Thursday, December 29, 2005

A Very Bitchy Christmas

It started out well enough - the train ride to Manchester was lovely (I alternated between a battered copy of C.S. Lewis and the misty Welsh countryside), the reception when I arrived even more so. How good to see old friends! Herebe's talent for making my knees go all to water has not diminished in the least, and N was as warm and friendly as always.

(brief tangent: the summer I rowed with N's club there was a dragon boat race in which the club, myself included, participated. It was great fun, and we beat the pants off a crew of rugby players, one of construction workers, one of fire fighters, one of Chinese people, and one of pirates (they even had a parrot). During the medal (well, beer really) ceremony I commented to N, whom I barely knew, that it didn't feel right, me being there and taking an equal share of the glory when I wasn't really a member of the club. She told me that I whether I'd been with the club for five days or five years I was as much a member as anyone else, and that I helped paddle the boat to victory and so I deserved the glory as much as anyone else. Speaking as one who has in her lifetime very rarely been made to feel welcome in a group, N's statement was as suprising as it was heartwarming. I've never forgotten her kindness, and I hold her in the highest regard, as a rower and a human being.)

Dinner with N was followed by a performance of Smith 6079, who rock, with a cameo appearance by Herebe, who both rocks and is hot. Long have I yearned to witness the great H.B. Monsters at his craft, and the man does not disappoint. Party afterwards was loads of fun, the geniuses (genii? geniuses? whatever) of Smith were as charming as they were talented (although you really should spend more time in that kilt, BAM darling), and I am unable to find any fault with the evening.

(Funniest moment: some drunkent tosser is going on about his six-pack, looks at N, who is a world-champion oarswoman, and actually says, "You should go to a gym sometime. How often do you workout?" Herebe and I nearly wet ourselves.)

The sunrise the following morning was spectacular, one of the most dramatic I've ever seen (Nothing will ever top the sunrise over the river as seen from the balcony of Olin, standing with Bridget in our pyjamas, overcoats, and boots in sub-zero temps, but this was a fair second.) I know, because the sun came up while I was making my way to the airport. I was still buzzed (in the emotional, not the alcoholic, sense) from the previous night's festivities, and it must have shown on my face. Every workman who walked past me tipped his hard hat and grinned "Mornin', luv!" to me. So I grinned back and replied "Mornin' yerself, Stud!"

At the airport I waited in line at ticketing for 2 hours, but was rewarded when I got to the gate and discovered I had been upgraded from steerage to "premium steerage." More leg room, better food. Really I couldn't give a toss about the food (I did, thanks to turbulance!), but being able to cross my legs on a trans-A flight was a refreshing first.

On the flight I watched "Forty year old virgin," which I had been avoiding for the same reasons camp surviors don't watch "Schindler's List." (That is the first and last time anyone will ever compare "Forty year old virgin" to "Schindler's List." You are priveledged to have witnessed it.) To my vast surprise, it didn't suck. Maybe I enjoyed it because I had impossibly low expectations, but parts of it were actually cute. 3 things stand out: 1, the comraderie of the guys was superb. 2, steve correll's performance as his character underwent some serious life changes was more than respectable. 3, the ending is ABSOFRIGGINLUTELY PANTS-WETTINGLY HYSTERICALLY OHMIGOD YOU HAVE TO SEE THIS MOVING FUCKING HILARIOUS! I think. I was pretty drunk again by that point (free drinks in Premium Steerage), and tired from having gotten exactly zero hours of sleep. So it might have been retarded. I'm not sure anymore. Hmm, how to score? Let's tally: 1 Bitch for camraderie plus 1 Bitch for surprisingly good acting plus 1 for the REDICULOUS ending = 3 Bitches, minus a half for the ambiguity of not really knowing if it was actually funny, minus a quarter for the flat performance (and flat chest) of the female lead equals a total of 2.25 Bitches. Rent it.

Home. cold. snow. skiing. cue christmas.

i knew it would be quiet without marley around. i knew it would be tedious with aunt sr. mary pain-in-my-ass floating about. i did not know i would lose almost a stone in body weight from a wickedly nasty case of the squirts that lasted all day christmas day. i will spare you all gorey details, save one (becuase i want loads of sympathy): my ass has never HURT so much in my life. i actually managed to SHIT myself RAW.

ok. enough of that.

the fam was really good about the whole thing. they didn't even fix christmas dinner on christmas day, since i was totally incapable of eating it and i constitued fully 25% of the assemblage. so we had christmas dinner on boxing day, which was fine. we had to do for ourselves, the help having the day off and all, but we managed. never let it be said that we consider it beneath our stations to open our own wine. christmas grub in my house is gallumpki (mom's polish), smashed potatoes, green beans (tradition, i don't know why, but they're yummy), and... jello.

my grandmother only knew how to cook three things: gallumpki, kapusta, and jello. on christmas she made 2 jello molds in the shape of a star and wreath, respectively. grandma died what, 7? 8 years ago? we still make her jello. she was not a nice woman, nor was she big on tradition, so we do it because it's the only tradition that my mom grew up with that we still keep, and because those damn jello molds are about the only nice thing the old bat left when she died. so we smile and eat them. this year, for the first time in ages, i was really glad of that stupid jello. it was probably the best thing i could have put in my stomach after being so ill!

i began to rehydrate, and mom thought that a trip to the movie theatre would perk me up, so we went to see The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe. It was sold out. Bah, humbug.

Then Marley called. He and Miss Happy were supposed to be arriving for a belated christmas dinner on Friday, tomorrow. Marley told us that Miss Happy's aunt died and the funeral is this weekend and they won't be coming at all. Which SUCKS! I really miss my big brother, and now I won't see him again until the wedding! I was really looking forward to his visit. And them some old bat had to up and shit the bed and ruin it for me. I swear to god, some people have no fucking consideration. (Sometime I'll tell you about the huge inconvenience I suffered at my grandparents' deaths, but not today.)

