Thursday, May 19, 2011


I am watching Inferno - John Pertwee era environmental disaster tourism, rather lovely. I also watched the latest Doctor Who episode, The Doctor's wife, and need to watch it again, it was very good I think. Neil Gaiman and Steven Moffat - what a wonderful idea. If it weren't for my love of Moffat I'd be wishing for Russell T Davies. What's more, this season I've really warmed, finally, to Matt Smith as the 11th Doctor. The stories have been great, but more than that, he's done a stunning job of being convincing as someone who is 900+ years old. Ten is still my Doctor, but my heart is really enjoying the break from being run over by Russell Fucking Davies.

Friday, May 06, 2011


Suzanne Vega’s music lives in my life, ever since I was a little girl, the soundtrack of being alone, and as such both melancholy and a little claustrophobic. Beautiful and unbearable, it sits there mostly unplayed amid my music like a loaded gun.

In the Carmen of the Martyrs,
with the statues in the courtyard
whose heads and hands were taken,
in the burden of the sun;

And I remember being there, Granada in September on the way to the Alhambra, that last summer of college. It’s a sun-warmed memory of a glorious summer, a perfect prelude, uncontaminated by any gloom. The song is perhaps her most heart-wrenchingly sad, all the more so because it denies none of the beauty of the moment. There is no anger in it, nothing but the shadows of trees, the loveliness of something lost and worth remembering.

those possibilities within her sight,
with no way of coming true.
Some things just don't get through
into this world , although they try.

As always, it is simple and perfect, complete in its solitude.

I had come to meet you
with a question in my footsteps.
I was going up the hillside
and the journey just begun.

If growing up is learning your mortality, it is also growing into the meaning of the world around you, and seeing the pain and loss in the world as well as its glory. It is realising that that glory is so often built upon the suffering, and no less valuable for it; perhaps more valuable. So here’s my modest aspiration: to live up to that ability to not let the good things be poisoned by the bad.

All I know of you
is in my memory
All I ask is you
Remember me.

And to remember.

Sunday, May 01, 2011


Though I have finally scrubbed the last dirt from under my nails, I spent quite a bit of time today with my hands in a variety of soils; and another hour wandering through the neighbourhood looking at the glorious dogwoods and azaleas and tulips. First garden day - and lovely. I'll write better about such things when I am not so tired and not so busy trying to cram more hours into great days like this one. I am now going to read American Born Chinese to console me for the closing of a beloved bookstore.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Sunday, Easter, spring

Next year I really need to pick something different for Lent. I did well enough, you see, with the whole being creative every day. Mostly I wrote, wrote quite a lot, and remembered that little humming noise my brain makes when I'm writing well. So today, the first day when I don't have to, I think - but no, I liked writing every day. I liked having the pressure, too, of a group of people and a structure to keep at it. I'm going to miss it. So perhaps I should go back to giving up chocolate and coffee and alcohol for Lent.

Writing has, in fact, gotten me through a few dark nights of the soul, in an unexpected way. It has set a standard for me that has been both higher (get out of your head, challenge yourself, try writing differently, and about different topics) and lower (write! just write. Worry about the rest later). I will have to keep doing it, and having the discipline to do so will be hard for a while. Still, I come back to it again and again. It reminds me of my guitar - a failed experiment - teacher's definition of musician. She said that being a musician is not about whether you have talent, or about what fame you achieve. It is about whether you come back to it throughout your life, work at it, and give yourself a chance to learn.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

On how I hate intuition

What I really want is insight, constructive understanding. This feminine business of intuition annoys me. It is like when I was in highschool and was terrible at Latin grammar and declensions, and yet did well in later years with translation. This makes no sense. Similarly, I can't remember any of basic grammatical analysis of English I was taught, but ask me to do final year process type analysis and I bet I can still do it. It vexes me to no end.

As the end of my writing experiment comes into view, an experiment which has at least yielded a short story, it occurs to me that in spite of a degree, well, two, in English lit, I can't analyse writing worth anything. Oh I can make stuff up, interpret away until I'm halfway through a Ph.D., but doing the truly writerly thing of looking a the cogs and wheels is very hard for me. Give me an exercise and I will write with a good understanding of what I am doing, but I am terrible at understanding other people's writing, and really even my own when I write freely, and am scrambling to acquire a vocabulary to do so. Yet I have control, I am confident in how I use the tools I have. My effects, for the most part, are conveyed as intended.

