Saturday, October 28, 2006

Thinking Pink for Charity

Today's title does not refer, for once, to Lisa Clark's shining contribution to the world of life-changing philosophy, but to the Breast Cancer Campaign's 'Wear it Pink' Day. Council staff and other people all over the city wore pink somewear on their person and gave, I'm sure oodles of money to the charity. The Culture directorate's finance group sold a wonderful collection of pink cakes to Civic Offices employees all day and raised a grand total of £242. Lovely Norma set up her own nail bar in the office, much to the delight of all staff (male and female). As a result, we may now be the most well-manicured office on the south coast. Best of all though, as you can see, the Finance Managers worked the whole day wearing these fabulous pink wigs, which was definitely the highlight of my day!

The Culture team is one of the things I like best about working for the Chief and the City Council. Events like today are inspiring, because everyone embraces the opportunity to do something for people they may never even meet, on the basis that they empathise with their experience. I agree with Miss C, too, that there is something particularly fabulous about the colour pink that also inspires people to behave in more fluffy ways. People seemed to talk to each other more across the whole building, and there was certainly more laughter, smiles and general frivolity than we normally associate with work (though to an extent, the Culture office is always like that!). So, if you haven't yet ordered your copy of Think Pink by the rather fabulous Lisa Clark, don't worry! You can preorder them at Amazon and your copy will come flying off the shelf to your day when the book is released in January. Hot off the press. Just click on the link.

And speaking off cool friend Heather has just launched a website for her sound company (for all your theatre noise-making needs), Echo Sound Productions. So should you need a professional sound company, specialising in live theatre productions, you need look no further:

I am desperately wanting to travel up to the BALTIC for a visit to their latest installation on urban and suburban art, based not just within the BALTIC itself, but also on the streets of Newcastle and Gateshead. I am a huge fan of urban art and the fundamental premise of reclaiming and redefining public space, especially in a head-to-head with commercial space, and hence my love of all things graffiti. Check it out at:

Our Banksy is one of the featured artists, too, as part of a collective called, deliciously, Spank the Monkey. Also showing at the BALTIC right now is Candice Breitz latest work, Working Class Hero, A Tribute to John Lennon. I saw this previewed on the Culture Show recently and I'll allow the clip below to do all the talking. Actually, according to Blogger, who won't let me upload the clip, no I won't. But you can go to youtube and check it out yourselves at:

Beautiful Things

1. The amount of complaints I received about the blog not being written yesterday

2. Thinking pink, of course!

3. Always trying.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Pride, Prejudice and the Peculiar Panic of Pain

First, apologies for the lateness of yesterday’s blog, it was my uncle’s birthday and by the time I got home, Blogger was running maintenance and wouldn’t let anyone blog! How rude. So, we’re taking a step back in time today and pretending it’s yesterday and normal service will be resumed tomorrow. You with me?


Bean is my uncle and today is his birthday. I always remember it since he told me it was between a square and a cube in October. I won’t embarrass him by telling you his age, but he remains one of the smartest people I know and the biggest influence on my thinking. Last week, Bean sent me a text message containing a quote from Einstein:

“The unleashed power of the atom has changed everything but our modes of thought and thus we drift towards unparalleled catastrophe.”

That certainly put a lot of my fears in perspective; I’ll stop worrying about the broken door on the oven then.

The chief used a term today that I was unfamiliar with. He referred to some people as ‘MegaNegs’, short for Mega Negative, which I thought was marvellous. I hope he never uses it to refer to me though. I’ll just have to work harder on my positive thinking.

The dinner last night with Glenn went well. We were talking about relationships last night, and the Chief brought up the same subject today. He offered to get me a date with a pretty man that we saw in the supermarket, which I politely declined on the grounds that I couldn’t think of anything more horrific than being set up with a stranger, by my boss, next to the artichokes in Tesco.

On the way back to the office, the Chief talked about a friend of his who he thought was ‘perfect’ for me (this despite, or perhaps because of, all my protestations against being set up), and who, in his words, is “in need of a wife.” I tried to change the subject but sometimes the chief has a sixth sense for a decoy and he refused to waver.

