Wednesday, 31 October 2007

Just a little distraction...

The new first page
... is all I needed so have;

1. Printed out all those fragments, some as long as 3,000 words, and counted up a total word count. It's bigger than I'd imagined!
2. Started at the beginning with a new page 1 for a totally new approach. You can ignore the first page I put up what feels like years ago in that first page challenge as it no longer applies.

Am very excited and working hard!

And it takes my mind of the impending surgery thing. *Quaking in boots* :)

Sunday, 28 October 2007

Los Aslandticos - something more cheery!

I discovered Los Aslandticos on the Spain Channel. I love 'em!

After the previous post I needed something more cheery. So here it is. Disfruta!

Check out this video: Se ven venir

Oh dear - turns out am Proper Poorly!

Gallstones - well, prettier than Gallstones!

Gory Bits

I went for an Ultra-Sound scan yesterday. We were looking for gallstones. And we er found some. Seven to be exact. And BIG ones! And all because of a chance conversation at uni, in which I was wittering on about my costachondritis! Might never have known! Might have found out when my gallbladder burst and I er... died.

Rather more worryingly, we also found some 'bright bits'. Apparently tumours are dark bits, so a sigh of relief there. Nevertheless, there's a big bright bit on the liver, and another on the kidney. I'm saying the liver, instead of my liver in the faint hopes that it has psychological value. But should I be, like, totally freakin' out right now? Would you be?

Perhaps a tad.

So looks like surgery. Ouch. I had my appendix out when I was about 9. I had an attack of cramps that just wouldn't go away and ended up in casualty. The examination, incase you didn't know, is rectal, and if I wasn't impressed with this development, I was even less so when I got rushed to theatre. I think I turned into a small banshee, and took out three nurses before they finally knocked me out. It burst on the table, and I was screwed for days later. Embarrasingly I was the worst child patient ever. I wouldn't keep a drip in (still can't abide them as am needle phobic) and cried the whole time. But - I did get lots of pressies and the pain I'd been in for over a year had finally stopped, which made up for it. I thought I never want to be in hospital again even if they did save my little life.

But then I got attacked by a German Shepherd when I was 12. It got me by the throat before finally arriving at the back of my neck where it got a proper purchase and dragged me 200 yards. It had quite a good chew before someone rescued me, and I remember waiting 4 long hours before someone sewed me back together. All those feelings of being totally out of control came flooding back. And it really, really hurt! I thought, shit - I gotta take better care of myself!

But then nine years ago, after years of pain, I had to have my wisdom teeth surgically removed. Husband'd had his out and reported no problems whatsoever, so I figured I'd be fine. What fun! I came round on a trolley with lots of other be-gowned bodies in various states of consciousness and/or pain, to the sensation of having something being pushed up my backside - it turned out to be a painkiller which I couldn't have downed orally if I'd tried. As soon as I could sit up I tried to leave - worried that someone was going to try to shove something else into an orifice not designed for the purpose - but promptly fell over in a pool of freshly vomited up blood. So I got to stay a few hours longer. One of the nurses enquired, "Fanny or Face?" as it was wisdom teeth one side, and gynae on the other. Then we watched in horror as one of the 'Fannies' reacted badly to the anaesthetic and was wheeled away amidst a circus of medical staff.

It got worse when I got home and er... overdosed on a cocktail of painkillers and started hallucinating. I couldn't understand why my hubby was climbing up a rock face in his underpants when I was on the ground heaving and wretching. Talk about being at your best - stark naked, spewing up fresh blood and screaming as the stitches popped one by one. I can't believe he still married me after that sexy little episode!

I just can't seem to do these things simply. Even when I gave birth to my youngest at home (read no pain relief), I had to get a retained placenta and bleed out all over the living room, with what can only be described as entrails trailing. Super midwives sorted it all out with a catheter (ouch) and a bit of 'in up to elbow' (triple ouch) and I lived to tell the tale. And they didn't have to hospitalise me either. Phew!

So perhaps these things are just sent to try us, and I'm being daft worrying about all the shit that can go wrong. And the pain. Let's not forget that it's gotta hurt having bits cut out. And I'm suuuuuch a wimp!

