Pattern Recognition at Have A Word (full text)

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HAVE A WORD – October 2013

Here we are at Have A Word… L to R Peter Daniels, who read an epic porny poem of yesteryear and yo ho ho and a bottle of rum, Ellis Collins, the promoter and envisioneer of HAW, Grégoire Aubert, who MEMORISED and delivered Judy Garland’s diary tapes, ME, and Alice Purnell, who had everyone in fits with her self depreciating humour – she even described the OBE medal she was wearing as a ‘badge’.
The photograph was taken by John McCullough, with Peter’s camera, as he pointed out to me, so obvs the camera gets top billing – well done camera, with your evil mechanical eye – where did I gain those ten years and mattress front? I’m much younger and skinnier in my mind’s eye.

and here is the text of my piece… (recorded version coming soon)

Pattern Recognition

Cayce Pollard is the dashing heroine of William Gibson’s Pattern Recognition. Cayce is allergic to branding. This means that she has an unpleasant physical reaction to the sight of logos. So, she has filed the branding off the button on her jeans, and unpicked the labels. The stronger the logo, the stronger her repulsion.

Cayce, I wish that my ailments, like yours, were a kind of superpower. People pay good money to go to design school to refine and learn visual skills. But you cut through all that. You are hired, for good money, because when you see a new design you know whether it’s good or not. Not because you have training or aptitude, not even because you have “good taste” or what might be described, vaguely as an ‘eye’ – but because you are allergic. Your employers simply expose you to prospective stylings and watch for a reaction.

Cayce is a “cool hunter”. This sounds old fashioned in 2003, by the time Gibson is writing and is definitely a term with a use-by date. So why use it? The book isn’t set in the future, it’s sci fi credentials are more of a ‘what if’. Science  fiction writers, have lots of rules about what ‘can’ happen in any given scenario so it’s enough to give her this ‘allergy’ and bizarre occupation and let the story roll. ‘Cool hunter’ in Gibson’s hands is a kind of linguistic branding. He’s not here to sell us cool hunting.

Like Cayce, I snip off labels, but that’s because they make me itch. Labels, washing instructions, sometimes even stitching. But it’s true, nevertheless, I don’t like to advertise a brand. And I do have a keen eye. As we all do, when we are sensitised. It can be taught, but it’s also in our genes.

It only takes a short while, for example, when picking blackberries, to not only recognize the best ones by eye, but also by touch. Those small ones may be black enough but their skin is too taut, they haven’t matured, they are going to taste bitter. They take a little more effort to pick, too, being recalcitrant to leave the vine until their incubation is complete. Very voluptuous ones come away with the softest sigh and often leak quietly onto your fingers, but although they are sweet they don’t keep at all and if you make the mistake of putting them in with the rest of that day’s pickings the whole crop becomes sticky and muddy. Best to eat them as you go along. Blackberries’ blood shows red on your fingers but wipe those fingers on your clothes at your own risk – the brackish black will stain forever, marking the tale of your feverish wipings between pickings and gobblings.

In my sick bed I listen to Pattern Recognition, the BBC’s adaptation of the novel, being read by Lorelei King. Fiction is the simplest iteration of gender reassignment – Gibson writes from a female protagonist’s POV, King reads it out – as a woman. The naturalness, to the ear is seamless, a sleight of hand. The spoken word is only one iteration from the page and it fires your aptitude for pattern recognition just as well, and the ability for you to visualise – here I am a woman, here I am a man, here I am a well person… here I am an action hero.

Karl Marx says “Every schoolboy knows” that any culture contains within itself the information for reproduction. As in the petri dish so in society. We recognize a pattern, we reproduce a pattern, we are the pattern. Spatially or over time, From ‘how to get up in the morning’ to ‘how to run a society’ from how to conform to a subculture to how to scramble eggs. From bacteria to computer programming. We recognize, we reproduce. All intelligence involves pattern recognition – from monkeys to machines.

I reproduce the conditions of being myself as I am now. What is stopping me from stepping out of this body and having another life entirely. Nothing indeed, if I step into fiction.

Early September the last gasp of blackberries struggled to the fore between their picked or rotted siblings. Only a couple of miles away, further out of London, the season was just beginning, the berries still green. The second week in September I was in Brighton, and though there were some manky berries on the vine, there were plenty of ripe ones, and some still red raw unripe. The end of the season looms, and much like the Marks and Spencers sale – a lot of dingey items you’re sure were never in the shop before hanging sadly, rail after rail, frumpy and saggy, unappealing to touch or eye.

