Tuesday, 29 November 2011

I Unfashionably Like Christmas; and heres at length, why...

I have a frisky and kittenish love of something about Christmas.  Its not the Christian part; except that its a birthday, and I like birthdays.  (I will post about birthdays another time.)  

I was brought up Christian, as I've mentioned before, and I do love carol services, though like lots of other people who go on to first lapse, then reject the religion of their birth, I did tend to doze off or become cross during the sermon parts.  Just sitting in whatever church and looking round at the decorations (always a nice emphasis on Christmassey florals and often, good smells, in churches), and sometimes hearing a small quartet or proper orchestra (my mother goes to a BIG church in central London, that's where I used to get taken to) play some part of a Christmas Oratorio, or some keening and ethereal piece by Messiaen, or Faure...The atmosphere was wonderful.  The warmth inside after the cold outside.  The smiles of the people as they greet each other.  (I realise now, of course, as I didn't till I was 10 or so, that the greetings were those of cultish followers  to one another, a tribal thing.  I started to think they were odd people with strange shiny eyes, and after a while, I couldn't even go to the carol services any more, as I found the people too odd.  But that's by the by.)  Standing up and singing carols (which of course, I inexplicably know by heart, since I must have had them brainwashed right through me whilst at primary and secondary school) with a full throated gusto, with other people....You may have gathered, I don't DO much at all With Other People.  I tend to feel a bad fit.  But I will sing with people.  These happy carols: the Holly and the Ivy, Ding Dong Merrilly on High etc - at school, I sang soprano descant to that one, always fun, descanting anything.  I tend to descant practically anything I sing now, I just make them up.  It annoys the hell out of Fry - he plays me a song, and if I like it, apparently, I then ruin it.  Tsk.  Unappreciative children.  Anyhow.  I now do carols on the radio, or via many CDs.  I'll listen to them while washing up, or when Fluffhead and I are drifting from room to room in the afternoon.  Its good to sing out, to smile and sing.

No, the Christianity bit doesn't agree with me anymore...Its the ambience of Christmas, as fed to me through a thousand sources, growing up. I'm not a purist - I will take a festival (anyone's, from any religion or philosophy) and adopt it if I like it, and do it my own way, make my own point with it.  The point of Christmas, to me, is bright colours, good food, making time to be with people you choose to (notice I don't stricture you to family; or indeed anyone).   If you can afford it and want to: the thoughtful selection of gifts for your loved ones.  Its fun to choose; it feels great to give.  Its a chillout winter festival, where ideally, there should be no pressure.  (Of course, it all goes wrong a thousand ways with the enforced togetherness with people you don't want to be with; or the cooking for too many, the over spending, the competing etc etc etc...But I am trying, year after year, to hone it more and more, to be what I think of as a Good Christmas - and that's less pressure, more relaxing, and doing the bits you like and leaving out the rest.  That's just my opinion!  And I'm happy to have that one and work on making it so.

I like the way shops start getting shiny in November.  Yes, I'm not going to crack into the shops for their commercialism.  It would be hypocritical...Shops are there to make money; Christmas has become a bit of buying fest.  You don't have to go along with it if you don't want to.  You can just wander through whatever shops you happen to have to go through, and think: shiny!!  Baubles!!  Pre-Christmas Sale!  Handy...  Good luck to the shops.  I will just enjoy the piped carols, and the old Hollywoodish Christmas songs they seem to specialise in.  Yes - Santa Claus Is Coming To Town, and so on.  I'm fine with all the assistants having to wear silly little red caps with white pom poms, or even sillier Christmas earrings (I would not like to get some of the bigger ones I've seen get caught on something in passing, though - OWWW!).

I like the way I suddenly think of sending cards to people that I haven't really bothered with much all year, for whatever reason (time usually; or I simply am growing far away from them...or they are family, and I have little in common with them!).  I like the fact I can send a properly heartfelt little message in the card, and will likely get one back - people tend to forgive crapness at staying in touch when it comes to Christmas.  Suddenly I'm very interested in what my long lost cousin Jules has been up to all year, though I didn't really think of her much all year at all.  But I didn't think ill of her; I always liked her.  Its nice to think she's out there somewhere, doing stuff, being happy (she's a happy solid sort of person).  The distant family and old friends are like little threads I catch up and reel in at Christmas, and on the end of each little silver thread is a small message from each person: what they have been doing, where they've been.  Even if they've been nowhere and done nothing - the way they write, I can feel them.  Formal, or stilted, or badly spelled, spiderly written - there they are, clear and real

I like thinking of making my own mince pies (though I never yet have). I get Nigella Lawson or Anjum Anand dreams of Kitchen Goddessery with regularity every single year.  The closest I have ever come to fulfilling these dreams is since I've been with Stanley.  We usually share the cooking of the Fat Bastard Lunch (as he has wisely, earnestly and accurately christened Christmas Day Dinner).  We eat veggie, so we each have our tasks: he has to always do the Brussels sprouts with the almonds and secret spice ingredient.  You have NOT tasted Brussels sprouts till you've tasted his!  I used to think (like lots of English people) that the Brussels sprout was a critter of very limited appeal - its over boiled and it stinks.  Like cabbage.  Reeks, in fact.  You either love it or you hate it.  But no longer!  Stanley cooks them properly!  As in, hardly much at all, and then after that, its all secret.  But they are heavenly.  I do the stuffings (3 different kinds).  And the bread sauce, and the cranberry, and the roast potatoes.  He does the veggie meatloaf type thing, or the nut cutlets, or the whatever the main bit is.  Some years there is no main bit, its a glorious array of endless veggie side dishes.  Sometimes we have kulfi for dessert (an Indian ice-cream - makes other ice cream look like an half hearted effort....This year I may actually attempt to make the kulfi, try and put the time in...).  Neither of us like Christmas Cake - urgh, all that rich over heavy stodginess.  Give me a Panettone any day...except we can't, as that's eggy, and Stanley's mostly vegan.  So its whatever we choose to make that counts as decadent.  And a tin of Quality Street, as I grew up with that at Christmas (my dad was a big fan of breaking teeth on bad toffee), so I insist on this limited tradition. 

