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Saturday, 24 August 2013

Did you miss me?

Sometimes you don't know what you've been missing until you're in the middle of it.

Tonight I caught up with a lot of very good friends. Many of us apologised to everyone for 'being antisocial lately.' It happens so easily sometimes, doesn't it; you're busy for a bit, or fancy some alone time, and the next thing you know you haven't seen some of your favourite people for months.

I've been very lonely and I don't think I saw a way out of that until tonight.

A couple of weeks ago I went home to visit my family. We did the usual Cowes Week things - beach barbecue, fireworks, catching up with my oldest friends - while thinking about how it might be very different next year. Dad's retiring, so a lot of things might have changed when I next go back.

One moment stands out though: it was so wonderful to swim in the sea again. It was the first time I've been swimming since... maybe over a year ago? Could be two. A long time. As I squeaked about the cold and inched my way deeper in, my sister said the sea had missed me, that it had been waiting for me to come back.

The thing that surprised me, both tonight and back on the island, was being reminded that there are other people who think like me. Whether it's my friend Zaru encouraging me to perform my poetry soon, or my brother Michael chatting to me about quantum physics, it's been a blessed relief to be around people who are interested in things that interest me. I don't get that at work.

I work with good people, kind people, but I don't have much common ground with them. I know nothing about football or reality TV, and am too scared to go digging for something real to talk about. So I've felt alienated. At first I thought they were a bit weird, but in the absence of anyone with whom to talk about that, the thought gradually became "I am completely abnormal."

Well, normal is all in the context. These people, my family and friends, are the context in which I make sense. They are my normal. They are my home.

Monday, 29 July 2013

My left hand is spasming. I don't want to be resting up for work, I want to be writing. I want to spend every minute working on outliving myself. There are caves where you can hear and see the northern lights sing. I know this is true. Just like I know that if you hold your breath and step sideways, if you do it at just the right angle, you can go somewhere different. People at work keep telling me how intelligent and creative I am, and I keep telling them it's a shame that doesn't matter here, it's a pity that doesn't help. The surface of the moon and the ocean floor are the same place, and both have deep and heavy lakes full of terrors. I was tired five hours ago. I should have slept then. Instead I want a pen and paper bedsheets, instead I want to keep going until something worth saying falls out of my hand, until I can fall asleep knowing I'll respect myself in the morning, until I can tell the imaginary Neil in my head what I've come up with and imagine him smiling in imaginary pride. "Not a bad start," I imagine he'd say. "Now actually write it, and you'll really have something." Damn you, imaginary Neil. You're always right. My last resting place will be beneath a willow tree. I know, but don't know how I know. I hope there will be a bridge at least, and someone to lead me across.

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Hipster fashion

I don't have a problem with hipsters, first of all. I long ago realised that 'fashion' as a concept wasn't for me, but I don't want to intrude on anyone else's fun. Or what passes for fun when you're too cool to publicly emote. If you want to wear skinny jeans, leggings with elaborate prints on them, thick-framed glasses, t-shirts featuring animals that also wear thick-framed glasses – well, fair play to you. Well done on the impressively swoopy hair.

It is bewildering, though, isn't it? The way one particular style starts to pervade the media until an entire era has a definable Look. In the same way that some photos are instantly recognisable as being from the seventies, the images we're churning out in advertising and posting online all scream “I was taken in the twenty-tens!”, and there's nothing you can do about that. The very cut of your fringe betrays you.

I think what bothers me most is that people don't realise how temporary it all is. Twenty years from now, when aesthetic circuitry is the big thing, you'll still have a moustache tattooed on your index finger. Forty years from now, when fabric can be programmed to display whatever you dreamed about last night, you will still have a moustache tattooed on your finger. That doesn't bother some people, but I like the fact that some tattoo artists will only ink unique works. If you already know three people with a particular design, like it or not, you're joining a club. What would the club of people with moustachioed digits look like, I wonder? Would you want to be a part of it?

There's been a lot of debate over what exactly makes someone a hipster, and because humans can't cope with there being more than two kinds of people, I've helpfully decided where the line is. You're welcome. The schism is as follows:

Anyone who gets conspicuously, publicly excited about their interests is a geek; anyone too cool and reserved to do so is a hipster. There's a distancing from the moment in that attitude that's actually pretty sad, and more held back than laid back. If you're tempted to say that you preferred a band's early work because the alternative is to appear happy or unhappy at the music entering your earholes at that exact moment, you've detached too much.

I think you'll find a comments section below, if you want to say that I don't know what I'm talking about, and lord knows you'd be right to. I'm no expert. I'm just a victim of the times, like everybody else. It wasn't intentional - I'd been looking for non-skinny trousers for months, and eventually gave up. I bought the first tolerable item that looked like it would cover my legs, only to check the label after purchase to find that I was now the ashamed owner of a pair of jeggings.

