enitharmon: (Default)
Oh boy! Have I got something to report to the pshrink on Thursday!

Today started very well. I was even feeling quite positive about myself. Yesterday I even managed to finish a little computer project - finishing things is one of my weaknesses, and I was in the mood for writing. I just needed a different place to do it, away from the distractions of home.

All I wanted to do was to go to the library, find a quite table and write, in a peaceful space. So I walked along the Channelside in glorious sunshine and a brisk, though not at all unpleasant, wind. When I entered the library I saw quite a few colourful armchairs, which may be fine for casual reading but are useless if you want to make notes. I may perhaps surmise that study, as I understand it, is to be discouraged in today's dumbed-down libraries (they are, after all, the Cinderellas of the local authority budget - see for example what the idiots in Wirral tried to pull off. I did see some small tables (but they all had computers on them so no space to spread out my notebooks) And some larger, multiple-occupancy tables which offered no privacy, and people sat with newspapers spread in front of them.

I'm not easily dismayed, so I followed the sign to the Local Studies Library. And there things started to get tacky. There were indeed tables in there to be sat at, and oodles of space for my notebooks (which I was carrying in one of my cotton shopping bags. Unfortunately there were also two young women jobsworths attempting to bar my way. I couldn't go in there, they told me. Not without permission. Oh? I asked. Why do I need permission to use a table in a public library during opening hours?

I might use a pen, one of the jobsworths told me.

There was a thud as my jaw hit the floor.

And you can't take that bag in there, said the other jobsworth.

I muttered something about idiotic rules for the sake of rules and walked past them into the room with them in pursuit. This is a labrary, I said, it's supposed to be for the purpose of study. No it's not a library, said a jobsworth, it's a record office.

My jaw bounced off the floor once more.

I sat down at an empty table and took out my notebooks and pen. One of the jobsworths went off somewhere and came back with a pencil, which she thrust at me. You can use a pencil, she said. Now, I don't like writing with a pencil. They go blunt and scratchy too quickly. I like my gel pens. I asked what was wrong with them. She said I might damage their valuable documents. I pointed out that I had none of their documements on the table and that if my pens were inclined to get up, walk about and scribble on other people's work it was behaviour I hadn't previously observed in them. At this point one of the jobsworths threatened to call security. The better part of valour being discretion, I left the area but not before suggesting that they were both bone-headed nincompoops who ought to resign and let somebody who knew what they were doing do their job and do it properly. Which is not an insult because it is demonstrably true in their case.

At the front desk I asked if they had a study area with carrels for private study, like a proper library ought to have. The woman their indicated the tables I had already seen, which were clearly not private study carrels. I suggested that they might get some staff who knew something about libraries to run a proper library, then I sat at one of the small computer tables with my notebooks and pen. But by this time I was angry and agitated and frustrated, and the muse had buggered off down the pub. Out of interest, I checked to see if they had any Kafka on the fiction shelves. They had not.

Let's get this straight. Barrow is a fair-sized town with 70,000 people. It's a long way from any similar-sized town (Lancaster, probably; it's quite a bit smaller but it has a reasonably good central library). Barrow is also a very long way from a proper academic library - Leeds, Manchester and Liverpool are probably equidistant and Manchester the easiest to get to. Barrow, then, might be expected to provide the facilities, including academic resources, for a wide area. But Barrow's central library would be a disgrace to a village branch library.

Ah well, there's another writing day wasted.
enitharmon: (bowls)
Bowls versus Hawcoat Park (still commonly known as Vickers Sports Club) is off tonight, on account of the waterlogged Barrow Island green complete with large puddle in the south-west corner.

I can't say I'm exactly dismayed. I have things to do and, although I really enjoy playing bowls, I'm pissed off with some of my teammates. Maybe it's a horrible thing to say but Barrow Island is a very working-class district and I have to say that I get given a hard time sometimes by these people, who seem to have me marked out as "not one of us". Even this afternoon, our vice-captain managed to get in the kind of sly insolence that I have to put up with now and then. (Years ago when living in Bristol I was given a much harder time in working-class St Werburghs than I was in more well-heeled Redland.)

Don't get me wrong; I'm not feeling angry or upset, just disappointed. I think this season, my first playing for Barrow Island, will also be the last. Next year I plan to play my bowls with West Mount, the club where I began. Even if it is a bus ride (or a walk up a very long hill) away. Apart from anything else, fuchsia and white suits my colouring much better than bottle-green and beige!
enitharmon: (film)
I posted the attached thoughts in Another Place. What do you think?