I like the idea of making my own Christmas presents (which I actually do, sometimes).  Its easy to be all craftyfied, and combine simple things like epsom salts, rose petals, lavender petals, hints of essential oil to boost, and then out them in a pretty tub from a pound shop.  Its fun and its easy, and if you have loads of female friends who have a bath (falls a bit flat if they have a shower, as you can get away with saying you can use the epsom salts to scrub; but the petals - they'll just go everywhere and make a mess) it works out cheap to make.  I have done that a couple of Christmases.  Theres loads of things you can make if you want, and they don't all have to be expensive (as sadly, lots of the 'Make It At Home' Christmas gift books of the Kirstie Allsopp variety seem to be - defeats the purpose, I feel).  Of course, unless you're a grand knitter, men are harder...But if you feel like it, there's always something you can make someone...IF they are the kind of person to appreciate a made thing.  I always remember, once at school, a long long time ago, I gave Beatrice (yes that's her actual name!!  Hah!) a made Christmas present.  She was a girl in my class I was trying to make friends with.  I had judged the present carefully: was only a small thing, not freaky and over-eager.  And she looked at it, paused and said: 'didn't you have the money to buy a present?',  and gave it back to me!!!  Beatrice...May you have learned some bloody manners by now, woman!! 

I love hermitting away with my nuclear family unit - Stanley and me; now Stanley and Fluffhead and me.  Growing my own traditions with Stanley - that's a lovely feeling.  I had different traditions when I was with Alias Troubadour, and Fry.  Times move along.  We plan our Christmas viewing.  When I was little, my dad used to get the Christmas Radio Times and a big red marker pen.  He would read it like a book, seriously circling everything he wanted to watch and writing his name next to it.  Then it was mum's turn, same deal.  Then me.  In that order - as in: whatever he wanted to watch, if he was about and not napping, that's what We Will Watch.  Then mum - though her choices were usually acceded to because she spent all of Christmas day cooking.  (Her fondest Christmas wish now, is to spend Christmas alone, with a microwave meal, and not have to do a damned thing, just rest and feel peaceful.  She is finally going to get her wish this year; and I'm going to stock her up with pressies of her favourite TV shows, Lewis, Foyle's War, that sort of thing, so she doesn't get lonely.  But she won't.  She has amazing inner toughness, my mum.  I think she'll be loving the freedom to not have to do any of the 'rigmarole'.  She can listen to the backed up sermon tapes she has accumulated too, through weeks of going to church but helping out at the creche or Welcome Desk instead of being in the actual church bit...See?  Doing Christmas, finally, the way SHE wants to.  You go, mum!!!  Cheering for you.)

Stanley and I are going to watch old nostalgia Christmas TV: we have the Christmas Specials of Porridge, Morecombe and Wise, the Two Ronnies, Steptoe and Son.  I will listen to his Hancock's Half Hour's.  (I will run a mile from The Navy Lark, bloody awful!)  Something Christmassey with Stephen Fry will no doubt present itself.  I will introduce Fluffhead to A Muppets Christmas Carol.  The variations on Scrooge alone will keep us busy a bit - definitely the one with Patrick Stewart, definitely the one with Bill Murray.  When Stanley goes to his mancave, as no doubt he will, at some point, I will sneak on things like: White Christmas, Holiday Inn,  (yes, I know they're sort of the same, but I like that), Box of Delights; and definitely NOT Its a Wonderful Life, as I find the ending so utterly NOT What Would Happen that it really Annoys Me.  We have only just started with the list....for fillers, like when cooking, there are of course, the Futurama Christmas episodes - its not Christmas without Evil Robot Santa, come now!  Oh - the joy we will get from just making the list!!

I love the idea it might snow.  Snow is brilliant (if you aren't driving, yes).  Even Fry, who is one of the world's most unjustifiably cynical youths, gets all goose-pimpled by a good snow.  Everything looks new!  And clean, and calm, and quiet!  Its beautiful!  Fluffhead's first snow last year was a wonderful thing.  He just looked so surprised by it.

I love the wreaths, the candles, the Christmas tree, the decorations - small or ridiculous and over done.  (One year, I was left to do the decorations at home by my mum, already starting to get a case of early onset humbug over the whole preposterousness of it all.  This was just fine with me, as I had, and I have no recollection how or why,  just come into a vast hoard of very cheap garish plastic-y decorations from somewhere.  So I be-decked the living room.  It took me all day, and I did not know when to stop.  When mum came back from shopping, lugging a far too big turkey for storing in a bucket under the sink I seem to remember, she was horrified.  Then dad came in.  There was a bit of [rather unreasonable I felt] shouting.  About how the place looked like a Turkish Bordello now....as if he had any proper idea what a Turkish Bordello looked like.  Humpf.   I did appreciate that I had created a sort of drapy tent effect, by ending all my streams of decorations at the central light from wherever on the wall they were.  You couldn't see much left of the ceiling or the wall.  Anyway.  I was very proud of my efforts, and they did stay up, despite the muttering whenever dad came in the room, and his worries something would fall gently down when he wasn't paying attention, and catch light on his roll up, thereby burning down the flat and it being all my fault...)  I love the colours of Christmas - the emphasis on gold and green and red.  Or the silver/white/blue Ice Queen idea thats been here for a while - the cool and cucumbered type of Christmas.  Since Fluffhead, there's been few decorations.  But it doesn't matter - a little cluster of this and that, here and there - a glint of a shiny red bauble and some tinsel, a few cinnamon sticks...it all feels like the spirit of Shiny Christmas Prettiness.

I love the idea of champagne (more usually cider!); toasting Christmas Eve.  Opening one gift early, almost ceremonially, with Stanley.  The whole thing of Christmas Eve as a feeling - the anticipation.  The leaving Father Christmas a biscuit and some milk, and a carrot for the reindeer...I haven't got to do that since Fry was small, and soon I get to do it again!  (Who says Christmas is just for children?!!!)  (Well, Fry does, for one, but he is a Grumpy Thing of Much Humbug other than the snow, at Christmas.)

I love the presents!  Lets be honest!  I love to watch my loved people open stuff I went to trouble to think about.  Stanley loves a surprise, but also has an authorised List.  I am not partial to surprises (as what would happen if I didn't like the thing, and couldn't arrange my face quickly enough into a polite look of 'oh how nice' - what if the giver saw and had hurt feelings??  That would Not Do, its sad).  Nope.  I have a Proper Authorised List, with price bands!  So I can be made happy for 99p and above, its all very means-friendly!  Of course, plenty people have ignored the list, and sometimes they are lucky; and sometimes I think...Biscuits?  Again??  Or I have that thing where I once told a person I like horror films, so they think this means every horror film ever made...when I am quite genre specific...I clearly acknowledge that I am missing the point with that reaction.  And I always write nice thank you notes, regardless, as hurting someone's feelings unnecessarily is rude and unkind.  Its lovely to think, to get someone something they will like and want (and probably think is too decadent or unnecessary to get for themselves), and wrap it with love.  And bows and stuff.  Ok, I'm all girly about this.

