Wednesday, 21 November 2018

The peculiarity of thwarting, by the woman with a platypus on her head

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

The peculiarity of thwarting, by the woman with a platypus on her head

There have been some bizarre happenings in my household today – or should I say ‘flathold,’ as we are certainly being held hostage here against our will, all five of us crammed into a two-bedroom flat, Mr Housing Minister, but therein lies another tale. This morning, my husband, who has recently gone freelance, and so now is able to ‘nip in and out,’ took the two-year-old to the workshop, before feeding the baby via express-o machine (milk from me, pumped double-quick with my new handheld breast pump that doubles up as one of those hand-bending-stress-reliever-thingies). The bottle feed meant my tiny was zonked out, the two-year-old was literally out and I was soon to behave outlandishly. I was alone. The house was quiet. It was spooky. Soon the first odd happening occurred: I blow-dried my hair. With two roundy brushes: One medium, one small. Prior to that I showered and nit-combed my hair - to the uninitiated (two ‘nits’ in that word) or those without kids/nit carriers, I was not behaving like a nit with a comb (though I’ll wager I looked like one as I yelped and yanked at my wet locks with a metal comb with three inch spikes), I was removing the last traces of actual live beings who took up residence in my hair and are now refusing to leave. I once squatted in my feral youth, so this is possibly payback.

Anyhow, the other peculiar thing that happened this morning was this: When I came out of the shower, I washed all my hair brushes, including the two roundy ones, which I last used in 1997, before proceeding to the kitchen – where there is a plug socket that you can get to without training for the Olympics – where I began to dry my hair, experimenting briefly and entangledly, with the brushes. Why are these events bizarre? I never, ever blow dry my hair or wash hair brushes that I never use. I am never ever alone - certainly not without a little voice screaming or shouting or demanding (not just those inside my head). No, these events are bizarre because they never happen (apart, sadly, from the nit-combing) these strange events took place because of what I call, my ‘thwarting.’ Now that I have written one novel, had the book launched and waved it off, I am coming up with all sorts of whacky practises to prevent myself from sitting down and redrafting my second novel. EVEN WHEN I HAVE THE OPPORTUNITY! Why am I still doing this? I’ll try to answer that question next time. BTW, because I got bored halfway through blow drying, my hair looks flicky on the one side and like I have a platypus residing on it on the other – his bill slapped across my cheek.

Monday, 19 November 2018

#Home hairdressing is like #Novel Writing (probably) best left to the professionals...

I have been wearing my hair scrunched into something resembling a knot (a not?) for some time now. Mostly because with the terrific-ten-week-old, the tremendous-two-year-old and the teenage-cash-demander-stand-up comedian there is not much me time, never mind ‘hair-time,’ left. I exist in a vortex of activity in which ‘me’ doesn’t often come out - except via the occasional shout. Today I decided that I needed a sea-change and it was my hair that was going to make waves. 

Brandishing my bluntish hairdressing scissors; the ones that have attacked the locks of my fifteen-year-old for years, and latterly my trusting husband and a few brave (drunk?) friends, I set to. The only thing sharp about my scissors have been my words to my son hovering above them like blades Just lift your chin off your chest before I cut off your ear. Yes, I transform into a Van Goughian madwoman when the subject is my son and my canvas is his hair. Anyway, I stood in front of my bathroom mirror in the gloom (the light obscured by the hanging – yes it looked dead – washing that dried three days ago). First of all I layered the sides. I could still see at this stage. Then the thought occurred to me that I might try layering the back. It was like playing blind-man’s-bluff with my hair as the opponent, as I groped around the back of my head, pulling up layers and hacking away. Before long (there was short) I was in the bluff. Scissor-happy, I liked what I saw – at this stage my hair had gone from long and lank to mid-length and nicely layered. 

