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Andrew found out last week that "Tim Peake's spacecraft" was going to be at the Media Museum and the museum had developed a Thursday "late" around it and the general concept of space and he thought I'd be interested. It did sound good.

Though not enough to stop me being grumpy that the Soyuz capsule wasn't brought to Manchester. It'd be a much better fit at MOSI, which not only has "science" in the name and concept of the thing without having to be wedged in with a crowbar, but actually has an Air and Space Hall. That hardly ever has any "space" stuff in it! But noooo, we had to trek all the way to Bradford for this, so it was a good thing the event was free because travel was about twenty quid and we were aware of how capricious the trains home could be.

I'd seen a Soyuz at the National Space Centtre in Leicester, but that was the full thing, all the modules looking if not pristine (it's fifty years old) at least clearly not having actually been to space. (You can see pictures and info about it at that link.) This thing, on the other hand, looked more like a sixties Doctor Who prop.


Which makes sense: it's of about the same vintage. Very little has changed for Soyuz, and the fact that it's still (and once again the only) way to get into space kind of blows my mind. The pictures I have here were all of side most blackened by heat when this particular capsule returned to the Earth. The other side of it was still burned, but a sort of rich brown color rather than charcoal black.

The ropes are to the parachute that was displayed with it, hung from the ceiling of the two-story high atrium where you first come into the museum. It was mostly draped and wrapped up and still ridiculously huge -- and of course only one of the parachutes Soyuz needs, but this was referred to as the "main" one and I think it is the biggest.

People kept trying to peer into the windows and I couldn't see a lot but Andrew told me it was nice and analogue in there: big buttons, well-labeled switches, luckily no touchscreens here! He also said there was a sign that said "help! man aboard" or something, and something he presumed was the same in Russian, visible through one of the windows I took these pictures through.

So we heard a little talk on that and while I was glad the museum was keeping the activities clearly meant for the school trips around for adults, who got their faces painted and made Mars rovers powered by balloons and stuff, the rest of what we happened to do was classic Media Museum stuff.

First we went to see the Moon landing on vintage TVs.

I think the one nearer to me in the picture here was from the late fifties, and the smaller one (you can't really tell from this crappy picture but it was in color!) was from the mid-sixties, so both could have been used to watch the Moon landing -- though we saw it because these have been converted to take digital format video, and since the BBC did erase the video tapes of the Moon landing, we were just watching the raw NASA footage for a few minutes, which was kind of great in itself and honestly probably better than listening to Patrick Moore and James Burke burble on about it?

The curator for this was great, talking about what it would've been like as an experience: the Moon landing happened at something like four in the morning UK time, and since NASA had a couple of hours' worth of film sent with the astronauts they just let it play. It was a big deal to have video cameras recording for hours at that time (never mind in space!) and it was the first time British TV broadcast all night long. She set the scene really well, and got everyone to give Neil Armstrong a round of applause when he said his famous words. She was clearly used to school groups too, unable to hide her amazement when somebody (of course it was Andrew) could tell her which channel was the first to broadcast in color.

We also went to Insight, both thinking as we did that the last time we were there we saw Dracula's teeth, to see a bunch of photos and similar that at least vaguely related to space. As always with anything like this I was much more interested than I thought I would be when I first had it described. The media museum is great for displaying some of these items it has that it can't usually show the public, and again there were curators and other volunteers telling us about everything.

So we saw some magic lantern slides (a sort of very early slide projector)...

...some 3D pictures of the Moon and a Viewmaster-type thing for looking at them through, lots of pictures of everything from someone testing the beef cubes that will be made into astronauts' food to sixties- and seventies-era prototypes of space shuttles and space stations and so on, and a daguerreotype of the Moon!

Again, the enthusiasm of the volunteers and curator totally made this what it was, what this museum is best at.

Like all trips to the Science and Media Museum since it became such, it was bittersweet in that the place is a sad shadow of what it once was, but even the shadow is still pretty great. I'm still mad at what the Science Museum Group are doing to it, and in how that affects the way they share their resources with Manchester's Museum of Science and Industry too. But no matter how much they threaten to close one of their "northern museums," no matter how much they pilfer the Media Museum's unique collections and the relationships it's built around them...the people who work and volunteer there, who love the place, and the great things they're still allowed to display, make it a totally special place I am still so fond of.

weekend

Aug. 14th, 2017 01:45 pm
hollymath: (Default)
I"m settling into a pattern of weeks with very little to do and very low mood, and then being very busy and mostly happier on the weekends. This is really bad for me and no fun but I don't feel able to get myself unstuck yet.

Adventures in Babysitting )

I was staying over so quickly installed myself in the spare room, with the comfy bed, the robot alarm clock and the lamp with colorful airplanes on its shade. It was pretty great.

I was there because next morning Simon and I were driving to Leeds for BiCon and it made no sense to get me home late at night just to go pick me up again the next day.

BiCon )

The Home Office at BiCon )

So I was quite glad that my plans had changed such that I could go to Brighouse that night. I was tired and a little emotionally wrung-out with one thing and another. It didn't help a lot though as after a blessed day off Twitter I was catching up on Charlottesville. I spent way too much time reading what it felt like I couldn't look away from but also couldn't fix. But I was heartened to see a lot of white people talking about how unhelpful attitudes like #ThisIsNotUs were, ignoring that this is what America has always been so we can feel better about ourselves.

Andrew came over to Brighouse too yesterday, for Sunday dinner and terrible films. It was really nice having all the best people around.

Now I'm home where all the cleaning and laundry have been neglected for quite a while even before I was away because my mental health has been so bad. I've done a load of laundry I'm about to go hang up and put another one in. It'd be nice if I could clean some things. And I have to write down volunteering admin and stuff I need to do before it all falls out of my head. Better go and do all of that, then!

Here's hoping this week is better than the last two.
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I texted James on Friday to say the day that would work for me to visit this weekend was Saturday and was that okay with him. He said yes, and that there was the free wine-tasting at Czerwik's.

