Saturday, December 23, 2006

He who hesitates is a damned fool. Mae West

Today's image from Danielle, AKA VintageBroadwayFemme over at, and is called simply, 'Girl.'

It's been a turbulent day at the Heights, so close to Christmas. Thank goodness that Kate and I decided to do our last minute shopping together. We stayed away from town and frequented only the independents of Palmerston and Albert Road.

Aristia was our last shop and an old favourite of mine. There was a film there that intrigued me but I was too shopped out to buy it and had no one left to buy for called: What the Bleep? Down the Rabbit Hole - looked very interesting and I sort of wish that I'd bought it. However, after splashing out on the second series of House on DVD, it didn't seem appropriate.

The truth dazzles gradually, or else the world would be blind.
- Emily Dickinson

I'm starting to get the hang of Uranus, too, as t'were. This whole unsettled feeling is terrifying, sad and, in the moments I allow it, exhilaratingly free. My thoughts run from the past, to the present, through the future in a heartbeat, and sometimes all three seem to exist together - though when you really think about it, perhaps that's not as strange as it sounds.

I've been thinking about the past and past loves and found this beautiful poem by Frank O'Hara.


Have you forgotten what we were like then
when we were still first rate
and the day came fat with an apple in its mouth

it's no use worrying about Time
but we did have a few tricks up our sleeves
and turned some sharp corners

the whole pasture looked like our meal
we didn't need speedometers
we could manage cocktails out of ice and water

I wouldn't want to be faster
or greener than now if you were with me O you
were the best of all my days

Frank O' Hara

I'm thinking about the present (the now, not my Christmas presents, silly): that this is one of the strangest Christmases I've ever known. My brother is spending Christmas with his friends and partner and won't be home for the first time. I've seen less of my friends this Christmas than I usually would (for reasons that I am mostly at the centre of).

I've spent the last couple of days wishing that everything would resume its familiar course, but what would be the point in that?

I've learnt those things already and I am tired of resisting change. Acceptance is the last stage of grief; and who knows what comes after?

Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes.
- Carl Gustav Jung

And I've been thinking about the future. I love and fear this the most, the tabula rasa. I had a great conversation with Miss Sally over a glass of champagne on Friday (we glamour girls at the Ministry of Culture don't do things by halves) about the foolishness of making plans.

"Life can turn upside down in a heartbeat," said Miss Sally, and of course she's absolutely right - if you want to make God laugh, tell her your plans.....

And I like this idea. Change is in the air for 2007; hell, it's already here, and I'm holding to the thought that anything, anywhere and anyone could happen.

I'm going to Lofoten, Norway. Why? Well, because it's calling me.

This is what I've heard:

Lofoten is a land of excitement, a hotbed of fascination and enchantment. A realm of contrast and paradox, of light and dark, of colour and Nature’s own music.

A paradise for the senses. A delight to the eyes, nose, ears and palate: jagged, precipitous mountains bathed in the light of the Midnight Sun, or set in striking profile against the playful, flickering, mystical backdrop of the Northern Lights.

The smell of dried cod, of birchwood from winter’s smoking chimneys, of flowers on summer’s bright green slopes, of the salty waters. The sound of seagulls returning home from their selfinflicted exile, the chugging of an old fishing smack on the horizon, or the ubiquitous, almost deafening, silence found far up in the mountains.

Three Beautiful Things

1. Laughter through tears, my favourite emotion

The Stone Roses - because they can.

3. You - because you are

Friday, December 22, 2006

Let It Snow

I often quote myself. It adds spice to my conversation.

George Bernard Shaw

Today's picture is of 'Christmas morning in the Smokies' from Tim Hamilton's webpages - he's from Portsmouth, Ohio, USA, which I always find quite exciting. He's also an assistant Professor of Physics, would you believe, and his website has some great space pictures on it.

Wouldn't it be weird if all the people in Portsmouth, Ohio had the same names as all the people in our Portsmouth, and we were all living out parallel lives? Imagine if Portsmouth, Ohio were like a parallel universe, where each one of those people were living our alternate paths: I would be married to 7 different men with 34 children, Miss Sally would be the classiest showgirl in the city, living in sin with the gangster mayor, and the Chief would be a pikey known as The Chav. Who would you be?

With all the Christmas excitement, the blog has rather slipped from the radar here at The Heights.

I promise this will not continue, and that the usual Daily service will now be resumed, although I am currently trying to work out how I will blog every day when I'm in Cornwall over New Year (we can't even get a mobile signal where I'm staying and I think the village has a definite shortage of internet cafe's!). I think I may have to phone them in at the phone box to my mum and she will have to take my blog posts down each day like dictation and then transfer them to the blog. This is a bit of a pain in the Rudolph (my new festive slang du jour), but on the other hand, it makes me think of the 1920's reporters phoning in their scoops, so maybe it's not so bad. I'll buy myself one of those reporter's raincoats and talk in 20's slang and I'll be fine.

