Il cane innocente, Il giovane Montalbano, e mi sento male

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In ‘my life as a Hanna Barbera cartoon, the dog known as Ms Roberta “Poppet” Bobs stole my sausages the other day while I was answering the door.

piccolo cane innocente

Other dogs have a good line in looking guilty even if it’s just that they are skilled actors, but Pops just looked at the plate in my hand, hypnotised by her own pleasure, while I was telling her off, transparently thinking “Those were good, are there any more?”

She understands when it is in her interest to do so. Ten used to talk about perambulating the animal, but I think she’s sussed that one out, so it’s lucky I’ve become entrenched in The Young Montalbano so now we have a spot of Italian to spice up our linguistic feints.

I have tried watching Montalbano before, with The Snack Thief which I found slow and boring, and not about sausages at all. Whether it is the young handsome actor in the prequel or to do with the writing or the directing I don’t know, but whatever the reason or cunning combination thereof, I am really enjoying this series. I now believe I should be living in Sicily, and a quick glance at the weather forecasts tell me that I am right.

What is less appealing is that the town which plays Vigàta is apparently notorious for crimes against dogs, and for there being a lot of street dogs, for want of a pound. I saw a picture when I looked it up for daydreaming purposes which would curdle your blood. So, mixed reviews, there.

***

In other not unrelated news, I have been abed for a lot of the week. Ten’s been away so I’ve had to do what I’ve had to do, but I’ve rather run aground and today he is doing everything and I am most grateful. While I am unfaithful to him with Salvo he is dealing with the piccolo cane and the shopping and so on. I am so very sluggish and have been absolutely tanking the triptans. I only hope that today’s turn of the full moon sees off this current malaise, because I’m at a terribly low ebb, unable to get on with the writing project, and generally feeling crappy. So, sorry for lack of posts, but this is the reality of life in the hermitage right now.

What is nice is that Ellis has invited me to Have A Word again in March. Lets hope that I am well enough to write something by then… There’s another thing on, in April, again in Brighton, which is probably going to be called END OF, perhaps with some other words appended. It was only cooked up a couple of nights ago by Julie Burchill, and is going to be a fund raiser for a domestic violence charity. The spots are only 3-5 minutes, and I think perhaps it’s not for me, but I am glad to be in on it, it’s a great project. However, I also intend to get up to Scotland in the in just springtime, and I dare say I will need to be realistic about the wellness to travel ratio that I can cope with outside of the high days of June – August. I really do need to work out how to get somewhere warmer for a bit.

30 Things Meme – Invisible Illness Week (Small Life)

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It’s coming up to Invisible Illness Week so here’s my response to the 30 things questionnaire you just clicked through to (well, if you didn’t it’s there anyway, just like the tree that fell in the forest).

just like that

1. The illness I live with is: fibromyalgia and chronic migraine. Some say chicken, some say egg, either way, it’s bodily pain, exhaustion, insomnia, anxiety and severe headaches, lots and lots of headaches.

2. I was diagnosed with it in the year: Not sure. about 8 years ago. Never sure about dates and things. I am supposed to keep a record of all sorts of things, but in reality I am too ill to manage that sort of paperwork.

3. But I had symptoms since: Probably birth. Colic is now seen as a precursor of and a kind of migraine, ‘growing pains’ are now seen as a sign of fibromyalgia. I also suffered headaches as a kid, was put to bed with an asprin and dismissed as ‘attention seeking’. If pain really got you attention, I think I’d have noticed by now, and from my pre-crash experience (about 10 years ago now) I know that there are better and more effective ways to get noticed.

4. The biggest adjustment I’ve had to make is: Having very few choices about anything – from what to eat to where I can go or what I can wear or who I can spend time with. At the moment I am struggling with the fact that I can’t, and haven’t been able to for some time, decorate my home or even put pictures up.

5. Most people assume: I’m ok, I suppose. And that nothing they can do can help and that whatever I am doing is what I want to be doing, and however I have things or do things is how I want them. I remember a visitor being surprised at how few pictures I had up. Rather than ask me why, as a formerly active visual artist and someone who has a huge collection of images in frames, I might not have them on walls, she regaled me with tales of her own decor preferences and activities.

6. The hardest part about mornings are: Mornings are the best time of the day for me but I know that all the spoons will be used up by the time I have eaten and bathed, and if I do do something, go to an appointment, do a task, then I will be paying not just the rest of that day but for several days hence. So I suppose the hardest thing about mornings is knowing that even if I feel okay for a little while it won’t be for long, and I have to get through the day somehow  – and having done so I won’t be any further forward with anything.

