Thursday, 16 December 2010

5 Stages of Financial Incompetence

It was pay day yesterday, so naturally I did some online banking* and checked my balance. I discovered that, if I don't want to go into my overdraft, I have about £100 to last me until January 15th, after bills and travel costs. I still have to buy food out of this fund, but fingers crossed I can take inspiration from snakes over Christmas and just stuff myself so full of food that I don't need to eat until again until around January 10th. Here's hoping.

Now, you may be wondering if this is my normal monthly allowance: it isn't. Well, what happened? You may be asking yourself. Here's what happened: essentially, I am some kind of infant who should not really be in charge of all areas of my life. I should be judged unfit for independence and assigned some kind of accountant and/or care-worker to help me live my life. My life works on some kind of Indepence Failure Cycle - let me explain...

Stage One:
Am In Charge of My Life Like A Boss.

During this stage of the cycle, I am organised. I am efficient. I am sensible. I check my accounts online on a regular basis, monitor my spending and know exactly how much I have left of my self-issued allowance after every purchase. I consider said purchases carefully: when grocery shopping I find the cheapest items available; I shop around for prices on toiletries or other essential purchases; I think about how much I have left to spend before buying luxury items or treats for myself. I am, in other words, THE KING OF MONEY. At this stage in the cycle I reach the end of the financial month with money left over; I put money into my savings; and I get another step closer to paying off my overdraft. I feel like a proper, sensible grown-up – except I feel a sense of smug self-satisfaction about my achievement, which I think sensible grown-ups don’t actually feel.

Stage Two:
Only-Child Syndrome.

Stage Two begins innocently enough. I’ve had a phase, sometimes several months long, during which I have been in rigid control of my spending. Stage Two then begins in one of two ways:-

One: the Shoulder Devil begins to speak up in my mind.

Lead me not into temptation - I can find it myself Two: I see something, strictly speaking over my budget, which I really, really want.
Finally you'll attain the status you desire and gain love and universal acceptance!Sometimes I don’t immediately crumble. Sometimes I resist the urge to go over my budget – but ironically, this just empowers Stage Two. The more I resist spending, the more I feel I deserve to buy myself a treat as a reward for not spending.

I’m pretty sure Stage Two has its roots in the fact that not only am I an only child, but I was the only grandchild until I was about nine. I am still the only grandchild on Mum’s side of the family, which means that “spoiled” seems like kind of an understatement for my childhood. I mean, I actually had an actual pony. :-D

As a result, although I’ve been relying on largely my own earnings since I got my first part-time job aged sixteen, I’ve never emotionally come to terms with the fact that I cannot have everything I want, as soon as I want it. Logically, I know that some pleasures have to be delayed and that I cannot afford to buy a life-size My Little Pony Dream Castle in which I can build a cinema room and I will have cushions made of silk and an all-Alessi-products kitchen and I will ride a unicorn that is also made of gold and can fly and my friends will die, actually die of jealousy. I know this. However, the petulant, whiny, over-indulged five-year-old that still lives in the back of my psyche does not know this; or rather, refuses to acknowledge that we need to accept our financial limitations. Thus the irresistible power of Stage Two.

Stage Three:
The Extravagant Purchase.

Sometimes it’s something relatively small, but it’s bought at the end of my financial month so just pushes me over budget.

All you need is Young Sherlock Holmes and you'll finally feel you've achieved something!Sometimes it’s something big that I really shouldn’t be spending my money on.

Come FLY with me, let's FLY let's FLY away
Either way, I make a purchase that breaks my budget. From then on, something snaps in my mind and I lose all remaining traces of my Stage One control.

Stage Four:

I’ve already blown my budget, right? Screw it, I may as well buy all the things!

Turns out British money is HARD to draw in PaintThis stage is similar to people who have trouble dieting because, should they have so much as one biscuit, they figure they’ve “ruined” their calorie intake for the day so they may as well enjoy it, go nuts and eat everything in the house. And then go out and buy cake.

Once I’ve made that one over-budget purchase the Shoulder Devil takes over completely and the rest of my mind gives a mental “oh well” shrug and just goes along with things.

During this time I do not check my balance online; I don’t look at my balance at the ATM; and I press a firm “no” at the “Do you want an advice slip?” stage. Obviously the advice is “put the money back in the bank” – but I’ve sailed past the point of no return in the SS Wilful Ignorance and there’s no listening to reason now.

Stage Five:
Shame and Guilt.

At some point, usually after the subsequent pay-day, I work up the nerve to check my bank balance. I then consider how much damage I’ve wreaked on my former careful-savings-plan.
I then swing and forth between intense guilt and shame for my over-spending, and sheer, outright panic and despair over the implications on my budget for the next few months. As the guilt/panic eases, I realise that I must live to an even stricter budget for awhile in order to compensate for the damage done to my savings/overdraft during Stage Four. This, naturally, leads back into Stage One.

Clearly, I need some kind of grown-up assistant (or possibly a helper monkey/thinking-brain dog) to supervise me. They can either act as a Voice of Reason during Stage Two, thus hopefully averting Stage Three altogether; or they can act as damage limitation once Stage Three has been reached, thus preventing Stage Four. Until the day I am assigned such help by the state, the wheels turns ever onwards….

*Not rhyming slang.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Don't Call Me "Baby"

A few recent (very grown-up) conversations and blog-readings have caused me to ponder the issue of my own biological imperative, or lack thereof. I've been wondering about the whole thorny Children Issue and have come up with a handy questionnaire to determine if I do want children and if I'm ready for them. Try it yourself!


1. When you see a baby, do you:
a) Coo over it/its picture, filled with feelings of love and warmth;
b) Admire it/its picture politely, but feel only a small measure of warmth;
c) Feel nothing;
d) Become aroused.

2. You're with a friend/relative and their baby. The baby soils its nappy - do you:
a) Immediately begin helping change the baby with little or no cringing;
b) Feel some revulsion, but offer to help;
c) Get the hell away - it stinks;
d) Become aroused.

3. What do you think a baby should be fed on?
a) Ideally breast milk, weaned onto formula/baby food or totally fed by formula if breast milk is not a possibility;
b) Umm, some kind of powdered milk;
c) Chips;
d) A different bodily fluid...

4. When you hear a baby cry, do you:
a) Want to help soothe it any way you can, whilst feeling waves of total sympathy for its suffering;
b) Want to help soothe it to shut it up;
c) Get away from that racket;
d) Become aroused.

5. Where do you think a baby should sleep?
a) In its own crib/cot in your room, so you can immediately tend to it should it wake in the night; b) In its own room, with a baby monitor;
c) In a different house;
d) In your bed.

6. When a baby starts laughing, do you:
a) Start laughing and smiling too, thrilled at sharing this experience;
b) Smile vaguely, wondering if you're the butt of some kind of baby-joke;
c) Cringe away from that hateful racket;
d) Become aroused.

7. Where do babies come from?
a) Well, when a mummy and a daddy (or mummy and mummy/daddy and daddy and doctor...) love each other very much...;
b) Sex, a fertility clinic or adoption centre;
c) ...The pound?;
d) Snatched from playgrounds.

8. You're asked to babysit a friend's/relative's infant. Do you:
a) Leap at the chance! You've already got your own changing mat, cot, baby toys, formula...;
b) Consider the idea, but it really depends on how long for, if you've already got plans, and if there will be any one else around to help you;
c) Laugh for about twenty minutes;
d) Become aroused.

9. You find a child alone in the street. Do you:
a) Comfort it, take it by the hand to try and find its parents, then head to the nearest police station if the child doesn't know where they might be;
b) Search around for anyone else who can help, whilst also trying to help the child spot its parents;
c) Just leave it. Those things spread disease;
d) Become aroused.

10. While caring for a baby, do you:
a) Rigidly follow the instructions its parents left you with, to ensure you give consistent care and don't undermine any routines they're trying to establish;
b) Follow advice left you, whilst turning to whoever else is helping you and also being willing to do anything [non-harmful] to shut the baby up should it start crying;
c) Leave it in the house whilst you head out to a movie - how much trouble can it get into in three hours, right?;
d) Become aroused.


Mostly As
You are perfect parent material! In fact, you're probably a little baby-crazy and desperate for a sprog of your own. I suggest you find a mate or willing donor and start breeding fast!

Mostly Bs
Uncertain of your potential parenthood. Try spending time with the babies and/or children of friends and relatives, see if they grow on you and see how well you cope as a care-giver.

Mostly Cs
Parenting isn't your thing; why not get a fish? Or a Nintendog. Something that, if and when you kill it, Social Services won't care.