So I turned up, after a horrible journey comprised not only of rail-replacement buses but of absolutely no information about anything anywhere, very ready for a glass of wine. We listened to some cricket first and managed to turn up at Czerwik's just as the other customers and the guy who works there were wandering off upstairs or to do other things, leaving for a while just me and Jennie and James in the wine cellar, sitting on the cool floor demolishing the rest of the available cheese and an amount of wine that probably would've been shameful for people who had any shame. It was awesome.

But as if that wasn't enough, we'd walked past a new place advertising itself as doing cocktails and food, right next to Czerwik's, called Villain. They weren't open then but we peered through the windows of this place with the black exterior and shiny purple letters, to see an interior that was also black and shiny purple, and from what Jennie could tell a decent selection of gin.

By the time we left Czerwik's it was open. We thought we had to test it out.

Jennie and I had color-change gin, which starts out bright blue in the bottle, turns purple when you add the tonic, and then turns pink. In case this black-and-purple villain-themed place (with posters on the wall of different Jokers and That Guy From Breaking Bad and similar) wasn't Jennie enough, it also features gin in all the colors I have ever seen her hair be.

It also seems like the most bisexual thing ever. I mean: gin that's all the colors of our flag?!

Because Andrew had kindly said I didn't have to brave a worse public-transport nightmare on the way back, I stayed over which meant I got to eat mincemeat-with-cheese vol-au-vents (that might've been an idea we thought of once we started drinking eating the nice cheddar...) and watch game shows. And then Black Books, a delight for me because I know it so well it's so easy to watch. And then an early bedtime, by which point I was almost sober again.

In the morning I still had a similarly horrible journey to face, but at least I had more sleep before I did it. It wasn't too bad, though even abled people were still complaining at the lack of information (Brighouse is an unstaffed station and there was no indication of when or where the rail replacement bus would arrive; I'm seriously tempted to find out who to complain to because I've never had such an inaccessible journey. Even to the point where when the bus got to Huddersfield, the driver stopped at what I thought was an intersection, instead he opened the door and got off the bus and I was like..."oh, we're...here?" It took a while for anyone to get off the bus so I don't think it was just Blindy McBlindface here who wasn't sure what was going on.)

However in Huddersfield the staff got a lot better...a bit suffocating, really, but at least they made sure I got on the right rail-replacement bus for the next bit and made sure Stalybridge knew to expect me and to help me get to the right platform where I got an actual train the rest of the way to Manchester.

Nothing like losing the express route across the Pennines to make you appreciate it. It's fifteen minutes on the train, it took 45 minutes on the bus. It's a very pretty area and would be nice to live in or go to. But when it's just in the way, and you're worried about getting home in time for a thing, it's just stress-inducing.

I got home just in time to shower and go out again, to the Women in Science walk that went along with the talk my WI had last month. It was done by one of our members who volunteers with Manchester Girl Geeks who have done a walking tour of the city centre focusing on women who've had some connection to Manchester. What she was doing for us lot, on her own, was a smaller version of the same thing. About twelve of us showed up and everyone really enjoyed it.

We learned about Kathleen Drew-Baker, a phycologist whose work inadvertently saved Japan's supply of nori after it was nearly wiped out, Margaret Beckett who was a metallurgist before going into politics, Beatrice Shilling, engineer and motorbike racer, Cicely Popplewell and Mary Lee Woods, early computer scientists, and then Margaret Murray and Professor Rosalie David, pioneering and current experts on mummies. I liked that for all the historical scientists the last one is a currently-working woman.

It was nice to end up in Manchester Museum too, where I haven't been for ages, probably since the course I did two summers ago because it was one of the heritage sites that was part of it; some of my coursemates volunteered there afterwards just like I did at MOSI. And actually the MOSI person who oversaw that course is now working at Manchester Museum and asked me last week if I'd be interested in helping one of the conservators there who wants to make an exhibit accessible for for people with visual impairments. So I'm going to a meeting about that later this week and I'm pretty excited about that.

I know I just gave up one volunteering thing, but I'm not committing myself to anything yet by going to a meeting, and it sounds like it might be more satisfying/a better use of my time. We'll see, anyway.

Eng v SL

Jul. 4th, 2017 02:04 am
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It's horrible that women's cricket is so unpopular. It doesn't bring in huge crowds or lots of money.

But it's great that that means it's cheap and you can just turn up and get good seats. This is where we sat yesterday, at the County Ground in Taunton.

After an early start (I had to get up at 5:30!), and an extremely pleasant trip down (a friend of Ali's from her old cricket team joined us, and we chatted nonstop so the time went really fast), we found ourselves in these seats. Good cricket fans that we are, most of us had brought warm and waterproof clothes as well as our sunscreen and hats (I couldn't find my big floppy sun hat so had to bring my Twins hat, from a totally different ball game), but it was definitely a day for the latter: the weather was perfect: hot and sunny all day.

Sri Lanka won the toss and batted first, which I ended up being really glad of because we watched their innings with rapt attention, having pinned Tas's Sri Lanka flag to the fence in front of our front-row seats at the old pavilion end. Tas told us more stories (there had been a few in the car) about what it's like going to watch cricket in Sri Lanka, where she says it's like a religion and she'd wander in to matches after finishing school for the day, once taking a Dutch student friend who hadn't known anything about cricket and got caught up in it and soon was hooked. She told us about how, despite that, women's cricket gets little investment. The players are expected to cover costs themselves, and they're not likely to be well-off. "There's no one from Columbo on the team," she said. "These are village girls."

When the first wicket fell, I was sad but also I had been looking forward to seeing Athapaththu, who had shattered the record by getting 178 runs earlier in the week against Australia (a match that Sri Lanka, heartbreakingly, still lost). So of course she got out for only one run! Tas had just been telling a story of her dad or uncle or somesuch who went to see Don Bradman one day and he got out for a duck, the moral of which was that there's no batter who is immune from the bad day or the unlucky shot. Cricket people love to wax lyrical about this, about how batting is the loneliest thing in any sport and how arbitrary the amount of time that you get to play can be.