By Boxing Day, I am not liking it much anymore.  The spectre of people promising (threatening)  to come over is now large.  I have to cook for other people (like, lots of people - more than 3!!), and sit about and watch things not on the list on TV.  Christmas East Enders is a spectacle too awful to think about, but I have had to live through it in the past.  (With Fry is the best way to get through that one...joke your way through its crass dreary depressingness, that's the way to cope with that...)  When people come over there's the whole: Not drink or drink when I don't or did fancy it; eating, ditto; keep Fluffhead up when he needs to sleep etc.  Yes, by Boxing Day I have caught the Bah Humbug most of the other people I know in life seem to have had already. 

...But just for the run-up, and those special 2 days of the Eve and the Day...I can play at making it How It Could Be, in my little unit, a thing OURS, a thing happy and shiny, and full of good food, cuddling...and, well, Pepto Bismol, probably. 

Apologies for the lack of all the links I could have done on this post.  No time - will try and do them later, ok?

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

The Triumphant Return of the Cheese Sandwich, er, again...

Well.  No news here.  I’m still sick!  As in with the cold, rather than as in, more mentally odd than usual.  I have it on good authority (Stanley, who is more stable than me, though freakish in his own way) that I am at the same level of worry, paranoia and ghoulish melancholia as normal.  Hey ho – that I can live with!

I had to go to the doctors yesterday, as since the birth of the infinitely wondrous Fluffhead, I have had problems in the female euphemistic department.  Which have led to problems with other euphemistic activities, which I really enjoy.  So after much worry and gruelling anxiety, took myself off to the docs to explain (with the aid of a diagram I helpfully drew, no less) exactly what part of the problem is, and can I go see a Euphemism Expert at a hospital.  To be re-done, and fixed etc.  Having felt rather better for taking control of the situation (as you do, or definitely as I always do – helps anxiety no end to Take Action Of Some Sort), I got home and then succumbed to the horrible I Have Had An Internal Examination Feeling.  Which flattens me and makes me want to go to sleep.  This not an option, I was lucky indeed that Saint Mother appeared, and decided that Fluffhead needed new shoes and she was going to take him out for some.  (It turned out he didn’t, not yet anyway, but they had a very wander, hither and thither, and went on a train etc.) 

Which left me alone to indulge in the giallo fit I am currently having.  Only time for one, so watched What Have They Done To Your Daughters?  They being the accurate word, in this case.  I was expecting a regular silly giallo, but this was one of the slickest 1970s thrillers I’ve ever seen.  Horror/giallo elements but really, a good police thriller.  Good acting, good direction, good suspense; some cover your face with your fingers moments.  10/10, very good, I thought.  I also thought the lead actor had a very 70s face, you know the way some people are indelibly wedded  in looks to the decade in which they have the most fame?  (Or likewise, a man I once met, not famous at all, who looked so much like he needed an Elizabethan ruffle and some tights it really got in the way of me perceiving him as the taxi driver he actually was.  Very distracting, truly.)  Turns out the actor, Claudio Cassinelli, had died in the 80’s filming another part: helicopter crash, died instantly.  No wonder I can’t search for him and trace what would have been a career of international stardom eventually, I’m sure.  Sad.  The film did a splendid job of hoiking me out of my strange worried fugginess, and taking me to another world.  This usually then means that when I am deposited back here at the end, I have the feeling a large chunk of time has passed and my previous attitude is distanced from me, therefore I feel better; more in possession of myself.  (The films that work best for Internal Fug Removal are some musicals, and most of my horror films – two genres far from normalcy, and very emotionally gripping.  I think that’s why they work so well.)

Anyway.  This post is not called Return of the Cheese Sandwich for no reason!  I got a mail after the last post asking me what I have read recently as opposed to watched (probably attempting to stop me reviewing more chick-flicks here – subtle, subtle!!).   So here are a few of the books I’ve read in the last few months.  There’s loads more, but here are some of the ones I actually made notes on…

1.       The Dumas Club, by Arturo Perez Reverte
(Book made into the film The Ninth Gate, with Johnny Depp. The book had me loving it till about half way through, when it dipped severely.  It suddenly fell in love with its own literary references in a way that was far too smug.   It was the character of the girl, not answering questions; she became very annoying indeed.  I struggled on, feeling irritated and a bit bored, till the sudden 2 twists at the end [there was only one twist in the film].  That reinvigorated me and was rewarding.  But I still skimmed it, after the two-thirds mark.  Clever – but not involving enough.  The best characters were Corso and La Ponte.)
2.     Real People, by Alison Lurie
(Middle class woman goes to writer’s community to struggle with her next book.  Meets characters.  Some very interesting thoughts on writing, given through some recognisable stereotypes of the writing world.  This sort of writing is brilliant – it conveys so much about worries on how to talk and think and communicate; illusions about yourself as a person.  Alison Lurie always so readable.)
3.     Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture,by Ariel Levy
(As in: why are so many young women [and pre-adolescents] striving to wear nightclub gear all the time, and their great ambitions are to pole dance and look like Katie Price.  You know the phenomenon to which I allude.  The book traces the roots of this, as far as American culture goes.  I don’t think she went quite far enough somehow – specially in leaving out any mention of religion in the issue of teaching abstinence only sex education in US schools.  She also left out the rebellion part of raunch culture that is related to religious ideas of women being unclean/lewd /immodest/dirty.  Which was very relevant.  But nonetheless, it was a very good book:  I knew nothing about the history of Playboy in the way she laid it out; nothing about the womyn and bois and other aspects of the lesbian and trans scene in the US; nothing about the way female teens in the US in a certain income bracket respond to all this raunch.  She did a very good job of tracing its roots and making clear what confusions within feminism led to it arising and not being stopped sooner.  She made it clear how tantalising and confusing it is – how we - including me – find it so mistakenly tempting, falsely liberating.  [My own theory of this is as part of a Stockholm Syndrome on the part of women: that we are acting this way as a result of trauma, for centuries.  We are behaving the way we have been labelled, we are working through it; owning it, making it ours, before we can actually re-make sexuality as our own, and shed the identity forced on us by others, by some scared men.  It’s a phase, but it’s a nasty one and it needs to pass.  I reckon it will take a couple more generations before it has, maybe longer.] )
4.     What Mothers Do, especially when it looks like nothing, by Naomi Stadlen
(Not one of those How To Mother books, which Jo Brand rightly categorizes as ‘hippy or nazi’, and thoroughly unhelpful in their judgements.  This book was halfway between investigative reporting and a thesis paper for psychology.  It was definitely the best book on mothering I have ever read – as it doesn’t prescribe – it explains to you how to value what you are doing, when you are too tired to even realise what you are doing is of value.  It re-explained to me just how I was feeling and why I was feeling so overwhelmed when Fluffhead used to cry a lot and wouldn’t sleep [pp.74-5] – got right inside my head and showed me my wonky thinking.  It gave me a very good possible explanation as to why Fluffhead cried – and why Fry did when he was small [p.85] – that he trusted me to be himself with.  That’s why they are good when people visit: it’s not only that they are no longer bored and have extra and new stimulation; it’s that they are on their best behaviour as they don’t trust these new people.  Much as Stanley sees the best and worst of me: all of me – Fluffhead shows himself to me the same way, as I have not suppressed him, not trained him to Be Quiet.  On the one hand, this was a very validating book, especially the chapters on being tired and the power of comfort. 

