Saturday, October 7, 2006

Heavens to Betsy, I'm back!

It's good to be back, and thanks to G, I have at least only missed one day. It was nice that several people phoned me to point out that I had not blogged on Thursday - and you were all absolutely right! I would like to blame this on the errors of Tiscali, but Thursday I actually clean forgot. Blame a long meeting in Winchester with the lovely people from the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Museums, Libraries and Archives Association, blame the need to type up the notes as soon as I got home, blame a few too many glasses of wine with Kate, just don't blame me!

Anyhoo, all blame cast aside like the dysfunctional concept it is, I am so glad to be back. And, I have to say, so glad that Tiscali broadband have pimped out their telephone tech support to a call centre in India. The wonderful Raha, who just assisted me and got me back online in three minutes flat, was such a joy to talk to and I can honestly say that I haven't received customer service that was so inherently pleasant in a very long time. After typing in some bits of code into a box I didn't understand and could not locate again if you threatened my reputation with serious slander, Tiscali's smiley homepage reappeared and the following conversation went something like:

Me: It's working!! It's working again!

Raha: (Laughing) Oh, very good. Well done, Miss Cheverton!

Me: That's amazing, I have no idea how you did that. Thanks very much, you're a star.

Raha: No, it is you who are the star. I did not do anything.

Me: Yes, you did! I couldn't have done that!

Raha: But you did do that.

Me: Ok, at the very least let's call it a team effort?! You have a great day, thanks again.

Raha: Yes, alright, a team effort, then. Thank you for calling Tiscali, please have a very good time. Goodbye.

I promise, those were his last words to me, "Please have a very good time." Which may become my new philosophy and sign-off du jour.

I've heard a lot of bad things from stand up comedians about blogs this week. The overwhelming conclusion seems to be that blogs are for saddos with no life. I took this news on the chin and tried not to let my ego do the talking. After all, I reasoned, if I didn't have one, I would just have laughed along and assumed it was true. Now, I don't laugh along and worry that it's true, which is not as much fun, but there you are.

When I logged on to Blogger today though, I had a quick look on 'blogs of note' on the front page to check out this theory. The first one I stumbled across was the lovely Clare from Tunbridge Wells, whose blog, Three Beautiful Things made me think again. The concept is as simple as the title: each day, Clare writes 3 beautiful things she's seen or experienced that day and she posts them. The first thing I, like, I suspect, many others, thought when I read it was, What are my 3 beautiful things today?

So here they are:

1. Waking up this morning after dreaming about a young, spiritual, almost monk-like young man, who I was in love with in my dream; and feeling refreshed and content for the rest of the day.
2. Lying on the couch, drinking fresh coffee and reading the second Harry Dresden novel, Fool's Moon.
3. Finally getting around to cleaning the flat, filling a bag with clothes and 'stuff' for the charity van and seeing the bedroom carpet again.

What are your 3? If you need some inspiration, or just because you can, check out Clare's site:

Last but not least, you have to, have to, have to check out this video from Gnarls Barkley, though not if you don't like the idea of flea porn. You have to look at it now, don't you?!

Friday, October 6, 2006

Due to circumstances beyond my control.......

Hello. This is Angela, Sarah's mum. You may know me from the comments page where I sometimes post as G. I have been entrusted with the blog today because Sarah cannot access the internet due to bloody Tiscali. We have been hypothesising wildly about the cause of the no.718 error that keeps flashing on her screen when she attempts to go online and reached the conclusion that "it's something to do with the network". But of course we don't really understand what that means. Sarah told me over the phone what I had to say but she let me choose a pretty, pretty picture all by myself. I hope you like it.
Sarah hopes to be back tomorrow but if she's not I know her username and password now and I will make the blog mine. Mine. Mine I tell you. All mine!!!

Wednesday, October 4, 2006

I don't care if you're sick of it, it's another poem

Some of you might recognise tonight's choice from the recent sibling story based on the brilliant Jennifer Wiener's 'In Her Shoes', where the awkwardly beautiful Cameron Diaz reads it to blind patient in a residential care home.

Elizabeth Bishop (pictured) was an amazing poet and much of her poetry was influenced by another of my favourites (scroll down if you want to read his Spring and Fall, or check the archives if it's already gone), Gerard Manley Hopkins. She had some hard times, as we all have, and perhaps more than her fair share of grief and loss. Elizabeth Bishop would often work many years on just one poem, labouring for a reading that sounds, perhaps because of her care, spontaneous and often flippant. This approach is one of the more powerful in poetry, I think, and reminds me too of the careful and deceptive jollity of war poets like Siegfried Sassoon, whose bouncy metre and casual verse both belies and emphasises the power of his message.

