Tuesday, 30 September 2008

Just a wee bit intimidating

I've joined a gym and have been going most days for the past month. It's a nice way of starting my day since little bit is in nursery school five mornings a week and other than burying my head in a load of textbooks - exams in two weeks (!) - having a go on the stair-stepper is how I've been filling my mornings.

I only have one complaint about the gym, which may signal my prudish, American/Puritan values. I'm not sure whether to voice my complaint to the management or whether to keep shtum about my concerns. Lemme 'splain. My discomfort involves a young woman who, like me, finishes her workout around the same time. We both head up to the dressing room and shower at about the same time, too. Problem is, while I'm at the locker changing into my street clothes I can hear one of the hair dryers going and I KNOW what I'll find when I turn around to approach 'my' area of the bank of blow dryers and wooden stools. Said young woman does not put on a stitch of clothing (nay, not even knicketies) before she sits down (sometimes on a towel, sometimes not) in front of the mirrored wall and blow-dries her very long, flowing tresses. Those of you who know me might say, "Why are YOU griping?" I have to say, I'm not sure though I think it has to do with the fact that I have no where to 'put' my gaze. I cannot seem to stare straight at my own reflection for the entire five minutes it takes for me to blow-dry my own hair and sort out my face. It just feels unnatural to look elsewhere. I don't fixate on the fact that it's probably a bit unhygienic for her to sit naked on a surface that others will probably use, it's just that I don't know where to put my eyes.

I think it was Michel Foucault who really nailed home the point that it's not what we see or encounter but the value we attach to what we see or encounter. I am not offended by this woman's nakedness - it does nothing FOR me but it also does nothing TO me - I have not stopped attending the gym because I am worried that this woman might, again, be naked. I could lie and say that it's a bit gross to me that she sits naked on a wooden stool, but I'm made of hardier stuff than that - I KNOW what kind of body fluids we ALL have. What does get me a bit riled is my own reaction in that I do not know where to fix my gaze whilst she's next to me in the mirror. Will I get labeled a 'voyeur' by this woman if she catches me glancing about in a normal (not shifty) way? What could I say about her - she very nonchalantly tosses her hair this way and seems absolutely unconcerned about her state of dress. I do think it has not occurred to her that she might be committing some breach of decorum - at least in all the other locker rooms I've ever been in - and I would hate to impose my neurosis on her. On the other hand, what if she's getting some strange pleasure from my discomfort? Ah, I don't even want to think about that, it's too much and I'd be even more intimidated by that. At least I think I would.


Saturday, 3 May 2008

The Soundtrack of Your Life, Part Na'kii

Right then, songs 7-12. Shall we begin?

7. Little Bird: Goldfrapp. It's the newest song on the list. It has bits of Cocteau Twins, Joni Mitchell and a good dose of dry wit in it. How can it not when you have a promotional video like this?

8. I am an Astronaut: Ricky Wilde/Snow Patrol. This song reminds me of Tendy. He sits in his carseat just behind me and we sing this while driving down the road. He loves this song and gets a pout on his face if I sing the wrong lyrics, which I NEVER do on purpose, nooo...

9. Heroes: David Bowie. There's such hopeful desire in the lyrics:
I, I can remember (I remember)
Standing, by the wall (by the wall)
And the guns shot above our heads
(over our heads)
And we kissed,
as though nothing could fall
(nothing could fall)
And the shame was on the other side
Oh we can beat them, for ever and ever
Then we could be Heroes,
just for one day

This sort of encapsulates the group dynamic of one day of gay pride. Enough said.

10.Foundations: Kate Nash. If you've ever been in a relationship that went down the plughole you will probably relate to this song. It's sucky and despite her relative youth, she nails the anger, the hurt, the desperation of clinging onto the last strands of hair that are swirling towards...the plughole. Kate captures the rawness of this event.

11.Skating Away: Jethro Tull. Most people laugh when I tell them that prog rock saved my soul. It was in the early 90's when a friend of mine turned me on to JT. I heard this song and really identified with the lyrics. The words are poetry set to music:

Here are the lyrics. I suggest a trip over to youtube to listen to the song if you've never heard it before:

Meanwhile back in the year One --- when you belonged to no-one ---
you didn't stand a chance son, if your pants were undone.
`Cause you were bred for humanity and sold to society ---
one day you'll wake up in the Present Day ---
a million generations removed from expectations
of being who you really want to be.