The good thing was that H came over for a sleepover. H is awesome, and I havn't had a sleepover since I was about 11. We didn't paint our toenails or freeze each other's knickers, but we drank a whole lot of vodka cranberries and Baily's with schnapps. That was AFTER we got back from the bar, where we drank a bunch of other shit. Which is where we went after dinner, over which we drank several glasses of wine. It was a fun evening, and at the bar I saw the first attractive man I have ever seen in this godforsaken town. I'm not kidding - until last night i have never once seen an attractive man in this fucking HOLE. But he was a stunner. I can't describe him in novel terms, faces all looking pretty much the same to me, but he had longish, shaggy blonde hair sneaking out from the hood of his sweatshirt, blonde stubble. He looked a bit like a fairer Viggo Mortenson. (H disagrees with me on this.) Mostly though, it was his manner. This is what I find principally attractive in people. He was comfortable with himself, easy, confident, and relaxed. He walked like he owned everthing he saw, but without any hint of an arrogant swagger. Just breathtaking. And I had a perfect view of him from the bar. And he was alone.

When I saw his glass was empty, I was sorely tempted to send a drink over. I didn't though. Chicken? Maybe. I justified it by telling myself that I was leaving on Saturday anyway, so there was no time for anything to evolve between us, even if he cared to give me the time of day.

And that's the rub. Yeah, I can tell myself that rather than inflict myself with the memory of rejection my passivity preserved the warm memory of hope, but really that's bullshit. really i was just too chicken to take a risk, which is unlike me. H figures i did the right thing. She maintains he was skater trash. Personally, i have no problem with skater trash.

Did finally see The LWW. It was good. Kids were awesom actors. But they added all kind of totally unnecessary BULLSHIT. The whole thing with the raft on the river was wank, as was the tunnel thing. But even all that I can cope with. I can live with all the shit they added, except this: WHY THE FUCK DID THE FUCKERS AT DISNEY FEEL COMPELLED TO TORTURE A FOX FOR NO FUCKING REASON WHATSOEVER!??!?! I thought after old Walt shit the bed they'd stop throwing shit into movies whose only function is to make small children cry, but apparently not so. Given all that, I'm only giving the flick 3 Bitches. The one addition I DID like was beginning the film during a London air raid. Not only did it explain (for the benefit of dum american children who know NOTHING of history) why these 4 children were at a house in the country with no parents where they were all but ignored, it made their attituedes more justifiable ("mum sent us here to keep us OUT of a war!") and made the scene where the find Tumnus's ransacked house much more poignant. So I'll had half a star for the well-done beginning. Ultimately, The LWW gets 3.5 Bitches.

Into all this fun domestic mayhem was thrown a frustrating beaurocratic catastrophy involving photocopies of legal documents, emails, phone calls and faxes to Britain and Taiwan, panic attacks, defunct E111 forms, $40 wasted on express international mail, and the guilt of inflicting and assortment of headaches on really undeserving, kind people, and the sinking knowledge that i will have to spend a week on the continent for a rowing training camp (= extreme levels of physical activity) with no health insurance. Pray to god I don't fuck myself up and get sent to a hospital because my parents would have to mortgage the house to pay for it. (you do know all the earlier crap about The Help was just that, crap, don't you?)

So was there ANYthing good about this christmas? Of course there was. I got to see my family (most of them, anyway), and a good friend. The church looked beautiful, even though I don't believe in that crap anymore, and my pets are still alive. Am I a selfish shit for not getting all excited and gooey over christmas then? probably. it's just that when i'm here, i'm at my ablsolute, rock-bottom lonliest. There are too many demons lurking in this house, and I wasn't gone long enough to really be ready to brave them out. I've been here a week, and already I feel flat, stifled, and isolated. Every year I think, "gee, wouldn't it be nice to spend christmas with someone I loved"? (besides the fam - you know what i mean). we do really like each other, and we do have some really nice traditions, and every year the prompting of my heart gets stronger and more vocal and says "wouldn't this be so much better if S0-and-so were here? Wouldn't you love for such-and-such to see/hear/taste/experience this?"

Marley was with miss happy this christmas. it was the first time they've spent christmas together. i was really happy for him, and really envious too. how i wish that someone i care about could have shared the joy with me when i watched my parents tease each other, laughing so hard they could barely breathe, poking one another and kicking under the table, or pop the cork and join the toast over christmas breakfast, or walk with me and the geriatric beagle through the snow-covered park where the kids are sledding on the hill and everyone waves and calls "Merry Christmas!" so yes, it was nice, but it would be so much nicer if i had someone to love and share it with. How much longer must I be alone?

Monday, December 26, 2005

halfway house

my 10 day vaca at home in the land of W is half-way through. i though at this time i would take a moment to share with you lot a brief synopsis of what i've been up to.

Skiing (x-country). saw scats, no deer. surface icy = fast, but hard to control. managed not to break any major bones.

cooked. made all the gallumpki and kapusta for x-mas dinner.

worked as personal valet/hand maiden for aunt sr. pain-in-my-ass, who is visiting. (if you don't remember aunt sr. pain-in-my-ass, go read the entries for last decemer.)

spend x-mas day shooting brown water out my ass with the force of a fire hose every 20 minutes for 14 hours. don't know why. drank tea, ate jello, went to bed. this morning am weak and fragile, but sphincter seems to have exhausted itself. might be wild and try some dry toast later. whoo-hoo livin' on the edge.

merry christmas, everyone.

oh, as for pressies, thanks to the ol' parental units i will be shod until i graduate (2 pairs of trainers), and possibly not loose any toes to gangreen and hypothermia, now that i have a bunch of new super-warm socks and chemical toe-warmer sacs to wear rowing. so that's good i guess.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Joke du Jour

What do you call it when an extremely gullible person "finds Jesus" and becomes an evangellical Christian?

A sucker who's reborn every minute!

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Ahm Outta here

The Bitch is flying the coop. After a brief stopover in Manchester to groove to the beat of Smith 6079 I'll be flying out tomorrow. Back to the Kingdom of W. Back to the realm of xenophobic, Mac-chompin, truck-drivin, flannel-wearin (ok, I wear flannel too, i admit it), willfully ignorant, right-wing "christian" bible-banging fundies. Joy.

