hollymath: drawing in black of owl wearing big red glasses.Words on its belly:"it's not about how you look, it's about how you see" (Default)
2016-05-26 12:55 pm


I'm so tired, when I'm home I'm either sleeping or feeling bad about all the things I'm too tired to do, like clean myself or the house. I expected a day or two of that after my parents left, but it's been almost a week now.

I was so good at keeping on top of dishes and tidying and stuff while they were here -- partly to keep them fro grumbling or doing them for me, partly as an excuse to keep busy enough not to have time to think -- I hoped that I might be able to keep it up, as it's easier to keep things clean than get them clean... ha.

I kind of wish I'd been able to keep up the levels of willpower in getting chores done that I had for the previous couple of weeks. But then I think about how badly it exhausted me to push myself to do so many things when I didn't think it'd be good for me, and how I knew I could keep that up only because it was for a limited time. It's not very kind to myself to wish that I lived like that all the time.
hollymath: drawing in black of owl wearing big red glasses.Words on its belly:"it's not about how you look, it's about how you see" (Default)
2016-05-24 08:10 pm


The eye hospital appointment I wasn't looking forward to this morning was actually really good. A year ago I had a low-vision assessment, which basically consisted of "gadgets, can we give you them" -- it's where I got what they call a telescope, which I call a monocular because that's what I was told it was called when I got a much more low-tech one in grade school, and because telescopes are for looking at planets, not train departure displays. The orthoptist I saw the last time I was at the eye hospital told me he'd make sure I got my 12-month follow-up low vision assessment like was planned at th my 12-months-ago low vision assessment, and I got the impression I'd be discharged from MREH then to the care of my GP and optician as my condition's stable and...well, basically, I only had anything to do with them in the first place because I had to, to get registered blind.

This time I got a trainee who only introduced herself by her first name (Gemma), and she was really great. Somehow I ended up talking about the assessment I'd had from the council last summer, my frustrations with Henshaws who seem to limit their interest in me to trying to get me on a course I don't think suits me, my struggles with the new swimming baths -- I was talking to somebody who was a trained lifeguard, so she really lit up at that and was very confident about the advice she gave there, which was kind of great. We talked for absolutely ages, it was oddly therapeutic and entirely unexpected. I did come out of it with another gadget, though I wish they made it with a slot for each kind of coin or something; pound coins are some of the easiest to find because they're twice as thick as the others.

Anyway, I went straight from the eye hospital this morning to helping Morag with her Ph.D. research, which just meant walking around on a wonderfully hot and sunny afternoon and wittering as much as I liked, so basically perfect for me. Again, oddly therapeutic even though I don't think I was very good at answering questions specifically about Manchester which is what I was technically supposed to be doing, but Morag seemed very happy by the end of it, and I had a good time.

I also failed entirely to eat anything until after this, which might have contributed to me going home (and, admittedly, after a sandwich and a yogurt) crashing out hard. I didn't get much sleep last night, I got home just after Andrew had left for his pre-Brian-Wilson-gig pub meet, the dog was being cuddly and sleepy, so we both just crashed out.

I woke up not feeling up to going to the WI meeting tonight -- which is a shame because I missed the craft group yesterday for basically the same reason -- and am now struggling a bit: I feel like I should have done more with my day, even though there was a lot of thinking involved in both of the things I was out doing today. I was so good at keeping on top of the housework when Mom and Dad were here and that has inevitably fallen by the wayside since, which I'm vaguely disappointed about...but of course not enough that I've actually tidied or vacuumed or done the dishes. I ended up talking a bit to Morag about my Kickstarter book, and now I'm feeling guilty about not doing anything on that, either.

But also it occurred to me that two weeks ago I was frantically tidying and fixing and stressing ahead of my parents' visit, and that everything has been pretty exhausting since. I just worry when I'm so lacking in motivation, when I just shut down any time that there isn't some external pressure getting me to do something.

Oh also I had a phone call on Sunday about the fat-girl focus group thing, which in the process answered the question my friends and I are pondering there about what's meant by "an outfit you feel really good in" -- like Sass and I feared, it seems to be a "what makes you feel sexy" type of thing they're after, which...I don't ever do? To me, an outfit I feel good in is trousers with lots of pockets and a t-shirt with something funny written on it. But I can work on that tomorrow -- homework's not due until then!

