You are currently browsing the monthly archive for May 2008.

Today was my first job at the Castle! It was for a wedding, and was me and a friend (who also got the job hoorah) and our boss setting up everything.

It was really good fun, and totally utterly exhausting!

What I liked about it was the way our boss didn’t treat us any differently to the way he treated everyone else – there were no allowances made for ‘the ladies’, we could carry boxes and chairs just as well as anyone else. Which was mostly true…but it took two of us for a table, I must confess.

Anyway, it went well with that attitude until right at the end, when we were packing up the tables. So we have a table between us, he has one of his own, and we’re putting down the legs but my friend and I are struggling. Getting there, but struggling. So he tells us to put it flat on the floor, stand on it and kind of nudge the legs with your heel.

Of course, he’s wearing big smart shoes, we’re wearing flats. Not much power behind them. No joy.

He looks over and says ‘oh honestly, you two are such big girls

I kneel. I push, in one swift movement, the legs down and into place. My friend follows suit.

I stand. “Yes, yes we are. Two big girls with big strong hands

Heh. How fun =] He didn’t comment on it after that! Hell, we worked our big-girl-socks off, so he had nothing to complain about!

It’s quite nice having some human contact. Being trapped in my room revising is slowly driving me insane. Means that I have less experiences of dipshits who argue with me, but also less experiences of the greatness of people – working at a wedding makes you realise how happy people can be, I guess. I’d never been to a wedding before, and I can’t say I’m all that enthusiastic about the traditionalist elements to it (giving away your daughter, anyone?) but there’s something about a wedding that seems to leave everyone with a smile on their face.

It wasn’t the Pimms, I swear 😉

…it’s a year since my dad had his heart attack.

A whole year.

Feels like yesterday. Just close your eyes and you’re back in that dark panic and emptiness, back in that sudden reminder of finality, ours.

Thankfully only a reminder, a memo to say you really should cherish every moment you have. All the old clichés come howling from the vaults, with ‘live every moment like it’s your last’ ringing in your ears. It could have been his…but no, it’s not worth dwelling on what could have happened. Look at what did happen – he was fine. As fine as you can be after a major heart attack and consequent operation, but still fine. Still there.

He didn’t want to celebrate. Ma and sister wanted to, to celebrate his being alive and all. I didn’t know. Seems a little strange, celebrating the anniversary of a heart attack. Still, I suppose celebrating being alive doesn’t sound all that bad.

Sorry, this is so irrelevant to everything I normally talk about. But I needed somewhere to just say, to acknowledge. Some way of getting it into my mind that a whole year has passed – and that at pretty much the same time this year as last year, he’s going under the knife.

Some people are just lucky, I suppose. Some people can eat crappy food, do no exercise, smoke, do drugs, and ultimately turn out ok. But some people aren’t. His lifestyle is so damned healthy and still, one year a heart attack, the next a slipped disc in his back…that’s not how it should work out. He deserves better.

So I’m on a bit of a downer, I guess. Too many memories and anxieties filling a mind that should be focusing on revision and exams and digging myself out of this early-onset-disillusion. I really should have more faith in the world, I really should have more faith in people. Maybe if I had faith it would be easier, but I could never believe, even if I wanted to. Fooling myself won’t help.

I just don’t understand. I don’t understand how someone can be perfectly healthy one day, and in hospital the next. I don’t understand how someone can seem fine yet be in constant pain. I don’t understand why, or how. I wonder if understanding would help, anyway.

I think I should go. I should stop reaching back into that time, I should just go to bed and tomorrow will just be another day. No more anniversaries, no more ‘a year ago today…’, just normal life.

Oh, who am I kidding. It’s not that easy.

  • Good night.
  • I did a mock in English Literature the other day.

    It was a really amazing question about Blake, and there was so so much to write about – the ideal question! Only I had a problem with it, one I had to ignore in order to write a good essay rather than descending into argument.

    Here’s the question:

    “In Blake’s view of the world, nature liberates : man imprisons” How far does your reading of the Selected Poems lead you to agree?

    So yes, there was a lot to say – so much of Blake’s poetry is about nature or the restrictions of humanity (mind forg’d manacles, anyone?) and the answers just pour from the mind to the pen to the paper to the grades. But I really didn’t like the way that the question refers to humanity as ‘man’ – for a 21st century question, when it takes at least a year for them to give an exam question the OK, you’d think they’d have picked up on that one.

