Monday, 31 December 2007

Happy New Year Folks!

And here we perch, right on the edge of the year..about to leap off into 2008 and not sure if there will be rocks or sweet, deep water. Probably a bit of both. Annie is shrilly whining the song, ‘Tomorrow’ on my TV with a little dog on her lap and the fake snow in her hair. ‘The sun will come out tomorrow!’ I am a cynical old cow but it still makes me well up and get all jazz hands.

You know I have had such luck this year. I had enough money to see the Himalayas, to test my endurance and courage in a way we rarely do and to meet such fascinating and profoundly uncynical people in Nepal. I haven’t lost much sight this year (fingers and eyes crossed!) and yet in the face of the RP I found I was an intelligent and apt pupil of photography. I got to spend time with some brand new people, Maya and Sophie and see outrageous Halloween in New York with my cousin
Yes Teelo as killed and we are still reeling, especially family, his friends.. but Teelo’s death bought me closer to many people I might never have really got to know, people that I can’t imagine now doing without. My old cat died and yet her death means that I am free to go wherever the wind (or the work) takes me next year. Anything is possible!
This is beginning to look revoltingly sentimental but it just is that in the face of all the pain and craziness in the world I have so much and it is timely to rap myself on the side of the head and remind myself. Tomorrow I will have even more …a hangover and possibly a couple of bruises as I am bound to try and drunkenly reel the Scottish Reel when my buddy gets his bagpipes out at midnight ('tis the ONLY time I get excited about bagpipes!)

So here’s to 2008! May Pakistan find stability before someone remembers the nuclear stockpile, may Putin find his feminine side, may Mugabe finally explode during one of his four-hour rants, may Gordon Brown do the right thing and may Zambia win the Africa Nations Cup at last.
But mostly may you all have a really lovely couple of days and I’ll see you back on line on Wednesday.

Thursday, 27 December 2007

Wild Christmas Rabbits

The sign outside the butcher’s on the way to Cranfield read ‘English wild rabbits on sale here…’ and underneath had been added in big red letters, ‘Really, REALLY wild rabbits!’
What does that mean? This sign has been intriguing me since I got picked up on Christmas Eve. I have pictures of half crazed rabbit gangs smoking crack and waving flick knives.

Well ‘tis done now for 2007. The presents have been torn open, the continuous food fandango gradually slowed to a gentle nibble and the rivers of wine stoppered. My Christmas was spent with my mother and her partner and my very sweet but tired younger brother. Mum had decorated the little house beautifully and in Harry Potteresque style (can you tell i am burrowed finally into 'The Deathly Hallows'), organised a magically never ending buffet of delicate snacks and followed it up with a triumphant lamb shank stew and mash with horseradish and cream so not a turkey in sight..(oh what about those really REALLY wild rabbits..??)

We spent a pint in a pub, had a gallivant into a neighbour’s do and did the traditional Boxing Day morning ramble as soon as the traditional Christmas downpour was over. Very nice and I hope you all had a lovely few days too.

Benizeer Bhutto was shot dead today and Kenyans go to the polls. It is strange how things rupture, change, adapt, morph and move on. This was my first Christmas without a message of drunken friendly love from Teelo. I bet he would have known about the rabbits!

Sunday, 23 December 2007

Plastic Jesus

Last night after several pints of ‘Steaming Ale’ (I kid you not) I staggered into my kitchen ravenous and bleary eyed as one is after a glass of ale. A piece of toast and some camembert went down so well I, slightly less woozily, headed back for another round only to realise that the bread I was about to scoff was completely covered in purpley-blue stuff. .. I had just stuffed my face with mouldy mucor encrusted bread….I knew it was mucor having previously grown it ON PURPOSE whilst an o’level biology student.. I wated to see if I would develop ergotism (St Antony’s Fire..or don’t you remember the 1039 outbreak in France? Oh for goodness sake…!) Luckily the twitching and hallucinatuions were purely down to the Steaming Ale and shock of eating deeply mouldy bread. Now let this incident be a Xmas warning to all of you out there who like a nip of sherry over the holidays! Prepare food with the lights on and always double check the bread!