The lady who rang me seemed to think I'd be awesome at this...once again that thing about me that Em J so diplomatically refers to as "being direct" is a feature and not a bug like I usually worry it is. Apparently this is an unusual setup in that there will actually be senior people from the company paired up with us to hear what we have to say, and with the practiced delivery of someone who's had to reassure many fat girls, this woman said "they'll be more scared than you are." Me, not needing reassurance of course, was like "quite right! bring it on!" (only to myself though...but I probably gave that impression anyway in what I did say, which might be why she said I was going to be awesome at this). Should be a laugh, anyway.
hollymath: drawing in black of owl wearing big red glasses.Words on its belly:"it's not about how you look, it's about how you see" (Default)
2016-05-23 10:26 am

Moan whinge mutter

So: no cricket for me yesterday: poor Sri Lanka had to follow on and the match was over by Saturday night.

After only a week's worth of symptoms I usually have for about a day, my period's showed up, with extreme prejudice.

I ordered three prescriptions last week: one of which after telling me different things about it all week I now have to get from the hospital rather than the GP, one of which I have to have my blood pressure tested before they'll give me any more so that's this afternoon. Unfortunately I know it's never just a matter of testing my (perfectly fine) blood pressure, it's a big lecture about how I'm too fat. Because that's what always happens, every year for the eight or nine years I've been taking these pills.

Tomorrow I have to wake up early just to go to the stupid eye hospital for the appointment I missed a fe weeks ago.

I am not feeling very good about anything right now.
hollymath: drawing in black of owl wearing big red glasses.Words on its belly:"it's not about how you look, it's about how you see" (Default)
2016-05-20 09:13 am
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I was asked if I'd do a focus group thing for one of the fat-girl shops I buy clothes from -- it's interesting in the way things I never thought I'd do might be interesting, and they give you fifty quid for two hours of your time!

But I've got homework! I've got to think of three outfits, and send pictures of them beforehand. One is what I'd wear for "a special occasion," which shouldn't be too hard, one is "relaxing around the house" which honestly I could do most hours of any day though I can't expect the clothes shop to start stocking t-shirts given to me by men who love me, which is my favorite kind/at least half my t-shirts.

But the last request made of me is "an outfit you feel really good in." And...I don't know what that would be. Except for the aforementioned other-people's-t-shirts!

I wear clothes to feel good in the sense of warm and comfy, but not in any sense of feeling good emotionally for wearing them. In some ways I think that makes me the worst person ever for this group -- I feel like clothes and shopping for them are always just a matter of managing what kind of disappointment I'll feel.

But then maybe that makes me the best kind of person for the focus group, because "plus size" retailers are falling so far short of what I think are fairly straightforward and universal demands I'm making of my clothes: I want what thin people already have, which is readily available, reasonably priced, socially acceptable (for the many demands work and life place on women's clothes and appearance), clothing that actually fits my body shape -- which is not a thin person's clothes just increased by the same arbitrary amount in all directions.

Anyway, I still need to think of "an outfit I feel good in" to take a picture of in the next few days. Such an alien concept.
hollymath: drawing in black of owl wearing big red glasses.Words on its belly:"it's not about how you look, it's about how you see" (Default)
2016-05-19 09:44 pm
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For the last few days I've had sore boobs.

The kind that makes me worry I'm about to get my period (with PCOS, this usually means one day where I can't move or finish a sentence without swearing, so pretty much the opposite of ideal when my parents are here). But I didn't.

But they're still sore, days later, and I'm fed up.

None of my bras are adequate. Not wearing a bra is unthinkable -- which is really unfair because that's usually my favorite thing to do. The fantasies of having them chopped off have only been held at bay by the knowledge that even if I have no use for them, I know a couple of other people who are terribly fond of them. But even at the best of times I consider them nothing better than a nuisance that means my shirts never fit right, and right now they just make me even more unhappy than usual with my body and my hormones and everything about me.
hollymath: drawing in black of owl wearing big red glasses.Words on its belly:"it's not about how you look, it's about how you see" (Default)
2016-05-14 08:43 pm