    Because yes, it’s a term which was used (and accepted) to refer to all of human life. And yes, in many cases it still is. But to use it in this question goes one step further than having to read texts in which it is assumed that ‘he’ can count for all people and things, as it forces the student to do the same – one cannot answer the question without referring to the quote in detail, and so whole paragraphs turn into ‘man imprisons his emotions, his thoughts and his beliefs’ and suddenly women are excluded.

    Reading texts which use the male pronoun throughout make me feel like an outsider, even if the intention of the author was to refer to men and women. My teacher argued that intention is all that matters – I call bull. I think that while intention is important, there are some things that regardless of how they are intended, should not be said. For example, returning to a previous post, the intention of a man who says ‘thanks babe’ in a shop should of course be acknowledged. For all we know, he means well, he thinks he’s being polite. But look at the implications of the term, and the cordiality which is being assumed between strangers, and regardless of his intentions the use of the word ‘babe’ is unacceptable. Similarly, regardless of the intentions of the author, or in this case the examiner who wrote this question, the wording of the question is exclusive and offensive.

    If you are a woman who feels that the use of a male pronoun as all-encompassing is unnecessary, unequal and, indeed, unfair, then to have to answer a question in which you have to use said pronoun throughout just seems flat out unacceptable. When the question chosen faces so much scrutiny, the examiner should have to think twice before using sexist terms in their question.

    I spoke to my teacher and a few fellow students about this, and it became quite heated. It ended up being me and another girl against my teacher and a couple of other guys (surprise, anyone?), and it was clear that they just weren’t listening to what we were saying. Now don’t get me wrong, my teacher is amazing. He’s normally very level-headed and seemingly aware of the inequalities in society, and he teaches accordingly. But in this case he was simply blinded to the obvious. My partner in crime (coincidentally, the same woman who I agreed with in Philosophy) pointed out that if they were to read an entire book in which humanity was referred to as ‘she’ then it would be a very different story. But because they never have to experience it, they don’t recognise the issue and so feel that it’s ok to reduce it to intentions alone.

    One response to this was ‘you don’t care about the question, you’re talking about changing the whole English language!’. Well, yes and no. No, in that the question was what I was frigging arguing about. Sorry mister, but I do care or we wouldn’t even be having this discussion. But yes, I think that the English language needs some work, as it has so much of its basis in patriarchy. That, however, was not my point. My point was that the wording of this particular question was unnecessary and, if I may say so, backward. It forces men and women to accept an element of our language which has already been questioned. An element of our language which has already been dismissed by many. So my issue was not so much that the language itself needs to change, it was that our language IS changing, and this question does not allow for that.

    It was also said that the question uses a quote – surely the quote must therefore have been from before the days when people cared about such petty things as pronouns? This is possible. But of all the hundreds of quotes that could be used about Blake, they chose this one. Also, as far as my understanding of these questions goes, they are not always real quotes – rather, they are expressions of a view point which the examinee must discuss. Therefore, the quote was either a modern one, invented by the examiner her/himself, or was badly chosen.

    Ultimately, however, the argument came back time and time again to intent.

    For me, reducing it to intentions discounts the emotions of the recipient, assuming the importance of what you are thinking over the reactions of others. I think I made my point a bit clearer by this example – in a lot of rap music, the word nigger is used. The intentions may have been good, but the word itself has a negative effect. The very use of the word seems to condone racism and a divide between white and black, enforcing the division rather than destroying it. Of course, I can never truly know how that word feels to a black person, just as my teacher and his followers cannot know how it feels for a woman to face a text which instantly treats her as subhuman, but I can recognise, acknowledge the power of words. You’d think that a chief examiner, for English Literature of all subjects, could also make that connection.

    And on that note – adieu.

    I thought I’d share with you one of my favourite bits of one of my favourite books, Oranges are Not the Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson. It’s amazing and you should all read it…the poetry in her writing is fantastic. Anyway yes, this is one of my favourite extracts:

    Sir Perceval, the youngest of Arthur’s knights, at last set forth from Camelot. The king had begged him not to go; he knew this was no ordinary quest. Since the visit of the Holy Grail one feast day, the mood had changed. They were brothers, they laughed at Sir Gawain and his exploits in the land of the green knight, they were brave, all brave, and their loyalty was to the king…Had been to the king. The Round Table and the high-walled castle were almost symbols now. Once they were meat and drink. But for Launcelot and Bors, betrayal is in the future as well as in the past. Launcelot is gone, driven mad by heavy things. Somewhere he is searching too; reports reach the king; garbled, incoherent, ragged like the men who bring them. The hall is empty. Soon the enemy will come. There was a stone that held a bright sword and no one could pull the sword because their minds were fixed on the stone.

