Words of warning and welcome:

This is very much my blog, so don't be surprised if this doesn't follow accepted patterns and norms. It is a place where I can be anonymous and honest, and I appreciate that.

It will deal with many things and new readers would do well to check out the "Story So Far" Page above this and the "New Readers" tag down there on the right. Although there's nothing too bad in here there will be adult language, so be careful. If you think this needs a greater control, please let me know. Thank you!

Sunday, 30 December 2012


So. There's the fact that I've finally started doing the work I brought home to do at the beginning of the holidays and the requisite dip in spirits that accompanies such an activity.

I don't know. It may just be that. I'm also getting increasingly frustrated by Tilly being stressed and irritable with the children and life in general at the moment. She claims that she isn't, or that I've picked an isolated example or that it was just one day (and I have longer than that!) but it's becoming normal. Last night she was in particularly good form during the dark hours - ending up with me being turfed out of the room and into another to 'get some sleep'. God knows how that worked, I was sleeping just fine and Tilly still didn't get a good night's rest. During the evening I suspended work to get time with Tilly. I did my best to hint, she hates me making any reference at all to sex, at some quality time. We watched a comedy DVD, at opposite ends of the room.

Attempts to raise this today have been stonewalled or met with a stoic refusal to accept that anything was awry. So that I have ended up apologising for my conduct and bringing it up each time. Most of the day was spent getting things in, mainly clothes, for our trip to her parents' tomorrow. Well, starting with my Dad. Then I messed up shaving, badly, and have had to go clean shaven again. I mean, don't get me wrong: I kinda like it; but Tilly doesn't, at all. I booked a couple of hours to work. As usual, about an hour in Tilly changed the rules and started doing stuff in the kitchen - cue children getting antsy. She then starts engaging me in conversation and asking about the evening, having previously (within the hour) suggesting that I forego any evenings off at all to get my work done, and I got a bit irritable - I was working dammit.

This resulted in some moodiness and it was my fault again. Of course. So, about an hour and three quarters into my work I stopped to help with tea. Then, blow me, Tilly works through tea on various shit, leaving me with two tired and ratty children. Oh, I should point out that due to her sleepless night I had both of them for two hours this morning (I didn't sleep well either, but that is all my fault for drinking Pepsi the day before). I had also spent most of the morning with them both as Tilly was looking for clothes and needed 'headspace'. Oh, the luxury.

The comedy DVD we watched last night hasn't helped. There were jokes about sex in couples of the kind that are meant to make people feel better about their sex lives. Ha. Ha ha ha. Ha fucking ha. She only got aeriated about the part where the comedian was joking about men not helping around the house, taking the opportunity to point out stuff that I don't do. My counter offensive was shot down and my armies forced into retreat. No chance to tackle the other issue. Her laptop was then raised in defence and thus the blockade carried the evening.

Anyway, back to this evening, I suggested that maybe I could have an evening with her. No, she'd planned a bath. When she finished she came downstairs and then opened a bizarre debate about shaving her legs - which I'll admit confused the hell out of me, I have no truck with her doing it beyond the statement that I don't get why women do it and men don't - and kept pushing me to admit my previous position. Then got frustrated that I was debating it! I wasn't! I pointed this out and got the passive-aggressive "well, I'll just go to bed then". Which she's done.

I'll admit that I am officially confused. And saddened, again, by the lack of any intimacy in our relationship. I've had more intimate relationships with online bloody porn.

Sorry, that was a bitter diatribe. Not melancholic.

Would it make any difference at all if I wasn't here?

Oh, one final point. Tilly used the fact that it doesn't hurt anyone (physically), was her choice, was no one else's business (it's her body and her choice), and didn't do anything damaging (my legs, who cares what people think?) to justify her shaving her legs. When I have previously used those same points to defend cross-dressing I have been met with incomprehension, anger and virtriol. I should have pointed that out.

Yeah, 'cos that makes me the injured party. Agh, I'm passive aggressive on my own blog!

Friday, 28 December 2012

A dream?

