Saturday, September 30, 2006

Another Daily

Back once again. Got some inputting done, got some reading done. Found this superb extract from the memoirs of a surgeon who served in the West Africa Squadron, (the squadron sent to patrol the coast of West Africa to intercept slave ships) named Bryson. He talks about the disease and illness that was common at the time, one of which involved what a lot of reports term 'the black vomit' - exactly what it says on the tin. In order to prove to the ships crew that the illness was not contagious, person to person, Bryson observed one of the ship's doctors drink a wine glass of the black vomit itself, which Bryson reports was the subject of much conversation over the ship for several days. Yes, I can imagine it would be, funnily enough.

I'm not sure if anyone caught Bridget's comments of a couple of days ago:

Yesterday, you got me thinking about alternative words for romance and romantic. Take a look at the attached link . . .

May or may not fit, but it was interesting.

I looked this up and printed it off and it's made fascinating reading. The concept of 'limerence' belongs to Dorothy Tannov, a writer exploring, apparently, the nature of passionate love. Her work has been critiqued as that of a scientist describing love, but I find the idea of putting love under the microscope compelling. Not least, because I've never found two people who could agree on what it means (especially it would seem, if they are a couple). From the article, I was interested that in many ways I could not see the difference between what she was describing and the common 'symptoms' or characteristics that we ascribe to 'romantic love', for example:

  • intrusive thinking about the person
  • acute longing for reciprovative feeling
  • relief through vivid imagination of reciprocation
  • fear of rejection and unsettling shyness
  • acute sensitivity for actions and behaviour of the person
  • aching in the chest when uncertain of reciprocity
  • a feeling of walking on air when feeling seems reciprocated
  • a remarkable ability to emphasize what is truly admirable in the person
As I finished reading it, I thought that perhaps what Tannov was attempting was an almost sociological perspective about trying to view the feeling of love as if you have never seen it before, without assumption, removed from its familiar context.

But it was the end of the wikipedia article that made me think most:

Love, in most of its meanings, involves concern for the other person's welfare and feeling. Affection and fondness have no objective; they simply exist as feelings in which the lover is disposed toward actions to which the recipient might or might not respond. In contrast, limerence demands return.

Looking back on some of my relationships and non-relationships with men, I think I might recognise limerence after all.....

Thanks Bridget! The photos tonight come courtesy of Chloe, my friends' daughter who show much promise in her ability to find the unusual way to look at the everyday world, and all given just twenty minutes and access to my digital camera. Is it much easier to be creative when you're young?

Missed a day - ah, crap.

Ok, I went out last night, I was meant to be 'popping' in to see some friends, and ended up staying til midnight and drinking far too much wine. Sarah and Phil, it's all your fault my blog wasn't written. As penance, I'm saying three Hail Mary's and writing the blog twice today. This will never happen again, the very saying of which means, of course, that it will.

Thanks to the brilliant Colleen for her post recommending Nancy Springer's The Case of the Missing Marquess, featuring Sherlock Holmes younger sister, Enola Holmes. I've looked for it at my library and on Hampshire's library catalogue, but neither of them have it - soooooooooooo, my paying it forward for today is that I've bought the book from Amazon and I'll donate it to the library when I've read it. I feel better already.

I've added Colleen's blog, 'Chasing Ray' (she means Bradbury) to my list of links to the right so have a look at her blog for some great book reviews and articles not only on all things reading and writing, but for some reluctant postings on politics, too. I was heartened in lots of sense by Colleen's response to the changes going through in American law right now , in relation to the so-called war on terror (I mean, if they were serious about it, they'd stop Hollywood releasing movies like Saw and Creep and bang Stephen King up for starters. No. Wait. That's horror. Sorry, my mistake). The site is well worth adding to your Favourites.

My plans for the day have been firmly shafted, and not in the good way. I think I have to face the facts that:

i) The plans I make are unrealistic
ii) I procrastinate wildly about any work that takes place in my own home
iii) It is utterly unacceptable to spend an hour playing Snake II on my mobile phone instead of doing real work

It's 5 o'clock. The only thing that I've achieved so far has been this blog, which I am very pleased with. Next on my list is two hours of data entry for my work on the Naval Museum exhibition, Chasing Freedom (what a great name that is) - transferring descriptions of all the material that I've identified in the Parliamentary Papers so far onto a database and identifying which parts of the exhibition that the material will be most relevant to. Not the most riveting of tasks, but a great way to become familiar with the subject and the material itself.

