Unreliable and possibly off-topic


Wednesday, November 30, 2005


Academic life is a poisonpit, but one of its great pleasures came today when my one and only official student passed her viva voce exam, and obtained her PhD. She was the first of her family to go to University, much less obtain a doctorate, and after 5 years of bloody, sweaty and tearful research should be inordinately proud of herself.

I never attended the graduation ceremony for my first degree. I think I went to Stonehenge festival instead, but it's all a little hazy... However, I was persuaded to undergo the graduation ritual by my Dad when I obtained my doctorate. He travelled from the US just for the ceremony. By that time I had a 3 year-old son conceived, gestated, born and raised during a physically tough research project. At my PhD ceremony I was 8 months pregnant with my daughter. I rolled up onto that platform like a pot-bellied pony to get bopped with John Knox's hat and declared a doctor of philosophy. Our family don't go for posed photos much, but my Dad and stepmum keep a shot of me and Dad at that graduation in our respective gowns. My dad had managed to obtain the official robe for a PhD from Berkeley, so he was all kitted out too. I look like a milch cow in the photo, but happy.

I must be the only person alive who didn't have proper piss-up either on submitting my thesis, passing my viva or graduating PhD, since I was pregnant at each. Dammit. I think I had a sneaky joint though, IIRC.

Unfortunately, I won't be joining Dr LA's celebrations tonight- those same kids of mine are with me this weekend so instead I'm mum. But I'll be very proud to attend Dr LA's graduation ceremony next summer.


Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Highlights of the week

Immensely entertained this week by the phrase, used in anger, of 'mad as a meataxe', uttered from the mouth of Kiwi Heather. Of course she enunciates it as 'med as a mite-axe', which only adds pith and vigour.

It put me in mind of an 80s associate, Mad Mike C*x. This white bloke with a skinhead was an afficianado of deep dub reggae who used to frequent multi-ethnic blues clubs with a meat-cleaver down his sock. I was very fond of Mike- a diamond geezer... most of the time.

But these freezing days I'm a telly sloth, but not without reasonable selection and attention. A viewing highlight was last night's C4 'Time Team' on the Salisbury Plain complexes, and particularly the road and river connections between Durrington Walls and Stonehenge. This was dynamite for me, and will be in the future an archaeological classic, IMO. The forensic remains of wooden postholes allowed the archaeologists to reconstruct that there was an... Andy Goldworthy sculpture... of oak timber beams erected in a beautiful concentric ring within the massive enclosure of Durrington Dykes.

A manmade oak timber forest, an architecture, with who knows how sculptured, pigmented or tented adornments, and all organic and perishable. It's still in the land of the living, where organisms are born, live and die. Three km away as the crow flies, lies Stonehenge, the solid stoney home of dead, concrete, looming, immortal ancestor spirits.

I'm extremely attracted to the hypothesis proposed by Prof Mike Parker Pearson that Durrington Walls and Stonehenge are related ritual sites, going back to approx 2,500 BC, representing a linked spiritual, alchemical and psychogeographical journey between the land of the living and the dead. I lapped this up.

Other highlight, just today- Greenpeace disruption of Tony Bliar speaking on nukepower at the CBI. Is it contravening the Terrorism Act to write that this was an exploit that captured the media, and made a public impact?


Sunday, November 27, 2005


I'm thinking about getting on the wrong side of the law, and what that means. What makes a criminal? Who makes the Nazis?

An informant told me that in the US around 75% of males can expect to be arrested before the age of 20, making me think about a society where the majority are 'criminals' according to legal process. I suspect that stats in the UK will not be too much different, except that locally (thank Christ) blades and not guns are the prevalent weapon in crimes of violence. Except that I suspect the median type of crime in neither western country is violence, but instead public order offences, motoring offences, shoplifting, unpaid fines, driving intoxicated, possession of drugs.

When the majority of the population are criminals, and another minority just not caught yet, what sway does law have?

It may not be a surprise to hear that I have the answer already. It's about 'applying' the law, and not it's letter. I've been let off public other offenses when other more 'likely' targets have not. Police often have cognitive dissonance dealing with middle-class, well-spoken women who represent some mythical Kirche, Kuche, Kinder.


Thursday, November 24, 2005

Extreme unction

My PC is very, very sick, and will be going into hospital soon. It picked up an ineradicable WinFixer infection 3 months ago, probably one of the kids not using a condom while online, which has serially trashed display settings and now internet access, and disabled my spyware in the process. Nasty little bugger. The fixes advised through PoV were helpful, but not practical for mongs. I'm taking my wee laptop, dodgy as it is, into the nerdy boys at the PC shop later today. It may be gone for some time...