Well, doesn't she look attractively confident?
And people wonder why I am interested
in appearing as a woman...
I should point out that what follows is neither fantasy nor entirely fiction. It is a statement of fact and something that operated between me sleeping and being awake whilst trying to get the Boy to sleep last night. It is not so much blogging about my life as it is... well, I don't know. It may not be what you want from a blog like this one either and I am aware that it is different to some of the other stuff that I post and so I'm going to put a line break in here to make sure you don't get assaulted by stuff you don't want to know.

Before I do I ought to point out that Tilly and I shared a bed (and, indeed, a room) for the first time since sometime in the summer last night. We even both read for a bit before going to sleep. There was still no snuggling or anything like that. I continue to be either shot down or else politely indulged on that score, so I really don't know what to make of it all. Clearly she's not interested and she's still stressed out with the Girlie being rude and objectionable at the moment - she really is quite hyped up and we're assuming it's down to it being Christmas.

In denial, no / my life's a trial. / I'm not denying that every little bit hurts.

Thursday, 27 December 2012

Christmas Season

Seriously, Tilly looks more like Kiera Knightley than this, but this
is the best approximation I could find of the eye make-up.

I think I've said before how beautiful my wife is. Well, I'm going to be saying it again! For reasons best known to herself, she's been rocking herself and her looks these last few days. Smoke eyes and a very sexy wardrobe - well, by my standards, mostly pretty demure with emphasis on the pretty. There's also been a lot of smiling. And Tilly looks fantastic when she smiles, her whole body joins in you know. I can tell when she's smiling when she's facing away from me - it's as if her whole deportment changes to match the lighter mood she's experiencing.

I think it's mainly to the holidays. She's taken on board everything after the debacle last year where my inability to operate around Christmas day very nearly derailed the whole affair! So, cards were already sent by the deadline, all presents had been bought and wrapped (I wasn't really able to get Tilly anything at all nor organise cards to her from me and the children). All that remained was for the day itself. We had agreed that neither of the children were that bothered based on last year and so all the presents were still in her room waiting to be moved down in shifts. But on that morning... Well, Tilly held them off with the stockings in their room while I moved everything downstairs.

Our actual living room with actual presents. The Boy can just
be made out pointing at me in the left.
Much joy from the Boy - jumping up and down and giggling and pointing and stamping of feet - and the Girlie was equally excited. they both unwrapped a few presents and then we got ready for Church, which we made in plenty of time this year. Tilly took her part in the singing group, missed last year, and the children took their place with me and haring about the church. It was a nice service but there was a definite want from the children to get back home and unwrap things. The car damn' near ran out of diesel on the way back (we've been in budget this year for the first time since 2007) but we got in after a short walk and got on with it.

The Boy got a bit unwrap-happy and there was a flurry of insanity just after lunch, neither child ate anything, but we weathered it. Crying by teatime from both tired little ones but they had lots of fun and enjoyed everything that they recieved. Happily the Girlie was also keen to check that other members of the family had got what she had given them - something that gave me a little burst of paternal pride - and the Boy was keen to make sure that for every thing he unwrapped the Girlie had something too. Bless. Then they went to sleep at 6pm and Tilly and I got to have a bit of a drink and a relax.

The Girlie's account of Boxing Day. Written by her own fair
Then Boxing Day, another Bank Holiday, and we spent it at home because the petrol stations were shut and the car was still ostensibly out of fuel. Girlie and the Boy spent the day playing with various things - fuzzy felt mainly - and getting on each others nerves inbetween the joy of their new toys. They wound Tilly up mostly, something about the Girlie's method of being rude, and knowingly so for a four year old, really winds Tilly up. Apparently it's very close to what Tilly was like as a child and it brings out her father in her. I did what I could to keep the peace, though this is hard because Tilly doesn't like to think that she needs any input from anyone else (lest anyone forget that I'm not there most of the time during the day), but it was a good day overall. Both children were a-bed by 5pm and so we retired to have an evening of fun. We watched Eastenders (well, Tilly did, I get irritated with soaps) and followed it up with Miranda.

I attempted to be romantic with a heart-shaped plate and some cake but Tilly found it 'odd' and simply elected to ignore it, telling me that she didn't really want someone sat next to her while she watched the telly. She still looked sexy as all Hell, though, don't get me wrong and she didn't mean to shoot me down, she just didn't notice that I was actually angling for anything. We spent the rest of the evening like that and then she went to bed. I've been sleeping with the Boy to make sure he doesn't get up at ridiculous o'clock at night.