My two-year-old, who was taking full advantage of my distraction by emptying ‘things’ into the bathtub and over the floor, said that I looked ‘gorgeous’ and that she ‘liked it,’ I think she may have been ‘liking’ my ignoring her activities with the perfume bottle, canny kid that she is. This tick should have been my cue that the session was over, but the scissors were hot in my hands and I thought I could ‘style’ it some more. Pause for a moment (as I should have) and imagine a sped up film of a person cutting their own hair. This was to become my mode in the minutes that followed as I lost all sense of time and proportion. Soon I had cut a wedge from the right-hand side that had to be paid for by the left and so it went on for some time like a bizarre hair politics show, until eventually my daughter who prefers to play than eat demanded lunch. My hair, like a novel, or rather now, a short story, was forced into conclusion by events outside my control, which was just as well, otherwise I may have continued cutting, cutting, cutting, shaping, shaping, shaping until someone said stop.

Saturday, 17 November 2018

More Post #Hysterectomy #Hysteria

By the third day of no husband on duty in a homeschooling household (admittedly, this week, mostly via i pad maths and spelling and word puzzles) I’d risen up like a mad Medusa with a crazy 20cm mid section scar in the shape of an erratic question mark. The Internet didn’t work. My computer kept crashing. I was locked out of my online bank account. Stuff that made me mighty iffy but that my husband could fix in a jiffy. I was so over my husband being away. I’d gone from being smug and coping and was in full-fledged banshee mode. When trying to post a blog, the text went haywire on my blog and I couldn’t fix it. Normally I’d wail for my son but he, along with my capable 9 year old was at my studio being chastised for working there without me.  They didn’t return until nightfall when I guess they presumed I’d crawlin' back to my lair. It took me 3 hours on and off (with light relief from The Housewives of Beverley Hills with commentary from me about how they all looked as if they had been punched in the mouths by the same plastic surgeon) to fix the text. I went from screen to screen like a rabid dog with a text bone. Insane I know, but writing the blog and posting it daily is how I hang on to shred of sanity. Without my daily disciplines, I’d turn into a full-blown creature of the night. Or I’d watch more housewives shit which is oddly compelling, and I’m sick of the Pioneer Woman and her flat prairies, saccharine life though admittedly some of her recipes send me scurrying to the wood pile to toast crackers or some such crud. I’m going to draft my own tele trash: Hysterical Housewives Stitched Up. Or: Cry In Your Ear Woman. My son returned home and transcribed the blasted thing with his nifty guitar playing, brilliant at drawing but crap at housework digits. Later I retired to bed with a goblet of Penderyn.

By the fourth day, I couldn’t see the kitchen on account of my hungry son and baking frenzied daughter. Before coffee I was scraping baked on crap off the kitchen table with whatever that scrapey thing for the walls I was climbing only I couldn’t on account of my by now, hysterical hysterectomy scar with it’s attendant hidden wounds lurking below my surfaces. I’ve had so much (frankly, all) my female equipment hacked out its little wonder I’m hacked off. Weary, unable to bend and popping pain killers, I resorted to paying the kids to fetch things that I couldn’t find: First person to find my book gets 50p…and pick them up from the floor. My 6 year old kept rushing to find my cripple stick. I’ve had to explain we can’t call it that outside the house. My 5 year old who is a maths whizz (did he really spring from my former womb – and what did they do with that flesh vessel anyway? Did they just chuck it into an incinerator? Or sew it into someone else? Oh God I could weep for the thing, but I mustn’t get emotional. I don’t have an excuse anymore) eagerly totted up his tally and his siblings’ whilst calculating future earnings and buying imaginary things with them before advising me as to what would be left. I also came over all barking sergeant, Pick that up please! Pick it up now please! No over there, a foot to the left, 3 inches to the right. Yes! That’s it! Thank you, thank you! Five minutes later: “Fifty pence to the first kid who finds my gold Pharma bag! – the zip up gold computer bag sized thing I keep my stash of painkillers and other injectable (only Clexane) drugs in – not the recreational kind folks, but I could sell some of them under the bridge at West Shore I’m sure.

