Tuesday, July 31, 2007

10 authors

who should be bludgeoned about the head and shoulders until dead. even if they already are.

(a mememememe from First Nations)

1. John Gower (late 14th C), for being a self-righteous, moralizing cunt AND for being it in the most pedantic rhyming verse ever penned. His rhymes and meter are perfect. Never a dropped syllable, ever. Reading the Confession Amantis is like being hypnotized by the world's most arrogant metronome.

2. JK Rowling, for turning Harry Potter into the fucking messiah and making the whole thing another fucking Christian allegory. And for killing Fred Weasley.

3. Whoever wrote "Cheaper By The Dozen." I don't know who you are. We've never met. And I don't even remember the book. What I do remember is my mom yelling at me 4 times a week for 10 years to read the fucking thing. I managed to get through 3 chapters before I couldn't stand another word. The book itself probably wasn't that loathesome, but I can feel nothing but hatred for the author who penned the book my mom used as a torture device for the better part of a decade.

4. Aldous Huxley. Sort of. First time I read Brave New World I hated it. Second time I decided it might not completely suck. Third time I loved it. I guess Huxley is one of those writers who grows on you. Like mildew.

5. Ann Rice. The literary equivaltent of a 12-year-old wearing lipstick and high heels. She tries so hard to sound grown-up and sophisticated, but it's clearly an act.

6. Hemmingway. There's minamalist, and then there's half-finished. Hemmingway is the literary equivalent of the Eiffel Tower. Everyone says how great it is in public because that's what you're supposed to say and it's sacriligious to suggest otherwise, but ask someone in private and they'll admit it looks like the builders ran out of money min-construction. Hemmingway writes girders.

7. All Hollywood screen writers and sitcom writers.

8. Virginia Wolfe. Get over yourself.

9. All postmodernists. All of them.

and finally...

10. All copywriters and editors who can't punctuate correctly. Mere death is insufficient.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Quote of the week

Pirate: Ack!

me: you ok?

Pirate: Fine. I was just having a crisis of personal spatial awareness.
Until I figured out where my finger was.

the context? He was trying to floss his teeth without looking in the mirror. I cracked up so bad I fell on the floor while I was brushing my teeth and it took me 30 minutes to fall asleep after because I kept breaking out in gigglefits.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Listen up, my bearded and veily freinds!

For a little light weekend reading, here's an (unoffical - i typed it myself) transcript of a portion BBC Radio 4's 'Now Show," which first aired last friday, 20 July 2007. It's a commentary by Marcus Brigstock, a scathing and hilarious endictment of organized religion. Prepare to be hugely offended and laugh your arse off:

"I'd like to start this week with a request, and this one goes out to the followers of the three Abrahamic religions: the Muslims, Christians, and Jews. It's just a little thing, really, but do you think that when you've finished smashing up the world and blowing each other to bits and demanding special privledges while you do it, do you think that maybe the rest of us could sort of have our planet back? I wouldn't ask, but I'm starting to think that there must be something written in the special books that each of you so enjoy referring to that it's ok to behave like special, petulent, pugnacious, pricks. Forgive the alliteration, but your persistent, power-mad punch-ups are pissing me off. It's mainly the extremists obviously, but not exlclusively. It's a lot of 'main-streamers' as well. Let me give you an example of what I'm talking about.

Muslims: listen up my bearded and veily friends! Calm down, ok? Stop blowing stuff up. Not everything that said about you is an attack on the prophet Mohammed and Allah that needs to end in the infidel being destroyed. Have a cup of tea, put on a Cat Stevens record, sit down and chill out. I mean seriously, what's wrong with a strongly-worded letter to The Times?

Christians: you and your churches don't get to be millionairs while other people have nothing at all. They're your bloody rules; either stick to them or abandon the faith. And stop persecuting and killing people you judge to be immoral. Oh, and stop pretending you're celibate -- it's a cover-up for being a gay or a nonce. Right, that's two ticked off.

Jews! I know you're god's 'Chosen People' and the rest of us are just whatever, but when Israel behaves like a violent, psychopathic bully and someone mentions it that doesn't make them anitsemitic. And for the record, your troubled history is not a license to act with impunity now.

So, when the letters come (and I'm guessing they will), I can gaurantee that each one of those faiths will be conviced that I've singled them out for special criticism.

[In mock Arabic accent] Why did it have to be us? Islam is a peaceful faith!

[In upper class British accent] I don't see what's wrong with being Christian? We're a peaceful, loving faith.

[In affronted, huffy voice] How dare you after all we've been through! We Jews know how terrible violece can be.

You see, all of them will be convinced that they're the ones being picked on. The Abrahamic faiths are like scousers: they're always conviced they [in scouser accent} have it harder than everyone else.

And why is it that all of these faiths claim to be peaceful, when even a most fleeting glance at a history of warfare will tell you otherwise? The relationship between religion and warfare is very similar to the relationship between Ant and Deck: you could have one without the other, but I'm not sure anyone would see the point. I wouldn't actually like it, but it would be refreshing to hear one of them come out and say [in working class London accent] "Our faith's violent as you like. We love a scrap, us lot, we do. Our special book says 'fight fight smash maim murder kill fight fight.' That's why I signed up to be honest. I'm a bit naught, know what I mean?" But yet all of them claim to be peaceful religions. Yeah, peaceful right up to the point where someone takes something they think is theirs, or says the wrong thing or looks at them funny. Then it's fighty smashy kicky punchy all the way. I know this'll upset a lot of people and frankly I don't care. I'm getting so sick of religious people screwing it up for the rest of us.

Please don't kill us, seriously. As far as I'm concerned this is the only chance we get. When we die it's all over -- there's no virgins and pearly gates waiting for us, no big, beardy man saying [in deep, echoing voice and upper class accent] "Right, so how do you think that went, then? Killed a lot of people in my name I see. Not really what I had in mind. Um, tell you what, have another go as a worm."