It's only a few days away, but Christmas has certainly arrived early this year. I have already done more than my fair share of Christmas spirits, literally, which is one of the reasons why the blog has not been done this week.......!! I haven't yet been kissed under the mistletoe, but there's plenty of time and if I have to, I will accost strangers.

As things here at the Heights have been a little crazy over this week, I've been trying to spend some time thinking about the true spirit of Christmas (and not the stuff I've been imbibing in ridiculous amounts). This has been very easy today with the help of the Christmas Genius Extraordinaire, Sally Jones, who, with the Eighties Genius Extraordinaire, Lou, have turned a normal working day into a Christmas Extravaganza! The Ministry of Culture is amok with decorations, mulled wine, Christmas songs and fabulous food and everyone is in exceptional good cheer.

I'm reliably informed by Google Stars that my emotional craziness this week is entirely due to the role of Uranus (get the jokes over with now), which was quite a revelation. It did make sense to me to find out that Uranus is the planet of independence, liberation and enlightenment. Astrology on the Web reveal that it brings unexpected changes, and rules freedom and originality. In society, it rules radical ideas and people, as well as revolutionary events that upset established structures. Uranus among all planets most governs genius, which goes some way to explain why I have been so struck with its effects!

Apparently, we have just undergone a transition from Mars to Uranus, and this can influence us in some funny ways. According to CafeAstrology:

"Whichever part of our lives and of our psyches that Uranus touches, especially by hard transit, is an area where we begin to feel restless and dissatisfied with any routine or "status quo" connected to it...the energies of Uranus are electric and crammed with change...Uranus acts to awaken and to make us aware of our feelings of being restricted and constricted.

Uranus surprises, jolts, and stimulates. On the up side, Uranus is associated with enlightenment, progressiveness, objectivity, novelty, and ingenuity. Negative expression of Uranus is rebelliousness without a cause and irresponsibility.

Have you been feeling the influence of Uranus?

Today's Beautiful Things

1. Singing in the office with Miss Sally and the fabulous Lou

2. Mulled wine and pesto dip - no, silly, not together!

3. Ignoring the fact that I know I'm coming down with something buggishly inconvenient

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Nobody realizes that some people expend tremendous energy merely to be normal. Albert Camus

I never guess. It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, The Sign of the Four

Today's image is called 'The Lost Witch' and is by the awesomely talented Cat Brown over at (which I always misread first of all as deviant tart) - check out her online gallery, she works in a variety of mediums and is, I think, a rather talented individual. But don't take my word for it. Check out the online gallery and make up your own mind!

I've got all my days confused this week and keep finding myself in the wrong place at the wrong time. Time is a notion that haunts me: my life is ruled by it, but it doesn't actually exist. I think my confusion is something to do with the moon. My stars keep telling me of intense emotions that I find hard to control and harder to express (emotional expression is usually fairly normal for a moody Cancerian like moi) and I think it's sending my head a bit Dutch elephant (I'm trying to invent a piece of new slang every day this week - today it's Dutch elephant. Yesterday, it was 'Mind me change of blankets!' - ok, I might be making this stuff up).

There are some points of change in my life where all the major shifts that are happening, happen on the outside - changing jobs, going freelance, travelling, meeting new people, for example. When even the smallest things in my life change, the ripple effect these changes can bring can be more momentous than the original changes themselves. This year has been full of such outside changes, lots of them, in fact, one after the another and I have changed a large amount of my thoughts, ideas and even my dreams as a result.

At the moment, though, I think there are major shifts going on, as it were, 'inside', that is to say, emotionally - maybe fear of the future, changing dreams and shifting expectations. Changes like this are altogether more subtle than the other kind, and, I find, sometimes a little harder to work out. For me, these shifts are evidenced in moments of sudden mood change, from euphoria to despair in 60 seconds - and sometimes in slightly erratic moments of behaviour or unusual choices. The last couple of days have been a bit like this. Maybe it's just end of year madness.

Yesterday, I went to the Aspex Gallery in Gunwharf, with three people that have become very important to me this year, all from the Ministry of Culture: The Chief himself, the glamorous Miss Sally and the luscious Lisa Clark. Aspex was amazing - a fantastic space, and a superb exhibition, the likes of which I have been clamouring for in Portsmouth all year, called Is Britain Great: The Caravan Gallery tour.

We had a lovely lunch (Shon, especially for you, I had a baguette containing roasted vegetables smothered in mozarella cheese, followed by a slice of the most divine carrot cake and accompanied by a latte), in the most ridiculously comfortable chairs, whilst discussing Lisa's Book Launch (could that, as a concept, be more fabulous in itself?) and the aesthetic value of birds on blancmange - Final result on the B on B's: Miss Sally and Lisa felt there was no aesthetic value in them, the chief believed there was, and I could see both sides of the argument. Personally, I was much more taken with the rings with mild obscenities on them, but that may just be a matter for personal taste.

After lunch, the Chief sent me off into the gallery to look at the exhibition, and I would happily have spent the rest of the afternoon there, given half the chance. Pictures of graffiti, social commentary and a huge amount of humour nestle comfortably together in this exhibition, and I was laughing out loud for most of it. Right up until the point where I cried - you see what I mean about the sudden mood swings?!

