Saturday, March 29, 2008


The advantage in leaving potty training later is that the child is more likely to get the idea quickly and not have so many set-backs. This is partly the reason I've left it longer than some parents* with T, and also partly because I've been waiting for a time when he isn't full of cold or one bug or another. I may have mentioned once or twice in passing my aversion to winter and the close exposure of my children to other people's horrendous germy children. Gah! Of course, later potty training is harder on the environment, but easier on the home environment, heheh.

We are now a week in and it's going very well indeed. He absolutely has a handle on the urine situation and we've had some successes in the other department too.

In other child development news**, S has improved her guinea pig handling abilities to the point where she will go and pick them up herself and fetch them in. Prior to the holidays she was a bit unsure about them, although loving to stroke them and have them on her lap, picking them up or catching them was not something she tried.

On the one hand, this new-found wrangling skill stops the pleas for me to go get them for her, but on the other, means guinea pig turdlets all over the carpet and early morning guinea pig release.

Conti turns out to be a genius amongst his kind and has worked out how to pull open the side of the plastic box (which is their temporary holding cell while in for statutory stroking) in order to high-tail it to Mexico, or Peru, I suppose, via underneath the sofa. Currently I am foiling him by tying the sides with string, but with his gnawy little teeth and gargantuan guinea pig brain, it can only be a matter of time. The Prison Break producers might like to borrow him for future episodes if the writers' strike continues...

Edited to add: Oooh belatedly noticed that this post was number 666. It was sadly lacking in evil, though.

*Whoever they might be.
** Or possibly just linking two lines of thought a bit and pretending there's some continuity.

Finished: A Year of Living Biblically

Monday, March 24, 2008


I've read a couple of books (Pratchett's Small Gods again and the Life of Pi) and watched a couple of DVDs: Black Sheep and Chaos. Black Sheep was by turns gross, grossly funny and gross again, with some marvellous hammy lamby puppets. It wasn't a very good film, but it had its charms.

We've had egg-hunts. I've made Easter bonnets. I've eaten too much chocolate and felt slightly sick. I've been good housekeeping material, with much cooking and cleaning. We've had some fabulous lazy breakfasts, enjoying the holiday time with the children: our current favourite is drop-scones with sweetcorn in them, with bacon and maple syrup. Which is new to us and very delicious.

I've ventured onto Facebook and found it to be good, although alarming. People from school who I don't remember adding me and people I fell out with long ago renewing their acquaintance. For what reason?! Is it to make amends, is it to pursue me unto death with pitchforks and html, is it just to have another person on their friends-list to make up more numbers? I know the latter is the reason I accepted them!

And that's about it.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Everybody loves Heather

I am amused in a non-too-salutory way by the coverage of the Mills-McCartney divorce. Siren's photo-story of Ms Mills outside the courtroom is particularly, er, fun: they've clearly chosen all the shots for catching her at her gurn-iest. I think only one shot is remotely flattering: all the rest have her grimacing and eye-ball rolling. The media have really had it in for her the whole time, so mocking pictures are probably the least of her worries.

I find it hard to be sympathetic to her though: all this talk of whether Mr McCartney has 400 million or 800 million. At those sort of figures, it is getting into meaninglessly large numbers. I can't even be jealous of that sort of money. Does not compute.

Rich rich rich!

Her take-away settlement of 24 million seems pretty substantial to me for a few years of marriage. I can see the sense in alimony when a woman has put her career on hold or hasn't begun one in order to concentrate on the children of the marriage or the household, and where she has put her efforts into helping her spouse achieve his goals at the expense of her own. How far any of this applies to Ms Mills, I've no idea. Her settlement seems equable to me, but the figures involved make my head spin - McCartney was rich as Croesus before he married her and probably makes in interest the money he will pay in child maintenance in the time between getting up and having a piss in the morning.

Rich rich rich!

And so my foray into sleb gossip ceases.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Planet Terror

Undeterred, or possibly spurred on by my mixed reaction to DeathProof, it was incumbent on me to watch Rodriguez's Planet Terror.

Hahahhahahahahhahahaha, oh dear, hahahahahahaha.

To expand, I can't decide whether the exploitation of the old exploitation genre is cool, ironic and post-modern, or whether it's just self-indulgent and morally dubious. On the whole, I incline to the latter.

Planet Terror features a superficially strong female character, Rose McGowan as Cherry, who despite having had her leg amputated after zombie attack, goes on to blow lots of shit up and kick bottom. But really she isn't strong at all - all her power is derived from male validation. Her male counterpart has to encourage and provide the tools for her: it's male permission/approval that gives her the confidence to blow shit up. Spoiler: She doesn't even appear to have reproductive autonomy in that he claims "never misses" as though her own fertility is irrelevant; he tells her she is pregnant as if she is completely out of touch with her own body and he knows it better than she does.

On one level, I enjoyed its daftness and wallowing in its own excesses, but if I turn my brain on at all, it's pretty dubious stuff.

