Solstice

Jun. 21st, 2017 10:37 pm
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It's been so hot and my hair's so thick that I shaved most of it off this evening.
A selfie where I try to show off that the sides of my head are shaved. My dark hair is longer on the top and combed off to one side.
Feels much better now. But no doubt this means the heatwave is over. You're welcome.

It's the longest day of the year in this hemisphere, a bittersweet occasion for me because I'm sad to think the days are getting shorter now already. It feels like I haven't had a chance to get used to or appreciate them yet. It's been a real catastrophe curve of a year, so time passes without me noticing it.

Iftar

Jun. 11th, 2017 12:40 am
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It's Ramadan, when Muslims fast between dawn and sunset. The meal they have after sunset is called Iftar. Hundreds of people go to my local mosque (about a minute's walk away) every evening to share the meal, and this time the mosque invited the non-Muslim community to join them for Iftar. I went along with a couple of my WI chums.

This is part of Taste Ramadan, which had ten mosques across Manchester having an open Iftar this evening. Apparently at least this mosque had done this last year, and found it really successful. Tonight there were ten, and next year they're hoping to spread it out across the whole North West.

I'd never been to such a thing, knew embarrassingly little about Ramadan (I've read a book about Islam, Reza Aslan's No Got But God, and really enjoyed it but that's pretty much it as far as my understanding goes), and the mosque had gotten good reviews from other WI members who'd been along to Visit My Mosque in February, so I was excited to go along and learn something.

And I definitely did. We had a speaker, who seemed quite scholarly/academic which might not be to everyone's taste but it was mine! he talked about the etymology of words like "Ramadan" and "Sawm" (fasting), and generally offered context which I really appreciated.

Muslims' knowledge of both other religions, especially Judaism and Christianity, more than one language and a generally wider view of the geography and history than I'm used to, always make me feel a little sheepish. It must be exhausting, I thought tonight, to have to explain yourself in the only terms white people understand sometimes: to say "fasting already existed before Muslims were told to do it" and I'm like oh, yeah, so it did... I remembered how much I resented giving up candy during Lent and wondered how I'd have coped with giving up everything.

I did think that it must be exhausting having to explain yourself to people like me, on our own terms. So basic. So spoon-feedy and hand-holdy. Everybody was lovely and gracious about it, as always has been my experience with Muslim colleagues and shopkeepers and whatnot, but that makes me feel even worse that white people are so amazed that they're not all terrorists and they do normal things like eat crisps.

He answered a few questions, one of which was about women and the other...actually I think they both were about women? One about their role in Ramadan and one about "the veil." I think he handled them very well, at first saying women's role is the same as men's in Ramadan, except they do most of the cooking and men just sit down to eat and complain about the food, and he'd rather have it the other way around. About niqab he said in so many words that what a woman chooses to wear is her own business, and told us that what is worn is mandated more by culture than religion.

Sadly he also had to make a point of condemning terrorist attacks like the recent one in Manchester, in a way that I will never be held responsible for all the shootings that white Americans do. But again he did it very skillfully, making the point that during Ramadan Muslims are meant to restrain themselves not just from eating and drinking (and sex), but also to try not to tell lies, get in arguments, etc. Much less blow up an arena.

One of the friends I was with had fasted today -- except for a cup of coffee she had to save her from a caffeine-withdrawal headache that she knew would have left her too ill to come along tonight otherwise -- and the other didn't. I didn't, but I also understood that this was in keeping with what Muslims are asked to do during Ramadan, because it would have affected my mental health so severely to not eat. But I didn't eat much (I did let myself drink as much water as I needed, because dehydration induces awful headaches and I've already had those nearly every day this week) so I was really excited for Iftar by the time it arrived.

The food was really nice, all made on site in the apparently vast kitchens, by volunteers. A few hundred people were there, and apparently feeding this many is an everyday occurrence during Ramadan. People kept coming around to see if anyone was running out of food (it never ran out, but it did need to get moved from place to place!) and to answer questions: we asked one when they started cooking these meals and he said around two o'clock in the afternoon. Imagine putting all that work into preparing the meal, having to smell the delicious curry and everything cooking, and not being able to eat it for hours!

This afternoon I was starting to marvel at how anybody managed not to eat until it was dark out (at the height of summer, anyway; I probably do this during winter without even noticing it tbh) and by half an hour before the time I was leaving for the mosque I was beginning to wonder how anybody stayed awake that long. My insomnia has been terrible this week; I hope I get more than four or five hours of sleep a night, soon. Better go try to do that then.

(Here's a picture that has me and my friends in it, though you can't really tell. This is only a fraction of the number of people there, but you get the idea.)
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Image of me, dark hair, pale skin, glasses and a big smile, holding up my Certificate of Naturalisation
Style guide: I'd appreciate not being called "British." I have UK citizenship, but I don't feel British. I'm not really sure why this is -- it's not like being American has given me a lot to be proud of in...well, my lifetime -- but that's where I'm at now.