On the other – the chapter on motherly love, I had real problems with.  I felt very un-validated by that chapter – as if I was selfish to want time away from Fluffhead to write, read and generally do BlackberryJuniper things.  As if my sense of self was not ‘large enough’, as she puts it, to encompass me and the baby and that this is my life.  There is a re-idealisation of motherhood in this book.  In some ways that is very good; in others, despite attempting not to say one way of mothering is better than another…it thumps its own tub nonetheless.  But then it would.  It’s an answer to a different school of motherhood, the training school.  In that sense, it’s extremely well done polemic.  I’d give this 8/10 – which hey, isn’t bad.)
5.     In Search of Herne the Hunter, by Eric Fitch
(This was a marvellous book of linked folklore and old wives tales, ‘authenticated’ accounts of ghosts etc.  I really enjoyed following the rambling sequences of seeing where the threads went, the many faces and elements of the Herne legend: it fits with so many things: oaks, leys, antlers through time, midwinter, moon, Wild Hunt collecting souls, demon dogs, hunters and huntresses horned, Father Xmas and reindeer flying through the sky as shamans [excellent idea leap there], trooping fairies, bad luck to see them, Woden, Cernunnos, so much shamanism recurring and recurring – initiations, hangings; Hobby Horses, half men half animal, death of Kings near oak trees: sacrifices?, ghosts as presages of disaster….and so and so on…Fascinating stuff.  Herne definitely does seem to be a link to the sacrificed king of the past, that dies to renew the harvest every year.)
6.     TheVoice in the Wind: On Becoming and the Druid Way,by Greywind
(This was one of those books like Living Druidry by Emma Restall Orr – I will need to read it again.  It was unnecessarily dense and repetitive in some places, and wonderfully clear and helpful in others.  It showed me the same thing – but differently, that Living Druidry showed me – that it’s a hard path, requiring so much care and consciousness.  There were good things in here about identity, and purpose – which I read when I really needed to.  And things about the Celtic Metaphysic that were clarificatory and helpful.  Some things about Western scientific materialism that I saw the point of, but partially disagreed with.  I really appreciated viewing the World as ‘what we have created’, and the Universe as ‘what is actually there’.  We have overlaid it with the World – which the author argues has been a pitiful, depressing, scary failure in its more or less entirety [I disagree strongly with the extent of his pessimism].  Truth is finding out who we are in relation to the universe, and trying to get back in balance with it, and heal the damage so far done.  The work of a Druid is Service: to help the balance be restored and maintained.  The balance is ever changing and evolving, as are we.  Hence the juggle and the extreme care and alertness needed.  I can try, with my small steps, to do less damage, walk more lightly, and to be conscious of what I do.  And to remember that the purpose – and it sounded like a good one – is to find my own way of harmonising with the universe as much as possible.)
7.     Tickling the English, by Dara O Briain
(At first I wasn’t liking this at all, it felt like I was getting criticised by a knowledgeable schoolteacher.  Then the brilliant mix of the book started to get to me – the history, the wit, the anecdotes, and the nice structure of it.  There’s some stuff in here that I would do to remember – why we shouldn’t have a specifically St George’s Day here in England, for instance [he never set foot here, hasn’t really got feck all to do with the country, is patron saints of loads of other countries, and the basis for the day with our temperament of internal criticism and the lack of religious base for it which seem to help other countries patron saints days work, and our tendency to be down on our drinking rather than celebrating it, etc, is all wrong!!].  His thoughts about the 3 laws of identity are worth remembering too, as is the bit at the end where he very accurately interprets people saying: ‘my identity is being threatened’ as the same statement really, as: ‘I don’t understand what he means’ – it’s a culture of common references, inclusivity or not.  The Tayto joke not working in England as we don’t have that brand of crisps here, etc.  I ended up finding this book a bit profound, in a very quiet, shockingly well written sort of way.  [Very happy too, to see he repeatedly wrote ‘me and Damon’ or ‘me and so-and-so’ which I have always thought is a much more natural way of expressing yourself than ‘Damon and I’ which I have always thought sounds far too royal and pompous.]  I need to think about some of the things he said, more.  I envy him badly:  his experience of the world makes sense to him, he clearly feels at home in it and confident.  Lucky man.)
8.      The Ritual, by Adam Nevill
(That was a NASTY ride, a nasty book.  Which is just about the best thing you can say about a horror!  It felt real, and painful and maddening and disgusting, and so so sad.  The protagonist Luke asks why some people get left behind, and I knew then, that Adam Nevill is writing about people like me.  While reading this, on a day that made no sense, like all the other days, I realized that what he said at the end was true: we all only have a little while.  Little spots of freedom.  And that’s all.  To be more technical in review: this was a book of 2 halves, noticeably, and I preferred the first half, the wilderness half.  That was excellent.  I got quickly annoyed with the derivative backwoods Rob Zombie type ickiness of the black metal characters of the 2nd half, though Loki was a good character, I liked the way he spoke.  But it was an interesting way to stitch the novel, the 2 elements.  He is improving so fast as a writer [though a very odd unconventional style – but hey, I love to see rule breaking in writing], its leaping: this one should really be a film. He should get very famous now, with this as his breakout book.  And I can say I read him from the first one, when no one much knew about him