But as ‘tis the jolly season I cannot leave you thinking of mouldy toast and cheese. No no! Instead I should tell you that I went along to my choir’s Xmas do last week. My choir consists mostly of women over 50 with sensible shoes and 70’s jewellery so imagine my surprise when one of the Secet Santa presents given to a lovely lady of a certain age consisted of three different coloured ping pong balls and a set of instructions about pelvic floor exercises. Need I say more. Someone else got a plastic Jesus to go on the dashboard of a car. This prompted everyone to break into the well known Christmas number ‘Plastic Jesus’ which includes the lyrics

‘Plastic Jesus got to go
He’s messing with my stereo
Sitting on the dashboard of my car
Plastic Jesus gives me hope
He’s there for me to store my dope
Sitting on the dashboard of my car…’ etc.

There are several hundred verses and I sat there open mouthed and with renewed respect for the irreverence of this band of merry wives. It was rather a jolly evening altogether.

Thursday, 20 December 2007


I met a friend today from another life. I hadn’t seen her in over 15 years and there she was in the café with a new addition, her 4-year-old son, George. She looked exactly the same..well better actually then she had back then. Tall and willowy, she had the same humour and gentleness and it was quite wonderful to see her but with her she bought a slew of names and memories that quite overwhelmed me. All those people we were at university with…all the friends we knew together in the early 90’s…including my ex fiancée who is still a close friend to her and her husband. He is alive. He even learnt French. He got married…he got divorced. For some reason this all makes me feel a little anxious. I loved him very much and he hurt me very much and it was all a long, long time ago and buried …and now.. …he learnt French???? Holy shit…. Life is bananas.
On the way home musing happily over our four-hour lunch, I made a mistake with my cane.. It was very dark and I misjudged the pavement and stepped out into the road just as an idiot in a Mazda blasted around the corner. ( I am not sure if it WAS a Mazda, but it felt cornered like one). I shrieked and just managed to twist my body and feet away but the metal brushed my coat. It drove away with all my confidence and joyfulness. I was less then a minute from my front door and as I stumbled into the house the phone rang and it was my aunt.. We talked Christmas nonsense for a few minutes and then, just as she was saying goodbye, I realised my hands were still shaking. ‘I was nearly run over’ I said. There was a confused pause..we don’t talk this way to each other. ‘Yes well…’nearly’ doesn’t count does it?’ she said and hung up. I sat for a while letting the anger ebb away and grasping harder to my aloneness. Hanging onto it with both my fists so I won’t cry. No one needs to know, no one needs to know, no one wants to know….….After 20 minutes or so my hands have stopped shaking. In the quiet of my flat I think about my ex. ‘Nearly’ doesn’t count apparently.

Tuesday, 18 December 2007


Ahhh the schizophrenic email..the one that begins with sweet nothings and ends in death threats....yes, the chain letter.
‘Hello there! We are writing to you because we know that you have had a tough old time and we think you could do with a boost! We can promise you just such a lift! We are here to bring you such luck you will find the world lights up around you and love is found around every corner.
And all you need to do to get this fandango, this gorgeous overload of luck is send this letter to 100 people. Just 100 people and then we absolutely guarantee you all the luck, love and wealth in the world, (as proven by Mrs. K Bantel of 14 Worrisome Way who a week after sending this email to 1000 of her friends was released from the Fornley Mental Health Unit, won the lottery and met Jesus all in just 7 days.)

If, however, you only send this to 50 people you will never find true love and will end up old and odd and alone with a dead cat’s ashes in your bedroom and a tendency to grow a moustache …and you will forever smell of foot powder.

If you send it to a measly 10 people you may trip and break a leg tomorrow and if you try – yes, just you try it missy - to DELETE this, we will send a hit squad to kill your parents and any loved ones , and the loved ones of your loved ones. We will KILL THEM ALL!!!!!!’

I got another one of these today and felt annoyed with the friend who had buckled beneath this absurd blackmail and forwarded it to me. Even so, as I deleted the nasty thing, I made a mental note to double check on my loved ones over the next few days….

So Zuma got in today in the South African elections. I wonder how that will affect South Africa’s HIV/AIDS policy given this is the man who claimed he was immune from HIV because he washed after sex…. Hmmm. I should really listen to some news but today I have been up and down to the doctor with either a pulled muscle (my thought) or a grumbling appendix (doc’s) …( a ‘grumbling appendix’ seems rather a lackadaisical description for a potential time bomb in the belly…) Anyway I am still sure it’s a pulled muscle and as the pain has faded I think we can stop worrying. Soon find out one way or t’other.