Along with your certificate you're given for some reason a fancy-looking pen that is actually pretty cheap...

...and a few pages of stuff like "now you can apply for a passport" and a letter from, in my case, the Lord Mayor of Manchester (or the guy who was until a few weeks ago) and also a letter from the Home Secretary. Or, actually, not.

For those lucky enough not to recognize her, that's Theresa May, who hasn't been Home Secretary in more than a year. Racist van Theresa May. "Hostile environment" Theresa May. Ruining the country just so she can leave the EU and get rid of immigrants and human rights Theresa May.

I started yelling on the bus when I saw this.

The letter genuinely contains the only positive thing I've ever seen attributed to Theresa May on the subject of immigrants -- "The talents, background and experiences you are bringing with you are very important to us" -- but it's still very "we will extract all the usefulness out of you!" and also is full of "respect each other's cultures and faiths" and "democracy, law and tolerance" when just this week she's been saying there's too much of those things and human rights threaten our safety. Hmm.

I know there's going to be a certain amount of rose-tintedness in anything like this (it reminds me so much of my civics textbooks), but the hypocrisy of this just makes me sad.

I was much more cheerful when [personal profile] po8crg called me on his lunch break, to congratulate me but of course being us we also ended up talking about the Glorious Revolution, Turkish workers in Germany, and what I want the Wonder Woman sequel to be.

I didn't know it was what I wanted the Wonder Woman sequel to be, until we were talking about it. It started with him saying "They had to set it all the way back in WWI, or otherwise she'd have been stateless and no country would have let her in" (border controls are so recent! I don't think a lot of people appreciate this) so of course we started wondering what would happen if she'd arrived any time in the last hundred years or so: fresh off the boat from Themyscira, she'd have no papers and no one would have even heard of the place she claims to be from. When the UK wants to deport people but can't, it sends them to places like Yarl's Wood [tw for sexual abuse at that link]. We can imagine Diana's reaction to that.

And her inevitably breaking out.

And making sure everyone else does too.

Yeah, I'd watch the hell out of that movie.

And it ticks all the boxes that a critique of Wonder Woman I read this morning wants for the sequel: you'd definitely have a cast mostly of women of color because that's who ends up in immigration detention centers. And humanizing their plight like this movie did with the villagers in No Man's Land could be so amazing. Women writers, and women behind the camera, could make that awesome.

It me

Apr. 25th, 2017 02:53 pm
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Here's me doing The Worst Clerical Job in the World on Saturday. I look happy because [twitter.com profile] LadyPHackney, who was taking the picture, made me laugh...so it turned out okay I think.

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There's a by-election where I live. Sadly it's been triggered by the death of our MP, but he was in his 80s and had been an MP for 47 years so if ever the phrase "good innings" applied...

A week ago my local Lib Dems selected our candidate, so Jackie who I'm used to talking with in the pub about science fiction and theatre is now the face and signature on hundreds of letters I stuffed into envelopes for six or seven hours this afternoon. I did see her today but we never seemed to finish a conversation without her being dragged away in the middle of it to do something more important. She's not used to having this high a profile, but the party's throwing a lot of resources at this election, which makes it exciting for everyone and hopefully not too overwhelming for her. Still she did help a lot with this unglamorous clerical work here (though she's not in this picture).

Having helped out on a by-election in confusing distant Oxfordshire, I only have to walk two minutes down the road this time, but in other ways they feel remarkably similar. I do hope to see as many friends, and make as many new friendly acquaintances, here as I did I'm Witney.

I'm terrible at the canonical Lib Dem activity of putting leaflets through doors because I can't read street signs or house numbers, but I like doing clerical work other people find hideously tedious, because you get to talk to people. And you're never far from the tea and snacks!

Plus today there was a dog. Candidog. He's called Ozzy.
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Ozzy is veteran of other by-elections too, most recently Stoke, and was a very good boy, mooching around and making me smile by nudging up against my leg when I was least expecting it, letting me pet him with fingers smudged with ink and sticky from envelope glue. Definite morale boost.
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I took this picture on Tuesday night, for the #loveknowsnoborders campaign, started by [twitter.com profile] ZoeJardiniere, which you can read about. It's close to my heart because while obviously I was able to move to the UK to be with my spouse, his income only barely exceeded the requirement at that time, £15,000. The current income requirement to bring a foreign (non-EU...for now, anyway) spouse to the UK is £18,600, which might not sound like much but that would've kept me out of the country for all but a few years of our marriage so far.

It's especially unfair if the British partner is a woman, a person of color, young (in your 20s, ages at which many people including us get married), or otherwise on the wrong side of a pay gap, which makes it even harder to reach that arbitrary income. (Part of the reason we ended up here rather than in the U.S. is that Andrew is more able to earn a good income than I am, which is basically just down to the patriarchy.) It's the same threshold all over the country, too, so it'd be much harder for people living outside London to clear that income threshold.