Mostly Ds
The police have been informed. Your name is being added to a register as you read this.

Friday, 12 November 2010

Girls & Boys

This is a subject that's always been near and dear to my heart, but following recent reads, recent blogs of mine and recent discussions, it's very much at the forefront of my mind.

I do not believe there is any real, significant, fundamental difference between girls and boys based on their gender.

Let me elaborate: I've been an owner of animals since I got my first cat aged four; I've had pets of both sexes and been around animals of different sexes pretty much all my life, and I can state with confidence that I have never noticed any significant difference in personality (and believe me, animals have their own personality, but that's a blog for another day) based on their gender. Sure, male dogs with hump things, male peacocks will flash their colourful tails, male cats spray their territory while females physically cannot...I don't deny their are clear differences physically between the genders, and I am sure that these physical differences can have an impact on behaviour - the influence of hormones is not something I am inclined to argue against.

However, when it comes to personality traits like having a temper, liking this or that, being kind, having a gentle nature, wanting things clean, preferring things messy - I'm pretty sure it's bollocks to say this is in any way related to gender (beyond social influences, which I'll get to) and to state that "men and women are different" is reductive and insulting. To both sexes.

I love violent video games and paintballing and the toy I wanted most as a kid was
Scalextric (and one day I will damned well own one); I like playing Grand Theft Auto and taking the stolen pixilated cars on a rampage through the make-believe city; I mostly wear trousers and trainers and I'm partial to a pint in the pub while watching football or rugby on the big screen.

I also enjoy horse-riding, like wearing make-up, enjoy baking and cooking, melt into a puddle of gooey emotion around cats, especially kittens, cry like a baby when someone dies in a film (yep, I even cry at
Titanic, god help me) and dream of owning an Alessi-stocked kitchen.

I don't like any of these things because I'm a girl. I like them because I'm me, the product of my DNA, my family background, and the people I choose to be friends with. A combination of nature and nurture, in which I'm sure having double-X chromosomes does play a part - but that double-X doesn't tell the whole story, and frankly presuming it does is an insult to me.

If I said, "Bill likes x because he's gay", that would be homophobic. If I said, "Kate likes x because she's black", that would be racist.

So why isn't it sexist, and therefore just as offensive, to say "Julie likes x because she's a girl"? Why isn't sexism socially perceived to be just as bad as racism or homophobia?

Yes, society plays a huge part in how we turn out, and currently, most of Western society seems to think that people will behave in certain set ways based on their gender: boys like blue and football and astronauts; girls like pink and ponies and fairies (with pink fairy ponies obviously being the zenith of female desire). Yet by presuming that girls and boys are fundamentally different, we're perpetuating this misconception and taking an active part in continuing to support this fantasy gender-division.

If everyone around you expects you to like pink and hate football because you're a girl, then there is enormous
peer pressure on you to conform, to live up to expectations; it's a rare person who is strong enough to defy expectations, especially when you're a teenager. If your family, friends, role-models, TV and film characters, people in magazines and characters in books are all sending the same message ("You're a girl so you like x and hate y; you're a boy so you like y and hate x") then it begins to be seen as "normal"; and if you're not "normal", you're different; and different is bad.

What this attitude fails to take into account is everyone's own, individual, idiosyncratic personality. Kate likes x because she's Kate, not because she's gay/straight, female/male, Caucasian/Asian etc. Sure, ethnicity, race, religion, gender and sexuality all play a part in making you, you, but each individual aspect doesn't tell the whole story, and to say otherwise is, frankly, both old-fashioned and reductive, not to mention pretty offensive.

I often feel like I'm taking crazy pills when this issue comes up: most people think that there's true gender equality in British society at the moment (
there isn't) so what am I getting so riled up about; or they'll take offence that I am "insulting" them by presuming they are furthering the gender gap through their own actions and/or opinions; or they'll turn the issue into a joke, which is offensive to me in and of itself, as their facetious attitude implies my opinions are invalid and the issues at hand comical; or they'll just think I'm wrong, that there is a real difference between boys and girls, and to say otherwise makes me stupid (the patronising bastards).

I'm not the
only one to feel this way; but sometimes it sure as hell can feel like it. The worst thing is when this issue arises with someone I'm close to, and I suddenly realise that not only am I talking to a sexist; but I'm talking to a sexist who thinks I am in the wrong for challenging their beliefs on the gender divide.

What I also find very personally upsetting and distressing is the results of this socially-created gender divide: there's still a huge pay gap; it's presumed women will do the majority of the work raising children; women are seen to be the ones who should do the cooking and cleaning; women have to battle against preconceived, often contrary, notions of how they should behave in the workplace; women can have difficulty getting, or keeping, the same jobs as men; and most distressingly of all, women are much more likely to be perceived as sex-objects and therefore are more likely to be subject to sexual attack, either verbally, physically, or both.

Violence against women is a huge issue, and not one I'm going to get into here; pertinent information can be found at sites like End Violence Against Women and Womankind Worldwide.

What I will say is that, from my own personal experience, I have experienced sexual abuse because I'm female. I've been returning from the bar in a pub, hands full of drinks for me and my friends, and had a man grope my breasts and laugh at the shock on my face; I've been returning home on the train after a day's work and had my backside and breasts groped by strangers because they're drunk, returning from the football/rugby and felt entitled to do that to me; I've had offensive terms yelled at me in the street, and believe me I'm hardly dressed as or looking like "Page Three" material at the time, and I've worked in places where men have made sexist jokes, followed me around the warehouse floor so they can stare at me while I work, and speculated about my sex-life.

I find it hard to separate these issues in my mind: if you think men and women are fundamentally different, then you probably think one sex is better than the other; if you think one sex is better than the other, then you think one sex has the right to discriminate against the other; and if you think one sex has the right to discriminate against the other, you probably think one sex has the right to verbally and/or physically abuse the other - "look at the way she was dressed, she was asking for it"; "she came home with me, she was asking for it"; "she passed out drunk in public, she was asking for it". And no, I don't think sexual abuse is committed by men against women, but statistically that is what mostly happens.

Maybe I am prejudiced for making these associations, for thinking that because someone acknowledges and either plays along with, or panders to, these largely false gender divisions, they might end up discriminating against me, or another woman. But that's my problem - and to be honest, I'm yet to be convinced that I am wrong to make that association.

I don't think that just because someone I'm close to displays an old-fashioned or sexist attitude, they will end up committing sexual violence against me; but I do think their attitude contributes to perpetuating sexual discrimination which could lead other men to commit sexual violence. Perhaps that's reductive of me; but it's still what I fear is the consequence of their attitude.

So, is it just me, or is any one else railing against the prejudice around them and determined to try and change things for the future...?

Sunday, 8 August 2010


First and foremost, this is a lengthy discussion of Inception that focuses on its plot and themes and involves huge, huge spoilers. So, if you haven’t seen the film and don’t want me to ruin it for you, look away now.

Everybody sitting comfortably? Good. Then I’ll begin.

Right, seeing as I’ve only seen the film once I won’t be breaking it down in order of events in the movie, nor by actual or perceived timelines within the film. I’ll just be going through things as they occur to me and as they naturally lead on to each other. Also, I’m presuming that you’ve seen the film so I won’t be giving a plot summary or detailed character descriptions – if you want to re-familiarise yourself before reading this, then check this site.

First things first: that masterfully suspenseful ending, where Cobb is reunited with his children and sets his/Mal’s totem spinning to test whether he’s still dreaming or not – and we never get to see if it falls. I totally think he’s still dreaming, that we’ve been inside Cobb’s subconscious for the whole of the film; dreams within dreams within dreams within dreams. Everything that happens in the film and everyone we encounter is a dream, all in Cobb’s mind. Let me explain why I think so.

To start at the end: Cobb’s children haven’t aged. He has been living in exile long enough to find a regular crew of people he works with, long enough to establish a reputation as a master-extractor, long enough for his father-in-law to be warning him that a few toys and gifts won’t help Cobb’s kids remember him. Yet not only are they not apparently a day older than when Cobb left, but they’re wearing the exact same outfits as they are in Cobb’s last memory of them. Hell, they’re even in the same place and taking part in the same activity, playing in the garden in the sunshine.

Then there’s the father-in-law; when we first meet him, he’s working in Paris – which is where Cobb sets up his base of operations and where they practice the stages of the Inception. However, Miles is there, ready to meet Cobb at LAX when he lands after the successful Inception. How did he get from Paris to LA faster than them? How did Miles know the job would be successful and that he should therefore be waiting at LAX?