One Art

The art of losing isn't hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster.

Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.

Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.

I lost my mother's watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.

I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn't a disaster.

Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan't have lied. It's evident
the art of losing's not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.

Elizabeth Bishop

Don't worry, I won't be posting poems forever. Some nights, though, they speak more clearly than I do. And at least you don't have to read as much, so quit your noise.

Tuesday, October 3, 2006

Poetry is

Poetry is my current obsession. I am reading every night for at least an hour, from old anthologies, new anthologies, poems I scribbled out into a bruised, blue notebook when I was a teenager. I even found a folder full of poems I only half remember painstakingly typing, writing and printing out from our first computer.

I've always loved poetry since I was child, loved its power to express fundamentals in ways that inspired and invoked such powerful emotions in me. Tonight I found in my folder, started some fifteen years ago or more, one of the first poems that started my ongoing love affair (unrequited) with poetry of any kind. e e cummings remains one of my favourite poets, and if you can find on Google, an mp3 track of him reciting this poem (I have heard it online, so I know it exists, I'm not sending you after a golden fleece or anything), then I would recommend it. This poem to me is like an impressionist painting in words. You know what he's telling you, though he's not telling you in language that you will find anywhere but in a poem. Having said that, so many of the lines mean something new to me every time I read them.

On a much simpler level, the language, the words speak, what for me was the first powerful attraction to poetry: the pure magic of how it sounds.

anyone lived in a pretty how town
by E. E. Cummings (pictured above)

anyone lived in a pretty how town
(with up so floating many bells down)
spring summer autumn winter
he sang his didn't he danced his did

Women and men(both little and small)
cared for anyone not at all
they sowed their isn't they reaped their same
sun moon stars rain

children guessed(but only a few
and down they forgot as up they grew
autumn winter spring summer)
that noone loved him more by more

when by now and tree by leaf
she laughed his joy she cried his grief
bird by snow and stir by still
anyone's any was all to her

someones married their everyones
laughed their cryings and did their dance
(sleep wake hope and then) they
said their nevers they slept their dream

stars rain sun moon
(and only the snow can begin to explain
how children are apt to forget to remember
with up so floating many bells down)

one day anyone died i guess
(and noone stooped to kiss his face)
busy folk buried them side by side
little by little and was by was

all by all and deep by deep
and more by more they dream their sleep
noone and anyone earth by april
wish by spirit and if by yes.

Women and men(both dong and ding)
summer autumn winter spring
reaped their sowing and went their came
sun moon stars rain

Monday, October 2, 2006

Well, how silly do I feel now?

Ok, crisis over. Apparently I was nowhere being fired, it was all in my head.

How do you know this, Sarah?

Well, because I went into work this morning and spoke to my manager and it turns out I feel overwhelmed because the work is, in her words, "overwhelming". We held a team meeting, went through the issues one by one and I left with a list of prioritised tasks, a big smile, and a slower heartbeat. Oh, and congratulations from my boss for bringing the whole issue up in the first place as she felt that a lot of the issues I had raised had been going un-noticed.

So, I am forced to ask myself this evening - what the hell was that all about? I'd be happy to call it an anomaly and move on, if it weren't for the fact that this happened the last time I took on a new project (two days crying until I ingested the toad and spoke to my manager and sorted the whole situation out in two seconds) and the time before that (three months of ridiculous over-preparation and contemplating resignation until I handed in the discusson paper I was writing to a delighted line manager). In fact, I can date this all the way back through uni (sobbing my way through two dissertations - I can't do this!! - and receiving a 1:1 and a distinction), back through college, school and I have a distant memory about several panic attacks and screams of I'm not ready, I don't feel prepared in the womb.

At some point, I will need to learn to trust myself, just a wee bit. Because the alternative is, quite frankly ridiculous. I don't want to spend weekends crying when I could be working mornings and spending my afternoons savouring the latest Christopher Rice and watching The Devil Wears Prada with the gorgeous Lisa Clark (check out her review at her Myspace site, see links to the right - incidentally, I know you know this already, but I'm not ignoring you gorgeous Lisa Clark or GLC, as I like to call you in my head, I've just wanted to wait until I can actually speak to speak to you). So, what can I do?