7. My favorite medical TV show is: None. I don’t like medical shows. People may think that I am interested in ailments, I’m not. I like murders and comedies.

8. A gadget I couldn’t live without is: My heated blanket.

9. The hardest part about nights are: That if I am awake I will be in pain, and that the night will feel even more endless than the day.

10. Each day I take _approx 10 pills & vitamins. (No comments, please)

11. Regarding alternative treatments I: have tried a lot of things. I always listen when people tell me about treatments, because sometimes there might be something that actually helps, but mostly I just feel even more misunderstood and isolated – going to appointments of any sort involves travel and probably being extra ill for several days afterwards, and alternative treatments are costly too, so unless you are going to drive me to the appointment every week and pay for it too, then probably save your breath.

12. If I had to choose between an invisible illness or visible I would choose: Visible. I’d like to have Stigmata, something nice and visual. I used to get nose bleeds a lot, and the level of sympathy was off the scale – DUDES!  Nosebleeds don’t actually hurt!

13. Regarding working and career: I miss working, and I miss financial independence. I miss creating something in the world. I miss the social contact. I miss being an expert at something. I miss having a vocation, an actual reason to get out of bed in the morning.

14. People would be surprised to know: How angry and upset I get – I feel I daren’t express myself a lot of the time, I have few enough friends as it is without alienating them. I know it’s not anyone’s fault that I am unwell, but I do feel like I have to be on my best behaviour all the time – I even try to be bright and breezy on the internet for fear of bumming people out. I only write as much misery as I dare, but I feel much more. And that sense of having to be well behaved is a bit of a burden. Sometimes I do write ‘I feel crap’ on facebook, and I love it that people ‘like’ or say ‘aw’ – it’s amazing how much that helps.

15. The hardest thing to accept about my new reality has been: How little it really matters, and how little there is I can do about it.

16. Something I never thought I could do with my illness that I did was: be of any use to anyone else ever. I love it when I can help someone with something. Especially when it involves something I know or am good at and can still do (not much, admittedly).

17. The commercials about my illness: don’t exist in the UK, thankfully.  I remember saying to a psychiatrist ‘will I be able to do that yoga pose if I take that drug’ – the ad was on the side of a tissue box. What rot. I imagine drug commercials are a lot like sanitary products ads, full of people who are busy doing cartwheels on the beach. I’m glad I am spared seeing them. Mind you, the anger might be quite aerobic.

18. Something I really miss doing since I was diagnosed is: Making plans that have any chance of coming to fruition.

19. It was really hard to have to give up: yoga.

20. A new hobby I have taken up since my diagnosis is: blogging. It can be done from bed, it can be any length, and it needn’t be done at all. No one is let down if I don’t blog for weeks. It doesn’t take materials or much in the way of physical action, all I have to be well enough for to do it is to handle the screen time and string a sentence together, and even then I don’t have to do it all at once.

21. If I could have one day of feeling normal again I would: go swimming.

22. My illness has taught me: compassion.

23. Want to know a secret? One thing people say that gets under my skin is: “Why don’t you get a taxi?” I have never been a big fan of taxi rides, the converations are tiring, and even being in a car in silence with someone I don’t know is tiring. They are too expensive, and they WILL give me travel sickness. If I am not going somewhere because it’s ‘too far’ I’ve already weighed up the logistics.

24. But I love it when people: find a way to include me.

25. My favorite motto, scripture, quote that gets me through tough times is: There isn’t one. No platitude from any quarter can help. Ten and Poppet and the internet people, they help, but sayings and quotes just piss me off.

26. When someone is diagnosed I’d like to tell them: you are entitled to your feelings.  

27. Something that has surprised me about living with an illness is: “I never imagined that so many days would ultimately  make such a small life.”
— Franz Kafka, from “Diaries”

28. The nicest thing someone did for me when I wasn’t feeling well was: Be there. Also, it’s helpful when someone offers me something specific – when you are in pain and maybe your brain isn’t functioning the last thing you want to do is guess what someone is prepared to do for you. Ask “Do you want a cheese sandwich” not “Is there anything I can do for you?” because there is, but I’ll be damned if I can think what it might be, right now even if I am lying here starving.