As we walked through the city centre, I asked myself why the thought of being set up with someone made me so uncomfortable. Unfortunately, I felt so uncomfortable that I decided I should think about it later and filed this conversation with myself in the category, Things To Do Should Hell Freeze Over.

It is a truth universally acknowledged, however, that the Perversities of Fate (a bit like the Muses but not so pretty and probably Goths) like nothing better than a human at their most resistant, and once the Chief and I arrived back at the Civic, said Perversities of Fate took out their jolly box of jokey japes. Who did we run into in the Foyer, but the aforementioned single man in want of a wife (though I saw no sign of a fortune). Nightmare.

The Chief’s eyes lit up like Christmas lights at a City Centre switch on (how obvious is it that I work with the Events team?) and my heart sank towards Sydney at something just over the speed of light (sorry Stephen Hawking, clearly not a physics major).

“Wonderful!” declared the Chief, with barely disguised delight, “Allow me to introduce you….”

Ten minutes later, in the lift, the Chief eyed me like a loupe-less jeweller assessing a roughly-cut diamond.

“So, what do you think? Perfect for you. Young, ethical, doesn’t wear labels…” He looked into the middle distance as if picturing hats to buy.

What did I think? About the dude in the foyer? I hardly had time to look at him, I was too busy entering into a state of panic. The thing is, that reassessing my personal life, viz intimate relationships, makes the recent reassessment of my personal development in my professional life look like an episode of the Teletubbies (I’ll leave the identity of Dipsy and LaLa to you, but I’m definitely Po. Po-Face, that is). Situations where people talk about setting me up make me want to curl up in ball while my face approximates Munch’s Scream.

Why is that Sarah? Well, I think that the place my self-confidence and self-esteem become most visible is in intimate relationships. I’m doing a lot of work on this right now from a work perspective and I thought I was doing pretty well, but the conversation with the Chief made me realise that I have a long way to go.

In short, relationships terrify me. I’m a love coward, a romance refugee, an Interpersonal 101 dropout. This afternoon only served to confirm it, and of course, now that I know that there’s something I’m afraid of, I have to do something about it. Now where did I put that file again…?

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

The time available

I keep finding myself saying, "There's not enough time," or "I don't have enough time," or even, in question form, "But where will I find the time?"

I am used to being able to say yes to most things (it's lucky I don't list my phone number on here, that statement alone could lead to some really weird calls), but at the moment, time, as they say, is not on my side. I'm just starting to plan my workload better, to stick to my allocated days for allocated project work and to start asserting my right to do so onto others, but still time and I are not quite good friends.

I think it was Ann Oakley (not as in Phoebe Moses, the shooter Queen, that's Annie - though I have a lot of time for her work, too) who said that housework "expands to fill the time available" and that's how I feel about my workload at the moment. Everywhere I look I seem to see competing deadlines, tasklists that seem to stretch to eternity and it makes me panicky, anxious and in the end, depressed.

Increasingly though, as the work stacks up, I begin to realise anew and afresh that my perspective on my workload is the real key to how I feel about it. Steve Hender, who I never tire of mentioning, had a buzz catchphrase that first shaped and now sums up my thinking here: "The map is not the landscape."

My map is often full of panic, caused by self-doubt and fear of failing/falling, but the landscape, I sense, merely contains a series of tasks that require completion by certain times. There is a relationship between my map and the landscape, but they are not the same; and in the rare moments when I manage to change the map, the landscape ceases to resemble a series of high mountains, one after another, insurmountable, and instead begins to take the form of rolling hills, leading to uncharted lands.

So, today has been a long struggle of moving in my mind between my unforgiving map and the indifferent landscape, tweaking and adjusting, colouring in some dull bits with pretty colours and bright incentives, and of course the necessary drudge of climbing them there hills. I feel very tired at the end of today, but certainly not defeated. I call this small, gradual movement forwards - progress. As for the shortness of time? Well, that's my next challenge. Drawing boundaries between my professional freelance work, my professional creative work and my social and personal life (I'm still searching for this last) seems the next natural step in my quest as Sarah Freelancing Researcher, Writer and Princess Warrior. I'll keep you posted.