I hope all invertebrate lovers watched 'Life in the Undergrowth' on BBC last night. Magic, and on a par with 'Alien Empire'- another firm favourite. These guys are amongst the most ancient and expert organisms, and see how they network in with their environments. And isn't it amazing how various sex can be- parthenogenic, hermaphroditic, transexual- something most humans wrongly perceive as fixed in their own mammalian pattern.


Tuesday, November 22, 2005

It's Tuesday...

... so I should be cleaning up in preparation for Heather's weekly cleaning visit tomorrow. Otherwise she will kick my ass, but gently. She leaves yellow post-it notes with chores for me and the kids each week, which we cheerfully ignore. But doing the dishes and clearing the litter off the floor is a necessity so the hoover can get to work, and sook up any stray black carpet beetles for a slow suffocating death.

Actually, they can't be carpet beetles, because one strolled out on the WC lino as cool as you please this morning, while I was having my morning pee. Cheeky bugger. The pressing reason for acquiring Her Catness some 4 years ago was the insouciant attitude of housemice in this flat. She saw off the Mustidae nae bother, but has no interest in the Coleopterae. Beetles move too slow to engage her hunting interest and make her pupils dilate. However, phantoms in the night (normally between 1 and 2 am) haunt her and turn her into a werecat, careering up and down the hall, sliding off the polished boards and ricocheting off the skirting boards. She'll attack anything in that mood.

Her Catness has a new morning game since new occupants moved into the groundfloor flat opposite. She's always liked to be up on the windowsill at dawn (currently ~7.30am) to monitor, chatter and slaver at local bird activity. The new occupants opposite have a tabby of the same proclivities, who also faithfully mans her station at the windowsill every morning. I like to say hello to her when passing, to be greeted with her blank, offended stare. She has balls. Anyway, lately Neighbour Kitty and Her Catness have been engaging in regular morning Celebrity Death Match stare-out competitions from their respective windowsills. I have no idea who's winning, but it's an intense competition.


Monday, November 21, 2005


Recently, I've spent far too much time talking to my cat- I admit it- but I swear she's got more to say than the mums at the ballet grade 2 exam on Saturday. Nini's dance classes were instituted by her dad, and I follow along through blackmail, but her dance activities took up all of Saturday from 10 am to 3 pm, including a grade 2 ballet exam- a form of pure purgatory. Fuck 'Honey, We're Killing the Kids' - what about 'Kids, You're Killing Your Parents'?

I had to spend 40 minutes in a church shed waiting room with ambitious mums of 9 yr olds. "Remember to smile, dear", "Calm your nerves!", "Just do your best" they urged their alter-ego daughters. I told Nini to break a leg, and I meant it literally. Bad mum. Thankfully, she hasn't a nerve in her wee body, and has nothing invested in the exams but advancing a class. She demonstrated her dances in the Botanics this weekend, and she's knockout. I wish I had her poise and elegance.

During the RADA exam, I worked on a Sudoku while the other bonded mums talked over me of Kate Moss (she's not a real mum, she doesn't know what normal is), Camilla (Diana was a true princess), tecnology for fixing ballet buns (gel, snoods, hairbands, hairpins). This can only happen in Edinburgh, I truly hope, and it's quite stomach-churning.

Sudoku (quick, Monday's Independent, ): 21 mins. One worked from the outside of the grid inwards, with the 9's and 1's easy to place, but cross-correlation between central 5, 6, 8's, as is so often the case.


Saturday, November 19, 2005

AL Kennedy does stand-up

Those with political interests may know AL (Alison) Kennedy as a talented black commentator on the war, both on rally platforms and in her sometimes terrifying Guardian columns over the past few years. She's also been crucial in the inflorescence (?sp) of modern Scottish literature over recent years, in another of her plural careers. Empirically, this makes her already a flexible polymath (although she would shun such a description), yet she's extending her expressive range yet further recently by venturing into stand-up comedy.