Tonight I'm off to Southampton to watch The Delays with Glenn. He's insisting we go ridiculously early, even though I know they won't come on until some obscene time in the evening. But there's just no arguing with Capricorns.

Today's Beautiful Things

1. The Cheerful Chief and his Chipper Chirpyness

2. Howling at an absent moon

3. The Aesthetics of the Big Blue Tit

Monday, December 18, 2006

Pictures in the Smoke

A quiet day at the Culture office, and, boy did I have a hangover. I decided to get over it by to having a Dorothy Parker day. I stood outside the Culture office and smoked a cigarette whilst considering the nature of my inner Parker (Dorothy, that is, not the butler/chauffeur - that would be weird. Really).

The thing about Dorothy was her uncomfortably keen sense of observation on human behaviour; her strength in brazening out the darker moments of the human condition, especially her own, looking theose moments square in the eye, and then writing them down. And making them funny and tragic and true, just like real life. If you haven't read any of Parker's short stories, grab them from your local library over the holidays.

The Universe rewarded my bravery in the face of such chemically-induced madness ('And on a Sunday!' said Parker with a dry gasp, as she exhaled a heavy cloud of cigarette smoke, 'Have you no shame!?'). I spoke to many of my close friends (and every member of the Coven!) today, in one way or another, by both chance and circumstance, and at the tired end of the day, I feel a little lost, and a lot cared for.

Miss Sally has been unfortunately detained in the Big Cheese, which has ended our Grease outing. I could have gone alone, but no one can match me glass for glass in wine like Miss Sally, so I decided to stay home with the Parker and the Stone Roses, and just a little hair of the dog.

With Parker so heavy on my mind, it is no wonder she is my choice for today's Poem Du Jour, or more...

Pictures in the Smoke
Oh, gallant was the first love, and glittering and fine;

The second love was water, in a clear white cup;

The third love was his, and the fourth was mine;

And after that, I always get them all mixed up.


My land is bare of chattering folk;

The clouds are low along the ridges,

And sweet's the air with curly smoke

From all my burning bridges.


And if my heart be scarred and burned,

The safer, I, for all I learned;

The calmer, I, to see it true

That ways of love are never new -

The love that sets you daft and dazed

Is every love that ever blazed;

The happier, I, to fathom this:

A kiss is every other kiss.

The reckless vow, the lovely name,

When Helen walked, were spoke the same;

The weighted breast, the grinding woe,
When Phaon fled, were ever so.

Oh, it is sure as it is sad

That any lad is every lad,

And what's a girl to dare implore

Her dear be hers forevermore?

Though he be tried and he be bold,

And swearing death should he be cold,

He'll run the path the others went...

But you, my sweet, are different.

Today's Beautiful Things

1. The best ships

2. The Ministry of Culture as a calm sanctuary

3. Still small voice of calm: love

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Tidings of Comfort and Joy

After yesterday's adventures at the Women's Library, this morning I had to face an unfortunate truth.

Christmas shopping.

As of this morning, I had only three presents ready for Christmas and a list of over twenty people to buy for. Is it me, or do couples do better out of Christmas than anyone? They get a present each - at least, they do in my world, it's ridiculous to buy things 'for the house' every year and any present for both of them is going to be crap, because I'm usually only really friends with one of them - but they only have to buy everyone else one present 'from both of them'? That sucks.

I was dreading today. The G and I headed down to Consumer Road in town, which is one of my least favourite places ever, and I was moaning within three seconds (I don't know how she puts up with it - if I was her I'd punch me).

"You know what I hate most about Christmas shopping, that you're forced to choose from so much shit! That's all there is in town to choose from - boxed sets at twice the price the goods normally are and seven times more than they're worth."

The G kept very quiet and interested herself in the pavement. I did about ten more 'And another things' and then got bored with myself. My mother has the virtue of silence well under her belt.

I thought the centre of town would be exceptionally busy, but oddly, it wasn't. I think more people must be taking Miss C's example and shopping online this year. I was right about the stuff being crap though. BHS' Christmas store is to be avoided at all costs unless you have an exceptionally heightened sense of irony and you're looking for a laugh.

I got everyone's present. Everyone's. Ok, not G's but that's not the point, she was with me. I got everyone else's presents, and in one day. I'm so pleased me with myself that I can hardly stop singing Santa Baby.

I intend to spend the rest of the evening drinking white wine with Scott, who has sweetly brought me two bottles of Chardonnay for Christmas. This generosity is only tempered by the fact that he fully intended to drink this wine when he gave it to me, but that's ex-boyfriends for you - every contact post-breakup has its cost. Fortunately this time it won't be the cost of a pregnancy testing kit.

Today's Beautiful Things

1. Enjoying Christmas shopping

2. The good humour of shop assistants (irony much?)

3. I can hear my ex singing in the kitchen. It reminds me why I love living alone.