It'll be nice to see the fam i s'pose. Though I only left a couple months ago, and i'm not remotely homesick. (does that make me a bad daughter/niece/sister?) In fact, what with all the fiasco surrounding my arrival here and then the whole week in exile, I've really only begun to feel settled for the past couple weeks or so. And now I'm being uprooted again.

A tender green shoot like me can only be transplanted so many times before it's roots get too damaged and it withers.

On the upside, when I'm home I'll be able to get my hair cut. I havn't been here because it's too expensive and i have no money. But at home, that great being known as MOM pays for it. This is good, as right now my hair looks like a marsupial climbed on my head and died there.

And tonight will be good. I'm planning on getting totally battered and dancing like a mynx for hours.

Now I have to go catch my train. It will take me 4 1/2 hours to get from Bristol to the Chester of Man. Through Wales (?!?!). The ticket attendant assured me it was a very scenic ride. I'm actually looking forward to it. Tea, biscuits, scenery, and a battered copy of "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe." Good times.

Am listening to the album "Drunken Lullabies" by Flogging Molly. Fucking imense cosmic awesome fucking genius. Go buy a copy.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Short stroke's journey into Avon

If you're clever (read "wierd") enough to have deciphered that title, then you've already figured out that today I went for a swim in the Avon. I'm officially a member of the Unviersity of Bristol Polar Bear Club.

I was, as is my habit lately, sculling (this due largely to the fact that the rest of the women's "senior" squad can't be bothered to turn up for training anymore). It was a gorgeous, still, FUCKING COLD morning. The thermometer was reading 6 below, and the river was steaming, owing to the water being about 7 degrees warmer than the air. There was a beautiful rainbow sunrise, the sky was splashed with pink and apricot, and when the sun crested the horizon the steam on the water became a flowing pool of golden mist. I even saw a deer on the bank, which my Irish team mate said was good luck. (Yeah, THERE'S an omen.)

After my first 6K my toes were dead. I couldn't feel them at all. (This is, sadly, normal for me, owing to shit circulation in my feet.) I did another 6K, came in, had a wee, ate banana (what on earth makes me think you give a shit about what i ate on my break?!? fucking hell...), and jumped up and down a lot to bring life back to my poor widdle piggies, with little result. I managed to get some pins and needles going, decided that was going to have to be sufficient, and went out again.

Up the straight, spin it, bust it back. I was at the bottom of the straight (a position I'm told to which many gay men aspire) coming around the corner. Owing to my shit steering, I was taking the bend wide (there's a tree on the inside of that bend with which I am intimately acquainted. His name is Reginald. I'll introduce you sometime). Coming up was the senior men's coxless 4. They were at speed, and taking the bend on the inside so as to make the turn.

Allow me at this point to explain to you just how this particular stretch of the Avon works. It's very narrow. If you're not in the bushes on the bank, you're in the middle of the river. By an extraordinary piece of change navigation, I was not in the bushes. By an extraordinary piece of chance navigation, the men's 4- was not in the bushes. Can you see where this is going yet?

We both came around the bend, looked behind us, and yelled simultaneously "FOUR/SCULL!!!" (From the bank it must have sounded like "Score!" Hardly. They dug in hard to stop the boat. I dug in hard with my starboard blade so as to slow down and veer at the same time. FATAL ERROR.

Let me expalin to you the concept of "cold." If you have never been completely submerged in water that is barely above freezing, you have probably never truly experienced "cold." It's rather amazing. Have you ever watched "Titanic?" Probably. You know the scene where Jack is in the water, rapidly feezing to death? This is but one more prime example of DeCaprio's inablility to act. Artsy, romantic, melodramatic statements such as "Save yourself, Rose!" would, in actuality, have sounded much more like "Uh...ugh...exhug...ahu..." This is because when one is suddenly submerged in freezing (or in the case of the Titanic, sub-freezing water, the ocean being saline and therefore having a significantly lower freezing temperature), all your muscles sieze up at once, including those in your chest. like your diaphragm. This makes it next to impossible to breath, let alone cry for help or even speak.

I passed my flip test this summer, so I made one valiant effort at regaining the scull. I failed. I was only about 12 feet from shore. Herbie, the men's captian, was in the four. He said to me (quite sensibly), "Fuck the boat, swim to the bank and get out of the water." I abandoned my craft (which is shit anyway), and slogged it though the muck to the bank, hyperventilating and hypothermic. The four were already spinning to book it back to the boathouse and fetch a launch. It was reassuring to hear Pete's call of "All four at backstops, FULL PRESSURE. ROW!" And my gallant knights beat it back to lauch a rescue.

(Irritating aside: As I was sitting on the bank, dripping, shivering, hyperventilating, and shaking, a couple out for a morning constitutional with their perky spaniel ambled along. "Good morning!" they greeted me cheerfully. WTF? Are you kidding? "Might I possibly borrow your dog for a moment as a heat source?" inquired I. "I would really like to hold her for a few minutes until my rescue comes along." They looked at me wierdly and walked on. Now, I appreciate that people are protective of their pets, but I have a dog too. She's a little hairy hot water bottle with legs and a (stupidly long) tongue. If I saw someone freezing to death and I had Daisy with me, the first thing i would have done would be dump the dog in the person's lap. I really didn't think this was a lot to ask. They ambled on and left me for dead. Fuckers. May the fleas of a thousand camels infest their pubic hair.)

After several hours Herbie came charing back with the brand-new, plastic, crayon yellow launch. (Ok, it was more like 8 minutes, but that was a long 8 minutes my friend.) I slogged back out into the river, knee-deep in black muck, and flopped aboard like a half-dead fish. Herbie pulled on the cord to re-start the engine. Nothing.

Are you FUCKING KIDDING ME!?!?!?! In my hypothermia-induced delirium (it's my understanding that people suffering from dehydration and/or hypothermia often halucinate and babble things from their past) all I could think to say was "Some rescue. You came in here; didn't you have a plan for getting out?" (Bonus prize for the first person to correctly identify the reference.) Then I started giggling. It really wasn't funny. By that time I couldn't feel my legs from the knees down.