ALK performed twice last week at a local comedy club, and R and I saw the second of these on a female comedians' night, 'SisStars'. Given the theme and the setting (in the gay capital of Scotland), there was a reassuring representation of dykes in the audience. Compere Susan Morrison (who's fucking brilliant, in Weedgie style) had the audience well warmed up with her crackling staccato post-feminist diatribe before ALK came on for her short set. Susan, after picking me to charmingly victimise (for the second time in 6 months), commented that to pry ALK out of her house is not an easy feat. Maybe because it was a wimmen's night, ALK concentrated on a female leitmotif- the (Pap) smear test, which most of us undergo every 3 years at least. Having introduced the theme that as a writer she is continually bored by strangers with ideas for books, she related the story about being 'pitched' with a book idea by a practice nurse while undergoing a smear, and with speculum in place. We liked it.


Oh happy day

Blogposts must represent some kind of hotline to God. My prayer for a hand-blender (for making soups and sauces) was answered from an unexpected source yesterday. I'm now the proud owner of one such, offered as surplus to requirement by kids' granny. The Hallowe'en soup last night (a big orange sweet potato in there too) is even tastier blended.

A word of caution, though- use with great care on some sauces. After whisking up an aiolli (garlic mayo) by hand- about twenty minutes of wrist-numbing effort- my beautiful golden emulsion split instantly into curdled yolk and oil when given a whizz by the hand-blender.

Careful readers may note in Comments the evidence that my laptop's keyboard is losing it's 'f' key, probably due to overuse. The slash key has also loosed itself from its moorings. Designed obsolescence again? I think so.


Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Math and Meth

It's a well know fact that Americans pervert the perfectly useful plural word 'maths' into the useless singular 'math', as if it was all one thing. "Do you know new math?", they ask. "No'', I want to explain, in the instant before my hand slaps their face, "but I know maths, like geometry, algebra, topography, probability, Euclid, Pythagoras, Fermat, Newton, Leibnitz, Schroedinger- which did you have in mind?"

Meth is probably another piece of American guile. A new generation have discovered a latterday drug scourge- a cheap home-brewed pharaceutical in the amphetamine family. Bless my cotton socks, I may not have had crack, but I certainly remember a good deal of kitchen-sink speed, and wetly flocculent pink snow known as 'base'. As this crone remembers it, 'meth' in a previous time was pharmaceutical speed in vials- top stuff. 'Meths' on the other hand is methanol, i.e. wood alcohol, which is a potent toxin to human neurones, especially the optic nerve. Know your terms!


Woman bears baby!

I know- incredible but true. And all the Sundays plugged it, with photos on the front cover of brave Abigail, her miracle baby, husband and toddler son. Good for them, but the cult of St Abigail is a latterday beatification extending far beyond the bounds of a poignant and horrendous assault. Her pious RC background, her new (paralysed, virgin) birth of a babby boy is engendering a cult not unlike that for Diana.


Monday, November 14, 2005

Statice bouquets

I made it to Arrivals bearing a bouquet of ornamental cabbages, purple bottlebrush flowers and eucalyptus, and a bag of staple groceries for her fridge, just as R came through the gate. The bouquet looked better than it sounds (smiley), and should last a fortnight. She cried, but she's a Walter Softy.


Sunday, November 13, 2005

Fuck Sundays

I hate Sundays. If you're working and married w/ kids, you try to make an effort to have a 'quality day out' which as often as not decays into squabbling, wailing children, a silent sulk in the car and migraine all round. Then you still have to cook when you get home. And if you're single and carefree, unemployed or a student, the off-licences don't open till 12.30 am- even if you've been up all night and are still ready to roll. Catch-22.

Today I am fucked off about a number of things, including that my pda has died, taking my address book with it, that I broke Nini's nautilus shell while ursinely searching for pda OS CD and usb cable, that my digi-camera is fucking fucked up, and that most of my CDs perform echolalia on the best tracks. I thought the demise of vinyl was supposed to have remediated that? I knew it would be a con, and designed obsolescence in CD 'lasers' is proof.

Anyway, this Sunday's for another trip to the Botanics, targetting the Chinese garden of which I become ever more fond. Word Power bookshop is now also open on Sundays from noon, so a book can be picked upon the way. The Chinese garden is unfortunately sponsored by Pringle Ltd, but if you push this aside it does have a special charm and polyseasonal value.

In the Georgian gallery house at the top of the hill is an exhibition by Keith Farquhar, a local artist whose latest work consists of neon signs in the shape of stylised upside-down fannies, in different colours. Unless I'm seriously mistaken, I met KF during a long night/morning in the Cocteau Lounge and the Penny Black, a fistful of years ago. We talked about Kerouac and Burroughs IIRC, with me reminding him of a viewpoint from Joan Burroughs. But I never, honest, and thus count my blessings that my genitals cannot rationally be represented in his latest work. But there's a couple of images in his Bastards series, viz. the hands with the hash, in which I recognise my mirror self.