By the 4th day I was counting the hours and hissing never again, never again, like The Little Red Engine or the green one named Emily from Thomas The Cranky Engine. I’d inadvertently spilt a coffee mug full of coffee over the bedclothes and my phone whilst lunging haphazardly for my charger. I’ve decided that it is verboten for Si to be gone for more than 3 days until I’m up and running like a refurbed Karmann Ghia, that I’d secretly like given I’m nearing an age so classic I could laugh hysterically at given I just can’t believe it. On the 5th day I was counting the hours like candy and clearly submersing myself in the buzz that gave me. He arrived back after a 5 hour whizz down the motorway and soon after big son and I had watched The Party with Peter Sellers. Big son and I have added Cohen Brothers, Woody Allen, Peter Cook and Dudley Moore and Peter Sellers to my general prescription. Si brought The Evening Standard + magazine for me along with an extra dose of sanity. On the 6th day I awoke from weird dreams to kisses strong coffee, sourdough toast with honey and ecstatic children who were soon whisked off to theatre school and swimming classes by SuperSi, leaving me here to do this and a spot of academic editing – for which I needed some formatting help. I’m still rubbish at anything technical, but I know a man who is. Life is now, technically, perfect.

Friday, 16 November 2018

Post #Hysterectomy Hysteria

How have I coped post (three weeks ago) hysterectomy and no husband since Sunday night? Erratically. He's working 5 hours away for 5 days (it feels like forever, but isn't, I hope, but given the amount of desperate texts I’ve sent him since he’s been away, you might not blame him, though given his survival instinct he’d likely stay). He replies with responses like this: “Right now I’m on a ladder with my head in a ceiling cavity soldering, but if you’re in a tight spot…”) As soon as he was out the door, my 3 youngest set up a caterwauling that lasted about 3 hours and did not inspire confidence in me. “We want Daaaaaaaady!” I wanted him to come back too and he probably hadn’t made it to the A55 yet. Eventually, they collapsed into sleep as we all did. I felt nearly defeated already. Thankfully, I was able to import my eldest son from London to Wales shortly before I exported my husband also to London. I required 2 beers on top of my painkillers. That did the trick. I’d already decided I’d turn tricks to get my husband home before time but that wasn’t an option either on account of my not even being able to turn over in bed without considerable pain.

The first day the electricity went and we were convinced it was our evil landlady trying to smoke us out of the house we are renting, given we needed a bit longer than she required to find another gaff. All the properties in North Wales have been bought by Tom, Dick and Harriet as fifteenth homes to holiday let. Everyone from the (in my experience) useless coppers of the North Wales Police to my consultant’s secretary is a property baron/baroness around here. The rest are cleaning baronesses. 17 quid per hour and rising if you must know. I’m joining their racket once I’m up and running. Writing’s a mugs game by comparison. They have a captive demographic. Everyone around here is retired apart from a handful of people who work for the NHS and the council, and some teachers, but basically this is the oldest population in the UK. The local NHS can’t see for knees and hips, knees and hips (yes, I repeated that for effect) replacements. And most people on the roads are too old to see so you take your life in your hands every time you get behind the wheel and join those who have forgotten what a wheel is. Trust me. We had to prise my father in law’s hands off his wheel when his hit rate became weekly and that was before he’d even left the car park.