Herbie finally got the damn thing running, and i straddled the seat behind him, holding his waist. My knight in shining spandex. Aww.

Got in, hobbled to changing room, stripped (forgot to close the door, didn't care), and threw on all my dry kit. Being the girl scout that I am, I never go down to the boathouse without a complete change of dry kit, including knickers and bra. Pete made me tea and turned on his car and let me sit in the warm car until I felt better. (Our boat house has no heat.) I would have sold my body for a hot shower at that point. (We have no hot running water, either, and the boathouse is miles from civilization.)

After a few minutes I actually felt fine, save my feet. I was unable to revive them. I rubbed them, held a warm mug against them, rubbed them more, tried walking on them (which was extremely painful), tried jumping up and down, rocking back and forth on the balls of my feet, rubbed them some more, held them in front of the heat vents in Pete's car... nada. I had to wait almost 2 hours before the rest of the crews were off and I could get a lift back into Bristol, during which time I was totally unable to bring any sensation, even pins and needles, to my toes. I told my coach. He said I was fine.

Finally they brought me back and I hobbled with great difficulty to my flat. I got to my room, took off my clothes, turned on the shower, took off my socks...

My feet were pink, which was a good sign. My toes were not. They weren't quite white, more of a yellow-ish greenish color. My toenails were blue, and the edges of my toenails were kind of blackish. I freaked. My toes looked as though they ought to have a tag on them. They looked like the toes of a corpse on CSI or Law & Order. I got in the shower, praying the hot water would last more than 90 seconds. (For most people when the hot water cuts out it's an inconvenience. For a rower hot water isn't a luxury, it's a medical necessity even on the best of days, which this wasn't.)

It took almost 10 minutes to achieve pins and needles! First my toes went dark purple, and I knew at least that blood was coming into them, albiet with little oxygen. Ten minutes after that they started to pink up. Thank god, because by that time the hot water WAS starting to run out.

Now i'm dry, I've had a hot meal (homemade chicken, carrot, and mushroom stew), drank 3 cups of tea, turned up the heat in my room, put on my warmest wool jumper, and am typing away whilst cheerfully enjoying the sensation of being able to wiggle my toes. Yay. I will never take my toes for granted again, never never never.

Oh, I almost forgot to mention. I had my sneakers tucked behind the footplate of the scull. When it dumped me out, one of them went into the murky, steaming water, forever lost. It will lay there, resting in the muck of the Avon for all posterity as a silent testament to my clumsiness and fucking shit steering. Right next to the pogie that also went in (the other managed to stay on the oar). So i spent the remainder of the time at the boathouse hopping about on one foot. I'm now known as "Hop-a-long." (Cheers, Gordon.) Oh, joy.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Sentimental favorite

Someone asked me recently what my favorite christmas song is. That's tough. I know a LOT of Christmas songs, having sung in a church choir regularly from age 8 to 22. After a long think, I finally decided that I could only answer with a favorite song in each category, like the Oscars. Just as it's impossible to compare the artistic merits of Schindler's List with those of, say, Monsters, Inc., it's equally impossible for me to choose between the "For Unto Us A Child Is Born" movement of the Messiah and "Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer." So rather than name one fav, here are my picks for the best in their category:

Most majestic/glorious/grandiose:

O Holy Night, as performed by Luciano Poveratti and the Vienna Boys Choir

Best Medieval Christmas tune: (you knew there had to be a Medieval category. It's me, after all.)

Nowell Sing We Both Al And Somme as performed by the Folger Consort

Best carol for singing on a street corner in a light snowfall:

Deck the Halls (ALL verses)

Best carol for belting it out in church and letting lose at the top of your lungs:

Angels We Have Heard On High (all those faboo fucking "Glorias." Gotta love 'em.)

Best pop Christmas tune:

Simon and Garfunkels's 7 O'Clock News/Silent Night
(If you havn't heard it, it's amazing. It's Silent Night, sung in Paul's breath-taking two-part harmonies, to the accompaniment of the arpegio bit of Schubert's Ave Maria, and overlaid with narration of bits of news of 1960s and 70s, mentioning the Vietnam war and Dr. King. Stunning.)

Best Christmas tune from a movie:

Welcome Christmas from Dr. Suess's "How the Grinch Stole Christmas," music and lyrics by Ted Geisel, performed by the Whos, the tall and the small, and little Cindy Lou Who, who was no more than two.

Recent sentimental favorite:

Once In Royal David's City
Because the first time I heard it, J was singing it to me (I always melted when he sang to me), and it will always be a reminder of the best moments of our friendship, which apparently now exists only in my memory.

Childhood sentimental favorite:

Happy Birthday, Jesus by Etelle Levitt and Lee Pockniss, as performed by the Saint Mary Star of the Sea children's choir, accompanied by Mary Malewitz, directed by Evelyn Leonard.

Mrs. Leonard was my first music teacher, in sunday school, when i was two years old. I can still remember some of the songs we sang then. She was also my second-grade teacher and my choir mistress for 6 years. I love Mrs. Leonard. This song was her favorite, and every year while in grade school I went with the children's choir to hospitals and nursing homes and shopping malls (shoppers being every bit as miserable as confined, incontinent, over-medicated, familyless invalids apparently). We all wore red and green, and I always had to stand in the back row because even when I was 8 I was as tall as some of the 6th graders, and we always finished with this song. For all you deprived readers whose lives have never been blessed by this song, I shall type out the lyrics for you. If you ring me and ask, I'll sing it to you (but you're advised to wait a few more days until I'm over this miserable head cold).

Katie got a dolly that cries and blinks its eyes
Jimmy got an automatic plane that really flies
But we were poor that Christmas
So mamma stayed up all night long
Sittin' in the kitchen, makin' us a present,
It was this song:

Church bells ring-a-ling, angels sing-a-ling
Happy Birthday, Jesus
Snow flakes ting-a-ling, sleigh bells jing-a-ling
Happy Birthday, Jesus.
All year long we wait just to celebrate
This Christmas morn,
And we want you to know
We're so glad you were born!
So have a merry very* happy birthday, Jesus.

