Sunday, December 16, 2007

Sarah's feeling for snow

There's a snow storm in Toronto.

Life in Canadia is exciting this way.

Everything is covered in snow, as you might expect, but I have never seen snow like this in my life. The snow rises and rises, making deceptive surfaces that wait for people to fall into them, mistaking air and water for something more solid. I trace the strata as it climbs, watch the wind lift the whiteness, and deposit it in deep drifts against windows, against doors.

The snow falls in circles, sweeping arcs of pure, white silence, drifting to the ground and making the world a cleaner, brighter, muted place. It sweeps from the rooftops in tiny grains, like sand, like dust.

I've had dreams like this.

Just staring at the snow from the safety of the house - no one dares venture beyond the front door for long, we can't tell where the stairs to the street are anymore and if you guess wrong and fall into a drift, you won't be found for days - leaves me dazed, dreaming and disoriented.

A small amount of people are still driving, but very, very slowly. From the balcony of Howard's room, I just saw a landrover towing three sleds covered in children slowly along the backstreets, the children screaming with joy. I wanted to be among them and maybe twenty years younger than I am.

Eskimo impersonators, wrapped in clothes so thick they waddle, not walk, take manual snow ploughs to their drives in a futile fight against the drifts.

The snow separates me from home, from the familiar. It reels my mind into a more intuitive frame, a different way of seeing, where my interior senses become more important than my physical senses - sight, smell, touch, taste, hearing. Instead I feel more. Thoughts - usually built of words - become emotions that swirl, like the clouds of snow beyond the window, around my heart.

Snow comes in such silence, strips the modern world of its supremacy over us; the snow takes me further away. Nothing about this landscape is familiar.

Snow, by Louis MacNeice

The room was suddenly rich and the great bay-window was
Spawning snow and pink rose against it
Soundlessly collateral and incompatible:
World is suddener than we fancy it.

World is crazier and more of it than we think,
Incorrigibly plural. I peel and portion
A tangerine and spit the pips and feel
The drunkenness of things being various.

And the fire flames with a bubbling sound for world
Is more spiteful and gay than one supposes --
On the tongue on the eyes on the ears in the palms of one's hands--
There is more than glass between the snow and the huge roses.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Cold in Canadia

Picture above is courtesy of Brian Swetek over at Time to You'll have to Google it because I'm on a Mac and nothing is the same anymore.

So, I've arrived in Mississauga, popular suburb of Canadia and official home of the strip mall. My friend Simon, who is also here calls them strip malls. I'm not even sure what a strip mall is, but I like the sound of it.

I am travelling with my friend Kate, who stepped in to accompany me at the last minute due to my incredible fear of flying. It wasn't too bad on the first flight. I clutched my little Buddha in my hand and thought of hugs and kisses. I tell myself in these moments that everyone gets as nervous at flying as I do, but I know this isn't actually true. You can tell by the look on people's faces. Some people are just chilling out, reading, doing sudoku - I'm quietly confident that these people are not fixing their gaze and silently screaming, 'We're going too fast, we're going too fast, nothing on earth should be going this fast, my ears are exploding, AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHH!" Or maybe they're just convering it well.

Kate said that I seem to deal with the fear pretty well, and this was probably the calmest I've ever been on a flight, but even so, my most comfort comes from just acclimatizing myself to the fact that I'm about to fall out of the sky/crash into another plane/pass out during a spin-dizzy descent following a bird hitting the pilot's windscreen, which doesn't seem to me the most positive way of dealing with fear. Stil, as Miss Sally says, you gotta make it work for you.

It is damn cold in Canadia. Minus 20. There's snow and everything. On the night we flew in, Howard, Simon, Kate and I end up in a restaurant, Moxie's, drinking pinot griogio and laughing a lot before heading back to the house in Mississauga, where we had a snowball at about one in the morning. We're already friends with the neighbours, as you can imagine.

My friend Glenn tried to convince on the night before we left that temperatures this low would freeze our eyeballs. I laughed this one clean off the football pitch of ideas.

"Do you not think we would hear a bit more about that if it were true, Glenn?" I ask, "Do you not think they'd put something in the tourist guides - 'Please bring goggles on your trip if you are travelling to Toronto in winter, as your eyeballs may freeze in their sockets, causing you considerable pain, certain inconvenience and permanent blindness.'"

"It's true," he insists, displaying that incredible Capricorn trait of ignoring you and contradicting you all at the same time.

"Google it," I command. I no longer believe anything that google can't generate at least fifty thousand hits for.

He draws a blank and is kind enough to mumble something about it being a mistake. Glenn is rarely wrong and I know this hurts him. As one of his closest friends, that's all I need and I kindly let it go.

It is bloody cold here though, and I had forgotten that Canadia, like the USA has not learnt yet to put a door on cubicles in public toilets that actually fills the gap made for it. I wrote about this on the Stateside blog last year, but had forgotten. Why leave an inch wide gap around the toilet door? No one outside wants to see me urinating (I'm assuming, and fervently hoping) and I don't want to watch people queuing while I urinate. It's too unEnglish for words. Except these ones, obviously.

My friend Rodders just chastised me on facebook for leaving without saying goodbye, and I need to apologise to more than just her for this, I have abandoned almost everyone without a goodbye as it was all so last minute. I'm only here for a week, so fear ye not, England. We fly back on Thursday night and arrive on Friday, so I will return in time for a cool Yule.

I know it's sappish, but I don't care. I miss you all, of course I do, but I miss James a lot. I've told him this already via email, but I can't tell him too many times or he'll I think I'm overly emotional crazy (I'm certain he hasn't really noticed this aspect fo my personality yet, so don't mention it if you see him, pretend like I'm secure and well-adjusted and for God's sake don't mention the therapy years). He's travelled loads and for long periods of time and he says he never misses anyone. So if you see him, make out like I'm totally stiff-upper lipping it. He doesn't read the blog, so it can just be our little secret......

Monday, December 10, 2007

My weirdness is more benign

Stephen, one of our favourite Peace Cafe Irregulars comes in with some copies of New Scientist, which causes my inner geek to dance the Happy Geek.

"Usual?" I ask him, feeling a little like Carla from Cheers.

He nods and takes a seat. I join him and we sit companionably at the table.

"Who's been in today?" he asks.

I name one our regulars.

"He was in most of the day, sat in the back on his laptop." This is not literally true.

"He was so quiet out back, I kept forgetting he was there."

"Was he watching the golf?" Stephen asks.


"Yeah, he likes to watch the golf on his laptop. That's usually what he's doing."

"Ohhhhh," I exhale, with new understanding, "I always assumed he was looking at porn!"

Stephen laughs. He has a genuine, loud laugh that always makes me feel about three times funnier than I actually am.

"You thought he was sat in the back, watching porn, and you thought this was ok?" he giggles at me, "He could be sat out there wanking, and that's ok?"

I protest.

"I never said he was wanking! Nor did I imply it was ok to sit in the back and look at porn. But working here is not like working in the libraries, where you had to keep a really close eye on what people were doing."

"I've heard bad things about libraries," he agrees.

"You would not believe it," I confirm, "It is my strongly held belief that there are people who only get their rocks off by wanking in public libraries."

The woman at the table behind us, sat scribbling in a notebook (by which I mean she was sat on a chair, not in a notebook), starts to giggle uncontrollably. In hindsight, I'm hoping she wasn't writing a review, because I don't think James will congratulate me for that one.

"There must be a name for that," I muse, "For people who get off on wanking in the library."

I Google search 'person who wanks in libraries' while we continue talking.

I don't find a specific term for this particular preference, but I do find a website with a discussion forum on wanking. Brilliant. Someone has posted a satire on an article on the health benefits of walking, but have undertaken the detailed and hilarious task (for which I have immense admiration) of replacing the word 'walk' with 'wank'. Priceless. This contains such precious gems as:

Regular wanking, like all ‘aerobic’ exercise, can have a dramatic effect on cardiorespiratory fitness or ‘aerobic power’. Regular exercise carried out three times a week for 30 minutes or more at the right intensity will result in increases of aerobic power (Davison & Grant 1993)

The intensity of wanking for fitness benefits varies according to the age and fitness of the individual, but generally, ‘brisk is best’.

A simple way to work out how briskly you should wank is to aim to wank “fast without overexertion”. You should just about be able to hold a conversation while you are wanking - the ‘talk test’.