Writing/PhD update

On the plus side it's made me realise that I better get the bloody book written just in case, although am obviously hoping that whatever gets me in the end, doesn't get me until I'm a ripe old age. I've counted up everything I've typed so far, and there's a whopping great 45,000 words. This is a huge relief as my supervisors want to see me prontito and so far i've only given 'em 1,000 words and I had promised them the first draft by October. Hmm. Now who was being ever so slightly over-optimistic there! I didn't factor in the summer holidays with the kids, a two week trip to Spain, or teaching a new course.

But 45,000 words. And note-books. Endless note-books. Woo hoo!

And I've been vindicated. I haven't been rolling on the floor screaming because I'm over-dramatic, but because I have ugly little rocks in me tum, and bright things on other vital organs. Wonder if I've got costachondritis as well?! Now that would be unlucky!

I'm off to down more Ibuprofen and plan lessons to take my mind of all these pleasant thoughts!

Have a great day, and be healthy!

Friday, 19 October 2007

Natasha Ratcliffe - Contemporary Art Medals (aka Gorgeous Little Objects)

Natasha Ratcliffe, (a friend of ours but no relation) is an artist who makes Contemporary Art Medals. I think they're wonderful and have posted some pics below from the National Art Academy in Sofia, Bulgaria, where Natasha has been studying. In 2005 she was awarded 'New Medalist' by the British Art Medal Society.

The medals are designed to be held in the hand,
and are very beautiful. Preciosa.

One of her pieces was bought by, and is on display in The British Museum. See here.

To see the full range of Natasha's medals, and her other art work,

please visit the Natasha Ratcliffe website.

Wednesday, 17 October 2007

Armed America - responding to Paul

I think I may have offended Paul, who has left a comment on Armed America - Scary Americans.


I started to post a comment back, but then thought, no. It's time to get on my soap box about this one. After all, we can all whinge on about how we don't like something, but what you need, is to do a wee bit of research. To kind of - put your (well my) money where my mouth is, as it were. So I did.

Firstly, I take your point that you are a human being, and that you should have the right to life, food, and shelter. I also agree with you that guns are used for sport, hobby, or hunting - although the word hobby strikes me as a touch innocuous to describe firing off a bullet that travels at roughly 1,705 mph, and has a tendency to cause absolute destruction when it stops - but anyway, I have no problems with people shooting for sport, or hobby, or even for hunting if it is necessary for food.

However, you quickly move on to the right to defend yourself. And here I have a problem. Yes, the criminals have weapons, but the way to eradicate fire-arms as used in criminal activity, is not to arm everyone, but to arm less people. And it isn't me saying it either;

"Homicide rates tend to be related to firearm ownership levels. Everything else being equal, a reduction in the percentage of households owning firearms should occasion a drop in the homicide rate".
Evidence to the Cullen Inquiry 1996:
Thomas Gabor, Professor of Criminology - University of Ottawa

From:Gun Control Network

Okay - so the Gun Control Network are probably going to be biased aren't they? So I thought I'd look at the other side of the argument. I'm not too bothered about sporting usages, so all I'll say on that is I can see the ingenuity of the fire-arm, and target shooting can be fun, but the fact remains that the fun is being had with an object that was purposely designed to cause injury or death. It isn't like the wings on a military fighter jet, that evolved from the dream to take flight like the birds. It's more like, we've invented to gun and everything is dead - wonder what else we can do with it? Gun use evolved to incorporate sport, but hunting and war were always it's primary concerns.


Okay. So you want to protect your family, and your property, from criminals - who are also carrying guns (er... because they know you are too so they aren't going to bring a baseball bat, are they?). What are you going to do if someone is stupid or desperate enough to break into your house? Are you sure you want to shoot them? They might not be armed with a gun.

As de-sensitised as Americans are towards guns, it is worth remembering that guns make a real mess of living tissue. A bullet travels at around 2,500 feet per second over 100 yards. That's 1,705 miles per hour. This is what bullets do;

Bullets produce tissue damage in three ways (Adams, 1982):
1. Laceration and crushing - Low velocity bullets, as in handguns, that travel less than 1000 fps do virtually all their damage via crushing.
2. Cavitation - Cavitation is significant with projectiles travelling in excess of 1000 fps. A "permanent" cavity is caused by the path of the bullet itself, whereas a "temporary" cavity is formed by continued forward acceleration of the medium (air or tissue) in the wake of the bullet, causing the wound cavity to be stretched outward.
3. Shock waves - Shock waves compress the medium and travel ahead of the bullet, as well as to the sides, but these waves last only a few microseconds and do not cause profound destruction at low velocity. At high velocity, generated shock waves can reach up to 200 atmospheres of pressure. (DiMaio and Zumwalt, 1977) However, bone fracture from cavitation is an extremely rare event. (Fackler, 1996)

See Gun Tutorials for full article.