Skating away ---
skating away ---
skating away on the thin ice of the New Day.

So as you push off from the shore,
won't you turn your head once more --- and make your peace with everyone?
For those who choose to stay,
will live just one more day ---
to do the things they should have done.
And as you cross the wilderness, spinning in your emptiness:
you feel you have to pray.
Looking for a sign
that the Universal Mind (!) has written you into the Passion Play.

Skating away on the thin ice of the New Day.

And as you cross the circle line, the ice-wall creaks behind ---
you're a rabbit on the run.
And the silver splinters fly in the corner of your eye ---
shining in the setting sun.
Well, do you ever get the feeling that the story's
too damn real and in the present tense?
Or that everybody's on the stage, and it seems like
you're the only person sitting in the audience?

Skating away on the thin ice of the New Day.

12. Finally, the last track I'd have on my personal soundtrack:
Losing My Religion: REM. Okay, it seems a bit contrived, I know. The issue with me and organized religion, especially Mo'ism, makes this song quite poignant. I don't think I ever gave much thought to how deep the hurt of not living up to expectations ran, until a few years ago. I've got some decisions to make about my life, my relationships and I'm not really looking forward to "choosing my confessions, trying to keep an eye on you..." I might have a different song for position 12 in a few weeks' time.

You know, it's not really cool to end on such a downer. How about if I chuck in song 13? (drumroll, please)

13. Let's Dance to Joy Division: The Wombats. What can I say? I love this song. It reminds me of listening to early 'Pushstars'. Bit of a 'let's watch Rome burn' attitude. I admire that. Enjoy this vid, be careful that you don't get a bit motion sick.


Monday, 25 February 2008

Carol Burnett or Dawn French?

I missed having this question on the meme I filled in the other day. It's very difficult to choose between two very talented women, so I'll just leave you with my favourite Dawn French sketch, accompanied by Jennifer Saunders (and some other people who may or may not be famous...who knows?)

Saturday, 23 February 2008

Time to Eddit

Well, you caught me. I'm one of those bloggers who throws up a post only to go back and change the wording, punctuation or syntax at a later time. It's a shame I don't edit my posts beforehand, because it likely shows that I have a cavalier attitude, which isn't true, or perhaps it indicates a tendency to say things that later need clarification, which is true. Either way isn't good, and I can only hope to improve my writing in the coming years.

I read more blogs these days than is sensible, really. I fret at times because I'm not one to really post about my deeper, darker secrets, though I admire those who can and are able to infuse a sense of humility through their writings. I think that shows a talent for cutting to the heart of a common, human vulnerability and we all have that, whether we show it or not.

I haven't got a clue as to posts in the pipeline. I think that the ideas I have will have to wait for a while. Maybe I'll finish the list of musical influences (I left off at number seven), maybe I'll have another pub quiz. Any ideas?

Wednesday, 20 February 2008

Goodbye Katy...

I just got word this past weekend that my paternal grandmother has died. I do not feel sad at this occasion but rather a great relief for her and my family (immediate and extended), who have been unwavering in their care for her and support of each other. Her last decade of life was filled with so many changes that were out of her control: the necessary move from her home and constant companionship of her sister, the eventual diagnosis of Alzheimer's Disease and its cruel and rapid removal of all of her memories, language and ability to care for herself and finally the heart failure that brought her death, early on Sunday morning.

She was a feisty and independent woman and I am sad to say that I never grew to appreciate that side of her as much as I should have, and my early interactions with her were ones of fear of knocking over glass vases and pricey trinkets that sat on special shelves and in display cases around her sitting room. She had a good eye for design and some of her furniture, purchased in the 1950's, would not look out of place in the design showrooms in London, today.

By the time I grew up and was no longer scared of her, she was already in quite poor health, and so I never had the types of easy adult discussions with her that I had with my maternal grandmother, who had died over a decade ago. I would like to think that other people can remember Kathryn for the true character she was and celebrate her life.

What I do know is that my father, the only man in my life that I love and trust implicitly has lost his mother. I know that my grandmother adored her sons, but it was evident that my father held a special place in her heart - he could do no wrong in her eyes. In his efforts to do things for his mother, she often lashed out at others, blaming them for the actions of my father. I don't blame her, though, she was abandoned by every man in her life, and she really didn't want to alienate any others, I think. For her to be able to love my father without reserve makes me love her more than fear her. The last time I saw my grandmother was about a year ago. My father drove me to the care home where she was living out her last days. There was no recognition of me, nor of my father. However, she did smile when we held her hands and brushed the wispy, cottony hair off her brow. The eyes that twinkled with mischief were cloudy and tired. I wished so many things for her, but mostly that she didn't have to die this way - slowly and very much alone in her head.