We reapplied sunscreen and ate sandwiches we'd brought with us, even had a couple of cans of cider (shared between three of us, since one of them had been caught at the bag checks as we came in, so Maz who was watching us laughed and said we looked like twelve-year-olds at a bus stop, passing the cans back and forth). Three other matches in the Women's World Cup were happening at the same time as ours: India v Pakistan, South Africa v West Indies, and Australia v New Zealand. During a drinks break, the scores for those matches were read out, including 42-7 for the West Indies. Ali and I had been following the scores and knew they'd been 35-5 or something, but also 16-5 so really it could have been worse and maybe they could still turn it around? But 42-7 was tragic. Soon after, while the game ahead of us was going on, an announcement was made over the tannoy that West Indies were all out for 48, news we met with audible gasps.

Still, at least it meant when things were looking a little ropey for Sri Lanka in the thirty-something overs, Tas could console herself with "at least we aren't the West Indies..." and laugh. She was pretty sanguine really: at least no ducks, at least no one's embarrassed themselves...I recognized this as the kinds of small-market fan goals that I'm used to setting for my Minnesota teams.

Tas also told us about the way that Sri Lankan names are put together, after seeing Ranasinghe's come up. Rana- and jaya- and -singhe and -wardena, she told us about old kings and lions and beauty and it was just great to have some of the unfamiliarity of the names worn off a little bit. All I know about Sri Lankan names I know from cricket, but even then I was able to notice some of the patterns and the elements of them, which I always like.

By one o'clock things were looking salvagable for Sri Lanka and I hoped they'd hit 200 runs. But at the same time, we saw that South Africa had already won their game, passing the West Indies score in six overs. "We'd already be int he pub by now!" we told each other. It seemed inconceivable while we were still watching the first team bat here. Though I knew such things were possible: two years ago I saw what was supposed to be an ODI at Old Trafford -- that was Eng v SL too, though men's that time -- which didn't even last as long as a T20 game, because Sri Lanka (batting first) were out for about 63 I think. Though soon after rain would have stopped play anyway. It was the saddest cricket imaginable.

Sri Lanka did manage all their overs, and 204 runs. It was time for the lunch break, and a few of us went inside for a while to get a break from the sun. Tas ended up chatting about Wi stuff, as she inevitably does -- she is the best president, always thinking about things and networking with people -- and we generally had a nice enough time that we didn't notice cricket had started again until after it had. We went outside again and I drank a beer (not as expensive as I feared, once I learned you got a quid back when you returned the plastic cup) and all too soon the boringly good England team had scored enough runs to win. They lost three wickets doing so, one right at the end from someone that Tas said she expected to see out the match, and it's nice to see that even when it was unlikely to matter, Sri Lanka weren't giving up. I had almost given up watching, being very warm and sleepy by then!

Just as we were leaving, Ali told us that the New Zealand cricketer she'd previously mentioned as the first to play international cricket who was born in the 2000s had gotten two Australians out on two balls, one of them being Meg Lanning! And Pakistan were not doing much better than the West Indies; they also had about 55 at the point their score was read to our crowd, again getting groans and gasps (they ended up with 74). Women's cricket is still such an uneven game, prone to score differences like these making me think about which countries are putting money into it (though my understanding from what I heard yesterday is that better is expected of the West Indies). It's sort of a shame knowing there's only a few teams I'm likely to see in the final in a couple of weeks -- though I'm still looking forward to it, of course! There are things that I prefer about the women's game, but there are frustrations with it too.
hollymath: (Default)
I didn't get the job. Boring details about that. )

Anyway, almost as soon as I got home from the interview, it was time to leave again. Part of me wanted to sleep for a week but I'd arranged to go to the theatre with James and Jennie and Other Holly back when I couldn't have known what a tiring week this was going to be, and the rest of me knew that I'd feel better once I got myself there.

And I did. We saw "The Play That Goes Wrong," which pretty much tells you everything you need to know about it. [personal profile] miss_s_b's review is here (very slight spoilers) which is lucky as I think I'm getting a migraine so should get off the computer before I could write one myself.

To hers I only need add that she was awesome for giving me a little impromptu audio description, which especially at the beginning of the play where the gags were all visual was very welcome because we were sitting way at the back and so I was doomed to hearing people laughing a lot and having absolutely no idea why, which wasn't exactly the mood-lifter I needed. I was worried someone would tell us off for Talking During the Performance but luckily no one did and it totally made the experience for me. There were lots more dialogue-based jokes later on and some of the phsyciality was stuff I could just about discern, but I still would have felt like I'd missed out on a lot if it weren't for my kind friends.

We were a pretty noisy audience eventually anyway, so maybe I needn't have worried. Some asshole to the left of us started shouting "funny" things (as opposed to actually funny things) almost right away, and continued to throughout the first half. And eventually, the po-faced actor/director-playing-the-inspector's tantrum included "Despite appearances tonight, this isn't a pantomime!" and I feel I earned all my British-citizen cred by being the first person (from what we could hear, anyway) to shout "Oh yes it is!"
hollymath: (Default)
This morning, [personal profile] white_hart shared a quote from C.S. Lewis:
"If we are all going to be destroyed by an atomic bomb, let that bomb when it comes find us doing sensible and human things - praying, working, teaching, reading, listening to music, bathing the children, playing tennis, chatting to our friends over a pint and a game of darts - not huddled together like frightened sheep and thinking about bombs. They may break our bodies (a microbe can do that) but they need not dominate our minds."
If we'd been much later, it'd have found Andrew and I on a tram home from a lovely night out.

One of Andrew's friends who lives in Australia was in Bury doing some work, and invited us out for dinner with him, his wife and the people they'd been working with all day, recording an audio drama for a podcast. It was a lot of fun, and it's always good to see Andrew enjoy himself in social situations, especially ones where people tried to guess his second-favorite Beatles album.

And because his friend was in Bury, we got a train to town and then a tram to Bury. Chatting idly along the way about how long it'd been since we'd been to Bury, having flashbacks at the tram stop that we used to use all the time when I first met Andrew, what kind of commute I'd have if I got a job I applied for, which would involve one of the tram stops along the way. On the way back, we were nearly half-asleep.

The tram went through Victoria station, right next to the entrance to the arena, about an hour before the bomb.