I show it to Stephen, who tires of it after a few sentences.

"It's kind of based on just one joke, isn't it?" he points out.

I am still laughing at it. "I know! Brilliant!"

Incidentally, if you do an image search for 'person who wanks in libraries' (I can only assure you that I did it by accident while about to search for an image of a library), one of the results is a picture of Arnold Schwarzeneger.

In other news, I have a blog question:

Would you go out with someone who slept in a coffin?

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Feline Sexual Predators in the Expensive Sector

'Eyes without a Face' by glitterdarkstar, from deviantart

It's Saturday, I'm in a bit of a funk, worried about a friend in another country. It sucks to be so far away from someone you love sometimes, and I'm not good at feeling helpless and impotent. Although, maybe there are people out there that are good at it. Are there?

I go to the Chief's to take him out for coffee. He's still cleaning the detritus left over from the office party the night before. I could say something here about him still being in stripy pyjamas as he cleans, but that would be a breach of privacy. Not that he'd know about it. The Chief isn't reading the Daily anymore. He says that I betrayed my readership by disappearing from the face of the planet and abandoning them to virtual silence.

While the Chief cleans, I wander upstairs to find Harry, who can always be found under the bed. Harry is the Chief's cat. Actually, I'm not sure Harry can acccurately be described as anyone's cat (cats don't really belong to anyone but themselves, do they?). True to form, he is lying under the bed looking at me with a mixture of curiosity and disdain.

"Harry! Come on then! Come on then!" I call, not like an invitation to a fight, but like an invitation to come out and allow me to harass him for a while. He concurs.

Harry is a strange feline, the Chief calls him a non-cat. His affection comes in stages. First he drools on you a lot. He's a natural born dribbler. Usually, I give up at this stage, for obvious reasons. I like cats, but rarely enjoy taking a dip in their saliva.

Today, though, I am feeling distant and unsure. I'm happy for Harry's company. I lie down on James' bed and Harry jumps up to join me (don't tell James, he doesn't let Harry on the bed). I stare balefully through the window (which is also a jar) at a windy, raining, very English autumn day. Harry drools happily all over my sleeve as I stroke him. We stay like this for awhile.

I am thinking about my distant friend. I am thinking about how helpless I feel, and even though I know worrying solves nothing, I have never discovered the ability to switch off the part of my mind that, when something bad happens to someone I live, worries and worries and worries about them. I wish he was here, and then I could take over and busy around until everything was ok again. It occurs to me that maybe worrying is more about me than it is about my friend.

Then Harry bites my arm.

"Ow!!! Harry!" I squeal, in an entirely girlish manner that makes me feel more than a little ashamed as the sound emerges from my mouth.

It's not that he bit me hard or anything, but Harry has very sharp teeth and even a light bite is enough to get you to notice. Then I saw something else. Harry had stopped drooling. Which is how I discovered stage 2 of affection from Harry. Biting.

Harry bit my arms, my head (which left a lot of saliva in my hair - not cool) and even my leg. I announced a very firm 'No!' however, when he moved towards my chest, though. No frickin' way, dog. Or cat.

At this stage, I got a little nervous about Harry's biting fetish, and, feeling cat saliva trickling over my scalp, I got up to try to sort out my hair. Harry sat on the bed as I stood up and turned my back to him. I was fussing with my hair, when suddenly I felt a pair of teeth sink firmly into my right buttock. The girlish squeal long-gone, I emitted an actual yelp of genuine surprise, followed by a round of loud laughter.

"Harry, you actually just bit my butt, dude!" I squawked at him, and I could have sworn that cat was laughing.

The Chief appeared in the doorway.

"Who have you been talking to?" he asked quizzically glancing around the room.

"Harry." I tell him, as if it were obvious. He was the only other, er, cat there.

The Chief glanced at Harry then at me.

"Shall we go?" was all he said.

Friday, December 7, 2007

An evening at Kyo's

I'm in a fudge at the end of today and curled up on my couch listening to sombre sounds on my stereo when James calls.

"I want to cheer you up," he tells me, "Meet me at Kyo's, we're all going to play you songs until you're happy again.

I go to Kyo's. Obviously.

Dr Dan and Kyo play guitars, Dr Dan sings and James plays the  didgeridoo (I know, there is  no way to announce this without comedy, but more of this later).

Dr Dan has a beautiful voice and the three instruments work beautifully together. It reminds me of being 19 and hanging out with Glenn and Howard while they played guitars and sang. I miss that.

Kyo suddenly burps, and laughs with a half-shamed, half-amused face.

I burst out laughing at his expression.

"Sorry!" he giggles, "There's a frog in the village!"

James starts singing arbitrarily down his didgeridoo. There is actually no way to stop this sentence being funny. Actually, there is no way to stop any sentence with the word didgeridoo in it being funny. Except possibly that one.

My brother once slept with this girl (and I mean that literally - once, not slept) who, after the passion was spent, as t'were, got out of bed and announced to him, "Let me show you something."

Cool, my brother thought.

Then she got out a didgeridoo and started playing it. Straight after sex. Imagine.

When my brother told me this story, the day after, I laughed so hard I actually bruised my own ribs. He's going to be tickled when he finds out I posted this story on the internet. Siblings, huh?

"We're didgeridooing in Dan's face!" announces James as I write. Dan is on the phone to his girlfriend and the boys are distracting their conversation mercilessly.

"Write that in your diary!" he continues.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Stranger than Fiction

Sometimes I feel like I attract strange happenings.

Surely not, I hear you cry. Sarah, you are just too well adjusted.

I know, but nonetheless....

Last week, in the toilet at The Ministry, by the sinks, was a wrinkled old carrier bag bearing a label that said:

Lady's bra -- found in corridor.

This raised a lot of questions for me. Firstly the qualification of 'lady's' in the first place - as opposed to a man's bra? But then my neurons really started to fire backwards. What do they mean? Found in corridor? How would a lady's bra (I can't help it, I will now forever refer to bras as 'lady's bras' as though there were another kind. I may even correct strangers if they say bra without it) get in the corridor? How would you lose that?

Now, it was after hours, and on my way to the lady's (toilet, not bra), I climbed the echoey (is that a word? It is now - taking my own advice to invent words at whim) stairwell and I thought I heard the gentle moans of sexual activity somewhere above. But I assumed I was imagining it.

But maybe that was where the bra came from. Maybe, it was whipped off during a passionate act of illicit congress, it fell down the centre of the stairwell, where it lodged on someone's bag. As a mail trolley went past, perhaps it snagged on the bra, still attached to the bag, and carried it away into the corridor, where as the lift doors opened, it fell to the ground and lay abandoned until a kindly civil servant carried it to the ladies, and deposited it in an old bag, for modesty's sake, in case the owner claimed it.


I told James and Kit Kat about this last week, along with accompanying hypothesis about how it was found. They stared at me doubtfully.

"Hey, I've got an idea!" James suddenly announced, "You should take in a bra next Wednesday, and every Wednesday after that. It would drive people crazy and start all sorts of rumours...."

"Yeah!" I enthused, embracing the weirdness with little resistance, "I could go to charity shops and buy loads of bras of different colours and sizes - it would be like the phantom over the shoulder boulder holder deserter!"

There was a long silence. I never know when to quit.

Well, I didn't get the chance to perpetuate the jug juggler oddness around the Ministry, because today, someone else beat me to it.

Exactly a week later. Same toilet. Same time of day. This time, in the cubicle, unsheathed by a carrier bag, old or otherwise, was a big old pair of black pants.

Pants. Actual pants. Someone's pants. I did not dare to check if they had been worn. Dear reader, I did not want to know nearly enough to even attempt it.

So, did someone else have the same idea? To bring in underwear every Wednesday? Dump your drawers Wednesdays? Unpeel your underwear day? What is happening to my life?

I know truth is stranger than fiction, but I swear to God, I am not making this shit up. My life is beginning to feel like the Truman Show. Is this a test?

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Ask a silly question, get an obvious answer

I’m giving up drinking. At least until Christmas. I’ve decided. Last week I had a conversation with James in the Peace Café about alcohol. I’d just stumbled in from the Slug and Lettuce a bottle of champagne worse for wear and I settled a little too comfortably on the couch.

“Are you drunk?” asked James. I suspect this question was a mere formality given that I smelt like an advert for Moet and Chandon.

“A little,” I admitted, “Shon and I thought we would go for cocktails and then digressed.”