Sunday, 16 December 2007

Saturday night and Sunday morning

There was a woman in the pub toilet with a moustache. It was a huge black hairy one and behind it she was apparently Australian and called Audrey. At the same pub bar were women with legwarmers and spandex and a lot of men in long curly black wigs. They were supposed to resemble something from the glam rock scene but incongruously looked more like they were a debauched entity of the court of King Charles 1.
It was a ‘rock’ party and I too was bowed beneath the weight of a vast wig and heavy make up which seemed strangely to make me irresistible to men. This is a tad depressing as I thought I looked a little like a drag queen I once knew called Bonita. One bloke in particular I couldn’t shift. With limited vision the rules of flirting are rather skewed in the favour of the person who can see who (or what) they are winking and leering at. In low light I can see one part of one person at a time so if someone sits in front of me, chatting but then won’t leave or mingle I am pretty stuck. I can’t signal desperately with my eyes at others standing behind us and I can’t scan the room to see who else is around and potentially up for a …well a dance and a laugh. As usual this chap got quite heavy after the 3 rd or 4th drink. The music was loud and I couldn’t hear him anyway and therefore had to lean in to watch his mouth in the hope of gleaning something though lip reading….leaning in close to a man and looking at his mouth tends to send out the wrong signals so he thought he was on to a good thing and I was trapped and soon quite bored. I was there for a good time..not to bond for life with a bloke who was dressed as someone from Duran Duran. Friends would distract him and whisk me off to the bar or dance floor but after 10 minutes or so he would appear like a drunken wraith waving wildly and hopefully at me in his new disabled aware fashion.
Everyone had a good time though and they had to kick us out at 2am, wigs askance and make up slurred.
The sweetest thing today was getting on to the tube, me with cane and reflective belt, my beautiful friend, Sloe-eyed S, 6 months pregnant and showing and her husband the Botanist D. We had agreed that Botanist D would sit, glowering, in the disabled seat and refuse to move and Sloe-eyed S and I would stand over him looking wretched, heavy with child and weary with disability and see what the other passengers would do. As it was we were giggling so much it was obviously a set up and after a shocked minute most of the other people in the carriage fell into stifled laughter too. It was a Sunday morning London moment!

Friday, 14 December 2007

Late night po'tree

Its very late and I can’t sleep and I can’t bloody read. So instead I write..thank goodness for enlarged fonts!

In this particular little England life and this culture, I love my gym. For someone who works from home the time out is important. To someone who feels vulnerable being fast and fit brings confidence and to someone who is short and with a tendacy to be rather rotund, the gym is also imperative. Ah,
but I am still able to see the dark side, yes Luke, the hamster- wheel halls of cardio machines, the women who make themselves sick if they don't run 10 kms a day, the men who make every moment a competition... (and the fact that sometimes the mindless repitition is so boring my teeth ache.) Today I saw two women who made me feel so sad....both were attractive but too skinny, wiry like terriers and yet they were there when I arrived and there when i left ........The tension in one woman's shoulder as she worked out in the hellish cardio hall broke my heart. This may not make any sense..and it is 2 in the i wrote a poem. (It willl make less sense but it is a poem so all is well.)

Running Nowhere.

A bundle of bones
Lifts a feather weight
Those endless mirrors!
Eyes red rimmed with
Salt sweat.

Running on the rubber treadmill
Grinding down like pepper.

That other one,
Who works out late
So people don’t
Stare at the way
Her thighs will never come together.

In the bag she punches
She sees her own face;
A thousand crunches,
(She pukes water)
A hundred push ups,
(Her arms roped with veins
She hopes will squeeze her smaller)
And in those whispering wall of mirrors ....?…

Running nowhere
Gaze fixed
Running on the rubber treadmill
Grinding down like pepper.

Running, hurting, running.

Where are you going friend?
Each mile only brings you closer
To the next mile and further away
From the home in your belly,
That beautiful life giving belly…….

Little sister,
Take your blood soaked sneakers off
Dance in the dirt
(Dance in the dust
That is the skin you have been shedding
So long)
Tear the rubber matting with your teeth and
Lie back and let the sun
Tangle your hair again.
You are still breathless,
Not with running now
(Breathe and breathe and sigh)

At last

Wednesday, 12 December 2007

Blue Sky and Squirrel

The sky is bright blue today and there is still frost on the grass. It is a lovely sparking winter’s day. Dennis the Squirrel just punched a wood pigeon off the bird table.

I am so glad it is sunny today as I was feeling bleak over the weekend. It is always demoralising not getting work and I can’t help but question my own competence. Isn’t it enough to be able to do a handstand into a pool? Surely it counts that I can lose gracefully at Monopoly? Maybe they thought I was ugly? Perhaps I need to be taller? Perhaps I am crap? To distract myself from such thoughts I settled down to read the papers.