Today we went out. I got some fuel, the car not actually empty apparently, and then we went to library to take some books back and got some top up shopping in - rather reasonably priced actually. Again, Tilly was wearing sexy make up and a really nice outfit and, again, she wasn't interested at all in my advances. Even slapping me away when I leaned in for more than a peck. Girlie wound her up all day, being rude and generally objectionable, and my peace keeping efforts were a resounding failure this time around. In the end we resorted to the TV, a DVD of The Toy that Saved Christmas from the Veggietales courtesy of my mother and then the cBeebies panto. I changed the bed linen, we were planning to see if the Boy could go it alone tonight, but Tilly had forgotten or never knew in the first place. She packed them off to bed at 6pm again, the Girlie was asleep in minutes but I had Boy duty and he was fighting sleep valiantly until 8pm.

So, I came down to share an evening with my lovely wife, but she was watching Eastenders and then Hollyoaks. After less than a pint of Leffe Blonde she's declared herself unfit to write and thus is going to bed.

It's been a good Christmas, but stuff like this really frustrates me because I don't know what else I need to be doing. I suspect there's nothing to be done and that the only person who isn't getting what they need from the relationship is me. Ah well, she has drama on facebook and her trashy soaps: how can I possibly compete with that?

Sunday, 23 December 2012

Eclectic Mix

Christmas is coming, the goose is getting fat, please to put a penny in the old man's hat!

Yes. It's here again. And, like last year, I am in a reflective mood. But first some conundra that occurred through the day today.

The proto-Feminist herself: Mary Wollstonescraft.
Lovely lady, bt hard to read.
We had company, Tim and his wife came down to say 'hi' and Tim got to playing with the children while his wife and I discussed, of all things, early nineteenth century political activism and proto-Feminism in the time of the Great Reform Act. No, really, that's actually what we talked about and got excited doing so. Anyway, as Tim was playing with the children the Girlie got some string out and surprised everyone present by asking for various parts of her anatomy to be tied and to do the same to Tim. She's about four and a half. At the same time the Boy was wearing his sister's pink summer hat and rocking it. If sexual mores are in anyway set by genetics then I rather suspect I've passed on my perversions to my spawn. I'm not sure that this is a good thing.

Thing is, in both cases they were indulged, with the full knowledge of Tilly, and even encouraged in places. Add in the Girlie telling Tim to cry with a commanding tone, suggesting that her future partners will generally suffer for their infatuation, and you have a series of situations that I will require much time to properly consider.

Rights of Man author Thomas Paine, inspirer of the
American Revolution and supporter of gender-
equality (no, really)
Also, work finally ended for the year on Friday. I realise that many will not have that luxury but I will temper it by pointing out the work I've brought home will eat about five days of time over the next couple of weeks. We drank beer again on the Friday and started watching Sherlock last night to a Chinese takeaway accompaniment. This was all good.

In other news, I found www.joannaleeds.org by accident the other night and then saw something very similar in church tonight when Tilly was up singing and the Girlie was off playing with an older girl, well, I say playing - I mean telling the older girl, who was now Joseph, what to do and where to stand and so on whilst protecting the baby Jesus (a Winnie the Pooh teddy bear stripped naked and wrapped in a cardigan) from the dark Dragon that lived in the organ and breaking to join in the songs and watch the videos. Basically put, the confluence of finding the site, seeing a reference in church and my psuedonym here suggest it's worth drawing your attention to it.

Now, some San Miguel and web surfing.

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

The power of Machiavelli

In The Prince Machiavelli argued that the most important aspect of anyone's life is reputation. Although the twin forces of Fortuna and Virtu were helpful in shaping the character of one's interactions with peers he postulated that what really counted was how you were seen by others.  More to the point, so his argument went, the out of character actions were what got remembered and so these the ones that truly defined you in the eyes of those around you. Now, he was clearly writing about the rulers of principalities in Italy and about political mud-slinging between powerful people and houses, but his advice, I feel, has some everyday relevance.
Would you mess with this woman? "Whether it is better to be
loved or to be feared, then it is better to be feared." That's closer
but still not it.
His most famous advice was, if I may badly paraphrase: "to be loved, be brutal and mean". It works like this...