Attuning to choosing something ‘just right’ is something even a very small child or an amateur can do very quickly, like learning to cook pasta ‘al dente’ though this is to the eye and the finger rather than to the tooth. Our bodies reproduce one skill another way – I learned to touch type – my fingers spider across the keyboard as if each one of them had an eye. I move quickly between the bushes, not like the weekend pickers, out to amass enough to bake with or freeze or share with a large family, I only want a handful a day for my porridge. I’m looking for that perfect ripeness. All the while learning to avoid the thorns and their bullying friends the nettles. But thorn and sting avoidance has less to do with pattern recognition than the picking itself does; that is to say, choosing berries. Recognizing patterns. This discernment allows us to prefer one brand over another because we are, and have been for generations, well adapted to refinement in and of itself.

Technically, pattern recognition is about any manifestation of phenomena – both in nature and in culture. Pattern recognition refers to something called ‘machine learning’ which is why it’s no leap to having your own robot secretary deciding which emails are really for you and which are spam, and which can inform your provider with tailored ads or your government about any nefarious plans you may have to take a set of tweezers onto an aeroplane. I find the Wikipedia entry on pattern recognition almost entirely unintelligible. It’s nice when a novel gives you the sensation you understand something important about a subject, I think. It feels effortless, like all good design.

Artificial Intelligence is based on pattern and recognition of pattern. Like the loom, there is only one story underneath, the one of zeros and ones.. and ALL. THIS. STUFF. comes out of it! In living colour! Incredible! Even ‘Nothing’ can’t reproduce itself without completion and with that completion comes the notion of ‘one’ and therefore ‘other’. Straight away there are two units and the basis for a pattern. As every knitter knows.

I can’t live with patterned wallpaper any more than I can bear textiles with writing on them. Even in a foreign or imaginary language, my eyes scroll over and over trying to make sense. I’m the same with repeated patterns. There’s something about the sense of demand that bothers me – less a ‘leading’ of the eye and more of an insistent repetitive tug. My brother visited China and tells me westerners often suffer headaches from their stymied search for meaning in the signage around them. Welcome to my world, you travellers – at least you’ve got a ticket home to the safety of non headache world.

My car broke down and I abandoned it. I got ill. I stopped working. I got a dog. Clothes had to change their function. No longer did I have a giant motorized handbag come winter coat which I could slip out of in heels and office clothes. Now I had three or more outings a day with dog. I got her on Christmas Eve 2009. Happily, I had already acquired a repulsive but warm ski jacket from TK MAXX. It was cheap, it was super warm. I don’t ski, but guess what? Those hyper mobile arms for the skiing are also good for throwing a ball. WIN. However, when the zip finally properly broke I was relieved to get rid of the offending garment, printed in purple and gold onto taupe, with it’s indelible mud stain from pocketing grubby balls, and went considerably upmarket with a Helly Hensen parka. It’s a nice coat, and I don’t pocket balls any more, so it’s stayed nice. What I did discover though, was that because of the initials, HH, Helly Hensen clothing is worn by neo Nazis in Germany. This worried me, because what if I visited Germany in the winter, in my coat,  who’s to say I wouldn’t be read as a neo Nazi? Apart from probably having no corroborating visual clues – but what do I know, as a foreigner?

Although the point was probably irrelevant it still bothered me, and a friend suggested getting rid of the logo – which was when I realized how VERY branded this coat was. I don’t wear clothes which have their branding writ large, but this thing has it’s branding writ many. Every. Button. Counting… 1,2, only three different bits of branding on the inside of the coat, and my hands and eyes surmise 8 on the outside. 11. On. one. coat. ELEVEN. Quite subtly done, but still, I am a walking billboard for a fashion item while suffering what is known in the medical trade as an ‘invisible illness’. The juxtaposition between what is apparent and what is not is enmiserating. I wish. I had. stigmata.

On the last day of September I took the dog round the Paddock. The blackberries were almost entirely gone. There was the odd jewel high up away from the main bush, where the beads of dead fruit were desiccated, tiny and dulled. Their neighbours, the mounts from which glistening fatted fruit had been successfully plucked were similarly shriveled. Indeed, entire branches were dying back, brown leaved and frail, the sap having entirely retreated, while the non fruit-bearing branches were still vivid and green.