While we're at it, I'm sick of religious people forcing their children to define themselves by their parents' faith. A four-year-old is no more a Christian than he is a member of the Postal Workers' union. [in child's voice] "We want a fair working wage, decent working conditions, and time allotted to see the new Transformers film."

This week Lydia Playfoot, who took Millay School in Horsham to the high court so she could wear jewelry to prove she's staying a virgin for Jesus, lost her case. Good. I'm glad. I don't care how many times her parents claim it was her idea, rules is rules, and if you want to wear a ring that tells everyone you're not having any sex you can get married like the rest of us. Now, the lawyer for the chaste Miss Playfoot said the question for the judge was 'What are the religious rights of school children in the school context?' Well, I'm no judge (not yet, anyway), but if you want my opinion, none. No rights. No religious rights whatsoever. Schools are for learning. If you want to have a little pray before maths so that Mr. Figures won't set too hard a test, or prevent the P.E. teacher from being a collossal pervert, then go head, fill your boots. If you want to pop on a feathered headdress and chant and dance and mumble and sacrifice something you can do that on your own time. (Or take a drama course, pretend it's art, and get a degree in it. That's what I did.) The lawyer, Mr. Diamond, argued "secular authorities cannot rule on religious truth." Hmm. Well, Mr. Diamond, I'm going to assume you're not related to Neil Diamond, becuase he rocks. Yes, I like Neil Diamond. And Prince. And I'm married -- go figure. But the point is "religious truth" is a foxy one, buecasue religion, by it's very nature, doesn't tend to concern itself with truth. There simply isn't time for truth. By the time all the singing and candle-lighting and toadying and condemning and hiding from science is done truth has given up and gone down to the pub for a pint. Here's the truth: faith is about as interested in truth as I am in hangning out with Anthony Warrel Thompson, ie, not very.

Now, I know that most relgious folk are moderate and reasonable and wear tidy jumpers and eat cheese, like real people. And on hearing this they'll mainly feel pity for me, rather than issue a death sentence. But they have to accept that they are the power base for the nutters. Without their passive support the loonies in charge of these faiths would just be loonies, safely locked away and medicated -- somewhere nice with a view of some trees where they can claim they have a direct channel to god between sessions making tapestry coasters, watching Teletubbies and talking about thier days in the Hitler Youth. The ordinary faithful make these viscious, tyrannical thugs what they are. See, I get angry that show like Celebrity and Big Brother and insert-title-of-wretched-show-here still fill our lives with vapid, pointless emptiness, and I wish the producers' development exectives would crawl back under the rocks they emerged from, but the truth is they sell stuff that people consume. Without the audience to prop it up, Heat magazine and fundamental religious fanatacism goes away. Imagine what humanity might be capable of if we had that much spare time! We could explore space properly, have decent look in the sea, find a cure for James Blunt, anything!

Thank you very much. Letters to the usual address."

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Eight Things

Got tagged by Joliet Jake (quite some time ago now) to do this meme. Sorry it's taken so long to getting around to it.

So here are 8 things about me you probably didn't already know:

1. Despite the outward appearance of ambition, I am incredibly lazy and rarely do more than just what's necessary to squeak by.

2. At the age of 16 I played a chorus girl and Egyptian whore in a small (but professional) production of Joeph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. (Not the one with Donny Osmond.)

3. I only drink malty beers. Too much hops is bleurgh.

4. One of my labia hangs much lower than the other.

5. I will eat anything once, and have tried osterich, emu, crocodile, kangaroo, and pigeon. The osterich was the best, followed by the 'roo and the croc. Am still trying to find a restaurant that serves rattlesnake.

6. I probably shouldn't have mentioned eating anyting right after describing my labia. oops.

7. My favorite smell is the mingled scent of dry leaves, wood smoke, seasoned oak, and apples.

8. I am a hypocrite because I think overpopulation is the biggest problem facing the world today, but I want (and plan to have) a huge family.

Tagging: Dave, LC, Herebe, Sal, GSE, Miss Melville, and Murph. Hop to it.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

C.S. Lewis phoned; he wants his plot back.


FOR FUCK'S SAKE!!!! Did she have to turn it into a another fucking Christian allegory???

(And Herebe don't bother telling me that if it's a Chrisian allegory she didn't steal CS Lewis's plot, she got it from the Bible because that's where Lewis got it. I know that.)

I knew it was getting a bit Messianic with that whole prophecy thing in book 5, and of course it wouldn't be an interesting prophecy if there was no doubt as to whom the prophecy referred, so Rowling made sure to throw a bit of confusion in for good measure.

(Oh, and speaking of plot rip-offs, when he puts the locket horcrux around his neck and it starts describing how heavy the burden is and it begins to turn him evil i about spit. i was just waiting for him to whisper the word "prescious" in the night, at which point i would have burnt the book. thank god that didn't happen.)

Then Harry walks into the Room of Reqirement and greets all his apostles, erm, friends, who cheer "yay! he's come to fight for us and set us free!" and he has to tell them that no, actually he didn't come to fight for them. he's going to set them free another way.

then he has to march off willingly to his death in the forest.

but lo! he doesn't die! he takes a killing curse from Voldemort right between the eyes, has an afterlife conversation with Dumbledore, and rises from the dead! what a fucking surprise!

(at least it didn't take three days.)

then he explains to Voldemort, in front of everyone, how he cannot kill anyone because he, Harry, was willing to die to save them, and that is a magid deeper and older than anything Voldemort understands. He died to save everyone, out of love, and now they cannot suffer death! He has conquered it for them! Gaaaaaagh!

As if this wasn't nauseating enough, Harry commits the cardinal plot sin of explaining to his victim exaclty how he, Voldemort, is going to die and why. It was like a bad spy movie. I half expected Big V to get away just because Harry couldn't shut his yap.

I didn't object to the "19 years later" ending on principle, but given that it contained not One Single Surprise, there was no point. A "X years later" ending is supposed to make you go "Aaaaaah! No way!!!!", not confirm everything you've suspected since book 2 for the love of all that's holy. What a waste of paper.