If you are known for being kind and helpful and generous and all round lovely then there will come a point where you have to turn someone away. And, in those turnings away, there will be someone who thinks ill of you and publicises that event enough to influence those who know you. Ergo you will be remembered not for all the times you were nice and lovely and all round great but for the one time you acted out of character and turned someone away - you will be seen as bad and generally not nice. Mud sticks.
By contrast, if you are known for being capricious and cruel and evil and selfish then the one time you help someone and put yourself out for them will be noteworthy enough that people will remember it. In other words, although your reputation is poor people will view you with affection because of the one thing that you did that was good. In effect, they will write off your usual behaviour for that one good deed just as they would write off all the good that was done in our first example on the back of one bad deed.

Niccolo Machiavelli in all his rather odd glory.
My first essay on Politics at Uni was on him.
And Machiavelli had a point. I see that a lot as a teacher and with the students I teach. In being open and nice and approachable I, more often than not, face criticism from students when I have to turn them away. My old boss, by contrast, was a dick to the students and generally mean and horrible to them and they would have followed him into Hell. For Christmas he would get showered with gifts from students (his favourite wines and spirits, aftershaves etc) and even from students he didn't teach but had told off once in a corridor. I would get, well, nothing. Maybe a heartfelt card from one or two students but mostly nothing. Now, there were differences here, when my old boss and some colleagues were slagging me off on a school trip abroad in my absence a quiet student who never said anything in public gatherings ever went ape and defended me to the hilt (I had once read what she was writing and given supportive comments to her but never taught her) to the point where all assembled, students and staff, fell silent. Indeed, her out of character behaviour and defence was the only reason I heard of the incident as my old boss felt so guilty he had to tell me what had happened.

Why am I posting all of this?  Well, a colleague has been off on long term leave and so we have had a member of staff covering for them for a short time. I have always put myself out for this member of staff and been on hand to help where no else was. When systems didn't work as they ought or lessons weren't in the right places it was I who made sure there were things in place. I offered to help marking, I spent hours guiding them through mark schemes and lessons that I didn't need to do. Why? Because I am a doormat? Maybe, mostly because no one else was helping.

Today that member of staff left, the colleague returns, and they were handing out presents to say thank you. So far so lovely and unexpected. My new boss got wine, chocolates (big and posh) and a joke present of X-ray specs or somesuch. Another colleague received her favourite wine, some posh chocs, some personal items that they liked and a bow and arrow - silly but connected to their 'fighting spirit'. My final colleague got beer (they're fond of real ale), wine (their partner likes wine to share), sweets (based on a throwaway remark about what they liked three months back) and a set of x-ray specs.  These were all accompanied by thoughtfully written cards with lovely nice things written on them.

In case you didn't know what it was. Amazon reports
it as being nearly a tenner, so maybe it was expensive.
But why? Why this?
I got a "butt-head" game that had been on offer (remnants of the sale sticker remained) and a card saying "thank you". The Department enjoyed throwing balls at my head (I could hardly refuse to use it) and making light at my expense.

I am, to say the least, confused. I have no idea how to interpret this turn of events. Was I such a bastard to this member of staff that they really didn't like me? Or is this because I was the only member of the Department who would 'get the joke' and thus a good thing? Or am I just a bit of a joke in the Department generally? Of course, as you'd expect, I have gravitated toward the less flattering combination of the above interpretations, it's how I roll, but I am a little... well, a little saddened by it all.

Am I such an arsehole?

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Catch up: a little light dusting

Best clean the place up!

*brushes cobwebs*

Wow, it's been, well... a while. Especially for me!

It's a bit like this, but my room is very different and there
was no camera to independently record what goes on.
I'm not positive about it. Usually one gets word on the likely
grading (Outstanding, Good, Satisfactory or Inadequate) if it
is positive. I've heard nowt.
Why? Uh, well, I said I'd cleared November to go writing and that I would suffer the consequences. Boy was I right. Lots of stuff to do at home, lots of illness with the Boy and then the Girlie and then Tilly and then the Girlie again. And more work. Lots of work. Then I was observed by my boss, who hasn't told me how that went yet (there's supposed to be no more than 48hours twixt observation and feedback, I'm now three working days afterwards and will not get any feedback til tomorrow after work, nice - not that I'm suspicious or anything).