Having not lost the weight I’d intended to, I’d grudgingly bought a new pair of larger than I’d like trousers, the makers of which saw fit to add a small stitched label to the waistband declaring, in white embroidered letters on black “A true feeling of Authenticity”. I find myself a black felt pen and scribble the lettering out, feeling a little.. queasy.

It really happened

Six Sleeps til Have A Word

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So here we go to Have A Word. The event organizer, Ellis, was kind enough to describe me as a “Comedian” on the poster. And the flyer. And probably on the radio show he was on today… so lets hope that people don’t remember that before I take the stage, because NO PRESSURE to be FUNNY then!

 

Having a Word – OK, Don’t mind if I do!

I remain convinced that he has done this to get me back for threatening to everyone about a boring story he told me about ironing a shirt. He has no idea of my horrible history of outing people… still, best not to spoil the surprise.

I have this feeling as if I’ve blogged all this before, but probably I’ve mainly talked to you a) in my head or b) on facebook, and of course, although originally I was down for October, Ellis asked me to do September instead, so I said yes, and then it was cancelled, so then I was back on for October. And yet, in an astounding feat of procrastination I have still managed to not finish it yet. Six sleeps…

Anyway, I am grateful. Ellis is the sort of person who has an idea and then ‘just’ does it. And I, for my part, am the sort of person to say, once that person has done a lot of hard work and it has proven a success “Ooh! Can I join in?”

Hence we are at this pretty pass. As it happens, I’ve done this sort of thing before, but it’s been a good 10 years since the last iteration. Since then I’ve listened to a LOT of Radio 4 and when Ellis said he wanted 15 minutes I didn’t even consider doing some shorter things or a thing of whatever shorter length and then just stopping – I wanted to talk to time. This is proving an interesting exercise, and I am actually nearly done. Do you want to read the opening? Here it is;

Cayce, I wish my ailments, like yours, were a kind of superpower. Your allergy is the BEST allergy. People pay good money to go to design school to refine their eye and learn visual skills. You are employed because when you see a new packaging design you know whether it’s good or not. Not because you have an ‘eye’ but because you are allergic.

Cayce is allergic to branding. This means that she has an unpleasant physical reaction to the sight of logos, so she has filed the logo off the button on her jeans and unpicked the labels. The stronger the logo, the stronger her repulsion.

Cayce is a “cool hunter”. This already sounds old fashioned in 2013, ten years after the publication of the novel, which, given it’s set in ‘the future’ might sound problematic, but sci fi writers, like all successful novelists, have rules, some genre specific, and some more general about what ‘can’ happen in a given scenario. ‘Cool hunter’ has been around for some time before he writes – the ‘coolness of ‘cool hunter’ is a kind of linguistic branding.

And this is nearly the end of me ever mentioning Pattern Recognition by William Gibson again. I go off on a noodly jazz style riff about the blackberry season and my own relationship to fashion. The idea is that it all hangs together MARVELOUSLY. But I may have to wait and see if it does. Particularly since I’m clearly not writing it NOW am I? No, after not blogging for ages, suddenly it’s vitally important I stop watching TV, listening to radio, playing Words With Friends, and all the other activities and tasks I seem to be getting done at an amazing rate and blog instead of WRITING THE THING. Typical.

Mass Obs Me

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Background info.

I am a 50 year old unmarried woman. I live in Tottenham, on the Ferry Lane Estate. I have a garden flat which backs on to the River Lea. I will have lived here two years  come September, having spent the last 20 years in the east end. I have a dog, a rescued staffordshire bull terrier called Poppet. I am not working. I was a lecturer in art and design for 12 years. I became too ill to work 10 years ago. I have fibromyalgia and chronic migraine. I have started having Botox injections for the migraine, and that is partially successful. I am working on reducing medication and have applied to do a PhD. Yesterday I wrote to volunteer to teach meditation on a weekly basis. Botox is not expected to reduce migraine much, but to enable the person to lead a fuller life. I have paid for treatments so far, but my GP is applying to the Primary Care Trust to pay for continued treatments. At £2000 a year, it is quite a lot for a person on a low income to pay. NICE (National Institute for Clinical Excellence) have recommended the treatment, so applying to have it paid for is a bit of a test case.