29. I’m involved with Invisible Illness Week because: Honestly, if I don’t do it no one else is going to do it for me. I am constantly supporting causes, even if it’s only ‘clicktivism’. What is horrible is that even high profile illnesses and disabilities don’t get the kind of support or research they need. Watching Pink Ribbon Inc shows how big companies and individuals spend so much money and effort fundraising without actually helping anyone. 

If a cause like that fails so resolutely, what chance is there for mine?

30. The fact that you read this list makes me feel: perhaps all is not lost. If you did get this far, thank you so much for caring to. I feel like I should apologize for having wasted ten minutes of your time. If you did make it this far, here’s a little tumblr for your trouble – THANK YOU! elaine4queen.tumblr.com/day/2013/8/25

 

Paris is a Trip

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I am back from la France. It was brilliant. There was cake and cheese and shoes and bees. We met la Messy Nessy Chic and we gained muscle mass on the hills. Everything with ‘Mont’ in the name? That’s going to be a hill, it turns out. And hills go up as well as down. It’s good though, because it made me feel like I was burning off the cake, and also it helps with getting your bearings.

i forgot to mention – i have spidey skills

Before we went, Terri said “How do you feel about Montmartre?” How could I feel anything about it since I had no idea what it was going to be like? Well, it turns out to be very pretty, pretty central, and she got it for a deal, which was good, because although it’s not the MOST expensive neighbourhood it would have been no deal at full price, probably.

I knew about the trip in plenty of time to brush up on a few words, so I had some books beside my bed which lay unopened while I watched Eddie Izzard instead. His advice, to take a monkey, a mouse, a cat, and a chair with you so that you can work them into the conversation at the hotel was spot on, I simply can’t fault him.

One of the language moments I had was when Terri was reading out the rules of the hotel for me – and I mistook drink for fish. I had a fairly surreal moment wondering why anyone would need hot fish bringing to their room, and thinking well, if they are going to all that trouble offering hot fish, perhaps it would be rude not to order some? before realizing it was boisson not poisson she was talking about. Easy mistake to make.

warning – bees. bees, that is, with swords.

I’d been delegated to make the Eurostar bookings but there were questions and time passed and there was an air strike… as I watched the cheaper seats disappear I had to make le decision executive and make an effing booking already. So, by this time we could have stupid early or quite late, and I went for stupid early. I was quite worried about it because if they didn’t let us in our room early we were going to be knackered and snappy and hanging around, but happily the room was ready so we had a little lie down and then a sort of bonus walkabout in Montmartre. Imagine if there was a pretty hillside with a fancy building on top next to Kings X? It would not only be nice, but also handy for orientation.

tezzer dans l’atelier

The reason I could afford to go, and indeed Terri herself, was that she’d got a grant from her University to put together a proposal for a kind of cool hunting image pool for her students. We went to la Goutte D’Or and she took some shots which I can’t show you yet, but there was one of a woman in a knock off Burberry jumpsuit which was horrible and fabulous at the same time. Because this is a kind of rough neighbourhood it was tricky to get shots even with a phone, so I didn’t take any with my camera, but as we were leaving the area we found this street which had been given over to designer/makers and we went off on a totally other tangent, also useful for her college purposes. We found these people reviving the art of bespoke shoe making in l’atelier Maurice Arnoult – which was a cool story because it had apparently been quite a macho trade, and the last surviving practitioners decided they wanted to revive the trade and teach women, so that’s what they did. The oldest of them is over 100 years old and is now seeing the dream come into fruition. The only near equivalent we have in the UK is Cordwainers which was taken over by London College of Fashion in 2000. At Cordwainers you can learn how to design and make – but here in Paris you do it from scratch for the individual client. A cost price only, without labour, pair of shoes from the college starts from 800 euros.

yeah, that receipt is for a video not for anything remotely going towards having a shoe made

shoe lasts

The next day we went off to meet Nessy. She’d arranged to meet us in a Cafe in a fancy part of town, and because of Metro connections and probable walking distances we set off early and went to a further away stop, which involved fewer changes, and walked. This was the horror part of the trip. The area around the Champs-Élysées is like, say you were walking down the Mall towards Buckingham Palace and then times the whole thing by a kaleidoscope. It was blastingly hot, with little shade, and although there is some green space it’s mainly all massive colonial buildings with statues covered in gold leaf reflecting off the sun and burning your retinas. In Paris people drive pretty fast, and there are also a lot of motor bikes and I saw something which made my otherwise happy heart shrink like a raisin. Among the traffic on what was, and I am not exaggerating, a six lane highway, was a horse pulling a trap. It’s not an uncommon tourist thing but it was super shocking to see this poor horse in the middle of all this really hideous fast noisy traffic. Terri tells me that even the Central Park are being wound down.