Also consider how Saito manages to eradicate the charges and allegations against Cobb with just a single phone-call: no matter how rich and powerful you are, getting in touch with the right people in the right places takes time. They’ve already used up most of the flight-time from Sydney to LAX with the Inception itself; there wouldn’t be much time left to get charges of murder dropped.

Speaking of which charges, although Cobb mentions while in Paris that the extradition laws between America and France are complex and mean that it’s unlikely he’ll run into trouble because of being in France, nothing is said about extradition while he’s in Australia. Yet Australia have clear and definite extradition agreements with the US (see this site for full legal details). How did Cobb get into the country to be on the Sydney-LAX flight? How did he even get through customs and the restrictions at Sydney airport?

While talking to Ariadne, Cobb asks her, “How did you get here?” and reveals to her that you can tell whether you’re in a dream or not by the fact that, in a dream, you don’t remember how you got to your starting location. The first apparently-real-world location in the film is on the train in Japanwho ; how did Cobb and his team get there? What are they doing there? What they’re supposed to steal from Saito is never explained, never discussed.

On to Ariadne: a name from Greek myth, in legend it was Ariadne who gave Theseus a “clew”/ball of thread to help him find his way out of the labyrinth (check this page for a full analysis of Ariadne in myth and legend). She’s also been referred to as the “Mistress of the Labyrinth”. Not only is the Ariadne of Inception the Architect, the literal creator of the “closed systems” (read: labyrinths) that the characters use; it’s Ariadne who helps Cobb to realise that his memory of Mal is not real. Ariadne helps lead Cobb out of his own subconscious labyrinth. Also, the bridge she creates in the first dream-world Cobb takes her in to, is a bridge that is familiar to Cobb from his own memory. All the places they visit, the worlds they create, are places Cobb has been to before – every location in the film is Cobb’s memory. Ariadne helps Cobb to escape from his own limbo by aiding him in realising that Mal/his guilt has power over him, and how to get past this – she gives Cobb the tools to escape his labyrinth. He listens to Ariadne and trusts her, despite just having met her, because she (like every other character in the film) is a projection, a side of Cobb’s own subconscious. Cobb says early in the film that one of the ways extraction can work is through talking to projections, as they can tell you truths about the mind they inhabit – Ariadne’s role is Cobb’s own subconscious trying to help him escape from the dream-state. She can only lead him so far out, however, because she is, after all, trapped within the dream-world herself.

There are also broader clues: Mal herself (another projection of Cobb’s subconscious) points out how he doubts his reality, being pursued around the globe by nameless assailants (to paraphrase the film). Also, scenes where Cobb is being chased through the “real world” by his nameless employers are very reminiscent of the scenes where the mind-defences of subjects like Fischer chase down those invading the host-mind. Saito’s motives are also a wee bit idealistic: wanting to get Fischer to break up his father’s business empire so the company don’t have global dominance over energy resources. It just seems a bit too sugary-sweet, too unrealistic. It would be much more real to have a corporate rival want Fischer to break up the empire so Saito’s company can get ahead and make more profit.

Well, that’d my reasoning! If any of you interpret things differently, please post your thoughts!

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Lacking a Y-Chromosome Doesn't Mean Lacking Intelligence

As as been amply demonstrated there's lots of things in this world that make me choke with rage. One of them is sexism. There's still a huge, bloody awful gap between the sexes, and yet the prevailing attitude seems to be that women are apparently equal with men now, and so we should just shut up and be grateful we're allowed to vote. "Feminism" is a negative word; you call someone a feminist and you're implying they're a man-hating lesbian bull-dyke; a bra-burning Germaine Greer 60s throwback; or Jo Brand. Yep, the male agenda has even taken the term "feminism" away from women and turned it from a positive statement about the right to be treated equally, and transformed it into a huge negative.

For varied and complex reasons, that are largely social, women earn an average of almost a third less through their working lives than men do (as written about here and here, as the tip of the evidence iceberg) . Baby changing facilities are in women's toilets; statutory maternity leave is 52 weeks, 39 of those paid, whilst statutory paternity leave is 2 weeks. Pretty much everything in general British culture, from statutory leave down to those fucking "mum's gone to Iceland" ads that make me scream at the TV (Why has mum gone? Why not ever one of the rest of the family? Are they somehow incapacitated? Why is it her job? What happens in families where there isn't a female care-giver present, do they just fucking starve?!) is geared towards training girls up to be mothers and housewives. "Female" toys are dolls and push-chairs and mini-kitchens and toy irons (Toy. Irons. WTF?!!) while "male" toys are guns and cars (i.e., the really fun stuff). And this is five decades after the feminist movement.

What made me snap about this recently was seeing a book entitled Things For Boys to Make and Do. This is a kids' activity book that has things like how to draw a spooky castle and how to make monster hand gloves. All well and good - but why, I ask you, is this for boys only? There is nothing inherent within these tasks that make them essentially male; it's all just social conditioning. And it drives me crazy. I know men who aren't into sports and women who are; women who aren't into fashion and men who are; women who hate pink and men that don't like blue.... You get the picture. Publishing books and pushing these socio-sexual divisions on young, impressionable kids just makes it worse and encourages yet another generation to grow up believing that men and women may as well come from different planets.

There is a literacy gap between males and females; girls read more and girls tend to do better at school (which we are being punished for, essentially: when boys did better at school it wasn't an issue, nothing was said, there was zero effort made to bridge the learning gap between the sexes; but when the tables are turned suddenly it's a big issue, it's a "problem" and boys have to be given help and the whole fucking educational system has to be changed in order to accommodate male needs. Newsflash, fellas, you're already more likely to get a job, keep a job and earn more in that job than we lowly females are - so maybe you could just let us do well in school and leave it alone?!). However, I don't think "targeting" books for boys is the answer - things like the Dangerous Book for Boys just make the gap between the sexes wider, it doesn't encourage boys to read. Why can't books be written on a range of subjects (football, trains, ponies, fairies) and feature both male and female protaganists? How does reinforcing dated stereotypes of what girls "should" like and what boys "should" like make things any better? If a boy or girl has different interests than what is allegedly "normal" for them to have, and is struggling with their identity as a result, an increasing number of books showing them what they "should" be reading/enjoying is just going to make them feel worse.

I readily accept that there are (obvious) physical and psychological differences between men and women - but most of the differences in general personality and communication arise from social conditioning and the pressure to conform to the norm and to expectations. When I was growing up I maintained that I didn't want kids when I was an adult, and was always told (mostly in extremely patronising terms) that I would "feel different" when I grew up; i.e., that I would start to want children because I'm a girl and that's what girls want. Now I am grown up, and my feelings on the matter haven't changed - but I still regularly encounter people who, when the subject of children arises, insist that I'll change my mind and want kids. Why they hell aren't men subject to these social pressures and expectations? The drive to further the species is just the same in males as it is in females. And no, I don't think babies are adorable: they smell, they throw up on you, they cry - I don't get the appeal, I really don't. Toddlers are entertaining, and when they start speaking it's great (I like the Scrubs line), but the best part about working with kids or playing with young cousins is that when they start to cry, or they throw up, or they soil themselves - I hand them back to the parents and am not required to deal with the mess in any way.

All this pre-conditioning of children is driving me to breaking point: my friends in advertising say they use these stereotypical roles because their market research suggests that the stereotypes hold true (women cook, clean, tidy, nag and raise the kids; men play sports and get dirty and smell and snore and muck about like kids). However, people on the whole tend to follow what they feel is expected of them; and if you're routinely bombarded with these steretypes, then you'll believe them to be a true representation of what men and women are "really like", and so you'll play along with your expected role. If programmes, adverts, films and books showed men and women in wider roles, acting in different ways, then this could help reinforce the positive messages of feminism and help bring us towards a day when men and women are really equal. Is that so much to ask for?

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Room 101

I'd say you wouldn't like me when I'm angry, but to be perfectly honest I am angry a significant portion of the day and as such clearly you either do like me when I'm angry, or we're not actually friends. Realising that recent happy-happy-joy-joy posts may give you, the reader, an unbalanced perspective on my nature, I'm bowing to popular pressure (okay, one person's pressure) and my own desires and listing the things that I would banish to Room 101, or would strike from the very face of the earth if I had the power to do so. And, god willing, one day I will. Ideally, one day I will be the God, but I try to keep my aims reasonable. Queen of the World will suffice.

