In need of a redesign since 2011.

Monday, 20 December 2010

The man on the bridge

Christmas is, of course, a time for celebration, family, and the observation of custom. But one way or another, it always seems to be about loss as well. Our minds go back to Christmases past, either with regret or nostalgia. It's the time when we remember those lost to us through death (RIP, Nana) or circumstance (single at Christmas again...). And, for me personally, it's the time I grieve my biggest loss.

Being home with my family and going back to my church always stirs up the subject of my faith again. It did last year; and this year, once again, I'm looking back on my faith and wondering what happened, and what happens next. It's not as simple as being an Atheist now, despite everything, because occasionally very specific messages seem to get through to me.

I mean, it's probably just coincidence. It MUST be superstition. It must be that I want to believe so much that I see links where none exist. I mean how could it POSSIBLY - but - oh, I don't know. Here's what happened; you decide.

When I was in my late teens, and passionate about my faith, I had a story I used to tell myself to explain forgiveness. It's extremely personal, and I don't want to go into details here, but I will explain the setting: a river by a willow tree, where Jesus stands on a stone arch bridge. As I began to lose my sense of connection with God, I'd try to picture this place, but it would be cold and empty, deserted.

I was going through a rough patch a couple of months ago, and I actually started talking to Ben (my housemate) about all this stuff. I was in tears as I told him that the important thing, the thing that really matters, is whether there's a man on the bridge. Or whether I am alone. I told him about this picture's huge importance and significance in my life, and bless him, he didn't make me feel like a crazy person for it.

A couple of days later, Ben and I are wandering around the shops, and I start to feel stressed and freaked out by the crowds. "Can we go get a drink? Chai, or something..." He'd introduced me to chai tea recently, and I found it to be very soothing. There are five or six coffee shops on Albany road alone, but I chose coffee #1. "Upstairs or downstairs?"
"Upstairs," I replied, already heading for the comfy chairs.

There was only one table free up there, and while Ben got our order, I sat in the only place available to me and stared at the wall.

Painted onto the wall was a tree. By a river. Over the river, a stone arch bridge. And on the bridge... a shepherd.

So, what that means, if anything, I don't know. But it's one of the reasons I don't call myself an Atheist. I may have been hurt by the loss of my certainty, I may not know what or who is in charge of this mess, but maybe there's something.

So, I'll be going to church on the morning of Christmas day. Because it's traditional, and because my friends and family will be there, and because maybe if I'm very lucky, another clue will get through.

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Eye-twitch-inducing meme

At first,

"Star Trek quote of the day"
and next
"Stargate quote of the day"
so then
"Babylon Galactica quote of the day"
but now
And I thought I was nerd-baiting by claiming Jar Jar was my favourite character... This is the major leagues, guys. For more and other such silliness, anger your inner geek by checking out the Daily What.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Wandering away from the wreckage, whistling


It turns out I have a remarkable talent for saying exactly the wrong thing at the wrong time. It's happened before, sure, but never quite this spectacularly...

One of my housemates (T) has been increasingly difficult to live with lately. Yesterday she stormed in, once again demanded to know "Who's going to do the washing up, then?" (There was hardly anything there, and it had been there a couple of hours at most) and I said "We thought we'd all hold hands and close our eyes and maybe it would do itself." Well. I'm sure you're all thinking the exact same thing I am: "That was very silly, Anna." Yes. Yes it was.

She yelled at me - she yelled at all of us - and I instantly felt guilty. So I went into the kitchen to apologise, but she just wasn't having it. Someone else decided to have a "house discussion" in the hope of airing some of our grudges in a sensible, mature fashion - but T wasn't having that either. Then, the shouting.

I have never heard my housemates so angry, and they're all pretty fiery. Not being great with confrontation, I just sat on the sofa hiding my face and crying while they yelled and stormed and slammed doors and threatened to move out.

Luckily, when everyone had left and I was still shaking and crying on the sofa (what can I say, I'm kind of a wuss), Arthur came in and gave me a hug and talked to me about stuff. That kept me sane. Then, when Ali came downstairs, clearly shocked and upset at what she'd overheard, he did the same for her.

I would have forgiven her, you know. I would. But T has a way of talking herself out of forgiveness. Have you ever heard of a nonpology? In this case, it took the form of "I'm sorry I shouted, I shouldn't have, but you guys REALLY need to start showing more respect and pulling your weight and I won't stand for being treated this way" - with no gap in the interim for me to say a) All is forgiven or b) Kindly attempt cranio-rectal insertion.

I could not be more relieved that I'm going home tomorrow. Sweet, undramatic Isle of Wight - you're always there for me. Happy Christmas, dramahouse.