I have to take issue with you when you say I am a criminal if I support the banning of guns. The banning of guns does not imply the end to the right to defend yourself and your property. Gun laws are extremely stringent in the UK, and we have no right to bear arms written or otherwise. If someone breaks into our house we call the police. If we are at home, then we might leave the house, or failing that confront them with a vase. You don't really need a gun. I take it you read about John Smeaton, the Glaswegian who confronted a terrorist. Yes. A terrorist! Mr Smeaton and a few others gave him the hiding of his life and then handed him, still smouldering, over to the police. No guns. Not a single shot fired.

Of course the other thing is, here we kinda know who is who, because if someone has a gun, and they aren't an armed police officer, there's no mistaking that you're probably dealing with a criminal, and not Sandy from down the road who just popped in for an iced-tea brandishing an AK47 and a gold bikini. You see we don't always get the best image of 'Americans and Their Guns' here in the UK.

What disturbed me most about those images referred to in my blog post, was the fact that guns were so everyday, so ordinary. There were a range of human beings celebrating their prized possessions, posing with them while their children are in the room. It keeps the culture going, that's for sure. There's no sign - no recognition that these are weapons not toys, or trophies. Safety catches are notoriously crap. Some are even made of plastic! See Violence Policy Centre – An agenda for genuine gun control. The dreadful truth is that these things can, and do go off. When you least want them to. With a bang. And the soft mass that is your child's head is not going to come off to well should they be investigating mom and dad's toys.

The statistics kind of speak for themselves;

In 1996, in the USA, 138 children (14 or under) died from unintentional gunshot wounds.

The minimum age to possess a firearm in the US is 18. Rifles and shotguns have no age restriction.

The most common age to commit gun crime in the US is 19. 18 is the second most common.

In the period 2005/06 there were 21,521 firearm offences in England and Wales. Of these, 5001 resulted in injury, and there were 50 homicides - down from 78 in 2004/05.

In 1999 there were 28,874 gun related deaths in the US (that's an impressive 80 per day) and in 2000 a staggering 75,685 people were shot and injured.

Since 1965, deaths due to gunshot wounds in the US have risen steadily from 18,671 to 30,708 in 1998, and since then has hovered around the 29,000 mark. It's still rather a lot though isn't it. Compared with 50.

Unintentional deaths due to gunshot wounds have dropped 2,344 in 1965, to 866 in 1998 - I'll warrant you that, but one has to ask why this might be... better education perhaps, people moving away from worshipping the gun and seeing it for the violent, lethal weapon that it is, regardless of what it's being used for at any given time. Maybe the recent tragedy at Columbine, Colorado, has made people take more notice and begin asking more challenging questions, such as why should it be a right to bear arms? Is there a guerrilla war going on that no-one has told us about?!

There have been 14 mass shootings (more than 10 people shot) between 1966 and 2002. Of these, 1 was in the UK, in Hungerford, when a farmer took a shotgun to the village, and 7 in the US. Of these 7, 6 involved legal weapons, killing a total of 101 people.

And size does matter!

The USA has a population of 301,139,947 people in an area 9,826,630 sq. km. That's 32 people per sq. km.

The UK has a population of 60,209,500 in an area of 242,514 sq. km. That's 246 people per sq. km.

So there's fewer of us, but we are a lot more crowded. And we don't, as a nation, see guns as a trophy, or a hobby. We don't feel we have the right to blow a huge hole in someone just because they were rude enough to threaten us, or our property. (Though we might knock 'em over the head with a vase - carefully so as not to actually kill them.)

On a final note, in response to your second comment. I have seen guns, yes. As a teenager I was held up at gun point by a boy who thought it was big to dress up in military greens and point guns at girls. I've seen guns poking out of pockets in Spain and of course their police are armed. As in France. I've seen rifles for hunting, and almost went clay-pigeon shooting once. I still don't like guns. And I like them less in the hands of my premenstrual and/or pissed neighbours.