GOOD.

Anyway, after we had escaped the cruelty and statuary, we hit the Seine and found the cafe. We went via Avenue Montaigne which is where all the full size stores for Prada and the like are lined up. If you have ever been to Bond Street forget it, because those are ‘fun sized’ stores by comparison to these monsters. We were still hungry and a bit worried about how much it was going to cost us to eat in this neighbourhood, and when we got to the Savy I was totally afraid to buy food there, but happily there was a cheap and quite good place next door, so we could stuff our faces before we went to sip coffee and be urbane. On consideration I wished I’d left room for cake, though, because once I had got over my fears I started to like the Savy a lot, and I suspect they do good deserts.

bloody glum lion

I saw this lion just after I had seen the sad horse. I felt his pain.

It was so bloody hot out there, and then, naturally, just as we left Vanessa to head for the Metro it utterly pissed down. As I entered the Metro totally soaked to an audience of dry Parisians waiting for the hell to stop a man asked me “Il pleut?” Which was very bloody funny of him. (It was, quite).

cake

Here are some cakes, they come earlier in the story, but I wanted to put them beside the picture of cheese.

cheese and meat

Terri asked Vanessa where she would eat on her last night in Paris, and rather than guide us towards some insanely posh place, or even somewhere French, she told us to go to a little (tiny) Italian on rue Lamarck which was conveniently located on the street we were actually staying on (and anyone who knows my sleeping hours will realize this was what meant it could actually happen) called Babalou. This was the entree we shared before eating so much that I could not manage a desert, not even a tiny one.

kitteh

Enfin although I have more photos, here is a little kitty eyeing me from across the way from our room. I also saw a very fit half naked man a few times, but refrained from photographing him. All the windows in Paris seem to be FRENCH WINDOWS which is a kind of window I approve of wholeheartedly and wish I had throughout my flat. We had ours wide open throughout our stay and were treated to many noises. But they were French noises, so that’s okay.

As well as being stuffed with kitties, there are also LOTS of dogs in Paris, and most of them walk off leash. This is now illegal in the UK, but it has been a long time since most dogs even knew how.

Now that I am back from the France since one day, I am minded to share with you this Armstrong and Miller sketch.

And even more enfin I seem to have put my hand up to be in the third Have a Word in Brighton in August.

nic collins’ lovely graphic for ‘Have a Word”

Holiday Horse, Tumblr Days, and a Giraffe

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My life is exceptionally dull right now, although it is  the run up to hollybags, so there will be that…

a random horse in a garden in andalucia, my last time in spain

What there has been, though, is tumblr posts. Ten demanded one for his birthday elaine4queen.tumblr.com/day/2013/5/16 and then straight after that I made one for Mez elaine4queen.tumblr.com/day/2013/5/17 neither of which are exactly ART HEAVY – more about the lolz. What you may not know is that when I make a tumblr day blog I show it to Ten while humming this tune;

which is from the children’s TV show Vision On. It featured a segment called The Gallery where this music played over a camera slowly panning across various artistic efforts kids had sent in. So now you know how to do elaine4queen tumblr viewing, I hope you take it suitably seriously. Also, the picture of a giraffe I sent in didn’t get shown.

I WAS CRUSHED.

Write Off Days

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Today is a bit of a write off. I mean, a lot of my days are more or less writes offs, but today I was envisitated (new word, thankyouverymuch, I expect to be invited to be in the OED within weeks) by a couple of chaps keen to paint one of my cupboards against mould. It’s migraine weather anyway here in the UK, with heavy cloud, and extra points scored by house paint means that I headed for my triptans PDQ.

gratuitous picture of poppet eviscerating a plushie

When I first got the Botox injections a few weeks ago I didn’t get much respite because of a long standing neck pain. Once they started tailing off, though, I started my GRAND PLAN of coming off as much medication as humanly possible. Last summer my plan was to just enjoy being pain free (or more or less anyway) for the summer, but this time round it’s all about becoming as strong as possible before the next change of seasons. The botox should allow me to do more stuff without having to take triptans, so when I go on holiday in a coupla weeks I will be swimming every day for a kick off.

