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Jez and I got married.
We had a ceremony on the beach. First there was a thunderstorm which everyone except me seemed to worry about. I assumed that it meant that the thunder gods had come to bless our union. The rain was fierce for 15 minutes and then it all went away and we could go stand on our little platform by the sea.
The ceremony was a Buddhist one, which was still lovely even if we're not practicing Buddhists - we threw eight banana leaves into the wind, had a coconut cut in half, lit a lamp and released two doves into the air before signing the legal documents with the registrar.
Then, because we were sticky from heat and tired, we went for a dip in the pool before dinner on the beach. Dinner was mind blowingly good - curry and fish and white wine - and it finished with fireworks. Fireworks for us, with our names written in flame and it was the best thing ever.
That night we got back to our room and found it filled with candles.
It wasn't a big wedding. In fact, there were two guests and us. It wasn't super dramatic and it came after a long time. But for me, it felt perfect.
He was in a newspaper article pinned to the kitchen wall in my friend Alison's house. It was about 'Keele vampires' - he'd gone to the premiere of Interview with the Vampire with some friends in full goth kit.
"That's Jeremy" my friend's mother said. "Tori's boyfriend". Tori was Alison's older (and intimidatingly cool) sister. Her boyfriend looked even more impressive. In 1994 I was not cool, although I did own a pair of doc martens I had lovingly painted myself in glitter paint, including a gigantic sparkly silver witch flying through the air atop a broomstick, which I look back on with affection. I wore very bright tights to school and everyone thought I was weird. And not in a cool way.
The years went by. Jez and I didn't really know each other, although we were in the same place occasionally. I heard a lot of gossip about him. He seemed even cooler - very gothic, very charming, a bit of a womanizer.
I still wasn't cool, although my eyeliner improved and I acquired a pair of tight tartan trousers which I wore with more panache than I realised. Then Jez broke up with Tori at the end of university, and I moved away from Berkshire anyway to go to university myself. We lost touch.
Ten years later, we met again. This time it was in a pub in Oxford. It was at a live action role playing game. I walked in and a friend grabbed me.
"Who is that bloke?" she hissed. "The new one in the top hat. He's gorgeous"
It was Jeremy.
He was still too cool for me. Still rather gothic - he was wearing skin tight velvet trousers, a velvet waistcoat with bells on it and a top hat with bright scarfs wrapped around it. No shirt but a very impressive six pack. There was a little ripple of swooning women around the room as he walked across it. But I remembered him from my teenage years, and that was nice, and I'd only just moved back down south after many years in Scotland, was unemployed and bored and so the prospect of talking to anyone was good.
I asked him if he'd like to get coffee. Unusually, he wasn't in work the next day so suggested G&Ds for milkshakes. We met at 2 pm.
At 2 am we were still talking as we wandered around Oxford. We got locked in Christchurch Meadows as the sun went down and had to climb out over the wall. We sat on a bridge with blossom falling down on us and talked about bottling this moment. I remember feeling light headed, and oddly not insecure. It was easy and happy and right.
It hasn't always been easy or happy or right. God knows, we've had our ups and downs over the years. Some pretty massive ones. But somehow we've got through them. Somehow we've found our way back to each other.
We first talked about marriage within a week of getting together. But first it was too soon, and then there was drama coming from elsewhere, and then I was crazy, and then he wasn't sure, and then...
...well, there were always a lot of reasons. Looking back, though, I'm glad we didn't get married then. It took a while for us to be ready, to grow up, to find the life we wanted to share. It's only really been in the last two years that we've done that - thank you, Glasgow, and thank you Glasgow housing market - and now is, I think, the right time.
I don't find Jez intimidatingly cool anymore. He also would say he looks considerably less impressive without his shirt on, and I've not seen him wear a top hat in years. Less goth, more tweed now. But he still has the brightest smile and wonderful eyes. He's still my Jez. And I love him.
Countdown until we leave for the grand wedding adventure trip - four hours.
It's going to be fantastic.
Now in hairdressers having proper colour added for wedding.
I am floating on a little cloud of serenity. Also, sauna and pool totally sorted out the back ache I've had lately. I think I need to remember that pain does not mean I stop exercising. Sometimes movement is what muscles need.
So, today I’m exploring my low IQ.
I do have a very low IQ. I’ve been tested twice. I’m officially, according to those numbers, dumb*. Thankfully, whilst being stupid, I have a low animal cunning which enables me to use words to fool exam boards, and enabled me to get three Masters (thankfully, no one in any of my courses ever asked me to name the next number in a sequence, in which case I would have been exposed as the intellectual fake I am), and then let me work in museums, universities and the third sector.
What this meant was that I mostly disregarded IQ tests as nonsense. I mean, I can’t be dumb! I went to Oxford University! But a couple of people keep telling me that IQ tests are really accurate and we should use them more and they are a good thing, so I decided to take them on their word for once, and try and understand what my innate stupidity really says about me, and what the IQ tests means to me.
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So, as a spontaneous one off, five things I love about this country. Because Scotland has, overall, been exceptionally kind to me and I do love it here. I just compulsively argue with people when I think they're not quite right. It's a curse. I need help.
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I remembered it as being a bit like Agatha Christie or Gwen Raverat' s memoires - you know - lots of adorable stories about eccentric relatives and rocking horses. And I thought it would be a comfy airport read.
My reading journey went something like this...
...oh. She's a bit bitter about the Bolsheviks, isn't she?
...yeah, she's definitely in favour of the old regime. Makes sense, as her family were pretty aristocratic in Russia. Except for great-grandmother who was a serf.