Number and Rates* of Firearm Mortality—United States, 1965 to 2004 (pdf)

UK Homicides, Firearm Offences and Intimate Violence 2005/2006 (pdf)

Violence Policy Centre – An agenda for genuine gun control

The Gun Control Network

The Internet Pathology Laboratory for Medical Education, Utah. Tutorials - Firearms.

Not to be Biased...

The National Rifle Association (UK)

The National Rifle Association (USA)

The Gun Information website has 30 Reasons to Oppose Gun Control. It makes interesting reading. It's worth a read.

*Clambers down from soap-box and is amazed at how much work I have to do... and how little time I have left to do it!

I hope that puts my point of view in perspective.

Sunday, 14 October 2007

Lurkers... You know who you are!

I thought I'd just say a special hello to all the lurkers out there...

You know you've got lurkers when people stop you in the corridor and ask you why you haven't posted anything on your blog for ages. People who you never thought read your blog in a million years!

Not that I'm complaining! I love my lurkers! At least it means someone reads all these internal ramblings made public! I think the name needs reviewing because all the images of 'lurkers' are er... a bit scary. And the lurkers who've approached me have been very lovely people, thank you very much (and big sighs of relief!). So maybe 'silent readers' might be nicer?

And I too, have been guilty of lurking... er, silent reading. I lurked for years at Topsyturvydom, reading without saying anything. I didn't know what to say, to be honest. It seems so permanent to type into a text box - to hit POST. What if it doesn't come across in the right way? What if I sound stupid? So I lurked, until eventually I summoned up the courage to post. And not worry how daft/inappropriate/surreal my comments might be.

It was very liberating!

I recommend it!

So here is a challenge to all those who may lurk. Please post a comment. Even if it is only an anonymous 'hello'.

No really, please do, otherwise everyone will think I've been hallucinating again, and that there aren't actually any silent readers, and er... it's all in my little head!

I shall be waiting for the comments to roll in....


This is fun! Ali G interviews the linguist Noam Chomsky. Enjoy!

Friday, 12 October 2007

A Novel Breakthrough!

It has come to me.

In a flash of inspiration.

Over a cup of tea with an old friend.

My novel.

I know what it is going to be now. That's why I haven't been able to write it, because I knew what I wanted to say but I didn't have a structure to hang it on.

At last a little seed was planted and has flourished into a wonderfully organic shape full of avenues and twists and turns, with lots of places to stop and take in the view, the sights, the sounds.

I'm Soooooooooooo excited!

Hay un camino enfrente de mi lo que puedo coger... and I can run with it now, following the path wherever it may lead, safe in the knowledge that I won't get lost along the way!

Watch the word count because I've a feeling it's going to start moving again... very soon!

Thursday, 11 October 2007


Sun, Moon, and Talia (1638)

Taken from Nogginworks

Haven't posted much this week. Had I have posted it would have gone something like this...

Knackered. Been planning and teaching and taking Ibuprofen for my costachondritis which still hurts loads.

Although I did have a riding lesson on Monday which was - as ever - great. I rode a horse called Pete who makes me feel like I'm learning to ride all over again because he's so big and has huge movement, so that trying to sit to his trot feels like trying to sit on a pneumatic drill... or something. Hmmm. Also, when he spooks, instead of cat leaping to the side - up and away - he does this kind of cowering thing, so that all of a sudden, you find your arse 6 inches above the saddle. I thought he was falling over because I couldn't see his legs. Strange wee boy!

Today I've been teaching the teachers (which is really quite enjoyable I must say), and we've been looking at Fairy Tales - the history of them, how they've developed and morphed and all that. I find it fascinating that fairy tales were quite gory and sexually explicit, and took great pleasure in reading them Giambattista Basiles's Sun, Moon, and Talia from his collection Il Pentamerone which you can read at Sur la Lune. It's the original 'Sleeping Beauty' (if indeed 'the original' anything exists!). The King has a daughter, and the soothsayers give the bad news about the spinning wheel, and of course she grows up and pricks her finger, and dies... but from there, it all gets a bit, erm, well, heavy. The daughter is laid out in a castle (okay), and the handsome prince comes riding by... except he's a King AND he's married! And she is unconscious. And he climbs through the window and... in the words of Giambattista, "...the King saw her, he
called to her, thinking that she was asleep, but in vain, for she still slept on, however loud he called. So, after admiring her beauty awhile, the King returned home to his kingdom, where for a long time he forgot all that had happened."