    Arthur sits on the wide steps. The Round Table is decorated with every plant that grows growing circular-wise like a target. Near the centre is a sundial and at the centre a thorny crown. Dusty now, but all things turn to dust.

    Arthur thinks of before, when there were lights and smiles.

    There was a woman, he remembers her. But oh, Sir Perceval, come and turn cartwheels again.

    Because we should. It’s important to remember and appreciate the achievements of the women before us, to see just how much they have done for us already. Sure, there’s a way to go yet. But without Second Wave feminism, and indeed all its precursors, we wouldn’t have half the freedom women have nowadays.

    So check this out, and check out her blog generally, it’s great 🙂

    With thanks to The F-Word for this recent discovery…

    And on that note – adieu.

    We had an interesting discussion in philosophy today. Somehow, the Obama calling a reporter ‘sweetie’ incident came up and we ended up talking about whether we saw it as acceptable for men to call women sweetie or darling or love, etcetera etcetera…

    Personally, I can’t stand it. One girl in my class made a point that I certainly agree with – she said that often, it’s about power of the man over the woman, about being condescending. We are not children, nor are we lesser than men, but calling us darling or other ‘terms of endearment’ suggests that we are. Also, I think it is inappropriate for a stranger to call you affectionate names…

    What do you think? I’d be interested to know…

    And on that note – adieu.

    and thought I’d share it with you 🙂 I wrote it late last year (when we had to write about ‘a perfect world) and then saved it in some obscure place on my laptop, which I have just discovered. I was pretty pleased with it, but now…myeah…not so sure. I think the whole ‘fate’ thing isn’t very me. But there we go, let me know what you think 🙂

    Death beckons. The line that has drawn me through the mishmash of moments that make up my life grows shorter as I near my destination, reeling me in. I accept it now; accept the fate that we are all born into. Born to live, born to die; it doesn’t get any simpler than that. A sense of completion overwhelms me and the long-feared moment shines, in a way I could never have imagined. Suddenly everything is brighter – the bed, the desk, you above me – so bright it is blinding. Closing my eyes, I appreciate the darkness. I, who was always afraid of the shadows that follow, I who actively seek the sun, I embrace the blackness that engulfs me, threading it through my fingers, feeling it brush against my cheeks. This, I realise, this softness that is all I can see and touch, is death. And she is beautiful.

    Now, only as her caress slowly tightens, I see the world in the way I have always dreamed of. I see the perfection that every being crawling the surface of this globe searches for, when every moment, every glance and touch and laugh and word suddenly seems to fit together, the final puzzle piece clawed from under the threadbare sofa at the last minute. My last minute, and yet it lasts a lifetime. And in that lifetime I see that all the striving, all the effort that filled every single second of my life; that was perfection.

    It’s not the destination, hurtling towards me, that fills me with elation. It is the journey, the way that I did not even realise I travelled, every decision and revision fitting into place along the path set out for me. Every life, every journey in itself is a perfect world, however imperfect it may outwardly appear. Everyone has a path that they follow, a pre-planned route. Only plans don’t always work out, some of us like to take short-cuts, change plans at the last minute. Well, there’s always one.

    I see all this, death circling around me, closing in and stepping back, anticipating my next movement.

    Will you won’t you, will you won’t you, won’t you join the dance? She is singing, singing and circling, and my epiphany passes as the whispering fingers of death reach out once more for my hand. I have seen perfection. I have lived perfection. And now, as I begin to step in time, one step forward, two steps back, I have only the slightest twinge of sadness. To leave this is a big step, for what can possibly follow perfection?

    And so we dance the dance of life, never certain of how it will end, making up the steps as we go along. Welcome to perfection, my friend. May I have this dance?

    And on that note – adieu

    To counter the pain of…well, the world.

    Have three beautifully great videos from Whose Line is it Anyway? :

    Oh how I love Whoopi Goldberg and Josie Laurence!!!

    And on that note – adieu

    At work last week, my boss continued his sorting of his extensive cd collection. It’s certainly an interesting mix, and I like most of it. But this one was just too far:

    Just – WHAT? A song about a man who stops loving his wife because after having children she is ‘fat’, so he ‘has to kill her’?

    Oh wait, it’s humour. Funny, yeah. The ultimate excuse, and yet again I’m playing the humourless feminist. Ever occur to anyone that rather than being humourless we just find FUNNY things amusing? Rather than songs which make a joke of frikking murder.

    Apparently complaining about this makes me ‘militant’. Boo hoo. I’ll take whatever names are thrown at me, I will not sit by thinking this shit is bad and not say anything. People need to think about what they are saying and listening to.

    And on that note – adieu

    …were the words which my mother once chanted when she joined the protest against this horrible society.