Oh, and to everyone who tried to convince me that Snape really was evil and working for the Dark Lord, I have but this to say: nyah nyah nyah nyah booboo, stick your head in doodoo! I was right, I was right! You people really don't understand the concept of a double-agent, do you?

The one good thing that comes of all this is finally the Religious Wrong will have to shut up about Harry Potter and the occult and how the books corrupt Christian values, since it's as much an allegory of Christ as The LW&W ever was. And anything that proves the Jesus Nutters wrong and puts a sock in their collective, hypocrital pie-hole is OK by me.

And hands up everyone who agrees with me that Harry should have boned Luna instead of Ginny.

ps. new post over at Question Everything (finally).

Friday, July 20, 2007

It's coming, I swear

I'm so sorry, guys. I know I've been rubbish about posting lately. I've been so busy i havn't had time to fart, never mind anything else. I havn't forgotten about you, though, and I still love you all.

Here's the past week in summary, titled "Why the Pirate is a Complete and Utter Muppet"

1. Last week he said "Let's go see Chicago at the Hippodrome." I said "Ok" and asked him what night he wanted to go. "Friday," he declared. Fine. I bought tickets for last Friday. On Thursday I emailed HIM to ask about his cricket schedule for the weekend, and he said "I'm playing in Aldershot on Friday."


I wrote back and reminded him about Chicago, and asked how he planned to finish a cricket match at 7 pm, shower, change, and drive 2 hours back to Bristol in time for a 7:30 curtain.

"Shite shite shite shite shite shite" was the response.

As it happens he left the match early (was all through batting), drove 100 mph, and got here at 8 o'clock. He missed the Cell Block Tango, but saw everything after that.


2. Sunday Pirate had no cricket, owing to the rain. He's been saying for ages that he wanted to go to John Lewis and buy the biggests, softest, fluffiest feather pillows money could buy, so I suggested we spend the afternoon at the mall. Sadly the auto show and the rain meant that there were double the crowds and half the parking spaces of normal. After salivating over the Aston Martins we made it into John Lewis, who were, rather serendipitously, having a pillow sale. I shit you not.

After a salesladay gave us a thorough introduction to the finer points of pillow purchasing, Pirate decided to get one of the crazy expensive ones that normally go for £70 but were marked down to £35.

Did you notice that? Yes, ONE pillow. ONE.

I have spent every single weekend at his house for the past year (minus only the 3 months last fall when he was overseas on business). And he buys ONE pillow.


So I said, rather tactfully, that maybe I should buy one of the cheap ones (since I can't afford to blow £35 on a pillow, even if I thought that was a good idea) so that I would have someplace to lay my head when I stayed over. I thought this would clue him in to the fact that he really needed to buy 2 pillows. Did it fuck.

He said, "that's a good idea." And so there I was having to buy my own fucking pillow so I'd have something to sleep on when I go over to his place.

I can't describe to you my level of annoyance, or my surprise at the breadth of his cluelessness. I asked my dad, that automatic handy-dispenser of wisdom, if I was over reacting. "Yes and no," he said. "His head was in the up and locked position, but men are like that so there's no point getting upset about it. It's like shouting at the rain." *sigh*

3. Yesterday he was returning on the train from London to his home near Chippenham. He rang me from the train and said "Damnit, I must have slept through my stop. We're coming in to Bristol Parkway and I don't remember going through Chippenham at all."

We figured out later that's because there are 2 routes from London to Bristol. The one that terminates at Temple Meads goes through Chippenham. He got on the other one, that terminates at Parkway and misses Chippenham completely.


4. In order to get to Chippenham he had to go on to Temple Meads and connect there to the other line. So as long as he was in town he came round for dinner. Which was nice, as I had slow-roasted a beef brisket in red wine and garlic for the last 4 hours, and it was smelling goooooood.

I met him at the station, and smiled at the sight of him, all dooded up in his brand new made-to-measure blue pin-striped suit. Day-am! There's hot and there's hot. That man can wear a suit. Oh yes.

He opens the jacket to put his ticket away, and discovers that the weight of his enormous wallet (which was probably full of pound coins for parking meters) had pulled the lining right out of the jacket, and there were 2 huge holes in it. It was the first time he'd worn it.

The man is on a roll, really.

I'll be gone for the weekend. Have a good one, and I'll see what I can do about posting the lurid bits of the Summer Ball next week. Don't get sunburnt! :-D

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Iterlude: vigettes

I'm molting. Even more so than before I feel like lobster. All the skin on my back came off last night in about 30 minutes and 4 huge pieces.

Yesterday I sat in the park for a few minutes after work to enjoy the sunshine and read a book. I got hardcore chatted up by a slightly drunk, very slovelnly middle aged chap, which culminated in a proposal (and polite refusal) of marraige. The whole thing was odd for a couple reasons:
1, unlike most idiots who run away when you tell them you're seeing someone, this guy wasn't put off in the least
2, he was very complimentary, but did not employ any of the usual cliche's. His observations of me were all rather original, which I found entertaining and flattering, despite myself.
3, he has the same name and star sign as the Pirate. Coincidence, or creepy?

Today while walking home from the office for lunch a bloke stopped me and asked, out of the blue, "If you had to choose between us (indicating his mate), who would you pick?" They looked amazingly alike. I think they might have been brothers.
I replied, "You're both so handsome I could never choose between you. I'd have to have both of you. At the same time."
At first they had no idea what to make of this, but then exlaimed "Ooh, she's filthy!" and ribbed each other with their elbows. I winked and went home to have my lunch.

I may not be able to post Part XXX today because I havn't written it yet, and I'm going to see HP tonight. Tomorrow night I'm seeing Chicago at the Hippodrome with the Pirate (for all you stalkers out there, feel free to try to pick us out of the crowd), and then I'll be gone for the weekend, as is usual. If I can write the post up today while I'm at the office, all the better, but if it's not here by 5:30, I'm afraid you'll have to wait until Monday.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

One year on... The Big Night

So there I was, in lobster-red, blistering agony from dallying with the sun without protection.