***

I woke up at about 6. I have just stopped taking Quetiapine so that might be why. I have substituted a melatonin supplement, but I don’t know if it’s helping or not. It’s supposed to be good for migraine, so I’m trying it for three months. I got time release ones, which might have been a mistake, since I don’t mind waking up early, I just mind fighting my duvet for hours before I go to sleep. It’s day two of the new regime. Actually, I did get to sleep easily, but that might have been because I took a diazepam for my aching neck, since that is a precursor to migraine.

Back to today. It’s 8.30 right now, and although I did Mass Observation last year I didn’t even know it was on until I was reading facebook and someone else mentioned it. When I woke up I took my stomach med, to protect myself from subsequent pain killers, then turned the hot blanket on and cuddled my dog and fell back asleep for a bit. Half 7 I got up and made tea for myself and Ten who was sleeping in the other room. I start the day with my emails and facebook, and now we’re going to listen to something on iPlayer and have a little snooze.

10.00 Well, so much for snoozing through the blah blah blah of a R4 offering – we listened to a dramatisation of Sam Pepys’ diary entries about the fire of London. Although I have read it, I didn’t remember all the conspiracy theory stuff – immediately, despite the start of the fire known to be an accident, theories abounded about it being started by the Dutch, the French, and the Papists, along with the year, 1666, being interpreted as the 666 of the apocalypse. Nothing changes, does it? My main memories of reading it were about how he buried his Parmesan cheese in the garden and took some of his possessions to Bethnal Green for safe keeping.

Ten’s gone out now, with the dog, who was extremely patient, considering I usually take her out at half 9. I’ve had my porridge and a coffee, but am exhausted, suddenly, so happily gave the walk up to Ten. I am running my bath, which he will have after me. I will have to have reduced screen time today since my eyes are aching.

12.00 So much for less screen time. I’ve had my bath, but basically spent the past couple of hours looking at twitter and playing WWF (words with friends). Need to dry my hair now and get dressed. Ten’s getting ready to go home. He spends about half the week here.

14.05 Had lunch, bacon, brie, salad leaves, garlic, oil, followed by raspberries, blackberries and cream. Between inactivity with the fibro, tackling the IBS with a low oxalate diet and the medication I am on I have ended up doing the Atkins diet. It’s not cheap, but then again, buying an entire new wardrobe isn’t cheap either. Low carbs suits the migraine, at least. After that I would have liked a lie down but Poppet was wandering round hopefully with a ball in her mouth, and since Ten was leaving I thought I might as well get it done even though it was quite early for an afternoon outing. We went to the park and played. It’s been too hot to play during the day lately, but today is cool and windy. A neighbour got me involved in a dispute he was having with his upstairs neighbour over a BBQ – I had to leave them to it.

Back on the bed now, for a little rest and an episode of Prison Break. I like long series with a long story arc because I can’t always read and don’t have much energy. I also listen to radio plays and audio books a lot, since my eyes often ache, and it’s tricky to watch TV with a migraine, too.

16.00 In between watching parts of episodes I have hoovered the bedroom, emptied the dishwasher, emptied the washing machine and loaded the dryer. I wouldn’t be able to do these sorts of chores all at once, but pacing it with lying down gets me moving around and gives me enough rest in between times.

18.00 I’ve done most of the hoovering. Dying to take medication, my head keeps threatening migraine, but so far so good, today. Next up, I have to make something to eat, then I can take meds.

18.30 Done now. Had the most boring meal that I am eating right now. I don’t have much energy to cook, so keep prawns in the freezer. One pack steamed is enough to get by on as an emergency meal. I am also having some pure cocoa in water as a treat because I feel headachey and sorry for myself. It won’t be long til I ‘officially’ go to bed – but I will have to take the dog on her last pee walk first, and I will leave that as long as possible.

20.00 Dog walked, exhausted, bed.

Sent to the Mass Observation Archive 13/05/2013

ETA Last year’s here.

Playing ‘I live in a hotel, I do’, a Funeral, and the Sound of Scissors

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I don’t like to book train journeys in advance. I could say it was because of my health, but it isn’t really, it’s more because I dislike the stricture. And just as well, this trip, because if a plan could be changed it would be – pretty much everything changed except the time of the funeral. Originally, my brother was coming over from Holland but he got ill and couldn’t travel. I live right on the train line to Cambridge, so I would have otherwise done a day trip, but he’d paid for us to stay over, and told me to find somewhere. Cambridge is a bit of a dump apart from the fancy bits, and I don’t know it well, and the wake, in any case, was going to be several miles away, so I chose rooms in Ely, which I know quite well. Roland had given me a heeeuuuge budget for the rooms, so I did look at Ely’s one actual hotel, The Lamb, but I thought it wasn’t all that for the price. Reader, IMAGINE if you will, my excitement, when I discover a building I’d always liked the look of, Cathedral House was in fact a bed and breakfast?

