Saturday, November 18, 2006

Trust yourself

I didn't manage to post last night, I was just too dog tired after such a long and exciting week. There's so much going on in all three of my jobs right now that I feel really lucky.

We've just got to the writing stage at the Naval Museum, preparing for the exhibition Chasing Freedom next year. Although everyone's under a lot of pressure to get their panels written, it feels as though the atmosphere has become one of real excitement, and although everyone's tired, we're all very enthusiastic, too.

It was also another fabulous week at the Council, where the work of the Culture Group is really taking shape. We've had a run of successes in each service (arts, museums and records, libraries, and tourism and events) over the last few months, what with the recent Screen:06 film festival organised by the Arts Service, Remembrance Sunday last week organised by Events, and the Conan Doyle exhibition at the city museum, to name just a few.

My favourite of the Cultural activities going on at the moment though, has to be the new People's Choice Exhibition, where for the first time, the residents of Portsmouth will get to choose objects and artefacts from the city's collections to go on display in a fabulous new exhibition next year. You can go to your local library and view the catalogues in person, or you can go to the museum services' website and choose online from the comfort of your own home at:

The first person to guess what my first vote was wins a dinner date with me - no, that should not act as a disincentive to entering the competition. Answers on the comments board please.

And dig this - you can vote as many times as you like - perfect for obsessive geeks like me! And you have the opportunity to have your reason for choosing your favourite object posted on a label at the exhibition itself!

I've spent all day today working on the third contract I currently have running, and feel absolutely thought-out as a result. I also think I'm still getting over my lurgy, as my brain feels like water flowing uphill at the moment.

The blog of note on the frontpage of blogger at the moment had me laughing this evening, please go and check it out: Monkeys For Helping (great name!) at:

One of the links on their site is one that I spent ages on and I know that the gorgeous Lou at the office will like:

I spent a lovely yesterday evening with Bean, my uncle. He brought over a film that had been given to him for his birthday called 'Oh What A Lovly War!'. It's about the First World War and it's a musical. I'll let you sit with that for a moment.

It is one of the most innovative films that I've seen in a long time and it has a lot of relevance today. If, like me, you haven't heard of it, then try to get hold of a copy. Apparently it's only recently been released on DVD, so the library doesn't have it, but I would recommend you buy it. I've been very lucky with films this week, so even though I haven't been able to take part in Screen:06 as much as I would have liked, I feel like I've celebrated it in spirit!

Today's poet du jour is Wendy Cope. I've been a big fan of her ability to be so funny, matter of fact and poignant for quite some time (and heaven only knows how she gets them all to rhyme) and this poem of hers is one of my favourites.

The Orange

By Wendy Cope

At lunchtime I bought a huge orange
The size of it made us all laugh.
I peeled it and shared it with Robert and Dave—
They got quarters and I had a half.

And that orange it made me so happy,
As ordinary things often do
Just lately. The shopping. A walk in the park.
This is peace and contentment. It's new.

The rest of the day was quite easy.
I did all my jobs on my list
And enjoyed them and had some time over.
I love you. I'm glad I exist.

Beautiful Things of the Day

1. Shonagh - as always - the anticipation of seeing her is only beaten by being in her company

2. The satisfaction of working a day, even if it is a weekend

3. My Mum for giving the best pep talks at a moment's notice

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily

Bit of an eclectic post today. Firstly, I just woke up from another crazy dream. I'm not sure what the crazy dreaming of this week has been about, but I'm wondering if it's influenced by the weather.

Last night I dreamed of winter, but as a person, almost a god-like figure. He was at the centre of a circle in a robe that was black but charged with streaks of electric blue, and I mean that literally, the robe was charged with electricity that seemed to flow over the fabric. The circle was formed by other figures in plain black robes who were all bowing down to winter. When winter opened his mouth to speak, there was only the roaring of the wind, and the howling of snow storms. I woke up.

The picture featured here is by an artist called Shimachan over at and recently won a competition there.

