Saturday, October 14, 2006

Nkosi Sikele iAfrica

I dragged myself from my death bed - ok, it wasn't as fatal as I thought, and I suffer illness like a man - to go to the African Women's Forum a cappella performance in honour of Black History Month tonight, and I am so glad that I did. I asked Mum and Kate to come with me and we all had such an amazing time. In addition to honouring Black History Month, the event was also a forerunner of next year's commemorative projects to mark the bicentennial anniversary of the abolition of the foreign slave trade. For those of you who may not know the intricate details of the British Empire's role in both the rise and fall of slavery and the slave trade, then check out the brilliant web based resource, Understanding Slavery:

There are going to be some fantastic events coming up to mark this Bicentenary next year, so keep reading the blog to find out more, as I am lucky enough to have already become involved with two of the projects that will be running in Portmouth: the African Women's Performance, October 2007, a play on the Transatlantic Crossing at the New Theatre Royal and an exhibition of schools' work on the legacy of slavery and the slave trade which will also run for October 2007, at the Portsmouth City Museum; and I am also involved with the Royal Naval Museum's exhibition, Chasing Freedom, which tells the story of the Navy's West Africa Squadron and their role in the suppression of the slave trade, running from January 27th 2007 for the year.

Tonight the African Women's Forum, a group entirely run by volunteers, and some accompanying friends from the Portsmouth community sang a beautiful selection of slave songs and spiritual anthems from Africa. I was moved to tears by the end of the soulful Swing Low Sweet Chariot. Glorious Marie Costa, whose sheer energy and commitment to the promotion of the African and Caribbean community in Portsmouth should in itself be an inspiration to anyone who meets her, introduced and compered the evening. She ended the evening by leading and inviting the audience to dance with band and singers on the stage - man, can that woman move!

Kate, Mum and I all signed up to join the choir and they received their first invitation to perform professionally at another show in the interval of the show - watch this space as next time we may be singing with them!!

DrumNation provided the most pelvis-trembling African drumming in the interval and at the close of the evening. That's the first time I've been to the New Theatre Royal and eaten Caribbean food ( a plateful for a pound!), then been able to get up on stage and throw myself about - not that I did, I wasn't feeling bold enough, but I was thrilled just to have the chance! The NTR should give serious consideration to holding another night like this, I know there would be a dozen of my friends and family alone who would love to come. Except next time, I may be in the choir.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Cough it up, it might be a gold watch

I avoided the bad luck inherent in today's date by staying in bed all day long. OK, that actually had more to do with the cold/flu/lurgy thing that descended upon me yesterday in the form of streaming eyes, a runny nose and a sore throat. Miss Sally in the office advised that staying home might be the best solution, and although I'm bored out of my mind, I can't help but admit that she's probably right. It's best to nip any illness in the bud as I'd rather not be riddled with a bug later.

Speaking of the rather glamorous Miss Sally, in the office yesterday, she was sipping at a glass of water and some of it must have gone down the wrong way and made her cough. Once we had checked Miss Sally was ok and made all the compulsory jokes about the Heimlich Manoeuvre, Miss Sally told me what her mum used to tell her when she was coughing, which forms the title of tonight's blog. I told Miss Sally that I thought this was good advice whenever life is dealing out the sort of crap that makes us want to choke on it. Go ahead, you never what you might bring up, as t'were.

I heard yesterday that Google are buying YouTube, which as you know, is one of my favourite sites du jour. There are a lot of concerns that Google will try to introduce fees to view what is now free, though questionably copywritten is some cases, material. Seems to me that in many ways, particularly in terms of global disapproval, Google is well on the way to being the new Microsoft. It's all about the bling, dawg.

Thanks to the G for putting me and the RN researchers straight about the Hermaphrodite of yesterday, as t'were. Suddenly it all sounds so reasonable! Thanks also to the G for bringing the sick and wounded - that's me - sorely needed sandwiches this afternoon and for accepting as company sleepy silence and the occasional sniffle. I am so hoping that all this will be gone tomorrow, there is so much that I need to do.

My 3 beautiful things:

1. Starting a book of short stories written by Dalshiel Hammett, Nightmare Town, and realising that I have found a writer I didn't even know I was looking for

2. The comfort of the duvet when the sunshine hurts sore eyes

3. I know it's weird, but remembering last night's finale of Autumn Watch, where they replayed a clip of Bill Oddie and more starlings than can possibly be named - if you saw it you know what I'm saying. If you didn't, you're in luck, because they've posted it for your viewing and spiritual pleasure over at the BBC:

Made me cry, this clip, and if you're feeling under the weather, physically, mentally, spiritually or otherwise, have a little bit of faith restored in the Universe by taking a look. Please.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

The wonder of the Bill Hicks clip I posted on Monday may have helped to distract you from the fact that I haven't posted for two days. I am not going to bore you with my petty excuses and/or reasons, and it's not because I can't think of any (I'm a writer, if I wanted to lie, I'd really lie, tell you that I was climbing Everest or something).

This week has been a bit crazy on the old work front, but crazy good, not crazy knife wielding caffeine psycho that hasn't slept for days - actually now that I think of it, I've been a bit like that, but the week hasn't. I've been based down at the Royal Naval Museum for the first three days of this week, which has been fabulous, and the task at hand (the creation of exhibition copy in time for January) is really taking shape. Sometimes it's a big howling scary shape, but the shape is definitely there.