The grand plan is all about getting as well as possible on as few drugs as possible. I can’t know if the PhD proposal was successful, but if it was then I need to be well enough to read, think, write, and travel. To do this I think I might try to spend some of the winter abroad, but obvs I can only do that if I get the grant freeing me from UK soil. I know they want the person to start in July, so nowhere near enough time for grant applications, but I might be able to make that work for me by starting off being part time. Given that so few people manage a PhD within 3 years, that can’t be the worst idea, and they can’t expect me to go full time if I don’t get the money to do that.

There are other things too… This flat is kind of tight. I love it here, but I am looking at two bedroom flats to swap with because I’d really like a separate place to work. I know a lot of it will be me looking at books and me looking at a laptop, but I work in a different way when I am writing than most people do. I don’t think linearly and like to print out and look at what I am doing on the floor or on a wall, cut it up, move it around, physically and this takes time and space. I need to be able to go away from it and come back to it, and I don’t want to live with it all the time either. This might not be an issue straight away, but I have started looking anyway. I am also considering modifications of the flat I am already in… after all, it costs a bloody fortune to move if you are not ‘able’ and if you own more than just clothes and books. However, for the right space and location I’d move again for sure.

If I don’t get this PhD I might apply for another. I didn’t set out to apply for one, but if I am well enough to do this kind of a thing, or at least to start it, then I probably should, given the state of the nation… it’s not a great time to be on benefits if there’s an option – and a 9 – 5 certainly isn’t on the cards for me even with Botox.

So there you have it. Nearly finished watching Prison Break, which is all I am up to most of today. Thank goodness for telly.

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.

Hector’s Home, Prison Break, and PhD Braindeath

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I wonder how Hector is getting on? You ask. I wonder if he is GROWING? You ask. Well, it turns out he is both growing and stretching… in a trick perhaps learned from Poppet he clearly has a ‘See this? This is ALL MINE’ streak a mile long down his back.

i’m too sexy for my super kingsized bed

Considering that when we first got him he slept on my neck, yep. I’d say he’s growing up to be quite the long leggedy hunk. I’m chuffed that Ryan chose to keep the name. He still looks very Hectory to me.

***

My current TV obsession is Prison Break. I don’t know who it was who turned me on to it, one of the Kirsties, perhaps? Anyway, it’s GREAT. It comprises of several series, it has a long story arc, it has eye candy and it has SCIENCEY ‘what have we learned?’ stuff.

“pretty” has to take his top off because, spoiler – his tattoo is a map!

…So that justifies his toplessness and we needn’t think of ourselves as OGLING. (Which we clearly are).

Like Breaking Bad, Prison Break involves problem solving. From BB we learn that some acids will corrode a body and metal but not plastic, and from PB we learn how good at problem solving engineers are. And sexy, clearly they are sexy.

***

I realize that I have been a bit AWOL. I’ve been a bit ill and a bit busy, and today I had my final important deadline – the resubmission of the PhD proposal. Because I’d been so ill and also dealing with the vile ESA paperwork (application for this year and appeal tribunal for last year both at once) I had failed to notice how quickly my PhD deadline was coming up. In the middle of a massive migraine yesterday I was looking it up and when I saw it was TODAY I thought I’d really messed up and that it would be impossible to do anything productive with it. Today, though, I  have spent all day reading the chapter the supervisor asked me to read, skitiching a reference to it into the proposal, looking at the proposal with fresh eyes and totally reorganizing it, murdering a few darlings, adding a bit of explanation, and finally sent it off.

I am now completely exhausted and await my dinner which is being crafted as we speak by Ten. Which is just as well, because I am ALL OUT of spoons.

***

OOh wait! Also, I made a tumblr the other day elaine4queen.tumblr.com/day/2013/5/03

Modern Type, a Quiet Moment, and Goodbye Pattie Poo

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1916: Edward Johnston’s hand-drawn alphabet for the Underground

NINETEEN SIXTEEN this was designed in! Not even the 30s, which is what it looks like to me. So lovely. I have to say I am not overly interested in typography or signage – to the point that I very much got someone else to teach it when I was running m’course. Nevertheless, I do appreciate how very modern this lettering is – predating Bayer’s Bauhaus typeface by nine years.