Anyhoo, this is just the list of things I (currently) have no power to change. I do get angry at proper serious issues, too: I read Bad Science by Ben Goldacre and became pretty incandescent with rage; and I'm currently reading In Stitches by Dr Nick Edwards and it makes me want to march all the way to the Houses of Parliament and stand outside screaming, "You idiots, you fucking idiots, why can't you listen to NHS staff for a change?!". But these are things we all have (some) ability to change; we can write to our MPs, sign or create petitions, join protests, set up angry sciency blogs - we can make a difference, although it might be a small one and take ages to impliment any real change. But still. The things listed below, however, are things that, lacking the power to affect, enrage me all the more.

  • People getting in my way. This follows on from people who stop in doorways, and for the same essential reason. I have somewhere to be, places to see, people to do, and I want to be able to get there. I do not want some idiot cluttering up the pavement and slowing me down. I hate it when people stop in doorways, or at the top of escalators/stairs, or when they are trundling along the street at about one mile per year and also managing to take up the whole damned pavement so I can't even get past them. Hate it hate it hate it. Even when I was hobbling along on crutches with a broken ankle I was faster than the average Cardiff resident (and smarter than the av-er-age bear) and I feel the Facebook group I Secretly Want to Punch Slow-Walking People In the Back of the Head is my spiritual home. This hatred also applies to people who're serving very slowly at tills - I don't want to be in the queue for the rest of my natural life, thanks, so picking up the pace would really help me out.
  • People that inexplicably go to empty counters/tills. I saw this all the time back when I worked in a department store, and I see it now when shopping. There's a till with a person stood behind it in plain sight, not that far away, and yet some people will still meander blindly over to a counter where there are no people serving. This drives me crazy - why do they do it?! It's like when I'm stood waiting for an elevator and people come up, stand beside me, then push the button to call the elevator, like I'm some kind of moron who hadn't figured this out already. I may one day snap and thank them profusely for saving me from a potentially eternal wait for an elevator I didn't know how to summon.

  • Not getting my own way. I know this is infantile, I know it's (usually) very unreasonable, I know it's unfair - and I just don't care. If that God/Queen of World thing ever comes to pass, so help the rest of you because I will have the world revolving around me. And I'll probably become dissatisfied with that and end it all in a fiery apocalypse.
  • People who don't have their purse/wallet/bus pass ready when they get to the check-out/onto the bus. What, are you surprised they want money to finalise this transaction? Were you not expecting the driver to ask for your pass or payment? My rage is exacerbated a thousandfold if the person in question spends ten minutes digging through their bag/pockets to find their money, then starts counting out change...
  • Strangers getting in my personal space. Now, I recognise that at a concert or the like, they're hundreds if not thousands of people around and I will get bumped into and I accept this. But when strangers sit next to me on the bus or train, I don't want any part of them to touch any part of me. It makes me massively uncomfortable, as well as pissing me off. I've usually gone to extreme lengths to press myself as far away from them as possible - and there are some people in this world who then shift even closer to me to take up the space I just made. I want to push them away and start screaming, right in their faces. This also applies when people get too close to me in a queue - I edge forward so I don't have a stranger standing a really uncomfortably familiar distance from me, and they step forward. One day soon I will loose it, turn around and yell at them to just back the fuck away from me. I also get uncomfortable if strangers deliberately touch me: for example, if they pat my hand or arm. This usually happens with older, mostly female, borrowers at the library. I know they're just being friendly and nice, but I really don't like it and you'd think my pulling away from them would clue them in about this - but it doesn't. If I don't socialise with you, that means I don't want you in my personal space. Back off, buddy.
  • Losing. Sort of goes hand-in-hand with the getting my own way thing. I really, really hate to lose, to the extent that if I know I'm beaten before I begin, then I won't even play. And if I play and lose I want to tantrum. Like full-on, throw myself to the ground screaming and kicking my feet tantrum. I try and rein this in a little and usually end up just stropping off or sulking instead...
  • Repetitive noise. Ticking clocks, people who say or sing the same line over and over, dripping taps, car/house alarms - you get the picture. Within a very short period, the beating of the hideous heart becomes all I can hear, all I can focus on, until I want to just smash to pieces whatever is making the noise. Worst case offenders: back when I lived at my Mum's, her neighbour would leave his house at around 6am. He would start his motorbike ... then go back inside the house and put on his leathers. Leaving the engine running on the drive. All I dreamt of was kicking his bike over then smashing it up with a baseball bat. It drove me crazy. Then there was the woman who got on the bus and starting playing a massively irritating garage song on her mobile. When the song finished, she played it again. And then a third time. And then she started it up for a fourth time and I was actually getting up out of my seat to tell her to stop when, luckily for both of us, she got off the bus.
  • Valentine's Day.
  • Superman.

There's more that could go on this list - lots more. But these are the things I think it acceptable to tell the world about...

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

These Are A Few Of My Favourite Things

I’m in an uncharacteristically positive mood of late, so I thought, while I can bring them to mind, I’d do a list of all the little things that make life worth living. Now, there is another, more, ahh, private list of things I enjoy – but if you don’t know what’s on that list, it’s because I don’t want you to. And because I don’t want to turn into some kind of creepy Belle Du Jour-type blogger, mentioning seeing condoms in the street and suspecting my neighbours might be running a brothel is as far as I’m prepared to go. In writing, anyway.

In no particular order:-

  • Family. They’re mostly crazy, to varying degrees: my dad’s side possess that ruthless competitive streak which manifests so clearly in me and my mum’s side carry grudges to (and beyond) the grave – but may the gods have mercy on any outsiders who try and attack us. I love them and love spending time with them – and love the inevitable slew of anecdotes I end up with after family visitations.
  • My friends. I seriously heart my friends, and difficult as I find it to admit real actual feelings, out loud, where people can find out about them and use them against me < / issues > I am happy to say I am my friends’ number one cheerleader and I love them all. I could cheerfully spend the rest of time sat in the pub with my friends: we’d play Jenga (or “Tension Tower”) and Trivial Pursuit and eat pub food, then we’d go dancing, then go back to someone’s house for tea and toast and more chat, and we’d wake up and watch bad TV and geeky box sets and films and then go back to the pub and the whole time we’d be laughing so hard our faces hurt and talking and quoting and I would for realz spend eternity in that contended little cycle if I could.
  • While I’m on the subject – the pub. I love the pub (one in particular, but I don’t want to encourage stalking so I shan’t mention it by name). It serves alcohol and there’s music and games behind the bar and it’s warm and dry and cosy and you can sit around and have a laugh with your friends, and it’s just … nice. Ohhh, and beer gardens on warm, sunny days! A rare treat in a country as notoriously cold and damp as this, but maybe that makes me appreciate beer-garden-afternoons all the more.
  • A nice cup of tea. As one of my Uni friends has illustrated via the medium of Facebook, A Cup of Tea Solves Everything. Can’t beat it.
  • Gingerbread lattes from Starbucks. I know, I know, I’m a corporate whore who’s contributing to the decline of independent traders. I don’t care. Gingerbread lattes, with whipped cream on top and some cinnamon sprinkled over, are the perfect combination of caffeine and sugar and god I love them. I have a crazed addiction to them – it’s probably for the best that they’re only available over the Christmas season (and better for my self-interest that “Christmas season”, to Starbucks, starts in November).
  • Popping the foil lid on coffee jars. It’s borderline weird, but I love doing this. The feel of the spoon going through the foil, the smell of the fresh coffee…Oddly satisfying.
  • Crunching through fallen leaves in autumn. C’mon, who doesn’t love this? Kicking them up is awesome – and I have to admit to kicking over my neighbour’s carefully swept-up pile of leaves this year. This may be why they hate me.
  • Walking over snow. It makes this great crunchy noise, plus, yay! Snow!! It’s the simple things.
  • When it’s cold and raining and miserable outside – and you can just stay indoors, cuddled up on the sofa under a nice warm blanket.

  • That moment when you wake up on a day off, and realise there’s nowhere you need to be and you can just cuddle up and go right back to sleep. I am also lazy to near-feline standards and can quite happily stay in bed until gone one o’clock in the afternoon if I don’t need to be anywhere.

  • Stretching. You wake up, or get up off the sofa, and stretch and it feels amazing.
  • Getting my own way. Really, this should be higher up the list. Okay, at the top of the list, but I’ve written this stream-of-consciousness stylee so that's what I'm sticking with. I am a massively spoiled only child (I was the only grandchild on my mum’s side of the family, and only grandchild on my dad’s side for the first nine years of my life – you don’t know from spoiled) and I do enjoy the satisfaction of getting my own way. My things, my toys, my games, my way, my choices, me, me, me, mine, mine, mine. Any time things do go my way, it feels both right and natural.
  • The cinema. I'm pretty sure my plethora of film references and quotations has made it clear by now, but I fucking love movies. Love them. And going to the cinema is one of my favourite things to do. I love the popcorn, and the huge screens, and the surround-sound played at such volume that you can feel your chair vibrate during loud scenes – I thoroughly enjoy every aspect of the experience.

