Friday, 17 November 2017

Stay or Go?

In defiance, I am moving books.

Some are moving back to the charity bookshop from whence they came. (Cue weeping, gnashing of teeth, rending of cloth.)

'Giving and receiving' I say to Shark, Tiger, and Squirrel in my best sermon voice, 'are two sides of the same coin. We have received, and now we give.' I am not actually tearing The Lost Kitten from my innocent child's sweaty grip, but it pretty much feels like it.

I know, I really do, and I am sorry, honestly, truly, deeply sorry, that right now I am messing with what it is to be human. I have fingers in minds. I am messing with identity. I am messing with growing up. And I am messing with love. But my eyes are set on a clear shelf. Accessible only through someone's heart. The Lost Kitten has to go.

When I began this monumental clear out of books some weeks ago, the process was slow and tentative. There was soul searching. Nature in My Back Yard and Let's Explore Water might be cherished by someone! But now, the trickle is become a flood, and into the charity sack I am shovelling Chris Packham together with Lucy Daniels, Willard Price and multiple copies of Maya Angelou (why do we have eight copies? I think I must have stolen them in some birdcage-related madness).

Classics (including minor 19thC American) you can stay, mostly because I don't want to buy you all back again when Squirrel acquires a reading list. Thomas Mann and D.H. Lawrence? Complete Works? Debatable. Mann, I never finished one book yet. (The long night of the German soul not being high on my pleasure list.) And Lawrence? Although my teenage self loved Sons and Lovers, everything since then with Lawrence just went downhill. Squirrel has to make her own mistakes.

So I am like Caesar with my thumb as I pass along those shelves. All primary fiction (okay, except the ones I love), out. Fairy stories, stories from cultures around the world, short stories, in. Borges staying on his shrine, with candles and red velvet. Zola and Pooh Bear, in. Malcolm Bradbury, David Storey, David Lodge, one book only. David Almond, in. Young adult fiction, fiction 1970-2017, by negotiation. (If you're reading this Squirrel, let us this time peruse the stash in civilized discussion, with tea and cake. And remember I also have a soft spot for tales well told of fantasy, history, and dysfunction.)

Now this is where we stand (or standoff). It is me vs every writer who sits on the shelf staring back at me. I have to regain at least 30 metres of wall, and someone's got to blink first.

Thursday, 16 November 2017

Pump, sluice, scan, print

Yesterday, took Dig to Oxford for his appointment with the Big Machine.

To be scanned, Dig becomes (temporarily) radioactive and is laid on a flatbed to be scrutinised in 3D, good to every molecule. I bet, one day, they will be able to knock out a fully-functioning 3D-printed clone at the close of procedure, such is the miraculous advancement of medical science.

Afterwards (I went off hunting Oliver Cromwell Gin in Aldi), Dig told me this whole-body scan procedure was very dignified, as he had to remove only half his trousers, and the staff do offer a towel to defend his modesty.

I think there is probably nothing more dignified than a man with his trousers round his ankles clutching desperately at a thin towel while radioactive (no hugging pregnant women, small children or pet furry animals), so I shared with him with the dignity that will soon be mine, aka the cervical smear, when someone shoves a pincer up my doodah and I try and not punch the nurse in the face. Such is marriage! We can regard each other through these most intimate of moments!

Anyway, this scan was the second attempt. The first attempt (Monday) was cancelled due to the radioactive juice not meeting quality standards. And today (Thursday) Dig is having some drainage pumping system installed. Also (this week) was a scrutiny of the throat; a minor pokeabout which now feels so routine a procedure I don't know why we can't all have it while standing in queues for taxis or buses or entrances to museums.

I know I said (last week) that it's not all hospitals, but this week, it is.

Tuesday, 14 November 2017


On reading the words Lockdown Procedures with Squirrel's name, my first thought is What has she done?

Dig explains it to me. How in these days of perilous living - where going to school is made to sound like the normal equivalent of an afternoon's stroll through Raqqa - all students must know how to survive. They must throw themselves under desks to avoid chemical spillages; pretend no-one's in the classroom to avoid the proximities of dangerous dogs; communicate without telephone in case of serious weather, and learn how to spot a nutcase who doesn't know the lockdown procedure.

Dear xxxx, xxxx has sent you a message :


Dear Parents/Carers

Lock Down Procedures
[ ] On very rare occasions it may be necessary to seal off the school buildings to ensure that students, staff and visitors are safe in situations where there is a serious security risk in relation to the school premises.

A lockdown is implemented when there is serious security risks of the premises due to, for example, near-by chemical spillage, proximity of dangerous dogs, serious weather conditions or attempted access by unauthorised persons intent on causing harm/damage and/or a student/member of staff/visitor who may have the potential to pose a risk to staff and students in the school.

The procedures are not intended to alarm anyone, students, families or staff members but just as we have to have a fire evacuation procedure, so too we need a lock down procedure.
[ ]

All students will be reminded about the procedures in tutor time over the next week, and this will be the first time they have heard of lock down and the school seeks your support to reassure your sons/daughters of the purpose and importance of the procedures. We understand that in the event of a real lock down it is likely to be upsetting and stressful for everyone. We ask that you consider the following in relation to your role in the situation:

If necessary parents/carers will be notified as soon as it is practical to do so via the school's communication methods – school comms text/email and/or website.

Depending on the type and severity of the incident, parents/carers may be asked NOT to collect their students from school as it may put them and their child at risk.

Students will not be released to parents/carers during a lock down.

Parents/carers are asked not to call school as this may tie up emergency lines and students will be instructed not to use their mobile phones during lock down.

[ ]

As with the fire evacuation procedures, we will be practising the lockdown procedures with students over the next couple of weeks. The lock down warning bell will be a continuous ring for five seconds with a brief intermittent pause before continuing for five seconds etc.; it is not the fire bell and only staff will be able to sound the lock down warning bell.

[ ]

That'll be something to look forward to, I tell Squirrel. Increased general anxiety about unpredictable and invisible threats, with the prospect of facing your own powerlessness in the face of imminent death! Let's not think about perspectives, probabilities, or bring any critical awareness to any day whatsoever.

Next week, we can enjoy the mental health awareness lesson.

Now make sure you're home in time for tea.

Sunday, 12 November 2017


Over from Studland, to where the Devil sleeps, disguised as a rock. Or a pillar of chalk made from the drowned. Either way, a breezy, beautiful walk following the night drive around Bovington military tank range. A touch of the old days, at Old Harry.

Friday, 10 November 2017

On this journey

It is not all hospitals. Today the car went in and out the garage, double-quick, to prep for the weekend road trip, and I'm keeping a gratitude diary. Shut up Planet Sensible. I am in the hippy mumbo jumbo general crapiness of the new therapy age. I have to try something and it's the most positive thing I can think of. Anyway, I'm noting what is good without the God but with the um, just positive. Today, Dig's MRI scan. Also, I have begun 3am fretting about things like uncontrolled ivy and bookshelves and commissions and needing to find a way through that is both kind to the people who are looking to me, and also gentle on those people who will start asking. And a daily pause for reflection helps impose an order where, under the stretched surface, it feels like there's no order at all.

Thursday, 9 November 2017

Clearly having no positive impact

Squirrel is scathing about her experience of the school's sessions on 'confidence building'.

When she tells us about her lesson on 'How to Keep a Positive Mindset' she looks as if she would positively like to hear glass smash.

Then she gets onto the subject of the video. 'Some white male footballers' she begins, 'a few musicians, and Einstein. Out of the dozen examples of people demonstrating a positive mindset there was a woman who went on to be a TV presenter, and the sum total of her negative experience was that once she got a comment that wasn't very nice at school.'

Squirrel tells us how she commented (loudly I hope) that in all the examples of successful character building in 'How to Keep a Positive Mindset', only a handful of examples were women - rather then the 50% she was counting on - and she would have thought that 'out of hundreds of years of women trying to change society where you needed a positive mindset everyday, there'd be more than a few pop stars and a TV presenter.'