Today's interesting thing is the BBC interview with Jody McIntyre, the guy I mentioned in this post.

Friday, 10 December 2010

Day x3

Yesterday, the government voted through a rise in tuition fees by a majority of 21 - 302 votes against 323. Meanwhile, the streets of London were overrun with a protest that became nothing short of a battle between the police and the public.

There are dozens of breathtaking photos from Boston's The Big Picture - I've linked to that site before. They're incredible. This is my favourite, but I really do recommend clicking the above link to see the others:

We are living in interesting times, no doubt about that.

I have to say that I was extremely disappointed by the BBC's live coverage on BBC News 24. Their reporter was behind police lines, unable to see anything but projectiles lobbed at the coppers, and certainly unable to see any violence against protesters (which photos, videos and tweets from protesters tell us certainly occurred). Their studio voiceover reflected this, and their emphasis was very much on police injuries sustained, barely mentioning the other side of the story. There were also a lot of leading questions when they interviewed protesters, along the lines of "How can you defend this violence?", never asking the same question of the offices taking batons to the public they're meant to protect.

I'm reluctant to be too opinionated on the violence, as I wasn't there, but it seems clear that there was a lot from both sides. Several police officers were injured, including one who was thrown from his horse, and several students were taken to hospital (or, in some cases, left in the kettle despite urgently needing medical attention). Jody McIntyre was dragged from his wheelchair (read his account of events here), Guardian journalist Shiv Malik was beaten until his head was bleeding, and one girl had her collarbone broken although I haven't found her name or the circumstances yet (I think it was a cavalry charge). These are the stories I've heard because, I confess, there's a political bias to the left in the people I follow on twitter, but I will say it again: there was violence on both sides. Too much violence.

Callous and horrible though it sounds, this direction this war takes depends entirely on who dies first. I know, I know! I'm an awful person for even thinking it, but it's true: if an officer dies first, the witch-hunt to find and prosecute anyone involved in the protests will reach unheard-of levels. If a protester is killed by an officer, the public opinion will swing back towards the students. Or there's a third possibility, in many ways the most horrible: a protester will die as a result of another protestor's stupidity.

If this happens, the whole movement will fall apart. Peaceful students will refuse to march with the Socialist Workers; unionists won't want to march with students; and absolutely everybody will scatter as soon as possible anarchists turn up. I would say that this is quite probable, but the police are proving so enthusiastic in their violence that they will most likely, pun unintended, beat us to it.

Every protest displays more violence, more public disorder, and more condemnation from the government and police forces. I'm sorry to say that a death is only a matter of time, because this hasn't ended with the vote. This isn't going to melt into the background; these students are not going to shrug their shoulders, say "Fair enough then, it's the law, what can we do?" because we know what we can do now.

This. Right or wrong, there'll be more of this in coming weeks.

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Nick Helm - He makes you look fat

Right, my oft-mentioned comedy addiction has led me, once again, to find an incredibly talented performer. Nick Helm, while initially a little abrasive (he's the shouty type), is very funny and musically great! This is the song that won me over to him, from his performance on Russell Howard's Good News:

So, me being me, I decided to try and play it on my ukulele. Turns out, it's a pretty simple song! Lyrics and chords below, because I couldn't find them anywhere else. Chords the same throughout.

I’ve seen your new boyfriend, he’s really good-looking
If he was a rent boy I’d probably book him
Not that I’m really into that stuff
I’m just saying, your boyfriend’s incredibly buff.

He’s got a really nice face, and really nice hair,
He’s really polite and he’s really aware
He’s got really nice teeth and a really nice tan
And he’s really relaxed when the shit hits the fan.

But he makes you look fat
He makes you look ugly like a man
He makes you look old just like his nan
Yeah he makes you look fat

He makes you look fat
He makes you look lardy round the arse
Don’t you know that he’s in a different class
Yeah he makes you look fat.

You two together, what’s wrong with this picture?
You need a man whose waistline will eclipse ya
You need a man who’s a little more shoddy
A gap in his teeth, and an imperfect body.

It’s nothing you’ve done, you just shot far too high
You get ignored while they give him the eye
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying you’re fat,
It’s just anyone would look fat when they’re sat next to that.

He makes you look fat,
He makes you look ugly in the face
Don’t you know that you’re looking out of place?
Yeah he makes you look fat.

He makes you look fat
He makes you look fat, oh yes indeed
Don’t you know that he’s well out of your league?
He makes you look fat.

