hollymath: Selfie: white person, three-quarter profile, smiling, brown hair shaved on the side we can see, chin-length on the other (Default)


I saw Em J for the first time in weeks, which is always so nice. But it was extra nice because she had such lovely birthday and Christmas presents for me!

I got a Moon nightlight, swirly space colored pencils, a planner with shiny constellations on it, and two other notebooks with constellation covers, one that's got a planisphere, a rotating paper disc so you can move it around to see what constellations are visible at different points if the year.

"I thought it might be a good thing to mess with in lectures when you're bored," she said about that, which made me giggle.

The planisphere notebook also has all different kinds of pages: ruled (nice and thin! I never see it thin enough for me), dotted, graph, even some with tessellating triangles.

The space pencils I remember seeing in Fred Aldous and being so excited about them I wondered if Em J had been the friend I was with. But then I remembered that'd been a different friend, Em J just knows me so well.

The other constellation notebook she said she was thinking might be nice if I want to do some poetry like Stuart. She got him a nice leather-covered notebook that he says he's going to read out of next time we go to Spoken Weird.

"Victory"

Nov. 19th, 2018 08:06 pm
hollymath: Selfie: white person, three-quarter profile, smiling, brown hair shaved on the side we can see, chin-length on the other (Default)
I was glad [personal profile] diffrentcolours warned me about the statue before I saw it. He probably didn't think of it as a warning, it just happened to come up in conversation one day: he told me there was this statue of blind World War I veterans outside Piccadilly, walking in a line, each with a hand on the shoulder of the person in front.

It was a very neutral explanation, mentioned because he knows I have an interest in anything about blindness. I only considered it a warning because I was on the lookout for ableism and cripspiration, especially since soldiers were involved.

I was interested to see the thing, but I don't use the main entrance of Piccadilly nearly as often as the other one, so I had time to forget about it before I encountered it.

So when I did, it was first as a nuisance. It's right in front of the main doors. It causes weird eddies in the spacetime continuum as people ebb and flow around it. And worse, as people stop to take pictures of both the statue and the explanatory plaque. Now, fully cognizant of the irony, I'm going to show you a photo I took of it the other day so you can see what I mean (click thumbnail to embiggen):

I took a bad picture here because I was so conscious of how in-everybody's-way I was -- had to be -- to take a picture at all. And I was at much greater a distance than people usually take photos from. You can actually see one or two doing so in this picture.

But all I wanted was to give you some idea of how close to the front doors of the station this statue is. People photographing it thus also tend to be pretty close by. It adds to the eddies and the obstacles. I expected to be in people's way when I was taking my photo because people are always in my way now, not looking where they are or where anyone else is but framing their shot. It's only a matter of time before someone yells at me for bumping into them and ruining their great insta moment with my actual, unlovely blindness.

Knowing I wanted some photos, I'd folded up my white cane beforehand so that...well, I don't know if I wanted to go incognito so that I wouldn't have to worry about "giving away" that I'm not completely bilnd, or so that my cane and I wouldn't end up in other people's pictures!

Honestly, I also didn't want to look like I was approving of the thing (which I assume most photo-takers are and I didn't want them to assume that of me), becuase I wasn't. I trust and hope that the charity that commisseioned it does good work for blind veterans, and as someone who'll never be a veteran I am not going to talk over them, but as a blind person I was pretty unimpressed.

I thought creating a statue that was a hindrance to blind pedestrians was already enough to die of irony poisoning, but on my first real visit to the statue (where I wasn't just hurrying by and cursing the increased chaos outside the station), after a cursory glance at the row of figures, I went over to the explanatory plaque. It is the same color metal as the statues.

And not just the plaque. All the words on it too. I couldn't read them, beyond the title which was a little larger. There was absolutely no contrast to the text. At all.

It was only on my later photo-expedition trip that I had a chance, because (as I said on Twitter this evening) my phone camera has much better resolution than my own optic nerves.

It says
Victory Over Blindness
Joanna Domke-Guyot
Remembering the returning blind veterans of the First World War
More than 3,000 veterans lost their sight as a result of their service in the First World War. Making their way home from the front, they began their journey to rebuild their lives after sight loss.
In 1915 a charity was founded to support them.
Blind Veterans UK, formerly known as St Dunstan's, has continued to support thousands more blind veterans to live independently as they begin that same journey today.