Working space has been an issue since I started at the RN, one which we avoided nicely at first because I was lucky enough to be working in the Naval Library most of the time. Now that the material gathering stage has been shifted down a priority, I've been working this week on getting to grips with the material itself. This is a great process because so much of the material is really interesting, but also because I have never been involved in the preparation of an exhibition before, and it fascinates me.

I can't keep crowing on about all this for too long this morning because I should be on my way to work right now (sorry Chief, but you should never tell a Junior you're coming in late), but I've been found a desk in the researchers' office in the attic this week, and the two women currently based in there, Gemma and Mel, have been so deliciously welcoming to me that I felt compelled to mention it. Gemma and Mel both have Masters degrees in Museum and Heritage Studies, though they both have entirely different specialisms: Gemma knows a whole world of stuff about medieval history and Mel is my new guru on all things art history. For the record, they are also the loveliest people to share an office with, ever, and they have provided me with the model for my imagination to base its dreams of a shared writing studio on.

We get a lot of work done, maybe because we are all doing things we love to do for a living, but there is always time found during the day for a little chat and a laugh, which has made this week perfect for me. Yesterday, Gemma (who is the fount of unexpected knowledge and is always coming out with these fascinating facts) announced that her favourite ship's name is HMS Cockchafer. The picture at the top is the Cockchafer in all its glory ( I know that some of you will think I should say 'her' glory, but I'm going to post more on that topic tonight). Prompting Gemma's announcement was something that Deborah, my boss on the Chasing Freedom contract, read aloud to us from the Parliamentary Papers.

She was reading an account of the capture of a Portuguese slave ship off the coast of West Africa in the 1800's and she read aloud to the office, "I boarded the Portuguese Hermaphrodite." We kid you not, it's the exact phrase in the records. Ignoring the implication of this admission, why would you call a slave vessel (bear in my mind that by law, slavers were legally considered pirates by most nations in the mid 1850's - some countries punished slave traders by death) the Hermaphrodite - it hardly strikes awe or fear, does it?

Anyhoo, it's almost 9, I still have to take a bath and finish a pot of coffee so that I can go to work looking awake. Back later, missing you already, obviously.

Monday, October 9, 2006

Take it away, Bill

I am so tired that my face actually just fell off. It's going to take me the rest of the night to put it back on again. I'm not sure where today went, but I know it was busy and fulfilling and satisfying and tiring.

That's all any philosopher cursed with my attention span could say about it.

Now here's some Hicks so you won't notice that I've hardly written anything. For those of you who have never seen Hicks before, what a treat this is. No need to thank me, and if you work in advertising or marketing, I suspect you won't want to, anyway.

Sunday, October 8, 2006

The Notorious Daily Page

I took my mum to see The Notorious Bettie Page last night, directed by Mary Harron and starring the amazing Gretchen Mol. It is a beautifully and artfully shot film, and I would very much like to see more of Harron's work. The film left me fascinated with Bettie Page herself, though a little unsatisfied that the film hadn't helped me to know her better. I wonder if that was what Mary Harron and Gretchen Mol were intending: that we only view Bettie from the outside, as mere spectator, as all those who 'enjoyed' her work did.

Certainly I felt the film was ambiguous in many ways and Gretchen Mol's Bettie seemed to me highly vulnerable and explicitly young in every scene. Go see it, for Gretchen Mol alone if nothing else, and I would love to know what you thought.

For readers in or around Portsmouth, it's on at No. 6 Cinema in the Historic Dockyard, and if you didn't know such a place existed, you should check out the website at:

My eagerly awaited copy of Nancy Springer's Enola Holmes mystery (younger sister of Sherlock) has arrived and I am just under halfway through. Thanks again to Colleen Mondor for this recommendation, because I am loving it. I took it to dinner with some friends today and their daughter wants to borrow it as soon as I've finished. I love reading chains. This one should be extra long, too, because we're going to donate it to the library service as soon as we're both through, so if you've got a library card it should be on the catalogue in a month, and if you can't wait that long....there's always Amazon!

Chloe, my friends' daughter has also managed to solicit a promise from me to buy her a copy of Lisa Clark's Pinkworld upon its release next year. In fact, we made a 'Pinky Promise' that was faithfully turned into a contract by the savvy young Chloe, which reads:

4 Chloe,

Iwill buy you a copy of Pinkworld by Lisa Clark, signed by her.

Pinky Promised by Sarah Cheverton

What ever happened to youthful trust?

Today's 3 beautiful things:

1) Getting enough work done (on all three of my jobs - yay!) to feel virtuous but not enough to take up too much of my day.

2) The smell of my freshly washed patchwork blanket as I throw it over the bed

3) The anticipation of a glass of wine and an evening spent with music and a close friend

Thanks to Kitty Kat for posting her top 3, keep em coming.

Also, thanks to anonymous, who pointed out that there is another e e cummings poem featured in 'In Her Shoes', the film that also quotes the Bishop poem from a few nights ago. I had completely forgotten that this was in the movie too, but I love drawing the threads together, so another e e cummings to close the blog tonight.

i carry your heart e e cummings

i carry your heart with me (i carry it in
my heart) i am never without it (anywhere
i go you go, my dear; and whatever is done
by only me is your doing, my darling)

i fear
no fate (for you are my fate, my sweet) i want
no world (for beautiful you are my world, my true)
and it's you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life; which grows
higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart (i carry it in my heart)