the place to be honest. I'm still considering writing a letter to his parents, but I'll save that for another time, maybe.

I didn't get the opportunity to go to his funeral. It was back in Norwich and I had work commitments in Scotland that I couldn't get out of. But I feel as though I've missed an important part of being able to share in the grief and share in the recollection of the good times we had with our shining boy.

Death has a funny way of getting you thinking. And although I'm doing OK in life (interesting job, pleasant home, great partner) there's still something nagging at me, jabbing me in the conscience and hissing about my failings: the things I haven't done, or dared to do; the things I never tried, or risked trying. Either I'll get round to them eventually, or they'll stay stuck like a drawing pin in a thin soled shoe: not quite breaking the skin but an irritation all the same. And that's my fault.

But here's hoping I have the luxury of time and a life in which to try. Life is often one drama after another, but there really isn't a dress rehearsal, there's not even a read through, it's just curtain up -some crying, shouting, laughing, singing and dancing- then curtain down.

Our revels now are ended. These our actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirits, and
Are melted into air, into thin air:
And like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capp'd tow'rs, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve,
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
As dreams are made on; and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.

Mr Damian, sir - you were a mensch. You'll be missed.
The Tempest Act 4, scene 1, 148–158

Not sure it's what they had in mind...

Scotland has been running ads about the National Care Standards for a while... This particular ad, however, is particularly disconcerting.

- Surely I'm not the only one who is pretty darn sure that the National Care Standards weren't really set up to ensure the quality of "happy finishes" for its elderly gentleman service users? Or is it only me that seems to see that particular interpretation? Hmmmm

Idiopathic ( is not a portmanteau of Idiot and Psychopathic)

M'beloved has not been well at all.

To be more precise, she has been very unwell indeed - headaches that have lasted for weeks on end, nausea, lethargy, disorientation, memory loss... the works, really. Of course, not all symptom came along at once: they have displayed a rather cruel and slow accretion, creeping up in greater force over time until they more or less threaten to take over.

I'll admit that although sympathetic, I haven't always been effusively so, in fact, at times I have been a right mardy old cow (-but then again, I was raised the old fashioned way: the threat of a wallop to the back of the legs with the spiky side of the hair brush if "I don't stop crying right now" and a "pull your socks up" approach that, on reflection, has done me a great deal of harm, actually... but I digress) but that has definitely changed in the light of last week's experience. I am now evangelistically sympathetic - probably to the point of irritation. And here's why.

M' beloved went to the docs last week to get the headaches checked out (after relentless and, frankly, snippy nagging from me to get it sorted). The doc, a new one to the practice, spotted straight away that there was something squiggy with the pupils of her eyes -they were each of different sizes - and made some worrying noises along with an immediate referral to a neurologist. Worrying. Some frantic googling of "unequal pupils" led to some scary home diagnoses. The next days' visit to the neurologist was met with apprehension to say the least.

And justifiably so, as it turns out. The neurologist was brisk in diagnosis and brutal in confirming it: a CT scan and a lumbar puncture would be needed to be sure - but it looks like Idiopathic Intracranial Hypertension to him... long term risk of blindness, constant pain that sort of thing if not dealt with....

A lumbar puncture is not a lovely thing. It is a great big spike plunged into your spine. Your spine for fuck's sake! It took the docs eight (8!!!eleventy111!!!!) attempts to get a spinal fluid reading by which time m'beloved pretty much thought that blindness would be a reasonable outcome...

Even after being prescribed pills and being referred to an opthalmologist as well more trips to the neuro guys in the pipeline, M'beloved one is not feeling too crash hot: the after effects of having foot long spikes rammed into your spine 8 times cannot be understimated - a walloping great bruise, dizziness, nausea, tinnitus, a post-puncture headache, muscle strain from the after effects of partial paralyis caused by gallons (seemingly) of lidocaine being injected into her system as well as the side effects of the brain drugs... Oh yes, and the prospect of needing an "LP Patch" whereby blood is injected into each of the original puncture sites because there is a possibility that spinal fluid is still leaking should the headaches not stop (so far, they haven't.).

Anyhow... it has all put my own dizziness and nausea into perspective and I am keeping my fingers crossed that the drugs work and M'beloved doesn't go blind or live in constant pain and might even start feeling a touch better soon.

On an entirely different note - it probably is just me, but is there anyone else out there that thinks Riot Grrrrrl Lite P!nk looks more than a bit like Leticia "Sharon from Eastenders" Dean?

leticia deanPink

The Curious Incident of the Cat in the Night Time

"Miaoooooooooooooow? Miaoooow? Miaooooow? MIAOOOOOOOOOOW!?"

Plaintive, wailing and for hours at a time. Night after night. World without end.