Which, of course, I do like as well. I wonder if, having been brought up in London, I am predisposed to love the underground lettering and signage? I mean, I can see that the Paris metro is pretty, but I feel an actual love for the LU. While we are musing, I wonder if I would feel less attached to London if the signage was changed? Not that they’d EVER do that. There would be uproar.

When I bought a typewriter to write my dissertation (it cost the same to buy an electric typewriter as to pay someone to type it out for you, what people did in the OLDEN DAYS, YO) I chose courier but as soon as I had my first computer, a classic mac (second hand) it was helvetica for me, and then ariel after that. Sans serif looks better on a screen.

***

I have today on my own with the dogs. After a few days on my own at the beginning of the Hectorium I had to beg Ten to come back and help me, because it was all too horribly much. However, the dogs have largely settled down together, and Hector is nearly completely house trained, so it’s easier to be on my own with them. I am enjoying a quiet, non fighty spell on the bed while I write this. Soon there will be feeding time, and then a walk, and then I will be exhausted and only want to watch tv.

***

Since last we met, dear reader, my beloved auntie Pat has died. Here I am with her at my cousin’s wedding nearly three years ago.

me and patty poo

The good thing is that she wasn’t particularly ill. She was old, and quite disabled, but had just been to Spain and enjoyed herself ogling at men’s legs and drinking ‘something naughty’ in the sunshine, so there is nothing to be sad about really, except that I liked her. For a while I spent a fair bit of time with her, too. She was cared for at home, and would go into respite care every few weeks for a few days. I went to visit her there and would bring her a flask of gin & tonic or a film to watch or whatever. There was one time I found a ginko leaf on the ground on my way to see her. I gave her the leaf and told her all I know about the ginko tree – it is so old that it has no parasites, so the leaves are always pristine, it is known as the ‘memory tree’ and people take ginko to improve their memories. When I left she said ‘thank you for the leaf’ and I know she meant it. She was the sort of person who would prefer a leaf and a story to any amount of fancy flowers.

Makes me think of the Brian Patten poem ‘A blade of Grass’

You ask for a poem.
I offer you a blade of grass.
You say it is not good enough.
You ask for a poem.

I say this blade of grass will do.
It has dressed itself in frost,
It is more immediate
Than any image of my making.

You say it is not a poem,
It is a blade of grass and grass
Is not quite good enough.
I offer you a blade of grass.

You are indignant.
You say it is too easy to offer grass.
It is absurd.
Anyone can offer a blade of grass.

You ask for a poem.
And so I write you a tragedy about
How a blade of grass
Becomes more and more difficult to offer,

And about how as you grow older
A blade of grass
Becomes more difficult to accept.

Which is one way of saying that despite her chronological age – 86, I think – she was never ever old. We shared a love of the tv series The Camomile Lawn which we had both seen so many times we could quote virtually the whole script. The series was, unfortunately, taped rather than filmed, so the visual quality is awful, but the whole series is on youtube, and the sound has cleaned up nicely.

I love the soundtrack which is a variation on Ravel’s string quartet. I had it as a ring tone for ages.

Moving stuff around, Jeans for freedom, and ALL THE FRENCH STUFF

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I have fiddled with the layout of my bedroom the past couple of days. This wasn’t what I started out thinking I would do – I wanted to take the rug from under the bed and put it in the sitting room, but once things had been shoogled about a bit I liked what I was seeing.

cozy, comfy, change of scenery

This layout avec rug is super cozy, AND, as Ten pointed out, good for yoga. Which I did this morning for the first time in ages.

old layout. hooks not for sexytime – olly had a hanging headboard arrangement.

Also this morning, I got THESE in the post – S01 & 2 of Barquo. I now feel confident that my immediate tellywatching is catered for.

vids in the post. also NHS letter referring me to the headache clinic at the neuro hozzer

***

Meanwhile elsewhere in France - les feminists francais Femen are celebrating the repeal of a 200 year old legislation against the wearing of trousers.

FEMEN celebrate the legalization of pants in Paris. In their joy, they walked through the city center in the pants!
But the happiness was rudely interrupted by police patrol as a barbaric act to go out lot topless in Paris has not been canceled yet. This and many other shameful discriminatory laws FEMEN promises to win, even if for the sake of it will have to break the legal pants.
We remind that the residents of Paris officially permitted to appear in public wearing pants. The ban, which was introduced in the year 1799, cancelled by decision of the Minister for women’s rights Nejad Vallo Belkasem, The Daily Telegraph reports.

not my photo, obvs. taken from their fb page.