I went home and almost straight to bed. I already had an e-mail from my mom asking if I was all right, when I still thought this might have been a speaker blowing up or something that had spooked people. We were surprised she'd heard about it so quickly (if my parents knew how, I'm sure they'd set up a google alert for "incidents in the UK" and e-mail me about all of them, but barring that I have no idea how they manage).

I did not tell her I'd been on a tram going past there an hour before.

This morning I woke up to another e-mail from her asking if Andrew's family (the only other people she knows in the country) were okay, and it was all I could do not to tell her that I couldn't imagine any of them being at at an Ariana Grande concert.

No, those are for kids. I can't handle thinking of all the teenagers' parents today.

I woke up to other e-mails too, one from my old "blind teacher" who I hadn't heard from in years. People in North America had been fretting about us while we slept. FB and skype messages too, when I hadn't even thought I was logged into skype. By the time I read and could respond to them, the people who'd written them were asleep, hopefully not too worried about us.

One of those North Americans was awake, and upon hearing that we and ours are fine, said, "YEESH thank goodness yet it is still awful so be kind to yourselves PLEASE, eh?"

I hadn't thought of this as something I needed to be kind to myself about, but I replied to my friend, "Such a sad demographic to lose people from: the pictures being shared around social media of people who are still missing are of fourteen, fifteen year olds. I am having to be a bit careful around it actually for all the mentions of grieving parents, which inevitably remind me of my grieving parents saying no one's kids should die before them. I hope the strangers do no mind that my eyes are wet with tears for me as well as for them."

In his invariably lovely way, he said, "Of course that's what grieving is all about, dear Holly. My loss is your loss, your loss is mine. We're all in this together, though most of the time we don't see it. For you to think of your own family in this way shows a great respect for what other people are suffering with: connect us all together, connect you to me and me to you."
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For our anniversary treat tonight, Andrew and I went to see Martin Carthy at the Band on the Wall -- a venue Andrew had been to before but I hadn't, and I really liked it. Seemed to have nice veggie/vegan food (I had just eaten today but I want to try it another time) and the beer was good, as well as having a lot of the kind of music I normally like better than Andrew does, despite not having been there myself!

We got settled into seats right in the front row, folding chairs in tightly-packed rows. The woman next to me started chatting; she was friendly and enthusiastic about her boyfriend's tastes in music, totally new to folk. Hadn't heard of Martin Carthy before. I almost envied her the revelation ahead of her, but had to hope she'd see it that way: as Andrew and I told each other on the walk to the bus stop, there must be people who don't like Martin Carthy, but we can't understand how.

I was just playing The Imagined Village songs to Stuart yesterday; he'd done me the favor of giving me a good excuse to get out of the house and away from social media on such a dark day for my country and the world and I repaid the favor, inadvertantly, by introducing him to this music. Looking through my Recently Played, I thought this would be most to his liking and it turned out he hadn't heard of them and was delighted.

So the version of "John Barleycorn" we got as the second or third song tonight was familiar to me from one of the Imagined Village records...but so much more captivating in person of course. I'm someone who's lacked the attention span to read a paragraph lately, whose biggest problem with running 5k is I get bored and want to see if I've got any new things to look at on the internet about one hundred times while I'm running. But here I was tonight, listening to all umpty-million verses of "Sir Patrick Spens" and all that time I am not doing anything else. I'm not thinking of anything else, I don't want to be anywhere else.

There's something compelling to me about folk songs, old songs: you can almost feel the weight of the years on them, the different people who've sung them in different circumstances. Carthy introduced "Sir Patrick Spens" by saying that if this were a real event it would've happened in 1282, and my mind got a bit dizzy trying to imagine such a year, much less that anything could tie such a time to us sitting now in our folding chairs. Of course the song itself is nothing like that old (Wikipedia tells me a version was published first in 1765), and of course many older artifacts of our culture persist, not least the language we speak! But still I am a little in awe of how casually this man carries around in his head versions of things that have been in so many other people's heads, and ears, and voices.

My attention span didn't last the whole evening (and this was an old-person's gig for old people; it had a curfew of 9:45, so it wasn't a long evening!), but it did spike up again when I heard another Imagined Village favorite, "My Son John."
If you listen carefully you might recognize elements of the song's plot: Carthy mentioned it having been recorded by Tim Hart and Maddy Prior in the sixties, and apparently the sleeve notes of that album explain it a little.
Fred Hamer collected this song in Bedfordshire from the singing of David Parrott. A father and his disabled son are before a naval surgeon who is trying to cheat him of his disablement pension by claiming that he was careless to stand in the way of the cannon ball which shot his legs off.
It fits right in with Atos and the DWP today, doesn't it, to blame a man for getting his legs shot off so that they don't have to give him any money.

I always come away from folk gigs wishing I listened to more folk music. Andrew likes it fine (of course he's the one who's introduced me to Martin Carthy and all the British folk, just as the nice lady next to me (Debbie, she was called) is being introduced to it by her boyfriend tonight) but it's not as well represented in his music collection as other things, and it's usually his music that's playing. He's always careful to tell me I can play whatever I want, and of course I know I can, but if I'm not bothered about whether there's music playing and he is, we mostly hear his music.

But, the Unthanks are playing in March. I really like them. I think I'd like to go see them.

Poppycock

Jan. 8th, 2017 11:22 pm
hollymath: (Default)
Before I forget: I went to see Poppycock on Friday!

This is a big deal because I've been meaning to since my friend Stuart joined the band a while ago. He's the drummer, and the only man of the eight or so of them in the band. It is a thing that's brought him much happiness and sense of achievement at a time in his life when there are not enough things to do that, so for that alone I'd be grateful but it turns out they're a great band too.

It was the first time I'd been to A Gig By A Band That My Friend Is In for quite a while, and it was possibly the best one yet. All three bands were from the label Poppycock is on, which Stuart told me has rules like "If you sound like Oasis, Coldplay or [something else he forgot but you can probably get the idea], don't bother with us." Andrew and I had both bought tickets but he wasn't feeling up to going which is a shame because I think he'd have really appreciated this. He used to be an a band, and thus listen to other bands, at a time when everybody did want to sound like Oasis, or the Fall, or whatever. Except him. He still wants to be in bands that don't have guitars in them and wishes for things like a bass harmonica or a harpsichord.