Ah.  They were good books.  I may tell you some more books later – perhaps a summing up of the best books I read this year???  I always like reading other people’s book lists.  (Hehehe – fuel for my 570 ‘saved for later’ items in my Amazon basket online…)

Its time to replenish the tissues (again), and to put the heating on boost, I think.  And have lunch…Oh no!  This has NOT been informative as I promised…oh well…lets hope it was a bit interesting, anyway…I plead continual sniffles if you’re disappointed.  Surely I shall be better soon?  (By then, likely be time to go and be tampered with at hospital though, mutter mutter…)

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

A Cheese Sandwich

I read, the other day, a really unflattering term for a boring blog: ‘cheese sandwich’.  As in, the person writes endlessly, repetitively, and in great surging detail, about the nothing that their life is.  I found that expression both sad (because I love cheese sandwiches, never a boring one have I eaten), and also silly (aren’t we all endlessly curious about the minutiae of others lives…?  Hence the over-popularity of mock celebrities, who are after all, really…just like us, only strangely well painted and garish?).

There hasn’t been an entry here for a little while, because I’m sick again.  Stanley has plague-ily brought home yet another stinking cold, and transmitted it with finesse to both Fluffhead and me.  So we are all producing interestingly coloured gunge at present.  (My favourite colour is usually green.  Not right now.)

Do you see the similarity with the cheese sandwich thing?  I have nothing much to say.  But I’m going to bravely forge ahead, as I sit here in my cheap beige polyester dressing gown surrounded by used tissues, and yak up some comments anyway.

For instance: I have strange viewing habits when I’m feeling ill.  I feel an even greater need for distraction than usual (due to my obsessing about how I shall die of whatever malady, the woman-flu thing I mentioned earlier), but very little taste or judgement at these times.  So I have been watching a non stop diet of romantic comedy/chick flick type films (for their comforting perkiness), and ultra violent 70’s Italian giallo (for their comfortingly lurid badly acted, badly plotted excellence).  I could post about giallo, and maybe will one day as I love it and could rave about them for hours; but for the moment, here is a blog that hasn't posted for a while (shame), as this guy knows his giallo stuffs, and is handy with a summary...


So far, as I have degenerated downward into the abyss of eating whole large Blockbuster sized packets of Peanut M&M’s and Revels, I have watched:

1.             Scarlet Diva
(This enters the list by way of having Asia Argento in it; the pixie daughter of the wondrous Dario Argento.  This is described as a vanity film on her part; some reviewers described it as needing to be re-titled ‘XXX’.  Hmmm.  It’s about a star, and the mad lifestyle she lives.  Crowds, drugs, sex etc.  Asia Argento is very cute and sexy here (I’ll watch her in anything), but this film was one of those odd breeds of film I can’t quite get: the character does things that send herself so far away from herself, she gives herself away so much, that its no surprise she is where she is (which wasn’t a happy place).  It was very well shot, shows her talent for writing, directing, and comedy as well as her amazing look.  Wouldn’t say I enjoyed it though.)
2.           The Case of the Bloody Iris
(Had I seen this before – it was oddly familiar?? Very silly giallo – bouncy fun music, bad special effects, lovely Italian style and scenery and colours; Edwige Fenech (all hail one of the empresses of the exploitation genre), 2 very silly policeman, one a pure comedy turn, the other a stamp collector.  And a quite good whodunnit element.  Very enjoyable in a really badly written, badly acted kind of way.  And who could forget the very bendy girl who does the ‘try and get me’ dance and fends off the idiot man so sexily in the nightclub??  That scene made me think I’ve seen it before, felt very familiar – and it showed so much of men’s attitudes to women – STILL. They think we are hunters who make fools of them; that we need to be subdued like wild animals who make no sense.  Not all men, obviously….but still some. Worryingly. )
3.           Did You Hear About the Morgans’?
(Very citified couple about to divorce are relocated by the police to remote Wyoming due to a hitman threat.  Culture clash/romantic comedy.  Definitely seeing this again.  Remembered from last year, when Fluffhead was much smaller, and I could go to my mothers and watch endless films with Fry, which we would talk all the way through, analysing for editing and script-writing changes we would have made.  I liked this one, though somehow, this time round, I managed to miss my favourite line from it: when Hugh Grant says about his sleeping with Sarah Jessica Parker the night before, that ‘it was some of my best work’.  And she replies, ‘I’m glad I was there for it.’  Only he could really deliver that line, that way.  I really do like Hugh Grant’s later work.  After he stopped being the annoyingly nice stutterer all the time.  The change came around About a Boy – which was an excellent film.  Still liked the film a lot this time round.)
4.            Life as we Know It
(Couple inherit baby.  Learn to be parents.  Ok, not that great.  The baby slept when it should be being annoying – heaven knows, you get very little personal time with babies about, they don’t sleep when you are trying to have sex, they wake up and put you off!  Then theres that great filmic staple, the baby poo scene.  This felt obligatory – I don’t believe EVERYONE is nearly sick when smelling baby poo, and the retching – come on, get over it.  I mean, Jesus, its not that bad.  Tsk.  I could’ve made this film way funnier.)
5.           Bad Teacher
(A total user has to go back to a job she just resigned from as her scam to get a husband fell through.  She searches for another…Not bad, quite funny – they didn’t bother trying to ‘redeem’ her character at the end either, they just took off her edges.  I liked that.  You got the impression she could still scam for gold if necessary; she just finally found a companion who made her think maybe it wasn’t quite as necessary as she previously thought.  Though considering she was telling her parents she was dying and needed money for surgery earlier; that is quite a turnabout.  Only film I have seen Justin Timberlake in where he has acted…blah-ly.  Try him in Alpha Dog: there’s a performance worthy of his acting skill.  I think he should stop singing and just be an actor.)
6.           Penelope
(Gosh, a film with a U certificate in my list. How did this happen?  I like Christina Ricci, this must be how – my rental list follows certain actors and automatically adds their films to my lists.  Girl cursed with face of a pig (only the snout, really), has to marry to break curse.  Tries to find husband.  Turns out she was incorrect, can break the curse herself.  Loveable rogue type is involved.  A strange cultural mish mash of a film, set in a sort of England, a sort of London – where most people were American, hmmmmmmm – but I liked it.  So did Fluffhead, who oddly paid attention the whole way through.)
7.           Hall Pass
(2 men get the week off marriage after their wives are fed up of them not really being present in them (the marriage, that is).  Strangely managed to be a lot more serious in point making – just here and there – than it could have been.  Actually managed to deal with a few issues relating to feelings about infidelity and long term partnerships.  Still moments of Farrelly Bros stupidity, funny and gross by turn.  Odd appearance by Stephen Merchant, who fitted in well, despite being different to everyone else in the film in look and manner.  One of those strange synchronicities.)
8.           Don’t Torture a Duckling
(I’m not even going to attempt to do the plot summary.  It needs to be watched to see how wrong, yet how right, its all is.  Apart from (another all hail, here) Lucio Fulci’s very odd fixation with ducks, in more than one film (try the New York Ripper too), this was very good.  It started off most odd, and was sleazy – yay, no surprises here – and was the usual badly written, badly acted, inconsistently plotted giallo.  But as usual with giallos, it was lurid, wonderful, very disturbing and a good whodunnit.  The sad witch character, killed wrongly, for basically being a nutter – a very sad scene, with excellent musical production (several later films having stolen the motifs here, as well as the idea the soundtrack played with; notably the fanboy Tarantino).  The femme fatale, with no real depth.  The priest who killed children to save them from descending into sin, to keep them in a state of innocence.  The awful special effects.  Very effective, very watchable, and quite sad.  I will remember it.)
9.           How Do You Know?
(Reese Witherspoon, Owen Wilson, Paul Rudd, Jack Nicholson.  An unusual plot for a chick flick.  Sportswoman loses job, has to re-organise life; businessman is stitched up by his own father, faces wreck of a life.  Baseball pro in there somewhere, mostly as a contrast…Very good.  Strange and slightly more layered and thoughtful than the average chick flick.  Can’t quite put my finger on why.)
10.        Insidious
(Not a giallo or a chick flick!  Just a regular supernatural horror.  Some VERY good moments and a good idea.  But strangely over razzmatazzed somehow.  And that mask at the séance?!!  Talk about kick you out of your suspension of disbelief!  (Which was the exact opposite of the screenwriters idea on doing it, I got from the extras.  He was trying to get people to see the obligatory seance scene in a different way.  Whoops.) But a very interesting film.  F’rinstance, that the main demon was played by the composer of the soundtrack. The screenwriter was also a character.) 
11.         Morning Glory
(Unlikely story of a morning news programme getting revitalised by a perky young producer.  Diane Keaton (who I usually don’t like at all, she just annoys me) does well at locking horns with Harrison Ford, who does even better at being very grumpy.  It’s amusing.  I can’t ever imagine being as devoted to a job as she is – unless it be writing...Hmmmm.)