Teddy bears get broken, and trains will rust away.
All the fancy play-things seem to fall apart some day.
But I was very lucky:
When everybody's gift was gone
I still had my present! Mamma's song of Christmas
Lived on and on!


Christmas is for children, and now I have my own.
Their eyes are full of wonder when all the toys are shown.
But I'll give them something better
Than anything that's on TV,
Something very special, something made for ever,
This melody:


*yes, it really is "merry very," not the other way 'round. That's call poetic licence. When you're a songwriter you can do sophisticated things like that, for the purposes of making shoppers and hospital patients think the kids are fucking it up again.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Make way for nudidity!

Hear ye, hear ye! Chaucer's Bitch proudly announces the release of "Naked Ambition," the University of Bristol Boat Club's 2006 fund-raising calendar. It's a gorgeous, desk-top calendar featuring photos of the men and women of the UBBC in all their glory. For only a fiver you can spend the next 12 months enjoying the classy, tasteful, artistic pictures of the most beautiful bodies Bristol has to offer. (You can enjoy the cheesy, comic, semi-pornographic ones as well.) By purchasing the calendar you are supporting the UBBC, and by proxy me, your beloved Bitch. So do yourself a favor, click the link, shell out a fiver, and spend the next 12 months ogling fitties like Mr. November up there. (Bloody shame they had to airbrush his little Novembers out of the photo. Something about 'decency laws.' Bah.) And if you take a fancy to one or two months in particular, go back to the website and order a high-gloss wall poster of your favourite rower. These are not paid models; they are all students at the University of Bristol and active members (hee hee, 'members') of the U Bristol Boat Club, and they got their kit off at 7 am on a foggy morning when the murcury was barely reaching 5 degrees below zero so that YOU can spend 2006 sucking on the best eye-candy in the Kingdom. So show a little fucking gratitude.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Holy shit! I did some work! (unheard of)

This is what I'm taking in to my supervisor tomorrow:

Looks impressive, yes? Acutally, it looks a lot more impressive with the x & y axis labels in place (which for some reason didn't copy) and with the accompanying data table explaining what it all means. In essence, it's mathematical proof that a linguist, NB, is wrong about his assertion that the rise in intensifiers in the English language in the later Middle Ages is linked to the genres of fabliaux and satire. So I've disproved that frequency of intensifiers has a causal relationship to genre, at least as far as Chaucer is concerned (the above data are all taken from The Canterbury Tales). Now the million-dollar question is: SO WHY THE FUCK DID THE USE OF INTENSIFIERS INCREASE IN THAT PERIOD?!?!?!?

Hell if I know.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Monday, December 12, 2005

I wasn't going to post anything today because I havn't received any comments on my last two. For some reason my brain thinks, No comments? Clearly no one has had a chance to read your post and reflect on it, giving it the serious thought and attention it deserves. Do not write anything new until your readers have had a chance to do this and comment appropriately, lest you overwhelm them with mental meat for meditation! My brain isn't very smart, because that sort of reasoning is obviously crap. So I'm going to ignore my brain from now on and post regardless the presence or absence of comments on previous posts. (You should thank me for this generosity, since you slackers clearly havn't earned a fresh post.) I'm going to post regardless of the presence or absence of ideas in my brain worth communicating to you the community. Like today. No thoughts present. Nope, none. None whatsoever. And yet, here I am, posting. So there.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Pirates of the Avon

There was nothing to disturb the flat, milky surface of the water. Even the mallards and moorhens were resting in the grass, heads tucked warmly under their wings. I admired the tawney reeds and amber willows off my starboard side as I slid silently past. The fog was absolute. I hugged the bank because the other side of the river was beyond my vision, lost to the chilling-bone, steel-blue vapor. My breath came out in puffs on the drive, distinguishable for only a second before melting and mingling into the vapor like a handful of grain thrown into a silo. I looked behind me, saw the vague form of a tree hanging out into the river, blocking my course. I pulled hard with my left had to adjust my point.

I heard it a moment beefore I saw it: plop, chunk.... plop, chunk... A shadow loomed out of the mist, dark and ominous and bearing down on my stern with terrifying momentum. The hulking, black-clad monsters of the vessel hunched over their labor, single-focused, heaving, grunting. I must have appeared to them as a water-strider to a swan, hardly worth notice.

"Ahead four!" I bellowed. The bowman turned briefly, sized me up, resumed ignoring me.

I dug my starboard blade into the river and pulled hard on my port, sending my tiny craft careening into the sticky mud of the bank and ensnaring me in a tangle of thorn branches. Whilst struggling to remain dry, I dared to glance over at the four as they barreled past. The name on the bow read "Jolly Roger."

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Quote of the day

This is priceless...

Of the hyndre part of hir buttokes, it is ful horrible for to see.

-Geoffrey Chaucer, from the Parson's Tale

And ye wondre why I loven swiche shite.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Mutterings of the socially inept

or, Eating Humble Pie

It's good to come to terms with disappointment, especially when it dawns on you that the person who disappointed you was only doing exactly what you would have had your positions been reversed. Could I have some whipped cream with that humble pie?

Yeah, funny story about that. I was at a seminar, one of these that's organized by students for students. It's just us medievalists, and every couple of weeks we get together, one of us spends 20 minutes rambling on about his/her research, we all clap politely and then walk to the nearest pub and get pissed together. (Do i have the coolest department or wot?!?!?) So i'm sitting in one of these seminars, and guy that I had seen around in my Latin class and other places was there walks in, looks around, and sits down next to me. Let me add at this point that this dude is C-U-T-E. Bit of a babyface, which isn't quite my style, but fair to behold nonetheless. And tall. Tall is necessary. You must be at least this tall to ride this ride. He mutters something about "thought there would me more MAs here," I ask to borrow a pen, he obliges me, it's all very humdrum.

After the seminar (some wank about 12th c theology. I have no stomach for theology. Every time i hear someone babble on about the nature of god I want to quote R&J and scream "Thou talkst of NOTHING!") we wander out the door and discover it is raining. I am unsurprised by this development and pull out the ol' brolly. Mr. Cute MA has no umbrella. I ask if he would like to squeeze under mine, he is pleased, thanks me, and offers to hold the umbrella, which he does all the way to the Penny Farting.