How to read the papers with visual impairment:
1) Buy papers and lug home
2) Put them in obvious place
3) Trip over them when coming out of kitchen
4) Slump into soft chair with coffee and toast near elbow. Unfurl newspapers with comfy sigh.
5) Realise can only read headlines…text a blur…need more light.
6) Drag oneself from depths of comfy chair…knock over toast.
7) Clean up toast and wonder what lifts marmite out of cream carpets…
8) Find a lighter spot in uncomfortable straight chair …sit....stand.....go back and get papers....sit…twist papers under light..strain neck..not enough light..
9) Get up and spend 20 minutes looking for magnifyer.
10) Sit down and once again squint at papers…fighting down flapping pages and juggling magnifyer. Manage to read one article and a bit of a magazine,
11) Throw all on floor in disgust
12) Remember coffee
13) Coffee cold.

Yesterday was better though. After busy day I went to the gym for a jumping-up-and-down-and-punch things class ( I DO keep telling people not to stand to close to me as I have no peripheral vision but will they listen..? They don’t make that mistake more then once though!) and afterwards met up with a friend for a glass of wine ( apparently much better then isotonic drinks for rebalancing the body…ehem....) She’s a nurse and was telling me about her last 12 hour shift. I listened open mouthed to tales of understaffing, exhaustion and bad management and feeling much abashed, resolved to stop whining about my lot for while. Well until the next post anyway!

Saturday, 8 December 2007


Firstly I apologise for misspelling 'fairy' in the previous post. Dyslexics rule KO..
Secondly, I apologise for the week of silence. I was hiding out in south Mombassa and didn’t want to bang on about the sea being bright turquoise-blue and the water so warm you could hardly feel it when you slipped into the pool; about the sand being silky and white and how there were, each glorious, sunlit morning, enormous plates of fresh mangos, paw paws and pineapples to go with your bacon and eggs. I didn’t want to upset you with stories of fantastical, multi-coloured fish and corals, gentle whispering palms and huge skies that made the Bounty adverts look like Cillet Bang ads…..nope, I didn’t think it would be very nice of me to whitter on about the smell of almond oils from the spa rooms, the hibiscus flowers arranged on the pillows each evening or the far off sweet smell of rain on the wind. I just thought it wouldn’t be kind.

I was there with the famous S and another great woman pal, Little J, both of whom work far too hard in the charity sector and were actually deserving of some serious R and R. They are excellent to travel with as they have vast brains full of quite useful stuff and make friends with everyone easily and with genuine warmth, are adaptable and don’t screech with fear at the sight of snakes, large insects or monkeys..which is a good thing as we got mugged by a Columbus monkey who was after J’s tobacco.
We spent the first few days trying to fit in all the different kinds of lying down one can do; in the sea, in the pool, in the air-conditioned bedrooms. It was quite tough as we had to somehow squeeze this in between the food breaks but we worked harder each day and by the end of the week we had it down. Little J even managed to get the DJ to stop pandering to the German tourists with Europoptechnotastic and play some truly rooted Zairian rumba (at which point the previously empty dance floor immediately erupted and we danced ourselves further into the sweaty gin sozzled sun burnt mess with glee.)
I had thought snorkelling no longer possible. On first try I couldn’t make out colours under water at all and my peripheral it’s own entity..was making up huge shark like shadows on either side of my head so I wussed out. However we ended up doing a boat trip to a marine reserve and there, in crystal clear water I saw plenty of everything, blues, oranges, pinks and all. It was stunning.

What I really can’t see anymore are stars. In Africa, where one can safari along the Milky Way, this is especially hard to come to terms with but I was warned about it after my initial diagnosis and so have grown used to just listening to others give long sighs of awe and pretend they know what star they are pointing at. I am just relieved I had a chance to see them in their full glory when I was growing up.

Today, back in UK, where it seems sunlight filters through the gloom for only about 40 minutes a day and the wind is beginning to get icy, Little J and I staggered through the rain to check out the last day of the Photovoice Exhibition ‘Beyond Sight’. The photos looked great in the space and there, pride of place in the entrance, was one of my pieces blown up to a vast size and looking..well…. bloody professional. I am very proud and so pleased for everyone who took part! It’s all terribly posh and made up for the fact I didn’t get the job at Canary Wharf which I am a little sad about but happy I won’t have to get a hair cut or hem my one pinstripe suit or commute for a while longer.

It was a wonderful week and I wait to see how things are going to pan out in Kenya with the elections in a couple of weeks. Hakuna Matata!