Finally, her parting comment was this: 'My life since age 13 has been to carefully correct negative views of home education and why I am in it. I've sometimes gone on a walk to have someone assume I'm illiterate, been expelled, been excluded, been suspended, have behaviour issues, or something is wrong with me. When I was walking across that field with the woman who'd been talking to me for half and hour and she finds out I don't go to school, all she can say is 'Well you look normal'. I think I could tell anybody 'How to Keep a Positive Mindset' and I wouldn't need a video.'

Then she went upstairs to get on writing her novel.*

*She won't tell me, so I'll just assume it's a novel.

Wednesday, 8 November 2017

Thrill of the Frill

Making the Knicker Drawer Note Books for you lovely people out there has been one of the most satisfying strands of my life. Not least that I know, when people arrive at my stall, that I'm not the only woman in town who thrills to the frills. All that leather, paper, net and thread combining in charming and bonkers ways, depending on how the mood takes me and the starting points you give me.

I feel, most of the time, that I am a miserable glum bastard with a heart of lead and a dead soul, but the stories you tell me send me eager to my stitchery witching. Thank you to all you amazing people who, in this early November weekend, told me your stories of who you are, and how you're going to note, draw, doodle, stitch, pin, glue, tear, bend, stain, and happily trash your note book. If you have one for the sea, take it to the shore and get it wet. If you have one for the woods, scatter it with earth and bind it with leaves. And if you have one for your soul, then fill it with the breathings of your heart.

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

I hope you never thought life was easier on the outside

I am on the outside, it is true.

For most of my time I have found lovely, inspiring people out here! Yes, some are bonkers. (I keep the real wackos close to my heart for later.) But bonkers, certainly. Religious inspired, some. Philosophical anti-authority types, plenty.

We have a touch of the Romantic wild child spirit permeating this family, also true, so I've made sure my tribe know Blake was a key part of that movement and as mad as a bag of badgers. But he had a few things to say that we should discuss! (As in, when he talked about 'free love', was he advocating that only for miserable men?)

Anyway, we are out here, living in contested terrain. We are fragmented. Home educating for different reasons. As different as you can imagine. In truth, a list of types doesn't do us any justice - apart from give a brief respite, allowing the beseiged author to find another coping strategy to deal with the rest of the badgers in the same sack.

But the problem with fragmented citizens is that we are not easily herded. To be picked off by any large organisation with an agenda, those large organisations need to find a common hook. A single rallying point we disparate crew all might agree upon. Freedom! Money! The right to bear arms! (Although, as Squirrel points out, you cannot take a bear's arms without there being trouble.)

Edu-business is one global operation that needs home educators to cohere around a single point. Aided by government, they force one idea of education. To get a good education, you must buy it! (And you can read a lorry-load of stuff in this blog about those attempts.)

But here's another organisation who often comes to herd us all, rallying around that flag of freedom. The Homeschool Legal Defence Association (HSLDA).*

HSLDA? Thanks, but No Thanks.

That is the polite Grit form. Others might use more vulgar language, like Fuck off, nutjobs.

Remember, themes come in pairs. Freedom to be unpredictable brings confinement and regulation. The HSLDA, by its very presence, will help herd us on that path to registered home education.

Once we're all rebranded as home-schooling, then it's easy: in will step the twin globs of Capita and Pearson to solve the problem of how to secure your 'good education'.

Please, can we all stay diverse, oppositional, fragmented, and frankly badger-like, clawing each other's faces off in our own home-made sack of shit?

And for those of you on the inside of the society - maybe unaware of what a mine-field it is out here - HSLDA is an American organisation that is known ... hang on, here's the Wikipedia entry, which does just as well.

'...criticized, from both inside and outside the larger homeschooling movement, for its ties to the Christian Right and its advocacy for various conservative political and religious causes, some of which are unrelated to homeschooling. For example, HSLDA opposes same-sex marriage, claiming that it represents "an attack on parental rights." '

And that's just the start. Nutjobs.

*Edited, for discretion. (This post really should be titled the People's Front of Judea)

Monday, 6 November 2017

Navigating culture clash

I have told this to Squirrel. If you dump school, then please, for now, keep a written record. It will be treasure, your insights and observations about the way the world turns.

And I agree. Squirrel, you're like a feral child wandered into civilisation from the jungle. Finding that the jungle, with all its packs and tribes, now seems a lot more straightforward, sensible, ethically defensible, practical and sane than the four school walls you find yourself bounded by.

But it means that I cannot record all Squirrel's experiences - this blog would turn quickly into The Squirrel Show - mainly because those moments are hers and she owns them, but goodness, I wish I could. In her end-of-day round-ups she makes me laugh. She has an astute eye that pierces the weirdness of the place.

Last week she comes home bewildered (again), having received a letter to congratulate her on achieving 100% attendance. 'Why are they telling me this' she asks. 'I was there! Do they think I can forget where I am?' Today, some self-assessment form, which she drops to the table in contempt and says, 'This is pointless. They want me to write down just what they said to me. And that's not self-assessment.'

But one good thing is come of it at least: I know our home ed life created strong bonds. Days like today, with their endless and remote classrooms filled with pointless demands, these days send us all back home together, fleeing for evening comfort where we can eat as a family, jostle for space in the kitchen, complain about who sits where, then companionably watch television together of so-very-bad sitcoms. For so brief a time, all is as it should be, before our world is cracked open again by that insistent demand of an early alarm clock, and the beginning of another school day.

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

Grim, grim, grim

Huh, that's what we thought for some years, no?

Home 'schoolers' are an emerging terrorist threat. (Knees jerking) we might be crazy radicalists creating mini jihadists out of sight where no-one can tell. (Netpol release of Prevent-linked document and don't ask me to find that blasted thing again.)

Pah. We have done that already to Shark, Squirrel and Tiger. I can warn you. They are not like normal kids. None of them have iphones (can't be tracked); none of them are on facebook (can't be tracked); none of them spend hours 'chatting' on social media forums (I think one of them put up a theatre review somewhere); and all of them are quite happy to read old-fashioned books while lolling on sofas (out of sight in their private spaces, so can't be tracked). What's more, they are pretty much independent thinkers, and have their own views on how things work. Basically, try ruling over them.

It all fits, of course it does, with the Soley Bill and the public outrage whipped up in advance, thanks to stuff like Winifred Robinson's 'in-depth' research.

And what the hell is a Consumer Watch presenter doing with an education brief anyway? (Duh, I forgot there ... we now have a retail educational business, with a 'sticker price' on each degree, so um, yeah, Consumer Watch fits right in with Edu-Business.)

Bah, it's hell-in-handcart time.

Better things to do... like read Imperium by Robert Harris. I'm thoroughly enjoying this (although the prospect of standing three hours at the back top gallery of the RSC production of the same - only ticket I could get - not so enjoyable a thought.)

And relistening to Emily Portman's The Glamoury. I think I am in love with her, not in a creepy way, just in the wonderful inspirational way she conjures with bones and feathers which makes me want to stitch books just like that.

Monday, 30 October 2017

Also, I heard that story about the wolf and the pigs

Live in a shed in the woods.

That is Shark's opt-out solution to our latest news of pain, which is Amazon opening the front door of a person's home to leave parcels inside.

I can't see anything wrong with Amazon's plan at all!

(Your screen should be melting now from the undiluted sarcasm I just injected direct into its little backlight veins.)

People in my world are ultra-ultra cautious about letting anyone into the home. It could be because, in happy home ed land, the house looks like a skip (that someone tried to set on fire as an afterthought when they left the teatowel under the grill) but basically, yes, skip is a fair word for a non-tidy-up effort on a routine family day.