Then there was the shooting on Friday and, well, posting anything after that seemed... wrong? I dunno, I didn't want to go with my usual politicised rants about the world nor did I want to risk being an 'o me miseram' in the wake of something like that. And I haven't had the time to plan a decent 'beautiful things' post - still haven't - and so... yeah. Time flies.

What can I say then?  I haven't had a chance to dress now for, well, ages and I haven't felt the crushing pressure from within to do so in a while. But I am aware that not indulging makes me ratty and irritable. That is, if I can't get on here and be 'me' then I get to feeling all frustrated and stuff elsewhere in my life. Almost like this is a safety valve of sorts for the internal stuff.

This would be a lovely
present. Lovely price too
and I lack the shape for
such beautiful things.
My Girlie has had her first show, did I mention that already? I think I did. My parents were present and so there was some stupidity in the build up from both camps, bloody parents, but that's all. I upset my boss by mentioing it as her mother died and she gets upset when people bitch and moan about parent issues. Which is fine, she has her point, but her parents were still happy together and, for all their faults, weren't totally at odds with her life at various points. Everyone has their own foibles, I guess, and my own lack of connection to my family is one of mine.

Joanna is still enjoying herself over at Google+ too, which is nice. I kinda want to get her a Christmas present, you know, but our funds are pretty tight this year (£600 on presents! So, not that tight, just ridiculous and definitely a First World Problem). She's even decided to take Tilly's last name, apparently. I guess that sort of thing turns me on, God knows why.

I want to write some Reality/Shifts again. No time tonight, maybe later in the month.

Also, I just noticed, is yellow like my favourite colour or something?

Saturday, 8 December 2012

Just my little tribute to Caligula, darling

Caligula was a bastard / Like most important men

Turns out that this particular line is pretty fitting for my work situation, but that's not why I'm on here tonight.  Over the November madness that was writing part of a novel I had a series running up on here on beautiful things.  I think I quite enjoyed it and so I hope to be continuing it off and on, like the beer reviews, in the future. It was nice to think that I could come on here and talk about thinks that are inspiring to me and also contain beauty and happiness.

The Girlie has been in a ballet show lately, the last one is on as I write, and it is quite a professional production all told. I mean, don't get me wrong, she's in a hall with a bunch of others from dance classes and it's all a bit twee in terms of choreography but it's streets ahead of the normal school nativity where half of them pick their noses, pull faces and fart a lot to the coos and delighted chuckles of the mainly parent filled audience. It, of course, allowed me to feel a bit of pride. Or, at least, I think that's what one is supposed to feel at these things. I'll be honest, I find it hard to know what to think and feel at such productions. It was good, of course, but most of the singers were too fast or slow or out of tune and the dances were all same-y (as one would expect when one teacher covers all of the classes) but differing in the ability of the students to actually carry out the moves required.

I'm finding that the energy I threw at here a year ago is being spent elsewhere this year: at the Google+ community that Joanna is a firm part of; at my job to keep afloat; and even a little at writing again, which I suppose was what was conspicuously absent from my life last year. In that, I think I find my greatest release in dressing but I find my lasting happiness and centre in my writing. When I combine the two I think I find the closest I ever get to feeling, not only like myself, but also like I can actually stop being in fear and being more in control.

I guess it is what some people find in captioning, but less visual and thus less popular on these here intertubes. Or, at least, people that describe themselves as writers are generally less likely to read than captioneers who caption are likely to share and develop their craft with others. I wonder why that should be so. Perhaps reading is the same but commenting is less. Hmm, one for the philosophers.

I'm sure I had more to say, but I must have mislaid it.

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

One Year On

Well, a year and a day, actually.

I was hoping to do something big and clever to celebrate or at least mark the occasion but... well, life intervened. Boy had a mega-cold and was up until 10pm and I had marking, which was irritating, and I had the Monday Meeting of Doom earlier, which had left me in a foul mood. I was rolled.

Anyway, enough of that.

What can I say about the past year?  I can say that I have met some fantastic people and have been priviledged to read their comments and know that they have read my thoughts. Thank you!  I have had captions created for me by talented and awesome people. That perhaps shouldn't make me as warm and fuzzy as it does, but it does!