It's not even anything about the statue, just the charity. And what a name! What is a "victory over blindness"? Not being blind any more? Being so good that it doesn't matter if you're blind? Is blindness an enemy to be vanquished in war? I can't think of a reading that doesn't sound ableist, I'm afraid!

There is a Braille version of the plaque too. The best statistics I can find say that fewer than 1% of the two million visually impaired people in the UK are Braille users.

When I got home, now armed with the name of the statue, I googled it. First thing I found was a BBC news page about it that you can't rightfully call an article because most of it's a video (your reminder that pivot-to-video was always based on a lie and sure as hell made the web less accessible) where most of the information is presented as text overlays that are not read out. Even here, blind people are being talked about, not even talked to, much less with. (The only speech is a few disjointed sentences from blind veterans who were at the unveiling or whatever you call it, and that is captioned, so at least our deafie friends can get more out of the video.)

I was also dismayed to learn from the accompanying text that this statue is a permanent fixture now. I hoped it'd be a short-term thing, for Remembrance Day and that -- at least in its current location. I don't mind there being a statue for disabled veterans (apparently this is the first) but does it have to be right goddam there?

I hope people get used to it and I can walk past it without somebody stopping to take a photo. But Piccadilly is the busiest station around; there's always going to be somebody who's just walking past it for the first time. Ugh. (And oh dear lord I hope I never end up in the photos; people would think it was oh so quaint and poignant to have a Real Life Blind Person in the background of their photo of the mythical blind people.)
hollymath: Selfie: white person, three-quarter profile, smiling, brown hair shaved on the side we can see, chin-length on the other (Default)
When I told Andrew I was going to a spoken-word night with Stuart, he expressed sympathy. It made me laugh but I was convinced it was unfounded.

I don't know why, because every other such thing I've been to has had some measure of terribleness in it, but I trusted Stuart to pick something good. And he was going to read a few poems himself, which he'd hardly ever done before and which I was excited to hear; I didn't know them. I've read some of the novel he's working on (it's great and this was before we were dating again so I was under no girlfriendly obligations to say so (not that I'd feel obliged anyway but it does sometimes seem that way to recipients of such praise)) but I was unfamiliar with his poetry, so I was looking forward to that.

And unsurprisingly he was great, but slightly more surprisingly the rest of the open-mic first half was fine too. A loud Canadian addressed a sweary poem to the Moon, somebody condemned pavement (sidewalk, for American readers; normally the word I use and prefer but here it loses the alliteration) parking.

And then the headliner, Ciarán Hodgers, came on for the second half. By the end of his first poem I was determined to buy the book he said he had.

The poem left me in tears because it was about being an emigrant--usually we talk as immigrants, about the lives we're moving to, not where we're from. Obviously half of the details I couldn't relate to at all because I'm not Irish but the other half was like hearing the most perfect version of my tangled, unlovely thoughts.

And then he introduced his next poem by talking about his grandpa dying and how he had to take the first flight back and then I cried more, having of course been in that position myself and knowing I will be again one day for my grandma... I was crying because it's November now and because it'd be All Souls Day the next day.

The poet said he had three copies of the book (though he was happy to take details and post one for anybody else since he considered it his own fault he hadn't brought more copies, bless him) and I was second in line to buy one. "I could feel a lot of love coming from that corner of the room," he said, which is possibly no surprise since Em J had sent Steve to be first in line.

I told him he'd made me cry because I was an immigrant too and he signed the book for me and stood up to give me a hug and a kiss on the cheek goodbye.

It was a magical night all around really.

I definitely want to go back to Spoken Weird again, and I'd recommend it to anyone who can get to Halifax on the first Thursday of a month.

Cane tip

Oct. 12th, 2018 11:35 pm
hollymath: Selfie: white person, three-quarter profile, smiling, brown hair shaved on the side we can see, chin-length on the other (Default)

I got a new tip for my long cane today.

Because I roll mine on the ground (some people tap theirs from side to side, and some other kinds of white cane don't touch the ground at all), the tip wears away. It's taken a few years for this to happen, but I don't use the long cane all the time: the shorter guide cane is enough for me in the brighter summer months when I can see a lot better.