So there you have it.  And that’s only so far.  The chick flickly things have outweighed the giallos due to the machinations of the people at Blockbuster and LoveFilm postal rental – sometimes you get what you ordered, sometimes you don’t.  This afternoon I have a documentary about Gainsborough; which will be an amazing change of pace and probably welcome.

In the meantime, thoughts to have captured my sleepy and phlegmatic (in both senses) consciousness are these:

Was singing to Fluffhead, nursery rhymes.  You know the blackbirds, four and twenty, baked into a pie, the dainty dish to set beforethe king?  Well, I just wondered if that was a revolutionary song.  Like – the revolutionaries were a Trojan Horse for the king, taking him by surprise, storming his counting house and taking his money hostage.  Coming upon the Queen in her parlour and taking all that unnecessary bread and honey that she wasn’t sharing with the masses.  Both of them doing nothing for the land and its people, just living off the fat?  Or…the more sinister alternative – it’s a post revolution song, put out by the court minstrels as some sort of…medieval satirical jab (like putting someone’s head on a pike at the city walls but less messy and more witty).  The revolutionaries have been caught, baked into a pie, the king and his court ate them (you know, literally or figuratively – in the olden times, people’s senses of humour could be quite skewy I’m sure you’d agree?).  The status quo remained the same.  The song is a warning….And here I am singing it to Fluffhead and …goodness, I really need to google this further, what am I singing to my poor innocent Fluffhead?!  
(Though there is an even further alternative explanation.  Actually there's loads.)

Lastly, I have been wondering if squirrels are part of the Fae.  As in, here I am, always looking for faeries, at the bottom of the garden, or otherwise; definitely in greenery…and what I always see are squirrels.  A cunning disguise, in plain view????

Ah.  I’m sure I may well have had other thoughts, some of them possibly even interesting, but I really need to go and replenish my stack of tissues now. And find something both comforting and unhealthy to eat for lunch.  Some dairy should help the mucus ensue!  How about – cheese sandwich?  Melted?  Yum!!!

I hereby promise to try and write something either (a) informative, or (b) interesting – next time!!

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Things That Annoy Me, No 3: The 1950’s

Ok.  So this one is utterly personal and almost completely indefensible. I know lots of people love the 1950s. 

Am I annoyed by the 1950s globally?  I don’t know.  I hate it here in the UK, and to a degree, in the USA.  Because that’s the 1950’s I’ve been exposed to.  A cultural-historical phenomenon.

Now.  I wasn’t even BORN then, so what the hell am I talking about, how can I hate a decade, and one I wasn’t even personally present for?!

I mean: I am annoyed how it is remembered when I hear people who were there talk about it; and I hate how it is portrayed in documentaries, on TV and in films.  But I’m not completely unreasonable, I don’t hate all the films, TV and documentaries of then.  Just the assumptions in an awful lot of it.

I am annoyed at the way people seem to associate this decade with a great wholesomeness.  Everything in its proper place; all’s well with the world – it seems to have a feeling of provincial smugness and conformity.  Especially in relation to the naughty dissipated 1960’s and those selfish gritty 1970s.  Tsk!!

For a decade that contained the Cold War, the Korean War, the rampant terror at the idea of Communism (and the resultant McCarthyism), the Suez Crisis, the fact that being gay was illegal (till 1967 over here, in fact)…and that’s just off the top of my head – I don’t think this decade was really different to any other in terms of human behaviour.  (I.e. lots of it still pretty unevolved.)  We weren’t involved in a massive war at that time, and over here, there was the Festival of Britain to cheer people up and make them feel a bit more optimistic to begin the decade with; and the final end of rationing.

