Monday, 29 September 2008

And Brains!

I am a cheap date - when it comes to jewellery that is. (Don’t even THINK of scrimping on the seafood!) In these breakfast cereal days of credit crunches and fresh financial squeezes this is probably no bad thing. I have never been particularly interested in the glister of gold or the slicing, sparkle of diamonds. And anyway I always lose stuff or give it away. If a friend notices something I am wearing that they think is pretty I have no compunction in handing it over. Its only stuff after all, (that is as long as it isn’t my debit card… or my fillings…...)
Having said that, I do get surprisingly attached to strange bits and pieces of junk. I have this pair of £3 sparkly blue butterfly earrings that I bought at a supermarket. They have been to several continents and spent hundreds of nights under hundreds of pillows or on hundreds of dressers over the years. And then, in Toronto last May, I lost one.

Photo: Adonis Blue Butterfly; Johnathon Stott (c)
I searched everywhere, stripped the bed back, went inch by inch over the floor with my magnifier, shut my eyes turned around and opened them again..but it was still missing.

Every now and then back in UK I would think about it with cheap little blue butterfly stud. The other, the-one-that-was-left, would glint at me from my jewellery box forlornly. ‘Its just a trinket.’ I thought. ‘What’s the problem?’

Months went by.

And then yesterday I went to pull out a pair for the day and there, entwined in each other, were two blue butterfly earrings. How magical and intriguing is that my friends? Magical, mysterious and strangely very uplifting! A blessing.

To celebrate and because I was feeling lovely, I donned the sharp, black T-shirt my nephew sent me a few years ago which has rarely made an outing. Emblazoned in white across the breasts it reads ‘ALL THIS!’ and underneath in tiny brackets it adds (and brains). It makes everyone grin and my posture gets stonkingly good. Boobs out, head high. That was until I suddenly thought,
‘Oh hell. ‘…what happens if people test me?’
It is hard to keep pert with visions of people running behind one shouting ‘And brains eh? Really? What’s the square root of 5689 then? What’s the capital of Djibouti? What are the rules of probate?’ Ideally people would be too busy looking at my breasts...but that rather defeats the marvellous double edged irony of the T-shirt.
Ah well..All This, my blue butterfly earrings and at the very least, half a brain then.

Thursday, 25 September 2008


I am standing on one leg waiting to step forward and say something motivational to nearly 100 people who have turned up at the Cardiff School of Optometry and Vision for the opening of the 'Sight of Emotion' photographic exhibition when I have a realisation. You see, for a couple of weeks I have been trying to figure out what it is that my new perfume really smells of. I have got the ylang ylang and the hint of sandlewood,I have noted the musky vanilla but there is something ..else…and I’ve been wracking my brains trying to think what it is.
A second before I have to step out into the dazzle of other people’s eye lines I realise. Its soy sauce. A very expensive, organic Japanese sweet soy sauce to be sure but soy sauce none the less.
It makes sense. Ever since I started wearing it I have been cooking every meal in a wok (including breakfast) and when I have been out in company its takes only 10 minutes before someone orders sushi.
I am about to speak for 5 minutes about photography, art and disability and I smell like noodles.

(As it turns out no one seems to notice but afterwards the teriyaki chicken sticks fly off the buffet table. )

The exhibition is called ‘Sight of Emotion’; photographs by visually impaired or blind artists. I have four pieces in this travelling exhibition and am ‘representing’ the other photographers that I worked with last year. I talk from the heart (assisted by a sneaky nerve steadying glass of Cava) and two women in the audience start crying. I am slightly distracted by this as my intention was to inspire not cause distress but turns out the tears were cathartic. I could have had the whole audience sobbing if I’d been given another twenty minutes. Perhaps I should change my presentation style…..

Well..its been emotional. I’m off for some miso soup and bean curd.

Saturday, 20 September 2008

Pussycat Palls.

I really don’t like the Pussycat Dolls because..well ...because I have half a brain..but due to their very high, glossy, production values, I am still strangely drawn to them and have a horrible habit of finding myself humming their spanking the monkey, teasing the weasel, tossing the turkey, walking the dog, whipping the willy, wonking your cronker, yanking the crank, little ditties.

They have single bandedly promoted female betrayal, ‘no’ means ‘yes’ and women are refundable, replaceable and cheap, cheap, cheap with such unforgettable nasties as ‘Dontcha’ (as in ‘Dontcha’ wish your girlfriend was as hot as me’…what IS the opposite of ‘girl power’?)