But what was even more amazebobs was that the double room I had reserved for myself turned out to be a tiny pretend apartment! I didn’t have my camera with me, but I’ve taken some pictures with my phone.

My pretend apartment even had a tiny hall OF MY OWN

Having read books set in Paris, I have often felt that were I suddenly a BIZILLIONAIRE for no particular reason, I would like to live in a hotel.

Although it was actually rather cold, it was furnished and decorated in rather a lovely way.

I didn’t think I would need to take any chargers with me, so my visit was characterized by a series of power failures as my various devices died. The “smart” phone was the first to go, but luckily I had my old phone with me (with an audiobook on it) so I swapped out the sim cards. The B&B was advertised as “having” WIFI. In as much as I got a signal for a few seconds every hour or so, it did indeed “have” WIFI. I did have a bit of telly on my netbook, so it wasn’t a total waste of time bringing it, but I was rather surprised to see that die fairly swiftly, too. I was left, then, with my ebook (with Back Story by David Mitchell on it) my old phone, and the telly and radio in the bedroom. For lots of reasons I don’t really like watching tv when I am traveling – in any case, I don’t watch it live when I am at home, either. I did, however listen to the radio.

hello, this is the olden days. sit on a hard chair and keep your back straight

It’s such a pleasure to listen to Radio 4 on an old timey radio. Given that R4 is stuck in a time warp anyway, it seems most fitting to listen to it on a device such as this.

If  I was staying longer, or if I had run out of reading I could have chosen from any of these orange spined Penguin books.

They struck me as being like an artwork Robert Rauschenberg might have made in tribute to Mark Rothko while visiting Piet Mondrian. Except it’s full of books, most of which I either have read or would happily read.

The ‘apartment’ had a little sitting room, but I didn’t really use it. I spent most of my time indoors in bed drinking various teas, and, of an evening, sachets of miso soup.

While I was packing for the trip it started snowing, so I chucked out my smart clothes and bundled dark coloured jumpers and trousers into my suitcase. I even wore my Yaktrax, which are coiled metal grips for walking in snow. Although it was really cold when I got there and it did snow a little, there was no need for ice trudging gear.

Having a room for two nights did seem a bit excessive just to go to a funeral I could have done in a day, but I did like the sensation of being cosseted in my own little world with no DORGS jumping all over me. When traveling abroad, there is usually a little form for you to fill in where you have to write the ‘purpose’ of your trip. This has always confused me, but I did have a little moment of existential angst, which was allayed entirely by the trip indeed HAVING a purpose. I arrived mid afternoon, and went out and bought soup, chocolate, and a hot water bottle, and basically went to bed at 6. Considering I’d woken up at 3.30 the previous morning and not got back to sleep, this was pretty useful. I listened to an entire audio book about Elizabeth I. It was rather dull, but there was one stand out moment in her life which I’d not read or heard of before. Once, when a lady’s maid botched serving her food she took revenge for the slight by STABBING HER IN THE HAND!

Jeez!

So, the next day I was fairly bright, and after scoffing the “breakfast” of the B&B package – a plate of egg, bacon, sausage, mushroom and tomato I was fit to face the day. I went back to Cambridge to meet my dad at the station, and we got a cab to the crematorium. We had both been super early and we ended up getting there far too early, so we sat and chatted. I thought I would be all stoic, since Pat’s death could hardly be described as tragic, but as soon as I saw my cousins, her daughters I started to weep, and I really didn’t stop until afterwards. My dad, being the codger that he is, declined to come to the wake, and got a cab back to the station. It’s kind of weird seeing my family en masse since we don’t normally meet up, but it was actually pretty nice. My cousin Diana had just been on Radio 4 on a show called Saturday Live which is a long, magazine style programme. It features something they call ‘sound sculpture’ and my cousin Diana was on it talking about the noise our Nana’s shears made as she cut out a pattern. It’s awfully good. You might be able to listen to it here since the BBC seem less parsimonious about radio programmes than tv online. She’s on from 15.27 to 20.09.

