Monday, March 29, 2010


I'm not sure what to make of The Blue Bedspread by Raj Kamal Jha. When first I'd finished it, my instinct was to chuck it out. It's a strange book and the subject matter is uncomfortable.

Anyhow, that's all I have on it.

My A-Z challenge is to read 26 new-to-me authors (with different starting letters in their surnames) in alphabetical order.

Well, keeping 'em in sequence failed straight away as Bell came before Poppy Adams but I'm not going to worry about that too much, it's just a silly self-set challenge.

Adams, Poppy - The Behaviour of Moths
Bell, Gail - The Poison Principle (non-fiction)
Colfer, Eoin - And Another Thing
Dunne, Catherine - In the Beginning
Evans, Justin - A Good and Happy Child
Franken, Al - The Truth (with jokes) (non-fiction)
Granger, Ann - Mud, Muck and Dead Things
Heley, Veronica - Murder of Identity
Iles, Greg - The Turning Angel
Jordan, Jane - Blood and Ashes
Khadra, Yasmina - The Sirens of Baghdad


Via the F-Word. Recently the General Pharmaceutical Council voted to keep the 'conscience' clause that allows pharmacists to refuse to dispense products that are contrary to their own personal beliefs. I find it troubling and it does seem to be a problem, here & here, for example.

I can agree that doctors should not have to perform terminations if they have a problem with it for religious or other reasons. I think one of the differences for me is that a doctor can choose which areas of medicine they deal with. A doctor who disagrees with contraception or abortion could and should work in a discipline that keeps them out of having to compromise their personal convictions or patients' services. Potentially that means working as a GP is not the most suitable career path, but stretching a point, I think if working as a GPs, if their beliefs prevent them from supplying specific services to their patients, then that should be made plain to all their patients from the get-go. Religion/personal convictions are private, up until it impinges on what patients can expect from them, and then it should be something they're informed of, before they join their practice, imo.

But a front-line pharmacist cannot choose which areas of health are going to come up, so if something they believe prohibits them from certain aspects of their job, then they're incapable of fulfilling the role. Where it comes to the case where a pharmacist refused ordinary birth control, I just find that incredible. In the wrong job, is the least of what comes to mind.

It's not simply a case that patients should just use another pharmacy: that's not so bad perhaps if you live in towns or cities, but in more rural areas, it's a big deal getting to another. In my locale, there are two dispensing outlets, both run by the same team of pharmacists. And on weekends and out-of-hours, even in urban areas there isn't the option. Assuming that there is that choice assumes privilege, of being able to travel further afield etc, that in reality we don't all have.

I'm aware that my position isn't entirely consistent, because I do think differently about the doctor vs pharmacist. My focus here is reproductive rights, although there are doubtless other personal convictions that may be at issue. I think it's besides the pharmacist not being able to choose which aspect of healthcare will present itself at his/her counter, it's that performing a surgical abortion is active, while providing the means is more passive: it's entirely up to the patient to follow through by taking RU486 (the abortion pill).

But for me it boils down to the fact that a person has the right to make choices for her own body, her own conscience. Trying to impose your own personal convictions onto others isn't acceptable.

Sunday, March 28, 2010


Husband and I are amusing ourselves, when there's a tappity tap tap tap on the bedroom window.

We freeze and wonder whether it's some deranged, unsolicited window-cleaner.

Only to realise it's the bloody cat. He's scratching himself and somehow managing to tap his claw on the glass repeatedly.

Cattus interruptus ... again.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Boxes, book fairs and beagles

Part of my, er, inheritance from my Gran was a boxful of cards and notelets. These please me in a number of ways. I'm fond of the box because it reminds me of visiting her with the children, when they were fascinated with it and wanted to use it all, and she was not keen... She once bought them bingo markers to keep them occupied, which was not wholly successful, but it was a kind thought and the best she could do with the rather useless on-site shop. Some of the contents are genuinely cute and tasteful and some, well, some are not.