Anyway, what did I expect?

Finished (reading to children): Matilda

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Frosty reception

Recently in a local paper there was an interview with Christian marine biologist Dr Matthew Frost. He seems quite a sensible chap to me, although apparently some commenters on the story disagree.

What interested me particularly about this article is his contention that Richard Dawkins pushes some Christian believers over the edge, as it were, into "young Earth creationism". That his insistence that science and religion are incompatible leads to some Christians shutting the door on science. This isn't really anything new, but I thought I would have a chew over it anyway.

Young earth creationism is rather whacky in that to believe it you have to throw out swathes of scientific knowledge: geology, paleontology, cosmology, all sorts of -ologies. This to me is a Very Bad thing. It shuts downs curiosity and inquiry: it says science bad, all lies, do not bother with it, or go and get a load of rote responses from some gawdawful website that regurgitates a lot of chuff about transitional fossils and imaginary lines between macro & micro evolution, argh.

If Dawkins really does cause people to reflexively curl up into balls and reject that there book-larning, then it is a shame.

Not that I would want Dawkins to lie or fudge it: his sincerity is not in doubt. As I recall from the God Delusion, he does say that evolutionary theory was what led him inexorably to atheism and he seems to view such as Dr Frost as the thin end of the wedge.

I don't think it should be framed as a science vs theology thing, or having to choose between. Evolutionary theory is not the only, or probably, even the main route to (or reason for) atheism: it's not why I am an atheist, for example, more to it than that.

I see no problem with Dr Frost's take on it and the last thing he would want is to remove bits of scientific study from the syllabus, unlike the YEC movement. Not that it is particularly a problem in the UK.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

A bit too transparent

The new Daz 'Cleaner Close' ad claims that said product removes the dirt you can't see.


The dirt you can't see is not dirt. Surely by definition, dirt is something you can see.

I refuse to start wondering whether my washing powder clears away mystical, intangible, unseeable dirt. Good heavens, the embarrassment of having transparent stains on my smalls!

I know it's the ad people's jobs to find new things for people to worry about and therefore market a product to it, but invisible dirt... ?

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

I phoned the law

Last night I was driving us all into town, I came to a crossroads at the same time as another car. He was going the way I had come and so there was that moment where we both paused to see what each of us was intending to do.

He and the woman inside were struggling, and as I looked, he whacked her across the chest and sped forwards, tyres squealing. I looked in my side mirror and saw her door fly open then be pulled back abruptly as their car vroomed on.

Quite shook me: whacking doesn't really cover the force I saw.

I drove on a little on automatic pilot and then we turned round and went to follow them: I hadn't seen the number plate and M hadn't noticed what was going on, but knowing that the road didn't go to very much and there was only one way in or out of that one-horse town, we thought it was a fair bet we could find them again. We got to the car-park and there was the car, empty. There were a lot of people about, so that eased my mind a bit, but I still insisted on checking the public loos!

We hemmed and hawed about whether to phone the cops, having a possibly inaccurately cynical view of their attitude to potential domestics and of police numbers in the area. Still, we did phone the local ones and gave the registration number, and they took it seriously.

Later we got a call back to say they'd found the couple. Apparently she was sozzled and during an argument had been trying to leap out of the car and he had been trying to restrain her. I suppose it fits, but what I saw looked really vicious on his part. How much force is required to restrain a drunken woman? I suppose it's difficult to tell from a snap-shot moment looking into someone else's car what was actually going on and it may have looked worse than it was.

If there's more to it (and there may not be), he may have been pulled up short by having a copper pop round and at least she knows that they will respond to reports of violence and had an opportunity to make a complaint.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

I wanna be anarchy

There is talk of updating the national anthem by removing lesser performed and frankly less than inclusive verses (such as the one about burning the Scots' houses down*), which let's face it, is a bloody good idea! I say, scrap the thing and if we really have to, replace it with something else.

'Cos that's one fucking saved Queen, as Eddie Izzard would say, and if there ever was a turgid, dreary, uninspiring lot of toss, God save the Queen is it.

I vote Land of Hope & Glory. It fits the bill perfectly because it's fabulously well-suited to people starting to go blah-blah-blah-di-blah-blah after the first few lines. It's also quite short. Not to mention that it's nicely stirring and arm-waving sort of stuff.

If not, perhaps Anarchy in the UK.

I'm thoroughly against getting our children to pledge allegiance to the Queen though. Not only for the Eddie Izzard reason but honestly, we're not the 51st state, are we? Surely we get enough guff from the US.** Seems like a completely empty gesture, meaningless.

*Or something like that #raspberry#.
**No offence meant, American visitors of loveliness and sense (ahem).

Monday, March 10, 2008

Your name's not down, you're not coming in.

I notice that the government are sneaking in ID cards by the back door: first it's going to be immigrants, people in airports or working for the London Olympics, then no doubt there will be other excuses and widenings.

I am not amused.