I noticed my cane felt and sounded weird when I first came back to uni. I chalked it up to having forgotten what the surfaces around there are like, but when I looked at my cane I saw it wasn't fit for purpose any more: it had a chunk taken out of the bottom. It didn't roll right and it was making a really bizarre noise, sort of screechy and rattly. It certainly got people's attention when they were in my way and hadn't noticed me! But that wasn't really worth how annoying it was for me to have to listen to it all the time, and also I hadn't appreciated how much feedback I'd gotten from the sound of the cane until it stopped and was replaced by this terrible, useless sound.

Seeing the old and new tips next to each other made me laugh. I couldn't believe mine had ever been anything but the scruffy dirty thing before me today but it must've started out like this new one!

I'm feeling some kind of a way about this, to an extent that surprises me. I guess I think of myself as someone new to this white cane thing, since I only started...three?...years ago? (and a half). And my sight hadn't gotten any worse, it was just my idea about myself that'd changed. I guess it's still changing.

Pictures

Sep. 5th, 2018 09:29 pm
hollymath: Selfie: white person, three-quarter profile, smiling, brown hair shaved on the side we can see, chin-length on the other (Default)
...of almost everything mentioned in this entry (DW gives tiny thumbnail pictures but all can be clicked to embiggen):

Here's me and The Tiniest Kitten:


I tried to get a picture of how little he is but there were so many other kittens around.


But I had fun trying. He obligingly kept looking at me with his intense eyes.

Here's this year's two apples so far. And the teeny evergreens next to the apple trees.




And here's a picture of something I didn't mention the other day because I didn't know I'd get to do it! This is the first time I drove a tractor in about twenty years.
hollymath: Selfie: white person, three-quarter profile, smiling, brown hair shaved on the side we can see, chin-length on the other (Default)
I saw Hamilton yesterday afternoon! Piggybacking on another friend's birthday trip (my usual strategy, since my own birthday is never really celebrated, is to enjoy everybody else's a little more so that over the year I store up enough extra happiness and excitement that it equals a birthday for me), this time [personal profile] rmc28.

Who a month ago emailed us with a beautiful plan for the day so I knew where I'd meet people, what time, even the menu of the place we were going to eat beforehand. I luxuriate in plans like this, the best way to offset my anxiety.

When we were finally able to take our seats, I was so excited to realize that we were sitting in the third row of the stalls. Almost right in the center (of the four of us, I had the seat second from the left; I think the rightmost might actually have been right in the middle).

The set that friends of mine had to describe for me (from the second-to-last row in the first tier of circle seats) was much more sharp and clear to me now. The actors, when they came onstage, were so distinct and easily identifiable that I almost cried, I was so overwhelmed.

For the whole play it was easy to follow them, to catch some of the visual jokes and cleverness of the choreography (I know there was way more, but there's more than anyone could appreciate in one viewing and at least here it wasn't all lost on me). The whole thing was easy for me to cope with and I wasn't exhausted by it the way I had been the first time I'd seen it. It was such a special experience.

Here's a not-very-good phone camera picture I took before the performance started, hopefully good enough to give you an idea of the view from my seat.
hollymath: Selfie: white person, three-quarter profile, smiling, brown hair shaved on the side we can see, chin-length on the other (Default)
I had such a lovely evening. [personal profile] diffrentcolours and I had amazing food (poached eggs, asparagus, feta, mint, and smashed avocado on toast for me) and nice beer, followed by a Lib Dem fundraising whisky-tasting evening hosted by Alastair Carmichael.

We tried five whiskies that ranged from okay to amazing (the Ardbeg was unsurprisingly great, but my new discovery was the lovely Glengoyne).

And then came the raffle, whose prizes ran the gamut from the Lib Demmy "free leaflet artwork" to the interesting "day-long photography lessons" to the inevitable "bottle of whisky," the last of which was explained by the person who donated it as rare and special and going for more than a hundred quid right now.

The first winning number was drawn and since it wasn't anyone at our little table we carried on chatting. I was a bit sad I'd never see what the whisky tasted like. But then the person whose number had been chosen announced that she was taking the free artwork, not for herself but for her local party, which was warmly applauded. I'd barely had time to think "wait that means the whisky is still up for grabs?" when Alastair chose my raffle ticket number.