It's over. Sadly, gratefully, and wistfully I say goodbye to Katy.

Saturday, 9 February 2008

Silly Ol' Meme

This meme ends with the question that really should start it off, so I've simply cut and pasted the final question to the beginning...this doesn't seem so abrupt, does it?

46. WHERE WERE YOU BORN? Ooooo-klahomawherethewindcomessweepindowntheplain...

1. WERE YOU NAMED AFTER ANYONE? A very precocious little girl featured in LIFE magazine the month before my birth.

2. WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME YOU CRIED? During the last scene of BBC's 'The Choir', just now. I love hearing kids singing.

3. DO YOU LIKE YOUR HANDWRITING? It's okay but it's rather inconsistent.


5. HAVE YOU ANY CHILDREN? Yes, non-biological but I gladly claim them.

6. IF YOU WERE ANOTHER PERSON WOULD YOU BE FRIENDS WITH YOU? Yes, but I would bitch about me behind my back. I know I would.

7. DO YOU USE SARCASM A LOT? Not a lot. I prefer irony.


9. WOULD YOU BUNGEE JUMP? Yes, feet first from a height of two stories where there is a huge pile of sand below me. I've got it all planned out!

10. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE CEREAL? Grape Nuts or oatmeal.





15. RED OR PINK? I like pink, I do.




20. WHAT WAS THE LAST THING YOU ATE? Veggie shepherd's pie.

21. WHAT ARE YOU LISTENING TO RIGHT NOW? The sound of a fireworks display at a nearby park.


23. FAVORITE SMELLS? SO's neck, freshly shampoo'd Wonder Pup, line-dried laundry and clean sheets, magic marker, baking brownies.



26. WHICH SPORT DO YOU ENJOY WATCHING MOST? Cricket. I haven't a clue how it's scored though.

27. HAIR COLOR? Reddish-brown.

28. EYE COLOR? Hazel.


30. FAVORITE FOOD? Baguette dipped in hot Camembert cheese, salad with rocket and mustard vinaigrette,





35. HUGS OR KISSES? Either, especially when caught off guard.

36. FAVORITE DESSERT? Queen of Puddings or Sticky Toffee Pudding

39. WHAT BOOK(S) ARE YOU READING NOW? Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

40. WHAT’S ON YOUR MOUSE PAD? Don't do mouse. Don't do pad.

41. WHAT DID YOU WATCH ON TV LAST NIGHT? No TV last night. Watched movie (No. 32) instead.

42. FAVORITE SOUND? Tide coming in on Brighton Beach. The sound of water moving all those stones back and forth is fantastic!!

43. ROLLING STONES OR BEATLES? Stones, definitely.

44. WHAT IS THE FARTHEST YOU HAVE BEEN FROM HOME? Whilst living in Boston I travelled to Munich, Germany and Florence, Italy. Whilst living in London I travelled to Krakow, Poland. Whilst growing up in New Mexico I travelled to Calgary, Canada. You do the mileage...