Saturday, November 12, 2005


Chinese garden’s ripe,
Berries swinging heavy in clusters.
Happy birds make cry.

Bamboo bends and nods,
Iris on the banks with blades advanced,
Water soothes a course.

Pagoda and bridge
Burn red, like maple, coot’s bill, swan’s foot,
Kids’ red coats ablaze.

Don’t cry. No sound but
Leaves burning, turning, falling in whirls,
Your breath and heartbeat.


Fallujah anniversary

In the real world outside of Marigolds is the upcoming anniversary of a turning-point in the current Iraq war- the siege and storming of Fallujah by coalition forces.

You can follow commentary and useful links on Fallujah, the use of white phosphorus or MK77, and documentary evidence in reportage at medialens MB (inc forum memory storage from last year), PoV, Lenin's Tomb, GlobalEcho, e-iraq, Dahr Jamail. Also check out the data sheets on white phosphorus, and decide for yourself whether this is an acceptable weapon.

What's most depressing is the obfuscation by the use of fine language and definitions to define what constitutes a chemical weapon, in what capacity Willy Pete was used (for [toxic] smoke, illumination, against terrorists, etc- choose your excuse) and whether 10 year old boys and women constitute civilians or not. Read it and weep. And check out the Italian RAI film, only out now almost a year later, documenting the aftermath of the November massacre.


For R

Hi dear,

I didn't receive a confirmatory email, but your mum tells me you're already on the flight back home. If you see this, phone me from London to let me know what time your flight gets in- I'll come collect you from the airport.


Friday, November 11, 2005

Reproductive choices

A pitting of parental versus child choices is raised in the recent case launched by Sue Axon (mother of 5), in the stylee of a latter-day Victoria Gillick (mother of 10). In the style of Gillick, Mrs Axon raises interesting questions about social and individual choices. Sue Axon the individual had an abortion at age 16 before going on later to have five children. She regretted her 16 year-old choice, and attributes subsequent depression to her volitional act to terminate her pregnancy. Her righteous sense of justice therefore determines that the choice she opted for should be removed from all other young women in her circumstances.

Mrs Axon's High Court action also attacks prescription of contraceptives to under 16's without their parents' knowledge. Doubtless Mrs. Axon is overjoyed that her 16 yr old daughter can correct her own maternal mistakes by opting neither for contraception nor abortion, and due to deliver her first babby next March.

Mrs Axon's solicitor, Paul Contrathe, confirmed that her 16-year-old daughter is pregnant and the baby is due in March. "This goes to show that this case is more than a hypothetical interest to my client," he said. Mrs Axon, of Baguley, Manchester, had told the hearing she was prompted to make the legal challenge after a termination she had 20 years ago caused her "guilt, shame and depression for many years".,1074,1639234,00.html?gusrc=rss,7890,1640213,00.html


Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Tremendous culinary triumph

Hallowe'en soup

One yellow onion, diced
One large carrot, peeled and diced
One butternut squash, deseeded, and with flesh cubed

Vegetable stock cube dissloved in 0.5 l water
Blade mace- 2 husks
Sage (from your mum's garden)
0,5 l milk

Sweat off the veg in a good-sized knob of butter till the onion's transparent and the orange veg colouring up.
Add the veg stock, mace-spice and sage, then simmer for approx 20 mins till veg is tender.
Add milk and simmer for another 10mins before mashing into a puree.


Things I still want

One of those high-power hand-held mixers for soups and sauces
A juicer contraption
A handyman to replace the burnt-out lightbulbs I can't reach, even by ladder
A subscription to New Scientist
A lifetime supply of free books
A fully-equipped mobile caravan
A shower-fitted setz-bath in my house
World peace
A new vibrator
Respect and dignity
To be a virgin again


Two nightmares

When you sleep too long, have oestrogen swings or neglect to take your medication, excessive REM intrudes into your sleep.

Nightmare#1: Rousing semi-conscious in a lather of sweat, hair soaked and scalp aflame. Semi-rational waking dream that the nits are back. Note in the dream state the itch distribution (behind ears and underside of occiput) is compatible with pediculosis, and resolve to perform a diagnostic combing in the morning. Drift off again.

Nightmare #2: One of those lucid dreams. My ex-husband abruptly disappears in a far-flung shopping mall and runs off in my car, leaving me to find my way home with no familiar landmarks. I am royally pissed off and find the nearest bus driver to vociferously demand information on where the fvck I'm situated, and how to get home. I kicked up merry hell in the dream, and woke refreshed.