But the other big reason we auto-types have for not letting in, let's say, the people who represent the state, and most particularly that of their 'education department', is that the home ed householder may have no guarantee (or basic trust) that the state official will arrive without holding a clipboard of tick-box state requirements. And home ed houses, especially of the autonomous variety, do not generally look, or run, like school rooms. We do not have a white board. We do, however, have a robot made of old junk called Grapple.

Not letting people into the home (unless they're invited, we had a tidy up, and we are actually at home, as in standing in the kitchen with a cup of tea/glass of wine to greet you), well this is so fundamental a law to my life that Edward Coke is cited round here. You can find out about him here.

My money's on the following scenario. We all place the trust of our door-opening system into sanctified Amazonian hands. But then! A miscreant delivery driver is revealed in a compromising situation (I dunno, maybe with six napkin rings and half a grapefruit), at which point legislation must be drawn up with immediate effect! Legislation will be necessarily enforced by the state who award themselves permission to pursue the corporate agent into the home: in all good PR they become the regulator of evil corporate expansion and the saviour of our citizen souls at the same time. A way ahead that can't fail. Except for the fact that I lose all round. My kitchen, front room and lady bathroom just became the new contested area between global corporation and (inter)national government, and Coke, lying dead with a stake through his heart, is trampled at the threshold.

Needless to say, they're not having my front door key, the bastards.

Saturday, 28 October 2017

Journey of empowerment


I am hunting around for the gratitudinous. I have come up with this blowsy breezy walk, or memory of this walk, atop and over Ashridge, led by a lovely, lovely geology scholar, okay she was on crutches, but that just shows how dedicated she is, and although it was a few weeks ago, now seems like an age, I am very grateful for that day, oh yes I am.

It puts me much in mind of that ambition I have, which is to become a tramp. I have always wanted to be a tramp, ever since I read about Mr Polly in my teenage years, and while I accept it seems an odd coming-of-age story, the story struck a chord because the chord was already there. I had seen tramps in London on a day trip aged about 5 and I thought they were wonderful. Who cared if they were a bunch of decrepit drunks? To me it seemed like a wonderfully pioneering way to live, with all your treasured belongings strapped about your middle, and anyway, I shall be a different type of tramp; I shall take a month to tramp about, and I'll do that in an empowering woman-way in the nature of a flaneuse about a dérive, the claiming of the route ahead, and I won't pioneer this in the urban environment, not bloody likely, but through a strung-out selection of English market towns, hopefully with some charming inns and hostelries like the Potwell Inn, which have a soft bed and a proper breakfast, and then I'll be out again in the bright and beautiful morning to tramp the countryside and photograph stuff. Fields, probably. And that's what I'll do, that's how I'll live, oh yes I will.

Friday, 27 October 2017

Outside, not wanting to come in

I am outside again. And not with the shrubs, trees, or tweety things. Outside this society. Melancholic and in search of upmarket literary expression, I shall go and find Camus' L'Étranger. (Not in the original French, obviously.)

It won't make me feel any better. I will simply be made more absurd, more alienated, and even more outside, just looking for the bastard book.

This is on account of the stupid idea someone had in 1990. The stupid idea called, Let's knock out the ceiling and put bookshelves in a roof recess. Guaranteed to look amazing! It has only guaranteed that any book not looked at since 1990 has gone twelve foot up. And Camus will be there. To locate him, I need only to take a pair of military night-sight field glasses, scale a ladder, and scan the horizon as if fearful that L'Étranger will become Le Sniper.1 This would be typical. It will be the icing on my cak du jour. Old books firing bullet-words at me.

Anyway, Camus twelve foot up is not the point.

I am an outsider. Again. I do not understand this society. I feel a frustrating concoction of incoherent rage plus raging indifference. The upshot is, I am shrugging my shoulders and tutting.2

Here is the thing which starts it. It is a thing I do not understand. I am alienated from it. I click through a discussion that promises (Women and Power) and I discover this really means Should I have botox or not, especially when my husband says I shouldn't?

As the discussion gently doesn't drift from this subject but continues with enthusiastic answers around yes/no, there is a lone voice (not mine) gamely shouting No! This is a Pointless Discussion! You should not conform to socially-created images of yourself!

Everyone ignores Lone Voice Woman. She gives up, and the debate fizzles out with the consensus, It's your money and you can do what the hell you like, why not dump him? Divorce seems a bit of an over-reaction to me, but there you go, the modern woman's freedom to choose, huh?

But Lone Voice Woman is right. It is mad to botox anyone's face. Or any bit of anyone. Especially in the search of cosmetic perfection. A face is an authentic version of a person. And what is wrong with authenticity?

But I know I am out of this society.

Botox is the equivalency of some extraplanetary orbit of my world. The furthest my skin travels is with Vaseline and Coconut oil.3 Hair has gone the same way. I gave up with the bottle of brown hair fluid some years ago, and have grown fantastically grey. But I am in love with it! Why should men get words like flint, gunmetal and steel, and it's all good, like wisdom, distinguished, handsome, and all women get is old, faded glory, ashen and dull. I am become my own ambassador for wise grey.

Pft. I resolve to stay an outsider. Ambassador for the outside, or alienated from the inside. Either state will do. Don't care. Off to drink tea and eat biscuits. Wisely.

1 Watch Woman Power in action in the fantastic short film Le Sniper
2 I am British.
3 Not only cheap, but doesn't contain plumping or filler materials. I am creased, and I like it.

Monday, 23 October 2017

Feral plays with Fire

We're in the grip of a national shocker. Did you know? We are outraged.

I hear how some parents are feckless. They pull their children out of school! WHO KNEW? Have you seen these so-called 'home schooled kids'? They play with KNIVES. They run WILD. PANIC is hitting the streets, and this is because some kids are NOT AT SCHOOL. These kids have gone beyond bringing down house prices. Now they are undermining your banking system, and infiltrating capitalism. See that 8-year old? He is a fifth columnist.

I hold up my hand. I confess my crimes. I am guilty. I gave my kids knives one year for Christmas in the manner of Captain Fantastic distributing weaponry. In my defence, I thought all kids needed to carry blades. How else can they whittle wood?

But this is half-term week. All popular culture must tell the same. Like, any normal parent is at their wit's end. Stressed out, we yearn for back-to-school. All kids are bored at home. Life is miserable. School is a joy.

Er... this week's crop of media horror stories couldn't be background work for the Soley Bill, could they?

For this Bill to have any traction, the demos should be properly foaming at the mouth. (Cue anti-home ed articles, enter, stage left.) See Horror Parents in Action! See Toddlers Play with KNIVES!

Having created froth in the suburbs, along comes a solution! Lord Soley, Saviour of the Little'uns, has a registration and monitoring system to Save the Nation!

Except the Soley Bill is uncommonly poor from back-to-front. It follows no philosophy of education that I can recognise.

In fact, let's take that further. The bill is not interested in education. It is interested in getting at any child to 'monitor' their 'educational, physical and emotional development'.

What does that mean then?

Educational? Um... can your child read by the prescribed age 5? (WE would have FAILED. Ours were aged 8 before they were arsed to read I am a Dolphin).

Does your child attain the prescribed physical development? (Eh? Does someone want to take photos of my child without their top? Can't see any problem there.)

Is your child reaching the state approved emotional development milestone? Look here Soley, if you had wanted Shark, Squirrel and Tiger to show you some Real Girl Emotion with a hammer, shovel, and bicycle helmet, we could have been your family of choice.

One problem with the Soley Solution: it uses words - educational, physical and emotional - as if we have consensus about their meaning, when there clearly is none at all. We can debate for bleeding hours about those words. I'm having William Blake and Fatboy Aristotle on my side.

The upshot here is that this week, the media is doing the government's work, prepping the masses.

You school-choosers will be duly rewarded with pics of knives, hammers, etc; kids not going to bed at midnight; kids not eating a meal at a table; kids running about fields and howling, like kids do when they're being, um, and doing that thing wot kids do: growing up.