Poppycock have guitars, a fairly standard line-up really -- though everyone but the rhythm section and one singer played more than one thing and there was a flute put to good use in some of the songs -- but they still stand out. Just having that many women on stage gave me a weird feeling I am starting to have more often, like when I saw Ghostbusters last year: there's something crazy about seeing more than one woman in any group, and her not being "the girl one." And they are great at it, and Una writes good songs, and it was so good to see Stuart play guitar again.

I call him a friend but he's not just that; he's an ex too, singular in several ways because he's the only one I really talk to and also the only one I really miss. It was bittersweet to watch him play again, reminded me of going to see his old band (and there I really was there just because he was in it! -- they were all right but not really my cup of tea) and feeling like I might burst with pride and happiness at getting to know and be involved with such a person, and just having the joy of watching someone do something they're really good at.

Extra-surprisingly for going-to-see-your-mate's-band, the other two on the bill were pretty good too! First was Four Candles, whose set I arrived halfway through and the second half I confess I mostly spent catching up with Stuart and [livejournal.com profile] scarletts_web because it was the first time I'd seen her in four years, how did that happen!?

It's extra a-thing-that-should-not-have-happened because she's a huge fan of Poppycock and travels from the other side of Warrington to see them play in Manchester all the time and this was the first gig I'd managed to get to and that only because it's literally a five-minute walk from my house.

Anyway, Stuart said of the first band "brilliantly venomous and heartfelt lyrics combined with fantastically inventive playing from guitar, bass and drums." The singer had been in a band called The Hamsters before and people seemed to know and like him.

And the second band, Patchwork Rattlebag (good name but oh my god everybody I talked to kept forgetting it, it's just lots of interchangeable nouns!) I probably liked more than most; [livejournal.com profile] scarletts_web pronounced them a bit fey but I love that kind of chilled out music, it's what I play whenever Andrew's not around. So that wouldn't have been his favorite, but he'd have had to agree the singer had an incredible voice, strong and laden with emotion over the electronica background, I was a bit disappointed none of the merch at the little stall was their music (though I was reassured it's on the way) or else I'd have bought some. Which is really much more an Andrew thing to do than a me thing to do; I think the last time I bought a CD at a gig was at the IPO (International Pop Overthrow, a fun thing in Liverpool) maaany years ago and mostly that was because the guy made me laugh by asking if anyone had heard of Des Moines and then didn't believe me when I said I'd been there.

And then Poppycock, but not before some in-between, setting-up music which I thought I recognized as one of my favorite albums from last year -- it's a few years old but I didn't hear it until last year -- by The Imagined Village. As it was playing I was chatting to someone who said "oh, this is Poppycock...they've started?" I chuckled and said no, this was Eliza Carthy singing, but that as far as I was concerned if they could be mistaken for sounding like this I'd be pleased.

And I was!

Afterward I helped a little (hoping I wasn't more of a hindrance) get the gear packed up and out to the car, stuck around for a drink (someone I remember from the last time I was at this place, getting drunk on Han's birthday, bought me a pint and we talked about 80s Bob Dylan; old men with beards and rollies are so easy for me to get along with) and I'd meant to stick around and say hi to Stuart again but there was Important Band Meeting going on so I just went home. All gigs should be so fun and so easy to get to.

Oxford

Jul. 5th, 2016 12:29 am
hollymath: (Default)

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.

I'm back!

Jun. 8th, 2016 02:13 pm
hollymath: (Default)
On Sunday morning the mouse on my laptop stopped working completely. As did other mouse-like devices I tried plugging in.

Fixing a problem with the mouse is impossible for me, because you can't use the mouse.

Andrew's ended up having to nuke the OS from orbit; now I'm re-installing things and remembering just how very many things there are that need tweaking for me (and for some reason the accessibility stuff (for me, high contrast and large fonts, mostly) are not working at all yet.

But still, one of the first pages I opened in the browser I just had to install is the one in which I'm writing to you now, to tell you how glad I am to be back! I was annoyed by how severely my mental health suffered at even a few days computerless. I could keep up, just about, with e-mail and social media on my phone, but I had a few empty days I'd planned to spend on my book, I couldn't watch baseball or do grocery shopping or even play music on Spotify as I sulkily did chores when I eventually got bored enough of all my usual activities being unavailable to me.

And while lack of computer isn't the crisis it was in the pre-smartphone days, my elderly phone is developing enough quirks (and the apps for it are getting increasingly terrible as people increasingly can't be arsed with the BlackBerry OS, which is fair enough but such a pain in the ass...on the plus side, all my friends complaining that Facebook chat/messenger isn't working for them any more at least make me glad that the mobile website is unaffected on my phone because there's no Messenger app to try to force us on to, Facebook having intentionally nuked its BlackBerry app a few months ago. So between shitty user experiences and a phone that's deciding, eg I can't click on anything in the bottom left corner or I can't keep it from thinking I've clicked on whatever's in the top right corner, it's been suboptimal to say the least.

Anyway, the fonts are still wrong but I'll take that. In the meantime, I went to Martin Mere yesterday, a Wildfowl & Wetland Trust site that had a deal for WI members so about 20 people from my WI (and some of them's daughters and grandkids) went to look at birds. And otters! I have some pictures, but technical failure means you'll just have to take my word for it now. I had a nice day, anyway.

One of the nicest things about it, though, was on the way back. The lady who organized it gave a few of us a lift, one of them being someone I know slightly as the secretary of our branch. We got chatting and I found out a lot more about her life, as a Sri Lankan immigrant who moved here when she married a Brit she has a lot of vehement opinions on the awfulness of the immigration system which as you can imagine are just like mine but worse because she's a person of color and says Islam is the religion she was born into (she doesn't consider herself one, but you can imagine how much that counts to the Home Office). I told her about my book and said I'd like to get her story in it; she seemed really happy to do that and even said she can introduce me to some other people. I wanted to address how the problems I have, numerous and severe as they may be, are maybe one percent as bad as they could be, because I'm white and from the U.S. And she just seems a lovely person and it turns out she lives so close that I have unknowingly walked Gary the Wonder Dog past her house every single day.