Tonight Glenn is coming over and I am making him dinner. Nothing like the high-class dinner served to me on Sunday, but I'm not sure any of my friends would be up to the shock if I suddenly produced a goats cheese in pastry thingummy-what (I have no idea what that dish was called, but you don't think about that when you're eating it do you? Apologies to my host for the poor description and a special mention for the pumpkin and coconut soup - awesome). We were meant to be watching a movie, too, but guess what? I ran out of time to go and get one from the library.

Today's Beautiful Things:

1. Remembering my conversation with Howard from last night as soon as I woke up. He called my mobile when I was visiting friends and asked, towards the end of the conversation:
"Do I know them?"
"Would I like them?"
"Probably not."
"I'll let you go then, so you can leave early."
Howard, I am so glad you are home and can't wait to see you.

2. The Chief, talking about foxes

3. Miss Sally's laugh, triping contagiously down the phone-line, when I've only just stopped crying and thought it would be months before I laughed again. I love Miss Sally.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Techno confusion

A big thank you to Glenn, without whom there would be no blog tonight. Just after posting last night's blog, the internet on my computer took a trip to Loonyville Arizona and showed reluctant to come home to Sanity town. My living flashed before my eyes, as without my internet connection I don't professionally exist. Yes, I'm being melodramatic, but that's something like it felt.

I called Glenn, who knows things about techno-wik-wiki, and within two hours he arrived at my house and spent another couple of hours putting everything right. Internet Explorer doesn't work and the woman from Tiscali said I have a dun problem, though how she could tell just from my voice is anyone's guess.

So tonight I'm back online. Gratefully. Glenn and I stayed up stupidly late catching up, and he listened very patiently to me raving on about all things Earl Nightingale. I did not want to get up this morning, at all, and I missed tai chi with the gorgeous Lisa Clark. Why do late night's have such a price? I love staying up late, but hate not being able to get up in the morning.

Some great news though, Howard, who I mentioned in last night's blog is coming to England today! I'm hanging on the edge of my seat, all eagerness and excitement to see him. Howard is the boy-friend (as opp. boyfriend) that I have known the longest, we met when I was 19 and he's one of my best friends in the world. Literally. Based in Canada, he is out in the world, and I don't get to see half as much as I'd like, so it was great to hear Glenn announce he was here on our terra firma.

Today's Beautiful Things

1. Anticipation

2. Michael, singing in, and for, the morning rain, startling my sleepy journey like magic

3. Again, the rain, and a moment in the evening sun

Monday, October 23, 2006

A Glorious Medley of Song

To start the blog today, a poem by one of my favourite writers and a personal inspiration: Dorothy Parker. The last 'e' of the title should have an accent on the end, but heaven only knows (and apparently has more important things to tend to) how you do that on blogger.


Razors pain you; Rivers are damp;
Acids stain you; And drugs cause cramp.
Guns aren't lawful; Nooses give;
Gas smells awful; You might as well live

Dorothy Parker

To answer the anonymous commenter who was also my host and a culinary genius last night, yes, it was late, and yes we had definitely had too much wine. I also seem to remember wearing a capful of 1974 armagnac that made me pass the last quarter of the night smelling like an alcoholic tramp with very expensive tastes, but the least said about that the better. It was just as well that I wrote the blog before I went out because I doubt I was coherent by the time I got home.

As for the foxes seen on the way home, well I looked those up in my animal cards this afternoon. I think we can learn a lot from animals (you all know by now my obsession with the windhover, for instance) and I am always interested in animal symbolism from other cultures. My animal cards have this to say about foxes:

"Like the coyote, the fox is strongly associated with magical supernatural power, and cunning. In the wild, it exists at the edges of field and forest, and in the mythical realm is a principal mediator between the human and spirit worlds. In shinese folklore, the fox may assume a human shape at the age of fifty, and at its hundredth birthday it becomes either a wizard or a lovely maiden."