At some point I was offered a lift back to Ely, which I gratefully accepted, and although I had eaten all the chocolate I did have my miso soup and an apple so didn’t have to leave my room once I’d got back, and I again put myself to bed more or less immediately. The first night I was very keen to shut myself in with as much warmth as possible, so I’d shut the shutters and the curtain, but this time I left it all open and woke to the sunrise which was pretty.

My morning baths were hot and deep. Here’s my fancy little bathroom.

cast iron bath from days of yore. not very long but super deep

I got up at farmer o’clock again, and ran my bath, listening to a programme I like to call “Men Arguing” but which is in fact called “The Today Programme” (wait – it isn’t – it’s called “Today” but apparently people call it The Today Programme. Bloody PEOPLE! Always messing things up). I don’t usually listen to it because it does that thing of telling you the same news over and over again in a panic inducing way, but I quite liked doing it that morning just for the oddity of it.

I’d been asked over in the morning to spend some time with the girls, but I’d thought that sounded rather ambitious, and when it was chucking out time at the B&B I rang but my cousin’s phone was off. She phoned me back, but I was already on the train home – they had indeed stayed up til 3 in the morning drinking and reminiscing.

ridiculously awful photo i took as i was leaving

Pat’s ashes are going to be dug into my uncle’s grave with a rosebush on her birthday in August. He was buried with a bottle of good red and a Jane Austin book. I like to think he read the book while he was waiting and saved the wine to share with Pattie Poos. Mind you, a theory was mooted that she might have smuggled a crate of Baileys in with her in her coffin, so perhaps he woudn’t have to share.

Four and a half Months, 500 Likes, and a Book Review

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HecTOR is 4 1/2 months old now. We think.

Anyway, it’s a fortnight since we got him, and I have NO BRAIN LEFT. What I do have, now, though, is a new respect for parents. Okay, I do have one or two neurological conditions which make me predisposed to being super tired, but at least I get sleep, even if it’s not the super good quality sleep, the M&S sleep of the healthy. HECtor spends most of the night snuggled against my head, neck or face, which is sweet, if a bit non-breathy.

I only call him Hector some of the time. He never answered to ‘Ben’ which is his ADM adoption name, but I am aware that a new owner will want to name him themselves, and so I call him ‘puppy’ a lot as well as just squeaking *HEY* at him. (And growling NO!)

I note ADM have added a whole bunch of Ian Morrison’s fancy pictures to his profile – the main one being a black and white shot for all the world like an actor’s head shot.

Moody.


They also have him down as a staffie mix, which I am not sure he is. They might know better, or they might just be hedging their bets, since the trademark body type and triangular head won’t arrive for some time yet. What I notice is his paws are nice and big, and his legs are as long as Popsy’s already. And he walks like he had balls the size of tennis balls, even though they are no bigger than marbles. Also, he has a lot of spare skin on his head which makes him look like he is frowning – I think the spare skin is for his triangle head. But I could be wrong, so don’t quote me.

Here’s one which reflects his Scrappy Doo ness.

scrappy doo

Ten’s observation that young Hector has a touch of the Scrappy Doos about him reminds me of a statue in Kew Gardens called The White Greyhound of Richmond which, tragically, Wikipedia fails to illustrate, so you’ll have to click here to read about it after you have looked at the stupidly arty picture on the English Heritage site. When I first saw it I just thought SCOOOOBYDOOOOO!!!!!! But this was pre digital camera, so I don’t have my own image of it. And Kew is bloody miles away from here, so I doubt I will be snagging one soon.

Still! SCOOBYDOOOOOOO!!!!! No?

***

I fail to have much news to impart due to all the parenthood but I will do my best, since I love my blog and I love you reading my blog, my dear readers. I have just passed 500 likes, apparently, so that’s NICE and LIKEY.

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At night I like to listen to Radio 4 plays and stories. There’s been a serialization of The Bell Jar lately, there’s always the Afternoon Play to catch up on, and I like The News Quiz, which is a satirical offering hosted by Sandi Tosfig and featuring Jeremy Hardy, both of whom I LOVE. What I didn’t love, the other night, was Thinking Allowed, which is hosted by sociologist Laurie Taylor. It’s not my favourite programme, but I do have a passing interest in things sociological, having done a postgraduate course in that area. Usually it’s pretty inoffensive. It’s not very challenging, but it sometimes airs some interesting things, and this episode promised a look at ‘neds’ – a sort of Scottish version of ‘chavs’, and for my American friends ‘white trash’ or for Grady – ‘zefs’. So far so predictable. Then he had another guest on, one Simon Harding, who has authored a book called ‘Unleashed’… a £70 tome about “attack dogs” and their owners. Priced presumably to catch that niche market ‘lawyers prosecuting dog attack cases’ he revealed his position to be an example of what, in sociology, we call a “common sense argument” – that is to say, ill thought out bollocks.