Which is sort of the point of home ed. The free-range, autonomous, unschooling wing gives your rugrats a chance to grow up on their terms, in their ways. How is keeping them on a register and monitoring them going to help anyone?

But what does the Soley solution really offer? Another nail in the coffin to parental choice; the replacement of a family's interests with that of the state (and we all know how successful the state can be, looking after the interests of children); another expenditure for your local authority to meet (when they have so much money to play with); and a nice, fat, juicy contract for Capita.

Here, have a photo of an autonomous-educated child wielding a hammer. Fire included.

Tiger, never bin to skool, on a traditional crafts blacksmithing course. (Takes Latin A-Level in her time off.)

Huh. Feral kid, gone wild.

 Sensible comments over here, under article from trade magazine from July.

Monday, 16 October 2017

The Party

Go and see The Party. It is smart, funny, filled with withering truths, filmed with great confident style, and the performances are first class. The character of April is welcome here anytime. I have plans to paint the kitchen door in honour. (I might explain that later.)

Yes, I'm thoroughly enjoying this month's screening choices. Some months, it all seems bleughbleugh Transformers and Boy Hero Stories, but what a delightful pick this month. Death of Stalin and Bladerunner. Fantastic. (And Cineworld aren't paying me to say so.)

Sunday, 15 October 2017

Young Woman Power

We are in the moment of woman voice. The right time then to offer a little warning about the way three young women from round these parts will lead this planet.

I do not often report on my three Big Grits: they are old enough to report on me. I think it would be well if no one knew what I got up to. Thus, information here is slight but in the interests of gender representation, essential.

Shark. Presently into marine ecology, physics and engines. Now at a Royal Navy site in England stripping down engines and outboard motors, then working out how to put them back together, preferably so that there are no screws left on the floor, and the thing goes brrrrrr (or whatever engines do on starting). However, she notes in a telephone call home that she is given more help than she would like from the instructor. My message to him is, Back off with the help. Do not assume that girls need more help with engines than boys. She can use a spanner and she knows a piston from a crank shaft. Things can turn ugly, quickly.

Tiger. After a long dark night struggling with the soul, she has returned to Latin A-Level; hopefully she will also find an afternoon or two to laze with Ancient Greek, enjoy the company of Anglo Saxon and renew a happy flirtation with Old Norse. Highly capable, yet cripplingly lacking self-confidence. Her artwork is lovely, her capability for delicate animal illustration puts her on a course for childrens' books, and she's an all-round good egg. Just painfully over-sensitive about everything. Just drop the need for perfection, Tiger. Have a few failures, and remember that the best mistakes in life are usually the most fun, so you have permission to make them time and time again. We will still provide a hearty pasta dinner and, if necessary, fund the lawyers.

Squirrel. Who knows what Squirrel really does? I don't. She is now routinely made upset with Thing Called School. Thing Called School stops her from doing what she wants to do, which is read books, write her own stuff, and stare out the window. I hope she is writing a cracking piece of young adult fiction, and I bet it's not going to have any female characters blabbing about fashion, nail varnish, or boys. I hope she has spirited girl protagonists who argue about society, engage in direct action, and know how engines work, not so they can impress a boy, but to power a machine to their will. Maybe she is writing a story where Thing Called School no longer exists, but the Stasi-equivalence are tracking the young escapees. Tiger effects a narrow escape from these jaws of death by solving an Old Norse puzzle then the girl power tribe jumps on a speedboat fixed formerly by a feisty Shark, and together, the three heroines save the planet.

Saturday, 14 October 2017

Sexual assault

I haven't yet met a woman who hasn't got a story to tell. Depressingly, several stories, spun out like knots and threads, twisting and splicing between the years.

It's true, for decades - centuries I'd guess - women have spent hours, listening to each other, telling the same stories. Powerlessness, shock, living the consequences of a decision you never made; decisions you were never even asked to take a part in, never considered.

Perhaps women have talked and listened to other women, more often than to men on the consequences of this imbalance. But women haven't always stayed quiet to men. Not always. Perhaps men too have felt there's nothing to be done. This is how things are. This is the way the world works. It's inevitable. Except of course, that nothing is inevitable.

For the moment - briefly? - it seems okay to publicly tell this personal narrative. Is this the time, perhaps, we can assume the woman's story is not only true, it has a right to be heard without blame or condemnation? For the moment, perhaps, there is sanctuary and sanctity about the individual telling. What comes next, after a thousand flowers have bloomed, makes me cautious.

Perhaps a positive message is my preference to teach my daughters. You are equal to a man. You are equal in law. Your voice carries equal weight. I assume these things are true because I want them to be true. We should act how we want to the world to be. I can teach my daughters guarded and watchful behaviour, but I cannot assume that all men are predators, or that all men are guilty on account of their biology. Of course not. Perspective and balance matter. On our most basic levels we're all humanly capable of blundering stupidities, dreadful errors, shaming misjudgements. We each, men and women, need the same extended to us: patience, kindness, forgiveness. My daughters will probably want that too.

But it is also true that we're still holding the derelict end of a legal, administrative world; a world of power, decision, influencing; a social construct, made primarily by men who have stacked that system towards their wants. Perhaps this is a fulcrum-time that I can hope - and I do not often hope, believe me - that a different culture now can become possible. That men will, alongside women, help stop that blind eye, turning.

Friday, 13 October 2017

The Ritual (The film, not OCD complaint)

Went to see The Ritual. What's a matter with 46% of you? I loved the end. Affirmative, right? Despite the eviscerations.

I'd give the film a higher score than Audience Average on Rotten Tomatoes. 70% seems fair, which puts me on the side of the Tomatoes critics.

The film has a now-standard ensemble character set, but they each become part of a greater conceit, don't they? As in, the woods are a place of creepy unknowns, so they must be also a place where your character is formed (or not), in how you relate to all the crap stuff thrown up by living. Such as grief and fear. But mostly, that dread of all, shame: that horrible, bleak and brutal consequence of a confrontation with the self.

Then the characters fit easily into that conceit. Each of them shows a different response to the terror of the woods, or the confrontation with self, or the tussle with the psyche or the soul, or the what-you-will. Yes, each character gives a typical generic human-type response, but hey, it's a film lasting 90 mins and has a myth-human monster frolicking about, so back off the complaining.

Facing grief, loss, dread, fear, shame, what do we human-types do? Submit to it, make it your master and go on and on about it (Phil). Ignore it, pretend it doesn't happen (Hutch). Blame everyone else (Dom).

Or (and get the name Luke - My English teacher was right - know the Bible as a route to literature) you can face the full demonic horror with a stomach-churning scrutiny, know how shit and shame changes us, and get on with roaring back. We're all on a route. We're all fearful, facing loss, and shamed. We only deserve to be eviscerated in a wood if we refuse to let ourselves find a way to heal.

So what's wrong with a story like that?

Also, I thought the monster was terrific. Very Nordic.

Monday, 9 October 2017

That annual problem

Autumn. It should be a thrill ride. I want to suck back lungfulls of sharp air, throw leaves to the trees, stare unblinking at colour, and press back on all of it as much as it oppresses me. I know what comes next. This is the final jolt of the wild run before the dark.

I dread the dark. I have screwed in my courage to three, hefty, day-light, light-saving, haveyourdayhoursallthehoursyouwant bulbs. They burst out fake daylight in my top-room workshop, so in the deepest of the coming winter darkness I can take my spirit up there and fill it full of false sun, until Spring.

Friday, 6 October 2017

Is this the thoughtless response you wanted, Winifred?

'Out of School, Out of Sight?

Children not in school, eh? That's wrong, that is. Nobody sees these kids. No-one knows what they're learning. They're invisible. They could be doing anything.

Muslims! They're twisting our laws. You can't tell what they're up to behind closed doors! They look normal, but they're up to no good. 

Now he sounds alright. He's joining in, but that family who took their kids to Syria? An everyday British woman? She took her kids out of school and that's because she wanted to turn them into jihadists. 