Now read on )
enitharmon: (Default)
I don’t remember how many Americans read this blog but given the amount of what appears to me to be complete drivel emanating from your side of the pond on the matter of Obama’s proposals for healthcare reform and slurs against our very own National Health Service.

Though horror stories appear from time to time in the media, I can only take those as stories because they bear no relation to my own experiences, which ore entirely of the sort which is of no interest whatsoever to the media.

First off, I’ve only ever spent one overnight in an NHS hospital ward - I blogged about it here - and although the experience wasn’t everything it might have been if I had devised it for myself in my wildest dreams, there was nothing I could complain about and everything was conducted in a friendly and efficient manner making the experience no more grim than having the inside of your nose scraped out could be expected to be. Apart from one rearranged appointment with the ENT consultant all the pre- and post-operative care was conducted smoothly and without undue or inconvenient delays. (A few of you reading this will be aware that ten years ago (heavens!) I spent a week in a Belgian hospital, which was very agreeable indeed, but those were different circumstances and I can’t really say how that would compare with the NHS, except that I’ve never much liked the idea of barrack-like dormitory wards)

My other hospital experiences are of A & E, where I have reported from time to time with one of my more severe asthma attacks and have always been seen to promptly and put straight on a nebuliser, and where I was taken once with a suspected heart attack that, thankfully, turned out not to be. And of the tender care of Professor Sir Stafford Lightman and his Clinical Endocrinology team at the much maligned Bristol Royal Infirmary, where I was never kept waiting and always attended to promptly and courteously.

But the bedrock of it all is the GP service. Physicians vary a lot in quality and in bedside (or deskside) manner, but I’ve never stayed long with a Hippocratic oaf and contrary to some of the recent propaganda I have a choice. My current GP, Dr Ruth Wilkinson, is a treasure. Maybe I owe my life, or at least my sanity, to those wonderful Bristol GPs Dr Rhona Macpherson and Dr Sylvia Thompson. (Dr Narayan of Reading - Lakshmi on the desk and “what you are having is a Bell’s palsy” - was ok too but suffered from the disadvantage of being a man. And I don’t have to think long and hard about whether I can afford to see them this month. I see them as and when I feel there might be a need, and they have no problem with that.

That’s my two pence - or two cents - worth. Take it as you wish. And up yours, you deceitful, disingenous, self-serving Tory piece of shit, Daniel Hannan!
enitharmon: (Default)
It’s a truth universally acknowledged, is it not, that all politicians are in it for what they can get. And that the present wave of MPs’ expenses so-called scandals is all the damning proof ever needed.

Well, no, actually. Something in all of this has never quite rung true. I’ve known quite a few MPs past and present, and while I’m sure that there are a few who know their way around the labyrinthine rules and are prepared to twist them to their own advantage, this hasn’t applied to any of the members I have known personally. Whatever one thinks of their political point of view (and I’ll suspend my usual Bevanite view of the Conservative Party in this case), I have no doubt that all of them went into politics out of a genuine desire to influence change for the better. When names like Elliot Morley’s pop up, I know there’s something fishy going on. Mr Morley is not a crook and he’s not a fraudster. I say that with certainty.

As it happens, I passed part of this evening with the wife of an ex-MP (one who, as it happens, I have never met so far). So I was able to invite her to confirm or rebut my theory, which is this:

Most MPs don’t like filling in expense claim forms any more than you or I do. They do a demanding job (and get precious little appreciation for it) and simply don’t have the time to sit poring over the form wondering whether they can get away with this dodgy video or that bathplug or the cleaning of the moat. Instead they do what thousands of self-employed people do: they engage an accountant to do the donkey. The accountant, as accountants will, instructs them to retain all receipts, and periodically they hand over to the accountant a carroer bag full of receipts. It’s the accountant who does all the dealing with the Fees Office.

That, says my informant, is exactly how it happens. So perhaps, instead of besmirching the name of the honourable, underappreciiated and much put-upon politician, whe should all turn our fire on that dishonourable rabble, the bean-counters.

Mine is a small voice in the wilderness, but it’s there if it brings any comfort to the unjustly dishonoured.
enitharmon: (Default)
(You can read about this, and the offending poem which apparently will incite knife crime, here)

I was going to write an ode of my own, but I decided I could do better than that by dedicating this poem by one of my absolute favourite poets and pillar of Victorian probity, Robert Browning. I'm dedicating this to the AQA ("Absolutely Quackers Already") examination board.