I had a great comment come in on a post from two days ago featuring Buckminster Fuller. I was really pleased to get this, as it's from someone I don't know, and I can't imagine how he or she found me:

Another good one from Fuller: "We are now synergetically forced to conclude
that all phenomena are metaphysical; wherefore, as many have long
suspected - like it or not - life is but a dream."


CJ Fearnley
Executive Director
Synergetics Collaborative

Thanks CJ. What struck me most about this quote is that it's so similar to Hicks' idea that 'It's just a ride' and it is the same belief that underpins a lot of NLP thinking, too.

Yesterday morning I went to my monthly reading group meeting. We were discussing the Bernard Schlink novel The Reader. What with the crazy workloads lately - trying to keep three balls in the air before you've learnt to juggle - I only left myself two hours yesterday and the time between waking up and 10.00 this morning to read. Fortunately it's a short novel and utterly absorbing, so I managed it just in time.

The joy of reading groups is that you find yourself reading books that you would never have picked up under any other circumstances. I would never have picked this book up for myself, as it centres on the story of a man who has a love affair at fifteen with a woman twice his age. The novel follows this man, Michael, through the course of his life, as he discovers years later as a law student that his lover was a Nazi war criminal. It wrestles with the issues of guilt, judgement and the legacy of the Holocaust for the generation of Germans that followed.

What I love most about the reading group discussions is that we move so effortlessly from discussing the complexity of judgement in Nazi war trials and digress onto the failure of contemporary school dinners. The overwhelming verdict was that we all enjoyed The Reader. I thought it was exceptionally well-written and very powerful. It is rare that I find a book which asks so many questions of the reader without attempting to answering them.

I was at the Naval Museum for the afternoon, where the action is getting thrilling. We're now onto the writing stage of the exhibition preparation and I'm involved in the writing for several panels.

This is like no other writing project I've ever done. We have a word count of 150-200 words per panel, and whilst this, at first, seemed like a gift to me, I now realise that when you have enough material for an essay of about 5000 words, turning it into 150 words is actually quite a challenge. I spend hours writing and re-writing short, pithy sentences. Compared to my boss' job, which is to take the panels written by myself and several others and edit them into one continuous, flowing narrative - my task is incredibly simple.

I popped down to the Costalot Coffee Shop at the Dockyard entrance on my break for a latte. I hate this establishment, for so many reasons, mostly because of the Starbucks emulation that underpins its existence. The sales girl and I discussed the early onslaught of Chritmas. She was friendly and funny, and exactly the sort of person the Council should employ for its frontline services, though I fear Costalot pays better.

She put a special Christmas star on my huge latte (everything about latte just screams 'pretentious twat' doesn't it?) and laughed when I described people who prepare for Christmas ridiculously early as 'bastards.' For this alone, I would employ her. The excellent customer service is a bonus.

As I left Costalot, I noticed a sign on the wall (reproduced on all their merchandising, including the ma-hassive latte I was clutching) that read: "Peace and Latte to All Men."

Do you see what they did there? That's right, they made me want to hunt down and kill their marketing director. Can you picture the meeting where that was approved? A bunch of overpaid and underworking suits laughing so hard at their lame Christmas punning one of them bursts an ulcer. I know I'm having a bad moment when the only comforting thoughts are to kill myself or someone else. Ho ho ho.

The day ended beautifully with a visit to the Heights from the fabulosa Lisa, who has fully forgiven me for all my previous (highly untrue) allegations. We had planned to get a DVD, but soon realised the ridiculousness of this plan, grabbed a Thai food takeaway and chattered happily like excited chipmunks for the next five hours. Blissful. A big thank you to Miss Clark for ending my Thursday so beautifully.