    …Except when my misanthropic nature kicks in and I find myself filled with burning hatred towards the people around me. I feel vindicated in my loathing if it’s directed towards sweary, noisy teens that are talking over the movie, but I’ve also been known to start fantasising about beating to death the person sitting next to me if they’re a “breather”. That is, someone who’s breathing is audible to me, even over the film. Or if they’re rustling food packets. Or they’ve brought smelly food in. Or it’s a couple being all kissy-kissy in my eye-line: if I wanted to watch a make-out session, I’d be at a very different kind of cinema. But apart from that, yay! Cinema!
  • It's indicative of my change in priorities recently that I didn't think to add this sooner: food. Om nom nom - food. I love food: cooking it is really rewarding, when you make a brilliant meal for yourself and some friends and everyone enjoys it and it's delicious and you know it was all your own hard work. Eating it is the best part, obviously, and I'm pretty sure Reese's Peanut-butter Cups were designed for me, personally, because they are so crazy-tasty to me. At least a third of my thinking-time is spent planning meals and wondering what and when I can eat next. And if ever I decide bollocks to it all and decide to just completely let myself go and eat my way into an early grave, my grotesque and tragic ending will be sponsored by Ben and Jerry's, Reese's, Domino's pizzas and Oreo cookies.
  • Looking at things that have been carefully tidying and organised. I admit, this is just flat-out crazy and I can picture the "oh god just back away from her slowly" look I would get from you if I told this to you in person, but I am borderline-compulsive and seeing things in careful order pleases me. My DVDs are arranged by colour and my books by genre, then sub-alphabetised; my clothes are also ordered by colour in my wardrobe; and my anxiety dreams frequently involve someone coming into my house and re-arranging my things. I just like order, okay?! Don't you judge me...

Well, that about wraps it up. I may add more if the mood strikes - and I'm already making a mental list of things that make me angry, as a counterbalance to all this positivity.

Sunday, 7 March 2010

Am Reel Grown-Up, Srsly

I work part-time as a Youth Worker (get me and the responsibility), and a boy at Club recently said that I was not a "proper" grown-up because I'm not 30 or older. Now, while I can't (and don't want to) fault the boy's logic, it did feed in to my recent musings on whether or not I am actually a grown-up. On the one hand, I have been referred to several times in the past few weeks as a woman, rather than a girl (and when I was in Barcelona the waiters were referring to me as "senora" rather than "senorita". Ouch), I don't live with parents, I can legally buy booze, and I have proper jobs. On the other hand, I'm sat here in a Count Duckula hoodie, I don't own a house or car, I'm harbouring a not-so-secret desire to see The Princess and the Frog, and in defiance of assumptions based on my gender the thought of marriage sends me into a panic.

When people ask me if I'm married and/or have kids, I get a knee-jerk panic-y urge to laugh and exclaim that I'm too young - and then I get the cold, cold realisation that the fact I could be married with kids is a reasonable thing for a stranger to expect from me based on my age. And once I realise that, I get the urge to curl up into a ball making a high-pitched "eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee" sound until it all goes away. I've come around to the idea of a wedding (it's a day all about you, you gets loads of gifts, all your family and friends will be there and it's a one-off deal, they're unlikely to cancel on you they way they might on a birthday, everyone spends the day telling you how great you look, you choose all the songs that get played, your favourite food gets served, there's champagne, there's cake - what's not to like?) but the fact you'd have to be married after that day still gives me the heebie-jeebies.

Don't get me wrong, there are some fantastic things about being a grown-up (or at least on the way to being a proper grown-up), as follows:-

  • I can spend as long as I bloody want when choosing a tooth-brush. I realise how flat-out crazy this makes me sound, but I like choosing a tooth-brush based largely on colour and I spend anything up to half an hour finding one I really like. When I was a kid this drove my mum nuts and she'd always rush me, grab any old tooth-brush and drag me away from the stand, so now it's just me, my money and my time on the line, and I can spend it ny damned way I want, I spend it picking a tooth-brush that I like the look of.
  • Being what they call "sans parents": I can wander in and out of the house whenever I want, and unless I feel inclined to let my housemates know where I'm going I don't have to. Not having to answer to anyone but yourself is very liberating. Don't get me wrong, I'm not exactly living a party lifestyle to rival Paris Hilton, but the fact that I could is great.
  • I cook for myself. Now, this is a bit of a double-edged sword because I fucking love having dinner made for me, but I am also a good cook and a very fussy eater. When cooking for myself (or doing the cooking for myself and others) I can be as fussy as I want and don't have to worry about putting people out. For example, I have to have carrots cut into lengths; in circles they cook quicker and get soft and I like my veg very al dente, so I don't like them that way. I also quite like the flavour of mushrooms and courgettes but hate their texture, so I have to cut them up really small to "hide" them in the rest of my food. And I don't like uncooked tomatoes. And I hate risotto. And I can't have whole cooked spinich leaves because I feel like I'm going to choke on them, they have to be cut up. And I could go on, but I think you get the idea by now.
  • The older I get and the more grown-up I get, the less I give a shit about what other people think of me. I mean I'll go to my grave working desperately for the love and acceptance of friends, family and those I like and/or respect - but strangers on the street? I increasingly think, aww, screw 'em. Back in my teen years I couldn't even leave the house without make-up - now I can at least head out for milk from the corner shop with no make-up and wearing a t-shirt I've slept in. And although I'm still massively judgemental about strangers in the street, I don't really care if people in the street are being massively judgemental about me in turn.
  • Money. I don't care about it for itself, but I sure do enjoy spending it. I usually spend it on DVDs and going to the movies and the pub and video games and over-priced make-up and, very rarely, clothes and shoes. Now I'm a grown-up living independent of my mother and answering to no one but myself, I don't have to justify my spending to anyone else. I've been earning my own money since I was 16 so I've not been reliant on 'rental fundage for over a decade now, but while still living under Mum's roof I did often end up having to defend purchases to her. Now my crazy crazy addiction to Benefit and Urban Decay doesn't need to be hidden or explained away; if I want to spend eleven bloody pounds on one bloody eyeshadow, it's my money and I can. So there.

The downside of being a grown-up is more of a cloud-to-the-silver-lining kind of deal. No one's responsible for my life but me; it's all my decisions and my choices and if I make stupid ones then I've no one to blame but myself. Also, bills and rent and living to a budget? It sucks. When I was a teen, if I spent everything I earned in one day and had literally nothing left until next pay-day, then blubs, it wasn't the end of the world, I didn't have anything that needed paying. Now if I spent my whole paycheck in HMV or something, then I'd end up homeless. Not so fun.

Still, apart from my occasional regressions (retro hoodie, going to Universal Studios for my birthday, kicking through piles of leaves, playing Lego Batman...) it's not that bad growing up. It's still scary to find myself involved in conversations about marriage and babies, though...Not getting over that fear anytime soon.

Monday, 1 March 2010

In Which Reality Folds In On Itself

I was at the cinema last Wednesday night, and read the following piece of graffiti:-
"I cryed at the last act of Be Kind Rewind".

And I cried for the future. She had the right idea, clearly -- but ultimately it's a case of close, but no cigar. I think this literary genius was surpassed by some teenage girls in work, though, who used the word "swored" in my hearing. I found myself not-quite-muttering, "It's 'swear' or 'swore'." They heard me (or could sense my seething rage at their open abuse, nay, assault, of the English language, I'm not sure which) and so questioned what I meant.

I explained that "swored" is not a word, and even if you were to attach the past-participle "ed" to the end of the word, then in this case it would be "sweared" anyway. They argued, refused to believe me, so I directed them to a dictionary. Naturally they had no idea where they were, which I can understand ... but they didn't seem to know how to use one initially, which was just ... well, words fail. Lucky for me, I can use a dictionary and a thesaurus, so I can confidently state that I found their ignorance appalling. Mostly because, seriously, who is teaching them..? But I digress. After some initial difficulty, they came to me with, ahem, "proof" that they were correct and I was wrong.

They showed me the word "sword". SWORD. SWORD. I feel like this signifies the end of reality as we know it even if Noel Edmonds dressed as God does not.

I know it's not just me that breaks down into a foaming-at-the-mouth fit of crazy-crazy rage at incidents like this, because Lynne Truss feels the same. What I don't know is if this validates my anger or just proves that I am not the only overly sensitive hate-fuelled self-proclaimed defender of the English language in existence.