Porphyria's Lover
The rain set early in tonight,
The sullen wind was soon awake,
It tore the elm-tops down for spite,
And did its worst to vex the lake:
I listened with heart fit to break.
When glided in Porphyria; straight
She shut the cold out and the storm,
And kneeled and made the cheerless grate
Blaze up, and all the cottage warm;
Which done, she rose, and from her form
Withdrew the dripping cloak and shawl,
And laid her soiled gloves by, untied
Her hat and let the damp hair fall,
And, last, she sat down by my side
And called me. When no voice replied,
She put my arm about her waist,
And made her smooth white shoulder bare,
And all her yellow hair displaced,
And, stooping, made my cheek lie there,
And spread, o'er all, her yellow hair,
Murmuring how she loved me — she
Too weak, for all her heart's endeavor,
To set its struggling passion free
From pride, and vainer ties dissever,
And give herself to me forever.
But passion sometimes would prevail,
Nor could tonight's gay feast restrain
A sudden thought of one so pale
For love of her, and all in vain:
So, she was come through wind and rain.
Be sure I looked up at her eyes
Happy and proud; at last l knew
Porphyria worshiped me: surprise
Made my heart swell, and still it grew
While I debated what to do.
That moment she was mine, mine, fair,
Perfectly pure and good: I found
A thing to do, and all her hair
In one long yellow string l wound
Three times her little throat around,
And strangled her. No pain felt she;
I am quite sure she felt no pain.
As a shut bud that holds a bee,
I warily oped her lids: again
Laughed the blue eyes without a stain.
And l untightened next the tress
About her neck; her cheek once more
Blushed bright beneath my burning kiss:
I propped her head up as before,
Only, this time my shoulder bore
Her head, which droops upon it still:
The smiling rosy little head,
So glad it has its utmost will,
That all it scorned at once is fled,
And I, its love, am gained instead!
Porphyria's love: she guessed not how
Her darling one wish would be heard.
And thus we sit together now,
And all night long we have not stirred,
And yet God has not said a word!
enitharmon: (roadrunner)
All right, I'm being a wuss. On this traditional Barrow Day (raining stairrods continuously since before dawn, blustery wind to challeng an umbrella) I haven't been for a run.

I did go to have a look at the new JJB Fitness Centre which opened for viewing today. I went inside and almost immediately somebody asked me if I wanted to be shown round the facilities. So I said yes. This is a gym on an industrial scale. All the kit is there in large numbers. No old-fashioned pulleys and weights though - all very slick. I investigated the costs and procedures of joining. Helen, my guide, was ready with the patter. Now, note this and answer the questions which follow. The £100 joining fee is cut to £15 before the official opening day, and on this "VIP Preview Day" it is waived altogether. The monthly off-peak membership fee is GBP 26.00, payable by Direct Debit. There is no further charge for use of the facilities. All sounds very reasonable. Now, if you want to join today:

[Poll #1254142]
enitharmon: (roadrunner)
Here's Barrow's Park Leisure Centre's website.

Great, innit! I bet it cost a fortune! (I rather imagine them shelling out so much to the brand consultants that there was no budget left over for the actual content.)
enitharmon: (Default)
DSCN3187

I despair, I really do!

I spotted this on Sunday at the Walney Bridge festivities in Vickerstown Park. When I was little a lucky dip was just that - a lucky dip. Now, after fifty years of feminism, we have segregated lucky dips! That's on top of colour-coded books, strongly gender-coded toys, clothes, hair and life styles. Little boys with their heads shaved and little girls in pink frocks and faux tiaras.

Society is going backwards I think. Next stop, feudalism!

(Going to Wordpress for the everyday journal isn't working, is it? I think I'll keep it for the Film Diary, essays and other writing, and come back here with full contrition for the general stuff.)

Chutzpah

Mar. 13th, 2008 12:16 pm
enitharmon: (Default)
While one can only deplore the abuse and murder of a 15-year-old girl, it beggars belief that Fiona MacKeown, the mother of Scarlett Keeling, would take her family on holiday, leave one daughter on her own in a foreign country while she goes swanning off elsewhere, and then spout a load of righteous indignation when she is accused of neglecting her child.

Or have I missed something glaringly obvious in this story?
enitharmon: (Default)
The god-botherers have won a victory for thought-control - they've got a TV ad banned for 'insulting' Christianity, because it suggests a link between religion and eroticism. Well, there you go.

Tell me - is the lady here - Saint Teresa of Avila, by Gianlorenzo Bernini - having an orgasm? Or is she having an orgasm? Right there in the Chiesa di S Maria della Vittoria in Roma?