I think the war’s aftermath is partially what I am annoyed about.  Here comes the feminist[1].  All those women doing the men’s jobs while they were gone.  Quite reasonable.  And then the men come back and need their jobs back.  Also quite reasonable.  Except the bit where you don’t hear about any large movement of women (and/or men) saying – ‘but those women did well, maybe they should be working outside the home like we do, as well?  Maybe some of us are happier indoors, some of us happier outdoors – let’s have a look at this and try and make it a bit more equitable…’

Now, now!  Put your hands down!!  I know its wrong to apply my 2011 perspective to the 1950s – things were as they were, then was then; and there’s been progress since.  Betty Friedan was writing the Feminine Mystique and the American feminists happened,  the quiet English feminists you don’t remember the names of[2] happened, the Wolfenden Report happened; and lo and behold, many people are now equally free to go and be a bit miserable in an office or other outside job regardless of gender!  Also, American Civil rights were starting.  There were famous bus events with Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jnr.  Though we didn’t have formal segregation here, there was plenty informal ghettoing occurring – so this all fed into the climate of change.

I just really do object to the comfy, cosy image of this decade we have NOW.  We have hindsight, we have a fuller picture of events than you can usually have at the time – we have a lot more information.  We could have a rounded view of this decade.  Its good things (all the progress that WAS made – people fought back against inequalities, much good science started to really make strides), as well as the annoying (e.g. lets put women back in their boxes, and attempt to brainwash them via the media that all they want is marriage, children and a really shiny new fridge).  Yet, so often, it’s portrayed as this safe, morally tidy Utopian past that we should all re-aspire to.  When Conservatives mutter about ‘family values’ I think they are partially referring to the ‘50s.  As well as Victorian Britain; you know, when not only the wimmen, but the plebs knew their places too!

I just find that…very annoying.  I could actually make this post larger and probably sillier with my equal irritation at West Side Story, Rumble Fish, The Outsiders and films of this ilk.  But mostly West Side Story – grrrrrrrrrrrrr.  (This even though I adore Grease; equally silly in a different way, also set in the 1950s.)  The hair, the clothes, the attitudes, the gangs, arghhhh…

No, I’m not going to argue this one any further.  I shall likely persist with my annoyance at the entire 1950’s as I’ve set it out here.  But since its so entirely personal, I despair of getting it across properly!

[1] Now, if I say ‘here comes the feminist’ and you groan, I make stern faces at you!  If you are male, then you may think you are all New Male, but you can’t be, or you wouldn’t be bored already.  Go and think about why you got bored when I said that?  Think women are all free entirely now??  We aren’t you know.  And if you’re female…well.  If you’re old school female, and think its all about a strange combination of valid meritocracy, undilutedly fair democracy and feminine wiles, ‘the power behind the throne’ and all that (I know several like this), then I will probably not be able to get through to you, as you can’t see the problem.  If you’re my age or younger, you might think Germaine Greer is a bit…dry, boring.  Try Jo Brand instead.  She is, in fact, a feminist.  And funny.  Feminism means: seeing both genders as Equal.  Different, but equal.  This is so utterly reasonable I don’t see how anyone can not nod and say, ‘go on…’
[2] Viola Klein, Edith Summerskill – to name but 2.

Monday, 7 November 2011

And there was the weekend...

Its quite funny, that I only have 3 social things going on this month (which is more than the last 5 months put together, really), and I managed to confuse the dates of 2 of them. 

So it was, that it was my in-laws Golden Wedding Anniversary celebrations this weekend just gone.  Which I thought meant that I was then free to attend, on the 18th,Hooting Yard and Outa_Spaceman’s Evening of Lugubrious Music and LopsidedProse.  I asked my mum about babysitting, only to find her sadly  and quietly insulted that I had forgotten it was HER birthday that weekend, and I was sposed to be going to dinner with her and Number One Son, Fry, that evening…OOPS.  (See, this is what happens when you don’t remind people its your birthday for about 3 months before the event, at regular intervals, as I often do – you know, to save friends and family embarrassment.  I am the soul of consideration, you appreciate…) 

At least I can’t be confused with the last thing, which is definitely next weekend, and definitely involves week late fireworks and Halloween food with Alias Morrie, Alan and Brilliantly Haired Teenage Son of Theirs.  Hooray, looking forward to being fed, and comforting Fluffhead from the noise.

Isn’t 50 years an amazingly long marriage?  I’m not going to say ‘by today’s standards’, as I think its amazing by anyone’s standards; and also says a lot about how young people used to get married.  Considering what a whopping long time frame that was, the actual celebration was quite small in terms of time, and smaller than the massive Social Occasion I had been dreading (in my hermity socially phobic type way).  Though for a smallish thing, it demanded a lot of logistical work.

The travelling with a Small Fluffhead does demand the taking of an astonishing amount of stuffs – all the food for a start (milk and squishy chewy, in case the food on hand proves unsuitable and a starving child is a quick route to screeching enjoyment).  And food accompaniments – the bottles, spoons, jars, little Tupperware type containers.  Food for the journey (raisons, little organic crispy stick thingies, ginger biscuits, cream crackers – things not too messy to wreck the excellent impression of for once, a Tidy Boy in a little corduroy trousered outfit in shades of brown and beige and with a squirrel on the front of the sweater vest thing).  Then there’s the wipes and tissues, the change of clothes, the Calpol or Nurofen (in case of sudden teething, fever, head banging etc etc etc).  Scissors to cut open the milk.  Beakers for water.  Water.  Muslins and toys for the comforting, and the journey.  Change of clothes, nappies.

And then theres the travelling with Me: various headache remedies and Sumatriptan (in case of migraine). The Herbal Sominex stuff (which is really crap at aiding sleep, and really brilliant at taking the edge off social panic – always carry, hardly ever use: talismanic).  Sudden Onset of Femaleness supplies in small metal container free with products – handy, that.  Change of clothes for Stanley and I (in case of outrageous Fluffhead Vomiting, which does occasionally occur, and usually in completely unsuitable circumstances).  Pack lunches for Stanley and I, and Fry, so that whoever ends up being Somewhere Else with the Fluffhead, because he got righteously tired of sitting still with a bunch of grown ups talking, and wished to explore the wider world; whoever that is, still gets fed even if they missed the food portion of the event.

Fry came down the night before to plot the route to drive us all down into Gloucestershire, to a tiny village I have actually now forgotten the name of.  We were sposed to leave at 9 a.m., but I completely forgot that I was going to dawdle getting ready (as I always do when anxious about social things; I can get hostile too, which Stanley deals with very well considering how bloody annoying I must be).  I also forgot Fry doesn’t move quickly in the morning (though 21, he still has the mindset of a total teen; anything before 11 should really be tackled from a prone sofa-ed position).  I also forgot Stanley is outrageously late to everything, even when I’m not helping.  (I am usually very punctual; I only become selfish and late when worried about events.)  I don’t know what it is about Stanley and his time keeping, time just…gets away from him.  (The lounging on bed with laptap, ‘checking’ things; and the in his computer room ditto, doesn’t help.)