The group grabs a large table, I sit down in the corner, Mr. C. MA sits down next to me. We chat. We chat about theatre, art, music, and the general fuckupedness of UK higher education. We chat for over an hour. We barely notice when the group breaks up and heads for the door. They are going for pizza on the department's dime, but I have to be at a boat club thing. We hurriedly exchange pleasantries (but not details) and scuttle off in separate directions.

I am on cloud nine. It's been ages since anyone paid me that kind of attention. He's attractive and, more importantly, interesting, articulate, and pleasant. There's a concert on saturday at the cathedral. Handel's Messiah. I've been wanting to go, but no one I know is interested. It occurs to me that Cutie might be interested. I don't know when I'll see him again. I need to reach him. I don't have his details. What to do?...

Email the chick who organizes the seminars. We're on friendly terms, and if he was there, he must be on the email notification list. "Cathy... Help! I need Cute MA's email address. Do you have it?"

"Si," she replies. "Here it is. Erm, your intentions may be purely friendly, but before you do anything embarassing, you should know he has a live-in girlfriend. -C"

Cheers, C.

and CRAP.

I shouldn't be so surprised. There's no such thing as an interesting, polite, attractive, single guy. They're all taken. Often and well, presumably.

le sigh.

Oh well. Better I should find out this way after only 16 hours of hoping than, say, by bumping into his girlfriend after I've spent 3 months hoping. Coulda been worse.

So is he an asshole? why was he being so attentive to me? Do i have a neon sign sticking out my ass that reads "Bit on the Side!"? This is where the socially inept bit comes in. I find I still have a hard time interacting with British people sometimes and understanding what's going on. It sounds stupid, but there are some significant cultural differences that I have yet to get a grip on, espcially in social environments where behavioural cues are really subtle. My first reaction was to declare him a dickhead for hitting on me when he already has a girlfriend.

That's because where I'm from holding a lady's umbrella and then spending an hour talking only with her to the complete exclusion of the rest of the group would be considered blatant flirting and a sure sign of serious romantic interest. It wouldn't even be open to interpretation.

But I'm not where I'm from. I here, thank the Force. And here, casual interaction between the sexes is more common and more, well, casual. And then I remembered something. I remembered that comment he made when he sat down by me in the seminar, the one about "thought there would be more MAs here." He's not on a PhD, he's on an MA. And he walked in, looked around, and saw a room full of older, really intimidating people that he'd never met before. And then he saw me, a phd yes, but a phd who comes to his latin class and with whom he has exchanged pleasantries. A familiar face, someone safe, someone less intimidating. And so he did exaclty what i would have done: he latched himself on to the one person in the group that he already knew and felt comfortable with.

Speaking as one who is socaially inept and generally terrified of parties, his behavior is completely understandable. I would say forgivable, but it's not anything that even merits forgiving. I'm ok in small groups, but large groups scare the pants off me. I'm getting better, I really am, but I still struggle a lot.

This is partly due to one of the symptoms of the mild autism that I have: faces all look the same to me. They are no more animate than a chair or lamp, they are wooden, and almost indistinguishable. I have been known to introduce myself to the same person several times over the course of an evening, being unable to recognize them from one encounter to the next. Fortunately, this usually comes across as drunken antics (even though I'm stone cold sober) and is laughed off and laughed over at breaky the following morning. (When i was in australia, I even introduced myself to the girl who had been my bunkmate for 2 days. I was told to expect a new girl, and SB walked in, i thought she was the new girl, and you can see where this is going.)

So when I go to a party with another person, I have a habit of following that person around purely because I feel more safe and comfortable with him/her. Then of course I become afraid that I'm being a puppy tag-a-long, and so I leave to go mingle, whereupon I proceed to make an ass of myself, at which point I start to feel guilty for ignoring the person who brought me and being a bad friend, and i go in search of my friend and return to my previous state of puppyness. wash, rinse, repeat. It's all very awkward.

In light of this, then McCutie MA's cozy behavior is completely fine. Perhaps I didn't recognize it at first because all my life I've been the awkward one; I've never been anyone's 'safe zone' before. And in my state of dire singlehood I saw what i wanted to see and mistook his attention for romantic interest. Millions of years of evolution, thousands of years of perfecting communication, and look how easy it is to completely misunderstand one another. Sad, isn't it? Sometimes it amazes me that we manage to communicate at all. Or do we?...

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Surprise, we care!

yeah, right. this morning a pop room inspection appeared at my door in the guise of 'we were worried about you and wanted to check in to make sure you're ok' visit.

The bell rang, and who should be at the door but Ms. Nopets, just stopping by to show her concern because I was so upset the other day when she broke the bad news. Fortunately, I was the one who answered the bell to the flat, so I answered her questions, assured her of my soundness of mind, and sent her on her way under a barrage of sappy thank-yous. Had one of my flatmates answered the door, in all likelihood she would have come knocking on my room door and had a chance to glimpse the cage (all set up) and possibly even the green wall. These people pitch low, much lower than I expected. They want to play dirty? Fine, I can play dirty. Bring it, bitch.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

rodent delay

went to the pet store yesterday to procure hamster. they were out. bugger. said try again next monday. will phone first next time.

official name has been decided (sorry i didn't take a poll. in a flash the most perfectest name ever came to me, and now nothing else will do), but won't be revealed until the little blighter is here. you can sit in suspense until then. Mwuuaahahahahaha!

by the way. in case anyone was wondering, Latin sucks. thought you should know.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

legal update

did some searching (didn't have to look far) and discovered that my (and hc's) suspisions were true: it is illegal for a landlord to enter a tenant's property without permission and sufficient notice, except in the even of an emergency. it is also illegal for a landlord to inlcude a clause in the tenants contract which contradicts this right.

end result?