At the the end of the day I feel like someone in that episode of Blackadder with Tom Baker as the legless captain saying "My lady, you have a woman's brain!"


Friday, April 22, 2011

See how easy it is to make me happy?


Also, at the age of thirty-two, I realise that one meets people by stopping and talking to them. Go figure.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011


It is rainy outside, and I love a good rainy day, love sitting and reading with a cup of tea while the rains ticks against the window.

You know what this needs? It needs a panda.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Hamlet, only cleaner

funny facebook fails - Literary Laundry WIN
see more Failbook


A rainy day - perfect for exactly what I did - eating waffles, watching Jim Henson movies, eating soup, and most of all, hanging out with friends.

Not bad at all.

Friday, April 15, 2011


Still writing! Every day too. Points for anyone who guesses the exercise I was attempting. Points earn you spiffy rewards Books? Yes, books are good. I can send those. So, here goes -

Ah yes, splendid. Guests. Jolly good. No eggs for breakfast. No matter. Yes, yes. Four, no, five. Not a problem at all. May run out of milk though. Yes. No matter. We’ll make do. Cornflakes. Must have cornflakes somewhere. Madeleine must have put them somewhere. Yes. She moves things, Madeleine does. Lovely girl. A little discombobulated. Yes. A trifle disorganized. But charming. Toast, surely there is some toast. Ho hum. Out of bacon, last of it sizzling. Cast iron pan. Gussie handling it. Not good with food, Gussie. Not so much. Charming chap though, positively charming. Better move those bottles. Might knock them over. Hm. Champagne. That was the last. Didn’t mind them drinking it yesterday. No, don’t begrudge it at all. Only that was the last. Did I get any? I believe I did not. Still, they were lovely company. A little loud. But lovely. Very spirited. Still, it was a jolly good time. Few stains on the carpet. It’s quite fine. Yes. Red wine.

Still, mustn’t complain. Wouldn’t do. Wouldn’t do at all. Better fetch some more bacon. Yes. Get some air. Get some fresh air. Bacon too. Perhaps some milk. A few eggs. A nice long walk. Enjoy the season. Top notch day. Sunny. Yes. A brilliant day. Wander a little. Bit of quiet. Wouldn’t do though. Wouldn’t do to abandon the guests. Not at all done. Not a bit of it. Still, a bit of quiet. Would be quite good. Quiet. Bit of silence.

Better get that bacon.

Give thanks

I would just like to give thanks for I Can Has Cheesburger and Damn You Autocorrect.

That is all.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

On attainment

Intellect, rationality, is a wonderful thing. Like a tool, you can hone it, perfect its use, guide it, after much practice, with ease. It is a measurement. I have spent much time with people who believe in this tool, a very fine tool. I grew up in the belief that it – ratio, science – was the small light in a vast darkness. So it is. I had not fully grasped the meaning of that metaphor though, until I bumped up against it again and again for a long time.

In the dark, you must sometimes turn away from the light to see better. This does not diminish its value; without it you would see nothing at all. But sometimes it is best to keep it at your back, and let your eyes adjust to the dark to see more clearly. So reason lights up human nature, but cannot be used by staring into the light. Instead I have turned away from it, knowing it there in the background from the glow it cast, but looking out into the darkness.

I have worked hard, this last year, at moving rational knowledge into my heart, accepting that rational thought is not what directs my emotions. Unless I can understand with my heart as well as my head, my reason desintegrates into rationalisation. My intellect alone is easily confused, easily lost in the fray. Perhaps mine is simply not strong enough. So instead I have simply put in the dumb work of self-development – writing every day, regardless of inspiration, doing tai chi even when I don’t feel relaxed, going for walks when it’s cold. The road to personal progress for me has been to put in the hours (some of the time...) and not think about the outcome. I find it always pays off when I stick with it – but never when I expect it or how I expect it. Most often this practice helps when I fail most dramatically, or am most disappointed. It’s when I learn the most. Beckett was right – and thanks again to Evan for the quote – “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.”

