Thursday, 28 May 2015


This is a currently post, linked to Kale and Beans and Ot and Et. The themes we are writing on this week are watching, dealing, losing, dreaming, committing.

Unusually, I've been watching a few things this week - I'm generally not great at sitting through stuff. But at the weekend we had a Eurovision party, and watched all 4 hours of the bad music and politically motivated voting, and on Tuesday I went to see the original Far From The Madding Crowd at the cinema.

I am wondering how my oldest friend, Peel, and her daughter are dealing with the events of the last few days. Or, I suppose I am wondering how they will deal with them over the coming months and years. On Tuesday, the 17 year old who I first held within hours of her birth was in an accident that she escaped without injury, but that has left her boyfriend on life support.

I'm losing track of time. Bank Holiday Monday doesn't mean  a days less work, really, just a day less to do it all in.

It's that time of year when - tickets bought, annual leave booked, acts announced - I can start dreaming about Latitude in July. Four days of music, art, poetry, comedy, dance and random happenings set in fields and woodland.

Tomorrow I have a day at UEA to meet with my supervisor and to spend time in the library. I need to be committing to getting some words down and moving this whole thing on to the actual research bit. I need to find participants.

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Fanny Doodle and Inflated Sheep

I went to see Far From The Madding Crowd - the 1967 version - with La, and Ms M and Ms K. I knew I had watched it before when I was doing O'levels 30 years ago, but I was surprised how much of it was familiar to me.

I don't know if there is much value in a review of a 48 year old film, but in the unlikely event that anyone else does take up the chance to see it if it ever comes to a cinema near you, I have a few bits of advice.
  • Book. We turned up without a lot of time to spare, expecting an empty cinema, and got the last seats in the house, which meant we were right at the front. Good for legroom, but bad for craned necks. I'm still a little confused as to why so many people were out watching an old film on a Tuesday night. I don't know it it's relevant, but the 4 of us, with a combined age of about 155, were the youngest there by some margin. 
  • Watch out for the line "don't be a doodle, Fanny". Is that in the book? I may need to re-read to check. 
  • Go to the toilet before it starts, although that won't guarantee you won't need to go again. It is 3 hours long, for a start, and in every scene there is rain (it rained and it rained and it rained), or gushing rivers, or crashing waves, or spouting gargoyles. Two of the four of us were running to the toilet the minute the credits came up. 
  • Be prepared for constant sexual symbolism - far more than is reasonable in any one film. It's quite ridiculous. Having said that, it's a U certificate. It's not in any way explicit. 
  • Watch out for Terrance Stamp doing the horse version of George Galloway's "shall I be the cat?"
  • Count the proposals, and....
  • Be grateful that it's possible to have a conversation with a man without him begging you to marry him. Bathsheba was fairly annoying but she really didn't need the constant pestering of Mr Boldwood. 
  • Enjoy the cinematography. A lot of the scenes were reminiscent of  a Rembrandt or  a Van Gogh. Huge amounts of character in every face. Wonderful visual detail.  
  • Take note of how to deflate a sheep, in case you are ever in a situation where such a skill is needed. 
  • Take someone along who you can have the "to what extent is Hardy a feminist?" conversation with. There's a lot of stuff, but basically it's a film where the central character is a woman who owns and manages her own land and who makes choices about who she wants to share her life with. Fairly radical for 1967, but definitely ground breaking for 1874, when the book was written. 
We are extremely lucky to have a small and successful independent cinema in town. I forget sometimes to see what's on and to make the effort, but I should keep going. It was actually worth the rushing home from work and 3 hours of watching appallingly bad weather for the doodle fanny line alone. 

Thursday, 21 May 2015


This is a currently post, linked to Ot and Et and Kale and Beans. They provide five words each week, and invite people to write about what is going on in their worlds, and to link up.

This weeks words are tasting, wearing, working, checking, playing. 

Last night I was tasting hospital hot chocolate on a post work visit to my dad who is back on the Macmillan ward. The kind woman doing the rounds with the tea trolley extended the offer of a drink to me, and I sipped it as my dad told me stories of his school days, and gently joked about the treatment he's undergoing.

Most of what I am wearing is a lot of black, as it has been since adolescence, although I did buy a wonderful floral Red Herring tunic that I spotted in a charity shop. Maybe when the sun comes out I'll put that on.

I am in an ongoing process of working, working, working at getting the ideas that we have put in place in the team I manage communicated and accepted across the organisation. I love the way we're working - more intuitively, more creatively, more effectively - and I'm impatient with other managers who want to stick to the safety net of process and bureaucracy. I am not a natural cheerleader, but I believe in what we're doing, and I'm being as vocal and as enthusiastic as I am able to be in every forum I can find.

The weather is bonkers at the moment and I keep checking the skies for clues. Last night the skies seemed to be saying that it was going to continue to be warm, stormy, cold, bright, cloudy with heavy rain and violent rain bursts of sharp hail stones. I fear for the wild flower seeds I scattered at the weekend.