Today's Beautiful Things

1. My brother, Matt, finally got his internet connection, so at some point he will start posting obscenities for me here - can't wait

2. Late night lightning and the rumble of distant thunder

3. The cheer of chatting, the glamour of gossip and the comfort of conversation

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

From tiny acorns, oak trees grow

My Chief Counsel (not to be confused with my Chief at the Council, who is someone completely different) advises that following Miss Lisa's comments yesterday, an official apology and retraction of my previous abuses of this fine lady's character is well in order.

Let me make this perfectly clear, people, when I said that no work was done when Miss Lisa Clark was in the office on Magical Tuesdays, my intention was that it would be understood by all readers: that due to her astounding life skills prowess, Miss Lisa Clark manages to make the crazily voluminous workload that is the office's collective burden on an average Tuesday, look like a walk in the proverbial park.

I by no means intended to imply that Miss Lisa Clark, or, indeed any of her colleagues in the office EVER do ANY LESS work that they normally would. This would be a completely false inference, and I would like to apologise to Miss Lisa Clark and her City Council colleagues (myself included) for any offence or misapprehension that may have been caused by my casual and, frankly, ridiculous comments. Thank you for your time.

Well, today's blog is all about the power of little things. Yes, like an apology, that's right. Let it go.

It seems to me that all humans have the power of little things, should they choose to exercise it (and some don't).

What do you mean, Sarah?

Well, I mean that a smile to the checkout girl can revolutionise your interaction with her, a hello in the street to a stranger could make their day, the small gestures we make make all the difference. My friend Lisa Clark (I have told you how beautiful and talented she is, right?) sent me a poem this morning that, when I opened it this afternoon, turned my my day around and made me feel like I existed again. I printed it out in big pink letters and hung it on my wall, which is where it is now, cheering me up everytime I look at it.

A friend of mine seemed a bit down this morning so I bought her a pink rose. It took next to none of my time (though, friend of mine, should you be reading this, it cost a fortune - that rose is from the Tiffany's of the rose world and don't let anyone tell you different), made me feel good and the smile on her face was worth a million Tiffany's stores and then some.

Tonight's poem is all about the power of tiny things - in this case, a blade of grass.

A Blade of Grass - Brian Patten
You ask for a poem.
I offer you a blade of grass.
You say it is not good enough.
You ask for a poem.

I say this blade of grass will do.
It has dressed itself in frost,
It is more immediate
Than any image of my making.

You say it is not a poem,
It is a blade of grass and grass
Is not quite good enough.
I offer you a blade of grass.

You are indignant.
You say it is too easy to offer grass.
It is absurd.
Anyone can offer a blade of grass.

You ask for a poem.
And so I write you a tragedy about
How a blade of grass
Becomes more and more difficult to offer,

And about how as you grow older
A blade of grass
Becomes more difficult to accept.
Which would you prefer - the poem, or the blade of grass? Who thinks that it's the same thing? If you do, you were either wearing flares in the summer of '69 or you're a born-again hippy like me.

Oh, and talking of the gorgeous, talented and incredibly forgiving Lisa Clark, while we're talking of the power of little things, get over to her blog and learn all about how the little things we do can change the world:

I went to the No 6 cinema tonight to see a film by Terry Gilliam called Tideland. This is not a film for the conservative or the faint hearted. It's not a slasher film or anything like that, it's the story of a young girl, the daughter of two heroin addicts, who goes on a trip of a lifetime with her father.

It's told from the perspective of the girl herself and it's a portrait of innocence and the beauty of the naive in the face of the horrific. It's also a testament to the power of the human imagination, and the place where the imagination has the most power: childhood. Highly recommended, though be prepared to be surprised, again and again.

This is not a film for everyone, so if you do see it, I would love to know your thoughts.

Tonight's Beautiful Things

1. Roast Pork Egg Foo Yung

2. Any film by Terry Gilliam

3. The most powerful words I know, courtesy of Miss C: I believe.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

"Jump or think," - R Buckminster Fuller

When the alarm woke me this morning, I was engrossed in a particularly vivid dream.

In the dream, I was a cyborg: I looked like a human, but I was actually a robot (pictured is an artist's impression of my cyborg self with a cute little cyborg hottie I picked up in the Virtual Love Lounge nightclub - I told you it was a vivid dream).