The irony was that I had been so careful in the past 3 weeks to make sure my back and shoulders, which had had no sun exposure yet this year, matched my arms, which (thanks to spectating Pirate's cricket matches) had a lovely brown, terminating in a white line just before my shoulders where my T-shirt begins. Yes, I had a farmer's tan. And I spent a fair penny on self-tanning prodeucts to get rid of it and get some color on my back and shoulders without looking like an oompa-loompa. And it worked. Friday night my skin looked fine. No tan lines to speak of. And saturday afternoon I blew it all to hell.

My evening gown is black, with a deep V-neck, halter straps, and totally backless right down to the top of my ass. So it showed off my bright red chest, bright red shoulders with conventional bra-strap tan lines, and bright red upper back/white lower back beatifully. (Essentially my back looked like the flag of Poland flown up-side down. Charming.)

After I endured the agony of the shower (though set at a pleasant, tepid temperature, the needle-like spray of water stabbed at my back and shoulders like being shot with a thousand poison darts) I began The Process.

Ladies, you know what this entails... mousse, hair curlers, hair drier, hair spray, blemish concealer, foundation, eye liner, eye shadow, eyelash curler, mascara, eyebrow pencil (I waxed the eyebrows earlier in the week to give the redness adequate time to fade), lipstick... it's a pain in the ass, I tell you. And though I can't stand such a time-consuming beauty regime, and despite the discomfort from my sunburn, I couldn't help but be in a good mood.

I didn't resent the sunburn because the way I see it, given the choice between doing something I enjoy and being pretty, I'll take having fun any day. So even if I'd known how burnt I would get, I wouldn't have changed a thing about the afternoon. So how could I complain, knowing full well that if I had it to do over, I would do it all again, with the same results? Besides, I was running around the house naked with curlers in my hair, and my Pirate was sitting in the rear garden, polishing his shoes. I heard him laugh and came out to see what had tickled his imagination so. He looked up at me.

"Running around naked already? Wow. Last year* it took almost nine hours to get you to that stage. Result." He grinned.
I hit him.
Obviously he was in a good mood. He'd been deliberately antagonizing me all day, a behavior I have come to recognize as an indication of high spirits.

*our first date

Eventually I took out the curlers, combed out my hair, gave it one final spray, and slipped into my gown. Some sparkly doo-dads (cheap, from Claire's) for the finishing touch et voila'! One overly-made up woman with natty hair and sunburn wearing a black dress. *sigh*

While all this was taking place, Pirate was getting dressed in his room. He was attaching the cuff-links to his shirt when I cam in: a custom-made job he'd had done especially -- the sleeves and back were made from a neon pink and metallic gold pashmina that he bought in Indial last spring. The wool/silk blended material was soft as owl's feathers and shimmered when the afternoon light hit it. Over the shirt went the white waistcoat, including gold pocket watch on chain, and white DJ. The bow tie he tied himself. None of this pre-tied namby-pamby crap couteur for my man no sir-ee.

My god but he's handsome.

And with each layer of clothing you peel off, the handsomer he becomes. Like a sexy onion that makes you weep with arousal. Oh yes.

The ball was lovely. The theme this year was The War Years. We were greeted at the gate by a Winston Churchill impersonator, complete with cigar, who later gave a speech during dinner. The tents were covered in camo netting and decorated inside with red, white, and blue balloons and Union flags. The women of the waitstaff were dressed as Rosie the Rivetter, the drinks at the cocktail bar (which was surrounded by sandbags) all had names like 'Lindy-hop Lemonade' and 'Glen Miller Green Eyes,' and there were all sorts of military relics on display that they'd borrowed from some museum somewhere. Portrait photos were taken in an actual Jeep (left-hand drive), and they even got the RAF to do a fly-by in a couple of spitfires. The only thing the theme neglected was the music. It was fine, but some proper Big Band and 'Don't Sit Under the Apple Tree' would have been both better and more appropriate.

Ents for the evening included bumber cars (dodgems, to you brits), casino tables (Pirate turned 75 pounds into almost 700 pounds at the craps table. Too bad it wasn't real money), and a hot air balloon that was tethered to 3 Land Rovers. The casino was too crowded and I never manged to get into the Black Jack game, the hot air balloon only went up 20 feet and spat dirty water at the passengers, but the bumber cars were fabulous. We spent a lot of time on those. As the evening wore on the guys operating the things decided the saftey codes were really more like suggestions anyway, and turned up the juice. I have never seen bumber cars go so fast. I have wicked bruises on my knees from all the impacts and bumping the steering column. I just tell people they're from the blow jobs.

One of the more emotional moments of the evening was actually the RAF flyby. There was something not quite right about standing on the lawn in an evening gown, coctail in hand, laughing and cheering at the machines of war as they raged overhead through the blue sky. It was a beautiful evening -- blue sky, a few fluffy clouds, light breeze -- and perfect night for flying. I could tell the pilots were having fun up there. Those boys were playing with big ol' antique toys and messing about like kids in a sandbox, and that's OK. But I couldn't shake the feeling of unease; i couldn't look at those planes and block my imagination from wondering what it must have been like to be sitting in your living room in 1945 and hear them whiz by overhead, see them careening past and not know if they're yours or Hitlers. What must it have been like to live with the fear, the hunger, the constant destruction? And here we were, making a party game of it.

But was it just a party game? Or were people cheering because they remembered that these very planes were the ones that helped save them from the Nazis all those years ago? Has the memory of the horror gone, or does it linger on yet? I didn't know. It was a very strange sensation, seeing those spitfires in the blue sky, and me watching them with hardly a care in the world.

I was wondering about all these things when I realized I'd lost my date. The Pirate had abandoned me for another. I couldn't get him away from her: the chocolate fountain. I thought at one point he was just going to stick his whole head underneath. They had skewers with strawberries, raspberries, tiny donuts, jell babies, and marshmallows. I ate the berries and jelly babies and didn't have a single taste of chocolate. I got yer willpower right here, beyotch.