It's also infuriatingly inconsistent, not that we can expect better of our governments of course. This income is supposed to guarantee that neither the foreigner nor their British spouse need to resort to state funds -- which they're not allowed to do. But years later when I couldn't work and was allowed to apply for benefits, I found that I wasn't entitled to any income-related benefits because my partner worked more than 24 hours a week. It could be 24 minimum-wage hours a week and yet this was expected to be enough for us to live on? Even though it'd be a damn sight less than £18,600 a year. (A tweet I saw yesterday said that working full time on £7.20 an hour isn't enough.)

#loveknowsnoborders made for interesting reading yesterday, for all those who were able to celebrate thoroughly multinational backgrounds, raltionships, addresses and children, there were also people saying "my valentine hasn't been able to bring me to live with her in the UK for four years" or whatever, which my brain just rebels from being able to even imagine.

Clearly the hashtag is an aspiration and not a reality so far, but reading it gave me all kinds of feelings and I wanted to be a part of it. I didn't have the brains or energy to of a video, even if Andrew would've tolerated it which I don't think likely. So I just took a picture, where you can't hear the low in-your-throat growl he's doing, like a dog who isn't barking yet but is warning you, and tweeted it.
My husband hates having his photo taken but he hates systemic xenophobia towards me more! That's how bad it is, folks.
A decision is expected next week on what's known as the MM case, a judgment that will affect thousands of families affected by the Family Migration Rules. There's a good explanation of that case here, from last year.
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#Muslimban protest today.

I had a chance to make a sign, modeled on a piece of art my friend Maria shared from [twitter.com profile] MoonStoneClare:

Here's my version:

Here's me standing with a lot of my friends who were there (including a new friend I made because the aforementioned Maria who's in Swansea mentioned both of us as having been at the Manchester demo. She's an immigrant and she knows someone in Edinburgh who is from Wisconsin who's found out ways to help out there from over here so I look forward to picking her brains about that!).

And since I was holding my sign almost all the time ("You must have strong arms like a rower's!" Birgitta said at one point; I don't really but I do feel totally vindicated in not being able to be at yoga tonight!), I didn't take many pictures but I couldn't resist this sign. Birgitta told me people were taking selfies with him in a "now here's more than one..." kind of way but I thought a picture of just him was easier.

I'm really glad there were Lib Dems there, marching as Lib Dems. We did have someone yell something about tuition fees and call us pricks, but honestly at this point that seems so fucking quaint. When a Nazi's writing Trump's executive orders, I wish I had nothing better to care about than one mismanaged decision the Lib Dems had five years ago. Meanwhile we have 82,000 members, 3786 ("as of an hour or so ago..." says Andrew who found that figure for me, clearly expecting it to have nudged up another one or two since then!) in the last three months, and we're trying to save the country from Brexit which is more than you can say for the rest of the parties with more than 9 MPs (in England anyway).

Hywel made the point at Winter Strategy Conference that we should be out there doing these things as Lib Dems (at least some of the time; almost every Lib Dem I know has a lot of hats to wear: some of us were draped in bi flags today) and I find myself definitely agreeing. It feels so good to be part of a party that's got my back here as I'm watching my country fall apart from a distance and mostly feeling pretty helpless about it.

Garydog

Oct. 22nd, 2016 06:02 pm
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I dreamed last night that Gary the Wonder Dog died. I was away somewhere and Andrew told me. I cried and cried. I looked at pictures of him on my phone and cried. But then somehow when I got back home Andrew had been wrong and he was fine and I thought my heart would burst from happiness. (Gary has shown up in my dreams before to cheer me up and I don't think my subconscious was willing to keep him away for too long.)

Then Andrew woke me up to tell me it was late and gary'd probably want to be let outside, so I went downstairs and he didn't need a wee but he curled up on my lap under a blanket and was so warm and furry and sweet and I was so happy he's there.

And then facebook told me it'd been a year since he came to live with us. We didn't know then he'd be here for good; it might just have been for a couple of months. And I posted these pictures that day.


Happy year-with-us, Gary the Wonder Dog.

Bi election

Oct. 2nd, 2016 10:24 am
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So the UK's erstwhile Prime Minister David Cameron couldn't stay PM -- as the Indepedent wonderfully said, "He had stepped down as Prime Minister the morning of the 24 June European Union referendum result after it became clear he had accidentally taken Britain out of the bloc" -- but he didn't want to go back to just being an ordinary MP.

"It isn’t really possible to be a proper backbench MP as a former prime minister," he said, even though other people have done it. "I think everything you do would become a big distraction and a big diversion," he said. "I don’t want to be that distraction. I want Witney to have a new MP..." as if a having to fight a by-election is less distracting.

So we're fighting a by-election. The Lib Dems are rallying round, to the extent of people all over the country going along to help out, donating money, or bringing/sending essentials like homemade cake, boxes of envelopes, and a sledgehammer.