Well, personally, I'm all for the Pinkworld approach. For those of you still not in the know - do keep up, this is going to be huge in 2007 and you'll be pink, but only with embarrassment if you're the last one riding the bandwagon and screaming 'Woo-hoo!! Woo-hoo!! Look at my big pink, er, bandwagon!!!!!" - Pinkworld is the unique creation of the GLC, life coach, author and fabulousness guru extraordinaire. Her work is aimed predominantly at young women, but if your sense of identity can take it, I don't see why her wonders wouldn't work on, well, anyone (digging my own alliteration there!).

So, I will personally be doing a lot more Faking it until I'm making it, which means: the projection of self-belief - so that you imagine how it looks, feels and tastes to be the you you're aiming to be and then copy your imagination until it comes naturally. Then, Woo-hoo you're riding the big pink, er, bandwagon. I'm also going to try that other crazy clever trick of being a bit nicer to myself, trusting my instincts not dissing them, and actually taking on board the praise and feedback of others. I'm going to live my life as a combination of Lisa Clark and Steve Hender (an amazing trainer who worked with the culture staff at the city council I work for, who preaches the power of positivity) - ok, maybe not a combination of the two, because that's conjuring up strange lovechild images in my mind. But something like that. And the best thing of all? I think I'll enjoy my way through life a bit more instead of worrying my way through it.

Woo-hoo! Look at me, I'm riding the big pink - ok, I'll stop.

Sunday, October 1, 2006

Old Habits, Die!

Today sucks. It's official. One of my contracts is giving me the willies, and not in a good way and I've decided to 'swallow the frog' - this is a phrase that I learnt from 2 time-management consultants at a CIBAS gig a little while back, I can't remember their names and in my mind, I always call them Trinny and Susannah - and speak to my employer tomorrow and offer them the option to fire me. Keep your fingers crossed.

It amazes me the tizz I can get in over this stuff. I've been smacking my head against my various workloads all weekend and have a funny feeling that I'm blowing everything out of proportion and all that's really wrong is a minor case of the stresses. But that's the problem when you get a moment where you can't trust yourself, every single thing you look at turns into a question. I feel very nervous and anxious this evening, but I know that I've done the right thing in asking to see my employer. One way or another, we'll wrestle out some resolution together. I'll keep you posted. I just wish that these old habits of self-doubt could be conquered so that I could measure more objectively what is my paranoia and what is genuinely a problem 'out there'. Until I've spoken to my employer, I'll spend time arguing with myself and fighting the butterflies in my stomach!

To take my mind off my freelancing chaos, this week I have mostly been reading Christopher Rice, another recommendation of The Chief's, who picked up a couple of his novels whilst holidaying in Palm Springs last month. The Chief rarely reads fiction and I was surprise to hear him raving about a novel, so, intrigued, I borrowed one of the Rice's and was glued to it for the next two days. The first one I read, A Density of Souls, was so darkly compelling that I was forced to agree with the Chief, who told me, "I can't stop thinking about those characters." I'm half-way through the second book, The Snow Garden, and it has exactly the same effect. When I went over to Christopher Rice's website: I found not only some great information about the writer and his novels to date, but also his columns for The Advocate, under the title, Coastal Disturbances.

I was surprised to find that Rice is predominantly described as a mystery or thriller writer. Yet, this is not how I experienced his books at all. I think they are tales of the darker side of everyday, predominantly young lives; I think his writing unsettles and disturbs, for the most part more by what the reader finds familiar in what they are being shown, than the fact that they are seeing it at all. Rice creates bleak, uncomfortable and profoundly unsafe worlds, full of ambiguity and uncertainty and he betrays the familiar comforts of friendship, love and family by creating characters that the reader can never entirely trust or be certain of. Reading his books has made me think about the limits of ever knowing anyone, and to what extent we all, at best, only (mis) represent ourselves.

Definitely read Rice if you like your fiction frank, forthright and fast. His writing is assured and compelling and his story-telling exceptional. Although he is bleak, for me, Rice remains the right side of the truth of the human condition not to depress. I leave his books with questions about myself and my friends, and the assumptions I make about both. He also inspires me to spend some time with my own fiction again, and that can be no bad thing. For a different flavour to his writing, don't miss his Coastal Disturbances column either.

See you tomorrow, maybe one job lighter? Let's hope not!