It was strange because the only part of the deram that I remembered was that I was trying to help a man and I wasn't able to (yes, I know it's vague, but the alarm went off and it shatters your dream memories). I felt a sense of total, overwhelming responsibility and compassion for humans (which is often more than I feel in real life), and when the alarm went off I was crying in my dream with a sense of utter abandon.

Weird, huh? All interpretations gratefully received.

The effervescent Clarky was not at the Office today due to contracting the lurgy. Here at the Heights, we have a lot of sympathy for fellow lurgy sufferers. Being ill sucks, it's official. We're sending Lisa intensely healing vibes through the ether (and you know how powerful the ether can, I think I'm thinking of the ethanol. My mistake) and hope it makes all the difference.

The office is not the same without Clarky, and I know that loads of us in the Culture Office feel very disappointed not to see her today. I think we have all come to look forward to Tuesdays as a magical day when little work gets done, but much joy is spread and a good time had by all (lucky good time). Get well soon Clarky, our Tuesday happiness misses you.

In conversation with my boss from London today on the results of a survey I designed for him, he used a phrase that I had never heard before and intend to use often:

"It's like trying to photograph love."

Isn't that one of the most beautiful expressions you've ever heard? I'm very lucky with bosses, I think.

Today was not another toddler day, unfortunately. The grey weather this morning made the Square resemble Sherlockian London, and I felt as though the dark clouds had somehow crept with dark, damp fingers beneath my skin. I did not want to get up. I did not want to go to work. I did not want to deal with the fact that I had to do things I did not want to do.

But I did these things anyway. Sometimes you just have to swallow the frog. Gulp.

And I extended the same rule of frog-swallowing to work. I wasn't in the mood to write the briefing paper summary, but I did it anyway. I wasn't in the mood to summarise the CIPFA data for the Chief, but I did it anyway.

Curiously, these tasks were not as bad as my dread of them. Encouragingly, in doing all of my duties today I discovered some fantastic facts and several inviting inspirations. My very favourite of these was the Liverpool Public Library. Not in the UK, I fear, but in New York (how we love all things New York, how we love its bustling squawk - that's my poetry writing done for the day, and now I just need to deal with being 10 000 words down on my novel!).

Liverpool Public Library, NY looks awesome, and I haven't even been there. Well, I have, but only virtually. Check out their website:

In particular, have a look at the TumblingTalkingBooks link, which I know is about to change my life. You can listen to all these books online - audio heaven and virtual Valhalla. I intend to start with Bobbed Hair and Bathtub Gin by Marion Meade - for obvious reasons - we never get enough of La Parker.

Then, have a quick nose at the fact that you can join online, that you can book a meeting room online, and look at the 23 books challenge (I wanna do it!! I wanna do it!! I want the t-shirt!). This site really made my day.

I'm also reading one of the most interesting books, that I've waited for ages from the City's libraries for (OK, it was about three weeks, but it felt like longer). It's called 'Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything' by Steven D Levitt & Stephen J. Dubner. It's a very hard book to describe really, but in essence, Levitt is an economist who explores a series of issues around the central premise: "if morality represents how people would like the world to work, then economics shows how it actually does work." Certainly from the first chapter at least, the two things (morality and economics) don't seem so far apart, but I may have a strange sense of morality.

For someone like me, who barely knows what economics is and finds the mention of it generally boring snoring, this book is a revelation and a brilliant read. Highly recommended, if you please.

Today's poem, from Sir Walter Raleigh, no less:

I wish I loved the Human Race

I wish I loved its silly face

I wish I liked the way it walks

I wish I liked the way it talks

And when I'm introduced to one

I wish I thought What Jolly Fun!