With all those supernatural powers, at least I can stop worrying about the Countryside Alliance wiping them out.

Today has been a good day. Despite the amount of alcohol consumed last night, or possibly because of it, I had no time for the jitters before my morning meeting. I was due to meet one of my freelance bosses (I'm freelance, he's the boss, that is - he doesn't manage people as a freelance business of his own, that would be strange) to discuss the initial results of some research work I've been doing on his organisation's behalf. Although I've been working with him for many months, I had only ever met him once - until this morning, all our work has been carried on via emails and numerous (charming) telephone calls.

The meeting went exceptionally well and he was just as engaging, funny and insightful as he has been in all the time we've communicated 'electronically.' Oh yes, and he seemed quite pleased with the work, too. I'm not writing this boss' name because I don't really like to publish people without their permission, ever since an incident where I outed someone on the internet by mistake. I'm sure most people knew anyway........

I accidentally rang the Chief today when I was meant to be calling someone else (my mother - Freud, go figure) and was very confused when he answered the phone, as I'm sure he was when I had absolutely nothing to say. He, however, (as always) had something very interesting to say when I told him I'd called him by accident, "Oh, nothing is ever by accident, Sarah Cheverton."

I shall be thinking about that for the rest of the day.

Today's Beautiful Things

1. The rain, the rain, the rain (no, that's not the three things, I'm being poetic)

2. Discovering the verb 'to strump' meaning 'to tread heavily or pace about', which is probably the origin of the word 'strumpet' (one of my very favourite words of all time, along with elbow), a street walker

3. Remembering the bonobo ape, apropos of nothing, which I had forgotten and instantly makes me think of Howard and Simon (though not in terms of appearance), who I have not seen for far, far too long

And a big hallo and thank you to Miss Sally's husband, Alan, who has very kindly added me to their Favourites, where I shall happily take up residence. I was so happy when Miss Sally told me that Alan was reading the blog and even more happy when she told me that he is enjoying it! I should have known that Alan would have good taste though, since he is married to the TRULY glamorous Miss Sally, after all. Thank you!

But to close today's blog, another poem from Dorothy Parker:


Oh, life is a glorious cycle of song,
A medley of extemporanea;
And love is a thing that can never go wrong;
And I am Marie of Roumania.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Speedy Gonzales

This may have to be one of the speediest posts ever. I'm due for dinner at a friend's house at 7.30 tonight and it's 7pm now, but in case I have too much wine and/or I'm home late, I thought I should post now.

I spent today working at my mum's house on a the results of a survey project that's been running since summer. It was a real challenge this morning not to start the Mr Mannering panic routine, but with a little help from a friend and a very patient parent, I made it through the wilderness, as t'were.

Kit Kat Kate is probably on a flight to Africa even as we speak and we exchanged a very teary goodbye over the phone this morning. She's been having a rough time over the last month or so and I have my fingers crossed that this break will be exactly what she needs, but am I ever going to miss her! I think part of the reason that I buried myself so deeply in my work today is so that I wouldn't have to think too much about it.

The thing with close friends is that each one always thinks they have the best deal and can never really fathom why the other person likes hanging out with them so much. Kate thanked me this morning for being there over the past month and apologised for being, in her words, such hard work in the last few weeks, but nothing, from my perspective could be further from the truth. The truth is that, looking at it from a strictly positive angle, I am always so glad when my friends confide in me and that it works both ways. Kate, for instance has always been there for me when I've needed her and for however long that I've needed her, regardless of the stuff going on in her own life. It all works itself out in the end.

Today's beautiful things

1. My mum: for being the best statistical research assistant, ever.

2. The craziest weather that ever there was - runners of the Great South run, this morning, you have my admiration!

3. A joint tie between the windhover that Bean and I saw in the car on the way home tonight, and Bean himself, for knowing that it is the windhover's tail that balances him out and lets him hang on the air.