Yesterday, [livejournal.com profile] diffrentcolours, Sarah and I came down for the day. It was very good of [livejournal.com profile] diffrentcolours to do all that driving to Oxfordshire and back in a day, especially when on the way his intermittent windshield-wiper problem became unfixable and since of course you only find problems with windshield wipers when it's raining, it rendered the car undriveable. On the side of a motorway.Handily, since we had to get out of the car and behind the barrier, there was an overpass to keep the rain off us. (Mostly; it was so noisy than when [livejournal.com profile] diffrentcolours was talking to his insurance people and the recovery people he had to go up to the road above us to stand in the rain just so he could hear at all.)

Here's me and Sarah, when she said "I think this calls for a selfie."And while it was cold enough for us to keep telling each other "this could be a lot worse!"...it really could have been a lot worse. The rest of the car was working fine, and [livejournal.com profile] diffrentcolours had been able to give enough details about the problem that we hoped the recovery people could get it fixed on the roadside in a few minutes. And we were a priority because we were stuck on the motorway.

And it did end up being a five-minute job, as we'd hoped. About an hour from when the wipers practically whipped off of the windshield, we were on our way again with them working perfectly.

Soon we were in Witney, where [livejournal.com profile] diffrentcolours and I soon put his sledgehammer to work, pounding stakeboards into the ground in the gardens of people who'd volunteered to have them. Other people had gotten the sort of "low-hanging fruit" and were able to do about 20 of these, we got the odds and sods of widely dispersed locations in this rural constituency ([livejournal.com profile] diffrentcolours reckoned we did about 50 miles of driving around yesterday afternoon), and we had some adventures getting lost, annoying neighbors who didn't like our stakeboard, fighting with hedges, standing precariously on walls or upturned plastic bins -- even [livejournal.com profile] diffrentcolours wasn't tall enough not to need help reaching the top of these stakeboards!)
He took a picture of me for propaganda purposes at one point, but I really like it.It was about six o'clock and we hadn't really eaten since our road-trip food that morning (banana, cereal bar, pasty, you know how it is) so we went for a lovely meal in the nearby Como Lounge nearby, and then went back to HQ to help with clerical stuff: addressing envelopes, putting double-sided tape on window posters...not glamorous stuff but it makes a difference. I think a lot of people find it dull but it's my favorite kind of Lib Dem work really; more blind-friendly than most of it, there are usually people to chat to (or in my case usually, listen to as they're telling each other horrible puns or getting into weird conversations about past, present or hypothetical legal/political situations...normal Lib Dem stuff).

Soon enough all the locals and people staying overnight were going to the pub, and sadly we had to go back to Manchester. But not before one more photo was taken!

I'd seen someone on Twitter refer to this -- a mere spelling infelicity rather than a knowing pun -- as a bi election, so I'd said it would be when we were there, etc, and tagged all my tweets about the day with #bielection. So [livejournal.com profile] differentcolours brought along a bi flag and...Neil, who took that picture, said "If I put this on Facebook are you going to make some horrible pun about it?" and I don't know if it was a request or something he dreaded.

But of course we did!

The drive back to Manchester was thankfully less eventful than the one there had been; I got dropped off at home about sixteen hours after I'd been picked up. A long day but we all loved it, were sad we couldn't stay over, and are seriously wondering if we can make it to Witney again before the election.

Oxford

Jul. 5th, 2016 12:29 am
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Went to Oxford last weekend!

James had rung me a week before, asking what I was up to. Not a lot...why? His ex Mary had asked him if he'd wanted to go to Oxford; the tutor who helped get her through her degree was retiring, there was a fancy dinner and poetry and everything. He had to work, but suggested me and now was ringing me to see if I'd like to go.

I was sad he couldn't -- he'd gone to the same college, it was how they met, and he's been talking with me about how we should go visit anyway. But since he couldn't go, hell yes I wanted to. One of the few things he, Andrew (who had a couple of weeks at a residential summer school there when he was working on a distance-learning diploma) and Stuart (who'd lived in one of the colleges when his dad worked there, or something) all agree that I'd love Oxford; I'd never been. And I'd met Mary a few times and we got along, but she lives for away so I think I've seen her at the rate of an afternoon per year for the couple of years I'd known her so far; it'd be nice to increase that ratio a bit!

This was the view I was met with as soon as we got our keys and directions to our room and everything -- we were staying at the college, St Edmunds Hall, which is awesome and also pretty cheap if you used to be a student there (I'm already planning to take advantage of James for this purpose in the future!).

We got there on Friday evening, from our opposite directions (Mary lives in Norwich). She offered to meet me at the train station and told me exactly where she was when she got there before I did, so A++ on how to be nice to your blind friends, there. We got a taxi, got lost finding our room, unpacked and of course went straight for the student bar.

We got the one cask ale they had in plastic cups so we could sit out in the evening sun. We went to the library, which is in what used to be a church, and sat on a bench looking into the churchyard.

After nearly-sleepless nights and the terrible referendum news, and Mary in particular having a stressful journey because she had to get across London and the slings and arrows of floods, getting lost and Brexiters being horrible to her all conspired to justify the drink.