only five days left

In the interests of fairness: the second pair of curtains my parents bought for us, for our bedroom, are good and an improvement over the heavy, ugly ones we had before.
  • They're blackout curtains, which I promised Andrew I'd get because he says he doesn't sleep well in the summer when it gets light too early.
  • The color my mom still insists is berry is not pink like I feared, but a nice dark red I don't actually hate the sight of; colors aren't too important to me but still this is something I can hardly say about anything in my house.
  • These curtains don't billow so dramatically, which not only makes me less likely to be in a horror movie (to be fair they should probably be more filmy and pale for that to be a concern anyway) but also means all the stuff on my bedside table has a much better chance of staying there rather than getting knocked off whenever the breeze came from the right direction.
Today we didn't have to get on a bus or go to the Arndale, which is a win because it's the first time that's happened since they got here. Especially a win since I'm not using my white cane with them, a decision I still think is less aggro than their reactions to it (and their reactions to other people's reactions to me, if you see what I mean) but which is making all the crowds and shopping much more difficult for me than I'm used to. And I already find it pretty damn difficult.

More drama with Andrew's family today. More card games with them, too. I love them but I'm so exhausted. Perhaps it's no surprise that I think I've got a migraine now (hooray for blackout curtains! I don't like them normally -- natural light helps me wake up -- but they're useful when I've got a migraine!). Until half an hour ago I hadn't had any food since breakfast, which was only scrambled eggs on toast.

Eating and sleeping to other people's schedules is always so bad for me. The night before last, I only got three hours' sleep, was awake from one o'clock in the morning, and still had to get through a whole day of shopping and socializing and playing the role of a more cheerful, patient and polite version of myself.

And I'm missing Eurovision for this! Right now! I'm trying to console myself with the thought that I'd be missing it anyway due to my migraine...but somehow I think if my parents weren't visiting and preventing me from seeing it, I might not have the migraine.
hollymath: drawing in black of owl wearing big red glasses.Words on its belly:"it's not about how you look, it's about how you see" (Default)
2016-05-13 10:29 pm
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And just to prove it's not all bad, honest

Spent a nice evening with Andrew's two sisters, him, and my parents. We got takeaway pizza (yay leftovers for tomorrow morning!), a couple bottles of wine and played Apples to Apples to Apples -- a new game to my parents but one they took to really well, my dad eventually tying Andrew for the win -- and generally had a great time and reminded me why family can be good and cozy and fun and sweet, everything that family visits can be.

Apples to Apples is a game that rewards knowing who you're playing it with, and it was sweet to watch how often my mom picked the card my dad had chosen.
hollymath: drawing in black of owl wearing big red glasses.Words on its belly:"it's not about how you look, it's about how you see" (Default)
2016-05-13 02:44 am
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You know you've married the right person when...

You discover you've both independently noticed, been unreasonably annoyed by, and articulated your annoyance at your mom persistently misgendering your dog.
hollymath: drawing in black of owl wearing big red glasses.Words on its belly:"it's not about how you look, it's about how you see" (Default)
2016-05-09 08:24 pm

How it starts

I just read a post in a local facebook group that says "Are there any electricians on here who can explain the strange happenings in my home?" and now I'm hoping I live at the beginning of a gently supernatural story.
hollymath: drawing in black of owl wearing big red glasses.Words on its belly:"it's not about how you look, it's about how you see" (Default)
2016-05-09 04:43 pm
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How I'm doing

I spent most of this morning trying to sort clothes: what needs to go to a charity shop/clothes swap (I have the vaguest of plans to organize one for my WI), what I won't wear now it's warmer and what I do want now it's warmer.

I spent the rest of it solving problems I didn't know I had: the microwave doesn't really come clean any more and needs replacing anyway, the fridge was starting to grow mold from where water's dripping somewhere I the back of it.

I think I might just have to offer my parents our bed because it'll be the only full-size one in the house.

Putting things in the loft isn't really a solution but it feels like one for now; maybe the physical exertion and the mental planning needed to get everything up there by myself (except one box which is too heavy and will have to be emptied into smaller boxes) makes it feel more satisfying than it should.

I don't mind the physical effort of cleaning or tidying, but the mental effort -- all the little decisions to be made, all the organizing that has to be done -- exhausts me even at the best of times. And this is certainly not the best of times.

I'm sort of convinced I haven't done anything and don't deserve a break, even as I'm also convinced that I have done more things than can reasonably be expected already today.

The nice weather doesn't help: surely I should be outside with some refreshing and alcoholic drink?! The fact I've been up since six doesn't help either.
hollymath: drawing in black of owl wearing big red glasses.Words on its belly:"it's not about how you look, it's about how you see" (Default)
2016-05-07 08:31 am


When I came back from Minnesota at Christmas, I was suddenly very aware that there were a lot of things I'd been meaning to do around the house that I had been ignoring, which I now felt I had a deadline for because I knew my parents were visiting late spring/early summer.