However, I do have to confess to thinking that their latest ‘lets-ge-the-7-year-olds-into-thongs’ song had the lyric;

I wanna be famous
I wanna have ‘boobies’

‘ I wanna have ‘boobies’?? Bloody hell, I thought. I have these women all wrong. Perhaps…they have …omigod..intellect. Perhaps this really was genius post modern satire! I went further.. and actually read an article and tried watching an interview in the hope that these women were actually secret ninja feminists and their songs were a sinister, absurdist take on the world of celebrity pop culture and fame.

Then I actually READ the lyrics. In fact they didn’t want ‘boobies’ (they already have them apparently)... they wanted ‘groupies’

When I grow up

I wanna see the world

Drive nice cars

I wanna have groupies

See…’groupie’s folks…’groupies’..… that’s not funny, witty or ironic (English ‘ironic’ not Allanis) . And it doesn’t scan.

Of course it gets worse..

When I grow up

Be on tv

People know me

Be on magazines

When I grow up

Fresh and clean

Number one chick

when I step out on the scene

And that my friends, ain’t even English. It don’t even rhyme but hell they are very bendy, wear small clothes and do a marvellous selection of bottom jerks in stilletoes. Who am I trying to kid? I am very disappointed in the Pussycat dolls. They are not, as I thought for one brief glowing moment, subversive. They are just shit. And I still can’t purge that song-cum-advert -for-emptiness from my mind

Thursday, 18 September 2008

Flat and Twitchy.

Thank you all of you for your thoughts and support! I actually enjoyed the interview although, having prepared for ethical, political debate and searching questions about my personal experiences in the field, I felt slightly deflated by a more surface, quick fire Q and A. I don’t know if they got the key of me so to speak.
However, it was great fun and no matter what I think I now have to wait for a couple of weeks. I will let you know in October when I hear.

And so after all that hype and nervous tension, I am here- flump, bump sat back on my bum in my flat, wading without enthusiasm through Guardian-Jobs-On-Line again just in case. 'Flat and yet twitchy', is how I described myself to a pal. It’s the feeling you get after huge amounts of adrenalin have surged through your system and yet you have not fought or fled..anywhere..

I do my laundry and mow the lawn. I cook. I then watch
a brave piece of investigative journalism on Channel 4. In Ethiopia the UN food aid is going to the wrong people. Millions starve, abused by government forces and the UN has yet to take a stand. They demanded a human rights report a year ago but its not yet appeared. The film crew walked 8 hours out into the bush to interview the dispersed and desperate villagers hounded by the government soldiers and rebels alike in this incredibly moving and powerful report. I sat with my fork half way to my mouth watching a distraught starving woman begging for help. ‘Bollocks,’ I thought putting the fork, dripping with succulent steak and organic purple sprouting broccoli down and pushing the plate to the side. ‘’ll eat it later during ‘Mock the Week’.

It’s important though that we cast a careful and continuous eye over this whole AID malarkey. The Aid
business is a very, very big fat cash cow and it blatantly doesn’t work (a very few emergency scenarios asides). Where is the bloody money going year in and year out? Thousands of NGO’s in my hometown of Lusaka, upteen squillion four wheel drive vehicles with radio antennae whipping around in the wind and I still don’t see the majority of people’s living standards in any way changed. Corruption is still endemic and massive amounts of the AID money ends up firmly stuffed down the back of the wrong wallets. And what do we do? Give more money to yet another NGO to do the same shit. No joined up thinking.

OK, OK… I am just cross because someone raised my conscience during my supper. But I am not going to let it lie….

Monday, 15 September 2008

Days Like These

Once again I am cramming for a job interview. This one means so much to me that I am not going to say anything revealing about it here in case I don’t get the job and have to act casual and ‘oh well, I was just doing it for a lark..’ about it. However I will say that there is a lot of reading matter…people study for years and still only skim the surface of this stuff.
Intriguing eh?

I have been missing my old buddy Teelo these last few weeks. I especially wanted to tell him about this potential job. It is coming up to year since his death and it is beginning to sink in that we are never going to chew the fat about Obama, beer prices, parties we crashed, dance competitions we won…’the muzungu and the point five’. (White chick and mixed race Rasta). Other friends feel it too. We keen but quietly by email. I still have his last two texts on my phone.