After lovely Mediterranean food at the Queens Lane Coffee House nearby (we shared a platter, and I'd forgotten how nice it was to be eating with another vegetarian so we could say "those chiles are perfectly spicy, aren't they?" and "do you think the hummus is homemade?" and just share the experience like that), and a bimble that ended in the White Horse where we swapped pints halfway through to find out which was better (answer: the Wayland Smithy (which actually looks like a pretty interesting thing itself!, from the White Horse brewery itself), it'd been a long day after an even longer night so we were in bed before too long.

We got breakfast with our room, but only between eight and nine. Which seemed barbaric but we managed to drag ourselves down to the dining hall at a quarter to nine, for mushrooms that tasted like they'd been marinated in butter and glamorgan sausages. Mary was amazed to see veggie sausages, this not being something she could've expected twenty years ago. She told me a story about the chef they had at the time, an Italian who hated vegetarians for some reason and gave one student who asked for a meat-free meal a plate of dry pasta with a fried egg on top.

It's just as well we had breakfast early, because the event we were there for started at lunchtime. We had sparkling wine as everyone turned up, Mary got to speak to her tutor and did a better job of not crying than she worried she would. This woman clearly meant a lot to many of the people there, spanning a few decades in age. It was nice to see.

People, including the tutor when Mary had a chance to say hello, seemed to think we were a couple. I saw some Looks when one of us referred to the other as "my friend" -- even though that's 100% true, of course! The nice lady sitting the other side of me at dinner asked how we knew each other, Mary said I was the current partner of her ex, and this woman said "I find that very strange, ladies" with the sort of directness that I'm so unaccustomed to that I laughed in surprise. I think we'd have been better off just letting people think we were a couple.

Then, poetry!

This was the view I had of the front of the room where all this took place. I particularly like the seventies wallpaper and deep shadows of the guy on the right; he looks like he's in a detective story. It was all terribly atmospheric. And which a nice view out on the quad.

When an English tutor retires, her students come back and read poetry, the first half mostly texts she'd taught (lots of romantics), but my favorite thing was an unexpected but lovely version of "Matty Groves" -- Mary said she was sad to learn this was one of the versions that did not end happily. She also put her head next to mine and whispered a recitation of "When You Are Old" as it was being read, which makes her a BAMF in my books. And, having decided she couldn't read the poem she wanted to without crying, and having been reassured by the tutor that she'd cry too so Mary should read it anyway, I hurriedly copied out "Surprised by Joy" on the back of the running order and she snuck into it.

That night we were thinking of going to see a Bach Mass in the Sheldonian Theatre but instead stumbled upon a "ghost walk" tour and since I loved that one in York I've been looking out for them since as a fun way to learn about some history and architecture and whatnot. Mary and I joked this one was more like a "shag tour" than a ghost tour, with a supposed lover of Good Queen Bess killing his wife to run off with her, and a teenager who killed herself after her French soldier sweetheart disappeared from down the street one day. We also didn't ingratiate ourselves too much to the tour guide, getting excited and saying stuff like "Hamlet's father?" to each other which turned out to be the dramatic reveal he was working up to. My favorite was when he was talking about this strange frieze

and told us about the imagery supposed to depict the Christian apocalypse. The star, he said, was Wormwood, which fell to earth and poisoned the poisoned the waters. "And in 1986..." he started.

"Chernobyl means 'wormwood'!" Mary said, at about the same time as I was saying "Halley's comet appeared in 1986!"

I think he wanted to add us both to the list of untimely deaths he was talking about, by that point.

The walk finished at a very narrow alley (St Helens Passage, it said on the sign, but we were told this was a polite version of Hell Passage) with a lamppost at the end of it...which of course is associated with the entrance to Narnia. But we were told there was a good pub at the end of it, called Turf Tavern because it had been built in what was the ditch just outside the city walls. We found it very nice indeed, stayed longer than we meant, and got lost trying to leave so maybe it's more like Narnia than we thought.

On Sunday morning, we went punting.

Such an Oxford thing to do! And I'd never been before. Mary hadn't since she lived in Oxford. After a few quick instructions from the boat-hire place, off we were.

Soon the perils of having a dyspraxic punter with a poor sense of direction became apparent, though! I ended up trying it myself, marveling at how stupid a means of locomotion it is to just have a big heavy long stick to get your boat around with. I'm used to kayaks and canoes, smooth and efficient. I helped my cousin's five-year-old on a kayak last summer, for goodness' sake, and she could practically get us around on her own, while remaining perfectly safe and comfortable.

It wasn't the first time that Mary had said "I'm gonna fall in!" but the last time she said it was followed with a sort of resigned-to-the-inevitable expression on her face that meant I had a little warning when she, in fact, did. The water was so cold she took a while to catch her breath, so I was worried until she could tell me she was okay. But before she regained the power of speech, I saw one arm rise out of the water, and throw one of her slip-on sandals back into the boat, at which point I knew if she was worried about her shoes she was probably okay.