...so, World War One went badly. I knew that. Also, goddamn Britain treated Russia badly.
...wow. She used the word 'insolent' to describe how some revolutionary spoke to her mother. Check your privilege, Eugenie!
...um. And then the revolutionary arrested her elderly grandfather for no reason and sent men to ransack their family home every couple of days for months.
...oh. And the local Bolsheviks would randomly confiscate anyone's stuff they wanted. I guess it is a revolution and Eugenie's family had been very well off before.
...and they raped and murdered people who objected. Whole families died. That's...
...ok. Now she's telling the tale of a mass execution she and her friends witnessed while playing in the woods as children, and how one of the people executed was a teenage boy in his school uniform.
...and how this same group of friends once chased a stray goat down so they could take turns trying to milk it because they were starving due to civil war. This is one of the upbeat comic interludes in the civil war section of the book.
...phew. She, and her mother and brother managed to escape as refugees, because her mother was Scottish and they were able to get exit papers on that basis. Now, I wonder what happens to the rest of her wonderful, loveable, larger than life family and friends that she's been describing this whole book.
...they are all murdered. Well, some die of starvation. A few more a murdered by Nazis and not communists. And two commit suicide to avoid being executed. One disappears. Probably executed. And the rest are all murdered. Every single one. Mostly under Stalin.
And I sort of sat there in horror. Yeah, too right she is bitter about the Russian Revolution. And what's worse is that I hadn't expected it. I mean, I kind of knew Stalin was bad and the Russian Civil War was awful. I've seen death stats. I did know. Yet it hadn't properly connected. For Chrissakes, as a teenager I had a hammer and sickle badge on a jacket (I thought it was cool). In my twenties I role played cool Russian revolutionaries in LRP where I never would have thought of playing a Nazi. I laughed at "how retro" when I saw protestors with the hammer and sickle outside the American Embassy in London when I'd never have done that over a swastika.
No real moral lesson. Just a weird sense that somehow we as a society aren't great. Probably because we don't believe in evil without atrocity photos and case studies.
By the way, it's a good book.
First of all, let me be clear. I don't think Joss Whedon is a god of feminism. Dollhouse was skeevy as fuck, both Buffy and Firefly occasionally tended towards taking pretty fragile traditional female characters and calling them 'strong' because they had super strength, and let us not talk too much about what he did to Cordelia on Buffy. The man isn't perfect.
But he did get something right. He gave us a cast of different, flawed, interesting women on Buffy. And I think most of us can identify with them all in different ways.
I mean, my favourite, of course, is Anya. Anya is totally me about 80% of the time. She means well, but she always says the wrong thing, she clearly goes way over the top when she does snap and get angry, and I can totally identify with turning into a demon of vengeance for 1000 years over a really bad break up. But she is loyal, brave, smart and takes no shit. Xander - she was too good for you.
Of course, I wanted to grow up to be Willow, who was beautiful, quirky, smart and wore interesting clothes, despite loving chemistry and books. Plus...witch! I liked books too and I wanted to be a witch and save the day by the power of research.There are so few shows in which a thorough understanding of how an index system works really matters.
And Faith was a disturbing early revelation for me; I have a theory about how many girls were first brought to confusing same-sex attraction by the power of Faith alone. I also found her inspirational - apologetically independent, secure in her sexuality, and let's face it, far more interesting than Buffy.
Cordelia, of course, was like Anya, but with added self awareness and wit. She was probably me on a good day, when I said some of that shit on purpose because I thought it was funny. Plus, season one Angel, she kicked off at the evil ghost because she was motherfucking Cordelia Chase and she was going to own that evil and make it work for her. She was gloriously unapologetic about who she was and I'm still gutted they killed her off on Angel because she and Angel were actually my OTP.
(People always kill those. See Tara and Willow and Xander and Anya. Basically, all three couples I really liked. Fuck you, Joss Whedon. Why am I being nice about you?)
I loved Tara for being gentle and wise and strong even when she felt beaten down, and Dawn for being an excellent dancer. I didn't identify with Dawn. But she did dance well. Drusilla was kooky and weird and cool. Even Darla had some good lines. And Joyce Summers must have been a genius at processing house insurance claims.
All those women, in just one show, with complex lives and big picture goals and objectives and charisma and wit and charm.
Thank you, Joss Whedon.
Every year, they blossom again, punctually.
A creeping weed that is called moneywort,
and the tiny one, I think, wall-pepper.
So much that is yellow and will soon be gone.
Of those which keep their distance from us,
far out in cold space, it is said that they flare up
and burn out like birthday sparklers.
Some stars, when the wind dies down,
hang from flagpoles, limply. Another one
arose, long ago, in the Gospels.
When I was a child, there were stars,
thin and crumpled on grey, worn overcoats.
Someone must have sewed them on.
It wasn’t my great-aunt Theresia who did it.
Other aunts, longsighted, thread in mouth,
bent over the eye of the needle.
So many stars. Don’t speak of them.
But they were yellow, yellow.
And then they vanished forever.
Written and translated by
Hans Magnus Enzensberger
So, I'm listing three things I like about me (because I'm feeling particularly useless), three things I like about my life (because it feels very out of control and overwhelming), three things I like about today (which will get me off the sofa), and three things that make me feel optimistic about the world in general (because god knows, there's enough to feel bad about).
You should all do that too.
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How about we take away from this the following life lessons.
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And it got me thinking. See, my last list was the list of stuff that worked for me. It might not work for you. But maybe some of the many many suggestions I have received over the years which really didn't work for me. And some may just make you laugh because they are bloody awful. So, without further ado, please read my second list, my companion list, my list of sanity CV failure.
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