This is Teelo and me and a bunch of impala in Ndola on a film recce in 2000. NB Castle and Mosi

Och well and aye and on we go and all that. Well not if you are a banker. H’oh nope Not if you are hedge fund manager. Mr. Pool your loot and leg it.

What on earth was Old Mugabe banging on about today? God he is one mean old sod – desperately wanting to say he had been coerced into the handshake by the colonial bastards and the enemies within but Mbeki kept giving him Chinese burns so he had to attempt enthusiasm… old goat but still with a scorpion sting (to mix animal metaphors). The heckles were louder but still long distance. No one quite sure how close they can get yet. Inflation in Zimbabwe at 30 million and now the credit grinding (I would say ‘crunching’ but then it sounds like a breakfast cereal) that will start to wilt the ability of the Diaspora to send money home. This is going to affect everyone Africa wide. There are hundreds of thousands of people absolutely dependent on families sending money home. That and food prices exponentially rising and … (I can hear my cousin now. She is yelling ‘ First off you said no talk of death for a while and two, stop with the gloom.always the gloom!’ Quit it!’ She is a New Yorker you know.)

So instead I am trying to unpick a misplaced belt loop from this dress I want to wear on Wednesday. I thought I’d go sombre and classic..but with Big Hair. I know..I should be brushing up on my interview technique but I am worried about the shoes…

Ohhhhhh wish me charm, wit, resourcefulness and the ability to articulate even under stress, to NOT walk into anything too obviously and to engage and enjoy…but most of all wish me luck!

Will let you know how it goes!

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

Extra Dimension

Ta for all the lovely comments folks… I certainly will try all the tips and I am already feeling annoyingly perkier today especially as I haven’t been sucked into an alternate universe or exploded.

I did watch the very excited gaggle of sweaty scientists flick a switch. Nothing obviously tele -friendly happened apart from the popping of a champagne cork so there we all stood holding our noses, our eyes squeezed tight shut and then, finally, the head honcho scientist (him in the Very Bad Cardigan) says ‘So now we can begin’.
Eh? ‘Begin’?
Turns out the atoms haven’t even collided yet. They are just picking up speed. Nothing may happen for a couple of weeks...they might not find Dark Matter for two years!

Realising I couldn’t sustain that level of apocalyptic terror for two weeks, I had breakfast and put away the DVD horror film ‘Event Horizon’ which I had been watching for tips last night.

I am a bit confused. I assume this is all to further our knowledge of know ..’stuff’ ..’quanta’…in order to eventually source infinite abundant free energy or open a hole into a fifth dimension we can shove all the NeoCons, Creationists and lunatic fringe religious fundamentalists in with a hearty ‘don’t -you -wish- you’d -been- more -open -minded- now’ guffaw.

Or could it be just a very expensive diversion from the fact the world is actually pretty shit right now and no one wants to face up to it. Perhaps they thought that scaring the pants off us by performing incomprehensible experiments in a basement in Geneva would toughen us up in the face of crumbling ecosystems, posturing war lords, disease and poverty. I am confused. Why now? I do not want to be a Luddite but I don’t like to be both frightened by things completely out of my control and then patronised because I don’t have a handle on string theory. It makes me irritated and more likely to join the baying mob demanding our money back and petitioning for a couple of those scientists to spend 20 minutes on an AIDS vaccine.

Oh gawd! I am sorry to be so reactionary on this special Big Bang Day. I am just jealous that's all. Not all of us got a Big... (that's enough of that- ed.)

I hope they find something wonderful...and well, useful and remember, you can put lipstick on a Higgs Bosun…or can you?

And for those of you who just need to know the goats are alright.

** DR Congo frees goats from prison **A minister in DR Congo orders the release from prison of a dozen goats awaiting trial on charges of being sold illegally.<

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Bleak Holes

No sun was able to squeeze through the chinks of the rain clouds hanging dolefully over Cambridge today. Even Dennis the squirrel is depressed. He crouched miserably on the bird table this morning looking up at the dripping sky and allowed the turtle doves to get away with all the sunflower seeds. (for the doves it was a bit of a coo….)

It gets to me too. The surge of energy I had at the weekend is draining away and I have embarked on a few nights of insomnia.