They get here on Wednesday. I've done precisely none of those things: didn't even get a quote for the front garden getting sorted out, didn't do much about the downstairs redecorating I want, didn't plant anything outside (though to be fair there was snow outside a week ago...), didn't do the million little DIY jobs or hang pictures or anything. Hell I haven't even been able to get rid of the broken computer or vacuum cleaner (though those are more recent problems as they only broke in the last month or so!).

Slightly more importantly, I haven't sorted out a better bed for my parents to sleep in: our spare room is tiny so the bed in there is tiny (not quite a normal double-bed size), and it's pretty unfair to ask old people (especially one very tall and one with a lot of health problems) to sleep on for ten days.

I'm so disappointed in myself, even angry with myself. Andrew can tell me all he wants (and he's had to; I've had more than one little meltdown about this, most spectacularly two weeks ago in the middle of the night when I couldn't stop thinking about all this stuff and then I couldn't stop crying...) that I've been busy and ill and had to do all the things he's not been doing because he's been ill...but it doesn't make me feel any less angry or upset or stressed. I can tell myself, and others can tell me, that it shouldn't matter what state my house is in, that it should just be nice to have my parents here and that's what matters...but they've never been here with so few plans before, so little to do but comment on my house.

Which I've always felt self-conscious about around them because I know they don't like the very concept of terraced houses and would never live this way. And while I know they had apartments and ilttle places to live when they were first married, too, that was a hell of a long time ago, and anyway by the time they were my age they had two kids and lived in the house they do now, which is big and sprawling and very nice (though my mom did take a long time to get rid of the seventies-colored avacado-and-brown everything in that house, so maybe she will understand about why the terrible wallpaper is still here!).

We have no plans partly because they were landed with a huge medical bill for my mom's latest terrifying health crisis a couple of months ago, yay America the greatest country in the world. So now they don't really have a lot to spend here, and the trip back to Scotland we were talking about isn't gonna happen. I'd love to pay for such things myself but of course with me already freaking out about all the home improvements we can't afford that's clearly not possible!

And they've already talked about how they want to "help out around the house." My dad's still talking about the hedge which was overgrown when they were last here but has been gone for a long time since (though trying to tear out its horrible roots is why our front garden is a pit of gravel and mud now (I don't understand the appeal of gravel in a garden!). My mom wanted the measurements for my front window so she could buy me curtains. In Minnesota! And bring them here! So not only would they stupidly take up space and weight in her suitcase (which is always crammed), she didn't show any indication of asking me what color or kind I wanted, so I probably wouldn't want them any more than the ones I have there now. And they're a bit difficult anyway because the curtain rod is a bit broken...so my dad's OCD attempts to get the two curtains to close Right In The Middle led to a bunch of the curtain hooks popping off...because another problem with this curtain rail is you can't put proper rings on it, only shitty little plastic hooks that never stay on and keep breaking, and...

...this is the kind of thing that's going on in my brain all the time. I feel so much of it is out of my control. So many of my problems are nothing I can do anything about in the few days remaining before they get here, I feel lack in skills and money and time and transport -- having a car would really help! And I just want to curl up in a ball and ignore the whole thing.

But that's what I've been doing all along; that's the problem.
hollymath: drawing in black of owl wearing big red glasses.Words on its belly:"it's not about how you look, it's about how you see" (Default)
2016-05-06 10:28 am
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Sort of sweet watching my Scottish Green friends (of which for some reason I have several, maybe because it's a better party than the England & Wales Greens?) being devastated that apparently-good women candidates missed out on actually being elected -- which made me think yep, now you know how the Lib Dems already feel -- and baffled/terrified/outraged at where all these Tory voters came from -- which made me think yep, now you know how the north of England already feels!
hollymath: drawing in black of owl wearing big red glasses.Words on its belly:"it's not about how you look, it's about how you see" (Default)
2016-05-01 11:45 pm
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Just in time for Blogging Against Disablism Day 2016

...I've got too much of a headache to write anything myself, but I wanted to highlight a couple of links I found again today, that say a lot of the things I would be saying.

What it's like to be legally blind does such a good job of describing the state between fully sighted and totally blind that is so little understood, so rarely expected by the sighted world to even exist at all.