I’m not sure that my answer was as coherent as this, but this is definitely what it sounded like in my head.

There was a pause. James smiled at me and absently stroked my hair. I think he was really thinking about whether denying the fish their food for a few days, as he has read somewhere recently, will really make them breed. In case I’ve never mentioned it, he’s obsessed with the fish in the Café having babies. If I could arrange it for his Christmas present, I would, but I’m not sure, other than appealing to the pixies, that I have any way of doing this.

We settled into a comfortable silence, James contemplating the fish, and me contemplating the gentle rotation of the room.

This was when I made a mistake.

I used to read a lot of legal beagle detective fiction, John Grisham and the like, and I distinctly remember one basic rule of thumb for cross-examining your own client:

Never ask a question you do not already know the answer to.

Over the years, I have learnt to apply a similar rule to relationships:

Never ask a question you do not already know the answer to, unless you are:
a) absolutely sure that you really want to know the answer
b) as sure as you can be that you can handle the answer

This rule has kept me out of so many stupid and unnecessary relationship situations and conversations that, being exceptionally curious and talkative, I used to get myself into all the time. Questions like, Do you fancy that girl over there? Do you really like me in this dress? And How many people have you actually slept with? Questions that could so easily end in an argument. This rule has also made me realise that there are a lot of things I actually don’t need to know.

So, I’m on the couch, a little tipsy, James is stroking my hair and I let one of these questions fall casually out of my mouth as if the previously discussed rule of ignorance had never been invented.

“Do you think I drink too much?”

What a nugget. Because you know what’s coming, whether you know James and his instinctive imperative for honesty or not and whether you know anything about my alcoholism, I mean, occasional tippling.

“Yes,” he said with his usual unassuming sincerity. He thought for a moment. “You always have wine in. You drink most evenings. And you do drink quite a lot.”

This is why you never ask these sorts of questions. Because although James had not said anything I disagreed with (mostly because it was true), and although I had actually asked the question to begin with, I now felt irrationally angry with him for saying it.

Which is why I regressed to a surly teen.

“Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaallllllllllright!” I squeaked, sitting upwards and sending the hand that had previously been stroking my hair flying, “There’s no need to be so mean!”

He smiled, far more calmly than I could appreciate at that moment, “But you asked me.”

I regressed even further.

“Well so what if I did. Have you looked at the amount you drink lately?”

I always know when I’m losing an argument. Attack may be a good form of defence, but in my experience, being right is usually the best one. If I’m having to attack someone else in order to avoid answering something, it’s usually because I can’t.

“Yes,” James answered, with infuriating honesty, “I have. I do drink too much.”

And with that he left me shaping words soundlessly on the couch as he went to serve a customer.
So, I’m giving up drinking. Until Christmas, when circumstance will dictate that I’ll have to join in. But I think it could be good to round the total of ‘things I gave up in 2007’ to three: I’ve done meat, I’ve done caffeine, and now I’m, going to beat the demon booze.

Write to me while I’m suffering the dt’s, would you?

Sunday, December 2, 2007

You took the straw out of my woo woo

I've been spending time in the Slug and Lettuce in Palmerston Road lately, mostly with the gorgeous Shon and her handsome offspring. It's a friendly, laid back venue and they do some great cocktails. Shon bought us a Lush champagne cocktail on Friday and we liked it so much we followed it with a whole bottle of champagne. It's cheaper on Friday's.

James and I met our friend, The Actor,  in there for a quick drink today. It was one of those social gatherings where you end up seeing friends of friends, which I like. Our friend, officially the most homophobic gay man I know, met a young couple there I hadn't met before. James and the boyfriend happily discussed Buddhism while the Actor and I gossiped relentlessly about whether another mutual acquaintance is gay and just hasn't realised it yet, or whether he's just got a touch of the Llewelyn-Bowens.

Star Wars Episode 1 is on tv. This makes me happy on a rainy sunday.

I have a secret fascination with yoda. If you're a boy, then this question will probabaly seem downright bizarre, but did you know that no one actually knows what Yoda is? His origins have never been confirmed - how strange is that? As a writer, this is  a brilliant back story for a character to have. In the sort of fiction I write, it's often useful for readers not to know where a character is from or even anything about them, but actually having a character that no one knows what they are? Now that's bloody clever, that is.

In fact, if you ask Google what Yoda is, you get some great results, including a theory that Yoda is Amish (I always assumed he was a Buddhist), the fact that his face was based on Albert Einstein's, and that someone has written a book linking Buddhism itself with Star Wars, called The Dharma of Star Wars. And some people think he was a vegetarian.

But despite the wide variety of Yoda-related joy on the WonderWeb, it's hard to beat this - Yoda being Gangsta:

Friday, November 30, 2007

Destroying the PPC?

Glenn has decided he wants to dispose of the Phantom Pornographer's Collection (the PPC) in a ritual fashion, taking all the magazines somewhere and dumping them. Kate and I thought about burning them, but I'm not sure where you might be legally allowed to do that. It might all go horribly wrong in that way that burning paper has, where it ends up floating random scraps all over the place. I'm not sure it would be ethical to send scorched images of breasts into the ether, in a witchy sense, that is.

As ever, suggestions are always welcomed here.

Today, I'm feeling rather uninspired. At first I thought it was something to do with the weather. You know, grey clouds, grey skies, misty rain. It can make for a pretty depressing environment, and sometimes this is not conducive to creativity or even a positive state of mind. But then, this morning, I wander into the greyness and discover that I actually quite like it. I like the desolate emptiness of the trees against the severe sky, I like the abandonment in the stab of cold wind, I like the aimless misting stream of drizzle as it drifts across the empty street. My favourite time for this weather is at dusk, when the sun starts to go down. A strange light comes over the street and the trees seem to shine darkly on either side of the road, as the streetlights come on one by one.

So it's not the weather. Who knows. My mother did tell me there would be days like these.

I cheer myself up by catching up on some blogs I haven't had the chance to visit in a while. One of my first stops is Freakonomics, where I find a funny little short on the history of abs. Well worth a watch, I'd post it here if I could find a way to embed the bloody thing. Check out the link. Funnily enough, it didn't go down so well amongst some of the commentors. I think it's a boy thing. Would they have complained if it was about tits? I thought the tongue-in-cheek feel of the film was kind of meant to inspire thoughts of gender, myself, but maybe that's just me.

Is there any such thing as feminist economics? I'd like to think there must be. Feminist theory gets everywhere, like spilt water.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Getting to Know You

You know, it's funny what you change your mind about. For instance, I always swore I would never post one of those lame email circular 'Getting to know you' posts. And yet......

Today my friend, the rather delightful Richard, sent me one of the very same, and given the lateness of the hour, I can't help but think to share.

Not that I know of. I'd like to think it's after Sarah Bernhardt. I too am often referred to as 'The divine Sarah', although mostly only by me.

Monday night, like a small badger who had just lost their chocolate buttons.

Very much, especially in fountain pen. And in purple ink. On cream coloured paper. I have a secret stationery fetish.

I'm a vegetarian. It used to be tuna. Does that count as meat? It has a face.

No, I have parents and an older brother. It can be similar.

Unlikely, I'd probably find myself too self-obsessed. Although actually, if I was me being friends with me, this might make me like me more. We'd both be obsessed with me, which would mean I would get to talk about myself twice as much as I normally do. So, I've changed my mind, the answer's yes. I'd love me. I'd want to be with me all the time.

What a ridiculous suggestion.

Yes. They don't take them out any more. You have to do it yourself by tying string round them, tying the string to a door and then slamming the door. No, hold on, that's teeth.

It would depend what was chasing me.

Muesli. Preferably swiss. I bought this cheap stuff recently that had cinnamon. It was vile. I felt betrayed by my local supermarket and have written a very stiff letter of complaint to the manager. On cardboard.


Never. Or when I put them on. This is mostly because almost none of my shoes have laces. I never learnt to tie bows.

Stronger than your average bear, yes.

I prefer sorbet, which is strange because it always makes me look like I'm sucking a lemon. If it's lemon sorbet, this is actually kind of true, but you know what I mean.

Their expression. It's important to notice this. It can provide an early indicator as to whether someone is about to attack you. Whether they're carrying an assault rifle is also a vital clue.

red or pink what? Some things should be pink. If they're red, it could mean they're bleeding.