After that, I'm going to check out a couple of websites that my boss at the Naval Museum has recommended on the slave trade past and present and maybe do some more reading around the subject from some library books borrowed specifically for the purpose. Then I'm back here for the next thrilling installment of The Daily! Tonight, I plan to treat myself to a little downtime watching The Man Who Loved Sherlock Holmes, a documentary by the BBC about Richard Lancelyn Green, who, of course famously bequested the Arthur Conan Doyle Collection to Portsmouth, and which the city accepted after his death in 2004.

If you haven't heard of the Arthur Conan Doyle Collection, you still have a couple of weeks to get down to Portsmouth City Museum to view The Case of the Portsmouth Doctor, an exhibition about SirArthur Conan Doyle and his most famous character, and an amazing preview of some of the items in this collection. You can find out more about it at:

The Exhibition closes on 15th October 2006.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Exploding like spiders across the stars

Tonight I'm letting the poems speak for themselves, and for me. No, it's not a cop out because I'm drunk. It's art.

Permission was granted from Michael Gunton today to present his haiku here. I heard him read this at a Writer's Evening in Ottakers one night a few months ago and it's as gentle, and honest, and beautiful as that first time I listened to it.

wagging its tail
in the new house
the blind dog

Michael Gunton.

When I first heard Michael read this, his only comment upon it was, "I suppose we are all, in some sense, a blind dog in a new house."

And a poem of mine that I like to think of as an homage to Dorothy Parker and a modern spin on the limerick:

"I have never been able to stand, " she said,
"the thought of someone that I couldn't fix."
So he fixed her, there,
with a fiercing stare,
and he smashed her heart to bits.

Last, a quote, courtesy of the Chief, by Jack Karouac.

“The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn, like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars..."

Stencil courtesy of Samantha Fritter. Check her out at MySpace:

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Crying over fallen leaves

Tonight a poem by my favourite poet (though I make no claims to understanding him always, it is the sound of the words that pleases me most), the beautiful Gerard Manley Hopkins.

I was surprised by another talented colleague today, the wonderful Michael of PCC, who writes the most delicious haiku, which I shall, with his permission reproduce a sample of, if he'll allow it. As if this wasn't enough, he casually remarked today that he does Reiki - which I went to someone for once and was thoroughly surprised by. Michael recommended a site for me if anyone wants to find out more:

Spring and Fall (to a young child)

Gerard Manley Hopkins

MÁRGARÉT, áre you gríeving

Over Goldengrove unleaving?

Leáves, líke the things of man, you

With your fresh thoughts care for, can you?

Áh! ás the heart grows older

It will come to such sights colder

By and by, nor spare a sigh

Though worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie;

And yet you wíll weep and know why.

Now no matter, child, the name:

Sórrow’s spríngs áre the same.

Nor mouth had, no nor mind, expressed

What heart heard of, ghost guessed:

It ís the blight man was born for,

It is Margaret you mourn for.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

To All the Men I've Left Before

Cripes, almost did not make it last night in time, it was about 23.45 by the time I posted the blog. It's only been a couple of weeks and already I almost missed my self-imposed deadline - how embarassing. If you're still digging the whole girl sleuth thing, check out the links in G's comment from yesterday - there's a quiz and some more titles for you to track down. With your magnifying glass. See where I'm going with this?

It's a funny evening, I feel a bit emotional and I'm running out of hormones to blame it on. I've been thinking a lot this week about my last break-up, not in a wistful way, but just remembering how it felt - I recall it as the emotional equivalent of sitting on the toilet for a waz and then being blasted into space by a rocket suddenly launching up your jacks - a bit fish out of water.

Years ago, someone called Craig, who was a friend of my first boyfriend's, told me that it would be my third love affair that would break my heart. I wondered about that for the duration of my first and second relationship, and at the end of the third one, two years or so ago, I realised that, for me at least, he was right. Maybe it was a self-fulfilling prophecy, but when my last relationship (and I use those words carefully) ended, I fell into a slice of a nervous breakdown. Nothing had ever hit me so hard before.

I'm not sure in hindsight that it was all about Scott (names are changed to protect the innocent). In fact, I think the harshest part, and I don't necessarily like this thought, is not that the person you love (as Hicks would say, the one who told you that he loved you, and then left) is gone, but that you're still here. In fact, let me be more honest than that and quit talking about you and start talking about me. I prefer that, anyway (why do you think I have a blog - writers are, by trade, self-obsessed: look at me! Read what I think!).

My relationship with Scott was a gift, a real psychosis of a relationship, a mania of a love affair, crazy intense and perfectly short (or am I describing myself?). I wrapped myself up in every aspect of it, I lived it and drank it and asked him to come live with me, and he did.