"I don’t fit most people’s image of a blind person. I look at things."

I especially like the "there's no easy answer to 'what can you see?' " point, having recently realized this myself when an earlier blog entry about my partial-sightedness inspired that question, and I gave the kind of answer I'd been used to giving since childhood, that I see "pretty well" considering, and with examples of common things that help people know how to interact with me -- that I can see the face of someone having a normal conversation with me, that I can read normal print, and so on. But the more I thought about this answer, the less adequate I found it. I have good days and bad days. My eyes tire easily thanks to the nystagmus, and are susceptible to any tiredness, stress or illness I might have at the time. The environment I'm in can make a big difference to how well I can see -- is it crowded with stuff, what's moving and how fast? -- as can whether I'msomewhere I'm familiar with or not. Yes, part of that's cheating, I know I don't "really" look at a lot of things in my house or on my route to the bus stop I usually travel from...but also part of it's that when I know what's familiar it's easier to spot things that differ from what I'm expecting, and of course those are usually the ones more likely to be important for me to know about.

So, I think I've written about this before, but please don't ask a visually impaired person what we can see. I don't know what you can see, so if nothing else it's like being expected to answer a question in a language you don't even speak.

This is good, too:
I spend my life figuratively putting together the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle to get some visual semblance of my world. Have you ever tried to put together a jigsaw puzzle without having a picture of what you were putting together? That’s what every day is like for me, except I don’t even know if I have all the pieces.
The other link I think is so good is what a white cane really means. This too is written by a partially sighted woman who, like me, was well into her adult life before starting to use a cane. She went from finding no need for it, to using it when it was useful to her but getting confused looks when people also saw her do something like ride a bike or read a printed book, not understanding the special circumstances in which she put herself in order to do those things (following her husband on his bike or holding the book two inches from her nose or whatever), to carrying it all the time to avoid those comments, and then feeling annoyed by the ways in which it is inconvenient or cumbersome. I nodded along especially vehemently when she was talking about the internal debate on whether to take the cane on leaving the house:
At the same time, I try not to bow to social pressure and to only carry my cane when I truly need it physically or socially. But the repetitive conversations make that hard. There are many moments, when I stand by the front door struggling with myself. I'm not going anywhere with cars or I'm going to be with my husband every minute and I don't really need the cane to tell people I can't see in this circumstance. And yet I know I'll have to explain myself and the thought of the embarrassment makes me tend toward the cane. And the cane keeps me moving slow and cumbersome. I miss the days of freedom when I could have my hands free and move quickly without getting comments.
I remember hearing about this on an episode of In Touch, the Radio 4 show about blindness and blind people, in an episode that I happened to catch by the luckiest of chances because it seemed to be about someone in a position a lot like mine.

Here's a few minutes of this woman's interview, which I've just quickly transcribed. "I feel it actually disables me further. I'm quite able to get out and about on my own as long as I'm slow and careful. The last thing I need to do is tie up one hand with this stick which basically is not serving much practical purpose, it's just sending out a message to people around me." She says she has small children and wants/needs to hold their hand in public, and if you're carrying shopping, school bags, scooters, bus passes, "the last thing you need is to basically tie the other hand around your back. I need my hands!"

There's also the issue of not wanting to muddy the waters, not wanting to diminish the understanding that people who use white canes are "properly" blind, while also not wanting to be perceived as a fake for any sign that you're not completely sightless.
I've certainly heard horror stories of people who've been at bus stops and who've folded away their symbol cane to get on the bus and got on able to mount the steps without any problem and smile at the driver, and the people around them slightly suck their teeth. As in 'mm, you're faking it!'

At the same time, what I'm aware of when I'm out with my children without the white cane: my daughter said to me tearfully in a confessional sort of way she admitted that she sometimes finds it quite difficult being out with me without the white cane. Because she's aware of the people around me being unsure of why I'm hesitant at the top of stairs or why I'm slow in crowds or I might bump into people. I'm quite oblivious of their reactions, but she can see it because she's there with me, in some ways sort of helping me, and she says she finds this very distressing.

And I found this worrying, I found it sad for her, but at the same time I felt sorry for the people around us who are exasperated by me, because I think that people would like to have the chance to be supportive. I think if they understood more about the spectrum of visual impairment and about the different degrees, then people would step in and be much more helpful and patient.
And I think that too, actually: I think people would like to be more helpful and less exasperated, and that a lot of them would be if they knew, and I think I'd like to be less impatient and exasperated too. She didn't have an easy answer for another way to indicate partial sight, and I don't either.