Dinner was amazing, as expected. The seafood buffet was well stocked, although the salmon was over cooked and I really need to introduce the Engligh to proper cocktail sauce. Now hear this: ketchup and mayonaise is NOT coctail sauce. Ketchup and horseradish, that's cocktail sauce. Following the seafood bar was the main course, which paid tribute to vegetables by having a bowl with a couple pieces of lettuce in it if anyone insisted, but we just at the pork with hot apple sauce, beef stew, chicken skewers, and pork sausages. It was not a good night to be a vegetarian.

And just in case the completely free coctail bar wasn't enough, there was ample wine on the table. And there were only 6 of us at a table for 10, and Pirate doesn't drink, so we had twice the allowance of wine. Woot!

Don't even get me started on dessert.

This has mostly just been a catalogue of the nights sensory pleasures -- the visuals, the tastes, the sounds -- but that's really only the surface, the very outer edge of my perception that evening. I've described these features because they are easy to communicate. As a reader you have no trouble visualizing a tent or a table laden with rich puddings or even Winston Churchill. You know what music sounds like and are familiar with the experience of dancing. I could even describe for you the smell of the fuel in the hot air balloon, the warm choclate from the fountain, and dew on the grass, and you could understand that easily as well. But how to describe what was really going on in my head and in my heart?

How can I articulate the warmth in my cheeks and ears when I looked at the Pirate? Or the conflicting sense of total comfort and familiarity with the exitement of newness and exoticism when we danced? Can you begin to empathize with the confusion of feeling totally out of place in that contrived, concocted environment, but yet feeling as that I was exactly where I belonged whenever the Pirate spoke to me? And do you know what it feels like to have tears of joy come to your eyes in those silent moments of shared understanding when not a word is spoken, and without evening looking at one another so as to give the impression to others that our attention is elsewhere, hands meet knowingly in the middle, sure of themselves and each other, gently caressing and tickling the other's fingers? Do you know that feeling? Can I possibly explain it?

We didn't close the place down this year. After a couple slow songs (where my bracelet kept catching threads on the back of his new shirt), our bodies pressed obscenely close together, only making the barest pretence of dancing, we left. This time there was none of that awkward silence, none of the games, no one trying to prolong the night. We knew why we were leaving. And given the way were were dancing, frankly so did everyone else there.

Tune in tomorrow for Part XXX: The Dirty Bits.

One year on... The Run-Up

This past weekend was my one-year anniversary with the Pirate. I'm going to desribe the events and feelings of the weekend in agonizing detail, because I want to be sure that in 50 years I still have a record of it to fill in the gaps in my happy, hazy memories, and because there are a lot of bits that I'm sure you lot will enjoy. This will likely be spread out over several posts...

We had a big weekend planned, but it kept growing and growing. Every moment was gorgeous, joyous, and filled with mental sunshine.

Friday he popped into Brizzle to pick me up. I would have been happy to cycle, but I needed to bring all the bits and bobs to make me beautiful for the ball on Saturday night, and I couldn't carry everything I needed on my own. I got out of work, threw the last few things in my bags (I began packing 3 days early), and waited downstairs. I had just sat down on the steps and opened my book when I heard his car horn outside. We listened to The Now Show on Radio 4 and laughed ourselves all the way to his place. (Marcus Brigstock is GOD.)

I had a nice dinner planned, so when we arrived at HMS Lovenest (as the Pirate's home shall henceforth be known) I immediately hit the galley. "It's been raining for a month and the grass has grown a foot. I'm going to go out back and destroy the garden while you're burning the sausages," he said. He donned the Yard Work Shoes (old trainers with holes that were once employed in the service of a Rocky Horror costume and spray-painted metallic gold), and I slipped into an apron. It was such a picture of domesticity even I couldn't help but laugh. We've properly turned into June and Ward Cleaver. I listened to the venison sausages sizzle and the lanwmower hum outside, and smiled.

Saturday was an early start. Pirate and I had to drive to some place south of London to check out a classic Aston Martin he's thinking about buying. We were out the door at 7:30. Ouch.

The drive was pleasant and we enjoyed the first sunshine we'd seen in weeks. The directions were complicated but detailed (I always get nervous when directions include items like "turn left by the high hedgerow"), and we found the place with no difficulty. If only the broker selling the car was as thorough with his automobiles as he is with his directions. I believed him when he said "I really believed the car was in operating condidtion. If I'd known it wasn't I would have phoned you and told you not to come," but if he'd bothered to get the thing out of the back of the garadge a day or two early and dust it off he would have known that it barely started and only engaged 4 of the 6 cylinders. We had to abandon the test drive after less than 100 yards. Trip wasted. Understandably, Pirate was not in a good mood. His bitterness at the waste of time was amplified by the let-down. After years of searching he thought he'd finally come across the model he wanted with the features he wanted in his price rance. Alas, it was not to be. We got back in his Skoda Dinghy and left.

On the way to the car place we'd spotted a PYO berry farm advertising ripe raspberries, the Pirate's second-fav fruit (blackberries being the first). We decided to make a spontaneous detour and pick some berries. This had the triple beneficial effect of 1, making the trip seem slightly less futile; 2, extending the break between outward and return drives; and 3, giving us an excuse to get out and enjoy the sunshine.

And enjoy it, we did. I was wearing a cute little sundress and frolicked, yes, frolicked, around the fields. They had far more than just raspberries -- they had loganberries and tayeberries as well. I'd never heard of either of the latter. P had heard of loganberries but had never tried them. We sampled a few plump specimines of each and became immediately enamoured, me with the loganberries and P with the tayeberries. We grabbed our baskets and began picking. An hour later we had more berries than we could carry, and had to make several trips from the fields to the car. I put my nose right down to one of the larger punnetts I'd picked and inhaled deeply. The fruit was warm and gave off a thick, intoxicating smell. Some things smell of summer because you associate them with summer (sunblock, burgers grilling, etc.). I had never smelled this smell in my life, but somewhere deep in my DNA I knew that this was the smell of summer.

