Sunday, 31 December 2017

12 Days of Christmas: 7

New Year's Eve? Really? I don't think so. I think someone has a-hold of that time machine. They have  behaved in a reckless and foolhardy manner, set the dials this way and that, pressed the knobs and exploded the buttons. Their dials and adjustments are all wrong. Mine are right. It is not New Year's Eve. It is Year Something-or-other. Time for a nice Cuppatea.

Because it makes no difference at all, this changeover from one number to another. I already lurch like a drunkard twixt states of resigned gloom, and a peaceful acceptance of the world and my load in it.

As in: Life is okay, except when it is shite, like now, only going to get worse, then chin up, not so bad, there's life in the old dog yet, except there isn't, and we're all going to die. What am I going to do when that happens? I must mend the shed roof before it falls in. etc etc etc.

What does a number change mean then, to such a brain as this? I cannot even claim the fashionable glory  that is bipolar, more just that I am human. Particularly a human who hasn't had a huge amount to complain about from one year to the next: no wars, no forced displacement, no refugee status, no immediate threat of violence, not held as a domestic slave. On the other hand, I get just as much human pain as anyone else regarding death, failure, despair, loss, grief, and those states of life which have no shades of humour to lighten my load. (Although for humour, believe me, I have looked.)

The upshot is, on this evening of evenings, we all watch The Martian.

I conclude after 3 minutes that I'd be dead. Probably self-inflicted, by pulling off my own helmet to scratch my nose, the Martian dust set off my sneezing. The film finishes obligingly at 11.52pm, when I put out the bio-bin into the yard (it attracts the rat if I leave it in the kitchen), then I get back to the front room just in time to clink glasses because someone said, Oi, what are you doing? Come in here. It's 2018.

Saturday, 30 December 2017

12 Days of Christmas: 6

Let the neighbours in! We have spent all year pissing them off, so they're owed a drink on us.

This tradition of 'Open House' began for us when the Gritsprogs were tiny, when we all howled with intent. By way of apology, I scoured the cabinets and cupboards for anything resembling alcohol, ripped the packet open on a Tesco cheese selection, tuned off the lights, lit the candles so no-one could see the grime and chaos, and I opened the front door. The invite is, you can stay for five hours or five minutes, depending on your day, and bring nothing except yourselves and your other(s).

We have varied the event (a little), to the effect that these days I am ready with a tribal cooking pot involving yesterday's stewed aubergines. The bottles invite your own intriguing cocktail invention, and at some point I slap down a Dirty Flan (recipe takes 5 minutes and the entire confection costs £1.70). Regarding etiquette, we have only one requirement, and it's Help Yourself.

Then you are welcome to join us! Except I'm not putting it on Facebook, because I'm not aged 12 or socially disconnected to the point of dementia, and you just have to show up at the right time. We only had one guest I didn't recognise. Okay, it turned out to be the son of my oldest friend, but he had grown another foot in height as well as a beard, so I can be forgiven.

This year we did not dress Steampunk (thanks to organisational delays), but next year Wendy is coming in a ballgown, and so will I.

Friday, 29 December 2017

12 Days of Christmas: 5

Tra-la-la! It's a perfect day to visit Gritty Family! In the beautiful, weather ragged landscape of Suffolk!

Imagine, how we can walk by the fields, along the country roads, through the woody patch and into the pub!

We have to imagine it, because by 11am I am tearing open an envelope that tells me my driving licence is expired and the Contact, Capture and Destroy Central Intelligence Unit is threatening me with £1000 fine when I so much as mentally conjure up an accelerator pedal.

I should have ignored that threat, jumped into the car, and driven to Suffolk. Last year the local pub brewed me an excellent non-alcoholic mulled wine, and three of those set me up nicely, about 7,000 calories a glass, but consider it just another sacrifice to make for Christmas with family.

Yes, I should have ignored that letter. What should have alerted me was how it was written: in the spirit and style of the TV licencing 'Enforcement Division'. They too are coming round this afternoon with The Boys to take me to court, smash up my life, and kill my dog*. It doesn't matter that I have a TV licence, that I have previously told them I have a TV licence, and that I pay every month by direct debit. This is of no concern when there are ransom demands to send out to the law-abiding with pictures of dead dogs and bloodied bandages.

But I didn't ignore that letter from the DVLA, those happity-chappity-chums who say, if you drive with an expired licence, we will fine you £1,000, take you to court, smash up your life and kill your dog. I paid attention to it. I went to the website where I am told to go (or pay the Post Office an extra £4.50 for the human contact). At the website, I quickly became trapped in Web-Jail and it took two hours to extract myself before I was confirmed Legal. In other words, I had handed over the appropriate money and was now free to go. Except that it was too late, and my window of opportunity had slid shut.