I think that's because the solution to this is massive, industrial-scale public education about disability -- sight loss in particular but also disability in general, because this is basically the same problem that wheelchair users who ever stand, walk or ride bikes (what the hell is it with people thinking disabled people don't ever ride bikes?) get when someone thinks you can't possibly do any of those things and also benefit from a wheelchair. And that's way harder than I can sort out right now, because it's bedtime.
hollymath: drawing in black of owl wearing big red glasses.Words on its belly:"it's not about how you look, it's about how you see" (Default)
2016-04-26 08:02 am
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How the white gay media continues to fail trans people

This Pink News story irritates me.

I mean, not the story -- congrats to the newlyweds and good luck to the religious officials defying institutional homophobia -- but the way it's told.

Just because it's in North Carolina they mention HB2, the bill that removed all LGBT anti-discrimination ordinances and bans trans people from using public bathrooms. This nice white cis gay couple are thus seemingly the face of the fight against a bill that mostly terrorizes trans people.

And it's a story about equal marriage, the very thing that trans activists warned cis gay activists for years would distract from other fights for protections and rights and that we couldn't stop fighting once we got it.

Having lost the marriage battle, conservatives have moved swiftly on to increasing the misery and danger to trans people, and no amount of same-sex weddings is going to do anything to change that.
hollymath: drawing in black of owl wearing big red glasses.Words on its belly:"it's not about how you look, it's about how you see" (Default)
2016-04-23 09:22 pm
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I love babysitting.

Octonauts, bedtime stories, then I get to eat crisps (my host having remembered I prefer savory snacks to sweet, which makes me feel well-looked-after) and snuggle under a blanket to watch documentaries on Netflix about aliens. And in an hour or something, a couple of tipsy friends will come back and be terribly grateful that I have done this.
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2016-04-18 09:13 pm
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Weekend before last I ended up doing a lot of walking, which was really good for me after a week of brainweasels (they've been really bad lately: I lost a couple of days to just being asleep more than I was awake, I got way behind in dishes and laundry and cooking and eating and pretty much everything, and i just felt terrible all the time, while also feeling terrible about not doing anything).

This picture of all our muddy shoes is from my new WI's walking group. The weather was good, despite appearances (it'd been rainy the day before, and a few places we went still had standing water), in that very British way weather can be good: we didn't actually get rained on, it just kept seeming like we were about to!

We got the train to Wilmslow and walked along the Bollin to Styal, a village that was built for the workers at Quarry Bank Mill, and a lot of its houses are part of the estate (now owned by the National Trust).

It was a good day: packed lunches and stopping for tea in the cheap community-run cafe instead of the posh National Trust cafe, dogs running through the mud puddles, we even saw a cow that had the bad luck to be lying right near the footpath to Quarry Bank Mill so had an audience of people wondering why she was lying on her side. When one of our WI ladies suggested she might be calving, another said sympathetically "We all know what that's like!" For all Levenshulme WI is full of some not-what-you'd-expect-for-a-WI ladies, I was the only one of the half-dozen of us who wasn't the mother of grown-up children.

I contributed to the WI-ishness cliches though by having cakes with me that I shared and people said nice things about and wanted the recipe for. Everyone I've introduced to Jack Monroe's peanut butter banana muffins to seems to love them (and these didn't even have the chocolate in, because I didn't have any; I figured they'd be perfectly nice anyway and they were!). Vegan and flourless and good for anybody as long as they can have nuts and like bananas.

The day before, I'd gone to Etherow Country Park with JT & Claire & Small T,someplace they've been a lot (it's not far from them, and Claire drives; it'd be more challenging to get to by public transport), but which I hadn't been to before. It's really nice, with level paths around the water and steeper ones going up the hills and all around. We didn't have a ton of time to spend there and with a six-year-old didn't make the quickest or most direct progress, so I didn't see as much of the hills as I might have liked but I got enough of an idea of how beautiful it is.

Small had a great time feeding the ducks and geese a stale barm cake brought along specially for the purpose.

This one had followed us along the path, which runs next to the water, for quite a way... as long as Small had bread left in his plastic bag, anyway.

And I love this picture, dad pointing things out to boy. Reminds me so much of being a kid myself.