I’ve got a solution, you might like to try it
You won’t have to jog and you won’t have to diet
I’m sure you will see, to a certain degree,
How good-looking you’d be if you stood next to me.

I can make you look fit
I can make you look much fitter than him
Take a look at my saggy double chin
I can make you look fit.

I can make you look fit
I can make you look fit oh yes I can
Don’t you know that I am your ideal man?
I can make you look fit, fit, fit!
(Copyright Nick Helm, of course.)

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Hurty face

There are no words for how enraged I am at my own face today, but the world traditionally abhors violence against one's visage re: cutting noses off, etc., so instead all my grump is externalising.

It manifests as an extremely short temper, much like a bear with a sore tooth, which is actually what I have. Sort of. Well it's not the tooth, it's my gums. For about four years my wisdom teeth have been performing a horrible inny-outy-in again dance that leaves my gums intensely hurty, and leaves me clutching my jaw / cheek and howling every few months.

If only I had money. If I had money, you see, I could go and see a dentist. Don't think I haven't tried to find an NHS one because I have; waiting lists are insane things. Why do we even have separate doctors of the teeth? Why can't I just claim an emergency appointment off a GP and be seen this week? Why have teeth, alone of all the body parts, been outsourced to a separate medical practitioner?

Damn you, face.

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Cardiff protests, part 2

I've always considered myself a law-abiding person. My daddy is a lawyer, so I've known other lawyers and police officers my whole life as dad's friends. The side of good, here to keep us safe.

Which in many ways made it scarier to be surrounded by police officers and vans yesterday. To see them grab my friend by the arm and throw him back into the crowd. To hear that an officer threatened to tear my friend, pushed into him by somebody, "a new arsehole" if he touched him again.

One of my friends got arrested. This article phrases it "South Wales Police has confirmed one male was arrested today for a public order offence." Don't think for a second that this means he was violent - he's a cheeky bugger, but it's infinitely more likely that he'd try to get a policewoman's number than take a swing at someone!

The strangest thing, by far, was being part of a crowd with nobody in charge. There was never a plan, but occasionally a consensus decision would be reached and dozens of people would surge - into a bank, into a shopping centre, into a vodaphone store - anywhere that has been dodging taxes, the crowd wanted to storm. I got pulled into Lloyds TSB by a friend moments after I arrived, and stood in the lobby as policemen chased after 30 or so students who'd gone upstairs. The officers locked the door to prevent more people getting in - locked me in.

The mood was on a knife-edge. I think that's one of the reasons the police didn't get more threatening - if they'd pushed too hard, things would have gone bad and stayed bad. As it was, however, a strange sense of humour emerged that I couldn't help but smile at. Our anti-Tory chants had accordion accompaniment; the section of the crowd that invaded St David's shopping centre sang "We're only going shopping, we're only going shopping!"; two friends of mine started a conga-line that gained some serious momentum; some guy was playing a Bob Dylan song and forgetting the words (even the policemen were smiling and chatting with that section of the crowd) - unfortunately that was interspersed with moments of fear and anger that swept across the mob. Those two emotions are separated by such a thin line; I don't think I knew how thin until now.

One woman, clearly angry / frightened (frangry?), started shouting at us - telling us we were scaring children, I think, although it was hard to hear. The crowd started chanting "She votes Tory" and "Tory scum" while an officer pulled her away from us, and I was honestly disgusted. One thing I will never, ever accept is demonising opponents - and especially not members of the public, who we just can't afford to alienate. I won't draw the battle lines between the students and the public. We're all in this together. This affects all of us.

Ben made this point loudly and dramatically as only he knows how; he broke out of the crowd and declared to the surrounding police, "It'll be your jobs next! You'll be where we are." That was around the time it looked like we were going to be kettled. We were given the choice: return to the student's union, or get kettled - which, for those who don't know, means being penned in by the police, not allowed to go home, sometimes for hours, sometimes being denied access to food, water, toilets. I'll be honest, I was not up for that. I was terrified, cold, losing feeling in my fingers. I would have gone home as soon as they started to storm the bank, but I still believe in what we're doing.

Luckily, the overall result has been a good one. During the protest, we received news that Welsh students won't have their tuition fees raised, or EMAs cancelled, which is an excellent start and reflects extremely well on the Welsh government. My friend wasn't charged with anything, so I hear, and South Wales police have acknowledged the protest as having "passed relatively peacefully", which I'd say is accurate.

Well. I know this is a fairly muddled version of events, so here's the summary of events from the Guardian; and here's a link to the rest of my photos. Check my twitter feed for twitpics etc from last night.

Also, this is the video I've been making all my friends watch lately. They love it, you might too.