Hamsters are coming!!!

the life span of karma

i did race on sunday. i made it throught w/o crabbing. (couldn't carry the boat after, but that's ok -- i made my coach do it!) resting the ol' digits now. i don't know how we did; we left before they posted the results and they're not online yet, grumble grumble.

contrary to the weather forcast, it was clear, sunny, and still. great day for a race. the best part wasn't the weather though, nor was it my managing to hang on to the oar for 4.5K. no, the best part was a dash of shadenfreude. (you remember shadenfreude, don't you? that wonderful german word that means to take pleasure in the misfortunes of others. great word, shadenfreude.)

as we were rigging the boat, i noticed my bow woman, H, wearing 2 silver rings on her hand. i said, incredulously, "you wear rings while you're rowing?" (this is rarely a good idea, as it's just begging for horrendous blisters.)

h replied, very snottily, "well of course not these rings. these are really expensive rings. i never wear these rings rowing. this one cost 50 pounds, and this one was 70 pounds, so i don't row in them."

i had no response to this, except to roll m eyes. apparently she doesn't know that cheap rings are just as likely to give you blisters as dear rings (and c'mon, 50 quid isn't all that expensive for a ring. 500 quid; now that's an expensive ring.) and what kind of snotty ass child runs around proclaiming how much things cost? jesus, i havn't encountered that since i was about 11. so i rolled my eyes tightened my top nut.

after the race, after our debriefing and flapjacks and derigging, as we were getting ready to go, there was a blonde scream. (have you ever noticed that you can tell a blonde by the way they scream? it's true.) it was h. "where are my rings?!?!?!?! Aaaaahhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

poor dear looked frantically through her pockets, her bag, everyone else's bags, on the ground, in the trailer, in the van, in the weeds, under the dog, everywhere. her rings were not to be found. i almost wet myself with laughter. terrible of me, i know, but really, she so had it coming. and while i believe in karma, it usually takes a lot longer than 3 hours to take effect. that was the shortest karma-cycle i've ever witnessed. i don't mind telling you, it was fabulous.

Monday, December 05, 2005

No furry love for me

or, Kicked in the Nads Yet Again.

Today I was planning on taking an online survey to see what I should call my new hamster. Potential names would have included Bubble (but that only really works if you've also got a fish named Squeak), Marley (after my esteemed brother), Lancelot, Hector, and my personal frontrunner, Brutus. (Isn't there just something inherently riotous in the idea of a hamster, a dwarf hamster no less, named Brutus? I love it.)

But we're not taking that survey today. We're not taking it because when the giant box with my new crittertrail 2 hamster cage arrived today and the woman at the reception desk downstairs asked me what was in it, I made the mistake of telling her. "In this building?" quoth she? "But you're not allowed any pets in this building!"

"B... bu.. but," I stammered. "When I moved in I specifically asked a woman in this office if I could have a pet and she said that cats and dogs weren't allowed but that I could have a small pet like a fish or a hamster."

"Well," she replied. "I don't know who that was, but you didn't ask me and if you'd asked me I would have told you 'no' straight away before you went and wasted a bunch of money on a cage."

So off she goes to pull out a copy of the contract, and lo and behold there it is in the fine print (who the fuck reads the fine print, anyway? I mean besides my esteemed brother, who if he reads this will yell at me very loudly) "no pets allowed." As they say in the legal industry (and in a few illegal industries), "what the large print giveth, the fine print taketh away."

So now not only am I stuck with a very nice, rather expensive (bearing in mind that at this point in my life expensive is defined as "anything that isn't free") hamster cage, but I got all my flatmates were really excited about it, too. Tom and Orn want to come with me to pick it out, and Tom wants to take care of it while I'm away. Everyone's really excited. Especially me. You know how excited I am. Was. Am. What do I do?

So here's the online survey of the day: Do I...
a) Pack away the cage and continue my miserable, lonely, furry friend-less, albeit legal, existance?
Or do i
b) Say "fuck them" and go buy a hamster anyway, and risk unknown repercussions (fines? being evicted for breaking contract? who knows) if and when the little guy is discovered during a random room check, which they claim to perform periodically. (Course, they havn't said a thing about the green paint yet, but that shit may yet be en route to the fan.)

And if anyone out there can come up with a rock solid legal explanation of why they can't hurt me if I do get a hamster, I'll name the little bugger after you.

Vote... NOW!

Saturday, December 03, 2005


is it true, do you think, what matt pinsent says about how every time you don't finish a piece you lose a little bit of yourself forever? i think it's true. i wonder when i have a day like today if i've lost the piece of me that was going to get the gold medal. do you need all the pieces of yourself? or are some bits more essential than others? is coming back from a defeat heart, or is is just stupid? when you keep going regardless of the overwhelming odds and all the shit stacked against you, are you a champion or a bloody-minded moron? is there even a difference? they say winners never quit and quitters never win, but if you never win and never quit aren't you just an idiot?

i died on the erg today. i didn't make it to the line. i broke the rule. you die on the line, and not before. ever. period. fullstop. end of chat. you find it somewhere and you keep going, or you lose a little piece of yourself forever. i wonder what piece i lost today. i already miss it.

it wasn't fatigue. it wasn't leg burn. it wasn't boredom, the burn, the doubt demons, the exhaustion or the sweat in my eyes. it was my fucking hand. i couldn't hold the handle. i tried, i really did. (or did i? am i just telling myself that to justify the death?) god it hurt so much. for a while i kept going. 2K at 18, then 2 min at 32, 2K at 18, 2 min at 34, 2K at 18, 2 min at 36... and then i lost it. halfway through the 36 sprint. there was supposed to be another piece at 38, but i never made it that far. i just couldn't hold the bar.

fucking arthritis. 5 1/2 years ago i woke up one morning and couldn't work my right hand. i couldn't button my shirt, zip my jeans, hold a toothbrush, or wipe my arse. my middle and 4th fingers were in excruciating pain and curled in against my palm. i couldn't straighten them out. my friend drove me to the hospital where the on-duty spastic told me there was nothing wrong with me and that i wasn't in pain. (he did, he actually said "you're not in pain." what an ass.) long story short, a month later a world-class rheumatologist diagnosed me as having an undifferentiated spondyloarthritis stemming from the presence of the B27 HLA. yeah, whatever that means.