My inability to answer questions succinctly, choosing instead to ramble vaguely about the point, rarely and sometimes never actually arriving at what I meant to say when I was first asked the question, and often totally forgetting what it was in the first place.

My other personality.

No, I wrote it. I already know what it says.

A really bright pink, but still on the right side of fluorescent, and black boots. That's not all I'm wearing, obviously. I'm at my day job right now.




The sound of typing.

Purple , same as Richard, but I would add that I would be blunted and broken, with half my paper ripped off.


My boyfriend's neck.

My mum.

More than I could describe in words. Though I would have a go if he needed a reference or anything.

As if.

A photographer once told me it was titian (LIU,D), but I was called ginger throughout my childhood. Most people say that I'm not ginger anymore, which would have pleased me back then but annoys me now. I usually refer to it as the colour of dirty dishwater.



I have a phobia of anything going into my eyes, so no. I do have glasses, but I always forget them, which means I spend a lot of time squinting at people in the street or across a room. This often makes them think I have a personality disorder way before the experience of talking to me confirms their suspicion.

Mexican. Anything Mexican. Not people, though. That's actually illegal in most, if not all countries now. If I'm allowed to wear a sombrero whilst eating Mexican food, then happiness is mine.


Scary movies with happy endings.

Hot Fuzz. Awesome. Yarp.

Red jumper.


Summer . Unless it's for the Olympics, because I like the ski jumping. Especially when they fall down.

Being kissed while being hugged.

Chocolate things. But not cheesecake. Cheesecake and chocolate should never be combined. It actually contravenes an ancient byelaw




Jim Butcher's latest Harry Dresden novel. Ah-sum.
Don't watch TV. Well, sometimes Question Time or CSI Miami because the ginger guy is so intensely bad it makes me laugh.

Running water. Preferably rivers or the sea, more than say, a urinal.

Beatles, because all you need is love and I have no sympathy for the Devil. I do have a secret fascination with Lucifer, but don't tell anyone.


Answering questionnaires. Oh, and the ability to read minds. I cannot believe you would actually do that to an animal, dude. Seek help.

Here. Portsmouth, I mean, not at my desk.


Tuesday, November 27, 2007

"When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth." Sherlock Holmes

The entire lyrics to the Charlie Brown and Snoopy show are now posted on yesterday's post, thanks to the Anonymous. We cannot get enough feedback. Obviously, I now also cannot get enough of singing the Charlie Brown theme tune, but that's a whole other post.

I spent much of this morning, in my incarnation as a Policy Assistant with the Ministry of Cultural Services (recently renamed, do keep up), with the Arthur Conan Doyle Collection, Lancelyn Green Bequest. You can get an insight into this amazing collection, which has truly staggering potential for the development of the city (not least in terms of tourism, but also academic reputation and kudos with the huge international community of Sherlockians), at the City Museum's award-winning exhibition, A Study in Sherlock (do you see what they did there? No? Well, you'd probably have to be a bit of a Sherlockian to truly get that pun). I'd recommend a visit - I've been twice and will doubtless take visitors to it again.

I was visiting only the Archives strand of this important bequest, which is being co-ordinated by the city's fantastic archive staff and a band (unspeckled) of outstanding volunteers, of which I one day hope to be one. The Archives service are dealing with the records of the Collection, inlcuding letters, paper based memorabilia and countless photographs. The complexity of the work being undertaken is astounding, and there is so much work involved for the volunteers and project staff. I was lucky enough to meet two of the volunteers this morning, one who was working on the digitalization of the project and one who was removing duplicates from the photograph collection prior to them being digitized.

What struck me most about my visit (I was preparing an article for Culture Brief, our internal newsletter) was not just the amount of work needed to prepare a collection for public access like the Arthur Conan Doyle Collection, Lancelyn Green Bequest, but the breadth of skills required. The photographs alone cover such an extensive range of subjects and themes, for example.

Currently, the collection's preparation is split across libraries, who are dealing with books, museums who are dealing with the 3d items and the records service, who are dealing with the archives element of the collection.

If you can't get to the Portsmouth City Museum immediately, you can find out more about the collection at its dedicated website, here. Subscribe to the email newsletter online at the Collection's website for news.

In other news, my mojo has returned. I had been fearing for much of last week that a huge aspect of my personality, namely the fun part, had disappeared with the removal of caffeine from my daily diet. However, today, I felt much more like myself, and even found time to irritate the Chief, amuse Miss Sally and distract my other colleagues from their valuable work.

Everyone in the office is understandably relieved by the return of my eight personality - one of approximately thirty competing personalities, the Chief believes.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Eeyore days

I love you, Anonymous. I'm going to call you Kenike from now on. I'm pretty sure that that's not how you spell Kenike, but let's not split hairs.

It's more an Eeyore kind of day, but I can't stop thinking about Charlie Brown.

This is not insurmountable, and in some ways, it's better that I'm working in the Peace Cafe (Castle Road, Southsea, for all your internet, buddhist, coffee and herbal tea needs), even though I would rather be snuggled up under a blanket in my new round wicker chair. The wicker chair in my bedroom is my new favourite place to be. Since I got that chair, I rarely want to be anywhere else. Sometimes, when company arrive, I resent their presence because secretly I want to be back in my chair.

Does this make me a hermit? Does this make me old? Does this mean I was a cat in my past life? I'm definitely a bitch in this one, in Vedic astrological terms only, of course.

Cafe customers come in fits and starts.

I am grateful this morning for one of my best friends, Heather, and for one of the PC Irregulars, Stephen. They talk Charlie Brown and Healys with me for an hour, while Scottish John sits in the back room, occasionally giggling. at our conversations.

"Did Charlie Brown ever get to kiss the little red haired girl?" I ask Heather.

She Googles it.

"Yes, in an episode called 'It's Your First Kiss, Charlie Brown, in 1977," she replies, with authority.

"Was Linus the one who played the piano?" I ask.

"No, he had a comfort blanket," comments Stephen, over his open Guardian, "He wouldn't have been able to play the piano and carry the blanket."

He takes a sip of his peppermint tea.

"I know he had a blanket, but I thought maybe he put it down to play, like maybe that was the only time he didn't need it. You know, like that brain surgeon with Tourettes."

Stephen chokes on his peppermint tea and from the back room comes the sound of John, gently laughing.

"You're very inquisitive today, Sarah," John observes.

"You say inquisitive where others say annoying," I answer glumly.

"Endearing," he rebukes.

"It was Schroeder on the piano," says Heather and points to a Google image of him.

"I liked him. Not as much as Charlie Brown, but a close second," I tell everyone.

"Did you want to be the little red haired girl?" asks Stephen.

"No," says Heather, with her back to him, "I'm a brunette."

"Er, I was asking Sarah," he points out.

"That would make more sense," she answers, "Sarah's actually got red hair."

Stephen looks at me.

"Yes," I say sadly, "I always wanted to be the little red haired girl."

Sunday, November 25, 2007

The PP Strikes Back?

Things are becoming more surreal at the Loft.

Last night I convinced myself that my neighbour, the Finnish blonde, was dead. When I came back to the house in the early evening I noticed that her doors were wide open. Although this isn't unusual (it must be very safe in Finland), they hadn't changed position from the time I went out earlier in the day.

This worried me, and I vaguely peered through the gloom into her flat. It was very dark and I am slightly ashamed to say that I lost my nerve. I scuttled up to my flat for inspiration.

Fortunately, my friend, the Gentle Giant, Glenn, arrived a short time later and after consuming a couple of stiff gins, I suggested that we venture down there to check out the scene. We stumbled down the stairs nervously. Just as we approached her door, however, the sound of the television blared out and all was well.

I think I had let my imagination get carried away with itself a little. This wasn't helped by the fact that I've heard a couple of gruesome stories of the dead neighbour type recently and my subconscious was probably being influenced by them. The most recent of these stories included the detail that dead people smell like a butcher's shop after a while, and I was convinced in my earlier investigations of the hallway that I could smell fresh meat. Possibly I've been a vegetarian for too long and I'm starting to have bloodlust hallucinations. I'll talk to my shrink. Again.

Weirder than this interior and rather odd dead neighbour paranoia, however, was when I showed Glenn the PP's jazz mag hideout, only to discover that Mayfair has been joined by a copy of Rustler. Does pornography have a tendency to breed pornography, although it may interesting to discuss, I mean this as a literal rather than a philosophical question.