We again had lots of dogs to admire, didn't actually get rained on, ate our picnic lunch (they brought a flask of Winter Spice Ribena, which basically tastes like mulled wine but sadly has no wine in it), took Small to a nearby children's play area where he made friends with another kid who wanted to ride on the tire swing at the same time he did, and had an ice cream. A lovely day out, all in all.

I'm keen to do more of this sort of thing now that the weather's starting to improve (...sort of, I mean; we did get hail and some places had snow last Saturday). Exercise and sunshine and company; I'm looking forward to summer.
hollymath: drawing in black of owl wearing big red glasses.Words on its belly:"it's not about how you look, it's about how you see" (Default)
2016-04-15 06:25 pm


For my birthday present this year, [personal profile] magister bought my ticket to Haunted Studies: The Ghost Stories of M.R. James. We'd been along to the tail end of this last year, when [personal profile] sir_guinglain was interviewing Lawrence Gordon Clark before the showing of one of the things he directed, A Warning to the Curious. We had free wine and it was the first time I'd seen any of those "ghost stories for Christmas" kinds of things (heretical foreigner that I am; I got the box set last Christmas/birthday, though, so I shall catch up eventually and be ever-closer to a proper person, don't worry British friends), so I had a great night.

The venue added a lot to it, too: the conference was held at The Leeds Library...not a public library, a subscription library. It's small and picturesque, a great atmosphere for the kinds of people who go to M.R. James conferences -- be they academics like [personal profile] sir_guinglain and [livejournal.com profile] strange_complex or not, like [personal profile] magister and me. The four of us went along this year, and had a great time.

The four of us all went along to the whole day conference this time, and really enjoyed it. First we heard from the chief exec of the Leeds Library, an unassuming guy who told us about the history of the place -- longest-surviving subscription library in the country, able to be so because it built itself above a couple of shops that it also built, from which it gets some income. As wonderful a thing as it was, I'm glad he didn't seem at all precious about it. "You won't find a white glove in the place," he said, and the books were clearly there to be used. I hate it when you see books on shelves behind glass or otherwise reduced to a decoration, a status symbol, or a way for some kinds of rooms to tell you what they are; it makes me sad to see the books denied their useful purpose. That was certainly not the case here; we even had drinks and lunch (sandwiches and fruit were catered for everyone) in admist all the books. And readers! The library was open its usual hours (just with signs saying the New Room was being used by the conference); people were reading newspapers and chatting and taking books out as we meandered about on our breaks and lunch. By the morning break, I think, [personal profile] magister was already talking about wanting to present a paper next year, and he had a couple of great ideas for one. Conversations about which, and the kind of company and environment I was in, woke up long-dormant English-major parts of my brain and made me probably over-enthusiastically offer to help.

[livejournal.com profile] strange_complex seemed to know most of the people there, through the Dracula Society she belongs to, or I guess just living in Leeds and being the kind of person who'd like a conference about M.R. James...either way there were always friendly people to be introduced to and chat to during the breaks as well. There was also Art to look at, in the form of a work-in-progress Haunted Dollhouse (from the James story of the same name, natch) that lit up and everything, and a M.R. James-themed top-trumps card game called Monsters & Miscreants, which is even more beautiful in real life than the (somewhat-unfortunately-rendered, for me at least) website makes it look. I ended up buying a copy for [personal profile] magister (having to leave my cup of tea in a rush at the afternoon break, having heard that the guy'd almost sold out all that he'd brought with him), and the four of us ended up playing it in the pub (where I couldn't resist a pint of the Ghost ale due to the force of nominative rectitude, and very tasty it was too!)that evening before we had to catch a train back home.

It was a fun game, and it's really beautiful as well. We ended up missing our first train so had time for another pint and a lot more laughing and me shouting things like "Guardian of the Treasure!" which I'm sure made everyone in Foleys think we're even weirder than we are.

My favorite speaker of the day was Jacqueline Simpson, who talked about folklore. She started out by saying that people always expect folklore to be some grand dame telling stories to a collection of children sitting on the floor in her little cottage -- that the best stories are always thought to be two generations in the past, to have happened to our grandparents -- and ended up making me and at least one other person I chatted to think that she should be that grand dame and we wanted to hear her stories. She's also the person who co-wrote The Folklore of Discworld, which I'd read part of a few years ago, the person about whom the story that'd stuck in my mind, from the book's prologue about how Terry met her when he was going through a time of asking everybody in book-signing queues how many rhymes about magpies they knew, got a pause from her and an answer I can't remember but somewhere in the high teens. She was very interesting on the subject of how James's stories fit or differed from Danish folklore, particularly -- the padlocks in "Count Magnus" and the post in "The Rose Garden" are the ones I particularly remember (I meant to write this up much sooner, before I'd forgotten quite so much, but life has not been friendly to me lately).