Snake is making plans for a game he intends us to be playing on Saturday night, as we watch the Eurovision Song Contest. It involves a lot of food and drink and paper and pens. The contest is a marathon - 40 bad pop songs over the course of an evening, and then an interminable scoring system that means revisiting each of those 40 countries for fake happy chat and excruciatingly slow reading of numbers, which are then painstakingly translated. The whole event is riddled with politically motivated voting, cultural misunderstandings, and, above all, terrible music. We have friends arriving to share it with us. The girl is planning to Skype us from her own Eurovision party in York. I am just a little despairing that we've passed this strange ritual from our own childhoods onto the next generation, when we had the opportunity to Just Say No. But what can you do? It's a phenomena.

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

I must be me, I'm in my head

Last week was hard and fun and full and I was humbled and reassured and stretched and recognised.

I'm struggling with the recognition. I failed at childhood, in all sorts of ways (I could perhaps have been forgiven for not being clever if I'd been happy, but I was neither) and there's still something in me that sees all attention as a threat. But that attention, that focus on what I'm doing at work, is coming thick and fast, and I sort of like it, but I feel the demand in it as well.

The recognition also includes the ongoing attention of the flirty Smiths fan who continues to act as though I am in some way desirable, while I continue to be outstandingly awkward and Morrissey like in my lack of grace whenever he is near. He is leaving his job this week, and while I'll miss being told I'm attractive and interesting (by somebody other than the wonderful Snake, who is endlessly appreciative), it's no bad thing that I'll be spared the acute self consciousness he engenders in me.

The week included a day at the University of East Anglia on Friday, where my academic supervisor said that based on my proposal I should publish my research project. Which is good, obviously, except I was sort of planning to just scrape through this last module of the MA, and I now feel I need to actually put some effort in. Plus, it's just weird - I left school at 16 with the barest of qualifications. Everything I know is from wide ranging reading and guesswork. I don't know how I got here.

As a reward for getting through the week I met with Ms M and Ms K for a quiet, reflective drink. At about 10pm, after a couple of glasses of wine, we were headed off across town looking for something to eat, when I saw a very beautiful man (think young Julian Cope, and just as addled), known as Jesus, who is the son of good friends and who I used to look after when he was a very small boy. He indicated in his slightly incoherent way that his dad was inside, so I turned into say hello, and the Ms's K and M followed. Thus, we ended up in the tardis like smallest pub in the world. I have never been in there without things turning strange. It really is the smallest pub in the world, or at least claims to be, with the result that it is impossible even for people like me to not talk to strangers, and the strangers that gather tend to be very strange indeed.  Sometime after midnight, long after the doors had been locked with us inside, Snake and Mr K turned up following a late night trip to the cinema, and we staggered off home.

The next day was the day I've been needing. A fry up,  some gentle gardening , a walk through a bluebell wood, fish and chips for tea and lots and lots of sleep.

On Sunday morning I went back to the same wood for another long walk. I trusted my small terrier off the lead, confident that there was no livestock around, and he didn't let me down, as he sometimes does by disappearing off for hours on end. It was wonderful to see him explore and be a proper dog, Coming home, I cooked lunch for Peel, then Snake and Goldie, the small dog and me, set off across county to visit friends in the beautiful fairy tale town of Lavenham, with it's houses twisted into impossible angles, looking as though they're about to fall into the street (although after 500 years of staying in one piece I guess the chances are that they'll survive a little longer).

We shared a meal, and, wonderfully, it was still light when we left. We deliberately took a wrong turn, wanting to soak up some of the beauty left in the day, and driving down a hedgerow-ed, cow parsley-ed lane  there was suddenly a barn owl swooping across the road in front of us, unmistakeable, unbelievable. A bird that, strangely, has been featuring in my dreams lately. We stopped the car and watched open mouthed as it scanned and scoured the fields on either side of us, either entirely unaware of it's adoring audience, or completely comfortable with the recognition it so properly deserved.

The National - Karen 

Thursday, 14 May 2015


This is a Curently post, linked up to Ot and Et and Kale and Beans. The words that we are invited to reflect on this week are looking, loving, planning, starting, wishing.

I've been looking for some stability, some solid ground. For a few days I've been careening between a wild joy, an awareness of how awesomely lucky I am, and a plunging despair. Often in the same minute, and both in response to the same stimuli. I am usually reasonably level I think - sometimes significantly depressed, but still, fairly consistent within the mood I'm in, and this is weird and unsettling.

One way this manifests is in my response to Goldie's ability to detect my mood. He reads me better then anyone else. I am loving that he has that empathy and perception, but I HATE that he can see the darkness that is in my head sometimes, whatever front I put on and however hard I try to reassure him. I never want him to think that my life is not what I want. (My life is what I want).

So I'm planning to make the changes I can to try to calm things down. I continue to take anti depressants, and I continue to feel I need them. They keep my head above water, and I only get submerged by the really big waves. But I also need to eat more sanely, treat caffeine as the poison it is to my system, drink moderately. Swim and walk. Get involved in campaigning against the worst of the wrongs. I KNOW these things help. I need to remember what works and keep going back to them.

Another thing that I need to do is ask for help sometimes. I sort of love how at work I'm off on my own with my team, knowing what I'm doing, not needing anyone around me to get things done. But it can be lonely, when everyone is looking to me for answers to questions we all know there are no answers to, and there is no one for me to turn to. So I'm starting to ask the slightly tarnished but still probably in line for the title of Best Boss In The World to be a bit more available, to take a bit more notice. Pro's and cons, give and take. As much as I like to feel like the lone ranger, I need some back up occasionally.

I think what I'm wishing for is serenity.