Back on the road again we passed a sign that said "British Wildlife Centre." Que spontaneous detour numero dos. The place was much larger and more extensive (and expensive) that I would have guessed from the inauspiscous signage. In addition to the Scotish Wildcat breeding program, the herds of red and roe deer, the stoats, foxes, otters (Lutra lutra), bees, birds, and butterflies, there was a barn owl who slept on a perch in the visitors' center and danced in his sleep when you stroked his feathers (which were the softest thing I've ever touched), a tiny harvest mouse who clambered up and down the blades of grass in his cage, and a wild male pheasant who kept trying to break in to the pheasant enclosure to romance the hens therein. Hehehe.

Before we got to the water vole exhibit I could feel my shoulders getting hot. By the time we'd made it 'round to the eagle owl I knew I was toasting, and badly. I told the Pirate I needed to get under cover, and soon.

We'd seen pretty much everything, and needed to be getting back to the HMS Lovenest anyway so I would have ample time to bee-ootify myself for the evening's festivities: a formal ball. Back in the car, and this time no more procrastinating. We hit the highway and made tracks west.

At Reading P needed a short break and a nap in order to continue driving safely, so we pulled into a service center. I could already feel the burn coming up on my shoulders and decided to go inside to buy some aftersun. The first horrible thing about this stop was that when I got out of the car I left a significant portion of the skin from the back of my legs attached to the vinyl seat. That hurt like a bitch. The second horrible thing was that at a huge service center situated directly next door to a Travelodge there was no place to buy a toothbrush or any other toiletry basics, never mind a simple bottle of lotion. I got back in the car and put my feet up on the dashboard to prevent my thighs from coming into any further contact with the seat.

"Why are you sitting like that?" asked the Pirate.
I explained.
"Is the seat OK?"
I have not the words.

We arrived back that the L.N. at 5 pm with a freshly aquired bottle of after sun aloe gel, courtesy of the local supermarket. Time to get in the shower and begin preparing for the Big Event!

Stay tuned for Part 2, where our heroine addresses issues like
  • trying to create a hairstyle that doesn't say "a diseased rodent died on my head"
  • coping with sunburn and tan lines while wearing a new, sexy, backless ball gown
  • being dumped by one's date, who suddenly decides he prefers the company of another... !

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Song of Innocence

I almost didn't notice that today is the Fourth of July. You would think that for a cheerful expat happily living in the country from which America violently liberated itself over 200 years ago Independence Day would be a day of shame and regret, not pride and joy. And yet...

I don't have a lot of political associations with the day, but I do have a lot of memories of intense happiness, innocence, and frivolity. I LOVE the Fourth of July. For years it was my favorite holiday. The Fourth for me is a bit like Christmas is for people like, well, like me. The original intent of the holiday has been all but forgotten, but that doesn't negate the joy brought about by family traditions and celebrations.

This is what the Fourth of July was like in days of yore...

I grew up in a small city neighborhood. It was a dead-end street on the south end of town comprised of 23 homes and as many huge silver maple trees lining the street. The houses were built in the 1920s, and each home was unique. It was a quiet street, and as kids we used to sit on the porch in the summer eating watermelon and cherries (we weren't allowed to eat fruit in the house -- we lived in an agricultural state and fresh produce in the summer was so sweet and juicy you couldn't eat it without making a huge mess) and have contests to see who could spit their seeds the fartherst. There were no cars except the residents and the occassional idiot who thought he could use our street as a shortcut to dodge two sets of traffic lights, and would get really annoyed when he would discover the dead end. We thought this was endlessly funny and used to point and giggle and these directionally-challenged people (who invariably drove big huge Lincolns or Caddies and drove at 6 mph).

It was a close-knit neighboorhood, too. By the time I was 7 I knew every person on the street and they all knew me. Same went for all the kids. Most of the grown-ups worked either at the local utility (like my dad) or were teachers.* Us kids were allowed to play in most anyone's yard (we knew who the exceptions were), and if anything went wrong we would be looked after by whoever was nearest at hand. By the same token, if we ever misbehaved we were certain to be caught and recognized and a phonecall made to mom and dad before we even managed to get home.

*One year when the public school teachers threatened to strike our neighborhood had a little meeting and decided it wasn't a big deal because among them there was someone amply qualified to teach every subject at every level, so they were just going to open a neighborhood school and go at it the old-fashioned way. I always was bummed that the teachers' union managed to sort their problems out, because I reckon a neighborhood school would have vastly superior to the Catholic Prison I was attending at the time.

There were regular parties and get-togethers throughout the year. A "Progressive Dinner" at Christmastime, when each course would be served at a different home (no kids at that one), a corn roast on Labor Day to celebrate the harvest, a Graffiti Party on July 3 (more about that later perhaps), and the big one on the 4th.

The custom was that the newest residents on the street were put in charge of organizing the thing, which gauranteed that they had to meet everyone on the block and get involved. ("Welcome to the neighborhood! Guess what!") It was our equivalent of a hazing ritual, but it worked. And let me tell you, there were logistics to be worked out. (Though to be fair the 4th of July block party had been going on so long pretty much everyone knew their assigned role and did it whether or not the newbie organizers thought of it.)