Teaching kids at home is wrong. Those parents, of course they'll keep it hidden. Yup, out of school, out of sight. 

And it's legal? Disgusting. All you have to do is write a letter! That's it? Shouldn't be allowed. Obviously, if you want to hide your kids, then school is a problem, because kids are seen at school and they talk to each other. Out of school, they're not going to get that social contact, are they?

Councils! They don't know what's going on. Voluntary register? Is that it? Well those who want to duck the system will do just that! Councils can't catch 'em. 

Parents. Shouldn't be allowed. You can't just let parents do what they want. The law needs tightening up. Ideological? What's that then? Parents who think the council will take the kids away? Nuts. 

No monitoring of standards? That's wrong. Kids should reach a basic standard, and parents won't be doing that if they're not inspected. 

Those Bradford people. They've been inspected. They've set up a proper school. Desks, trolley, stuff. Then why don't they just send the kids to school? And how do I know they're not just teaching them religious stuff?

What's she say? You take your kids out because you don't want your little darlings to have a difficult time? You're not teaching them how to grow up in the real world. In the real world they have a face a few knocks. Now we're mollycoddling kids. They should go to school and learn how to toughen up.

Yeah, what about qualifications? Kids get a load of stuff in school. The kids don't get that if they're taken out of school. Kids'll miss out. And the parents don't even know how to teach!

Listen, she doesn't know what she's doing. She can't do GCSEs or A-Levels. What? Some people don't even believe in exams? Blimey, all this home schooling stuff is right off.

Eh? Home education? Home school? That's the same thing.

Schools are flippin' well encouraging it, and the parents are taking it up because they want to avoid the fine. Parents don't even speak English! They can't teach! No-one checks!

Homeschooling gone wrong. Too right. Parents don't do anything and the kids doss about. Look, the parents work. They're totally out of their depth. She just said it. They're trying to get out the system, that's all.

And the kids hate it. They're depressed. They don't have any friends. No-one cares about them. Their parents have let them down. They've destroyed their lives. Kids need proper teachers. They like school. They're happy at school. Home is boring for kids, everyone knows that! Hear that? That lad could have had a good education at school.

Home schoolers? They want to beat up their kids. They're neglecting them. Scurvy! Good God, they're backward, these weirdos.

Absolutely. It needs a change in the law. We need to know where these kids are, what they're up to, what goes on behind closed doors. There should be a compulsory register, a way of finding out. They should be inspected. Councils can't do anything. 

Thank God for that Labour Bloke. He's alright. He knows what he's doing. He's seen parents abuse kids, and how they hide kids, and hear that? Parents. They want to kill kids.

Home educator? Unregistered? What for? All the Council is doing is trying to help. And what's she doing in a field? Learning? They're not learning anything in a field. They're just playing. Book club? That doesn't sound very likely. Oh, right, she's breastfeeding. How long! She's probably still doing that till the kids are really old. What she say? Thirteen years! She just doesn't want her kids to grow up. Selfish.

Oh my God, they're hippies. They're trying to drop out. What age do they think they're living in?

Listen to that kid. He had no education from the age of 11? Thank God he got out of that. No exams? God, he says he's ignorant about everything. See? Parents who take their kids out of school should be put under the microscope. You need to get in there, look at what they're up to. 

In fact, nah, they should be stopped. Destroying their own kids. Fucking home schoolers. Hate 'em.'

Out of School, Out of Sight, programme presented on BBC Radio 4 by Winifred Robinson, 4/10/17.

The only hope we have, is people who think.

Monday, 2 October 2017

The brightest stars

I need to tell you about Squirrel. Someone attempted violence on her today. It was alright, she was unharmed. She was temporarily bewildered and aggravated, but now is back to normal somewhere in the solar system.

Their attempts at coercion won't work, of course they won't, because they should know that Squirrel lives in a different dimension from the rest of us. She is exempt from anyone's bargaining: she lives somewhere else, where she lives her effortlessly normal life, ignoring anything you try and do to haul her back down here to your annoying dimension.

But the connectors to our different Squirrel-Grit space-times turned briefly in sync (about 3.20pm), when Squirrel related the entire and strange incident which I report (nearly) faithfully, here.

At earthling lunchtime Squirrel was invited to sit down for a ten-minute 'chat' with her form tutor. This was so she could be 'appraised'. Only the tutor didn't call it that; the tutor said, 'Squirrel, let us have your appraisal'. Which is where it all started to go wrong.

Squirrel immediately appraised the school, offering the observation that she had thought better of their timetable, and she wasn't going to attend lessons allocated to her; she was going to different, more interesting lessons of her own making.

The form teacher then apparently changed tack, and attempted to prompt Squirrel into offering a few weaknesses she might possess that the school could help manage, and improve.

Squirrel observed this initial attempt to do violence to her identity, and told the form tutor that she hadn't any weaknesses that needed managing, or improving, thank you very much. Where she lived it was all fine: she was fine. The only weakness she could identify right now was the school administration procedure called 'appraisal'.

The tutor refused to write down Squirrel's appraisal and went for something else, suggesting that Squirrel might have a trait, as the form teacher said, 'you do not concentrate on things that do not interest you'. Squirrel immediately agreed. Temporarily triumphant, the form teacher wrote this down.

To which Squirrel exclaimed, You have written it in the wrong place! I have told you a Strength! Who wants to concentrate on things that do not interest them? WHAT IS THE POINT OF PAYING ATTENTION TO THINGS THAT ARE POINTLESS?

I could have told them, had they asked. This thing called appraisal, which is subjection and domination; describing to make regretful shortcomings and sorrowful subserviance. It is futile. You can try and do violence to Squirrel's mindset; to rearrange her identity; or attempt to present her character back to herself as one who, without autonomy, requires management and re-education - but you will fail.

Squirrel is not of your composition. She is a unique creation. She has her own dynamic force, possibly drawing on the strength of stardust.

Anyway, the upshot is, Squirrel remains unappraisable; the 10 minutes lasted 35, and we parent-units are due to see the form teacher on Wednesday.

I might do a little strewing for Squirrel to pick up on her fly-by: Managerialism: A Critique of an Ideology T. Klikauer

Saturday, 30 September 2017

'I just WANT the way you write... change the way I see the world.'


I yell my face off this morning at the sodding crappy Guardian. Usually, I yell that well-worn line at my husband, who now doesn't take any notice of it.

The fact that I am ignored does not change my opinion, not one jot.

Because, if you commit to writing, then you have amazing powers and awful responsibilities. As in:

a) have a bit of passion about stuff;
b) communicate your passion in a way that puts a spring in your word;
c) surprise me with a different point of view;
d) take me to a different landing place than the point we took off.

If odd bits of copy are shite, well I can forgive that, because we each have a living to earn: we need to forgive off-days. But GodHelpMe, don't make your full output a pile of vacuous buggerall nothingness.

Maybe I should blame the newspapers. I mean, look what happened to the Independent! It started out as a real voice and ended up as fuckall, simply helping to create the expectation that copy has no more duty than be off down the charity shop to wrap up broken glass destined for the tip.

Now, if I want to read vacuous empty piles of nothing, then I will read a load of ad copy.

I hope you're not reading, because I'm going to get personal. Incensed I was, that I spent two minutes of my precious life reading this.

What I wanted was some cut-and-bruise copy about student debt, financing, class, income, expectation, social responsibilities, the function of the state, you know, some real hard-nosed truth and understanding of how the world works. And what do I fucking get? An arse nugget of mother-to-daughter wisdom like 'shop like mama and buy a cheaper shampoo'.

Jeez, what I need to do is pass on wisdom like that, and get paid for it. Wisdom like that is why I left the shitty job in advertising. Actually, I got sacked. Because I couldn't write shitty crap like Buy this shampoo! It's cheap! It's exactly like expensive slop Fruit Tropical Mango Otter Fanny AND it's coloured green looking like pewk! Gorgeous eh? You'll stink like a dead badger's arse.