Anyway, me and the kids set up camp and I’m not talking about the Boy George sort of camp I am skilled in and prefer, I’m talking about unpacking boxes from the sheds to find my husbands extensive camp collection (not that style of camp – erase your Rocky Horror Picture Show imagery). When you can locate his stash, my husband has all the camping gear covered: Robsen tent, stoves – 2 types: gas and wood fired with massive phallic chimney that reaches through the tent and waves at the stars; battery/solar powered lights – it took me bloody ages to find these crucial numbers as well as the pretty bauble ones my daughter strew across the room whilst excitedly looking for candles and planning that evening’s campout in the lounge. I was frantically looking for the gas canisters. If I did not have coffee I would have begun sucking on those babies. Just as we found everything and I had smugly set everything up without busting myself open literally…the lights came back on. The kids were so disappointed that we had to play camp that night. I managed to get a roaring fire going with the aid of my ‘cripple stick’ – the back of a chopped wooden chair that we got from John Lewis as part of our wedding stash, now chopped up by my husband’s chainsaw and assigned – apart from the part I nicked for my cripple stick - to the woodpile as firewood. It helps me, with two hands, and some okay arm muscles to get up from a crouching position on the floor whilst sparing my abdominal muscles that have been sliced and spliced. All respect to that core - it does so much that we take for granted...

More shenanigans tomorrow. Dinner is being demanded and is not going to happen with a wriggle of my out of joint nose, no matter how hard I wish it were like Samantha's in Bewitched.

Thursday, 15 November 2018

#DavidLeitch - In praise of mentors

The idiomatic expression, The Apple Does Not Fall Far From The Tree, would be a very worrying one for me given who my parents were. I try very hard indeed not to be like them and to raise my children differently. Just as well that apple seeds are scattered abroad. In my case, to the UK, where, as it turned out, ten years later my parents returned along with (thankfully quite a bit later) other members of the family that are unmentionable. Of course my parents weren't all rotten, but they were rotten enough to me to cause serious harm. Thankfully, I had wonderful grandparents who taught me things and genuinely cared about my welfare rather than just their own. I also had extraordinary mentors.

I came to live in London alone, when I was 17. I will never forget the day I met David Leitch, my beloved Grandpa's nephew and a writer of some repute. Look him up. From the time I saw his hand (exactly the same as his uncle's) until the day I last heard his last words: "Emily, where have you been? Last I heard, you were living with a jazz musician!" before the phone in the phone box clattered to the floor in the phone booth, I adored him. David had been adopted out of the family by my grandpa's sister and his mother via an ad in the paper. I kid you not. You can read all about it in #GodStandUpForBastardsThere is a strong streak of child cruelty in the family. David was adopted by loving parents but, from what I understand, was never able to come to terms with his early years.

David appreciated who I was and tried to encourage me to aim high and to cultivate a life of the mind that would help me become what I eventually became. He was amused by my then modelling career and my 'topknot' - I'd knot my hair tightly on top of my hair with cut up knotted tights for height. He was amused by my Marlboro red smoking and some of my wisecracks, but what did not amuse him was when I did not think things through or gave answers that were not my own, but culturally acceptable norms or from wherever derived. As a writer he hated the contrived and shoddy thinking. He challenged me, and I grew better as a result.

He picked me up after my 19th birthday to drive me to Wales where we were to stay with his sister for Christmas. I was battling the after effects of too much alcohol coupled with LSD. On the way we discussed Catholicism. I stated  that Catholicism terrified me. He demanded to know why and then insisted I revise my explanation (the nuns at Catholic RE scared me with their garb, their statues of Mary and their stern expressions) and start again using the phrase: "From my perspective" or "In my opinion." He didn't let me get away with anything even as he drove me off to stay in posh country houses for weekends with people in the media that I was ignorant of. He helped shape me. I still miss him.

Wednesday, 14 November 2018

#Writing the #Self

I wrote a little about writing and processing last week. Writing is a processing tool, as is walking and praying, all of which I try to do daily as part of a routine that sometimes I don't feel at all like doing, but I do anyway as part of a longer term commitment that requires daily attendance. If i can tick these off, I feel like I have achieved something on a personal level, apart from helping with teaching the children, cooking and so on - cooking's good too - often creative, so even if I can't get into the studio or face trying to write beyond the blog, these markers are reminders of a commitment to the light.