I am enjoying finding opportunities to use the more bizarre or 'so-not-me!' ones.

This very sad dog card was one I used to apologise to a woman from whom I was withdrawing my children's orders for books. The picture makes me chortle: I'm not sure why. Perhaps just because I don't see myself as a sad dog sending sort of person. I don't think Gran was either. I'm not sure who is. I doubt it's an actual character trait, sad-dog sending. Hehehe, that made me chortle too... OK, moving on...

The World Book Day book fair that they put on at the school frustrates me in several ways. To celebrate reading is a good thing, inarguably, and to be a method of acquiring for the school more resources is also, inarguably, a good thing.

But I feel railroaded, I feel boxed in.

We're given an Usborne book token we can only spend at the book-fair, we can do a sponsored read to get more book tokens that we can only spend at the book-fair, and the children are given time out of their school day to look at all the books and get excited about buying them. Then home comes the invoice.

It's a business, selling in school to a captive audience of little consumers.

Now, we go to the library once a week and the children already have shelves of books they own. They bring home books from the school library daily. I have a boxful of books from my own childhood that we've no space for, as yet*.

I like to buy secondhand books from the charity shop, as it's cheaper** and supports our local hospice. I do not like to buy books because of pester-power and be-a-good-little-parent vibes. So, when presented with not one but two invoices for books I didn't give permission for the children to buy (but it's not their fault, they're children, got carried away and I hadn't said they couldn't order anything because a. I'd forgotten it was on and b. I didn't realise they could order without a permission slip or something), I returned the invoices & tokens with my apologetic, sad dog card.

I wonder how many parents just stump up the cash? Two of the other mums that morning were grumbling about it too. It's all well and good, promoting reading, but it smacks of paternalism in some ways (your children need books, you deficient parent) and it's capitalism in the classroom.

* One day that man will put up shelves, or I will do it myself. We'll see who cracks first.
** Three classics and two novels for £2.50 were my last purchases. Bargain!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Virgin' on pleasing me

For once, I quite liked a photo article on the VirginMedia news page: Is pop music the most sexist industry around?

With this type of article, it's usually an excuse to show lots of women wearing very little to say 'look look, this is sexist, how degrading, let me show you some more tits&arse so you know what we're talking about!' (especially with the M@!l, hawk, spit) but actually ... the first three are of men. 6 & 7 show women's faces reasonably close-up (as people rather than just bodies). 10 shows Blondie as a group, all fully dressed & Deborah Harry in similar garb to the rest of them.

The remainder of the pictures seem relatively connected to the part of the story they're talking about, so it's not as bad as it could be. And the singers featured in three of the four remaining pictures are actually shown doing their job, ie. singing. The 9th picture doesn't, but it is about magazine covers.

Yes, it pleased me overall. I just wish it had ended more positively instead of with the rather back-tracking conclusion: "Sex sells, and it always will…" Oh well, let's shrug our shoulders and go home then.

No, actually let's place some value-judgement on it and try to change things.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

In the still of the night

I did a bit of gardening yesterday, pulling out brambles and ivy, preparing to plant. I hadn't been wearing gardening gloves, foolishly, and had acquired numerous sticks and pricks, stabs and jabs.

As I lay abed in the dark, my hands pulsed and swelled and reddened and shone and heated and oozed and throbbed, absorbing my consciousness 'til they were no longer hands but alien pain-pods about to erupt with pus-like blob-creatures.

But when I turned the light on, magically they were just my hands after all, with a couple of tiny scratches.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Ghastly Facebook Memes mark 2

This Facebook status update sets my alarm bells ringing: Todays game - PLACE OF BIRTH! Everyone please play! You will find it interesting to know where your FB friends birth places are. Copy & paste this on your profile, then put your place of birth at the end of this sentence.

That's one of the conventional security questions for on-line & telephone banking. And combined with your birthdate, someone could apply to the registry office concerned and get a copy of your birth certificate. Maybe I'm paranoid, but it looks like fishing for details rather than actually being an interesting talking point.