When Iain presented me with my prize, he also announced to the room that I was not only standing as a candidate for the first time, I was also only able to vote for the first time now. Which got a round of applause itself (and embarrassed laughter from me) and, as people were trickling away, a bit of interest and encouragement from people there that I didn't know which was sweet.

So here's a daft picture (click to embiggen) of me with my prize, a bottle of Arran Founders Reserve.
Me presenting my new bottle of whisky

Belgium

Apr. 7th, 2018 08:53 am
hollymath: Selfie: white person, three-quarter profile, smiling, brown hair shaved on the side we can see, chin-length on the other (Default)
So yesterday we went to Brussels.

I was kind of weirded out by having my passport scanned a couple of times by people who hardly looked up at me, even though my ability to do this as an EU citizen was part if why we tacked this extra bit onto our London trip. I'm the same person but I'm treated so differently now; it can't help but remind me how arbitrary borders and citizenship are.

Richard was pleased it was a kind if Eurostar he hadn't been on before, while it was just by miles the nicest train I've been on (it's the only non-British one).

The weather in Brussels has been lovely, almost too nice for the clothes I brought with me, so we got to drink beer outside and eat dinner outside like proper Europeans.

We found an Italian restaurant and when I had to know the street name to tell Adam so he and Lisa-Maria could join us, I was delighted to learn it was Kaasmarkt, cheese market street, since I was eating gnocchi aux 4 fromage. It really was a lot of cheese, I love cheese but by the end of the meal I had the rare experience of thinking I had actually eaten enough cheese.

An old man played the accordion at the tables of diners outside while we were eating, and I thought "ha, he sounds like Jacques Brel" before I remembered where I was. Indeed, I saw "Editions Jacques Brel" (a little museum) on the map when I was looking for the way back to our hotel last night.

Oh and we saw a dog wearing sunglasses drinking out of a fountain behind our table.


I am bemoaning my lack of French but the Flemish on signs makes things easier because even the pitiful amount of German I know makes that decipherable. People talk to you in French, though, of course, although it amuses me that their English is more American than British sometimes: I've heard "check" instead of "bill" and "track" instead of "platform."

Today: more mooching around, I want some waffles and frites, Eurostar back this afternoon, train home from London this evening.
hollymath: Selfie: white person, three-quarter profile, smiling, brown hair shaved on the side we can see, chin-length on the other (Default)
Something bad that I knew would happen has finally happened and I'm as upset as I thought I would be when I first figured it out on Tuesday. It feels like it's ruined two days now, with all the accumulated grumpiness.

But there are good things too. I woke up today with some big and stressful things to do, and I've done then: bought train tickets for London (it amuses me that it cost me the same today to travel this weekend as it cost when my on-the-ball friend [personal profile] po8crg bought tickets as soon as they became available for our Hamilton trip in April, so this time the procrastination has a huge good side effect and no bad side effects), packed for the three days including doing laundry in time that it'll hopefully be dry, and had my syntax & morphology exam. Which I actually enjoyed: it was tough and I definitely have messed up some of the time but it was things I'm interested in and I knew enough that I'm not worried.

One thing that made me laugh. Being disabled I get to do my exams on my own, which is actually an accommodation I like more than I thought I would. I'm about half an hour into the text and somebody walks in and starts chatting about how she has some kind of chore (cutting paper? sorting out papers? something like that) to do and she's going to do it here because some other room was taken, or something... I actually wasn't paying attention, didn't look up, didn't break my concentration. I didn't hear a reply from the invigilator behind me, so I'm assuming frantic hand signals or fierce whispering must have been deployed because the next thing she said was "Oh, is he taking an exam?" and she left in a flurry of flustered apologies about how she didn't know. (Though really if I walked into a room where one person was sitting bent over their pencil (as my tenth grade English teacher liked to put it) at a table full of papers and the only other person there was an old guy in a sweater reading the newspaper, I'd probably think somebody was taking an exam!)

It made me laugh that she said "he," just because I'd happened to notice as I started the text that I was wearing a low-ish cut top and I had to lean over especially when trying to make sure I filled in the correct circle on the accursed optical-scan paper. So here I was, worried I was accidentally flashing my boobs at people, but I guess I couldn't have been if someone called me "he." Even if we've already established that she isn't the most perceptive person in the world.