Funny how that quote become less depressing every time I read it, and every time I go through the same mistakes and learn a little more, and fail a little better.

The one where everything upsets me

This weekend I finally made the link between Edgar Allen Poe and The Wire, that is to say, I visited the Poe House. The Poe House is located in a neighbourhood so bad as to be iconic. You see, it is right next to the Poe Homes, a social housing project from years gone by made famous by David Simon’s observation that why yes, there’s an awful lot of crime there. The Poe House – an impossibly teensy house closely guarded by the unnecessarily defensive curator – is a sort of marvel. A marvel of Baltimore-style loss of opportunity, that is, though there is some Poe-esque morbid charm to it. Surely someone, hell, why not David Simon, can do some bloody fundraising for this place, knock down some of the condemned houses, build a visitor center and bring some money into this godforsaken neighbourhood? Surely Poe is famous enough to deserve better than a badly edited snowy tape from the eighties? As it is, it inspires enough people to brave the area (on foot!), the erratic opening hours and the wait in front of the closed door. Surely Baltimore can do better, even in these dour times.

I propose a combo Poe/Wire tour. I think it’s a natural fit, I really do. Death, mystery, detective, work, suffering, drugs, crime – it goes down well enough round here. We have the crime and drugs anyway, why not make the most of it? Worked for David Simon. Who knows, we could maybe even spend some of the money on making some of these places safer. Let’s make it a goal – let’s aim to make drugs and crime the future tourist fallacy of Baltimore. Let’s aim to have well made-up actors posing as junkies for lack of real ones by the year 2024.

In other news, gorramit, I’m ignoring the news because it if so hatefully idiotic, and because the Dems are such gorram idiots. Someone hand me a wet towel please, I have some people I need to smack with it. This is making me nostalgic for when the other people were being the fools.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Yes, yes, I know

I have been being creative, honestly I have, I finished my story, it is getting workshopped in two days (YAAAARGHL). It's just that there isn't time for anything, room for anything, it's stressing me out, which is a bit unusual for me. I'm tired now, thoroughly, wretchedly tired, but I'm writing, and I'm excited about that, very excited, if scared, but that's about all I have space for: work, volunteer work, writing and sleep. Food, yes, rather too much of it I believe.

Monday, March 21, 2011



So I made it back from the Golden West safely - it was lovely out there, lovely to get a break from the thisness of life and do something else for a while. Even for the ten minutes at the end of the day spent walking by the water it would have been worth it. As it was, there were more merits to the trip, most of which are work related and obscure. Salient fact: I now somewhat miraculously have a very rough draft of an actual story. Not sure what to make of that,but one must suppose that it is a good thing.

It is spring. Chilly, but spring - my house is filled with hyacinths and peonies and there is nothing quite like coming home to the slight smell of hyacinths emanating from your front door.

Hope yours is nice too.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Dag vriendjes en vriendinnetjes

Because it is never too late to introduce a creepy clown! That line is from the theme song of Bassie & Adriaan, which I loved as a child and which now simply bewilders me a little. Anyhow, I am off to the West coast tomorrow, for work, so if you don't hear from me, that's why. Cross you fingers for me, I'm presenting! And yes, the creative project continues, still writing silly stuff. Maybe I'll post some soon, just for kicks.

Anyway, off with me.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Sunday morning

I am in Richmond, former capital of the confederacy, where spring has already started, and yes, I have been sticking to my plan of doing something creative every day. The creative thing has mostly been the same thing, which is a little dull, I admit, but it has been done - the project continues as I write. Slowly, slowly, a little to my dismay, but all the same, I now have five pieces of writing, however modest, however unfinished in some cases, as compared to the zero I had done in the n months before. It seems to involve a lot of food, and by that I mean a lot of writing about food. It is, I suppose, what comes to mind.