well, what it means is that i can't make a fist, gripping things (like steering wheels, door knobs, pickle jars, and broom handles) is extremely difficult and often painful, my knees, back, and shoulders pop constantly and have limited motion, and that all these problems will get worse over time unitl eventually i kill myself like all the members of my dad's family with the same disease have done. the rate of degeneration, however, is anyone's guess. i might be just as i am today, functional with some minor limitations and inconveniences, until i'm 90. or i may lose the ability to hold a pencil before i finish this degree.

and that's why i row. all my life i've been called a wimp, a wuss. i wasn't allowed to play sports in high school (even though i had a pretty mean serve in volleyball), and when i was forced to play no one ever wanted me on their team. rowing is the only time i feel strong. when i'm in the boat, i know exactly who i am, what i'm doing, where i'm going, and why. and i know that the only person who can stop me is me. i hate my body. not for aesthetic reasons (aesthetically it's not catherine zeta-jones, but it's not tom jones either), but because all my life i was told it was weak.

well i changed that. i showed them. i am strong now. i hate weakness, can't tolerate it, in myself or others. i hate mental weakness, emotional weakness, and physical weakness. you could think of me as a klingon, and you wouldn't be far off. when i row, i am strong. it's the only thing that's ever mad me feel strong. it's the only time i like myself, it's the only time i'm strong. i like myself when i'm rowing. that's why i do it. i like liking myself.

so when i have an attack rowing, it cuts me to the pith. i bleed from the quick. it's the deepest kind of pain, because it's not just the physical pain i feel, it's the loss of strenght, and i hate myself. it's my kryptonite; it totally debilitates me just at the moment of my greatest triumph. i hate this disease. i hate it because it attacks me in the most personal place imaginable. it's not because of the pain in my hands that i'm crying now, it's because i couldn't finish; i was too weak. i couldn't finish and i'll never get it back.

i just reached for my tea and my shoulder popped, just now. because i tried to take a sip of tea. why won't my body let me forget that i have this disease? for just one day, that's all i want. dear santa, for christmas i would like to go though one day, just one, with no pain and popping joints. that's all. you can keep the leather watch and new trainers and heart-rate monitor i asked for. just give me one day without creaking and popping and infamation and soreness, and let that day be in the summer of 2012 when i'm pulling for the gold. then i when i'm old and withered (if i make it to old age), i can say to my kids (as they open the pickle jar for me), "see? i wasn't always like this. see this photo? this medal? i was strong once, many yeas ago. i was so strong. you wouldn't know it to see me now, but that's what this is for, so i know it wasn't a dream."

wallingford is tomorrow. don't know if i'll be able to race. i really want to, but coach thinks maybe i shouldn't. i don't know. i'll have to make a decision in a couple hours. more ibuprophen, i think.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

life's multiple choice exam

I don't know, I realy don't. Maybe it's a test. People always tell me that suffering is one of god's tests. I've never believed it, but they're just as likely right as me. Maybe it's all part of some divine plan and you're the next messiah.

Maybe it's not hard. Maybe you just make it hard.

Maybe it is hard, but no harder than anyone else's life. Maybe it's hard for all of us, but you speak what we all feel, and so you're The Poet, the voice of the age.

Maybe it is harder than everyone else's life. Maybe you suffer more because you are a true artist like Van Gogh and a true genius like Galileo and so you have to suffer more because your brain takes in more and gives out more like all of history's great artists and geniuses.

Maybe your just a self-centered twit who's deluded himself into thinking he's somehow special, but really you're just another, well, just another brick in the wall, as it were.

Maybe there is a cosmic scale, and you suffer more now because you've known or will know more joy, and joy of that magnitude is expensive in this universe.

Maybe we live in the matrix and if we didn't suffer our brains wouldn't accept the program as reality and so it needs to be hard in order for us to believe we are alive because we measure our existance in misery.

Maybe it needs to be hard in order to be real. Maybe if it wasn't hard we would be living in some Huxlian society with no real thought or feelings of any kind, a bunch of numb, mindless insectoid beings with no past and no future and no present worth living. Maybe a life of sorrow is the only kind worth living. (can you tell i was raised catholic?)

Maybe we're all just collections of molecules and what happens in our lives has as much to do with brownian motion and electron orbitals as anything else, and the heisenberg principle is the only unbroken rule and everything is random doesn't matter because in a million years the sun will go nova and spotted owls and elephants and pandas and people and love and war and poetry and crayons will all cease to exist and no one will remember any of it so why the fuck do we bother with anthing at all?

I don't have the answers. I wish I did. If I did, i'd share them with you all. Even though literature tells me that whenever supernatural beings with The Answers share them with mere mortals really bad shit happens, i'd tell you anyway. then we could sit back and laugh at the destruction of the world from our beach chairs of mutual enlightenment.

But i'm not that being. I'm just another miserable idiot trying to figure things out. I don't know what I'm doing either or why i'm doing it. I just know that i need to keep on doing. maybe staving off boredom is the only real motivation. Maybe all we ever do in this life is postpone death. maybe there's a song or a poem somewhere in all this babble but i'm too lazy or too dense to write it and it doesn't matter anyway because it will evaporate with the planet in a million years.

Or maybe it doesn't matter what happens a million years from now. maybe all that matters is what happens today. maybe since we can't predict the future all we can do is live in the moment and screw the long-term vision. maybe all that matters is what we feel right here, right now. maybe we should chuck all our responsibilities to the wind with the dandelion seeds, smoke some pot and shag like bunnies on viagara.

who really knows anything? never believe anyone who tells you they know more than you do. especially if they have a vested interest in selling their beliefs. (all priests of all religions fall into this category.) we're all equally clueless on this miseable morass of a planet.

personally, i'm all about the simple things. sunrises, ice cream, hamsters, spooning, blowing the seeds off dandelions, dog slobber, moss, skinny dipping, a hard row, a good book, a heavy sleep, a hot cuppa, a long cry, a long back, a long glance, a purple bikini, vivaldi's string concertos, coffee with a friend, anything that makes the moment worth staying in just another second or two. when it comes down to it, what else is there, really?