I also don't like being told I will be interested to know my friends' birthplaces. Actually, I won't.

Comments Policy

Ah well, I feel in need of a comments policy for the first time ever in four and a bit years of blogging. Being an out-of-the-way little backwater here has had its benefits.

I like comments, I welcome comments, but I've been having a drip-drip-drip of spamming of late. Sooooo, in the hope that said spammers will get the message:

  • I reserve the right to remove any comments I feel are inappropriate.
  • I am the arbiter of what is inappropriate.
(This does not include comments that disagree with me or put another perspective, because I like to think I am open to dialogue).

Things that will get your comments deleted are:
  • being abusive to me or other commenters (not happened yet, thankfully, but I'm trying to cover my bases). You may express yourself vigorously, but don't get personal.
  • being potentially libellous. I stand by what I write here (although will withdraw/apologise where I screw up), but you can't expect me to stand by what you write, particularly if you post anonymously. If you really need to libel someone, why not start your own blog?
  • being spam*, that's to say, comments that are simply links to your own blogs or sites and have no relevance whatsoever to whichever post you're commenting on. It's fine to have a link through your identity, but if your sole purpose in commenting appears to be to shill your own blog, that's very tedious of you. You're welcome to include links (to news stories etc that you think might interest me) if they have some relevance to things I might talk about here, or indeed to your own blog if you're a regular commenter**. (Although I can find your blog myself, if you're logged in). But please accompany any links with your reason for wanting to link.
If you have had a comment removed and think it wasn't spam or inappropriate and you want to have future comments left intact, you are welcome to present your case for why it wasn't spam or inappropriate - and I will take it under advisement.

Ta very much.

* Spam= being a couple of words that may or may not be relevant, (usually these are pretty generic and could apply to anything, ie. "It's super!") and then linking to your own site. You're not fooling anyone... And I will definitely delete such posts if they are a link to porn, semi-porn or sites that look like porn at first glance. This is not a sex-blog. If you're not getting enough traffic on your porn site, there must be better avenues to boost business that don't involve annoying me.

** Unless you're a regular spammer rather than commenter, in which case I will delete you with prejudice, haha.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Of Dysons and decepticons

I really don't rate Dyson vacuums much. I have owned a second-hand one, which was not very good: I put it down to being second-hand. However, I have recently been using a winklepicker's one. It weighs a blooming ton and I find it tricksy.

It's an upright one with the ball, and you are supposed to depress the foot pedal at the back to release it from upright storage position to push-along use position. But depressing it in a casual manner just won't do it. Applying a steady pressure just won't do it. Jabbing it fiercely and repeatedly (while checking around shiftily that no-one's watching) just won't do it. Running through several cycles of casual, steady and jab will get it unlocked eventually, while aggravation hangs heavy about my ears.

But that's not the end, half the time when I click it back into upright after use, it fails to lock and so collapses yellowly on the floor, with a crash to let all around know I'm bashing up an expensive hoover.

It reminds me of nothing so much as Bumblebee.

My experience with Transformers, it has to be said, is not a good one. Son wanted them for Christmas and in his haul of gifts, he acquired one. We managed to transform it once from car to robot, but now it is in a limbo land of having its robot head stuck out of its car arse. What it and the Dyson share is a feeling of if-you-push-this-bit-any-further-it-might-break.

I really think the filmmakers and Dyson missed a trick in product placement. The sneaky little decepticon* should have been a Dyson.

* I think it was in Transformers 1, but not really sure. Could have been the second film, I wasn't watching properly. It disguised itself as smaller items and got on AirForce One if you saw the movie? ... On further thought, the explanation for taking onboard a Dyson would have been rather convoluted, so perhaps the scriptwriters were right.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Cat-napping with Whiskas

The new Whiskas advert has a woman whose cat 'brings friends round' (ie. a neighbour's cat) cos the food is so good. Cats being territorial it seems a pretty unlikely premise, but what's more, she's feeding someone else's cat, which is basically attempted cat-theft. She's trying to lure it into her house not caring what the neighbours might like.