We eventually left at 10.30, and I still didn’t have a migraine yet (!), despite the geometric loading of stuffs into the car and the threading of the sewing machine which was how getting the carseat for Fluffhead in the back to actually fit felt like.  It’s definitely winter now.  I watched so many different shades of leaves on the way there. I watched the landscape go from the wavy, to the completely flat (much of Oxfordshire), and back to softly wavy again.  Fluffhead was very good, and sat watching the scenery for a bit, looked at his books for a bit, then hugged Taylor the Giraffe and went to sleep for an hour.  I hypnotised myself watching the treeline and the sky passing: all a gorgeous blue.  Fry and Stanley chatted desultorily in the front, but I couldn’t really hear properly over the noise of the car.  Stanley kept trying to talk to me, but I had gone dopey. 

We weren’t late, which was quite something.  The small village was filled with dry stone walls, and houses with arbours, and trellises.  Beige stoned houses, not a shop in sight.  It was two and a half hours from home.  Quiet and with a wonderful hill in the background that Stanley really wanted me to go walking with him on, but we didn’t have enough time.  We wheeled Fluffhead down to the Royal Oak pub’s function room, through a cobbled street and a lovely beer garden with sunken tables and sandstone steps.  The contrast from the cold street to the close function room was huge.  Fry and I immediately wanted to go outside again.  There were about a hundred people in there already.  But Fluffhead was happy and ran about, threading his way through arrangements of round tables and chairs, and pulling small boxes of Thornton’s complementary chocolates off the tables.  (They had heart shaped chocolates inside – one pink and one gold…being starving by now after strangely not hungry on the journey, I wolfed mine immediately.)

I was introduced to so many relatives, by the ever informative Stanley; despite telling him there was no way I would remember them all.  I do remember one Aunt who had a beautiful West Country accent and a very playful way; and another Aunt who was dressed beautifully and had a kind smile.  And a cousin who used to be a professional footballer who had nice messy hair.  They were all, without exception, very kind and friendly, and I wondered why I had been so uptight about coming[1]. The in-laws themselves seemed very happy, which was excellent, and of course, the point of the whole thing.  There was a buffet, and only 1 speech, during which Stanley’s father gained a good ripple of laughter for thanking everyone of behalf of ‘my wife and I’, which sounded wondrously posh and out of character.  Stanley’s father is mild mannered, kind, deliciously witty in a slow burner way; and never pretentious.

Pretty soon though, Fluffhead did do the wailing, ‘I am bored now’ thing, and no amount of extra niblets would satisfy the Need to Roam.  So Fry and I got out the reins and took him for an outside walk for what must have been a couple of hours, like the small inquisitive little doglet he can be.  This was most refreshing.  We looked at the hill from many angles, and appreciated its many shades of green.  The sheep on the side of it looked so far away they were small maggots laid out for the feast of a large black bird.

We explored all the surrounding streets, and Fluffhead made the reluctant (on the part of the owners) acquaintance of 2 dogs and 2 horses, also all on reins.  Fry kept going off to the car to check the footie scores.  We walked in the funniest pattern; I wished a mathematician were present to plot it and tell me it was the very evidence for order in chaos.  Back a bit, to the side a bit, back to where we were, no, turn about, come away again.  Up this little verge, down, up it, half way up, turn round, go down again, go back up.  I let Fluffhead roam where he wanted.  He collects stones at the moment.  All carefully (as far as I can see) selected for smoothness and colour gradation – that day we were doing shades of darker grey.  He collected holly berries from the trees, and put them in a small pile at the foot of a different tree.  He tried to eat a very yellow flower with large tight petals.  Fry and I got increasingly cold; little Fluffhead seemed quite warm to the touch and meandered about happily. 

Sometimes we would bump into other refugees from the Do: Stanley’s nephew and niece, walking about, texting on their phones.  We chatted about TV, university, riotous parties in Bath (they do happen, he was going to one that evening).  Sometimes Stanley came out to find us, and encourage us to come and play closer, in the garden surrounding the pub.  But that was taken up by noisy older children.  Fluffhead tried to run and play with them, with that marvellous innocence and assumption of inclusion children have at that age; but they ignored him and almost knocked him over several times.  I saw his little face look confused, and felt for him.  I let him wander back to the street with the friendly dogs and the many berries and stones and flowers and driveways with crunchy slate and gravel for stomping.  He presented Fry and I with many soggy leaves, and happy smiling.  The other children eventually tired, so we went back to the garden and Fluffhead climbed carefully up and down the steps fifty or so times.  Relatives came over to say how cute he was; I met all the smokers, being outside. 

Another function was going to start soon; I had been observing people leaving for a while, and the light was failing gradually.  I was starting to have to carry Fluffhead.  I made him a bottle and we sat in the garden at one of the sunken tables to have it.  Goodbyes took ages; I hung about at the fringes with Fluffhead drooping on my shoulder, Fry went to be with the car (and the Saturday early evening football summary).  Everyone seemed to have had a good time.  Stanley’s mother looked flushed and happy and hugged everyone.  Fluffhead batted at her hair with his tired hand.

The minute we were in the car, he conked out and I covered him up with 4 muslins and Taylor again.  This time I was hypnotised by the lights of cars in front and going past.  Yellow and white, flashing past in the darkness.  There were fireworks the whole journey home, white and blue and red and green, sparkling and breaking into flowers; falling, sinking.  Just as we passed Chipping Norton, the most arresting sight:  at the side of the road, a HUGE bonfire of old crates.  And hundreds of people surrounding it.  None of them moving at all; just standing immobile, facing the fire and watching it grow higher.  Eerie.  Then the darkness ate them all and they were gone.

When we got back home, I felt we had been out for a hundred years: my book-room looked strange and alien to me.  Fluffhead hit his second wind, and we ate our pack lunches for dinner, watching downloads of Not The 9 O’Clock News.  Fluffhead made a long line of his stones over the living room carpet and then messed them all up, looks of joy equal for both activities.  I never did get a migraine. A good day.

[1] Some events I go to are horrible of course, and I am rightfully worried about awful feelings of dislocation whilst there.  But I SHOULD, probably, stop worrying about things solely involving Stanley’s family, as they are always utterly kind and nice to me.