STOP PRESS: Members of the Geoplanarian Society have seized copies of "Around The World in Eighy Days" and have started a bonfire of them in Charing Cross Road for insulting their beliefs.
enitharmon: (Default)
Oh gawd, here we go. The Hopuse of Commons wasting it's breath and vast sums of public money on a festival of braying Little England wogs-begin-at-Calais posturing.

Get real folks. Europe is where we belong. We are an island off the coast of the European mainland and part of Europe. Europe should act together, without one bunch of mavericks pulling in the opposite direction,. and it's just stupid to try to insist on a popular plebiscite (not part of British political tradition anyway) on a treaty which few will have read. The idea of course is that newspaper proprietors will tell the gullible how to vote and then we'll be towed across the Atlantic to be another Puerto Rico,

I know, let's take all the braying xenophobes and ship them to some isolated island where they can be as independent (or as deferential to the White House more probably) as they like, and let the intelligent and cultured be unashamedly European and fight a civilsed European corner in the world.
enitharmon: (Default)
Am I alone in feeling extremely irritated by all the publicity for Henry Schleswig-Holstein-Battenburg-Gotha-Fatgut-Spencer the "ordinary" squaddie? Personally I feel that if the dim-witted and pampered wastrel had been allowed to be shot we'd all have felt the overall IQ of the country rising.

Do squaddies serve any useful purpose anyway? Given that we don't have conscription, I firmly believe that anybody signing up to the army is a sadistic psychopath with no ambition in life beyond splattering the brains of people with dark skins.

And why don't members of the royal family ever become philosophers, or mathematicians, or something else useful, anyway?
enitharmon: (Default)
Right now I'm feeling under siege.

I'm being patronised from every direction: I'm islamophobic because I've questioned the view of Rowan Williams; I'm intellectually inferior because my degrees are from Liverpool/the Open University and not Oxford/Cambridge; I'm elitist because I don't think Harry Potter is the greatest literature ever; I'm illiberal because I support a woman for the White House.

Is it paranoia? Or has the world gone crackers? Or, indeed, is the world really against me?

Reassurance please - I'm feeling fragile.
enitharmon: (Default)
In today's Guardian, Mark Lawson is pretty much on the money as usual. He's talking about the artificial distinction between crime (and other 'genre') fiction and mainstream, or 'literary' fiction.

Contrary to what some people seem to think, I am not against genre fiction. I read plenty of it myself, after all, but I do distinguish between good crime fiction and bad crime fiction, in the same way that I distinguish between good and bad fiction. One thing that I am against, or perhaps it's just that I feel so very sad about it, is the way some people read nothing else but what's in their own particular niche, whether it's crime, scifi, chick-lit or existentialist angst. It's a bit like living on beans on toast every day. I'm rather partial to beans on toast occasionally, by the way. There was a time when I was a regular contract worker (in the heady days before IR35) when the desk I was assigned to seemed always to contain a discarded scifi book in a distinctive livery of green and red.) Bookshops don't help, when they ghettoise all the fiction. Instead of putting all fiction on one set of shelves, in author order, every genre has its niche, so readers are shielded from anything that varies from their diet. I'd like to see everything together, then there'd be the added bonus that I'd be able to find what I want straight away, so long as I know the author's name.

The extreme example is of those who do nothing else but read the same book or series of books over and over again. Advocates of Harry Potter argue that it gets teenagers reading, but in too many cases it doesn't start them on an exciting journey through the world of reading, it starts them reading it all over again when they have finished.

In a comment to Mark Lawson's piece, 'londonlibertarian' expresses precisely the inverted-snobbish idea that I find so annoying:

"Literary fiction, unless it tells a story that makes you want to read on, can be very disappointing.
I really am not interested in any fiction that 'illuminates the human condition' unless it also makes me want to know what happens next, and why."

Meh! There's a cult of 'storytelling' these days. I wince whenever any author is described as a 'consummate storyteller'. For me it conjures up a rather fey young man with a beard and green plastic sandals. Me, I love to wallow and delight in magic woven with language. One reader's pageturner is my book whose pages you skate over because most of the words on it are redundant or predictable. It's a bit like the supermarket battery chicken pumped up with water and phosphates to make the gullible think there's more there than there really is. Give me the book that, when my attention has wandered for a moment, quickly lets me know I've missed something!

Cowboys

Jan. 24th, 2008 02:44 pm
enitharmon: (Default)
I have in front of me a form from Simmonds Recruitment.

It appears to require me to sign away my rights under the Working Time Directive. In particular, the right to limit the working week to a maximum of 48 hours, and to have a day off each week.