Also, in the past two weeks I have ended up in three separate conversations about weddings (almost exclusively with girls who, like myself, have zero marriage prospects currently on the horizon -- I am unsure whether they, like me, just see weddings as a way to have a great big massive party in your honour) and two conversations about babies and children. Uhh, what the hell?! I've also been discussing the housing market, mortgages and buying houses, and fear these chats are all indicative of a wider malaise: I am officially growing up. *shudder*

Now, if you'll excuse me I have to go put on my Count Duckula hoodie and read a comics blog...

Monday, 22 February 2010

It's ups and downs, it's ups and downs, it's ups and downs.

Bit of a week of swings and roundabouts, as per usual. Monday night my team won a pub quiz, which is pretty awesome, and Saturday I won a bottle of champagne in a raffle! Fundraiser for my friend's new theatre company ( Bare Knuckle Theatre Company < / promotion>) and a fantastic night. However, the usual good/bad balance of my life soon redressed those wins - some bloody Spanish tourist bumped into me on St Mary Street as I was walking (read: limping) home, knocked the champagne out of my hands and it smashed on the floor. The guy obviously knew it was his fault, he stopped and said "oops" as the bottle smashed - but then he tries to claim it wasn't his fault.


I think I wouldn't have gotten so angry if he'd at least apologised. I doubt it would have completly eased the pain of my loss or prevented me from getting angry at all (I'm pretty much fueled by rage) but it would have at least appeased my wrath somewhat. As is, I'm still not over the loss of that champagne. And that experience is just one example of why right-thinking people avoid St Mary Street on Saturday night (see previous rant).

Still, the rest of the night was lots of fun - especially during the performance. My friend H. and her boyfriend were sat at our table for the start of the show, they get into a screaming argument, he strops off out of the room, my housemate and I don't know where to look ... then H. starts singing, spotlight hits her and it's only then I work out that was part of the performance. It was brilliantly done, a few actors and those involved in the production had sat at different VIP tables that were set up on the centre floor (yep, I was sat at a VIP table, I am super-awesome) and for different parts of the performance they would do their scene around the tables and then sit back down after. Very entertaining!

I've also had a pretty random day today: a guy came into the library I work at, noticed my limp and crutch (still mending from ankle breakage), we had a brief, polite exchange about how I broke said ankle. So far, so normal day. Then later, he hands me a note that says, "For the injured library lady. Call me on this number if you fancy going for a coffee or something!" Why he can't just ask me on a date is kinda beyond me; I was also deeply flustered by being asked out in the middle of the day. Isn't it an unwritten law of British society that we can only make moves on people in the pub or at a club..? It was all very unsettling. I think I blushed. I also went with the classic "I've got a boyfriend" line as the politest way to turn him down - I was in work, I have to be polite to people and keep my natural vitriol and sarcasm in check. Still, was flattering to be asked out on purely aesthetic terms - not like my charming personality and bubbly nature had time to work their wonder, after all.

Be interesting to see where the week goes from here! Gods willing, with some kind of recompense for the loss the that champagne. Still that was probably my bad karma for not sharing it with everyone at our table during the show...

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Big City Life

Ahhh, the city. I am a die-hard fan of city living: I enjoy the pubs, the clubs, the fact I can walk to the nearest cinema in under five minutes, that I'm within range for hundreds of different take-aways, the close shops....It's all good. There are downsides to living in the city, though. Obviously. A few of the highlights:

1. On my walk to/from work, I have had to step either over or frighteningly close to the following:-

  • Knickers. A pair of fecking women's knickers.
  • Several condoms, used. ...I presume, I didn't check or anything, jesus. Walking past the local park is where I tend to pass these. I don't know why a park is a preferred choice to, say, one of the many alleys in the area, but al fresco in a busy urban area isn't my thing so I wouldn't like to comment.
  • One (1) pair of Bench jockey shorts, obviously soiled with faeces and hung on a railing for the world to see. Why they required display is rather beyond me.
  • A needle. That was an especial treat to behold.
  • The ubiquitous broken bottles/glasses.
  • Dropped take-aways. Nothing worse than having to walk past last night's kebab on your walk to work at 8.15 in the bloody morning. Especially sick-making if you're nursing a hangover.
  • The smell/sight of St Mary Street first thing on a Saturday/Sunday morning. The hen and stag parties are not kind to that street...

2. The people. Ahh, the people. I don't know whether cities attract the, shall we say, more colourful, eccentric members of society; or whether the sheer volume of people concentrated into a small area makes them easier to spot. Either way, you certainly get to see some entertaining/frightening sights...

  • Drummer. He's a bit of a Cardiff feature - very tall, skinny black guy with dreads that are often coloured in eclectic ways, he usually has some eye-catching attire on (personal favourite; silver leather trousers, shirtless, with sunglasses and feathers in his hair) and is frequently to be seen beating out loud, fast rhytmns on the many bins around the city. Back when I worked in one of the city's department stores, he'd often come in to talk to us and the whole time you'd be really conscious that you were walking a fine line, that at any moment his friendliness toward you could erode into the mouth-foaming hatred he was expressing for his target of the moment (the government, police, someone who told him off for drumming on bins, the usual...)
  • Toy Mic Trevor. He used to really brighten up Queen Street with his vague singing (I never once successfully identified a song out of the arrythmic cacophonic style he favoured) but I've not seen him in a couple of years and I have the sinking, maudlin suspicion that he may have died.
  • My random neighbours. On the one side, we have a couple in late middle-age who obviously loathe us. During our Halloween party, we saw them filming guests who were smoking outside the house - the lady of the house had a camera pressed up against her bedroom window, trying to hide behind the curtains. They also stare out every time we take the bins out, and despite my best attempts to smile and be nice and say hello any time we see each other, the best I ever get is dirty looks from them. Conversely, on the other side we have neighbours so friendly they don't let a little thing like not speaking English stop them chatting to us. Using a series of charades-style gestures and the use of sparodic English words mingled in with the Urdu, I've managed to have conversations about our weekend camping trip, my breaking my ankle, and the weather. Their house also smells of the most delicious cooking and I am trying to work our chats up to the point where they offer me food. I love them. Across the road, meanwhile, there's a house that I am beginning to suspect is a brothel. Its house number is lit up in red at night, and there appear to be metal flaps that can be raised to conceal the numbers. The only reason I can think for having this would be to hide the numbers for when the residents aren't in for business. We've had police vans pull up in the street and cart a man off recently, which adds to this suspicion. Next door to that is Crazy Sweary Family. CSF are disturbingly violent: I've seen the woman screaming at her husband/boyfriend to "fuck off, just fuck off" loud enough for me to hear while inside watching tv...and this was in front of her young child, estimated age 3. Nice. Said woman was also locked out once: I was awoken by her banging on her door, screaming for her partner to wake up and let her in. This screaming continued for close to an hour before I cracked and called 101 - I had to get up for work in four hours and she sounded like she was ready to keep trying until she smashed in her own door. Happy days.
  • Students. I was once one of them, and I think my bitterness about no longer being a student colours my judgement somewhat ... but is it just me or are they way younger than we were as students?! I'm sure the ones in the student accommodation nearby have an average age of twelve. But in dress sense, they're aged whores. During Fresher's Week we saw one girl in a skirt so short you could see the cheeks of her ass. I mean, fair play she had great legs, but still. Leave a little to the imagination love, yeah? The students are also the ones responsible for all the dropped take-aways and smashed bottles covering the pavements on the route into town from mine. You kids, you don't know you're born! GET OFF MY LAWN!!
  • Library users. I think the anonymity of city life is a bad influence on some people, but we certainly get some characters. One lovely example: a society had rented the meeting room at a library I was working at. The woman due to lead the meeting called us and said she was running significanly late due to a traffic accident causing jams; the meeting was due to start in half an hour, and she was close to two hours away. When the group starting arriving for their meeting we explained this to them. One gentleman's response? To yell that the group leader should have called the day before to say she was going to get caught in traffic and be late that morning. He then starting yelling at us - we weren't even part of the fucking group, they were just temporarily hiring space in the building. Of course, obviously I was in the wrong for not using my magic crystal ball to predict the future and go to this woman's house in order to warn her the traffic would be bad and she should leave a lot earlier in order to make the meeting on time.
  • The aforementioned hen and stag parties. I can't pinpoint exactly when the 'Diff became such a hotspot for these groups, but in the last couple of years St Mary Street has become the place the locals avoid like the plague, for obvious reasons.
  • The whores. Working girls, if you prefer. There's a few that work the street just a couple blocks from my house, which is always disconcerting. I am also beginning to wonder if they're taking clients back to the house across from mine with the red lights...There are a few hooker hot-spots around the city, that I won't detail here because I don't want anyone to think I'm becoming some kind of guide to prostitution in south east Wales. But it's always a treat to see their outfits. As my gran would've said, their clothes fit where they touch...