45. DO YOU HAVE A SPECIAL TALENT? I pretty much know when to stop...

Wednesday, 30 January 2008

Thursday, 24 January 2008

Why Quitters Sometimes Win, Part 2

Throughout my time in the M*rmon church, there were other incidents that led me to question the truthfulness of the doctrine that was presented to me. I thought that I could eventually reconcile the unsettling beliefs generated by the church - the racist doctrine and mythology that taught the creator of all things might play favourites with one skin colour, the sexist dogma that insisted that women were equal to men in positions of subservience and had no choice in the matter within the organization, the pressure to procreate beyond a family's financial or emotional means, a lack of desire to engage with the wider world (in the world but not 'of' the world) except in the context of proselytizing and the competitive righteousness that was firmly ingrained in the congregations' collective understanding of heaven, hell and every level in between. I knew by the time I was twelve what kinds of offenses would get you into which level or kingdom of heaven, and which ones would get you banished into outer darkness for time and all eternity.
Growing up in the 80's and having the horrors of World War II pounded into us, we all assumed that Ad*lph H*tler would have had his boots, jodhpurs and mustache fixed firmly in hell, but a quick check on a few Google sites, yesterday, assured me that, indeed, Mr *itler had had all his temple endowments done for him and would have the opportunity to enjoy the highest kingdom of heaven, at some stage. Whether this was a hoax perpetuated by anti-M*rmon sources, or whether the documentation was, indeed, generated by the London temple still gives me pause for thought. Would I really want to belong to an organization that has so overtly given the option of salvation to a mass murderer, when I cannot even hope to attain the same? If the Hitler temple documentation is not really true and anti-M*rmon sources have created a hoax to discredit the church then shame on them, the church has enough controversy to bring it to its knees. The racism I experienced as a youth and young adult against my friends was enough to seal the deal for me. I grew up among the Lamanites and counted them as my friends. I couldn't understand why they had such a raw deal on the reservations until I learned that they were constantly being punished by god for their iniquitous history. Hey, that makes sense and absolves me of any guilt or responsibility! Their darkened skin was a result of rebellion shortly after they arrived in the Americas, from the Middle East. Cough, cough. They would have a series of chances to 'lighten up' if they turned towards god and gave the Nephites a chance to save them with the only true gospel and a sweet little program called Indian Placement. Seriously folks, I learned that my friends were inferior not only in the eyes of the government, but also in the eyes of god. Problem was, in my head most of the Navajo actually had their sh*t together a lot more than I did. The Navajo friends I had gone to primary school with who had the missionaries around to convert them almost always did a few years away in Arizona or Utah with a white M*rmon family. The idea was that their education would have been supplemented by living in an English-speaking family and that their salvation would have been overseen by a priesthood-holding bunch of M*rmons. The reality was that they often returned to the reservation having forgotten their language and had been left out of important family events. I don't know if their education improved as a result, but I seriously doubt it. The doctrine taught to the white seminary students who remained behind was that our Lamanite friends would return whiter and more delightsome in the eyes of god. Who needs to know that H*tler is hanging out with Jesus now? If the N*zi connection with M*rmonism bears out as truth then the wider world will know what I've been convinced of, for years.

Saturday, 12 January 2008

The Soundtrack of Your Life

One of the things in common that my SO and I share is our love for music. About six weeks ago J took an introductory filmmaking course and it was during that time that I confessed that I composed 'soundtracks' in my head, to accompany my daily events - like walking Tendy down to the shops in Brixton or looking out the window whilst riding on a train. I hear a song and 'see' potential camera shots in my head. I can only assume that others do it too. SO and I agreed that there were certain songs that defined periods in our lives, by bringing back poignant memories and emotions. Songs that we listened to over and again whilst playing, eating, rollerskating/rollerblading/skateboarding (this dates me, I'm sure), songs that were playing while we were having a bit of a teenaged grope at dances or clubs, or just hanging out with mates and turning up the volume to 11...
Some of my earliest memories of enjoying music came from listening with my parents, who owned quite an interesting mix of folk, country, classical and pop records (again, my parents' music also dates me). Cat Stevens, Carole King, Earth, Wind and Fire, Kingston Trio and Bach gave me a foundation to enjoy the sounds of lyrics and notes from a variety of musical genres. I cannot go a day without listening to music and my house is often filled with impromptu sessions when J and I break out the CDs or plug in the ipod and lend our ears to each other's new favourite songs.

I'm sure you see a pattern emerging on my blog; I have a tendency to fill the gaps with music videos when I'm grasping for something to say, where others might use a meme. The music I put on my blog isn't meant to bore the reader - I'm happy to do that with my writing alone. I've been reluctant to share too many details online, but I hope that by listening to a bit of my world that, somehow, you will get to know bits of the real me at the end of this computer.

I know that musical tastes can vary from person to person but I would really love to know what your 'life soundtrack' would have on it. Say you limit it to 10 or 12 songs that reflect your personality or experiences at various times in your life. If that seems too complicated, then just pick a CDful (yes, that's a word I made up just now, and I'm keeping it) of your favourites and list them with your comments or blog post, if you feel so inspired. I'm sure this counts as a meme, somehow, but I think that the music that moves and shapes gives as much insight into the personality as any confession could.