In other ramblings: it is a bit windy out - our ten foot, 90kg trampoline has sailed across the garden overnight and is pressing its suit on the rather sexy swing.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

I can actually do stuff

It's been a few days and I have been having a reasonable time, proving to myself that a. my brain does still function moreorless and b. I can perform practical tasks unaided. This was in some doubt as I have not had much requirement to test either out of late.

First, I passed some aptitude tests and am heading for the interview stage for a job. This is jolly worrying since I may actually end up being properly employed! Quel horreur.

Still, it does flexible hours and we need the money.

The aptitude tests were most alarming: the numeracy required me to do percentages, a long forgotten skill, and I never did understand how to use the percentage button on the calculator, so those questions caused me to crease my forehead slightly and the old noggin to throb. Apart from those, I was pretty happy with how it went. Of course, while we all sat waiting for our results, I had deep fearful pangs that I'd blown it, but no.

On the way back, I got a flat. On previous occasions kindly passing motorists have stopped and helped, which the time when I had a 90 kg trampoline in the boot atop where the spare lives, was especially delightful and life-saving. I've never actually done it all alone - and it's easy-peasy. Next time I wouldn't choose to do it anywhere quite so muddy, but it's rather heartening to me to dispel this niggle at the back of my mind about tyres. Cars are largely a smelly ugly mystery to me: I have no desire to change that and become a female Jeremy Clarkson lawks(!) But I've also known for a decade or so that I wasn't really paying attention when my mum taught me how to do this particular, somewhat necessary aspect of car maintenance.

It's times like these I wish I'd listened to what my mother said.
What did she say?
I don't know, I wasn't listening. [/paraphrasing Douglas Adams in one of the Hitchhikers? Or episode of the Simpsons?]

Anyway, I got myself back on the road and it's good to know I can do it.

Finished: Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell

Monday, March 03, 2008

Green Pasta

I'm not usually one for culinary tips, being a rather erratic and absent-minded cook, but something so simple, energy-saving, environmentally friendly (and possibly blindingly obvious) was passed onto me by the friends we stopped with at the weekend, that I thought I better share it. When cooking pasta, bring your water to the boil, add your pasta and bring back up to the boil - then cover and turn off the power. The water is hot enough to cook your pasta through in the ten or so minutes stated on the pack without the ring continuing to heat it. Saves money, saves power, lovely and green.

Not to mention, it's extra handy for the forgetful cooks such as myself, as it's then impossible to boil off all the water and create black, encrusted pan-bottoms. Score.

Actually reading Lolita

Such is the reputation and subject matter of Lolita that I felt a bit awkward, even guilty, about reading it. But since Reading Lolita in Tehran, I have had it in my mind to catch up on some of the holes in my knowledge of literature. It's a determination to read more difficult and classic texts, to try things outside of the crime and lighter novels I tend to fall back on. Sometimes I feel a kind of weird inverse snobbery exists, that to read (or attempt to read) the more "high-brow" is to be derided as being pretentious or as some sort of boasting. I'm not sure where I get these notions, because it clearly isn't, it's just trying to stretch myself and get this pea-soup that I call a brain fit again. And if I didn't read these things, I'd be missing out. These sort of texts are classic for a reason, not just for making you miserable in literature lectures.

Anyway, since the inspiration of RLinT, I have consumed The Great Gatsby and now Lolita. I only (ahem) have Daisy Miller, Invitation to a Beheading, Washington Square, One Thousand and One Nights and Pride and Prejudice to read or re-read in order to fulfil my deal with myself following reading the Nafisi (they are all books which feature in the text). So I'm not doing hugely well on that front, but I am getting there.

Since reading the book this weekend, (I am not a good house-guest, unless you like ones that come to your house and read your books for you. Well, it was for only a couple of hours...) I've been puzzling over it. It is a very powerful and disturbing ... and beautiful text. "Beautifully ugly" one of the Amazon reviewers called it, and that's about right.

It's written entirely from the perspective of Humbert, the foul yet erudite paedophile. He is the epitome of an untrustworthy narrator. His obsessive lyrical "reality" is interspersed with rare moments of horrifying clarity, which keep the reader mindful of his essential self-deceiving untrustworthiness. Lo is never, to my mind, the manipulative minx that some readers apparently see: she cries herself to sleep every night and he even rapes her when she is ill and feverish, finding it especially piquant*. She is only ever seen through his eyes, and he pays no attention whatsoever to her feelings, obsessed by her but with no insight into her inner life and no empathy. She has no choices: he convinces her that with her mother dead she will be institutionalised and that that would be worse than life with him. As a child, abducted, orphaned, coerced, wheedled, bribed, duped: how her position could be seen as manipulative is beyond me. I don't see how it could be described as a love-story either, which some critics have done. Obsession, easily, but love, no.

All in all challenging, controversial subject matter, but the writing is exceptional.

* I should add that the sexual content of the novel is alluded to or inferred rather than graphically or explicitly described. It's not pornographic.