I have written the start of a story (Reality / Shifts) that I intend to go back to at some point and I have started a novel that may well end up being finished. I have dressed more this last year than at any point since 2007 and I have enjoyed most of those times. I have bought boots, shoes, a dress... these were all purchses that I have enjoyed and would make again if I had to. I have tried and failed therapy. I have tried and failed to 'woo' Tilly back to bed, for a whole host of reasons, the most recent of which is the cold I am currently sporting. I have failed one set of support and been pushed to the next level at work, but in the process more or less improved relations with my boss. I think.

I also, last month, managed to make a concerted effort to write positive things that actually left me in a pretty positive mood, so that was nice. I have joined Google+ and I have created a new identity online that seems to have made friends. I have, in fact, been me online. Been me anywhere, full stop.

So, if you have been with me at any point of this journey then thank you!

Saturday, 1 December 2012


It's been an age since I wrote like I have written over the last month. I've been pretty quiet about it on here, relying on my other blog to tell the tale.  It has made things difficult at work, where there is a suspicion about spending time doing somethikng like writing as a hobby, even when students do it. I can't put my finger on why but I am reasonably certain that there is a feeling that doing thjings for oneself means that you aren't putting in maximum effort for your students. In any case, I have sailed close to the wind to find the time in amongst having a family and doing things that work want me to do, but I have managed it and I have enjoyed it.

Like I said in an earlier post, much of this has been driven by the alter-/ultra-/supra-ego that I have created, or rather came fully formed, of Joanna. She has been the one on Google+ practically every night making new friends and sharing the highs and lows of the writing process.  And you know what, it has been an absolute blast. I have also rediscovered that Joanna is, well, me. She and I are very much the same person. That is, Joanna is who I would be if only I could let myself go in all areas of my life. Joanna is who you read when you look at my blog. My RL self, the one that goes to work, is a lie and a front. Of course it is.

Joanna is who I want Tilly to know better. She knows most of Joanna, but seems to prefer the RL version that works and mopes and generally struggles to cope. That she doesn't want to know about the compulsions and what have you that Joanna comes with means that she doesn't know all of me, all of Joanna.  I should stress, as much as I like the name Joanna, I don't mean that I would want to be called Joanna by Tilly, that would be silly. Nor do I mean that I would want to live full time as a woman, that would be equally silly for me. I mean that the truthful part of me, the me on here that is honest and flawed, is known as Joanna.

Anyway, I wanted to share a scene from the NaNo project on here and see what people thought. It's after the break below, because it is rather long and not everyone wants to be beaten about the head and body by a wall of text!

Friday, 30 November 2012

Beer Review: Saltaire Blonde

It seems as though I have a genuine liking for Pale Ale.  In that veing I shall be drinking Saltaire Blonde by the makers of Chocoholic, Saltaire breweries.  Because, when I bought the beers they were in an offer so I got two from the same people.  No other reason.

It doesn't really let you be surprised.  Right there on the bottle it tells you that the hops are from the Czech Republic and that the ABV is 4% and therefore you just know that this is going to be a bit more like a lager than a beer because that's the way ales go down in Central Europe.  And, sure enough, that's exactly what you get.  It's got a spice to it and it does have a bit of a buck to it as you sup it but its not the same as something made with Goldings or Fuggles.  It has low colour pearl malt as its main component and I can only imagine that the less colour there is the less certain the taste is.  I mean, there is a distinct taste to the beer but it's not a strong one.  The colour of it is also a bit... thin.  The head was pretty disappointing and I'm left thinking that this is a lager, not an ale.

Smell is very much like beer, best as I can describe it, in that it has that faint whiff that one associates with breweries and public houses.  In that sense it is similar to the Thwaites I was drinking earlier in the year - though it wasn't the same sort of memory based punch that Thwaites was able to exploit.  Also, the initial taste is lost inamongst the bubbles of the carbonation, and this isn't too much, so it is rather delicate.  There's a subtle spice from the hops that crests with the bubbles but it gets drowned out by the fizz.  Following that there is a lingering awareness of malt but it stays light rather than heavy and illusive to try and get a proper bite to it.  It is, therefore, fairly non-descript.  I have no doubt that it's a fine ale and that it will do well in pubs with crowds of people that are wanting to stay off the lager and have a better pint but it just doesn't do what I'm looking for.