Here are mine:

1. Peace Train - Cat Stevens : ages 5-10. My parents had Teaser and the Firecat and I adored every track on this album, but a cover of this song, done by Natalie Merchant before she knew that CS had converted to Islam, sealed this as my favourite. I remember doing cartwheels down the hallway while this record was playing on the stereo, in the middle of summer and I especially love the intonation of "Peace train, ho-ly roll-er, everyone jumpuponthepeacetrain"...you get the drift?
2. Kids in America - Kim Wilde : Junior High. What can I say about this song? I loved it and I had a huge crush on KW (though I would have never admitted it at age 13). It was great to dance to and it had a good beat, Dick. I'm giving this song an 8 outta 10!
3. Big Time - Peter Gabriel : High school. I obviously had ideas above my station to identify with the lyrics... I wish I had been one of those kids who took all the energy she had in feeling displaced and misunderstood and had done something spectacular with it. I've been living a bit of an insular life for the past twenty years, which is mostly okay but difficult to get out of when you really want to do something that requires the belief of others standing behind you. When I hear this song, however, I think there were a few key opportunities that I didn't take because I was scared and feeling unworthy and I wish I had disregarded that angst and really been "on my way" and "making it". I still love this song because it's a youthful, two-fingered salute to the entropy of small town life.
4. Over the Hills and Far Away - Led Zepplin : High school/college. The melodic beginning turns into a dervish of vocal, guitar and drum genius by Plant, Page and Bonham. It's just a brilliant song that brings back memories of finding my feet as a young adult, and speaks to a romantic and nomadic nature I thought I possessed.
5. Down In It - Nine Inch Nails : early Boston years. I think I fancied myself a tortured soul. There were a few years where my behaviour was a bit sketchy and I found myself in some situations that seemed quite remarkable, at the time. However, looking back I feel more lucky to have weathered them with few or no consequences. Some of my friends weren't so lucky.
6. Mother, Mother - Tracy Bonham: This videois worth a watch. In the same vein as NIN, it encapsulates the feelings of youth simultaneously trying to break away and be independent whilst still struggling to find their next meal. I remember working in a train station from 6am to 2pm, making minimum wage and blowing most of my paycheck down at the pub, trying to forget that my life was a bit miserable. Oh, and the fact that I think most daughters have strained and strange relationships with their mother, makes TB's song a must-have on my life sountrack.
7. Are you getting bored, yet? I'm thinking that I'll save the last six for another day. Enjoy this last vid - it's the English subtitles that I dig. It's saying what I think most of us are saying through our blogs...

Thursday, 10 January 2008

This One's for Wry...

I have a preference for somewhat thrashy music. I love a good guitar intro and hook. This song has both, I believe, and everytime I hear it, the title reminds me of my favourite Shwissy ex-pat

The song is called, "Am I Wry? No." It's by a band called Mew Frengers, who are Danish/Swedish/Norwegian...well, Scandanavian. I bought the CD based on the cover, which has a young girl dressed in a matador costume...it's got a few good songs on it. This one is good to clean house to - the vacuuming gets done lickety-split with thrashy-esque music. Notice the especially pouty lead singer; love him, he's gorgeous.

Tuesday, 8 January 2008

A New Year, Same Ol' Me

Here I am. Feeling quite good about 2008. I've loved the number eight since I was eight years old. I tell myself that it's because the first letter of my first name is the eighth letter of the alphabet: H (Aitch). Before that time, I had picked the number six and held firmly onto it through my seventh birthday (in case you were wondering whether I was fickle and picked successive numbers according to my year), I loved 'six' until the summer's day when my dear cousin informed me that it was, indeed, the favourite number of Beelzebub. Shock. Horror. Those Southern Baptists ground their truth into me sure enough as the Mormons did. I promptly dropped six and I've been running with eight as my lucky number since that time.

I've not got any resolutions, at least not any that haven't been made and broken before. I've got a determination, if you will, to be mindful. I'm going to be mindful of how much I eat, drink and have sex. I'm determined to do less of some and more of others and mind less that others may or may not be able to do more or less of what I've been mindfully determined to do...or not do. Ehem.

Roll on 2008, let's see what you've got.

Monday, 7 January 2008

Free From Fear

Sister Mary Lisa has had some guest posts on her blog as of late, writing about what they would do if only they were free from fear. I thought I would share one of my favourite songs of the moment, aptly titled 'F.E.A.R.', by the singer that put 'man' in Manchester, Ian Brown. Here is 4:05 minutes' worth of another perspective of fear -