Forensic evidence

Monday was one long drinkathon, with the pace picking up after the solicitor visit, to which I was accompanying a girlfriend. Although I don't remember typing it, the previous post was a result of a thorough cortex-pounding with alcohol. I'm gratified to notice that despite being literally out of my mind (entirely amnesiac after 8 pm), my automatic behaviour consists of becoming sentimental, lovey-dovey and beer-goggled.

When I awoke again (wearing that smeared panda eye-makeup again), there was evidence in the bedroom, kitchen and sitting room of some kind of grizzly bear activity in the night. Sliced mushrooms and garlic peel lay scattered on the floor, a frying pan coated in mushroom fricasee also unaccountably on the floor, creme fraiche left out of the fridge, crushed garlic, half a squeezed lemon and many utensils scattered on the counter.

When I did wake up, I was sharing my bed with the contents of my jewellery boxes (?) and a packet of cream crackers. The sitting room had spilled ashtrays and drug paraphernalia, several CDs next to the DVD player but no sign of my spectacles. It's taken two days to track down those glasses, which somehow ended up chucked under the sofa beyond arm's reach. As I survey the scene of destruction, a vague memory intrudes that the grizzly bear had decided it was high time that she learned to use the DVD player, now 4 months old, with its many shiny controls labelled with strange symbols, and a silver remote controller with at least 20 buttons. Thus far, the bear had relied on her children to operate the DVD beast, but now she would show it who was boss...


Monday, November 07, 2005



If I were to walk to the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston
Well, first I'd go to the room where they keep the Cezanne
But if I had by my side a girlfriend
Then I could look through the paintings
I could look right through them...


I think I know how Jonathan feels, and can identify with his longing. For various reasons, my girlfriends are widely dispersed. And as is often the case, I'm not reading email, so amn't in as close touch as I should be. Of my girlfriends, the heartland of a woman's viewpoint, two have past or current experience of pregnancy at age 40+, three are negotiating 'blended' families and two dealing with a beloved father's illness or death. Women have an early and heavy burden.

I love my girlfriends, all of them unconditionally, and wish to support them as they do me. I love those beguiling slant-eyed females. For the girls, I send Joni Mitchell's Coyote from Hejira, 1976.

Coyote lyrics
Audio sample


Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Birthdays, plagium etc.

Guess what- Lenin, he of the Tomb shares my birthday, although a young whippersnapper. That's not surprising, as statisticians know. Viz, probability of sharing a birthday with another in a room of other people reaches 50% at n=23. We share our day with Salk (polio vaccine), Julia Roberts and Erasmus.

Anyway, I done good on presents. There's two bouquets lined up on the kitchen counter from R and my dear one, and a peace lily plant from mum. Dear one's internet bouquet was probably very expensive and much appreciated, but consisted of rather nasty chrysanths and carnations in a peach coloured bundle. Sorry, dear one- and it's the thought that counts, for sure. R's arrangement came from the local posh florist- a delightful basket of oriental lilies (with heady scent), statice, freesias (more scent) and glossy laurel foliage embedded in oasis, that'll last about 2 weeks. Mum's peace lily, with a black-glazed ceramic pot, was given with the innocent assurance that she'd picked it because it was especially hard to kill, and thrived on neglect (smiley- thanks mum). She knows me well.

On books, I gave the Mao biography and two of the three new Canongate mythology publications- Atwood's 'Penelopiad' and the Karen Armstrong text. The worst kind of Indian giver, these were all (if I'm honest) given with the hope of having a loan of them later. But my karma must be running even, because N gave me the Bob Dylan memoirs I'd almost bought for dad, or myself. I like the references to Folkway records, Lomax and blues roots artists. But I think he dictated into a dictaphone, and didn't write it textually. His fawning comments on Bono nearly had me boaking, unfortunately.

Also on books, the Norman Cantor's 'In the Wake of the Black Plague' was in many ways rather piss-poor, resorting to old-fogey lecture-room jokes on medieval sexual licentiousness and STDs to entertain the reader. I know he's old, but I'd shut up rather than push out that off-the-cuff pablum. This may make me also an old-fogey.

What's kidnapping episode reported at BBC news Scotland? WTF is the crime of plagium, with which a woman has been charged, and what does this classical Roman legalese mean? And how did this transmute etymologically into plagiarism? Clearly, there's much to learn.