More than this however, we noticed four carrier bags stuffed with what Glenn described as "vintage porn" - that's FOUR carrier bags, dear reader, and I use the term 'stuffed' entirely correctly, although 'crammed' would also suffice. I let Glenn investigate, as he appeared to possess a more discerning eye on the material than I, and he wiped his hand on the leg of his jeans after with a dubious and slightly nervous look.

"Oh God," he said faintly, "It's probably used."

Glenn thinks this one would even have Sherlock himself stumped. Judging by the amount of dirt mags down there, and the fact that Holmes never seemed to get any action after Irene Adler, I'm inclined to agree it would certainly keep the great detective busy for a good few hours.

Any ideas?

Saturday, November 24, 2007

The Bonus Ball Post

You lucky people, today you get two posts for the price of one. I've had this song for quite a while, by Fionn Regan, Be Good or Be Gone, but today I saw the video for the first time and had to post it for y'all.


Phantom Pornographers Come In the Night

I woke up this morning knowing that I should have been somewhere else. It was actually a very similar state of mind to the one in which I went to bed, minus the wine-heavy induced fug. Is fug even a word? Well, if not, it probably should be.

Fug: noun, a cloudy, dispossessed state of mind.

There. It is now.

Everyone should invent at least one word every year. It should be mandatory. They should sneak it into their everyday use and familiarise other people with its meaning until it's been accepted by their entire social circle and has become a familiar reference. Then let the word spread outward to friends of friends until it has infected an entire town, a region, a country. Before you know it the dictionary would be populated with these words, and believe me, this would be no bad thing.

If you're in any doubt about this viewpoint, check out this TedTalk.

Unless you're as lexicographically fascinated as I am, you may not last the whole thing, but try. It's worth it and Erin McKean is one of the most engaging speakers I've heard for a while. And she has great glasses.

So, the phantom pornographer, you're doubtless wondering. Where's the link? Well, I'm glad you asked.

When I left the house this morning, the front door was ajar (How can the door be a jar? I hear you cry. Stop being so silly). This is not too worrying as we have an interior front door that was closed and locked. But more mysterious than this was the fact that in the space between the two doors, our utility cupboard had been opened. I wasn’t worried about this either, I had a nose around in there when I moved in and apart from spiders and a lot of dust, it was entirely empty.

Now to open the cupboard really does require intent, it’s not just a handle, you have to turn these catches and then the door just comes off in your hand really. The door, when I found it this morning, had been taken off and left next to the front door.

Odd, I thought.

When I went to put the cupboard door back on, I saw something on the top shelf (this would turn out to be quite ironic). I put the door down again and turned back. On the shelf was a copy of Mayfair, a well-known (or so I’m told) porn mag.

Really odd, I thought.

So, any theories gladly welcomed. Why would someone pry open the front door of the house and leave a copy of Mayfair in an empty cupboard? If they wanted us to try it out, why wouldn’t they just post it through the door with a note saying ‘Saw this and thought of you?’

Do you think we are becoming the assignation point for a group of rebellious, porn obsessed teens? Answers in the comments box to the usual.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Of Internet, Information and Dissent

I love this picture. I found it on Facebook this morning on a feminist group there. Facebook is a strange phenomenon. It's put me back in touch with a lot of people I didn't expect to hear from again, and it's put me in contact with a lot of people I probably wouldn't have got to know without it. This morning, for instance, someone contacted me about a piece of research I conducted for a children's play advocacy organization, PLAYLINK, which was published in September. They need help with their dissertation and found me on Facebook.

But I understand there are also some dangers. My friend Charlie, one of the Peace Cafe Irregulars, posted a short film on the perils of information gathering on Facebook on my Funwall. You can check it out on my profile page or at Youtube, here.

There are other perils to being on Facebook, too. For instance, a few people were sending me strange posts about being a pervert and mentioning obscenity (they were mentioning it, I mean, not me, although I do, from time to time) -I mean, stranger than the messages on this topic that I normally get. It wasn't until I logged onto my own profile page that I realised my friend Kerry had posted a picture of a man with an unusually well developed, er, gland. Now for that, you really will have to check out my profile page.

I wrote about Facebook here a while ago, about a conversation my friend Shelley and I had about Facebook etiquette. I like Facebook, it has to be said, it's just another way of chilling out for me, and a great example of the interactivity of Web 2.0 technologies. Facebook exists for people to interact, and according to the film Charlie sent me, to gather a hell of a lot of information about its users while they do so.

But this is not news. Information gathering is a topic in its own right, and it happens way more than most of us want to think about. I remember Naomi Klein touching on the subject in her fantastic book, No Logo, which, if you haven't already, you should read, by the way.

And talking of Naomi Klein, I wandered over to her website and found a great short film on her latest book, The Shock Doctrine.

Watch this. Check out Naomi's website for yourself, and for God's sake, people, read her books. Like the film says, Information is Shock Resistance. Arm yourself.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

While James Plays Piano

If you had a duck, as a pet, what would you call it?

No, it's important. I really need to know. I'm building a theory that you can tell a lot about a person by their answer to this one basic question.

After dinner, I ask James this significant question. He thinks about it for a moment.

"Alf." He answers.

"Alf?" I splutter, surprised.

"You're thinking like a brown mallard, right?"

"Er, yes," I state, after a blinking pause.

"Yeah. Alf."

We are both silent for a moment. I can actually see Alf. He wanders into the room. I watch him waddle his way over to stand behind James. He lifts his wing and starts to preen the feathers underneath. James is staring at me, and I jerk myself back to reality. Alf disappears in a puff of feathers.

"Not Alfie?"

James wrinkles his nose in revulsion.

"No. Of course not." This is final.

"I would call him Alfie," I confide quietly, "When you weren't around."

I demonstrate, "Alfie! Alfie!"

James looks at me with vague disapproval.

"Although if it was brown, it would be a female," he says.

"A female called Alf?" My certainty is shaken. The Alf I saw just now was definitely male.

"No. That wouldn't work. Maybe Georgetta?" He frowns. "No, the other ducks will take the piss."

My friend Howard has a theory that you can tell a lot about a person from their answer to this fundamental question:

What's your favourite monkey?

I'm inclined to agree with him on this. Mine's an orangutan, although technically this is an ape.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

My fake personality

Today's quiz - name this TV show. Now name the two main characters. Now sing the theme tune. OK, stop, you really shouldn't sing in public.

Thanks to my little advice pixie who recommended smearing myself in ice cream to deal with the withdrawal from caffeine (that was what you said, right? Or this could be embarassing AND it would explain why the office went so ominously quiet at break time) - I think I know who you are. Not because you have a distinctive style of writing or anything too Clarice Starling of me, but because the rest of my readers gave up on me ages ago when The Daily became the Periodically. Bring me the smoothie maker at your convenience. You know I don't mean that, take it out of the toilet right now.

So, I was writing about hormones a couple of days ago and the advice from Dr It Could Be Worse recommending I knock out caffeine. Well, I’ve now done almost two weeks caffeine free, and guess what? That magical time of the month has come spinning around once more. More information than you really need? Like I care.

So the question on everyone’s lips – not least my boyfriend’s – is has the CFP (Caffeine Free Policy) worked?

Well, I was moody as a big old sinful bag of sin yesterday, but not hysterical moody, just sulky teenager moody really. And today, I’ve felt a little, well, irrational, but nothing like I would normally be expecting. So, I’m feeling hopeful.

It will be great if the absence of caffeine genuinely abates the mood swings, cramps and huge emotional chaos of my once a month blues. In addition, my productivity at work is maintaining an unusually high standard, much to The Chief's joy.

However, I miss the larking about that accompanied my crazy mood swings. You know, the desire to jump around and sing, and the need to climb under my desk and surprise people by suddenly grabbing their ankles as they walk by, whilst barking like a terrier (me, not them – people don’t often walk past my desk barking like terriers, that’s obviously my job).

And so do my colleagues. Admittedly it took them some time, in which they too have probably enjoyed higher than average productivity without me blasting out the theme to the A-Team, or inventing jingles for each team (Events, for instance, fits distinctly well to the theme tune for the Flumps – remember them? They were fab). But over the past few days most of the women in my office have expressed concern over my sudden ‘quietness’ – many of them have asked if I’m ill, and I’ve had to admit that I’m actually suffering from the ill-intended effects of health, for once.