She started laughing, and so did I. I could hardly move, even though I was trying to get the huge useless stick out of the way so it didn't hit her or anything, and then trying to see if there was a phone number on the little map we'd been provided from the boat hire place.

Of course there happened to be people walking along the footpath next to the river just in time to see all this. Two men were laughing and taking pictures of this


One of them shouted "If you can get over to the shore, we'll punt you back," which I thought was a very generous offer. "You'll have to tell us your number and we'll text the pictures to you," one of them said.

Mary, hoisting herself onto the shore, said, "Well, this is a novel way to pick up blokes!" got them to share a look and uncomfortably say they were gay. "So are we! That's okay," Mary said.

One of them had apparently been a rower at Oxford, he said he'd only been punting once but he was a damn sight better at it than we'd been. By this point we wouldn't have been back in time to not have to pay extra for overrunning our boat hire if they hadn't been there to save us! As we got near the place and saw other groups going out in their punts, middle-class families with Dad punting and the kids in the middle and Mum looking horrified at Mary who cheerfully greeted everyone we passed with "I fell in the river!" Their expressions reminded me of that King George line in "I Know Him": "I wasn’t aware that was something a person could do."

We'd checked out of our room just before the punting adventure, but the kind man let us back in so Mary could shower and change clothes. And then it was off to the Museum of the History of Science with [personal profile] sir_guinglain. The history of science is practically my favorite thing, and the company and conversation were just as good as the surroundings. We went for lunch and, after a couple of days in a room where the wi-fi didn't work, I felt like Mary and I were slowly re-entering a crazy new world. I started to see our lack of internet as a blessing; I think we picked the best possible weekend to be offline!

It was a perfect weekend, just what I needed. I wish all my chums suffering post-referendum could've had one like it.

Walking

Apr. 18th, 2016 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.

Color

Mar. 12th, 2016 08:29 pm
hollymath: (Default)
I dyed my hair purple a week or two ago.



I loved that color (slightly to my surprise! purple isn't what I'd normally go for first, but I didn't choose this; I got it from a friend who had too little left to dye her own hair again but it was the perfect amount for mine), but it started fading almost immediately.

Now it's got very faint traces of purple, but is mostly kind of silvery-grey that makes me (and Andrew, who told me this without knowing I was already thinking it) think maybe this is what I'll look like when I'm old.

It's better than the "brassy" blond I was otherwise, seeing as how no matter how I bleach my hair it never goes lighter than orange!
hollymath: (Default)


Gary and I have spent most of the day lying/sleeping on the couch.

I dragged one of the duvets downstairs and Andrew came over to tuck us under it (Gary has a Spike-esque love of being under blankets, especially head-first so sometimes you can see his tail sticking out and wagging gently).

"Funny, isn't it," I said as he draped the duvet over us, "as soon as you start your oh-noes-immunosuppressant-everyone-stay-away drugs, everyone else in your household gets sick." I've got Yet Another sinus infection; Gary probably ate something he shouldn't have off the ground on one of his walks the other day.

yahrzeit

Nov. 24th, 2015 01:35 pm
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Ten years ago my brother died.

It was in the early hours of the morning on Thanksgiving. He'd been out with friends for a drink, because all his old high school buddies were back in town for the holiday. It was only five miles drive home.

He wasn't drunk, the roads weren't bad, the weather wasn't bad. It was just one of those things.

It bugs me that almost no one I know now ever got the chance to meet him. My life has changed so much that it feels completely disconnected, and I'm going around mourning something no one else understands, a holiday they don't even here, something that I've never really known how to deal with.

I don't have a lot of words, but I scanned and uploaded some pictures a day or two after he died, when we were getting a collection of them together to be shown at the visitation and funeral. Here they are, with what I said about them to my LJ audience in 2005.


Read more... )
hollymath: (Default)
My mom left the gold hard hat as the centerpiece of the dining room table until I got home to see it. For once it's my dad who thinks something's silly and her who's sticking up for it.

I'm so glad I got to see it; it's awesome. Not just spray-painted gold, but bedecked with stickers too.



hollymath: (Default)
 photo IMG_20150424_144240.jpg

Having told [personal profile] magister I'd rather do things than have things as presents, he arranged for us to go visit his sister and brother-in-law, who live in Hove, for a long weekend.

Yes, nowhere near my birthday. I knew it'd be in the new year. March was the first time everybody's schedules coincided and trains conspired against us then, so it got pushed back a month. Which seemed devastating at the time (my ambitions for this year having led me only to frustration and the conviction that nothing was ever going to get better and I wasn't capable of any of the tasks confronting me...in other words, I really really needed a break), but probably meant we had nicer weather for it than we would've otherwise. Which is good since our interests are mostly wandering around, looking for bookshops and nice pubs and parks to sit in and suchlike.