That's how fashion works. It gets everywhere, until you have no choice but to succumb. I have girl boxers with bowler hats and monocles on, and I'm not sure I could tell you why; only that it seemed the least abhorrent option at the time.


And so the symbols of our time continue; repeating, duplicating and mutating, until every surface in sight is covered in owls with moustaches.

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Why I Selfied

For Jill, because she was interested.

"And I'm a million different people from one day to the next" - The Verve, Bittersweet Symphony
Between the ages of 17 and 22, I took a lot of selfies. Hundreds. Probably thousands, although a mere few hundred ended up online. How very restrained I was. (Of course, they weren't called selfies then, and all this was fields.)

Why was I so obsessed with my own image, and with other people's reactions to me? I've given a lot of thought to this, because that is the kind of person I am. I do very normal things, then give a lot of thought to them, as if that somehow makes them worthy and important.

Many would say that it was vanity; the more perspicacious might say it was insecurity. I think it was both and more. I think that those years, late teenage and early twenties, mark the baffling, peculiar, and mercurial stage in which one looks like a different person every day.

This is undoubtedly true of one's childhood, too, but now the world is treating you like an adult. Suddenly you're considered ready for responsibility, for attention, for catcalls and compliments. When two different strangers can, within the same week, shout that you're ugly and beautiful respectively, we should not be surprised that people want to know what's happening that could provoke these responses.

So, we document. We try new hairstyles, new outfits, new angles; but instead of waiting for the opinion of a random on the street, we put them online and mentally chart the likes.

My peak of selfie-taking was probably age 19. My life got suddenly fuller, days packed with new experiences, and I never felt the same from one week to another. This was reflected, it seemed, in my reflection itself. Every time I got the camera out, I found that I looked less or more grown up than I expected, sometimes slimmer, sometimes lonelier, sometimes happier. I was in a long-distance relationship, which provided the perfect incentive (alibi?) to send photographs, and every one was a surprise to me as much as my intended. I was an adult now, who knew?

And why was it that I never saw what I expected? What is the strange dance we do with our self-esteem that prevents us from getting a reliable read on how attractive we are? (That's a whole 'nother blog post, I suspect.)

I still look like a different woman every day, but as the woman in question is merely getting older and fatter, I forgo the photos. That era has passed, for me. I'm done taking selfies. I don't see that changing, as I don't want to see myself changing any more. Maybe one day I'll be glad to have these to look back on, but they're not exactly things to show the hypothetical grandkids, are they?

Who knows. Maybe by then I'll be too old and too wise to be embarrassed of my fascination with my own changing self.

Thursday, 2 May 2013

"Today I accidentally let a meth addict use my ukulele as an ashtray."

Fairly self-explanatory? No? Ok, apparently this one needs further elaboration.

Jenny Lawson, wonderful and strange, offered a copy of her book to a random commenter on her blog. "What should you comment about?  Anything.  Your favorite toe.  The pet names of your body parts.  How many glass eyeballs you think a normal person uses in a lifetime.  The number of bodies you can fit under your bed.  It’s totally up to you," she said, and so...



I was showing a friend around Cardiff yesterday. She's recently moved to this fair city, and I wanted to show her everything exciting and good that it has to offer. We swung by the Cardiff Fashion Quarter to introduce her to my lovely and talented friend Laura Pickering, who recommended that we wander around Bute Park, seeing as how it was such a lovely day.

It was such a lovely day, guys.

At some point, I got my ukulele out in a quiet area and started strumming one of the few I know by heart. A woman approached us. Now, I'm woefully naive at the best of times, but even I know that someone who's walking unsteadily, missing teeth, and alarmingly thin is either an addict or a zombie. (From that perspective, this story could have gone far worse for me.)

She opened with "You can't play." I smiled politely and said something self-deprecating, probably "I know I'm not very good, but -"
"Let me have a go."
So, I took a gamble, thinking she'd take refusal as an insult and hoping that she'd get bored fairly quickly. Above all, I hoped she didn't smash it. (Spoilers: if she'd smashed it, I wouldn't be writing this - I'd be cackling madly on the news while a man in a suit said "my client has no comment at this time" to the cameras.)

She twanged the A-string, pulling it out of tune, and shakily tapped her cigarette ash into the body of the uke.

Now, my friend, as she's pointed out to me, has lived in London and dealt with worse. God bless her, I don't know how she had the fortitude, but she stood straight away to ask for - and then take - my uke back. And she had to fight for it, too.