  • Bob had to arrange for and collect and set up the barricades so the street could be closed off to traffic. (This was important because of the fireworks at the park in the evening. If we didn't close off the street it became a giant parking lot by sunset.) It was his job because he was the only one with a pickup.
  • The bed-grill had to be dug out and set up.
  • Someone had to buy a dozen bags of charcoal, 50 pounds of chicken quarters, and 2 gallons of BBQ sauce
  • Someone had to arrange for, pick up, and tap the keg. (Technically open containers of alcohol are not legal on municipal property, which the "islands" were, but one of the residents was the county deputy sherrif, and he knew that no one ever got drunk, misbehaved, or served alcohol to a minor, so he didn't care. Although the minors did have to serve the beer. We were glorified gofers, and I leared to pull a pint at the age of 8.)
  • Someone had to get plastic cups, plates, cutlery, and napkins.
  • Someone had to bring out a big washtub for the pop cans and enough ice to last that day.
  • Someone had to get prizes for the kids' bike parade and make up silly awards ("Best use of pink streamers," "Best one-handed riding," that sort of thing.)
  • Someone had to get a giant pile of sawdust from the local lumber yard and a bazillion pennies to dump in it
  • Someone had to procure 2 big watermelons and hide them the night before, along with a trail of clues leading to their location. This was usually done at the graffiti party by our intoxicated parents the night before, and I can remember years when the clues were written and hidden when the poor volunteer had had a few too many, and the following day the clues didn't make any sense and the hider and forgotten where he'd hid the melons. Good times. :-)
  • And of course there needed to be water balloons. And tug of war (over a plastic wading pool, naturally.) And sack races. etc. And prizes for all of the above.
  • And everyone had to bring a passing dish to share. Joanne made the best baked beans in the history of the world.
There was an order to the festivities, an almost ritual-like adherence to tradition. The day started as soon a my brother and I awoke. Invariably it was a hot, sunny day. The pavement burned our bare feet (but who wears shoes when schoool's out?), and the grass was already getting prickly and dry. I insisted on wearing red, white, and blue every year. Marley (my brother) couldn't have cared less. The first order of business after a nourishing breakfast of whatever we could scavenge (usually Chef Boyardee and purple Kool Aid) was to decorate our bikes.

If dad hadn't already bought enough red, white, and blue crepe paper and scotch tape he got yelled at and had to rectify the situation immediately. I used to spend hours in the drive way covering every inch of my bike in the crinkly, patriotic toilet paper. Every bit of frame, streamers from the handle bars, and we'd weave it in and out of the spokes so the wheels were solid colors as well. If we were feeling especially ambitious we add things like pinwheels, action figures (G.I. Joe of course) or stuffed animals (in my case).

The hours between the completion of our two-wheeled modern art projects and the parade that began the party were the slowest hours of the year. Marley was a much calmer child, but I couldn't wait for things to get underway. I would run around the street making a nuissance of myself and trying to help everyone with everything and all the setting up. Slowly around lunch time people would being drifting out towards the center island with their lawn chairs and drink holders. Eventually, after a sizeable crowd had gathered, someone would give the signal for the kids to get their bikes, and...

... they're off!

Around and around we'd go, doing laps of the circular course until whichever dad was in charge that year had managed to formulate rediculous awards for us all. We would be called to a halt, line up our bikes neatly, stand at attention, and wait for our names. One by one we came forth, grinned at whatever corny honor was betowed upon us, accepted our brown paper goody bag with glee, and shook the hand of the presenter. The grown-ups clapped, and we took one more lap to give everyone a final opportunity to admire our patriotic velociped creations. And then we ran off to look at our loot and begin swapping the stuff we didn't want.

A variety of games then followed, including the water-balloon toss, which was remarkable organized. Dad used to bring out the water balloons in the wheelbarrow, all brightly jiggling in the hot yellow sunglight, a bouncing rainbow of cool wetness and squeaking rubber. Play proceeded as follows: Get a partner. Stand toe-to-toe along a chalk line in the road, all the pairs standing shoulder to shoulder. Pass the water balloon to your partner. Take a step backwards. Each time to throw the balloon, take another step. Keep passing the balloon back and forth between you, getting incrementally further apart. The pair who makes it the fartherst without breaking their balloon wins.

You wouldn't believe how much fun this is. And it's as much fun to watch as it is to play. When it gets down to 2 or three pairs the crowd starts going nuts and everyone yells "Oh!" when someone barely saves their balloon from breaking and the cringing runs through the spectators like a Mexican wave.

Slowly the game degernates into a free-for-all, with the remaining balloons being used in guerilla attacks and snowball-like water wars. My god those were the days.

Eventually it's time for dinner, and 4x8 sheets of plywood are set up on the saw horses to make buffet tables. Everyone brings out their folding card tables and plastic patio furntiure, someone has been slaving over a hot bed of coals (literally) for hours burning the chicken until it's perfect (perfectly black) which is now presented in a giant tub, and the kids are sent to wash their hands. The buffet becomes full of nacho salad, seven layer salad, potato salad, pasta salad, baked beans, fruit salad, and cole slaw. We all help ourselves to whatever we want and sit down somewhere, maybe with our own family, maybe at someone else's table.

Now, there is a particular order to the after-dinner games. The penny scramble is the last game of the day, but there's no point in doing that until all the kids have been covered in watermelon juice (ergo, sticky). But first the watermelons must be located! So the kids are divided up into two teams, each team is given its first clue, and they're off! Watermelons can't be inside houses, but short of that anything goes. Once they were even burried. First team to find their melon wins.

The watermelons are then sliced, seved, and eaten (with accompanying seed-spitting contenst, naturally). After the chillens are good and goopy, the penny scramble begins. A tarp is laid out on the ground, several garbage bags full of sawdust are dumped on the tarp, and giant piles of loose change are dumped into the sawdust. The smallest kids go first and get 5 minutes or so to dig around, then the older kids and so on. It's awesome. It's the modern equivalent of tarring and feathering, but instead of doing it to convicts it's done to children. It's not considered child abuse becase at the end of it, if you've been doing really well, you are $1.38 richer than you were before dinner, so no complaints!

As the sun turned orange and dipped below the house top it was time to fold up the lawn chairs, gather the remains of the potato salad, and begin packing it in. Kids were ordered to dust themselves off (outside), remove their clothes (also outside) and march inside and get the in the bath. Clothes were either then taken directly to the wash via a strategically held pitch-fork, or simply burned where they lay on the sidewalk.**

**I jest. Sort of.

All squeaky clean and in our jammies, it was time to lather up in carcinogenic insect repellent, grab the lawn chairs yet again, and wander up to the top of the street (grabbing a leftover piece of cold chicken from the tub on the way) where the neighborhood was once again assembling, this time to watch the fireworks. We had an excellent view from the top of the street, overlooking the park where the rockets' red glare lit up the indigo sky. We all shouted "Ooh" and "Aah" together and rated them on a scale of one to ten, Olympic-heckler style. Our towns fireworks were never all that great. They set them off one at a time to drag the show out as a long as possible, so you got to appreciate each firework individually. There were far more "2s" than "10s," but that wasn't the point.