Work done, we may now rest

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We were running out of poo bags so I tipped the whole basket of Poppet things on the floor to fish out any that were left straggling.

Poppet, on the other hand, decided to help herself to various balls and toys, take them into the bedroom and work on their annihilation. I didn’t even know she’d be particularly interested in toys indoors any more, but it seems she is.

***

Meanwhile, I have been working hard on getting a PhD proposal in, and managed to hit send one hour before midnight on the day before the deadline. It’s still not perfect, but it looks a lot more like a proposal than the noodly jazz style of writing I started off with.

This is what I ended up with;

Desire Lines – Creating the Sustainable Digital City

In Finland planners are known to visit their
parks immediately after the first snowfall,
when the existing paths are not visible.
People naturally choose desire lines, which
are then clearly indicated by their footprints
and can be used to guide the routing of paths.

Earls Court Project Application 1 | Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea
Cultural Strategy | June 2011

The concept of digital personhood is of a piece with an ongoing discussion within discourses about ‘what is identity’. We are individuated from others and we identify with others, and in our online groups, as in any subculture, we have ways of expressing who we are within multiple groupings. Unlike physical culture, however, we do this through the ether, using an ever mutating linguistic metre, and through a digitally specific mode of ‘sharing’ (Kleon 2012). We reblog and share everything from political information and mobilization to Lolcat macros and animated gifs rather than, for example, expressing ourselves with dress and going to a particular night club or cafe (Hebdige1979). What is unique to digital identity is it’s location online and it’s freedom from geography and from the embodied self. How that manifests in the digital realm can be as unelaborated as the daily rapport I have with my dad playing Words With Friends (without ever engaging in any kind of conversation) or as proliferated as having continuous dialogues with individuals all over the internet using more than one username each. Over a variety of IFTTT (IF This Then That) pathways, for example you can have your activity under one name show up in a stream you have under another name and host discussions of a single item through various blogging platforms with different audiences. 

One’s own set of digital identities can be confusing as can keeping up with those of our friends. I have been on Facebook long enough now that I have forgotten who I knew primarily from Livejournal, and who else they might know from there until someone from one part of my life comments on someone who feels like they are from another part of my life’s post. I can then have a small moment of having my mind blown that someone I know tangentially from a visit to New York is actually quite friendly with someone who I now know in person who lives in Kirkintilloch, and they don’t know each other through me. 

The virtual world is thus threaded together with lines of code running without much respect for geography. It’s boundaries are elsewhere. Underneath the user interface is the code – what is secret to the user manifests as strongly delineated fields where one may or may not interact. What is given and what is created are in constant flux, and are more or less transparent to us depending on whether we are conversant with, happy with given constrictions, or whether we want to cut across the field.

The coders and content creators of the past decade or so are frontierspeople as well as early adopters. What is interesting to me is that this generation of people are effectively a liminal group – they are people, for instance, who may have learned analogue recording techniques and photographic techniques before digital technology existed and had to work out how to digitize before scanners, digital cameras, and monitors, for instance, were in common use. But it is not just professional artists and developers who interest me, but simply the creativity of everyday life (de Certeau 1980) as manifest online. Oral histories from this group of individuals would constitute a unique archive. The age group I am looking at will be anywhere between 30 and 60 years old right now, and are a distinct group from digital natives largely through having engaged with rapidly emergent and changing technologies. 

The City/The City

Digital culture reveals itself in two ways. First, the ‘hardware’ and it’s real time and real space relationship with buildings, cities, countries, their economies and international relations, and secondly the ‘ghost in the machine’ – how we, ourselves, connect, express ourselves, and maintain social connection through work and leisure online. 

The ‘digital city’ wouldn’t even be possible as a metaphor, were it not for the time we spend there voluntarily. We can ‘work, rest, and play’ online. 

I will argue that the internet already hosts a multitude of cultures beyond the hegemony of Google, Mac and Amazon which posit the ‘user’ merely as ‘customer’. I will use Marx’s theory of Cultural Reproduction and the later developments thereof to show that despite big business and governmental wishes individuals will use the internet and it’s elaborations in surprising ways and to their own ends.