What does she want it for? To make earmuffs out of it? What if it splits loyalty and starts getting fed at both homes and becomes a giant bloater? Is she going to pay the vet bills for its diabetes?! What if it moves out of its owner's home and in with her? What if it's a pedigree puddy they paid a lot for, or if they have children that love it, or just they love it? What if that cat is overweight or on a special diet or under the vet, eh? Hmm? What about that?! She just isn't thinking.

She is a bad neighbour. Cat-napper.

Monday, March 08, 2010

We don't need no education

I'm a bit hmm and a bit haw about this story.

I don't really understand why a gay or lesbian couple would want to send their child to a Roman Catholic school in the first place. Perhaps it's the best one in the area. Still, with the leader of the church saying that homosexuality is self-destruction, I can't say that it seems the most logical choice, to want to send your child to school in a system that actively disapproves of you... But then again, hold the phone, not all Catholics toe this particular papal line and it's no doubt possible to consider yourself Catholic and gay, so maybe they are believers. I was assuming they weren't but could well be wrong*.

The priest is reported as saying: "If a child of gay parents comes to our school, and we teach that gay marriage is against the will of God, then the child will think that we are saying their parents are bad," Breslin said on his blog. "We don't want to put any child in that tough position."

Which seems not unreasonable. It would be a very bad thing to make a child scared for their parents and feel their homelife is Wrong.

But it does encourage me in my feeling that faith schools are not fit for purpose. If a school is incapable of being a safe environment for a child to be taught in, through its very ethos, then it's not a school worth having.

* I often am.

Postbox stuffing

Through the door this morning, a political tract of vote for me-ness. It was nearly straight in the fire, as on first glance I took it to be a Tory missive, but then I recognised the person campaigning was a girl I went to school with.

I had to read it to find out she's a not a Tory. Phew. But it made me feel a bit old to realise she was who I thought she was.

I may even vote for her.

Dave Gorman on stage

I went to see Dave Gorman's stand-up show last week and it was excellent.

Gorman seems to really enjoy performing. He says a few times he enjoys some of his show more than the audience and while I'm not sure that's true (I'd say we all seemed to be having a great time) he certainly seems to relish his time on stage. It was infectious.

It was a well-crafted and structured performance. I think the first half was stronger than the second, but laughed a lot throughout, nearly crying at one point. Gorman comes off as very likeable and I'd go to another of his shows.

I may even buy one of his books one of these days, if I get book tokens for my birthday or Christmas.

Plymouth Pavilions is a nice enough venue. We found parking alright in its carpark and husband got served quickly in the bar. We were allowed to take drinks into the seating area, which we didn't realise initially. We had good seats close to the stage so had excellent view of Dave, rather better than when we went to see Eddie Izzard at Bournemouth and we were about half a mile back! The seats were quite hard 'though and we had numb bums by the end. I found it impossible to get served during the interval as I had evidently become invisible, so I would happily pay for the red-headed barmaid to get an eye-test. But I'm not bitter!

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Colfer's Hitchhiker

I had wondered about the Eoin Colfer Hitchhiker book for a while. On the one hand, I was instantly prejudiced against it, seeing as Douglas Adams was one of my favourite authors. I loved the first four Hitchhiker books and the Dirk Gently books. I am always disposed to dislike remakes and writers taking on other author's ideas/worlds seems like cheating (although I know he was commissioned to do it so am speaking generally rather than about Colfer himself) and so unnecessary. But I was curious.

So when I spotted a copy of And Another Thing in the library, I had a real struggle with myself over whether to borrow it. I certainly would never have bought it as I didn't want to encourage that sort of thing via Colfer's coffers. The fact that it gave me a C author in my A-Z challenge helped make my decision to try it. Although since I finished my A book (Poppy Adams' Behaviour of Moths) after my B (Brookmyre's Snowball in Hell) it's a bit of a mucked-up challenge already, but never mind!