Relying mainly on statistics, Harding found that it was hard to get any qualitative research done since his interviews, designed to highlight these dogs owners as having ‘status deficit’ resulted in him having to RUN AWAY in the middle of them. Quel surprise.

What pissed me off was that my going to sleep cozy gravy of programmes had been RUINED by a spike of adrenaline as I listened to this smug tosser opine about the uneducated working classes.

He managed to make a strangled coda of ‘well, staffies are different’ but it was rather too little too late for my liking. My only hope, which presumably is his hope, is that having become an ‘expert’ in ‘attack dogs’ he will be asked to act as expert witness in dog bite cases. What will happen then is that the jury or, more likely JP, will discover what a total tosser this guy is as he reveals his ‘research’ to be merely prejudiced opinion.

You will hardly be surprised to discover that I wrote an Amazon review PDQ – although I had to fillet out all the swearing I had so creatively used in my facebook update on the same topic.

Emin’s Tube, Gertrude Stein, and A Dead Fox

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Laptop borked, I am writing this on the netbook, and JUST to bring you this picture…

london tube map with tracy emin drawing on the front

I downloaded all 1299 photos off my camera.

It’s not a new thing, but I quite like it, because it looks like she just drew it on the front in biro, but really it’s printed on. If anyone would like one let me know your land addy and I will DO MY BEST to stick it in the post to you. My own borkdom notwithstanding.

It’s horrible without the proper laptop, but I have soldiered on, finishing up the second series of The Hour with rather juddery streaming and a cheap tinny speaker attached. I think there may have always been something wrong with this netbook, because the speakers are awful. Far too quiet. Considering the speaker I attached cost me no more than a tenner, you’d think Toshiba could manage that quality at least.

Still, it could all be worse. Mustn’t Grumble.

***

My life without my usual AV set up has taken a turn. I listen to radio shows on my laptop a lot, and go to sleep to various plays and stories from Radio 4. This not being an option I decided to see what was available on podcast, and now have a shed load of Great Lives loaded up on my smartphone. The best one so far was Gertrude Stein. She turns out to be a lot more interesting than I thought she was from the tiny amount I knew about her which was that she was rich and an art collector and had been painted by Picasso.

gertrude stein by picasso

I’m not going to bang on about her, but I did very much like the way she was quoted saying;

“We spend all of our wars in France.”

Lovely. Reminds me of the David Sedaris “…my home, well, one of my homes” (from The Ship Shape)

***

I feel bad that I didn’t take a picture of this for you, but Poppet has had a bit of a DAY obsessing over a dead fox. It seems that early in the day a council worker found the dead fox on the tow path and put it in a bin bag on a corner on the estate. It’s been seriously pissing down all day here,  so no cats will have taken an interest. Or even crows. So the fox had been bagged up and Poppet had had a couple of sniffs… I took her out when I got back from my appointment in the afternoon, since I was already wet. A neighbour was walking his dog and he was telling me about the fox, and Poppet was sniffing at the bag. On the towpath I let her off the lead. She belted up to the gate which is a bit weak, barged through and sprinted off to open up the fox package. When I caught up with her she’d opened the bag up a bit and I could see a bit of scruff. I put her on the lead and took her home. A couple of hours later she was nagging me to go out. The moment we left the house she dragged me all the way to the fox.

It had clearly been on her mind.

elaine4queen is unwell

Standard

The journalist, Jeffrey Bernard was a notorious drunk. He was the subject of a West End play called Jeffrey Bernard is Unwell because this is what was printed without any preamble in the stead of his column for The Spectator when the writer was too drunk or hungover to hand in copy.

Sadly, for me, my ‘hangover’ is from my big day of two medical appointments and attendant traveling.

tilda swinton in cornelia parker’s ‘the maybe’

Last night I was kind of wired, and even though I listened to an hour of guided meditation I found I couldn’t sleep. Today I couldn’t get up, and Ten has had to do EVERYTHING.

I am now going to watch some TV, and if that doesn’t work I will find some radio.

Today is canceled.