Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Disturbed Innerds

Suddenly the world is turning upside down. Again.

The Speaker of the House of Commons has resigned, forced out, for the first time in three hundred-odd years. Which the MPs seem to think will make us all much happier about the fact that they have been defrauding us for years. It has taken some of the media pressure off them, I suppose, but not for long.

What amazes me is that the ones who have been so greedy are sitting in front of the cameras telling us that because what they did was entirely within the rules, they have done nothing wrong. DONE NOTHING WRONG????? What ever happened to ethics? Just because you obeyed the rules, doesn't mean the rules are right.

And then there are Michael Portillo and others sitting smugly on TV sofas and saying how they never took a penny and are whiter than white. Yeah, right.

I am not sure which is worse, the MPs stamping on one anothers heads to prove they stuck to corrupt rules, or the campaign being waged by the Daily Telegraph to bring down the government.

The biggest thing that has struck me through all this is that it is just another example of English arrogance. (And I mean English, not British, leave the Scots and Welsh out of this, since they have kept their houses VERY clean.) Just as we expect the world to speak our language, we assume that we are the only nation to have an uncorrupt political system. Corruption is something that happens in Italy or Argentina, or the USA. We don't do that sort of thing. Its simply not cricket. We don't do it because we are English and we are right about everything. We invented democracy (er, no...) and we are the only ones to do it correctly.

Only the English could think this about themselves. And now we are having our noses rubbed in our own arrogance. Until we get ourselves out of this historical mindset that makes us think we are better than everybody else, courtesy apparently, according to Dr David Starkey, of Henry VIII, this Fortress England attitude, we can never truly be part of the 21st Century. It just goes to show how deeply entrenched our national identity, or xenophobia really is. And if we don't lose it, we shall be left behind.

Dear England, This is not the 19th Century any more. You do not have an empire. You are not a major industrial nation. You have no real leaders in science and engineering. You are just a little tinpot island on the fringes of Europe clinging onto a Disneyland of a heyday that is nearly a century and a half out of date. Grow up and get real.

And reform Parliament. Quick.

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Ten things you didn't know about me...

The title of this blog seemed like a really good idea at the time. Now I'm quaking at the challenge. I've decided to do it like Steve Martin does the 20 better things about his nose in the movie 'Roxanne'. So, here goes:

  1. DISGUSTING: A dog ate my afterbirth. No seriously, its true. Great title for my memoirs, though, eh?
  2. ROMANTIC: I asked my husband to marry me at the salad counter in M&S three months after we met.
  3. ARTISTIC: My favourite historical artists are Matisse, Rothko, Frida Kahlo, Duncan Grant, Vanessa Bell, Clare Leighton, Edward Seago and J-L David.
  4. LOCAL: My favourite contemporary artists are Garry Pereira, Serena Hall, Celia Hart and others
  5. ECOLOGICAL: I love bats. I think they are magical and marvellous creatures. They make me as excited as a three-year-old in a sweet shop.
  6. PROBABLY PRETENTIOUS (!):I love talking about philosophy with my friend Sally.
  7. UNFORGIVABLE: My 'A' Level graphics teacher told me I would never get into art school because although I was a good draftsman, I didn't have any originality.
  8. SCOTTISH:I have this thing about Scotland. Or more accurately, Scottish men. I think its the accent. I have a total crush on the author Iain Banks.
  9. LITERARY: The last book I read was 'Eat, Pray, Love' by Elizabeth Gilbert.
  10. JUST PLAIN WEIRD: One of my favourite movies is 'Mean Machine' with Vinnie Jones and Jason Statham. Its about football. Mad, eh?
Phew, did it. Now,I wonder if I can come up with another ten...

Oh, and did I mention the shoes? And Neil Oliver? And....

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

What the hell am I doing?????

I just had this lightbulb moment. You ever have those? A moment when the clouds part and everything becomes so clear that it is painfully obvious. And I mean, painfully.

So here’s the thing. My friend Heidi (Heidi likes this blog, may endless blessings be upon her) sent me this email about possible scholarships for Arvon courses. If you have ever done a creative writing course, you will know how important Arvon is. It’s like the ultimate success badge. Gold standard. You don’t get anywhere near being taken seriously as a literary writer, never mind getting published, unless you have been to Arvon.

Well, I haven’t.

It’s incredibly expensive. I mean I’m on benefits, for Gods’ sakes! I can’t afford £575 for a week’s residential, no matter how good it is! That’s just way out of my league.

We were at a writers meeting earlier in the year and Heidi was trying to persuade me that I really should go to Arvon. Why not? She said. If you don’t ask, you don’t get.

So I’ve been sitting on this email all weekend. I looked at the brochure that I sent for after Heidi encouraged me (I’m not going to say nagged). I’d already figured out what courses I wanted to do – I thought if I chose two, I would have a better chance of getting on one. The one I really wanted to do is at Lumb Bank. The first thing the brochure says is that it’s a ten minute walk from the car park down a very steep hill. Accessible it is not. And it’s in Yorkshire. The other one is at Totleigh Barton. And that’s Devon. I mean, DEVON!!! I’ve not yet recovered from the trip home from Scotland. The last thing I can face is the thought of going either to Devon or Leeds. And not in my current state of near collapse. And if I do, am I well enough to keep up the pace? Unlikely. As Antrobus would say, I have doubts. Grave Doubts.

The clever ones amongst you will have already spotted what I am doing.


Aren’t they great?

And I have the best one of all. I’m ill. I can stay in my little bed and never let that scary world hurt me again.