My favorite part of the day was watching [personal profile] magister wander around the books in the library during all the breaks, eventually inquiring how much membership cost and how it worked. It ended up being one of those things where you can pay an instalment each month....except for the first year, which they want all of up front. I well recognized the kind of problem this left him with -- basically another kind of Vimes's Economic Law of Boots: he could pay the monthly fee easily, but couldn't pay enough to get to the monthly payments in the first place. After I checked the logistics with Andrew, though, I was glad to be able to tell him we could help him out, and that he could pay us back one month at a time. So by the wine reception at the end of this year's conference (there was no director to interview or film to watch this time; there was some kind of video art installation but basically the evening finished a lot earlier this year than it had last), he was disappearing among the books with a much more note-taking air about him, clearly piling things up in his memory to be taken out, and with many hugs and thank-yous to me for helping make this possible.

It was more than worth it to see the look on his face -- plus he's brought me along as a guest twice already now. That I live an impractical distance from Leeds is the only reason I didn't keep the membership for myself; I am in love with that place almost as much as he is I swear. Both times I've been with him to look around, I've eventually had to stop and sit and wait for him because I feel buried under the sheer weight of books I really really want to read there!

Of course I know there are other libraries available -- one at the end of my road now, for which I've even managed to get a library card (not having had one of those since I frequented Withington Library, according to the details on the computer system), but that library's not as big, not as well-loved, and not even as staffed: as with so many things, there's starting to be a big difference when you go private! Which might be there's something of a resurgance in subscription libraries (there is a lovely picture of the room we had the conference in from Leeds Library in that article).

The whole thing had got me thinking there must be a subscription library closer than Leeds...and I should've known having seen the sign for it often enough when I'm in one of my very favorite pubs in the city centre, but it's The Portico Library, which also has public areas like a gallery and a café. I've often thought I should check it out but I haven't yet.

Anyway, [personal profile] magister was showing everyone his M.R. James Top Trumps the next day, he's taken at least his own weight in books out of the library in his many trips there so far, I've not only sped through The Folklore of Discworld (liking it all the more now that I'm able to imagine bits in both authors' voices) but I'm reading other stuff thanks to [twitter.com profile] FolkloreThurs and everything it links to... I think it's fair to say this day left a pretty big impression on us. I'm really glad we got to go.
hollymath: drawing in black of owl wearing big red glasses.Words on its belly:"it's not about how you look, it's about how you see" (Default)
2016-04-03 07:59 am
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And I'm supposed to be the neurotypical one around here, goddammit

I really miss executive function. I hope mine comes back soon.
hollymath: drawing in black of owl wearing big red glasses.Words on its belly:"it's not about how you look, it's about how you see" (Default)
2016-04-01 12:22 pm

and this still presumes there's someone who'd GIVE me one

On the days when I mope and fret and hate myself because I don't have a job and I tell myself it's all because I'm lazy and afraid and weak and making excuses...

... I guess maybe I should see days like this, where I need a nap by 10:30 in the morning and I end up in a full-on hysterical anxiety attack just because I can't find something that's in the place where I put it, where even after a good day I always feel like I'm at the end of my rope...I should see days like this as some kind of an answer to what I keep asking myself: how can you not even have a job yet?
hollymath: drawing in black of owl wearing big red glasses.Words on its belly:"it's not about how you look, it's about how you see" (Default)
2016-03-30 11:03 pm
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In case I needed any confirmation that my last name is German...

So a year or so ago I got a few e-mails from someone with a similar enough name that she accidentally used my first-initial-and-surname e-mail address. There were a few more automatically-generated e-mails for Hannelore that I had no way of telling her were getting to me instead of her, but they stopped after a couple of days and I didn't think any more about it.

Until now.

It wasn't her! But this time I got what appears to be a friendly, chatty e-mail -- as far as I can tell; my German's not very good -- for someone called Hiltrud. Hiltrud! I never knew there was such a name. But apparently there was a Hiltrud[e] who was a eighth-century countess of Upper Alsace!