My insomnia is the rat in the kitchen, the mosquito in the bedroom and the cold sweat under one’s armpits after a terrible fright. My insomnia is that moment as you reach for the light in the darkest, stillest, strangest time of the night, when you think you feel a presence, see a form by the bed and even the light and the empty room doesn’t reassure you.

My insomnia is not creative. It hits when I am overtired and anxious and it refuses to allow me to tumble into deep sleep but doesn’t leave me awake enough to get up and go and do something useful. I want to get up and write but I can’t focus. I toss and turn and sigh and cry and deep breathe and visualise sheep and blue velvet (apparently this works for some imagine a soft velvet wall of a cool colour and use your hands to write your name in huge letters on it. One is supposed to be asleep by the time you get to your surname. Do try it and let me know if it works will you.. ) I visualize deserted beaches and beautiful landscapes to wander in and stay ..awake …my heart racing, my brain slopping over with bad thoughts and bizarre memories and my neck and shoulders stiff and sore.

My bouts of insomnia started when I was little in the suffocatingly hot nights of Zambia without air conditioning and were further compounded by endless nights at the ridiculously gothic girl’s boarding school I was sent to as a 10 years old. ‘Lights out’ at 8:00pm, horsehair mattresses, echoing dormitories either freezing cold or stuffy and hot, dreadful homesickness, rumours of ghosts, terror of double maths and French class ensured that sleep was extremely hard to come by.

When I can’t sleep now I am immediately that miserable child again. It is hard to keep perspective with a sudden pathological fear of French adverbs.

At five this morning I got up and did some stretches and remade my bed and then lay in it again for a couple of hours listening to the rain.

Tomorrow they smash atoms together in Geneva…perhaps its best to stay awake just in case….

Sunday, 7 September 2008


A spinning bike is a heavy bike that doesn’t go anywhere. It lurks in dark gym studios like some humourless marine drill sergeant waiting to torture the fat off your body. It Is not really designed for people and therefore a spinning bike is extremely uncomfortable so it was with some trepidation that we perched, feet strapped firmly into pedals and waited for the ‘spininathon’ to begin. Usually a swift 45 minutes will leave one dripping with sweat and gasping. We were going to be spinning for three hours.

It was for charity but even so you could see by the expressions of the gym reception staff that we had been deemed lunatic. We assessed each other and agreed with the reception staff. There were nearly 20 bikes ready and waiting but most people had paid their entry ticket and then stayed well away. I could hear their ghostly laughter even as the sound system started pounding out club classics circa 1998. However it was too late to unbuckle and flee. We had to spin.
Three hours later, two instructors, a dozen refills of the water bottles, a a clutch of energy bars and a banana and it was over. We high fived, shrieked with glee and promptly fell off the bikes our legs now made entirely of jelly.

The Arthur Rank Hospice…. Its for you baby.
Now wheres my bleeding gin and tonic…?

Thursday, 4 September 2008

To the Lighthouse!

And now it rains and rains…and I feel like I am a Joni Mitchell song.
Blue, here is a shell for you

Inside youll hear a sigh

A foggy lullaby

There is your song from me

As the weather dictates, I have crawled into bed where I read…I let me repeat that..READ! My wonderful American Cousins have sent me something called a Sony Reader. It is basically an electronic book which means I can download novels and biographies and reference books and histories and lots and lots of bad thrillers and I can pump up the font and lie in bed and read. I haven’t been able to lie around reading for over two years now. By the time I get to the end of a day my damaged retinas are too tired to grip pages without pumping up the light so much light that ships come crashing into my walls mistaking my flat for a lighthouse. Even with ironically blinding light it is often still just not possible to lie back and read…..the words on the pages seem smeared and torn and float and bubble.

Audio books are an option but have you ever tried to reread a sentence whilst listening to an audio book? Impossible. You get distracted..can’t go back, get bored…hate the actor’s voice..fall asleep. Reading with my own eyes means I can go back and forth over the paragraph, make my own private universe within the stories.. I am once again an independent reader, an astronaut, and adventurer. A Reader of Books.

This blog raises a toast to some of the loveliest people on earth..them that sent me this device! You know who you are!! Thank you!

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

RIP Levy

President Levy Mwanawasa is being buried today in Lusaka and Rupiah Banda becomes acting Head of State for the next 90 days whist everyone regroups and figures out what to do next.

Will the Cobra strike again or wil someone sensible prevail? I see Mugabe is at the funeral. Bit creepy really. If anyone sees him dance let me know.