The woman struggled with her and called her a fat bitch a few times, while my friend said "would you please leave us alone," politely but firmly. She eventually did walk off, and I went to a music shop to buy the uke some strings as an apology. I should have known better. I am sometimes, as I said, woefully naive.



So, that's that! I apologise for the long period of silence. I got scared away from my blog because of something I can't talk about, and in all honesty I only came back because this one was too long to tweet. But there it is, Tony. She left, everyone's fine, and my friend reassured me that I should forget about it, so I think I will.

Saturday, 22 December 2012

Cool internet things

+Anthony Ashfield Well heck dang, look what I can do! +Paul Roth holla.

This year we've had several apocalypses, and they've all ended with the same thing: sarcasm on twitter. But then, as sarcasm on twitter is the first response to any death, maybe they are one and the same, and we've all  already gone to the big snark in the sky.

I have been watching so many Let's Plays lately. I blame +Michael Fruen. Mike, look at this tomfoolery:



You guys, I practically wept with laughter when I first saw this. It's like pixellated Monty Python. It's sublime. 

I will be back with proper Crimbletide greetings when... I remember.

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Dear Family:

I can't make it home for Christmas, and maybe for that reason I'm thinking about you guys so much.

Esther, thank you so much for the presents! I've had so many comments on my cute new bag, it's insane. Guys, look:

it is ALL THE COLOURS
HOW CUTE is that? I'm delighted.

Michael, I've been watching your Minecraft Let's Plays with John and I'm really wishing we could hang out, and that you could teach me the basics of that dang game. I know I'm late getting into it. I'm late getting into everything. You remember how long it took me to discover (let alone finish) Portal? Too long.

Judi, it means that world to me that you came up to visit. I had a really great time shopping with you, and I miss y'all a lot less now as a result of that day. Also, I love my badass new reversible skirt (again, CHECK IT).
Look 1...
Look 2! Aww yiss
Naomi, I don't think you read this. You might not even know about it. Maybe it's better this way. But I should tell you that, in my dream last night, you had the most awesome Scottish accent. You were talking to me about how Ran was coping with sharing Michael's bedroom. :|

Mum, in the aforementioned dream, you started a fire in a bin to try to clear your sinuses. Important note: do not do this. It did not end well.

Give my love to Dad; I'll call soon.

I haven't decided yet whether your presents will go ahead of me in the post, or whether they'll come down with me in January. Which means, probably the latter (you know what I'm like). But rest assured I've been thinking of you all, and I hope you have a very special Christmas.

P.S. Uncle Steve, have a very happy birthday! John, Paul, I wanna hang out with you guys soon. Julia, I think you're partially responsible for my life-long love of purple.

P.P.S. Cousins on my dad's side, of which there are many: every time I find out what you've been up to lately, I get all smug because I'm related to awesome people. Keep kicking your various kinds of ass.

P.P.P.S. Nanny, thanks for recognising me even with purple hair. Granddad, thanks for looking after her. I know you won't read this, but I love you both.

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Love?

There are very few people in my life that I would do anything for. There are a few people who ask me out for coffee or whatever. Those two groups never seem to overlap.

One way to put it is that my standards are too high, although I'm not the type to have a check list. I just want to know I've got a connection with somebody. A physical, mental, chemical attraction to them, and them to me.

I don't think that's impossible. I think some people get it. A partner to go through life with, somebody who reminds them every day that they're capable of great things and great love.

I don't know. Some days I believe that that's an option, but never for long before my cynicism stirs from its den and says "It's very improbable, you know." Well, yes, maybe it is. But improbable happens. It does. I've seen it.

From a distance.

I think.

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Frisky and Mannish and poems and hair

So! Yes! Hello! What wonderful and exciting things can I tell you about?

I saw Frisky and Mannish perform last week. They are truly legends in the making: Frisky can do justice to any female vocalist you care to name, and Mannish has such incredible range, in every musical sense. They're both skilled performers, and have an incredible dynamic. It's a thoroughly enjoyable thing, to see that kind of natural partnership: people whose thoughts and signals bounce off each other so flawlessly. Here is a video they made: Kate Bush sung in the style of Kate Nash. It's called Kate Bash, because of course it is. I feel like I might have shared this video before? I can't recall. In any case.

   
Here is a picture of my face in proximity to their faces:
It was as profoundly awkward as it looks
I don't know what else to tell you, other than that life continues and my poetry has all but ground to a halt. I really thought that having a creatively undemanding job would spur me to write in my free time, but honestly, I have just about enough mental energy to jot down draft after draft without ever finding the time or drive to work them into something.
I mean, take this for example:


So I said goodbye. What else could I do?

And me and the sea oh we both waved to you,
well no wonder it's blue.