So here's a bit of real advice I take from today.

Grit. Never, ever, ever turn to the Family pages of the Guardian again. You'll waste your life. You'll get hot under the collar. You'll be driven mad by frustration at the way writers toss out crap, void of responsibility or even the wits to engage an intelligent readership. You'll hate the entire news industry and you'll likely never want to read a newspaper again. Then, after stewing on writer responsibility for half an hour, you'll bash out your vile bile to Planet Earth and press Publish before you even had the second, wiser, thought to remove the fucks. Fuckit. I just wanted the way you write to change the way I see the world. Fuck was it much to ask.

PS. What actually flipped me was the pathetic article on Hong Kong education.
PPS. The above requirement on the writtering crafters does not extend to me, obviously, due to the fact that no-one pays for my written wrods. On account of nothing, I can afford to be luxuriously selfish.

Friday, 29 September 2017

Home ed (the 5-minute drive version)

Grit catches sight of a printout of an anatomical drawing in Squirrel's art bag, while running out the house this morning at 8.14 for the drive to school.

Grit: Hey! Squirrel! Get in the car! Is that for your art? Brilliant! I'm interested in the history of anatomical illustration! It's one of my favourites! And bells. I like bells. And locks, keys, gates and doors in Clarissa. But anatomy! Let me tell you about anatomy.  

Yes I've got my lights on. Remember the Middle Ages? The Church sanctioned knowledge and said you couldn't just poke your nose in peoples' bodies. That is against God's law, but I can understand it in a way. Just think of the battles! Disfigurements, missing limbs, odd behaviours. I bet you got them all on the High Street.  

What's he doing? Idiot. I guess the church needed to provide comfort, and say Here's how to live with no legs, rather than Can I poke about in your neck. But then along comes the lens and they're stuffed. Remember Galileo? And what about the Renaissance? And Leonardo Da Vinci? Remember that exhibition in Hong Kong with all his art and science? And then we get the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.  

Ha! Traffic lights. I knew we would make the green. Lenses. Lenses were everywhere. The whole medical inquiry thing blew up. Literally. They could see things they couldn't see before. Like the inside of your heart. And they started teaching it. Remember Newton's Optiks? In English? Now everyone knows about it and anatomy is everywhere. With pictures. Oh I want to go back and visit Wellcome.  

This is the bastard roundabout I hate. Anyway, then it goes sinister because we get the nineteenth century. Now a bunch of men start arranging dead women in poses with breasts exposed and legs akimbo, and they just say Pft It's Medicine, we can do what we like. Bastards. Which gives them a licence -so they think- to start getting their rocks off at dead women. And I put Over Her Dead Body on your feminist bookshelf. Look over it. It is excellent. And remember the woman who ran the marathon without tampon or pads? That was a brave thing to do!

Here's the turnoff. But it's like saying This is Blood and it's part of the deal if you want humans walking about this planet, so it's not something to be ashamed of or brush under the carpet. Menstrual blood you should celebrate. Why should we have to worship penises everywhere? Why do they get all the glory? They'd be stuffed without the menstrual cycle. So what I want you to do in your art -and here is your challenge- is produce a piece of work that references the history of anatomical drawings but gives it a woman's twist and places menstrual blood right at the heart. When you create it you should be empowered by that work, and so are people who look at it, because it changes the way we see the world.  

Right, are we here? Got it? Woman's anatomy. Power. Subvert history.

Squirrel (looking like she's been hit about the face with a cricket bat): I'm doing the theme of transport. But I'll bear it in mind.

For the further engagement of those who can endure a Grit lecture:
Over Her Dead Body

Thursday, 28 September 2017


As I walk through my days, conscious of pains, bruises, aches, I sometimes forget there is another half of life; it's the half that snaps and tingles like an effervescent sparkle on the tongue. It's a sudden surprise: a present given freely, without condition, from an unexpected place. It's the bright, bright light broke through the days of grey.

Today, I walk and photograph the colour yellow.

Tuesday, 26 September 2017

Loved Mother! (Hated IT)

One of the bestest presents I've ever given myself is a Cineworld pass.

I need to stop there. Because just writing that, I feel I am a proper sad git, spending lonesome evenings with the other single seaters, interspersed twixt couples and groups, me with my single cine-seat pressed against the wall so I don't spoil the atmosphere.

But it's not like that, not at all!

I have wrapped myself in the experience of the pictures since I discovered this wondrous art form along with the rest of the Bash Street Kids, aged five, at the Saturday morning ABC minors club at the Metropole.

Towed at the ragged edges of the kid crowd I learned how to flow into the cinema all arms and legs, past the ticket seller and into the musty dark.

If I made it that far, and wasn't collared on account of not having my tanner, I was in, and it was heaven. The place stank of sweat and damp. We had to find the route past the long red curtains hung with dead smoke and old scent, and into the close darkness choose a seat with an eye not to the screen but to the curl of the balcony over our heads. The kids up there would rain missiles down at any point of the drama, beginning, middle or end, and if it was a lighted match, be hopeful it wasn't coming your way.

But the ABC minors was safe, relatively speaking. I was surrounded by other kids, and we ran as a pack. We could, to some extent, look after each other, and pass on wise advice like, don't sit at the back row. But if you want to earn ten shillings, sit in the row just before the back, and wait to be tapped on the shoulder. Those were perils indeed, because what came next was bargaining, and I hadn't any confidence in that skill.

But from the pictures, I was never deterred. That wondrous screen was the best ever. Into my life it brought cowboys and Indians, magicians and talking cats, space rockets and submarines, death-defying acts, betrayals and double-crossings, loyalties and bravados.

I still keep hold of that moment of anticipation as the screen shows me the contract, the movie name, the BBFC rating, the signatures. Then, kapow! And what a film to love! Mother!

Mother! You give, and you give, and you give. The more you give, the more is demanded. The more you give, the less it is respected or valued or acknowleged. And the more you give, the more you simply become a stepping stone to something else and someone else. And to my thinking, that is a bastard song of truth of how male/female relationships can pass. Thank you to the man who made that film.

IT. The Goonies are now ruined forever.

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Brussels. Pft.

Me and Dig go to Brussels. Dig goes to speak to a lot of translators and interpreters at the European Parliament about the English language in a post-Brexit world. I go to make sure he doesn't fall down stairs.

While he is being important, I am forced to hide from the torrential downpour by walking the 360 degrees round the European Parliament Exhibition. Experiencing a long dark tunnel of existential despair sounds preferable, and then I discover they actually have that tunnel as part of the introductory Euro-fun.

It doesn't get any better. I can harken to tales of Euro-joy in the next long gallery of pain, and then I can sit in an armchair to have nails driven into my face.

As far as I can see, Brexit isn't mentioned, unless you count the statement 'The UK is fully committed to Europe' at the end of another tunnel where they then gather my good wishes for the future of all Europe. Someone before me has typed the offering Penis and signed it Penisman. Make of that what you will.

The best bit was when two English speakers tried to leave the 360 degrees of Euro Fun by reversing out the entrance. The guard icily told them this was not the correct way out and they should walk the 360 degrees properly if they wanted to leave. In the end they just legged it.

I am sorry for the Pft. Take it as the sound of a whoopee cushion, deflated, without the whoopee (or the cushion), or much joy at all.

I am sure Brussels offers much, but I cannot say I had a whoop-de-doo time of it, although it is clearly WTF territory, with their penchant for giant plastic horses dressed up as zebras, enormous chunks of unfathomable kitch pretending to be sculptures, and people doing inexplicable and bewildering things in public.

I did quite enjoy seeing the angel though (no photograph, sadly). And car-free Sunday made me awful regretful that we don't do the same all over England.

If you are seriously interested in Brussels, with or without pft, there is only one place to go.

Thursday, 14 September 2017

Geography, You have a Problem.

And your problem is Squirrel. She is going to take a bag of rocks to your next lesson.