The year he lived with me contained some of the most passionate and romantic (God, I hate that word - replacements on a postcard, please - for the word romance, not for Scott, although I will consider either) moments I've ever known in a relationship, one that I wasn't reading about, or one that wasn't happening to someone else, I mean. It also contained some of the most dangerous, self-harming ones, go figure. However, the whole year consumed me, in whatever sense you prefer, and I spent all of it considering, not me, not Scott, but that sudden, elusive entity - Us.

When he left, he took us with him. Actually, he didn't. I think he left us in a bin bag with the clothes he'd outgrown or outworn in the time we'd been together, but that's by the by. Us was gone and in our place was, just me. The dream that I wouldn't have to take responsibility for this crazy existence went with us, as did the idea that there was a hero waiting in the wings, like Louise L. Hay waiting to come Heal My Life. I wrestled with the idea of seeing what number I could count to while waiting to hit the ground from my balcony and wallowed for a few months in the sheer loss of it all, until, without my consent, life carried on and dragged me with it. But those first few months were the worst I've known at the end of a relationship, just as Craig promised. I cried more than is legal in Alabama and I cursed everyone and everything: Scott, me, his new girlfriend, a God I didn't believe in, love itself, my parents - the usual suspects - until I had nothing and no one left to curse. Because none of it was anyone's fault, not his, not mine, not even ours.

I don't think it goes away, a heartbreak, a loss. I think that you absorb it and live alongside it until sometimes, you think it's just gone. But this week has made me think again that we don't get to pick and choose the good moments from the bad and even if we could it would only render the good things pointless and empty. I wonder sometimes if I will feel this familiar sense of loss and wonder combined when I think of our relationship, until I'm old. Although it hurts, it also makes me smile, so, increasingly I can't help but hope so, because the whole experience held so much meaning to me, and in the end, I think that's all we really have.

Both sides of the story are true, the wonder of intimacy and the reality that, in here, there's only me, no matter how closely I connect with someone. Where I'm at now, where the thought of allowing another man into my personal life makes me want to punch the nearest candidate for romance in the face (I'm not kidding, I feel very aggressive towards men who fancy me right now. Except if you're Zach Braff, then you ignore that and step right up, without fear, because I already worship and adore you), I can at least entertain the idea that I'm curious to know what it feels like to step into a relationship when I don't have quite so many self-demons snapping at my heels. I'll have to find out one day, because I never asked Craig about number four.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Wiki wiki

Dang technology dudes! I've just spent twenty minutes trying to get my friend's computer to let me access the internet. Cripes only knows what I was doing wrong. Why it is so difficult to use other people's machines?

I'm at Kate's flat, looking out across the water and the sparkling distant lights. It's a surprise visit and we will have a little too much to drink,I suspect. Thanks to the rather gorgeous G, who was generous enough to spontaneously drive me here. I'm terrible with directions and sent her home with the helpful instructions to "just drive in a straight line until you get to the motorway, more or less." There's nothing as disturbing as being given directions by a non-driver. Except being given directions from me.

Aside from the crazy Hampshire road-trip that is my life, I've been giving more thought to the whole girl detective theme. I am certain there must be some brilliant women P.I.s out there in the land of make-believe. I know Sarah Paretsky writes V.I Warshawski, though I've never liked the cover of those - I know it sounds flippant, but sometimes it's important. There's Miss Marple, of course. I liked the Mma Ramotswe in the same way that I used to enjoy reading Agatha Christie, too.

A quick google search yielded a MySpace site whose moniker was Girl Detective (I typo-ed that as Git Detective, made me laugh.) She was cool and I've put her on my add list, she had an interesting blog where there's a discussion on the difference between art and pornography. Her friend Dan states: "Fairly simple: art is what you look at to stroke your mind. Porn is what you look at to stroke your body." I add him as well, especially when his comment ends: "For the record, I have yet to masturbate to a Matisse print." What do you think?

Then I stumbled across a real gem. The Madison WI public library website. If you have aspirations for your library, this inspires as well as entertains. The MADreads blog is superb, and absolutely free to run, as you can see (you didn't think I was paying for this, did you? Anyone can do it, and please let me know if you do.)