For today's quotes, we turn to the Chief's inspiration du jour, R. Buckminster Fuller:

"You can either make money or you can make sense." "Dare to be naive." "Everything you've learned in school as 'obvious' becomes less and less obvious as you begin to study the Universe. For example, there are no solids in the Universe. There's not even a suggestion of a solid. There are no absolute continuums. There are no surfaces. There are no straight lines." "Either war is obsolete or men are." "I think I am a verb." "I am the only guinea pig I have."

Buckminster Fuller is a hard person to describe or introduce. He was an inventor and eclectic thinker, and somewhat of a philosopher; but he thought of himself as a guinea pig for a whole new way of life and he believed that every human being had a purpose to be fulfilled. He has been credited as the inventor of the geodesic dome and the power nap, amongst other things, and if you are really interested in finding out more about him, then check out some of his sites on the web.

Seems to me that Fuller is a fantastic example of the power of dreams, and by that I mean the peculiar skill of setting our goals wisely and then focusing on them, every day; making them the central hub from which everything we do flows.

So, the Chief introduced me to Buckminster Fuller today and Miss Sally introduced me to a rather delicious piece of jewellery, courtesy of Tiffany's New York. Miss Sally bought hers from New York last year, and although I have never considered myself partial to the temptations of Tiffany, I really, really, really would like one of these. Who wouldn't?

Today's 3 Beautiful Things

1. Perking up in the afternoon and becoming mischievous (Miss Sally's word) rather than glum

2. Appreciation from an old friend

3. Tiffanys'! Tiffany's! Tiffany's!

Monday, November 13, 2006

Toddlin' Town

You couldn’t make real life up.

There are days that are terrible. Days when I wake up with a sense of dread that has been growing within me for weeks and seems on the verge of imploding. Days when all my worries collide, becoming like a combination of meteor and avalanche, as all the tiny anxieties combine and attach themselves to the spiralling mass of confusion at the centre of my self.

There are days that are wonderful. When I wake with a sense of freedom that seems so complete, so obvious that it makes me laugh to think I didn’t notice it sooner. Days when everyone seems to shine with the essence of themselves, days when good things happen. Days where even the bad things appear inevitable, useful and above all, manageable.

I love that days can be so different. I hate it too. Sometimes I want every day to be a good day. Some days I don’t want to get out of bed because I know it is a bad day and it feels bigger than me and I don’t want to get up and fight it.

Today was a toddler day for me. I love toddler days. They’re my favourite. You know when little kids wake up and they’re in a good mood and everything is funny, and they toddle around with this content little expression on their face?. You know the toddler’s secret? I think I might. The toddler just accepts the world. They’re too young and all their false expectations didn’t get made yet and in accepting things as they are, toddlers get to enjoy what’s actually there; what I often miss on my bad days because I am fighting the big badness.

This morning I sang when I couldn’t find my cardigan. I made up a song in the style of Terry Pratchett’s ‘Where’s My Cow?’ (if you don’t know, go and buy a copy right now, buy me one at the same time, thanks – I don’t care if you don’t understand Discworld and you don’t want to, if you want a Toddler Day, go and buy this book. OK, or another one that reminds you of childhood – Where the Wild Things Are is another favourite of mine) all about where the cardigan wasn’t. And I laughed after every verse. I even danced.

Kit Kat Kate dropped me at work, and she was not having a toddler day (I think she was having a murderous au pair day by the time we left the flat, but that’s anot-her story), so I tap-danced for her on the side of the road while she queued in the traffic after dropping me off. I like to share the magic, and who needs public credibility anyway. Too many adult things are over-rated (blows large raspberry to prove it and spends a couple of minutes wiping at keyboard with a napkin).

Work was fabulous. The Chief frowned at me good-naturedly, even though I know my toddler days annoy him a little bit (although he has them – last week he drew a red nose and a moustache on my swipe card) and Miss Sally sparkled her way to the Management Meeting to take the minutes, even though it bores the bahooleys out of her.