Of course, I am not as clever as you lot, and I’ve only just worked this out. Duuuhhrr, as my nieces would say.

I was reading this great new book I got in the post yesterday, Gail McMeekin’s ‘The 12 Secrets of Highly Creative Women’, and thinking about one of the Challenges in the section about Taking Risks.

‘How does your Inner Patriarch hold you back from taking risks or following through on your creativity?’ page 51.

I thought about the Arvon thing and I wondered why I wasn’t doing anything about it. The answer came back, as clear as day. Nice little Inner Critic voice (what I call my Nigel voice, I don’t know why). It said:

‘Its too scary. What if you get there and you aren’t good enough? Or you can’t keep up because you are too tired. What if you collapse with the effort and anxiety of it all? You aren’t one of the clique after all. And anyway, why ask. They will only turn you down. And you don’t want to be hurt and rejected. So just stay quiet and use being ill as an excuse not to try.’

Good old Nigel.

And I thought, bugger that.

It’s worth noting that I may not get the opportunity. All the places may be gone already. Or I may have to stump up some money towards it, in which case I can’t go (although the ad says it’s a full scholarship). But it’s not till the Autumn. I’ll be lots better by then. At least I hope so. And it’s a great opportunity. And last time Heidi sent me something. I ended up getting a free consultation with The Literary Consultancy (yay for them, they’re great!). So what do I lose by asking?

So tomorrow I am going to ring up Arvon’s London Office and find out. Honestly, I promise. Really really.

Saturday, 9 May 2009

Tigers and Tribulations

'When we tell our stories, we change the world.'
Brene Brown

I never wanted this blog to be about living with chronic illness, but that is what my life seems to be about at the moment. My counsellor is always telling me that one of my biggest problems is that even now, after over ten years, I have failed to accept that I am ill. I suppose she is right. I keep thinking I ought to be better by now. I ought to be able to pull myself together, to control it. But it keeps creeping up behind me and jabbing me in the next with a tazer.

Take this week. I have been 'confined to barracks', trying to get over the journey home from Scotland. Eleven and a half hours with a nasty cold coming on. Even without ME, that would have been a nightmare. A friend who lives in Edinburgh is upset we didn't go to visit. Three hours in the car when we only have six days holiday and an eight plus hour journey either end? I couldn't face it. Why, then do I feel guilty? And why do feel feel guilty that the floor hasn't been hoovered in weeks and the house is a tip? Its all I can do to keep up with the cooking and the laundry.

I'll think I am okay and then it hits me. I can't hold my head up. I can't hold my hands up, so I can't hold a book. If I try to read, I can't remember what the beginning of the sentence was when I get to the end, never mind what the previous sentence was about. My eyes feel sticky all the time. My shoulders and neck are a constant source of pain. My feet throb, and when I walk the soles feel as if they are heavily bruised. And don't even get me started about my guts!

Can you tell me why I still think I ought to be digging the garden?

On Friday it was a beautiful day. Sun out, stiff breeze, the leaves on the trees thick, and the blossom gorgeous. Pat seemed melancholy. A friend had posted his photos of a visit to Banham Zoo on Facebook. That's a good idea, we said. Why don't we go too?

So we went.

Never mind that I had been out for the first time in a week the previous day, had driven for the first time in a fortnight. I just assumed I was better.

You have to walk a long way to get round a zoo. The tiger enclosure is a long way from the meerkats. Okay, maybe not so far for someone in good health, but for me it felt like doing a marathon. By the time 5 o'clock came, time to go home, I was so exhausted I could no longer speak. We drove home in silence. Even so, I stumbled round the Co-op getting food for supper. By the time we got home, I was all but catatonic. Pat offered to cook. I have rarely been so grateful. I went to bed.

He is tolerant, my husband. And kind. But I don't think either of us have really got our heads round this thing. It's wretched and I hate it. The harder I try to recover, the longer it seems to go on.

So now I am back to square one. A week of resting, and I'm no further forward. But the meerkats were lovely.

Monday, 4 May 2009


Okay, so, here's the thing. Its been forever since I actually wrote anything on this thing, not that anybody ever reads it. If they do, its news to me. Well, time to start again. A lot of new stuff is happening in my life so its a good time to do it.

And today I've had the Black Dog. I get days like this, especially when I'm ill and confined to barracks as I am right now. Usually there is something else going on underneath it all. Today its anger. So I kicked the damned dog into touch by painting a big messy mess on a canvas that I'd prepared a couple of weeks back for a Kelly Rae style painting that I wanted to do because I've got her book. So here's this canvas and I want to splosh some paint about. Only here's what happens. I end up with a green heart. GREEN. What does green say to you? Envy, that's what. Turns out I am angry because my house is a tip and I can't do anything about it because I get exhausted just thinking about tidying it.

Result: very angry art journal entry (see below)

I cut a picture out of an old copy of '25 Beautiful Homes' magazine (why do I buy this bleugh?) and drew on it, drew what it would look like if real people lived there instead of it being a dressed setting. Piles of newspapers and books, cold mugs of tea and postcards on the mantel, remote controls and the Radio times on the sofa. THIS is what LIVING really looks like.

So why am I giving myself a hard time that my house doesn't look like Kelly Rae's?

Now if I had some money I would get myself a cleaner and not have to care, but I don't. So how am I going to solve this problem. No idea. Watch this space. But it just goes to show that the art therapy stuff works.

And now I think Pat is going to buy me a Chinese takeaway from Bungay so I don't have to cook...