I have a dilemma. I feel like a manic depressive who’s been prescribed mood balancers and found that they preferred the swings of mania – except in reverse. I’ve taken a drug away from myself, not placed myself on one. I’m not sure I like this new me. Without the caffeine, is this the real me?

If so, I’m not sure I like her. I think she’s boring and balanced and banal. She’s everything about b’s that I don’t like. But if I go back to caffeine, I’ll know it’s a fake personality – I can’t believe it’s come to this. Coffee was the basis of everything I like about myself.

So what would you do? Do you think it’ll get easier?

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Violet's uncertainty principle

Check out more Lemony treats

I was in the Slug and Lettuce in Palmerston Road last Friday, with my soul sister and her new baby. He's beautiful. So is she, so I was in good spirits before I got there. But until I sat down and we started to talk, I didn't realise how much I had missed her, how well we know each other, how easy it is to talk to her and how much love flows between us while drunken students and middle class wine drinkers weave their way between table and bar.

It's a strange kind of pub, the S&L. It has a kind of London feel to it, but it's in the heart of Southsea. For some reason all the students in there were male, they were all wearing chinos and an assortment of 'hilarious' hats and I suspect that more than an average proportion of them were named Roger and excelled at Rugby. I do not have a reversed class prejudice, honest. I just often find myself resenting posh people, and I could stop that anytime I wanted. I've given up caffeine for forking out loud, now anything is possible. I'm psyching myself up for the London Marathon next.

Shon and I are very similar in lots of ways and our life experiences have some mirrored moments in them that has created an easy, shared understanding of the world and each other. This is rare. You may know Shonagh in fact, as she is now a national award winner, who recently scooped a Public Servant of the Year award at the recent Times Awards. She is also the most amazing, intuitive, generous and kind friend I am ever likely to know. She defines loyalty.

At her side was Shonagh's beautiful son, who looks more like her every time I see him. I've never been one for babies, even when my friends create them, but Shonagh's son is the exception that proves the rule. I don't think I'm that good with Hamish, but Shon reassured me that he was utterly attuned to my energy and she was certain he liked me. As if on cue, he rewarded me with a huge grin, which made my heart melt.

"You'll have a baby," Shonagh grinned, "I've always known it."

This has become a frequent topic of conversation between us since Hamish was born. At first, Shonagh issued a command that I should have a child, so that we could hang out together and our babies could be friends. The long silence that followed this suggestion was one only a best friend could ignore. At points, she can be quite Mrs Doyle of Father Ted fame about it: you will have a baby. You will, you will, you will, you will, you WILL. This is despite the fact that I've stated plainly that I would not have children since I was about 14. Again, only your best friend can state your mind, dreams and destiny more plainly than you can.

"You've always known it," I repeat, looking at her doubtfully. Repetition is often the best course of action when Shonagh is determined. She cannot be argued with. She's like a member of the Borg: resistance is futile. Thank god she hasn't got a penis, or she'd probably have been shagging me on the pub table - "You DO want to get pregnant!!"

"Ever since you used to say that if you ever had to name a girl, you'd call her Violet, because it's only a consonant away from violent and you thought it was only fair to give people warning."

I laughed, delighted that she remembers one of my favourite lines from my 'conversations to make people leave you alone when they start hassling you about not wanting kids.'

"But you will have a child, Sare," Shon's sincere expression stopped my heart across the table, "It will be a girl and she'll have red hair and you'll be brilliant."

I smile at Shon. Inside, this conversation is starting an emotional and psychological earthquake that I push to the back of my mind until I have time to feel the tremble. What is my aversion to having kids anyway? Is it linked to the Chief's assertion that my desire not to get married is a way of shirking adult responsibility? Am I a Petra Pan cliche who's afraid of growing up and falling into the trappings of middle class family life (yeah, maybe because seriously, just writing those words makes me reach for the razors)? Is this a failing?

Frankly, that's a whole other show.

In other news, thanks to the Merry Swankster for this post of Bats for Lashes' What's a Girl To Do - I love this video more than I love whiskers on kittens. Not that I have a particular dislike for whiskers anywhere else. Well, maybe......ok, there's no need for me to really get into this, is there.

Monday, November 19, 2007

The Decaff is coming

I'm moody. This is a statement of being, not a description of my current state of mind. My moods are influenced by many things, but when I go to see my doctor about the rather more extreme mood swings that occur during my menstrual cycle, the consultation surprises me.

"How long do the mood swings last?" he asks, after I pre-empt his suggestion that I go on the pill with a firm negative.

"I don't feel like myself for about three days. Sometimes it's like thinking through fog, and my emotional state becomes all-powerful, it can be hard to maintain a firm sense of rationality," I answer, thinking that by 'firm' I mean 'any'.

He looks at me like a plumber might look at a challenging job, drawing in a long, whistling breath.

"The thing is," he says, "PMT is incredibly difficult to treat. Almost impossible really."

Great, I think, nodding politely but trying to convey anticipation of something more useful to follow this helpful observation.

"The first thing I need to tell you is that it could be worse. I see women who lose two weeks a month to PMT."

He gives me a long look and I wonder if this is the end of the consultation.

This is a model of medicine that is new to me. The 'It could be worse' diagnosis. As he stares at me meaningfully, my mind wanders. I imagine stumbling into A&E with my foot hanging off.

"It could be worse. It could be the whole leg, you see. That's much worse. In fact, someone came in this morning with a gunshot wound to the head. He died. Your injury is nowhere near as bad as that."

I snap back to the moment. My doctor is still staring at me.

"Right," I manage. Am I supposed to leave now with this slice of sagacity under my belt? I imagine comforting those worst affected by my moods with the 'It could be worse' diagnosis: my partner, my boss, my friends. I smile.

The doctor sighs, as if guessing correctly that this is not quite enough.

"Do you drink a lot of caffeine?" he asks, finally.

I'm surprised by the question, and images of the dozens of cups of coffee, tea and green tea that I drink in an average day fly through my mind.

"Er, quite a lot, yes," I admit, not meeting his eye. Doctors bring out the innate sense of shame in me.

"Right, well try removing that from your diet."

I splutter the word, "Completely?" in the same tone I would use for the question, Are you high on crack right now?

"Yes. Completely. You'd be surprised how much it affects your moods."

I stare at the carpet, slowly taking in the full horror of his advice. On an average day there is more coffee in my veins than blood.

"Right," I murmur, glumly. There are stains on the carpet at my feet. I shuffle my shoe backwards and wonder what they are.

"Drink grapefruit juice when you have cramps and take these tablets if it's particularly painful. Come back and see me if giving up caffeine doesn't seem to have any effect. Oh, and don't drink alcohol during your period."

He hands me a prescription as I stare at him with violence in my eyes.

So, I'm drinking decaff coffee. This pains me. My friend Kyo called me a fake when I brought a cup to the table. James and I have taken to calling my decaff coffee 'pointless coffee,' which just about sums up how I feel about it. I'm also drinking decaff tea and the green tea has been eradicated from my diet completely.

The effects, or rather the lack of the effect of caffeine was notieable to me almost immediately, especially at work. My swings of mood are legendary at the Ministry, with sudden bursts of energy leading me to sing, to laugh maniacally at random thoughts and it's been known for me to occasionally impersonate larger marsupials around my colleagues' desks.

Without my caffeine highs, I work steadily and fairly quietly. My productivity has increased but my happiness is somewhat dented. I feel as though I've lost a section of my personality.

Thank God he didn't mention anything about giving up the crystal meth.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Virtually Friends

Virtual Friends
Image courtesy of Second Life/BBC

I'm almost embarrassed to write about Facebook, but I made a vow to myself a while ago not to condemn my own life-experience in this neurotic and self-defeating way, so here I am. Writing about Facebook in a consciously non-shameful way.

I was talked into Facebook, which I had heard about many times and whole-heartedly rejected being a part of - on the grounds that it sounded to me like self-indulgent wank - by my friend Ben, the actor. Actually, I wasn't so much talked into it as much as he just signed me up without my consent (giving me the most singularly obscene password that I have ever had to type into a machine on an almost daily basis and which, oddly, I am now loathe to change because it also links into a story about the night Ben and I met, which [is it grammatically improper to use 'which' twice in one sentence?] I am most definitely not going to tell here, or indeed anywhere it could be reproduced and attributed to me).

At first, I didn't understand what all the Facebook fuss was about. It all looked innocuous enough.