She plans to lay out her rocks on the desk and suggest you all look at them, because rocks are interesting.

They might also serve as a reminder of what you are doing when you study erosion.

Dear Geography, might it also imply that your lessons are boring?

In Squirrel's (extensive) experience, a teacher who gives the instructions Make notes on page 130, then complete the exercise on the board falls somewhat short, of what Geography is, and should be, as a subject.

But worse. Geography then closes the window blinds. Presumably to prevent the fortunate students being distracted by the outdoors.

(I would be delighted to help Squirrel locate the perfect rock.)

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Let's be British

First days at school for Squirrel and Tiger. For Shark, it is her first ever experience of 'Back to School'.

The children have each, at their respective institutions, experienced the propaganda presentation of the school talk called British Values.

The anarchist parents suggest they should each shout at the end, I don't agree! as a concise demonstration of what we really should value about being British.

Monday, 4 September 2017

All Normal at the Asylum

Thank Goodness for the Asylum! The annual Steam of Punks, Post-Apocalyptics, Subversives, Ne'erDoWell's, Burlesques, Prop Makers, Theatre Costumiers, Alternative Reality Types, Tinkerers, and Grit With All the Grittylings, who each dress splendidly and made a show of being normal.

But so many other successes from the long weekend! The Knickers Empire did splendidly, and was invited to a Faery Festival to celebrate faeries. Definitely not the girly type who lose their handbags, but the type to dance you to death, steal your first born, then piss on your face. That sort of faery.

Then Shark bought her first corset and Mother Grit was Very Proud. Tiger projected a menacing image of latent violence and contemptuous disdain, as only the teen-steam can. She looked either like an assassin or a bodyguard, depending on where you stood. And to top it all, Squirrel won the Carroll award in the Grand Exhibition. The Carroll Award - thank you to Lewis Carroll - celebrates WTF in imaginative design. Squirrel proudly displayed her Cyborg Slug, which was common in the Cyborg Empire Wars of the 18thC. This one is looking for a new Cyborg Tamer, hence the false hand.

It all made sense in the Asylum.

Thursday, 24 August 2017


Well, I write to a friend, How did Tinkertop do? Are you in tears of rage or joy?

Everything is normal here. School A lost Shark's result in English Language and we had to wait 15 minutes while I suspect they printed off a copy.

Then we dashed to School B, late. You only get a 30-minute window to collect results, because the bastards want to keep the fantasy going that you only ever get one chance at anything in life, including picking up a sodding envelope.

When we arrived, I had an argument because the staff refused to give Identical Daughter Number 1 the results for Identical Daughter Number 2, even though Identical Daughter Number 1 was clutching a signed letter of permission.

I had a temper tantrum and stormed about looking like a Nazi. I should have lied. We all should have lied. This is what school institutions do: they turn me into a person without scruples, honesty, or dignity.

Then we go home and The Anxious Nervous Daughter discovers she got a C in English Literature. Which is not bad considering she has been yelling for the last 17 years how she hates English and she hates writing essays and she hates sentences, so there.

But at the discovery of the C, the world ends, and she has taken herself to a park bench with a bottle of Voddy because there is no bleedin' point to anything ever, ever, ever, again.

I hope your results day has been better than ours.

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

The countdown begins

Clacker: Operator of Analytic Engine / Spreader of rumour. Target engaged in espionage/military. Clacker's Note Book: Locate and Possess.

Jawrer; Chow Chiseler; Broth Chooker: Ad hominem slang for Restaurant critic; Chef; Food scrounger. Professions deemed honourable or disreputable according to local culture. Note books needed by all practitioners. One only note book available, on first-come first-served basis. (In keeping with Broth Chooker terms of trade, silverplate embelishment cutlery stolen from the Gentry.)

Bone Doxy: Lady Archaeologist. Bone Doxy's Note Book for field and river scrummaging, last night discovered, waiting collection. With bones.

Monday, 31 July 2017

The usual

Just in case you think we're dead. Or wandering about Northumberland moors, lost, contemplating eating raw sheep.

Yes, the holiday in Northumberland. Thank you. It rained. We sat around and glared at each other. Tiger did a jigsaw, Squirrel read a book, we watched The Full Monty, and then we all went out and got wet.

Northumberland is beautiful, and never disappoints, not even when you can barely see the hand in front of your face and the rain has made gutters of your face. Did all the routine things. Visited the tiny, Polly Pocket-sized Aunty M. (Not even a real Aunty.) This year, no-one dared say See you next year! Back at the holiday terrace, I hid and cried.

Dig. Wonderfully stitched together. Argumentative and behaviourally non-compliant, so is almost fully back to normal. Wobbles and weaknesses remain. Still on the 3-month recovery phase. The dietitian instructed him to eat crisps and biscuits, full fat milk and ice cream. (Me, I have a proper 3-month belly thanks to that.)

Tiger. Throwing herself twixt success and failure. Tries hard, often, to snatch failure from the jaws of success, then fails to do so, thus perversely bringing about a twin success. Panics in any case. But! Attended the Cambridge ASNC Department two-day masterclass and open day for Old Norse, Insular Latin, Ancient Greek, Welsh, Celtic. Which she would very much like to attend, maybe 2019. Dear Cambridge, for the mental health of Tiger and all us good folk living on this side of Britain, just take her. If you do not, she will reapply. Again and again and again. Until you give in. I am more pragmatic. I say, doesn't matter if they take you or not. Go anyway.

Squirrel. Reads a lot. Cuts up cloth. Gets distracted by air. Says things like, 'I'm terribly busy right now' while watching dust settle. Delightfully bonkers. Has demonstrated (astonishing, some might say) an ability to rattle out essays that are lucid, well-organised, spring a neat turn of phrase, and nearly make the deadline. (Shows all the hallmarks of a writer if you ask me.) Will probably try and make a career of sieving soil or stitching orange peel while I try and bribe her with biscuits to send off her first article to a national newspaper.

Shark. Heading your way on the Caledonian Sleeper. Soon she will be in the Highlands, saving Osprey by digging holes and slaying midges. Volunteering, huh? She thinks it is all excellent, this outdoorsy life, blown apart by sea spray, lashed by wind, trialled by earth-sea adventures. Bunked school in the last week of term to run off to sea on a ship courtesy of the Sea Cadets. Came home with instructions for diesel engines and tales of porpoises. We are not anticipating a desk-bound job in an office. For my part, I am glad that someone is up for it. Just as I fancy a sit-down with a good book and a cup of tea.

Grit. Condoning truancy by writing emails to Shark's school saying something better is on offer, so she's not coming in. Trying to scam a few quid here and there to pay for Tiger's Ancient Greek habit. Scavenging in bins for Squirrel to acquire well, anything, really. Being nice to Dig. Stitching books and looking forward to dressing up in plumbing gear and leather for this year's Steampunk Asylum. The usual.

Monday, 3 July 2017

After much winding of death sheets,

In short? The patient, he LIVES!

But I was very tempted to put the bastard under the patio. (Also I am now size 18.)

If you require the long version, read on.

Fecking hell, how do nurses cope? Dig, who shall hereafter be called the Patient, went through a very difficult period of spurning all my Nursey help, preferring actual Death to my ministering touch.

Now see here matey, I told him, I have watched American Western films c1973, and they have given me Nursey-know-how to deal with a clapped-out, bashed-up hero with a gut wound and a fever, who looks for dead upon the cabin bed.

As in, the devoted Nursey-wife-woman dresses meanly in worn clothes (done!) and mops the Hero's Brow (done!). Then she stirs nurturing broth and stares at cooking pans, determined (also done!).

Well I can tell you, dear reader, those techniques do not work, not at all. The Patient shows maximum annoyance at the brow-mopping, summoning his last remaining hero-breath to tell the devoted mopper to Get the hell off my face. Then, at the mere mention of sustaining broth, he vomits.

An extremely difficult week indeed.