The WI's been great for this kind of thing: the other day I ran into H who cut Gary's nails for us outside Fred's. K saw me at the market one day, all excited about my purple hair, needed me to go and talk to her friend who was thinking of dying her hair purple. I've seen N and her lovely dog Lucy in the park a few times. I feel so much more connected to where I live than I did before.

Walking

Apr. 18th, 2016 09:13 pm
hollymath: (Default)


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: (Default)
1) The lovely pub landlady pulls our two pints and says "That's £6.20 sorry about the price," without any pause at all. The immediate apology for what doesn't seem to me a bad price at all for very nice beer, and the assurance that she's not charging us any more than she needs to, both make me grin and feel like I am in the right place.

2) When the train to Huddersfield finally arrived, a couple of loud young white guys were standing nearer the train door than me, but when it opened and the people who wanted off had gotten off, one of them turned to me and said with a sweeping arm gesture, "go on, love." This kind of thing happens to me regularly now because of the white cane, but usually it's an offer, an invitation. This time, it sounded like I was being scolded, like I should already have known I would get on the train before they did. I scurried up onto the train, a little unnerved but also amused to have been demanded to submit to their chivalry.
hollymath: (Default)
My second-favorite thing about this article on making Spain's Prado museum accessible to blind people is actually this:
Most visitors to the "Touching the Prado" exhibit are not vision-impaired. The museum provides opaque glasses for them — like blindfolds.
It's not just that I love stuff that puts sighted people more on my level.

Last Saturday, Andrew, [personal profile] miss_s_b, [personal profile] magister and I went to see a movie in the dark, or at least that's how I explained it when I was telling people my plans for the weekend. The rest had seen Carnival of Souls, the movie this radio-playish thing was based on, and I was just intrigued by the advisory group of blind and partially-sighted people who helped make this happen.

I didn't know what to expect, but I really enjoyed what I got: I was in a cinema -- people were jockeying for good seats out of habit, even though there wasn't going to be anything on the screen -- surrounded by other people, with noise-canceling headphones and the kind of cheap black nylon blindfold I've gotten on transatlantic flights.

The blindfold seemed a bit superfluous to me at first. After all, the room was totally dark except for the blue lights on people's wireless headsets, and the lights illuminating the stairs at each side of the auditorium like you always get in cinemas. But I thought I might as well try it, figuring it had been included for specific and deliberate reasons, and I quickly really liked it.

I listen to a lot of audiobooks, podcasts, radio dramas and suchlike these days. They've taken over most of the time I used to devote to reading. I do like them when I'm in the dark before I fall asleep, but I mostly listen to them when I'm on trains or buses, cooking, doing housework, knitting...mostly I like the audio stories for making whatever else I'm doing more fun, rather than it being the only thing I am doing. And the blindfold? Means that listening is really the only thing you are doing. Yes a lot of the same result could have been achieved by closing one's eyes (as [personal profile] miss_s_b did since she's allergic to the fabric the blindfolds were made from) but I really liked being able to keep my eyes open most of the time. And even if I meant to shut my eyes, they'd keep snapping open whenever it sounded like someone was whispering in my ear or something was crashing into me or whatever. To see no more than a faint glow from a few of the blue lights on everybody's headsets when my eyes did open was somehow both exciting and relaxing because I could be assured that I wasn't missing anything by not using my eyes. It felt, odd as this might sound, like such a luxury.

A huge part -- I'm sure I heard "ninety percent" somewhere, though I'm not sure if that's right -- of the sensory information a non-disabled person gets from the outside world is from their vision. Taking that way is going to do interesting things to our brain and our understanding and even memories of an event. Even for an audio-play-addict like me, this was a special and immersive experience.

One of those facts everyone thinks they know about blind people is that we have exceptionally good hearing/all our other senses are fantastic to make up for the lack of sight. Not only is that completely not true (deaf-blind people are a thing! also lots of conditions or injuries that might cause sight loss also cause other categories of problems), I think it's just a thing that sighted people tell themselves in order to feel better about the poor pitiable blind person. Sensory impairments don't improve a person's other senses, but they might improve how well we're making use of them, because we have to. Most people don't have to, and they -- understandably -- don't often choose to forgo ninety percent (or whatever) of the information they could potentially gather about the world around them.

Which brings me back to the blind people in the art gallery, and the sighted people wearing opaque glasses.
"It's kind of weird. I sort of kept checking over the top of the glases to see what I was touching, because you kinda can't tell," says Isabel O'Donnell, 20, a college student visiting Madrid from Buffalo, N.Y.
Of course you did. You can't tell until you do it enough to get used to it. I remember trying to feel the spots on the sheets of Braille a friend had. I could tell the surface was uneven but couldn't discern enough detail to be able to read that way. I was distressed by this -- figuring I was deficient in some way and that if, as I worried about a lot when I was a kid, I lost the rest of my sight one day I would be entirely cut off from reading and writing, probably my two very favorite activities at that time -- but had it explained to me that the ability to read Braille has to be taught, not just "these dots mean this letter" but also being able to perceive the dots well enough is a skill that has to be learned. If their brains are scanned, the nerves corresponding to the fingers they use to read are connected to better-developed areas of the brain than people who don't read Braille.

You might remember way back at the beginning of all this I was talking about the blindfolds for sighted people being my second-favorite thing about this article. For anyone who's wondering, my favorite thing is this picture:


Look at that guy, he's feasting on that art.

In another article on this subject (written in medium-grey text on a light-grey background, leading me to think this is a website more likely to talk about blind people than to them), someone who was born blind was making his first visit to the art gallery. "We learned all about the great Spanish artists at school, of course, but it’s only now that I can start to understand what made them special." Reading that gives me goosebumps, and makes me glad that blind people in Madrid don't have to feel that art galleries have nothing to offer them.
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 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)
I've got a splitting headache -- still sinuses, but the amount of red wine I imbibed can't be helping -- but I wanted to say something about what a nice evening I had.