I should add the caveat that it is streets ahead of Two Hoots or Tod's Blonde but it still left me a little dissatisfied.  In its favour it is not a particularly strong beer and so I suppose it would be a good one to have a few of with friends whilst out on the lash or before one goes clubbing.  It may even serve before one goes to see Mr B. The Gentleman Rhymer, but don't expect much more than that.

Is it so wrong that I look at the ladies on this video and wish I could have their style?

Friday, 23 November 2012

Beer Review: Leffe Brown

It was Leffe that started this whole ridiculous beer review thing off way back when, so it seems fitting that I should review the other beer in their stable: Leffe Brown.

The first thing about this one is the increased weight, at 6.5% ABV it is, in fact, weaker than the Blonde, but the malt in this one is more pronounced with a definite air of treacle about the viscosity and the way it slides down a glass.  It remains very European though in how it behaves, it is bubbly and bright despite the dark brown colour of it and the way it caprures the light like a black hole.  There is a sparkly aside to the nature of this beer, allowing it to mingle nicely across the dinner table and between courses.  The aroma is nice too, there's a hint of Belgium in it and something that speaks of hidden amounts of hops, though I can't be certain on that one.  It's not a dancey summer ale or a spring buck ready to pounce but nor is it the heavy tasty malt of Chocoholic.

In essence this is the more understated and mature brother to the latter ale and certainly feels more grown up compared to the Blonde that it shares a stable with.  It is a drinker's beer, to be certain, but well used to being used in good company with people who perhaps don't like beer very much.  We had ours with a Flemish stew, liberally soaked in the beer itself too, and it accompanied that heavy meal very nicely indeed.  Exactly as it should do, it made me feel warmer insode, loosened the tongue a little and got talk going in polite company well.  It was, in effect, very European.

Drink this on the colder evenings on the Continent, when the bars are still open and there is frost forming out there in the fields.  Sit outside with the friends you just met that day, share a bottle or order a few glasses each, either way, use it to while away a few hours as dusk becomes a velvet night and have long discussions that rove through field, town and philosophy.  Allow it to be warm and allow it to breathe.  Most of all, enjoy it!

A bit strong for my very weak drink tolerance, but I should have it again in company if not of an evening with a takeaway.

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Beautiful Things: Films

Another day in November, another night spent pounding the keys to grind out the 50,000 words. Full story over on my other blog.  This is not about that. This is about things that inspire me and make me feel happy. And work at the moment is making it hard to remember the lovely things - as usual it threatens to send me into a spiral. So, without further ado, happy things!

Beautiful film, beautiful poster
The first film that I want to share is Pleasantville. I'm not sure how well known it actually is, so a quick synopsis: brother and sister with impossibly different personalities, quirks and lives are sucked into a TV and trapped in a 1950s world with improbable sets and lifestyles. The opening is a bit... tired and trite. It tries too hard to set itself up as a modern life at the beginning and this really dates the film but, and this is the thing, the actual plot and the storyline are timeless. There is a beauty to the way in which the film sets up the central conceit about the introduction of colour into a black and white world and the lives of the characters we meet. It all seems so real and reasonable at all points. I confess that I fell in love with the progression and development of the central male, along with his romance with a girl from the reality, and the central female, from horrid airhead to nerdy University student. In both cases they were played straight and effectively. But the real beauty of this film lies in the allusions it draws between 1950s Small Town USA and the state of Europe in the 1930s. I don't know if this was deliberate, but it works for me. The burning of books, the young hoods who are oh-so-respectable but essentially the HJ and the opposition mural on the side of the diner... beautiful. Whenever I watch it I end up with a lump in my throat at that point.

There's also the complete lost nature of the father, the way in which he loses his way and ends up instituting an effective dictatorship, smothering all that makes his family happy, without even realising what he's done. In the latter scenes, his sense of not knowing where to go, his lost feeling in the world that is opening up around him and the realisation of what he did, and his inability to work out how to make things better, is the most bittersweet thing I've ever seen. It is sad, and lovely, and happy all at once. I feel for him. I have often felt that way in my own life after having seen the film. I still feel like that at work.