The height of my day though, was a letter from a city resident who has corresponded with the culture office many times. I won’t bore with too much detail, but suffice to say that this person’s letter made my day. There isn’t anything toddler about the letter really, quite the opposite, but the spirit of innate positivity and creativity shone out of his letter and the fact that he enclosed an example of his own hobbies really made my morning shine.

Michael, who you might remember for his 'blind dog in the new house' haiku, told me a gem of a motto this afternoon to perfect my day:

"If you can't see the bright side, polish the dark side and look at it."

Today's Beautiful Things

1. My tap dance, obviously.

2. Michael's joke

3. The sound of the wind when I'm snug in the rented sector Heights

Joke of the Day

A man comes hone and his wife greets him and says, " There's something different about me darling, can you guess what it is?"

"Have you done your hair differently?" He asks.


"Are you wearing a new dress?"


"Surely those are new shoes?" He asks.

"No, darling, they're not."

"Then," he announces, "I don't know, what is it?"

"Darling, I'm wearing a gas mask."

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Wassup Dogs?

Let's start with some culture, today the joy of public art: Love Sculpture - Robert Indiana.

After a crazy night of hip hop and horror movies with the girls, we are all a little fragile here at the Heights today. We stayed up until 3am listening to music, chatting and my sister taught Kit Kat Kate and my friend Lainee some moves on the dancefloor (aka my living room carpet), while I sat to one side and gave critique. That's what friends are for.

By the time we crawled into our beds, my neighbour was banging on the wall shouting at us to stop singing Nelly Furtado - well, he just wanted us to stop singing, I doubt he'd know his Nelly from his Nelbow, to be honest. And of course, we were so over-excited on fizzy pop and hip-pop (see what I did etc) to care. A great night.

This morning we ate chocolate muffins and ice cream for breakfast and lounged around on the couch watching Sunday morning tv; now I remember the great side of being 14. It wasn't all just angst, hormones and constantly growing wobbly flesh, the best things about being a teenager (even at 30, in the rare moments you're lucky enough to recapture the zeitgeist of those years) are the endless conversations about who is the best looking guy in the movie you're watching, spending four hours learning a dance routine, and finding yourself and your friends a source of endless laughter. A big thanks to my sister for reminding me how to just 'hang out.'

My sister introduced me to OK Go this morning, and if you have not heard of their infamous and genius treadmill video by now, you really need to. Check it out at YouTube here:

I especially liked another video of the band's called: A Million Ways to Be Cool, and it's the one I've chosen to upload here:

In exchange for OK go, I traded my sister the Dormitory Boys, the two Chinese guys who mime to contemporary pop classics. I think we both went away happy.

I'm keen to see the soon-to-be-released Diane Arbus biopic, starring Nicole Kidman. Arbus was a photographer, who had a fascination with people who experienced life as outcasts and outsiders, and is most known for these pictures of, for example: dwarves, giants, and prostitutes. I don't know much about her work, although I do vaguely remember her receiving the sharp end of Germaine Greer's criticism a while ago, when she described her as a voyeur.

My first Oracle searches yielded the following quotes, though, which I found intriguing:

"Most people go through life dreading they'll have a traumatic experience. Freaks were born with their trauma. They've already passed their test in life. They're aristocrats."

"A photograph is a secret about a secret. The more it tells you the less you know."

"What I'm trying to describe is that it's impossible to get out of your skin into somebody else's.... That somebody else's tragedy is not the same as your own."

"My favourite thing is to go where I have never gone."

The images I've seen of Arbus' have a haunting quality; the portrait of Jayne Mansfield and her daughter struck me as stunning, a compelling image that evokes a strong response in the viewer. I wonder if Greer called Arbus a voyeur because she makes the viewer feel like a voyeur herself. I would love to see an exhibition of hers and I'll be searching the library catalogue for a biography as soon as my ticket has any space on it again.

Today's Beautiful Things

1. Glastonberry Ben & Jerry's. Oh God, yes.

2. My Bust e-newsletter - where I discovered Diane Arbus

3. Zach Graff. Always beautiful, not really a Thing.