The point was to spend time together as a community, and we were. We were a real community. We knew each other and looked out for each other and yelled at each other's kids and took banana bread to the new people. As kids we played in the street and never worried about a thing; the biggest danger we faced was falling off our bikes and getting a knee full of gravel. (No one wore helmets or knee pads back then.)

So the 4th of July for me was never about independence from the (now defunct) British Empire, or freedom from taxation without representation. It was never about self-governance, liberty, or flag-waving. It was a holiday of celebrating the summer with friends, family, community, barbequed chicken, watermelon, and sawdust. It was about being a kid, being barefoot, and, well, being free; free to throw water balloons at grown-ups, free to stay up past bedtime, free to play outside and eat cold chicken in your pj's, to listen to the drone of the cicadas during the day and the chirp of the crickets at night in total security, free to be completely innocent.

(click to make legible)

The block party doesn't happen any more. None of the annual parties do. By the time I was a teenager the character of the neighborhood had changed dramatically. The new families didn't want anything to do with block parties; they thought it was wierd. They put up tall fences around their yard and kept their children inside them. They installed air conditioning and sat inside all summer, instead of on the porch in the evening to catch the cool breeze and chitchat with whoever strolled by. They bought their kids nintendos instead of bicycles, DVD players instead of slip-n-slides, and the kids stayed indoors. They don't know each other. I don't know them. No one knows anyone. And everyone is afraid. They are afraid because they fear what they don't know, and they don't know their nighbors.

When I ws 16 I tried to organize the 4th of July party on my own. But no one wanted to come. The people thought "who is this stranger person at our door?" and told me they would be out of town. On the 4th of July I put my lawn chair out on the island and sat there for hours, hoping someone would join me, but no one came.

One final note: None of the above photos are my own. I nabbed them from tinternet because all my old pics of my family and memories are in albums back in the States, and thus inaccessible to me via compooter. Sorry if I knicked one of yours. It was with the best of intentions.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Meet the new guy

My new fishy! yay!

I've had him about a month, but he was really sick for a while and I didn't want to say anything in case he shit the bed, like poor Brave Sir Robin.

Like BSR, he had a touch of fin rot. Every betta I've ever had has gotten fin rot at some point, but BSR's case was the only fatal one I've seen. After a proper course of medication, however, I managed to bring the new guy around, and now he's doing just fine and is swimming about happily, so I decided the time had come to present him to the awaiting (unwitting) public.

And before you ask, yes, he is a boy. Female bettas are small and dull have short fins. All the flashy pretty ones you see in the pet stores are males. But yes, he is pastel, shimmery pink. Not exactly the image of a fearsome fighting machine, is he?

So of course I had to give him an appropriate name. Since most everyone who meets him thinks he's a woman, I felt he needed a good drag queen name. My favorite movie about drag queens is To Wong Foo Thanks For Everything, Julie Newmar. And then it hit me. The perfect name:

Wong Foo!

Isn't he bee-ootiful???

Monday, July 02, 2007

Rainy weekend highlights

you live for this, don't you? i know you do. i am absolutely certain that every single one of you comes to this page each monday salivating in anticipation of reading about my exploits with the Pirate over the weekend. admit it.

this weekend was a very chilled out, laid back weekend, owing to the fact that it was pissing it down with rain all fucking weekend and so all Pirate's cricket matches were cancelled. thus our activities largely involved eating pizza, playing video games, watching the complete second season of Red Dwarf, and having sex in every room of the house. What the hell else are rainy weekends for???

Two bits of the weekend particularly stand out. There are:

1. I cycled over on Friday evening after work, setting out at 7 pm on the 23-mile journey. At mile 21 my chain got jammed. Dawkinsdamnit. Just once, ONCE, I want to reach his house without some fucking mechanical failure on my bike. This has never happened. I tried to un-jam it, but after 10 minutes of succeeding in nothing other than covering my fingers and tools with grease, i got out my cell phone and dialed the Pirate for a rescue. I took one last stab at fixing the chain and, 30 seconds after I'd hung up the phone, I sorted the problem. I called him back. "Never mind." But he was already on the way. He waved cheerfully at me as he drove by. A few minutes later I arrived at his house. It was 9:30 in the evening. I was hot, sweaty, and tired (and the shagging hadn't even begun!).

(It is crucial to keep in mind at this point that Pirate does not cook. When I'm not around he subists on loads of fresh fruit, cereal, toast, yogurt, frozen pizzas and pub food.)

He asked if was hungry. Does the Pope shit in the woods?

He opened the freezer and pulled out a plate, on which was a giant sandwich made from hand-sliced bakery brown bread, ham, brie, lettuce, butter, and mustard. dude. AND he pulled out a huge glass of water that he'd stuck in the fridge to make nice and cold.

I know it's not fancy, but DAMN that's thoughtful. Those are the little things that bring a giant, shit-eating grin to my face whenever I think about him.

The other amazingly charming thing that happened was this:

2. After we went to the gym on Saturday* (we're both gym bunnies. deal with it) Pirate really wanted to feed his collection of venus fly traps. I got him the first one last autumn, and he's up to 4 now. He just loves the little bastards. They're all named Seymor. (Points for originality. *snort*) They havn't been catching much on their own, so he decided to supplement their diet. By taking the tweezers from his modelling bench (he makes model trains) and going to the garden, where he lifted up a stone and found a colony of potato bugs (aka sow bugs, aka pill bugs, aka roly-polys, aka wood lice, apparently), which he then proceeded to grab with the tweezers and feed to the fly traps. He spent about 20 minutes picking up potato bugs in the tweezers, crossing the garden to the fly traps, and sticking the bugs in, giggling (yes, giggling) as the hungry little plant-mouths chomped down on the hapless isopods. I sat and watched his child-like delight with, well, child-like delight. It was adorable.

*and man did he put me through my paces. i'm still sore. mmmmm.