[livejournal.com profile] rosamicula asked last night if Andrew or I wanted a free ticket to The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time and I think we both agreed that I'd be better suited to it, and indeed I think Andrew would've struggled with Wagamama and red wine and socializing...though
Jane's friend's boyfriend turned out to be Vegan Chris from [livejournal.com profile] diffrentcolours's old/Andrew's current work. Jane was astounded when I sat down at the table and one of the first things I said was "I think I made you a chocolate cake when you fixed my laptop!" to him. This has convinced her still further that Andrew is the center of the universe, which he finds hilarious because he doesn't know anyone more antisocial than he is (but then, he wouldn't, would he).

I was a bit wary of the play, having agreed to go along mainly because I wanted to see Jane and it was free, because most depictions of autism are so awful and so far from my understanding or experience of it (limited though both of those things are, naturally). Admittedly, as Jane said afterward, "autism" is never used in the book or play, but the main character's distinguishing characteristics -- not wanting to be touched, being a smart kid at a "special school," remembering precise details, and "shutting down" when overwhelmed in ways that embarrass, anger or concern others --tick all the boxes. And Andrew said the Lowry, where it was on, are inviting autistic kids to performances and doing workshops with them for the duration of the play's time here, so clearly they see some connection with autism and it.

The acting -- particularly from the guy playing Christopher who was on stage the entire time, with a ton of lines to remember (including long lists of numbers and so on), extended semi-verbal meltdowns, even the solution to a geometry problem after the curtain call -- was great, but the setting and effects really made the production. When we sat down, Jane described the set, a huge black background with lit-up white lines dividing it into a big grid like giant graph paper as "a Blondie album cover, or something out of Doctor Who" (it reminded me of Tron, personally) but as the play went on many things were projected onto this huge graph paper: constellations, the outlines of the houses in Christopher's neighborhood, a map of train routes into London, and even Christopher's moments of sensory overload and then the prime numbers whose recitation he used to soothe himself.

I found the sensory-overload depictions (noises and flashing lights that overwhelmed even the neurotypical brains, as Christopher writhed and screamed on stage) particularly compelling and effective, especially that of Paddington station where Christopher first reached London. I had to smile a little at it being Paddington because my only association with that station (a certain bear from darkest Peru nonwithstanding) is being there with my parents, who found particularly the tube to be as upsetting and overwhelming as Christopher did in the play. And I do have a lot of sympathy: I'm not autistic but I'm apparently a couple of standard deviations away from truly neurotypical, thanks I suspect to my anxiety disorder, visual impairment, and living in a culture other than the one in which I grew up) I experience a not-dissimilar overload in noisy, unfamiliar places crowded with people and things to look at.

I remember Andrew telling me when, after reading questions out to him from an autism diagnosis test on the internet, that a lot of them would leave me scoring highly too, but because of my vision rather than my neurology, that this overlap in symptoms often makes it difficult to diagnose autism in blind people: we all struggle in unfamiliar places, fail to interpret body language or facial expressions (I can't remember if I wrote about this here but once Andrew asked me out of the blue "What is eye contact anyway? Is it just staring at someone's eyes for a long time?" and I replied that I'm probably the worst person out of all the people he knows to answer that and I've been told all my life I'm bad at it (even if I am looking at someone, it doesn't look to them like I am) and he ended up saying "I'm going to Wikipedia it!").

The use of very loud noises and bright flashing or running lights (the grid had LEDs at each vortex that could change color, which led to some dizzying effects) did a good job of expressing for us neurotypicals what "normal" sounds, textures and lighting can seem like to people on the... as did overlapping disjointed images and sounds, particularly of speech. Christopher's possibly-irrational-seeming behavior at times made a lot more sense when the world was shown as it appeared to him: how could anyone do anything but scream and flail with all this going on all the time? I must admit the intensity of noise and light did my sinus headache no good at all! But still, I appreciated what it was attempting to convey.

The one incident during this particular night-time that stands out to me is that while, like a good theatre-goer, I turned my phone onto silent before the performance began. I don't normally get notifications for anything but texts and calls anyway, but I've set my phone up so e-mails from Andrew (which I basically treat like texts since he won't use a mobile phone) will make it vibrate. So when I felt the ankle next to my handbag buzz, I half-pulled it out of its little pocket to sneak the quickest look at my phone. I know phones are taboo at things like this but he's autistic and I'm basically his carer and I take both of those things seriously. I had barely time to process the subject line of his e-mail (which luckily told me all I needed to know) before a man sitting two seats away from me reached over his companion to grab my left arm hard enough to snap my head toward him in alarm as I dropped my phone back into its pocket in my bag. He made some kind of gesture at me that disappointed my contrary nature because having inadvertently already done the thing he wanted me to do -- put my phone away -- I wasn't able to defy him.

But that irony, being shamed for checking up on my autistic husband during a play about an autistic kid, left a lingering bitterness that I hope made him glad that whoever he was with was sitting between him and me or he'd have gotten an earful on the subject!
hollymath: (Default)
After a pint or two of the tastiest beer I've had in a while, possibly ever, [livejournal.com profile] diffrentcolours and I walked along the canal to see a building site that includes a basement below the level of the canal, so there were huge pumps emptying water from it into the canal. It was awesome.

And we admired a lock under a tower block. Manchester's so crazily three-dimensional. Four-dimensional, really: [livejournal.com profile] diffrentcolours pointed out that the canals and the tower blocks say a lot about what was important in Manchester at different times, from the essential arteries of Victorian transport to the need to fit a lot of people in modern accommodation.

And then on the bus home we had a conversation about tidal moons. All this took only half an hour or so, but it occurred to me that people who know nothing else about what we like and what we are like when we're around each other could get a pretty good idea just from this evening.
hollymath: (Default)
* On the bus to Headingley (specially for the test match and entirely populated by people going to it), one of the two guys sitting behind us was looking out the window, commenting on pedestrians. "They're going. They're going." Then the other guy said of the next cluster of people we saw: "They're waiting at the cashpoint. They're normal people." I just love that he was distinguishing between people going to the cricket and "normal people."

* Zebra's coming home.

* I legitimately thought for a while I was going to get to see Jayawardene and Sangakkara bat for the rest of the day. Which would've been awesome. (But at least Sangakkara reached a momentous 50 before getting out, Jayawardene's still in there and I can foster hopes for Sri Lanka tomorrow.) "Last time that'll happen in this country," one of the TMS lot pointed out. I was glad to have seen it.