Then I started to get friends. Friends that threw sheep at me. Friends that poked me - and the childish novelty of that never wears off. In fact, as my friend Shelley and I were discussing the other day in the pub, Facebook really capitalises on childish novelty. When was the last time, as an adult, you flicked a bogey at someone? Or left a drawing of a big fat cock on one of their possessions? I'm hoping you're thinking it was at school or college, but my point kind of remains valid even if it wasn't.

Shelley had some interesting thoughts on the protocol and etiquette of Facebook bogey flicking and the like.

"What do you think of this?" she asked over her pint, "This girl, who I hardly actually know in the real world - I mean, like, we've spoken to each other in the pub twice or something - added me to her Facebook the other day."

"That doesn't sound so bad," I say, "Quite a few people I don't really know have added me. I don't mind. When I'm sat in the flat on my own sometimes looking at my Facebook, it makes me feel more popular that those people talk to me."

She looks at me for a moment without speaking and then smiles gently.

"That wasn't the end of my story, but, er, nice."

"Oh. Ok," I answer, "I was just kidding about the popularity thing."

"Uh-huh. Anyway, this girl adds me as a friend, which is cool, but then, after a couple of days, she flicks a bogey at me." Shelley pauses and looks at me.

"Oh," I answer, drawing out the syllable in a strangely satisfying way, "That's a bit familiar."

"Exactly," she answers, satisfied, "Way too familiar. I mean, you should know someone for much longer before you flick bogies at them. There should be some kind of relationship there. Past shared experiences that bring you closer as people, you know?"

The weird thing is, I actually do know what she means, and I'm in agreement.

"Maybe we should write a book about this sort of thing, " I suggest. "Like Facebook manners for beginners, or something. It would make it clear to people what the rules were. We could set out clear guidelines for the exact amount of time you have to know someone before you should flick bogies at them."

"Maybe," she agrees slowly. I let it go.

But, regardless of protocol, Facebook is an interesting phenomena, causing people to interact in a new way. Admittedly, I can think of more positive uses of our time, like meditation, or gradually working our way towards world peace, but even so.

At least it's not serial killing, and there's a lot to be said for that. 

You can take that as a recommendation. Sort of. 

My friend and fellow Peace Cafe Irregular, Spoon (I gave him this nickname because he's a little stirrer, and I'm unquestionably proud of how much he hates it - as an aside, it's a personal ambition of mine to get everyone calling him Spoon), has just joined Facebook and took great pleasure yesterday in announcing to the Cafe at large that he had just poked me. And from across the room.

See what you're missing out on?

Monday, October 8, 2007

Is it a sin to be purposeless?

Some days I don't know what to write. Somedays I look at this screen and it is filled with the expectant gaze of a parent waiting for you to achieve something of value.

This may be why the last couple of days have been filled with recommendations. I like to give you something of use. Days like today, I just don't have the juice.

(Although apparently, I do have the unconscious ability to rhyme, so all is not lost.....)

Other days I have more material than I know what to do with and I can't write any of it because it would probably cost me my friendships/new and delicious relationship with beautiful angel boy/family/professional future.

Ah, the road of the honest writer is filled with potential pitfalls. And reluctant silences. 

Which I am somehow managing to turn into material. I'm making the absence of material, material. God, I hope you appreciate this.

The cafe is empty and it has been like this for about an hour. When you're overly familiar with public space, the temptation to treat it like private space becomes almost overwhelming. I realised this just now when I caught myself dancing like a lunatic to a rendition of These Are a Few of My Favourite Things in french - it was on FIP radio, a French internet station - try it, you might like it.

I forget firstly, that there are big open windows at the front of the Cafe, and secondly that people walk past them all the time.

Actually, as I write this, it begins to make sense why no one's come in.

I could take this opportunity to work on my Great British Novel for Young Adults, but that would be far too sensible. Instead I'm eating Frazzles (an addiction picked up from the previously mentioned beautiful angel boy - and would you Adam and Believe they're vegetarian?? Why would anyone make vegetarian bacon crisps? Well, actually, as I write that I realise because if there's anything I bet all veggies lie the most about missing it's bacon), listening to French radio and desperately resisting the urge to go on Facebook. Bugger.

Ok, that's it. Reading today's entry back is like an advert for Make Your Life a Lethargic Avoidance Trip (if I wrote that, could I actually sell it?). I'm off to work on the GBNYA. Disturb me when the publishers call and not before.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Where does the Pixie writer go?

It was only after I posted yesterday that I saw the comments following my International Day of Peace a la Peace Cafe post. I will post you a debrief on that event in the next few days, maybe even with pictures, if the fates allow. Thanks for asking and I miss writing here every day, too.

What happens when I'm not writing here is a subject of ongoing international debate.

Ok, it's not.

Honestly, I've been reverse-managing my time as part of a CIA experiment to investigate what happens to freelance professionals when they attempt to allow their careers to grow organically, which is to say when they contribute nothing to their own personal future development.

Ok, I haven't. I don't have an answer for you. Well, I do, but I just have no intention of going into it right now. You're not my shrink, for God's sake. I don't want to do it to you.

One thing I have spent time on recently was a treat for Kit Kat. A day of birthday pampering at The Loft, a treat reserved exclusively for only a small number of elite individuals, who consist of, well, just Kate.

Pampering at the Loft is not an event to be taken lightly. A large amount of good food, cheap wine, great music and mindblowing audio visual discovery (including, but by no means restricted to, goat porn) is involved, and only a few people in the world can handle this kind of paradigm-shifting experience. Fortunately Kate and I are two such people. Follow the links below and one day, you might be such people too. But careful what you wish for.

In our travels around the Loft yesterday, the sights we took included:

The Los Angeles Gay Men's Chorus.

One of the Chief's current favourite pieces of music, from Atonement, which fell into our laps in an unusually serendipitous moment of YouTube labyrinthine exploration.

The unusually amazing Laura Marlin.

The discovery of Ze Frank, via TED Talks, and his amazing website. This guy is fascinated with social online interaction, and we spent far too long on his site this morning over coffee. 

We can both recommend The Scribbler, which takes your doodle and turns it into art, and when you've finished trying it for yourself, go back and check out The Gallery - you won't believe what this little tool can do (I'm sure I've said that before).

We also took some time out to out our lives to rights, express our fears and hopes, decide whether we would sooner have sex with Adolf Hitler or Margaret Thatcher if the lives of those we loved depended on it (I refuse to discuss the nature of the half hour long discussion that followed), and to end the evening with some magic.

Some people might say that my return to the blogosphere is so far almost entirely devoted to recommendations. Some people might say that this is a copout from writing about more meaningful things here in blogsville. I avoid these people. So should you. Check out the links and shut up and drink your gin. I can talk about the confusions and the shining joys of love and life anytime, I just choose not to.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Tegan and Sara

I need to show you this. It's Tegan and Sara, musical twins sent from the Fallen Angels themselves.

I love these two women, I love their sound and I really, really love this video. Who is the mysterious figure in black, how do the girls end up back on the stage? Where is this place and who are the masked men? It's all a mystery, and mysteries are one of our favourite things, along with love, understanding, compassion and patience - although listening to Tegan and Sara can be easier than these, sometimes.

Today's post is all about the recommendations. 

If you've ever been a fan of Buffy, if you even vaguely enjoyed just the concept of Harry Potter, or if you have an interest in magic and a penchant for old black and white crime noir films, please check out the Harry Dresden series of books by Jim Butcher. The man is genius, actually both of them are, but only one of them exists in the real world, whatever that means. The books are all available through Portsmouth library service and you can reserve them by talking to a friendly librarian, or use your pin number and do it all on line. What a service.

And in later news. Can you think of anything more beautiful that Australia has to offer than the John Butler Trio? Not sure? Then watch this and make up your own mind. Answers on a postcard to the usual address....

Monday, September 10, 2007

International Day of Peace 2007

Mondays are my Peace Cafe days, when I serve coffees and chat and wash up. I love these days and today was no exception.