There hasn't been much time for other fun stuff, between the work travel coming up, general work craziness, the volunteer board work, and my standing commitments. I regret that, but it is nice to find that even so I can still find the time to do this, though it reminds me of Virginia Woolf and her room of one's own - I have the room, but so little time to myself that I end up writing in other people's rooms, like today with this guest broadcast from Richmond, where I am staying with a friend. It has blossoms and nice weather, and that has gone a ways in helping my obsessive mind leave well alone for a little bit. I needed it, though I really didn't have the time for it.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Really bloody hard

Today did everything it could to thwart my creative project, but here I am, it's been a struggle but yes, I am writing! Right now! Yes, let me go do that.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Ash Wednesday

And pray that I may forget
These matters that with myself I too much discuss
Too much explain
Because I do not hope to turn again
Let these words answer
For what is done, not to be done again
May the judgement not be too heavy upon us"

I can never forget T.S. Eliot at the beginning of this time of discipline and observance.

It will be hard this year to live up to my commitment. I have started. Just a little bit, a little tiny start of a story, a something, a small, curled up thing. But a thing, something of mine.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011


I got a head start on my pancakes, so fat tuesday (evening) is for giving myself the evening off. Tomorrow the work, the creative work, starts.

Wish me luck, and industry.

Monday, March 07, 2011


I will be writing more here. Soon it will be Ash Wednesday and the Project shall begin. Behind the scenes, I am already working on it. There shall be creativity! But first, sleep. No, seriously, I am going to bed now. Sleep well, kind friends.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Road Less Plagued By Patronising Platitudes

So far, what I am learning from The Road Less Travelled is that psychiatrists really are quite often pompous and self-absorbed. Also that self-help does not help the TDEC's self. Well, it was worth a try.

Finally, Eclipse would be quite funny if it weren't so annoying.

That's all.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011


Folks, you know. I’m quite silly and discombobulated and ADOBSO (= Attention Deficit Oooh Bright Shiny Object – thank you colleague who shall be nameless for inventing the term). And yet, and yet...give me a specific set of instructions and I will make you origami. For years now I have observed Lent, on and off. Not because I am Catholic, which I most certainly am not, but because I think that making yourself do something for a fixed period of time every year is excellent practice. I learn a lot from it. So one year I gave up coffeecheesechocolateandalcohol and found out that alcohol was a lot more important to my social life than I would have credited. Who knew? Another year I got up early every morning to do yoga. It made me limber and awake, though not especially enlightened. Etc.

This year’s plan, which I have just decided on/stolen, is that from Ash Wednesday until Easter Sunday, I will take a leaf out of Wil Wheaton’s proverbial book and Do Something Creative Every Day. What’s more, I will do something creative every day, and I will tell you about it. You can be my unkind audience. If I am cooking/baking something new, I will share pictures; if I write I will let you know; if I make a diorama, I’ll be sure to post it. And it’ll be practice, it’ll be an exercise in challenging myself every day.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

A thought

It was something about today, something about the clarity of this day, that made me miss Stone Parliament of Art, so I wandered over there and found it as I left it, beautiful and forever a little melancholy. I hate it when the cliches and the self-help books are right –

“Life is difficult.”

It’s the first sentence of The Road Less Travelled. And it is, and the tool psychiatrist author is right when he says it is the making of us, any of us, that the difficulties and problem solving are what defines our discipline and courage.

I hate it when the self-help books are right. It is odd, I guess, for me to believe that T.S. Eliot’s poetry changed my life, but to find myself unable to credit any of the books intended to change lives with anything but quackery.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

From yesterday

Yesterday evening I was narcoleptic in spite of Cary Elwes. I blame Elvis. Elvis – it’s almost lonely now that I am back home from Graceland. I walked all over it wearing the Stitch hat I got for my birthday, and my only disappointment is that none of the million giftshops had Elvis underwear. I walked until my bootclad feet were tired, while everywhere played appropriate selections of Elvis singing. Upbeat in the morning, love songs in the evening as you walk back to the hotel with the inevitable yet well-chosen framed photos of a mostly young and deliciously glamourous Presley. The only thing I was tempted to steal was the leather wrist strap from the ’68 comeback special: the perfect accessory. But for all you fans, replicas are available at

Did I get saved by Elvis? Isn’t that why people go to Graceland? To be redeemed? I sat with him for a while, looking at all the birthday wishes. The house, after all this time, doesn’t feel lived in, but does feel like a real home, not a rich person’s megalomaniac imaginings. It was unexpected. Not redemption; but a break, a blissful interlude in the unseasonably warm weather. Reality is a little sharper afterwards – in focus and likely to give you cuts.