We arrived not long before James's sister and brother-in-law finished work on the Thursday. I'd seen their house extremely briefly when we were there for their wedding last summer, but this time it really left an impression on me. I loved almost everything about it: the black-and-white paving on the front walk which I said reminded me of dazzle ships, the wooden floor, even how white all the walls were painted.

Having helped and talked with my friends a lot about decorating lately I am compulsively noticing the color of everyone's walls, but I think this would've been striking anyway: everything was white. Which my fellow DIY friends have both described as "cold" or "clinical" lately, but to me this looked simple, clean and elegant and bright, especially with the ridiculous amounts of sunshine that greeted our arrival. I spent the whole weekend admiring this and wanting to make it work in my house, though I fear we, and our house, are too scruffy to pull it off.

I do want these shutters, though.



This isn't a great picture of them (oh look, there's my finger in the corner of the shot; I am so good at this) but hopefully you get the idea. They can be folded over the windows, and the slats on each section can easily be turned to whatever angle you want, too. It'd get rid of the horrible net curtains (which Andrew insists on but I hate), would keep us from slowly pulling the horrible curtains off the horrible curtain hooks, and just make me really happy, I think.

Our white room had (in addition to more of these shutters) a lush white duvet and white towels neatly laid out on it when we arrived. I could easily have believed I was staying in a B&B. Only it was, for me, way better than a B&B: it wasn't bed and breakfast, it was bed and dinner. I got my own cornflakes and tea for breakfast, but I couldn't help with dinner beyond the extent to which hanging out in the kitchen with a glass of wine and chatting was help. Of course there are few things I love more than someone else cooking for me, but even so I luxuriated in the food and drink I got this weekend.

[personal profile] magister and I even managed to find a great Italian restaurant that gave us simple food made from amazing ingredients at a price that didn't make our poor northern wallets cry. (Poor James was horrified at the price of the beer we got while waiting in London between trains, and at everything in Brighton. I knew Brighton was as bad as London but this kept coming as a shock to him.)

That was on the Friday, when we were on our own while normal people were working. We walked from Hove to Brighton. Having been given the directions "go to the seafront and turn left," we only realized when we left the house that no one had exactly told us what direction the sea was in. James said we could stop and ask anyone and I said I was not going to go up to a stranger and say "Where is the sea?" Anyway we struck out and found we were heading in more or less the right direction.

We walked along the seafront until I started recognizing stuff from the other time I've been in Brighton, Autumn Liberal Democrat Conference in 2012. I loved Brighton then: getting up at eight to be on the LGBT+ Lib Dems stall by nine, talking to people all day who thought we already had equal marriage or wondering what the acronym stood for, wanting all of Jen's badges (especially "Vince was right" and "coalicious," though), getting Jeremy Browne's photo taken in front of our banner holding a little teddy bear, forgetting to eat, arguing with people on one subject and agreeing vehemently with them on the next, shouting Awkward-Squad things in the debates, having someone (probably [livejournal.com profile] diffrentcolours remind me to eat, going back to [livejournal.com profile] plumsbitch's where I was staying, where he'd have likely made something amazing to eat and we'd stay up until four in the morning drinking wine, listening to music, chatting...and then I'd wake up at eight again the next morning and start the whole process over again. I was almost dead by the end of it, especially after Glee Club that last night, but I loved it.

So anyway, I knew by the time we walked past the cinema it was time to turn left again, off the seafront, because after that it was just tat and fish-and-chips shops, so we walked down what I now know is Queens Road and found a secondhand bookshop and two chocolate shops on the same road. I bought myself a book there on the history of women in the Middle Ages, and then I bought a bunch of chocolate -- I didn't know Montezuma was based in Sussex but having learned this I now think they're keeping all the best stuff for themselves. We bought white chocolate for [personal profile] miss_s_b and mint chocolate to share because that's my favorite, and oh man it was the best mint chocolate I've ever had in my life.

After the lovely Italian lunch, we went to the toy museum.



It was only little, and I was expecting a lot of stuff-I-didn't-recognize, but they had a bunch of trains too so that was all right.





But I got nearly as excited about the freight trains as the passenger ones; my sentimentality about trains knows no limits.





I took this picture thinking I don't know what the Great Dorset Steam Fair might be, but it sounds like I'd like it:



There were dolls and toy kitchen appliances and baby buggies there too, but we of course ignored all that stuff.

We got a bus back and spent a quiet afternoon with TMS on the internet-phone-radio. Helen came home from work, we all went to the pub and then had Lebanese takeaway, which was gorgeous. And an early night, because we're rock-and-roll that way.

Saturday morning we walked to Brighton again, going a different way so that we could look in on Sussex Country Cricket Ground, which we'd seen signs for the previous day and we'd even checked if they had cricket we could go see, but the last match had ended on Wednesday. Still we walked up to it and poked around a bit, took a peek at the grounds through a fence, found an open door and admired some action shots of cricketers and plaques with the names of all the chairmen and captains and England players for the county until someone heard us and told us in the most polite British way to go away, so we did.

On to Brighton, then.