Spoilers follow:

It wasn't a totally bad book. I thought Colfer achieved a similar tone to DA and it's nice to see those characters again. But there were some glaring mis-steps as far as I was concerned: things like Arthur Dent being voted most likely to do, well, anything in his yearbook. To me, yearbooks seem very American and certainly not late '70s/early '80s England, and that's where Arthur came from. He was disconnected from his time (of still thinking 'digital watches were pretty neat') in a number of ways, and not in an appropriate-to-the-story science-fictiony way.

Colfer put in a lot of references to what had gone before in the series, but in a very clunky manner that seemed to say "Look, I read the books!" Throwaway characters and funny asides were dragged back and, worst of all , explained (like the collapsing Hrung disaster). Ghastly.

The sidenotes from the Hitchhiker's Guide itself were very badly formatted into this book, pasted straight into the text of the story. They were intrusive, not particularly funny and, worse again, not clever. Where this book really suffered was that there was a lack of ideas beyond the basic plot. Perhaps Colfer was afraid to stray from the knowns of the Hitchhiker universe, but while Douglas Adams wasn't adverse to some low humour and punning, there were loads of ideas in what he wrote. His tangents were fun & inventive, while Colfer's were laboured and seemed desperate to tie up loose ends that never needed tying in the first place. He also totally rehashed some of Adams' fun ideas. If you remember Mr Prosser's hun ancestry* manifesting itself in 'a thousand hairy horsemen shouting at him in his head', then another minor character's innerlife being depicted virtually identically seems lazy and, well, a bit of a poor show on Colfer's part.

Colfer also seemed afraid of Ford and Arthur, probably because they're so well-loved, and so they have extremely little to do in the novel, while we spent far more time with lesser characters. The depictions of Trillian and Zaphod didn't really work for me either, however.

I don't think Colfer did a bad job, and I liked what he did with Wowbagger, largely. Ultimately I think trying to bring back Hitchhiker was a mistake. I should think that fans were disappointed and critical, as I am, while those new to the series wouldn't be swept away by it.

* In the first book.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

In which I wonder if I'm married

Now, I've always* assumed that I was married, but then I got thinking about the notion of marriage being 'the union of one man and one woman in the sight of god' (I'd started out speculating about what 'Christian marriage' is, went onto 'gay marriage' & 'civil unions' and got here).

I got married in front of my friends and family and the laws of this country, but god wasn't an invitee**. Of course, if he was omnipresent he'd have gatecrashed anyway, haha, but I don't believe in that***.

Soooo, I was wondering, seeing as it was a non-religious wedding whether it counts as a marriage, if you subscribe to the 'union of one man and one woman before god'? It intrigues me strangely, whether I might be under the umbrella of marriage as approved by religion, whether I want to be or not. Have I been co-opted all unawares? Or have I, and others like me, pinched the word marriage for something that isn't? Does the word belong to the religious****? I wouldn't really mind using a different word, as long as it was snappy*****.

I'm not sure what the difference is between a secular registry office wedding and a civil union. Is there one? I suppose I could do some reading instead of rambling, hehe.

* Well, since I attended a registry office with my bloke and signed some forms and that. I didn't think I was before that, cos that would have been silly******.
** Not cos I dislike him or owt, I don't believe in him.
*** Atheist, see? Ticks box.
**** Although good luck with that, as it's very difficult to control language. Ask Hoover.
***** Not actually snappy, obviously. "I got snappied two years ago", "I'm a happily snappied woman" sounds a bit odd... But could work, I suppose.
****** Not that I'm adverse to being silly, as you can probably tell by these footnotes.

You don't see that everyday

Driving along yesterday, I saw a man reversing in his driveway, about to come out onto the road. His wife was there, behind the car, apparently guiding him out.

She was wearing black glasses and carrying a white stick.