But I remembered a version far more explicit. I thought these students are going to think I'm a right pervert here because I've told them that he saw her, fancied a bit of that, and helped himself. I read on...

"Meanwhile, two little twins, one a boy and the other a girl, who looked like two little jewels, wandered, from I know not where, into the palace and found Talia in a trance. At first they were afraid because they tried in vain to awaken her; but, becoming bolder, the girl gently took Talia's finger into her mouth, to bite it and wake her up by this means; and so it happened that the splinter of flax came out. Thereupon she seemed to awake as from a deep sleep; and when she saw those little jewels at her side, she took them to her heart, and loved them more than her life; but she wondered greatly at seeing herself quite alone in the palace with two children, and food and refreshment brought her by unseen hands." (sur la lune)

I thought, that is soooo not what happened! "Wandered in from I know not where"?!!! So I did a quick search online and I found it... the unsanitised version. The whole thing is here but basically... the bit we're interested in reads:

The King has found poor Talia and "He called to her, but she would not wake. As he looked at her, and tried to wake her, she seemed so incredibly lovely to him that he could not help desiring her, and he began to grow hot with lust. He gathered her in his arms and carried her to a bed, where he made love to her. Leaving her on the bed, he left the palace and returned to his own city, where pressing business for a long time made him think no more about the incident."

Aha! The beast! Wonder what Disney would make of this? It continues:

"But Talia, who was not dead, but merely unconscious, had become pregnant, and after nine months she gave birth to twins, as beautiful a boy and girl as ever were born. Kindly fairies attended the birth, and put the babies to suck at their mother’s breast. One day, one of the infants, not being able to find the nipple, began to suck at his mother’s finger. He sucked with such force that he drew out the splinter of flax, and Talia awoke, just as if from a long sleep. When she saw the babies, she did not know what had happened or how they had come to her, but she embraced them with love, and nursed them until they were satisfied. She named the infants Sun and Moon. The kindly fairies continued to attend her, providing her with food and drink, which appeared as if delivered by unseen servants."

Bit of a change from, "And the prince kissed her and she woke up, and they lived happily ever after" isn't it?!!! It gets even worse when the King's wife finds out about his affair with the unconscious woman in the woods, mother of his children, but you can follow the links to read it if you want to!

So. Fairy Tales. Gore. Sex. Angela Carter's The Bloody Chamber doesn't seem half as shocking now does it?! Although her take on Red Riding Hood, when the wolf and Red get jiggy with it, might still turn a hair or two!

So that's me. Fairy tales. And after that Little Women and Anne of Green Gables at such a cracking pace it's making my head spin. God knows how the students are coping!

And er... my novel. yes, well. The old PhD. Los estudios mios. It cries to me in the night, my poor novel. It speaks to me in my dreams, (in Spanish cos it's dead clever like that), and it says, "Please write me. I need to be written!" Escribeme, por favor. Necesito ser escrito! Before I forget all that needs to be said, before I lose all these wonderful ideas... and er... have to go back on another research trip.

Oh! Now there's an idea!

Thursday, 4 October 2007

Free Burma

Free Burma!

Running on empty - already!

It's all go! Back at work this week, and it's only Thursday and I'm already running on empty.


So far, so good - nice students, nice rooms to teach in, and with my new found "I refuse to get stressed about anything" attitude, everyone at home is happy too!

Bet you're wondering what happened to the health kick... well... erm... apart from swimming and riding in Spain, I've done bugger all I'm afraid. This costachondritis thing has put a stop to it all. Thwarted at the outset! And on a diet of Ibuprofen and anti-nausea tablets. Lovely.

And now I'm teaching again, I'll be lucky to have a riding lesson! I have this awful feeling I'm going to be reduced to the academic equivalent of a couch potato once more, with squared pc eyes and a bottom molded to the shape of my office chair. Is that molded or moulded? Hmmm.

Right then. Off I go to sort out tomorrow's lesson. It's half six and all I've eaten is a nectarine. At least it'll be good for that stone I wanted to lose!