Several thoughts struck me in the course of this procedure.

1. I wanted to become illegal, take to the highways, go to Suffolk and drink. Therefore what sort of fool had I aged into? Leaping to attend to government instruction? I shall do something about that in 2018.
2. It's probably not even a government department anymore, but Capita and Pearson, our twin-headed corporate overlords and my pet hatreds; they who are charged now with asset-stripping every citizen in the UK to ensure our children are indebted and our grandchildren are sold as slaves.
3. How like Hong Kong is the UK, where citizenry responsibilities are settled by the kerching of a cash register.
4. How fecking awful difficult it must be for people to claim benefits (only available online), and how the system must be designed deliberately to ensure they give up. It took me two hours and I wasn't trying to get anything out of anyone's claws.
5. The Tories are as bad as Labour and they are both desperate to hand over our lives to their corporate chums as they spin round the revolving doors of profit and the lot of them can go to hell in a handcart. Say what? Now I am legal, I'll drive the bastard thing.

*We don't have a dog. Shark keeps a pet fish called Brutus (both Cassius and Julius Caesar died in tragic circumstances), so I suppose dog=fish, it's all the same to the Contact, Capture and Destroy Central Intelligence Unit.

Thursday, 28 December 2017

12 Days of Christmas: 4

I have no idea what happened on this day, so for the record, it's no use asking. That is the problem with this holiday. All the days get messed about and I become timeless.

Wednesday, 27 December 2017

12 Days of Christmas: 3

Let's Go Out!

Feels like we've been inside since the eighteenth century. Also, I have lost track of which day I'm on.

Usually, I struggle with Time. I can just manage if the first question I ask on opening my eyes is, 'What day is it?' and the answer is a day I recognise. Take this routine away from me, and I am hopelessly  lost. Call a Monday by a different day, and this is like putting a blindfold on me, spinning me round, and pushing me off a cliff.

Must be time to go out. Then to the British Museum!

This is a journey, like each day, now fraught with danger. Is London Midland NorthbyNorthWest about to do any of the following? It is like a Hitchcock suspense film! Will they:

a) Cancel all the trains
b) Cancel the train we arrive to catch, so we stand on the platform for 45 mins, at temperature 1C.
c) Start, then stop the train we are on, for two hours, maybe more, who knows? We can while away the time watching our lives fade into the distance.
d) Start and stop, start and stop, start and stop. Our plan to get off at Cheddington and walk home seems viable.
e) Break down, either going to London, or coming out of London.
f) Take us to London then cancel all the trains home, so we must crawl home via StPancras to Bedford and hitch a lift across country with someone who says 'It's alright, I'm a headteacher'.
g) Refuse to sell us tickets (ticket office shut, machine not working) then try and sell us, on the train, Group Saver Discount Day Return Flexible Journey at a total cost of £175 for the five of us, thus prompting a ten-minute argument with the ticket man while the other passengers join in.
h) Throw everyone off the train at an unknown station in the dark, then drive the train off, while all the miserable passengers huddle round the solitary swaying light bulb positioned over the closed station building, which offers no facilities anyway.

We were lucky! Today, (h) happened to the ingoing passengers, not us, and we avoided (b) because we were late.

The Scythians stayed put while we went down to meet them, but if you are keen to catch them before they depart, then hurry up.

Tuesday, 26 December 2017

12 Days of Christmas: 2

Boxing Day! SALE DAY! Thank you to all shopaholics. Go at it! Buy! Buy!! BUY!!!

You know you must have those desirable tops, blouses, skirts, trousers, jeans (all sizes from 10 through to 16 please) and add black evening gowns, leather jackets, leather trousers (I am sorry that I still love them), and shoes. Buy walking shoes. Shoes about town. Boots, plenty of boots all colours, low heeled to no heeled. Throw in a pair of kittens for old times sake. Then large comfort jackets for standing in fields? Tick those on your must-have list. Also, I have a weakness, as do you, for jewellery both dainty and bold, discreet and statement. Both ways are good: with the right jewellery, is it not true that the moment is made?

Anyhow, once you have acquired all your wondrous goodness and your wardrobes are bursting to exhaustion, please recycle by taking all your old (and new) to the charity shops, where I will be very grateful that you love Sale Day, and I don't need to acquire any debt to wear Zara.

Thank you.

In other news, today we are mostly eating carrots, on account of them now being 6p at Tesco.