The Patient declined all food and started shrinking, skeletal-wise. Nursey Grit started to threaten the Patient with Food, or the Patio. The Patient then looked at Nursey Grit as if he hated her. Nursey Grit's food offerings became desperate. The Patient wanted NOTHING. Water was an EFFORT.

Nursey Grit started to panic and weep and regret not forcing the Patient to make a Last Will and Testament.

Nursey Grit also started to wonder about getting the Patient to sign something she had writ, to the effect that Death was not by Nurse Gritty's hand, but the Patient would in fact like to leave her all his money. (This probably counts as Fraud, when actually it should be called Despair.)

Nurse Grit hit the bottle and came out in hives. The children hid. (It did not matter, because by then I had forgot about them anyway.)

But then! The patient demanded a tub of taramasalata and started spooning it into his mouth! Within a day he had eaten half a tub of taramasalata, and Nursey Grit cleared Tesco shelves of this fine sustaining broth before ordering 30 packs for online delivery. A corner had been turned.

Soon, we were surrounded by empty tubs of taramasalata and biscuit wrappers.

Nurse Grit started keeping records of what the Patient actually ate to wave in evidence at the dietician.
  1. Offered : milk, tea, hot chocolate, fruit juice, toast, egg, porridge, pate, probiotic drink, carrot, cucumber, mint drink, pomegranate, creme caramel, kangaroo steak, ostrich arse, puffin noses, anything you damn well want.
  2. Taken : One teaspoon porridge.
But now! Now! We have seen more of the hospital doctor; a further scan has been taken; Dig's innards have been declared a mess but not cancer, and he has been told by a lady dietitian to eat chocolate pudding, biscuits, crisps, high-fat foods, full-fat milk, ice cream, a daily slab of butter, and more chocolate Complan. Garnished with extra chocolate.

Hurrah! We are, after the false start and the plunge into despair, truly on the road to recovery!

We are all supporting The Patient, who shall hereafter be called Dig, in his new diet regime. (He has gained 5 ounces and we have gained 5 stone.)

Monday, 29 May 2017

It is a slow but steady process. For maybe 3 months.

Dig is home from hospital. He is weak, and feeble, and often makes whimpering noises. (That is my nursing lingo. Obviously, I have become a cracking good nurse! Pfft. I have picked up this nursing lark up in no time at all!)

He is still unable to do much, although some days he can stand up. Then he lies down again. Sometimes he sleeps.

He is also eating! Admittedly, teensy, tiny, weensy amounts of food. Possibly the same amount that Barbie would eat, if she could eat, and you had to serve it to her.

Now, I know a thing or two about food as well as How To Be A Nurse. Having passed through that marvellous teenage moment called, Let Us Starve Ourselves to Death (optimum weight, 6stone 1lb 5oz), I know that it is a start to place in front of the suffering one - who actually doesn't know they are starving - morsels of wondrous tenderness and beauty. Foods the patient may find irresistible. Even when they say things like, I have eaten plenty of water today. Dig's soft spots, in his present state of No Appetite At All, are for chocolate, smoked salmon, beef stock cube and kale juice. Strange one, huh? (And for him, all guilt-free!)

My other nursing duties are walking up and down the stairs a million times a day to tentatively ask, 'Are you alright? Do you want anything?'; disinfecting the bathrooms and doorhandles; taking a knife to paracetamol tablets because whole ones are too big; passing the injection thingy over to be done by the patient (I am not trusted on that manoeuvre); and embarking on missions to acquire any item, no matter how unlikely, that spark a flicker of life-force from my patient in any last hour. Such as creamed rice pudding, chocolate mousse, more paracetamol and a bowl with a handle.

But every doom-laden thunder-cloud, bearing extra-malevolent pixies with cyanide-tipped thunderbolts, has a silver lining, does it not? Then this is ours. (Or rather, mine.) He's not about to board a flight to Japan and South Korea! They're cancelled!

Saturday, 20 May 2017

'I need a brick in a plastic bag'

Dig's operation was yesterday, and it went okay, thank you. I shall keep you informed.

But I am learning a few things about life as I travel through a new beginning.

As in, the NHS is, from my tiny slice of view, working.

Nurses use an old-fashioned technology. This is called A Paper and Pen with A Folder.

Folder travels with the patient. And I'm glad of it. Because if every item of knowledge about the Inner Sanctum was entrusted to the NHS Babbage Calculating Engine, we'd all be stuffed, good 'n' proper. So please let us all hold onto Paper, Pen, and Folder for a bit longer.

The car park is bank-account-swallowing-expensive. By my reckoning, I need a daily ten pound note for car park, to-ing and fro-ing. I can manage a day, but ten days? Fifteen days? Just when our income reduces to zero? Thus I now park at a local housing estate and walk in. I shall probably vote Labour, even though I said I never would again.

Life seems more stressful when there is an emergency. Would I have yelled at the driver at any other time? Would I have politely got out of my car and helped them park? I did in the end, but it was no use. They couldn't park at all. They were trying to park outside my house, and they had just reversed into the little car we acquired last month for the daughters to drive, denting the bumper. Should I say the driver looked about age 80 and demonstrated zero road skills? Unconscious even they'd hit the Daughter Car while their own car was steadying from the impact.

But life carries on as normal! I learn this everytime I stare routine disasters in the face. I know normal because there is always the Family Trifle. Tiger is off to a nature reserve with her frog-bothering chums; Squirrel has joined the Air Cadets and is out marching around the universe with the Duke of Edinburgh, and Shark is propped outside right now on the doorstep with a Physics book. She is guarding the For Sale items we are displaying in the local community venture, Yard Sale!

Which, incidentally, explains the title to today's diary entry.

When Shark is bored, she will wander off, so I have set up an honesty box.

Actually, it is my snake box, the one with the eyeball. But someone will nick it, so I have placed a heavy weight inside. Thus I needed the brick.

Not, as Squirrel suggested, to launch through the window of Number 82. (Even though they deserve it.)

Thursday, 18 May 2017

One way is the right way

Duh, Stupid Grit. Of course you cannot use That Door to exit the hospital after 10pm.

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Jollity all round.

The three household students are taking exams.

Sometimes this includes self-harm and sometimes this includes the sort of over-confidence that lands you in court.

It is also A Big Special Day for Dig, the husband who is preserved as mine. The doctors are letting him come home for the afternoon on the promise that he will return this evening and not take the advantage of freedom to do a runner.

Celebrations begin! I have made Dirty Trifle.

Recipe Ingredients
Anything resembling boudoir biscuits.
The remains of a bottle of sherry from Lidl.
Tin of custard. (The cheaper the better. Times are hard.)
Tin of sliced peaches in syrup. (Under no circumstances let standards slip and yield to the temptation of sliced peaches in fruit juice or sliced peaches in brine.)
Something white for the top. Preferably not shaving foam.
A banana.

Recipe Method
Break biscuits/stale bread into bowl. Pour in sherry. Pause to drain bottle directly into face. Ignore Squirrel who covers her eyes. Open can of peaches and tip into bowl. Add custard. Do not remark on strange beige colour. Add white stuff. (It came out in a lump, and was difficult to spread evenly. The decorative banana will sort it.) Time: 5 mins, max.

Recipe Conclusion
Leave Dirty Trifle on table while find bag, keys, credit card for hospital card park. Depart. Shout, There'd better be some of it left by the time I bring your father home.

And Happy Birthday.

UPDATE. Dig is not allowed out of the hospital.

Therefore the Grit and Dig family invent a new sport called Extreme Trifling.

This requires Squirrel to carry the Family Bowl of Trifle through the car park, past the building works and into the hospital onwards, until we find a suitable resting place in the canteen.

Here we demonstrate the thoroughly British Show of Bravado and Defiance in The Face of All Odds.

Next Week! Extreme Trifling sees The Family Trifle eaten in spirited defiance of disaster at the Bletchley roundabout on the A5.