Theo and I are doing the most scarily accurate impersonations of pandas at the moment. (You know, dark-ringed eyes? That sort of panda, not the red ones... although they are cute and furry and I do need to shave my legs...not that I'm that ginger, more a hint of chestnut... and it would be immodest and inaccurate to describe myself as cute, particularly as I'm in my late 30s and cute isn't generally an adjective that applies to someone crashing headlong into middle age...although I do have the general figure of a panda, sort of round and I quite like bamboo shoots, as long as they are in a nice gingery, garlicky, spring oniony sauce...but I digress...) Oh yes, and the lack of sleep is also not helping my concentration very much either, nor my temper or craving for sweet things.

Mew? Miaow? MIAAAAAAOOOOOOOWWW! *scratch scratch scratch*

Outside the bedroom door. Night after night. Ceaseless, relentless, tireless.

We had thought that we'd fixed the feline "vocalisations". We read almost everything on the subject and came up with a range of solutions. We tried knackering the furry bugger out with energetic play before bedtime; changing feeding time to encourage post-prandial snoozing; the administration of tryptophan-rich drops to food and -the one we thought had worked - the use of a pheremone diffuser.

"M-otherf*cking-IIIAOOOOOOW, human slaves! MIAOOW, MIAOW, MMMMMMIIIAAAAAAOOOOOOWWWWWW! *bwha ha ha...*"

The last week or so, the howling has been back with a vengeance. We had thought it might be down to a run-out diffuser, but we changed it and the howls continued.Theo and I are feeling haggard and despairing, wondering what the hell has set the fluffy one off again? Is it something we've done? Is she traumatised? In pain? Bored? Evil? What has happened that is making the howly-yowlyiness so urgent and persistent?

"Mew. Mew. Mew..."

I am thinking of looking for an exorcist, just in case she is possessed or haunted.

Next stop the V.E.T. for cat tranqs/anti-depressants...
- Do you think she knows this and is just after the drugs?

Civic Duty...

Oh bugger.

I've been called to be a juror at the local High Court. As you might imagine, I'm delighted by this. Joy unabounden. The prospect of having to spend days 0n end jammed in a courtroom listening to the grim details of some sordid crime fills me with the same sort of glee as paying a large bill or queueing - it's an irritation and yet I know it's something I have to do as a " good citizen".

It's not my first bout of jury duty either - I was called to the courts in Norwich during a long vacation at Uni. Then, I was terrified of the ordeal, imagining untold bloody horrors or worse - a re-enactment of scenes from Rumpole of the Bailey. In the end it was grim, but nowhere near as grim as I'd feared (in fact the worst bit was being holed up all day with my fellow jurors - I remember getting incensed at some random bloke's discussion of Star Trek:Voyager as being "that series with the 'ranga* woman and the sooty Vulcan" - the casual racism was the bit that did for me. And the dismissive sexism I was met with - being told I was being a silly little girl and to let the men speak - when I attempted to challenge him on it pretty much confirmed my worst fears of the jury system: the people who make decisions in juries just aren't equipped for the job of being dispassionate, disinterested and just. It's a miracle of the legal system that justice is ever done...)

Anyhow, it's not for a couple of weeks, but I thought I'd get my grump in early. I'm just hoping that even if I get called as a juror, I don't actually get picked to serve on a jury. (Of course, I will get picked - it's sod's law and one to which I am often susceptible. Grr...)

* 'ranga= orangutan- late 80's/ early 90's slang for person with red hair.


BBC NEWS | Entertainment | Leona Lewis to pen autobiography

(Extract from first draft...

"I went to school and stuff. Then I left school and I worked at a pizza place. It was alright. Then I entered a singing competition and won. Then I released a single and lots of people bought it, and I released another and more people bought it, even people in America. Then I sang an old song on top of a double decker bus in China. I sang with an old man who could play guitar a bit. It was very high up and I had a nice dress like a fairy princess. Then I sang another song that was by some sort of rock group but so it would sound different it sang it really, really slowly. Then I got paid lots of money to write about my life. The END. " )

Next - Sunday Roast Urban Kidman's Autobiography; "Things I Have Done in my Nappy: a life in pictures"

"Morris dancing 'extinction' fear"

BBC NEWS | Entertainment | Arts & Culture | Morris dancing 'extinction' fear

No! Morris Dancing must be preserved! It's very nearly all the English have got left as a unique expression of Englishness!

Maybe if they remarketed it as a dangerous sport it would have more appeal... Or if the Morris outfits were to be re-fashioned by Wayne Hemingway or Paul Smith... Or if it didn't look quite so daft... Hmmm...

(BTW, Happy Slightly Soiled -but still within guarantee- New Year. The Seasonal Festivities thing all sort of happened in a blur - more of which some other time - but 2009 has started OK: long may it continue! Well, until 2010 at least...)