But apart from all that, it's great! I'll probably rant more on this subject the more I think about it.

Sunday, 14 February 2010

And It's Not Just Because I'm Single.

I just turned on the television and what came on was an episode of 'Deal or No Deal', which is a show in which Noel Edmonds tests quantum theory. This episode was themed for Valentine's Day - and Noel was dressed up as God.

I'm pretty sure I've just witnessed the collapse of reality. Civilisation as we know it is no more and the world is crumbling around us. I estimate we have days left, at best. Use them wisely.

On the subject of Valentine's Day, I bloody hate this time of year. I have personal reasons I won't go into for not liking this month, but Valentine's is really salt in the wound. A Hallmark Holiday that seems specifically designed to undermine the self-confidence of singletons, it takes financial advantage of those who're coupled up and is a big slap in the face to the rest of us. It doesn't help that I find it an insulting waste of time - it may as well be called "Love Day" and have us buying crappy Kisses Make Me Boogie O'Lanterns. It's a truly patronising day; and how the hell is St Valentine supposed to relate to love in the first place?!

I've actually been seeing someone when Valentine's has rolled around in the past. Being a grindingly cynical realist and dating someone with similarly unromantic tendancies, I'd just presumed we wouldn't be doing anything or getting anything for each other on the day. However, as the ominous 14th draws closer the guy feels it encumbent upon him to inform me that he doesn't do Valentine's Day and so won't be getting me anything. I reply that I am of a similar mindset and hadn't expected anything - but this then makes it look as though I'm just saying that because he's said it first and I don't want to get humiliated. Regardless of your single/taken status, this day is a fucking emotional minefield.

It drives me crazy: everywhere you go, whatever channel you're watching, all over the Internet, it's red hearts and roses and cupids and cookies shaped like hearts and rose petals spelling out "I love you" and cards made out of pure sugar and I want to be sick and/or burn shit down. Preferably the latter. Of course while at any other time of year this just makes me look unromantic and disillusioned, around Valentine's it makes me look like a bitter singleton. People completely re-evalute their interpretation of one's actions based on the date, and how stupid is that?

Flowers cost a fortune and die within a couple of days; themed teddy bears (apart from this one, which is frankly the best gift ever) are twee and saccharine; and chocolates or candy ... well, they're always welcome, really, but that's non-holiday-specific.

Is it too much to ask that I not have everyone else's loved-up happiness crammed down my throat? We've only just gotten past Christmas, people, and that's lovey-dovery enough for me for one year.

....Of course, I'd much prefer to be hating Valentine's Day alongside my boyfriend.
Who is Batman and also a firefighter and a jet pilot and he has a Harrier jump jet that he totally lets me fly sometimes and we live in a mansion and he fights crime and fires and international terrorism and it is AWESOME.

Thursday, 28 January 2010

James Cameron's 'Avatar' Diary

Dear Diary
Today I realised it has totally been over ten years since Titanic, and I can't coast off of that forever. Well, I totally could 'cos it made me mega-rich, but I don't want to. I'm totally gonna rite write another film.


Dear Diary
Coming up with a new idea is hard. I wish there was some way I could just, like, find a story that someone else has done and totally use that, but without getting sued or anything 'cos I hate that.


Dear DiaryToday I watched Pocahontas with the kids. It was awesome! If I still felt real human emotion I'm sure I would've cried a bunch and stuff. What a great story! ...Hey, that gives me a great idea!!! That film's, like, over 12 years old. No one remembers back that far, right? I'm totally gonna use that plot for my new story! I'll do a new Pocahontas!

Except I don't like the past, that's boring, I like the future and space and shit. I'm totally gonna set Pocahontas in space in the future!!! It will be mega-awesome.


Dear DiaryWriting my new film is going really well. Yesterday I watched Dances with Wolves and that was also pretty neat, there was this one great scene where the wolf that Kevin Costner has made friends with gets totally killed and it's wicked-sad. Costner also gets totally accepted into the tribe and shit, which is cool.

Hey, that film is almost like 20 years old! I can totally use those plot points and no one will know where they're from! Except I won't use a wolf ... Hey, there was that magic spirit tree in Pocahontas! I'll have a magic spirit tree in my movie, and it will totally get killed by the white men instead of a wolf. That will work super-awesome!


Dear Diary
I totally need a reason for white men to have come to my new magic planet, and thinking of a McGuffin is hard. It needs to be something that would totally fuck up the planet, something that will cause mega-huge damage to look for. Something you have to mine for would work, right?
It can't be oil, but maybe some kind of mineral..? I need something that sounds science-y. Wait: science things usually have "ium" at the end, right? So I just need to think of some science-y word that ends in "ium" and they can totally be mining for that. Until I think of something better I'll call it, like, "unobtainium" or something until I think of something better.


Dear Diary
I can't think of anything better. I'm gonna stick with "unobtainium".


Dear Diary
There's a shitload of exposition and background stuff in my movie that the audience will totally need to know. I have to try and find some clever way to deliver all the exposition in a subtle way, something that seems wicked cool like the rest of my movie. A smart way.


Dear Diary
Screw it, I'm just gonna go with a voice-over. That'll work.


Dear Diary
I've totally thought of a way to make the voice-over work in the movie! I'll have the lead make a video log and totally give reports and stuff. That'll fit real well in my space future!
But I've already written up like a ton of script for the early scenes and I don't wanna re-rite write them. Think I'll just stick with the voice-over then introduce the video log and the audience will totally figure it was a video log all along.


Dear Diary
The video log has totally made me think of something else! In Dances with Wolves it's Costner's diary that totally leads the white men to the Indian tribe that adopted him. I will so make it the video log that helps the white guys find out about the magic spirit tree and stuff! Oh, and the main white guy will totally have been working with the Marines all along and then he falls in love with the aliens and he totally becomes one of them and shit and then he feels wicked bad about telling the Marines all that shit. That will be super-powerful. People will cry and shit!!


Dear Diary
I was totally watching Terminator 2 earlier to remind me how freakin' awesome I am (note to self: I AM SO FUCKING AWESOME AND EXPLOSIONS ARE NEAT) and then I remembered: there's a Terminator 2: 3D ride, right? And that's pretty sweet. So imagine how sweet it would be to have the whole movie in 3D?! It will totally kick ASS!!!
And we can charge more at the theatres so I'll totally earn more money, which will rule. I can buy, like, three more houses and build another Titanic.


Dear Diary
I need to think of some awesome alien creatures. Things with more legs look really alien, right? Look at bugs, they're just fucked up. I'm totally gonna give all my new creatures like six legs and they will all be totally badass and it will be awesome.
Dear Diary,
Thinking about all those aliens has made me think of Aliens. That movie was awesome. I am awesome. I totally love Vasquez, she was a badass character. I'm totally gonna rite write her into my new movie! Aliens is like over 20 years old, no one will remember that it's totally the same character.
I'm also gonna add a shitload more explosions, because they're mega-awesome.

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Why I Hate Superman

It should be pretty obvious even from no further evidence other than this blog that I am a huge geek. Even so, there are certain comic-based characters that I am just not on board with, and the worst offender is Superman. Let me explain why.

1. The fact that
Superman is a dick. No, seriously. Even Chris Simms over at the fantastic Invincible Super Blog, who is a shameless fan of Superman, has several examples of Superman being kind of a dick. Yes, even in stories that are designed to showcase the Man of Steel as a hero, he comes across as a massive wanker. Way to go, DC.

2. There's no conflict. I mean come on, people, Superman has the powers of a god. A fucking god, and I'm not even kidding. Now, in all honesty, when you're watching the Spider-Man movies or reading a Batman comic, you know deep down that the superhero isn't really going to die. But they're not invincible characters; hell, Batman doesn't even have any superpowers, he gets injured and has nothing but his own fabulous wealth and modern medicine to heal him. There is a chance, played with by the better comic writers, that the hero could die, or at least lose. To fall back on the geeky example I know best, I'm going to go with Buffy on this one.