    SPUC, the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, compares abortion with eugenics. It believes that to have an abortion is “the deliberate killing of an unborn child”. It also claims that contraceptives like the pill are murderous, and that abortion is responsible for doctors who are now committing infanticide.

    Here, from the society itself:

    The injustice of abortion

    Abortion denies the most basic of human rights–the right to life–which is justly due to each member of the human family.

    Abortion is not only itself a grave injustice but it also perpetuates other social injustices. Abortion does not solve social problems, such as unstable relationships, poor housing and financial insecurity, which lead women to seek to end their pregnancies. It actually undermines the will of society–at the levels of family, peer group and government–to find humane solutions which do not involve killing a baby.

    […]

    Abortion’s victims

    Abortion is typically carried out by the dismemberment, poisoning and/or premature expulsion of the unborn child. It is usually an invasive procedure for the mother which, even in the best hospital conditions, presents risks to her physical and psychological health. Fathers and other family members may also suffer after an abortion, the ethics of healthcare professionals who take part in abortions are compromised, and society as a whole is harmed by the toleration of violence against the unborn child.

    […]

    Early abortifacients

    Abortion can be caused in the first two weeks of life by birth-control methods which prevent the implantation of the embryo in the mother’s womb. Although many advocates of such techniques refer to this action as contraceptive, it actually involves the death of an embryo in the womb and is therefore abortifacient. Abortion can be caused by:

    • birth control implants
    • birth control vaccines
    • intra-uterine devices (coils)
    • the morning-after pill
    • other forms of contraceptive pill.

    […]

    Population control

    The population control movement is the world’s largest and most powerful promoter of abortion. Many countries have legalised abortion because of concern at alleged over-population. Population-growth is said to be the cause of poverty, famine and environmental degradation, and governments have used this to justify controlling the sizes of families. Such measures infringe human rights, including unborn children’s right to life.

    […]

    Infanticide and euthanasia

    Legalised abortion has led to increasing contempt for newborn babies who are disabled. Some doctors in Britain have admitted killing disabled babies by methods including sedating and starving them to death; this is still against the law. In some countries, including Britain, courts have approved the starvation of brain-damaged adult patients. The same attitude to human life is apparent in eugenic abortion, infanticide and the pressure to decriminalise euthanasia.

    Now, you may have guessed that I have a problem with SPUC. My problem is this: being anti-choice, or ‘pro-life’, denies a woman’s right to autonomy. It denies her power and control over her own body, and turns the process of abortion into murder.

    When abortion was illegal, women had to find doctors willing to perform an abortion illegally – some women even resorted to coat hangers to perform the abortion. Today, abortion is legal and available in the UK. There is still social stigma about it, and there are still mental (and yes, I mean mental. Look at the SPUC director’s blog for goodness sakes) societies like this around. But at least the days of the coat hanger are gone, for now.

    So what has inspired me to write this, you may ask. Well, I discovered recently that the very SPUC that my mother was protesting against when she was my age is coming to my sister’s school. To give an assembly. Recently, my sister has been learning about abortion in her religious studies class (I know, good start right? No bias there…) and came home saying that she wasn’t sure she agreed with abortion. We had a big family debate and both of us put forward similar points. In fact, she had only meant that she wouldn’t want an abortion but that if another woman wanted one, that should be allowed. A woman should be able to choose.

    Because her school, which I used to attend, teaches about abortion is such a weighted way (unintentionally, I think. The teacher I had was very religious but tried to be balanced. He failed miserably), she left thinking that she was against abortion without understanding the meaning behind such a belief.

    And now, SPUC have been invited to come to the school and talk to a group of teenagers, my sister included. They won’t try the balanced approach, and these young people, who are the most in need of a clear understanding of contraception, abortion, and relationships generally, will simply be preached at by a Christian right-wing society.

    I am totally furious about this. I think I’d be ok about it if there were a pro-choice group coming in to talk too, but that’s not the way the school works. While they may attempt to be balanced in their teaching, they are certainly not when choosing which speakers to host in the chapel. Still, I’m going to try and find out if they’d have me and a friend give a pro-choice chapel, to try to level the field a little.

    I’d be interested to hear your thoughts, and any ideas for how to approach 15 yr olds about abortion (in case we are actually allowed to speak). Also, any idea what my sister should do? She and her friends disagree with SPUC but will be forced to sit through 1/2 an hour of it (there was an opt-out letter, but she forgot about it…), and they say they’ll be excluded if they shout FUCK SPUC in the middle of assembly. Which is fair enough.

    And on that note – adieu.

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