We walked through some markets that seemed half-Camden and half-Longsight to me. There was a shop with a couple of t-shirts I liked, though; one James suggested I get for Andrew that said "Normal People Scare Me" (which would've been true but not at all in the sneering-goth way it was intended by the look of the rest of the shop) and one I wanted for me so much that I'm really sad they only had one in a tiny size.



"It's not about how you look, it's about how you see" seemed particularly apt with me using my still-novel white cane a lot and making tons of comments about how the numbers on buses were easier to see and James noting that I got a lot of double-takes when I walked down the street with my cane in one hand, looking down at my phone in the other. He said he really wanted to stage-whisper at me "You're supposed to be blind!" but didn't because he knows I don't have much of a sense of humor for these things. But we both agreed that's a shame, because it would've been really funny. I worry enough about being thought a scrounger or faker as it is anyway, though, because I use it some-but-not-all the time and because I do stuff (like stare daggers at people who sneak in front of me in queues thinking I won't notice) that "gives away" that I can see at least a little.

We did eventually walk down the pier, either because we hadn't before or because the amusement arcade in it featured toilets we could use; I can't remember which. I didn't take a picture of the almost-life-size plastic cows or the tables with legs that look like cow legs this time, because I was pretty sure I had done that last time, but I couldn't resist a photo of the tin-can-knocking-over game which was decorated with minions.



(For anyone who hasn't seen Despicable Me, this video will illustrate why I wouldn't think you'd want to remind carnival-game players of that movie:


)

Also, at the end of the pier, there was a wagon with steps leading up to it wherein, apparently, you could get a tarot reading.



Ivor. Ivor the tarot wagon.

I bought overpriced doughnuts because they smelled so good, and we ate them walking back up the pier and watching people in those bungee-jump chairs which I'm always tempted to try, but I didn't think they'd be very good on a day when I was wearing a dress.

I did enjoy Brighton, but I felt a bit out of place, too. It's very white and very middle-class, and I'm...not. I mean, I am white, of course, but I feel uneasy in such overwhelmingly white company. I know Brighton prides itself on its diversity but I also know people who find it frustrating or damaging because they're too far from the white, straight, cis, non-disabled norm: being gay is okay but being anything else seems less so, and heaven help you if you're more than one other thing. I had a nice visit and I'd happily return, especially to the generous and accommodating company of James's sister and her husband, but it did make me appreciate my scruffy, beloved Levenshulme all the more on my return.

Plus, the water doesn't taste like metal here.

Saturday night we had a barbecue: lamb koftas for the others and mushrooms and halloumi and corn on the cob for me. Well, I think they all had all those things too! Then we watched a movie from a set James had picked up in CEX that day. It was called Homecominmg and it was completely amazing. Very funny, in that way that horror movies sometimes are which may or may not be intentional. It's about a thinly-veiled version of the U.S.'s recent wars in Afghanistan/Iraq, full of cynical, bald-faced lying politicians who are shown up when soldiers start coming back from the dead as zombies who want nothing more than to...vote for someone else to be president. I thought I'd seen every possible take on zombies but zombies voting absolutely charmed me. I loved it. And considering how much my horror-loving friends overlap with my politically-involved friends, I think a lot of people I know would like it too.

Then we went to bed early and woke up early and spent most of yesterday traveling back. Getting the trains to and from London via Brighouse was ace -- the Grand Central trains there are cheaper and better than the Virgin trains from Manchester in every conceivable way, except it does mean it's a long day for me if I make the whole journey back at once. But we broke it up a bit with an hour in Brighouse, with a late lunch from the chippy and a nice pint of beer in our favorite pub there, basking in sunshine the likes of which we'd not seen in the last couple of days by the seaside, no doubt an indication again that Yorkshire is God's chosen county.
hollymath: (Default)


Lady and small child carefully examining this train which has just pulled into the station.
hollymath: (Default)


I'm sure it's purest coincidence that it was the train conductor I immediately thought was cute (she clearly had a sense of humor) who left me a heart on my ticket.

me

Sep. 17th, 2014 11:39 pm
hollymath: (Default)
Here's a picture of me at [personal profile] magister's sister's wedding. I rather like it.

 photo wedding-1.png

(There's another one I like of the very brief period between where James asked if I wanted to dance and when he said "I don't like dancing." The photo's taken from a crazy angle that makes my looking-up-at-him-thinking-you're-too-tall expression look even more ridiculous than my expressions normally are. But I like that one, too.)
hollymath: (Default)
cake with candles spelling out "happy birthday" and a big sparkler-thing shooting out fire

[livejournal.com profile] diffrentcolours got this amazing sparkler-thing for my birthday cake. People were looking nervous and leaning away from it; that's how you know it's good.


me in a jumper that says "happy holly days", standing under some "happy birthday" bunting

[livejournal.com profile] greyeyedeve coerced me into buying this jumper months ago, saying I had to wear it around my family for Christmas. I wore it for my birthday too, because what more of a Holly day could there be?

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