That could be an actual song (not a good one, mind you, just a me one), if I just got my dang act together and finished it. I need to spend some quality time with my ukulele when I get my day off. I'm getting all of three minutes a day in which to practise, so I'm slipping backwards from "incompetent" to "an affront to ears."

My hair is getting beyond silly. My roots have grown out beyond the point where a hat can successfully cover it, which is due to being very impoverished for a long time, and then very busy recently. I still want to get along to Guy Christian - probably their new salon in the bay! - to get something done with it. Just as soon as I decide what that is.

Hair is a mystery, man. I mean, they say it grows back, but who wants to take that risk, you know?

Friday, 2 November 2012

Product review: mum, don't read this one

The world post- the invention of the internet is a strange one. You can be famous for a week, reviled for a month, and can meet all your heroes at peculiar conventions. One of the other oddities, one that applies to me today, is that sometimes people think your opinions matter just because you write a crummy blog. Hooray!

As a result, I have been sent, by the very generous Adam of Strawberry Blushes, a women's sex toy to review. At this juncture, I'd like to ask anyone not comfortable with the idea of that to skip this post - I'll be back to normal for the next one. Thanks.

Before I tell you what I picked from the site, here's a bit of background information: Ben Wa balls have been used for centuries to help stimulate women, either during sex or throughout the course of the day. It's thought that Japanese geisha used to use them, hence the alternate name "geisha balls."

They serve as more of a prolonged tease than a masturbation aid, so the aim with them isn't to orgasm. In fact, one of their uses is to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles, in much the same way as kegel exercises do.

I bought some a few years ago. I liked them, but found them quite tricky to use, to be honest - they were small enough to slip out sometimes, and the feeling of them clicking against each other takes a bit of getting used to!

Anyway. Fastforward to now: I selected a product called "Girly Giggle Balls" to review. They're a bit bigger, because there are traditional metal balls inside the outer layer. Take a look at that outer layer, by the way. It looks interesting in the "tickly soft pink" colour that I chose - I can only imagine how I'd have felt faced with the "daunting black" option. (It's probably not labelled as that, but come on. Look at 'em!)

If I wanted to insert a morningstar I'd - no. When would I ever want that.
So yes, I chose the less intimidating ones. They were delivered quickly and in discreet packaging, so that ticked all the boxes.

My first issue was that there was no real product information on the packaging. You're told that they're made of "soft and nubbly jelly," which isn't very specific - and it does matter, because you're not supposed to use silicone-based lube with silicone toys. Because it might dissolve the surface and make them feel sticky to the touch (thanks, Wikipedia!). Luckily, the Strawberry Blushes website has a lot of information on it - what they're made of (PVC), their size (1.5"), what they do, how to use them... I mean, I know it sounds obvious, 'put them in;' but a helpful reminder to lie down and relax really wouldn't go amiss.

Because, boy, these aren't the same as my old ben wa balls.

They are bigger. And pricklier. And I really think you'd benefit from being pretty turned on before you even started, which I wasn't.

As I mentioned above, the idea is that the movement of the two balls against each other is intended to gently and continuously stimulate throughout the day as you go about your normal life, but the size of these ones means that they just don't do that. Not for me, anyway. It's not better than the alternative of them slipping out sometimes, because I'm pretty sure they're not toning any muscles. Keeping them in is not an effort. Taking them out, however, requires patience and careful positioning. They're not uncomfortable while they're in, but nor are they erotic, just - present, in much the same way as a mooncup (and, oh boy, I need to write a mooncup review one of these days).

In the absence of any product instructions, I thought I'd write some of my own so that anyone curious can repeat the experiment.

HOW TO USE GIRLY GIGGLE BALLS: instructions for use


  1. Lie back on your bed and slowly - SLOWLY - insert the first ball.
  2. Take a breather. Try to internally adjust yourself so that there's more room.
  3. Insert ball two and sit up - slowly.
  4. Question what you're doing with your life.
  5. Wonder why you didn't just take up your hot friend on his perfectly reasonable offer.
  6. Later, squat and pull the string to take them out - slowly, for the love of god, slowly - and wash them, taking extra care with the string because it looks like it's made of the same stuff as bathroom light-pulls and you've seen how grubby they can get.
  7. Have a cup of tea, and try to think of the least undignified way to describe the experience.

TL;DR:

Appearance: 2/5
Ease of use: 2/5
Effectiveness: 0/5
Would I recommend them to a friend: maybe, if they'd annoyed me in some way. Maybe by oversharing. I can't think of any other way it would come up in conversation.
YM, as ever, MV.

This has been interesting, anyway! Next time, I think I'll get something else. Maybe a new vibe. Maybe something showerproof.