Oh and I got a much-needed haircut too, just to give myself something to do when I was struggling to see the numbers on the buses (the optical-scan exam paper did my head in, with its tiny rows of circles, so I had migraine symptoms by the time I was done). That was very successful too: nice lady who cut my hair like I asked without trying to make it more "feminine" or anything (a problem that eventually had me give up trying to get other people to cut my hair, a year or so ago) and was friendly without being an overbearing "got any holidays booked this year?" kind of thing which also makes me anxious enough to put me off haircuts.

I'm really happy with the way it feels and people tell me it looks nice too. Here's a picture I took at the bus stop.
Me smiling with my hair shaved on one side and long enough to hang down the side of my face on the other
hollymath: Selfie: white person, three-quarter profile, smiling, brown hair shaved on the side we can see, chin-length on the other (Default)
I'm weirdly delighted at this card my grandma got Andrew for his birthday.

He didn't bother punching out and assembling the paper airplane, but I did!

"Maybe it's because she thinks of us as going to visit on a plane?" Andrew said when he'd opened the card and was telling me about the paper airplane in it.

It certainly makes me think of that, now.

I miss my grandma. It was nice to see her handwriting again. She doesn't do e-mail or cell phones or anything, but she used to write occasionally -- it's harder now, because of her eyesight -- and I wrote back, never often enough.

This time of year is often the worst for me missing people. One of the unexpected upsides of university is how much better I've handled the changing of the seasons because of it: I've been too busy to be wistful. But there are moments.

I'll write her a nice letter, thanking her for such a great card.
hollymath: Selfie: white person, three-quarter profile, smiling, brown hair shaved on the side we can see, chin-length on the other (Default)
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.

Luna

Sep. 14th, 2017 10:19 am
hollymath: Selfie: white person, three-quarter profile, smiling, brown hair shaved on the side we can see, chin-length on the other (Default)
My friends' new tiny kitten

My friend Katie rang me yesterday morning, unexpectedly. She said "I'm off work sick, and we have a kitten! Dn you want to come and see her? She's been sleeping on my lap all morning, and she's tiny, and she's called Luna. And she's adorable. And she's tiny." Katie was using that soft voice people do around new babies.

I was free so I went over and she was right. I'd never seen a cat as small as Luna away from its mother. Katie and her partner were told she was eight weeks old but she looked smaller. (For all her tininess, she eats well and she's even litter-trained already.)

Still, they were told her mother hadn't shown much interest in looking after her, which might explain how tiny she is.

And how bold! Knowing my friends had only gotten this kitten the night before, I wasn't expecting to see much of her at all, but almost as soon as I sat down Katie went to make us tea, and when she was out of the room Luna came over so I could take this picture. She jumped up onto my lap after that! All still in the time it took Katie to make tea.

Of course she's just been separated from her mother and her littermates, so she may not always be this snuggly, but it was very cute that she curled up in my oversized hoodie in between bouts of exploring the living room. I am of course more a dog person than a cat person, but I do like cats too and this one is Irresistible.

Katie is absolutely smitten with her and also lives near a posh shop full of cat things, and it sounds like she wasn't in a good place before whereas she will definitely be doted on here, so I'm happy for Luna.

Solstice

Jun. 21st, 2017 10:37 pm
hollymath: Selfie: white person, three-quarter profile, smiling, brown hair shaved on the side we can see, chin-length on the other (Default)
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
hollymath: Selfie: white person, three-quarter profile, smiling, brown hair shaved on the side we can see, chin-length on the other (Default)
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.)
hollymath: Selfie: white person, three-quarter profile, smiling, brown hair shaved on the side we can see, chin-length on the other (Default)
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
hollymath: Selfie: white person, three-quarter profile, smiling, brown hair shaved on the side we can see, chin-length on the other (Default)
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.

hollymath: Selfie: white person, three-quarter profile, smiling, brown hair shaved on the side we can see, chin-length on the other (Default)

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.
 photo 20170311_165039.jpg
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.
hollymath: Selfie: white person, three-quarter profile, smiling, brown hair shaved on the side we can see, chin-length on the other (Default)


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.
hollymath: Selfie: white person, three-quarter profile, smiling, brown hair shaved on the side we can see, chin-length on the other (Default)
#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.

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