Oh Elvis, oh delectable Ten, love is not about being saved, extracted from the current mess. Love is about living the mess and knowing why, and trying to do it with grace, trying to learn, trying to love what you have here and now. But Ten, can we see the ’68 special close up? Reality is shored up by dreams after all, and the stamina is all in knowing when –and how - to take a break.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

A Very Long Silence

It’s been quiet – the snow muffles most sounds. I’ve been reading Susanna Clarke’s Ladies of Grace Adieu and Other Stories. She writes so well, such perfect pitch, so meticulous; it all makes me wish she wrote more. She reminds me of what a good writer can accomplish – a good reminder at a time when I often just hunt for the kindest, gentlest books. Clarke is not exactly gentle; rather, she is exquisite and always walking the line between the bright, colourful fairytale and the sinister one. I love and respect fairytales, their variety, their subtext, their occasional brutality in achieving a happy end as much as in reaching an unhappy conclusion. I also love good nineteenth century fiction, and well-researched historical fiction, so Clarke, who captures those styles so perfectly, was always a likely candidate for my affections. She does her own thing with it, and I respect her for that too; she is never content just to be Austen or Dickens or Tolkien. Yes, it will do for a cold day, and I am sad enough to finish these stories that I may just start over right now, especially since they take a while to acclimate to. I might even take on Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell again; Clarke, like Oscar Wilde’s cigarette, provides the perfect pleasure – always unfinished, always leaving the reader wanting just a little more – and wanting tea and scones.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Free. Well, mostly.

It is Friday, I am watching The Princess Diaries with a glass of wine and a peanut butter sandwich, and my goodness, have I ever earned it. My life sucks. Technically, my life sucked this week, and is now better. Hell, the Man with the Power even called to Make It So. It is a week gladly done, and reasonably well done.

So this is it, my evening off. Enjoy yours.

Monday, January 10, 2011


I am a curmudgeon, and I want a British second-hand bookshop with a nice edition of Oscar Wilde's fairytales. Or his collected works. Possibly even De profundis. Is this too much too ask?

It would appear that it is. I must console myself with tea and crumpets, and maybe some Blackadder now that I'm through listening to Stephen Fry.

Friday, January 07, 2011


I keep trying to write, write here, for all the little that it matters, and all I manage is labyrinthine thoughts and abominable abstraction. As I read about Oscar Wilde’s books and Stephen Fry’s life, I am reminded of something, someone I was (17 and 20 respectively) when these people were my heroes and it surprises me to find my beloved quiet hero in Fry’s narrative – E.M. Forster. I know I’ve written about Forster before, he of the Merchant Ivory melancholy films, but I hold him in high esteem as I do George Orwell for brilliant feeling rather than brilliant writing. E.M. Forster, not truly a brilliant writer, is enshrined – yes, enshrined, with his own set of lights and flowers – in my heart as the first person to show me what surviving your own confusion looks like. It was and is an inspiring feat. Maybe it’s time to re-read Maurice again. Whenever I see the old Penguin edition, which isn’t very often, I remember how it seduced me, and how I picked it up gently and took it home with me and read it in a night. It’s why I own multiple copies – it would be unkind to leave it there, stranded in a second-hand bookstore.

It reminds me of when I read Ruskin and Pater and J.K. Huysmans (oh terrible, painful) and Keats – oh I miss my little books of Keats – and all of the mixed bag of my love of 19th century lit, which like an old habit I forget most days now.

(As I listen to Stephen Fry, it occurs to me that he uses a mechanism I know very well, a negative self-talk I recognize – did I really just write “negative self-talk”? – when he talks about cheating to pass exams. When he says “cheating” he really means “understanding exactly what is required, and then doing what is needed” which is surely a skill worth crediting? But like all people with low self esteem, the skill he has is always silly and trifling compared to the one he hasn’t got. He has intelligence, insight and excellent writing skills; but like all of us with low self esteem, he is only an imposter, never the real thing, compared to, oh, someone over there who looks like he really gets it.)