At it’s simplest, Marx says ‘every schoolboy knows’ that any viable culture is only viable if it contains within itself it’s means of reproduction. As in the petri dish, so in society. Further elaborations include Althusser’s ‘ideological state apparatuses’ which show how power reproduces itself, and Bordieu’s more culturally inclined ‘cultural reproduction’ (Jenks: Routledge 1993)

If the internet is a city, then by extension we can use it as a source of extended metaphoricity. Grounded as it is, we can map it, we can look at various ‘boroughs’ we can consider places we work and play there, and we can consider infrastructure – the very brickwork and plumbing it relies on, its’ highways and byways, and its’ social spaces.

We can consider how it mirrors the development of ‘the city’ with the emergence of the coffee house, for instance, and how tea mediated women’s society, and compare these to the social spaces online.

Imagining the internet as a city implies stratification, routedness over rootedness (Gilroy) social mobility, spaces for interactions, all the conveniences and advances of ‘civilized’ life, and like the advent of civilization itself, we are often inventing as we go along.

If this is a city then it has been a gold rush Wild West city but perhaps it is becoming another kind of city, a Soft City (Raban, Harvill Press 1974) a non linear city with direct lines to the past, personal memories and indeed legend itself. It is a city with underground passages, secret codes and worm holes leading us blinking back into the half light of a repurposed town hall for a meeting of Dorkbot. This, then, is a city where we can invent and reinvent ourselves, meeting others who share our interests or online modalities. 

Situated Knowledges/Digital Personhood – Groups and Identity

From the Cartesian selfhood of being human because we are neither machines nor animals, to Haraway’s cyborgs, we have traveled a long road. From the startling inception of the use of the fork at table to using our iPhone to identify a leaf on a ramble, we are human because we are somewhat animal and somewhat machine. If you read through to the end of Pepys’ diary, for instance, you will discover that he did not write his diary all the way to the time of his death, but abandoned it for want of a technology many of us take for granted – eyeglasses. 

All of human life is here, and it uses the technology in whatever way is transparent and useful to their needs. In the event of governmental or brand lockdowns other means are found. Agency flows through the structure stopping only to notice it when it’s annoying and either doesn’t work properly or there is any element of learning to be done. The general fuss whenever Facebook changes something is extraordinary when you consider how little it takes to adapt to a new iteration. 

How, then, do digital technologies mediate self expression, self curation, and perhaps even self deception? I will look at how we define ourselves as individuals separate from ‘the group’ and as part of groups, utilizing interdisciplinary methods from sociology, anthropology, linguistics and literature. Though historical analysis, action research and ethnomethodological epistemologies I propose to study how digital culture might reproduce itself, and how digital personhood is constructed through processes of forming and norming in social spaces online and how restrictions and regulations are mediated by individuals and groups.

***

I wouldn’t have thought of applying for a PhD except for two factors. One was that I was asked to submit, albeit casually (on Twitter, in fact!) As an art/social science kind of person I wouldn’t have thought of applying to something put out by a ‘Faculty of the Built Environment’ anywhere at all, and perhaps even more particularly Heriot Watt, which is a uni I would never have got into as a young thing.

The other reason is one you may be familiar with – the ongoing and increasing duress that people on the ESA are being put under. I’d thought if they sent me to work it’d be fine, because I’d be stretchered out within a couple of days anyway, but it’s not that simple. The whole thing is super stressful – if you read my recent post about half an hour spent at Reed then you will know that I can’t deal with this kind of stress very well, and it’s set to increase.

A recent Panorama docco, The Great Disability Scam investigated the companies carrying out the ‘work’ for the DWP (Department of Work and Pensions) highlighting these firm’s policy of cream and park. A spokesman for the DWP said this;

…which is not how the private companies commissioned to roll out “support” are doing it.

currently too ill to work – not something they give any quarter to.

the right support- yeah, right. These companies are staffed by sales staff. They are not specialists.

when they are well enough - from April we will be treated as jobseekers, with all the proving you are seeking work and appointments that that entails.

gradually – we are being pressured into taking a self employment route which will be supported for one year if taken before April.

One of the firms employing these functionaries was ratted out by an ex employee who told Panorama  “Triage call their disabled clients LTBs (lying, thieving bastards)” It is interesting to observe that in order to dehumanize their clients enough to justify their cruelty the Triage ‘workers’ employ hate speech.

“Monsters exist, but they are too few in numbers to be truly dangerous. More dangerous are…the functionaries ready to believe and act without asking questions.”
― Primo Levi

Were I to be accepted for the PhD it would take me out of this war of hatred against the vulnerable for three years. At least if I got the thing, if things are as bad in three years time I can insist on them calling me Doctor.