Monday, 25 December 2017

12 Days of Christmas: 1

Christmas Day! Yippee! Four hours eaty-drinky, followed by four hours in front of tellybox watching, allthefamily, Jeeves and Wooster, boxset gift from the Magic Universe because Shark dun read the books.

By the way, everyone hate us, we never did Santa, not no way. Santa is an awful lie.

Tiger says she would have been scared witless, to never sleep again, the horror, the horror, some bloke, you never saw before or since, lumbered into your room, you all otherworld and vulnerable, and he crashed about in hot stinking reindeer poo stench, and smashed windows to get in and out because you have no chimbley in the sleeping room. Please do not let him come in, mama!

Squirrel says she knew forever No Santa because mama stands naked-foot on upturned Playmobil sailors at 1am and swears like a trooper. It is how Squirrel learned the f-word.

Sharks says she believes in Santa. She has the bestest dripping sarcastic voice, carried to service and for purpose, to all incidents, events, circumstances, small children, and Mother.

Dig, he beautiful wondrous husband, has a little panic squeak as comely wif Grit suggests re-using the wine glass for the Monbazillac (left bank of Dordogne River) because she is all 'uh-washing-up' and he is all There is Proper Way of Doing Things and cheese-after-fruit. Now relax, proper order restored.

Things learned, read, need to chant: Enjoy the moment, memento, there are things of bright beauty that sparkle along the ordinary way.

Saturday, 23 December 2017


How time flew. I could live that time, again.

Sunday, 10 December 2017

'I don't care. I do it'

Simple lines like that won me over, totally, in The Disaster Artist. I thoroughly recommend it! A funny celebration of what makes an anti-success: a character's single-minded passion wrought with a high score on the off-beat-wackometre.

Yup, I loved this film, from beginning to end. The scriptwriting and scene selection was careful to engage me and not lose me; the character of Tommy Wiseau was picked out on a line of affection and aversion; and the whole story both toe-curlingly painful to watch unfold, and so generous and big-hearted that by the end it's clear how the world's only made a better place when it's filled with mavericks, oddballs and wackos.

Saturday, 9 December 2017

Gone in a second

Photographs! Of Steampunks in Space! Huzzah! We had a splendid time! Celebrating all wonders given to us by Verne and Wells. 

Pictured in a flash, Squirrel in vagabond urchin mode: Scavenger, Scraper, and Mikron Manufacturer. Grit as Travelling Booksorter and Thread Shifter.

I spent all my money with Verne Industries (again). But we now possess the Essential Surveillance Eyeballing Door Protector, so we are content.

I found a fairy on the table, so set about photographing it. For a stitchery project, naturally. They are difficult to trap, and even more difficult to photograph.

Then I stitched some more books with the femme fatale and feather combo.

Thank you to Tiger who suggested putting the camera into slow speed mode to capture the twirling fire dancers in the Secret Garden.

And the moon! Wow! Didja see it? Didja? It was enormous! As big as a house! I padded through the midnight streets, peering between the gaps in houses and legging it up to the allotments, taking crappy photo after crappy photo, and Shark comes home from the opposite route with a much more lovely snappity than I could manage.

I thought how, a few months ago, I was dreading the dark days and the blacked out nights. But walking through the dark and cold of Moon Night felt like a private embrace; a welcome into all the quiet nothingness. I shall take to the midnight streets again for my sifting of seconds and eternities.

Monday, 4 December 2017

This is a practical day

We are turning out cupboards, wrenching demons from their lairs, and shovelling the remains into sacks, wrapping them up for the recycling. It is a necessary act. Dig has written, all his life, thoughtful work, all considered, well-received.

The bones of one book was turned out today. Demons poke from its pages. It was a story of language, but it became a story of censorship. Dig still feels it keenly. Revised, heavily edited, compromised, ideas removed, broken down to conform to business intention. Adopted as a set text, the book was stripped further, research banned, references cut. In the process, removal of intelligence, thoughtfulness, careful wording. I suppose all academics know this life. Read it for the English Language Teaching world, where it's called the parsnip test.

Dig has kept the original papers for the book he wanted to create but wasn't able. Given his rate of production (think the Slow Professor), then we can be ambitious to imagine he'll prioritise writing the book he wanted. He has saved the papers. I love him all the more for that, if it were possible, for his loyal commitment to ideas; his refusal to compromise on thinking. His intellectual rigour and determination to follow his thinking is admired by many more than me.

Our daughters, what can you take from this? Every day, do one small act and make the world a kinder place. Make positive, push that day forward, force the hours round the clock, then you can look at each day and say, Today, I did that. A smile to someone you don't know. A kind gesture. Saying 'thank you'. Exploring, one step at a time, how your own values, commitments, and determinations are made.