Buffy loses. More than once. By the by, if you're not of an incredibly geeky persuasion then look away now. First series, she was beaten by Darla and would've been killed if Angel hadn't saved her by staking Darla (BtVS, season 1, ep 7, "Angel"). Also, she was actually killed by the Master, by drowning, and had to be resuscitated by Xander (season 1, ep 12, "Prophecy Girl"). In the second series, the first time Buffy fights Spike, she loses - and it's only the timely intervention of her mother that saves her (season 2, ep 3, "School Hard"). Series 3 sees Buffy die again, permenantly - true, it's in an alternate reality, but it still shows her fallibility (season 3, ep 9, "The Wish"). The first episode of the fourth series sees Buffy completely lacking in confidence and getting her ass handed to her by Sunday (season 4, ep 1, "The Freshman") and until she combines her strength with her friends Willow, Giles and Xander in their final confrontation with Adam, Buffy doesn't stand a chance against that season's Big Bad. Buffy also isn't much of a match for Glory, the hell god of series five - and although Glory is ultimately defeated, it isn't Buffy who actually kills her and it takes Buffy's death to stop her plans totally (season 5, ep 22, "The Gift"). Yep, even in a series where the superhero's name features in the title, Joss Whedon is prepared to kill off his lead. He brings her back, but still. Series six sees Buffy lose to Willow (long story - season 6, ep 21, "Two To Go") and in seven she gets a kicking from the Uber-Vamp (season 7, ep 10, "Bring On The Night"). Anyhoo, my long, rambling point is this: there's no real way Superman is going to lose, there's no chance he's going to die, there's no suspense. He can do ANYTHING, up to and including turning back time according to the the first film. So there's no tension.

3. Why the hell are we supposed to sympathise with him again? He was technically adopted, sure, and I'm certain that can lead to emotional issues, but at the end of the day Supes was raised by two loving parents in a picture-perfect town, was supported and guided on the path of goody-goody two-shoes glory, had an idyllic childhood, frequently has two or more ladies chasing after him - those usually being Lois Lane and Lana Lang - he's got a job, a sycophantically loyal best friend and yet he's still pretty much a total dick. He also spends a great deal of time whinging about his childhood in the single most homoerotic comic ever and it's kind of hard to understand what the hell Clark thinks he has to be so upset about.

4. There's a really finite number of stories you can tell about Superman. Sure, you get the whole Silver Age Madness thing going on where you can, say, end up with Lois and Lana becoming insect queens, but when you break it down a Superman story can only go in a few, very limited, directions. Now I'm going to borrow quite heavily from a hateful aquaintence of mine here, but he has a very valid point. Superman has the aforementioned god-like powers, so in order to engineer a story you can only go in one of four directions: have kryptonite feature heavily (lucky so much of it managed to land here on Earth, huh?); have a villain that's also from Krypton/the Phantom Zone (again, hell of a lot of them manage to get to this planet. Funny, that); have Superman lose his powers, temporarily, which usually involves Kryptonite; have Supes fight some kind of version of himself. You can mix up the details a little, but essentially it's same old, same old.

5. He's meant to be the last son of Krypton. I mean hell, it's his subtitle: Kal-El, Last Son of Krypton. And yet more and more relatives and enemies from Krypton keep appearing, including his cousin Kara (Supergirl) and his freaking dog. Turn that frown upside down, Clark, you're not alone.

6. He's too ... good. This is pretty much a personal taste thing, but I've always been one to root for the villains. All I wanted from cartoons as a kid was once, just once, for Road-Runner to get caught and eaten, on screen, by Wil E. Coyote and I'm now a big fan of Dexter, so that should clue you in to my preferences. At least with Batman you get edgy, and Peter Parker had that whole Venom period, and Buffy started shagging Spike (and who can blame her?) - but with Superman you just get random red kryptonite moments and general dickery. All in all there's no edge. He's a goody-goody. And I'm not a big fan of that.

.........And that's not even counting Superman IV.

Monday, 18 January 2010

2009 Hated Me - and Probably You

I don't know how glad you were to see the back of 2009, but if it went anything like mine I imagine you're pretty damned grateful it's over. Here is a brief and (hopefully) bleakly amusing summary of all the things that went wrong with my year.

First and foremost, I had a couple deaths in the family, but they weren't immediate family so I won't really count those as "my" disasters. Also a couple of my friends had fucking awful things happen to them, and while again the pain and suffering of my friends gets to me, they're not "my" disasters so I won't count them either.

My 2009 went a bit more like a system of checks and balances: something good would happen, then something disasterously awful would happen to utterly destroy the joy I felt as a result of this. Like thus:-

The good: I finally got a full-time, permanent job! Huzzah, no more living uncertainly from temp contract to temp contract.
The bad: I got vertigo. Two weeks of feeling like I was on a Waltzer - which results in feeling nauseous, dizzy, and leaves one unable to walk, rather than being the constant joy you might think. I couldn't even make myself a cup of tea and carry it into the living room, because I would fall down, spill the tea, and end up retching on the floor. I also couldn't watch TV or films because looking at movement on the screen made the vertigo worse.

The good: It snowed! Spectacularly!
The bad: Despite still living a one-hour-and-fifteeen-minute journey away, I still had to go to work or they would deduct the time or pay from me. So instead of getting to play out in the snow, I had to wait forty minutes at an exposed train station, in a blizzard, for a delayed train. And then be told I had to make up the time because I was late in.

The good: I went on a three-week holiday to Florida, staying for free with friends of the family, during which time we drove up to north of Atlanta, Georgia, to stay with more family friends, and I also spent my 27th birthday at Universal Studios. Which was all AWESOME.
The bad: While paddling in the Gulf at Desoto Beach, FL, I got stung by a stingray. Which feels like getting hit with a stick and stabbed at the same time, rapidly followed by the burning, writhing agony of the poison spreading up through my leg. Just FYI.

The good: I got rescued by a lifeguard, who I shall call Handsome McSexybody. He carried me in his arms to the lifeguard station, and he smelled like sunshine and rescue.
The bad: I got an infection in the sting site. My foot and ankle swelled up to about three times its normal size and was absolute misery, leaving me unable to walk for a couple of weeks. The resulting scar is disappointingly small - I wanted something that reflected the suffering it caused, and not this teeny tiny little mark. Another fail.

The good: I finally moved out of my mother's! After years of trying to get a permenant job and save up a bit, I managed to move into a shared house in the city, with two fantastic housemates. Score!
The bad: I got chicken pox. Yep, aged 27, I got a childhood disease that was so debhilitating that I had to move back in with my Mum for a couple weeks so she could care for me. I was off work for another three weeks and am now covering in pox scars. Dammit. Incidentally, the pox was torture and the worst thing I had ever endured.

The good: My wonderful, wonderful friends!
The bad: Having a check-up to see if I was fit to return to work after the pox, my doctor noticed a mole on my back had changed shape and developed dark spots. It was suspected cancerous, and I had to have it surgically removed, leaving a scar on my shoulder over an inch long, and the over-hanging threat that I might have skin cancer. Joy.

The good: Living near the city centre means that I can pretty much hit the town whenever I want.
The bad: The town hits back. As mentioned in previous post, I broke my right ankle (yes the one I got stung in) just before Christmas and am now going absolutely crazy with cabin fever. It also turns out that, yes, breaking an ankle is more torturous than having chicken pox.

Random other negative events:
I ordered some fancy pricey conditioner off eBay. When it arrived, turned out the seller made a mistake and sent me the wrong item. They agreed to replace it for free - but then I was out working when the postman tried to deliver the replacement conditioner. By the time I had a day off work when the collections office was open, the conditioner had been sent back to the main sorting office. In Belfast. I arranged re-delivery: they couldn't deliver to my work, because it's a different postcode than my home; and the local post office wasn't open any time I could get to; so it was going to be over two months before they could redeliver. On the day of redelivery, I stayed in waiting for the postman to arrive. He didn't. I call the Royal Mail - turns out they've fucked up spectacularly and my item is still in Belfast. And I can't expect it before February.

Getting a lift back into the city after the pox, my Mum's brand-new car got hit by a rock falling off the back of a truck. The rock hit the windshield and cracked it - right in front of my face. Which frankly scared the shit out of me.

On my first day back to work after the pox, the bus I was riding got hit by another bus. It was only a minor traffic accident, but we all had to get off that bus and then I had to run to the next bus stop so I didn't miss the later bus. Other bus-related stories, I was late to work a couple times because of buses simply not showing up. Thanks, Cardiff Bus.

Well, I think those are the lowlights of the year! 2010 has already kicked 2009's ass, by the way - results back from the hospital and the mole was completely benign; and despite smashing my ankle up good and proper, I don't have to have an operation on it, so that's another win for me. Fingers crossed I won't manage to set fire to the house with me still inside it and unable to flee in time because of being slowed down by my broken ankle....