I'm sure this can't be legal. And if it is, it shouldn't be.

This sort of cowboy attitude makes me very angry.
enitharmon: (Default)
I wanted a tin of tuna for a pasta dish. Preferably yellowfin in olive oil. Could I get it?

The best I could manage was the inferior skipjack in sunflower oil. It was hard enough to find that. What I could find was a hundred and one varieties of tinned tuna: tuna in mustard sauce; tuna in tomato sauce; tuna in lime mayonnaise; tuna in chilli sauce; tuna in mermaid's blood. All right, I made the last one up. But what the hell?

I strongly suspect that this is a ploy by the food industry to fob off inferior ingredients. But what I can't understand is why anybody falls for it? The best way to start a tuna dish is with plain tuna. Tinned tuna is fine for convenience. The only limit to what you do with it is your imagination. I make my own spicy tomato sauce by the bucketful; it uses nothing but cheap ingredients and only requires a saucepan and a blender (if you don't mind a courser sauce you can do without the blender). Onions, dried chillis, garlic, tinned tomatoes, tomato puree, parsley, salt, sugar, herbs as available, water. It's good, too, better than any tomato sauce you can buy. Lime mayonnaise? Provided you don't make your own mayonnaise it's a piece of piss. Same for any other mayonnaise with something flavourful and piquant stirred into it.

Don't people realise that all those 'value-added' (one of the most insidious of marketariat weasel words) are actually limiting, not liberating?

It's not just food. See it happen with children's toys, all ready to suppress your child's imagination ready to take her place in the market society as a good, compliant consumer. When I was little, I had Lego as today's children do, but my lego was very general, and you built whatever your imagination led you to build. Now, it's all pre-prepared projects, with very specific units that can only be used for one purpose. Something happened to Plasticene too - once you bought the basic material and you fashioned according to your imagination. Now it's all on rails - make your own Gromit, but for mammon's sake don't think originally!
enitharmon: (Default)
The Conservative Party had a stand in Dalton Road this morning. I couldn't resist. My attitude to the Tories is strictly Bevanite - they are all vermin and parasites.

They didn't look like Tories, I must admit. The bit of rough I spoke to insisted he was a thoroughly working-class lad. I asked him if he was happy to define himself by what his parents were. I suggested that for all their protestations, the Tories remain the party of privilege, of insisting that the lower orders know their place, and that the truth was exemplified by the way the Conservative Party, who presumambly had a free choice of state-school educated people with PhDs, chose as its leader a vacuous-faced young man whose parents happened to be rich enough to send him to Eton, regardless of academic ability. Our chum was quite bald, so unable to tug his forelock, but maybe that's how he lost his hair. He said he went to school on Tees-side and was only taught to fill in benefit forms. I don't believe this but in any case, he seemed oblivious to the fact that it was a cynical Conservative government which ensured that jobs drained from Tees-side, and turned the country over to the spivs. I asked him if a future Conservative government would embrace the Euro and sign the Schengen Agreement, but he wasn't listening, he was too busy shouting me down.
enitharmon: (Default)
There seems to have been a lot of hype about the Spice Girls lately, their names being linked with feminism.

Can somebody please explain to this uncomprehending woman what these five not-outstandingly-talented young women (one of whom, notoriously, has gone on record as saying she's never read a book and seems to be proud of that fact) have to do with feminism?
enitharmon: (Default)
My text for today is taken from Real Men by Joe Jackson:

You don't want to sound dumb, don't want to offend
So don't call me a faggot, not unless you are a friend


Yesterday I was filled with a mixture of amusement and incredulity as the saga of the bleeping out of the word 'faggot' in a well-known Christmas pop song on BBC Radio 1 unfolded. Oddly, the word 'arse' wasn't bleeped out four words later, the intervening three words being "merry christmas my". Even more oddly, the words 'arse' and 'faggot' (in it's meaning in this context) aren't often seen in each other's company, belonging as they do to different continents. Nobody outside Radio 1 management had a good word to say for the decision. Even inside the BBC, Radio 4 was reporting with amusement and playing the offending passage unbleeped. Fortunately, a red-faced Controller of Radio 1 had reversed the decision by tea-time to save even more embarrassment.

And now, this morning, we have Peter Tatchell in the Guardian being absurdist about it. Heaven help us!

Me, I can't see what's not to like about Fairy Tale of New York; it's my favourite amongst the ubiquitous seasonal evergreens and the one most free from the false and shallow sentiments that spoil the offerings of Holder, Wood and others. Apparently, though, some people really can't stand it. I wonder why?

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