* I learned that ice cream is a thing you can put in Yorkshire pudding. I'll stick to the savory ones though, myself.

* A certain Geoffrey Boycott leaving Jennie and I bent double laughing during the hour it was overcast at the beginning of England's bowling. "Look at t' cloud!" he wailed, having surely reached some peak of being his stereotypical self. (England didn't get any wickets until the sun came back out after lunch, by which point the English commentators all seemed to feel entitled to some.)

* At one point something was determined to be wrong with the ball, so the bag of balls had to be brought out. I love this because the idea of finding another used ball that will replicate as closely as possible the state of the current one seems absolutely bonkers to me, like having bishops in the government or clumping all the bank holidays together so there's only one between May and Christmas.

* Okay, we both went home with sunburnt arms, but the sunshine was (to me) totally worth it. Couldn't have been more different from the four-layers-still-cold cricket I saw a month ago.

Arnemetia

May. 16th, 2014 10:15 pm
hollymath: (Default)
Of course now that they've gone to bed for the last time in my house, I'm feeling very fond of my parents and very protective and magnanimous on the subject of them.

It probably helps that we had such a nice day today. We took them to Buxton because my dad wanted to go to Bath having seen a picture of it in his guide book to England, and when I explained how far away Bath was and how much traveling around the UK they'd already be doing, what with a weekend near Crewe and three days in London, Dad agreed that Buxton sounded like a good idea.

And it really was! I've never been to Bath, but if it doesn't have an amazing cave you can wander around and touch stalagmites and get dripped on by the same water that makes the cave, and if it doesn't have a bus tour done on an old milk float converted to look like a tram whose muttonchopped smartly-waistcoated bowler-hatted driver just parks up every so often and turns around to chat about architecture or Mary Queen of Scots leaving messages on a window with a diamond stylus, or hopping off the bus to show us a dome bigger than the one on St. Paul's Cathedral or a perfect, beautiful but tiny church...then I'm sure we made the right choice.

It was a beautiful day too (unless you're Andrew, for whom it was Too Hot, except when we were in the 7degC/44degF cave with water constantly dripping down on us, which delighted him), so we had lovely weather for roaming the Pavilion Gardens and getting a bit lost on the way back from Poole's Cavern. We went around lots of charity shops and had hot drinks and chocolate at what I'm told is an amazing chocolatier's (though I scandalized my parents by not being interested in eating any of the chocolate).

I surprised myself by genuinely enjoying it, which I really hadn't expected to.
hollymath: (Default)
The takeaway Andrew ordered tonight came with onion rings, which he doesn't like, so I ate them.

But I fear all onion rings will be disappointing after the ones I had with my lunch on Thursday in that pub [personal profile] magister took me to in Leeds.

They were made from possibly the biggest onions I'd ever seen ("If Jennie were here, she'd say that's because they were Yorkshire onions," he said), the batter was perfectly crispy and tasty, and they were mere seconds out of the fryer. James said I'd clearly made the right choice in those onion rings (he'd gotten chips) and I told him to have a couple because even though there were only about six onion rings they were more than I could eat. Some of them were as big as my hand!
hollymath: (Default)
I don't know if we could've had a weekend more perfectly suited to [livejournal.com profile] strange_complex -- with Hammer movies and (nearly) getting to Touch the Teeth of Dracula and all. And [personal profile] magister had so much to say after The Curse of Frankenstein, The Mummy and Dracula that I imagine no one noticed he hadn't watched the films with the rest of the group.

Since I seemed to be the only person in the "Saturday school" who hadn't seen them all loads of times (I hadn't ever seen the first two, in fact, and the third only a fortnight ago in very similar circumstances, but don't tell my friends, okay? I was also made to watch Horror Express on Saturday night because I hadn't seen that before, and halfway to Leeds James turned to me just to say "You really have to see Quatermass and the Pit" before going back to his conversation), there's not much for me to say about it.*

But I want to mention the extraordinary venue that M.R. James performance was in, called the Holbeck Underground Ballroom in Leeds. It's the only gig I've ever been to where I got to sit on a sofa with all my friends, all the drinks cost a pound, the wine's served in mugs just like the coffee is, and they handed out hot water bottles (which you need, because there's no heat, but even on such a chilly night the hot water bottle kep me warm and cozy enough to nod off during the last few minutes of "A Warning to the Curious" -- which, don't get me wrong, was ace but I'd had a week of poor sleep and long days). At the end you pay whatever you decide the show was worth, and honestly it was worth more than I had (though this was because I'd lent James money to buy the DVDs). Go there and see stuff if you get the chance.

And go see Robert Lloyd Parry telling M.R. James stories; it's bloody amazing. Andrew and James and I and probably some other people are already planning to see him at the Lowry in April. And apparently he does The Time Machine too.


* Though -- and perhaps especially among all the beginner's-mindiness of the weekend for me -- I felt especially pleased when on a random tour of the Large Objects Store of the National Media Museum, the conservator pointed out a mellotron, a wickedly cool thing that I'd noticed myself but which was so much better when she was allowed to turn it on and play a few "notes" (it was set up for train sounds and boat sounds). She said she was only showing us this because the first half of our group, which had the tour while we were having the post-films talk before we swapped, pointed it out and said it was played on the Beatles' "Sgt. Pepper." Ah, I said, not "Sgt. Pepper." "Strawberry Fields Forever."

A greying man whose hair looked like it was cut with hedge trimmers, just the sort you'd expect to argue with the quizmaster in a pub on some point that no one else understands or cares about, piped up to say this at the same time I did, and I think felt he had to stick his oar in when the nice conservator seemed interested in what I'd said, so he added, "The Beach Boys used it, too!" I couldn't think of any Beach Boys songs that had mellotron on them, but most of my brain was taken up with wishing that Andrew had been there. I came home and told him this story, demanding praise and adulation for knowing what a mellotron was and what Beatles song it was used on, and got it, but then I told him about the Cranky Old Man(tm) had said about the Beach Boys and he scoffed. Of course the Beach Boys never used a mellotron. American bands didn't do that; British bands did. Take that, cranky old man!

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