Getting into a meditative state through daily practise enables our deeper selves to speak, but a commitment to this requires determination. When I'm having a down day, like today, I'd sooner watch some trash TV or read a magazine than do something to lift myself up. Lifting up requires effort. It's often painful. Especially after a hysterectomy! Even writing feels self-indulgent. But I know change will not come without a haul, and without the haul, the image I have is of trying to get up a muddy mountain face and sliding, sliding, sliding. Sometimes so far down that it's hard to climb back up. Wallowing in the mud is down there. Being stuck in the mud is down there. Drowning in mud is also there.

Facing the abyss health wise bring with it an intensity that preoccupies the mind, but my mind has not changed in terms of what I believe my calling - or primary motive - in life is. Why do I write in the first place? Would you believe me if I said it wasn't for accolades, though I have had some of those? No. I write to change people's minds. Thematically all my creative work is to do with justice. Sometimes my mind is changed in the process of digging deep too. But have I changed my mind about dealing with the court case and the attendant abuses that began in childhood and reached wicked bloom in 2015? No.

Did the stress make me ill, as so many friends have pointed out? Mentally, yes. Physically? Probably. Will I let it go? No. It would make me more ill not to address it. And this from someone who knows mental illness and physical illness are equally destructive forces railed against any measure of a successful life. Besides, if I did not deal with what my mother intended to finally kill me, she and her demons would have won.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  

Tuesday, 13 November 2018


Since the #Twitterstorm I’ve mulled over whether to come off Twitter. It’s addictive. You search out those notifications. You likely get a #serotonin hit when people support your thinking, but the hatred is real and ugly – the ones you ignore ramp up the evil and people like, even love emoji it. During #Twiterstorm, the notifications came fast and furious, from those that agreed with me and those that wanted to point out that I supported rape and child abuse, that JP was stupid and so was I etc. Of course you can mute conversations or block people but this doesn't feel very democratic and negates free speech, but begs the question: How free should free speech be? Are calls for murder okay? Is religious hatred okay? I deleted the first tweet (where I explained about serotonin and hierarchies/the point of lobsters as an example) to stop my notifications being swamped. It didn’t matter, those that cleaved to ideology and ignored the scientific research that they mocked, were only interested in the prof’s scornful response because it chimed with their beliefs. This is not a platform for discussing work that does not fit in with what people want to believe.

But #Twitter can be a place to find information fast (not always from a reliable source) and it can be supportive – kind and supportive comments circulate as well and I enjoy keeping up with the literary scene in the USA as well as here in the UK. I like to encourage other writers and am genuinely interested in what they're working on and how they juggle their lives as they do so. Since the #Twitterstorm, I also learnt to reserve commenting back – even to profs in a huff, and certainly not to the Trumpkins (JP is ‘rapey’) who was being liked by amongst other twits a female GP from Ireland who had also not read him but was screaming about misogyny and other horrors. As far as I can tell, I don’t think JP is a misogynist, I don’t agree with everything he says, and I was concerned about some of his communication of his client who thought she might have been raped but given I don’t know the whole clinical context I can’t fully know how I should feel, though he does not present himself as sensitive enough for me.

#JordanPeterson's work does demand close, even a second reading in order to fully follow. I could #Twitpick about prose, but won't, I am infinitely curious as to why human beings behave as they do and I think he has brought something intriguing to the cultural debate. Online or elsewhere, I would try to (but why bother in some domains?) defend anyone who was getting an unfair rap anywhere based on their work. By all means critique, but know what it is that you critique, unless you want to look like a social justice freak. Given the word 'justice' is inherent in the phrase, #socialjusticewarrior, and given society has people in it coming from all angles, is it not right that people are treated justly and not hung drawn and quartered (metaphorically speaking Trumpkin and co.) by a braying mob before they even get to a seat of justice? Or shall we return to the Middle Ages along with Isis and the gang?