For literary and library inspiration.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

I wish I was a girl sleuth

I've always been a bit of a crime fan. Let me clarify: Miss Marple, Sherlock Holmes, Dalziel and Pascoe, Inspector Morse - I have always really enjoyed crime novels. One of the books I'm currently reading is by Jim Butcher and features a character called Harry Dresden. Harry's a private detective of the classical kind: surrounded by puzzling cases that he just can't crack wide enough to break open, beautiful women in tight dresses playing fast and loose with the truth and quick-talking guys with shotgun fists and concrete jaws. A sheer feast of metaphors and a slew of similes, of course. But there's one difference, Harry is a wizard (not for the first time, but we're a long way from Potter here, unless there was a Hogwarts staffroom orgy I missed somewhere around book 3) and he solves his cases using magic. I'm on book one and I sense a new addiction coming on, and a long reading list including Dashiel Hammett, Raymond Chandler, and, I'm reliably informed, Jim Thompson. I'll keep you posted.

It has been a tres relaxing weekend. I had a list of tasks as tall as the house I live in and I had the weekend planned down to the last second. Of course, the plan evaporated as soon as Saturday morning appeared. The wheels fell clean off my schedule, I left it by the side of the road and continued on foot - and it’s been one of the most peaceful breaks I’ve had in ages. What’s that saying – If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans? She must think I’m her personal court jester right now.

Last night I hung out with Shonagh over at her house, there’s something about that place that is so relaxing, or maybe it’s something to do with the company. I’ve known Shon for about twenty years or so and it’s one of the luckiest phenomena in my life that we can still sit for four hours, talking incessantly and never running out of things to say. It can be easy to take people for granted, and yet every time I see her, I come away reconsidering aspects of the world, and asking new questions of myself.

My friend Kate has been staying with me this weekend, another of my closest friends. We spent the last couple of days lazing around the flat, doing some light shopping, cooking food and listening to music. It’s been a really girly weekend and even the PMT has had a hard time competing with it. Except, that is, during the earlier hours of this morning, when I woke in so much pain that I began to wonder if I had possibly carried a pregnancy to term and not realised (I’m no Kate Moss, I thought, but surely I’d have noticed?) – I mean it! I lay there desperately racking my brains trying to remember, what was I doing nine months ago at around this time – think, girl, think! When was the last time you got lucky? In the end I took some ibuprofen and fell back to sleep, unexpected childbirth crisis averted. What a relief.

I’m not sure where the weekend’s gone, but I think I need to make sure that there is time in my life that’s just ripe for wasting: no plans, no working, just good clean relaxation and fun! I tread this fine line right now between panicking that I should be working every hour I’m not asleep or on the toilet and trying to maintain some semblance of an existence that includes family and friends. There are still so many people I haven’t spoken to since I came back from the States – you know who you are and I am so very sorry. I am not ignoring you and I will return your calls!!

And talking of private detectives, we're all familiar with the Sam Spade archetypes of this world (if you're not, google it, it's what it was invented for), but what about the Girl Sleuths? Hmmmmmmm? One of the cool things I became addicted to while Kate was napping this afternoon was a computer game called Nancy Drew, Dangerous Design. It’s one of those simple detective games for the computer, nothing like my brother and ex-boyfriend, true gamers, play. I’m crap at any game where something shoots at me/I have to shoot at something, and, for the record, I can’t stand Tiger Woods fucking golf. Nancy Drew is as far as I go, and that far mostly because she’s a cultural icon and it’s just like interacting with a novel. I had a great Sherlock Holmes one last year, but don’t get me started.

I love Nancy Drew, well actually, I've never read a Nancy Drew, so let me clarify that. I love the idea of Nancy Drew, I love the idea of being a girl sleuth and once I've read one (I feel a trip to the library coming on), I'll let you know if I love the real McDrew. I didn't know that although the original 30 Drew mysteries are credited to a woman called Carolyn Keene, they were actually ghost-written (23 of them by a writer called Mildred Benson). If, like me, you are a big reader and intrigued by the idea of the Girl Sleuth, then check out the reading recommendations that have been hunted down by Colleen Mondor I can't find any Nancy Drew on the library catalogue, so I'll have to stalk a friendly librarian the next time I'm at Central.

Kate interrupted my sobbing in the kitchen as I was serving dinner this evening. I had just been listening to Radio 4 (yes, I'm 60 inside) and I heard the shocking grief in Elizabeth Davidson's statement delivered in court this week, describing her grief at the loss of her daughter. Dr Margaret Davidson, 26 years old, was killed by a speeding driver and her mother's words were a plea for tougher sentencing on dangerous driving. The comment over at today's Observer asks some more fundamental questions about our obsession with speed,,1879804,00.html

I thought Elizabeth Davidson's statement was beautifully written, a vivid portrait of Margaret to all those who were not lucky enough to know her, and an amazing indictment of a mother's strength, love for, and determination to honour, her daughter.