It's a bit busy down at the Cafe at the moment. James, the owner, and I are preparing for the festival of loveliness that will be

10am TIL 10pm

Forgive me for shouting about it, but it's just that it will be such a fantastic day, full of such wonderful things that I would hate for you to miss it. Not as much as you would though, obviously. There are an amazing array of things taking place on

10am TIL 10pm

  • the Ministry's very own Michael Gunton, who will be reading haikus,
  • free vegetarian food, made with love,
  • your chance to write your own Wish for the World, which we're hoping to send skyward
  • massage
  • tea tasting sessions
  • a chance to buy some of the Peace Cafe's new merchandise range, including incense, jewellery, scarves, tea and handmade cards
  • make your own trinkets and bracelets
  • psychic and tarot readings
Oh, and there will be so much more, including my lattes - which are now renowned citywide, the Chief has declared them the very best lattes he has ever tasted and you know how many countries that man has been to, don't you? He's drunk lattes with kings, you know, so he knows what he's talking about. So, you really shouldn't miss

10am TIL 10pm

Don't worry, I will continue to remind you it's coming up. I'm good like that. Did I mention that it's also the only celebration for the United Nations International Day of Peace that's taking place in the whole city?

So, just to recap, that's the Peace Cafe on Castle Road, Southsea on 21st September 2007, 10am til 10pm. See you there.
You wouldn't want to miss that, would you? There won't be another one for
a whole year!!

Friday, September 7, 2007

The Poet Speaks

After this, it starts again

after the chaos that holds each moment
that turns the days one after another
that makes the time in which I try
to uncover myself

after the fall that started my tears
that drowned a world and watered the seed
that gave a new world space to grow

after the morning that felt as though it would not come
that reshaped my fear and made it hope
that let me believe I could start anew

after your smile that shook my heart and set it still
that breaks the chain that held me fast
that tied me to my history

after the pen that shapes the words
that makes the world I write about

after this and this and all this time
that keeps replacing every thing with something new

it starts again

and after I am here
and after I am not the same
and after I continue to change

into someone
I can love again, after.

Copyright Sarah Cheverton.
Not to be reproduced without permission of the poet or her agent.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Magical Assortments

Thirty Four - Penitent Angel by ~jaxraven on deviantART

Firstly, a truly shameless plug. By serendipity (a word I love), I chanced upon jaxraven's Shadow Tarot over at, one of my fave haunts on the World Wide Wonderweb. I love the concept of the Shadow Tarot (reminds me of Jung's chat about the Shadow self), I love the designs, and out of all that I've seen, I love this card the very best. It's number 34, Penitent Angel and here's jaxraven's descriptor:

"Although it is his own choices that led to his fall from grace, and his own stubborn pride that have kept him earthbound, finally this Seraph is taking one of the first steps that will lead to his eventual return to the heaven he regrets leaving. What step is this? Not prayer, not holy pilgrimages, no public scourgings or grand guilt-ridden confessions. No, the Penitent Angel is doing something far greater - offering to help another. With outstretched hand he waits to lift any who will accept his gift out of the humdrum, out of the dust, to share the starlit world in which he walks. The advice this card gives is simple, suggesting to you that the quickest way to achieve your own goals is to help another, trusting that the fates will repay you with aid in your own projects and with one of the greatest treasures one can have: the knowledge that simply by existing and acting with care and kindness, you have made the world a better place than it could ever be without you."

Anyone who also knows that I have a secret obsession (there's nothing like posting them on the internet to keep your obsessions secret, is there?) with Lucifer, Evening Star, will also see why this appeals.

JaxRaven, should you catch this, I am also really interested in buying a set of your ShadowTarot cards and am too ridiculously Luddite to manage to figure out how I could leave a comment on any of your numerous websites to find out - please leave a comment on mine if they're for sale!!


And now an addendum to yesterday's post - the bit on goodness.

This morning I was reading Rob Brezny's Astrology newsletter and he talks about his book Pronoia, of which I really would like to get a copy. It's not available via the local library service, I'm afraid, I checked. To be fair, it could be a bit far out for them, anything that contains the phrase "Experiments and exercises in becoming a gracefully probing, erotically funny, shockingly friendly Master of Orgasmic Empathy" may be pushing its luck a little in the public stacks.

Anyhoo, all plugging aside, later in the newsletter, he quotes from Rob Anton Wilson, novelist, essayist and philosopher (amongst, of course, other things):

“Solving problems is one of the highest and most sensual of all our brain functions.”

I liked this because it reminded me of my recent discovery, which formed part of yesterday's post, that people may be great trouble makers, but they're at their best when they're solving problems.

Truth is, I'm getting more than a little obsessed with our Rob, he talks so much inspiration and interestingness (whatever, I can't be a bloody champion wordsmith all the time - think of it as a stylistic device). Listen to this:

The 17th-century surgeon Wilhelm Hilden had an interesting theory about healing. He developed a medicinal salve that he applied not to the wound itself but rather to the weapon that inflicted it. Though today we may sneer at such foolishness, the fact is that Hilden's approach has great potential if used for psychic wounds. Jesus understood this when he articulated the revolutionary formula, "Love your enemy." More than any other action, this strategy has the power to cure you of the distortions your enemy has unleashed in you. Try it out.

It's from his book, Pronoia. Oh, did I already mention it? Maybe you're thinking about buying it now. You really should. And while you're there, could you pick me up a copy........?


But now for something completely different. Sort of.

Did you know that one of the suggested origins of the word Abracadabra is "I create as I speak"?

Neither did I.

Rob Brezny told me (we're like that. To properly understand my meaning, you have to know that I'm doing that thing where I cross my fingers to indicate our closeness....Oh, never mind, I'm making it up anyway. He's never met me.)

Anyhoo, 'I create as I speak' is very close to some of the most important ideas about life I currently have, including the idea that we are, quite literally, 'making this shit up' and that we are creating the world as we go (which also taps into the current zeitgeist of phenomenon like It Works, and Cosmic Ordering). This is an oversimplification and it would probably be more accurate to say that perception is everything, but you catch my drift, I hope.

An alternative origin for Abracadabra translates as 'I transgress as I speak'.

I like this too, because it captures the idea that to name something (out loud in by writing it down) is to finalise your perception of it, which closes down how open you can be to a new perception.

Now that's magic.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Of Goodness, of Monarchs and of Telling Stories

Another great picture from Bill Emory  at black and white
who I never get tired of plugging...

There is fiction in the space between the lines on your page of memories,
Write it down but it doesn't mean you're not just telling stories.
Tracy Chapman

In the past, I have spent too long considering the varied ways in which man displays his inhumanity to man that I often neglect to notice the truly great things: our innovative, infinite capacity for positive creation. People are great problem makers, it's true, but we're even better problem solvers. Today's blog is dedicated to humanity's good streak.

Well, that and slagging off a piece of contemporary cinema, but hey, let's concentrate on the goodness thing.

I started with one of Bill Emory's pictures over at Black and White (see pic credit for links). I'm a subscriber to his blog and he never ceases to inspire. If you've missed him here before, check out his stuff right now. He makes you want to dig out a camera.

The Chief is addicted to TED talks on the internet, and with good reason. He showed me this great talk by Allison Hunt, a Canadian woman who 'cheated' her way to the front of the queue for a hip replacement, by volunteering for the hospital shop. It's inspirational.

I love that: Even when a Canadian cheats the system, they do it in a way that benefits humanity.

And we're not just good to people, either. On the 22nd September, thousands of people will run a 7km route around London, raising money to save the planet's gorilla population. Yet, this a charity run with one key difference: all of these people will be dressed as gorillas. Check out the Great Gorilla Run efforts here.

Lastly, I am also an avid follower of Jenny Diski's blog, Biology of the Worst Kind. Her partner, Ian Patterson, aka The Poet, constructed a poem for her birthday, called Sixty Windows for Jenny. According to Ian Patterson:

here the rule was to take phrases that included the word 'window' from page sixty of sixty novels and simply arrange or re-arrange them, with nothing added.

It's genius stuff, and you should go and read it now, here.

After all this warmth, consideration and much listening to music on the internet, I am disappointed when I spend time watching The Queen, shown on ITV tonight, with commentator's reference to the death of Diana, Princess of Wales. I have to confess I did not enjoy this film much, although I thought much of the acting was superb. It all felt too mechanical, too trite, too neat and tidy, and altogether too Hollywood simplified for me to enjoy. I think after watching the two Capote films, which I loved for their ability to represent a life in fictional terms, and in so doing make a great reference to Capote's most well known work, In Cold Blood. What I liked so much was to what extent the two films are firm in their portrayal of humanity whilst being transparent enough to make reference to the stories they were telling. Or maybe it's just me. I know loads of you loved The Queen, as t'were.