Of course, there is still the scene in the bath with the mother in the alternative reality. But I suspect that's a resonance for other people. And the make-up scenes in both realities - I always feel that the second time around is... well... a bit too contrived.  However, the umbrella scenes make up for it in my mind, along with the huddled outsiders in the diner debating what to do about the rules of the town that have been published. Their struggle, their debate, has a timeless quality to it that can just as easily be applied to the current situation in Gaza as it can to the 1930s in Germany or the 1860s in Paris.  If you have not seen this I imagine it's cheaper to buy or download now, legally, than it is to buy a packet of nachos and dip to watch it with. It's worth that. It's worth more.

Beautiful film, beautiful poster. I wanted to
be Leeloo. Or at least wear her wardrobe.
The second film I want to talk about is the geekish labour of love that is the Fifth Element, a film in which every single detail in the background has a story to it and in which people really thought about the fashions and influences for every single character. Jean Paul Gaultier made the costumes and really went all out - not just extrapolating fashions of the late-90s, which would have dated the film, nor trying to thing of 'futuristic' designs that would have looked equally out of place. No, he went with the idea of the film, looked at the concept designs for the cars and the ships and the technology and worked with that part of the team, along with Luc Besson who wrote and directed it, to create something that looked so at home in the general aesthetic that it is impossible to divorce the costuming from the plot. And that is beautiful design.

Cars, buildings, cities, planets and space ships are all carefully considered. Even the crowd shots, using the crew and small amounts of extras digitally repeated, have been carefully thought out. Each apartment in one scene, five millenia later, has a different sub-plot that were all modelled on the stories that Luc Besson wrote about the city when he was a teenager. None of them impact the story he tells in the film in any way but it meant that the actions of all those apartment dwellers had their own internal logic - we were literally seeing snapshots of other peoples' lives. The overall effect is that we feel we are looking upon something real rather than scripted. There is so much depth to the film and the script that I always feel as though I am swimming underwater without the chlorine.

Characters are another string point, each one lovingly crafted and acted with passion. For years I did not know Chris Rock outside his role of Ruby Rohd, so imagine my surprise when I saw him elsewhere and he wasn't a prissy, slightly flamboyantly camp and over-cosseted diva in other films! Even the fact that Bruce Willis reprises his role of man in a vest saving the world / Universe with guns and silly one liners doesn't dampen the film. He manages to make it look fresh and different, and the romance seems to be believeable (okay, there are parts where its laid on a little too thick about what the Fifth Element is and why we should care, and there are repeated images in the War section that are, frankly, not to do with war, but still).  It works enough that I am able to follow it rather than pointing out flaws. Exuberance, the whole film just exudes exuberance and is a lovely thing. Get it, get the special edition with the concept art too, and just enjoy the damn' thing. Watch it as many times as you want, there's always something new, and you won't be disappointed. It's a thing of great beauty and it just makes me feel happy and smiley every time I see it. I own it and still, if I catch it whilst channel hopping, I get the urge to watch it again.

These two films are brilliant to me. They are beautiful things. I am sure they lack artistic merit like Mullholland Drive or the clever angles and reality of Network or the raw power of Downfall or even the general filmic direction of things like La Planete Savage and Aliens and Baz Luhrmann's Romeo and Juliet but they shine for me on a much more shallow and accessible level. I don't feel the need to study these films, though I do, and I don't feel under any pressure when I watch them. I enjoy them with my mind firmly engaged. They are not escapism and they are not biting social commentary. They are, simply, beautiful, and don't try to be anything else. I love them for that.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012


We were involved in banter at work. My boss and a colleague asked, in a jocular tone, if I had been bullied at school. We have already discussed that they were most likely bullies, though they don't believe that, and were never bullied. Bullying, of course, happens to victims.  That aside, and being a victim, I tried to keep my own response jocular. Of course I had been bullied; what, with this physique you think I wasn't? It got a laugh. They pressed for an example.

I told the story of how, back when I was about 14 or 15, a group of about six girls, I forget who, chased me, pinned me down and ripped my trousers off with such force that they snapped the belt. I have only told the story a few times and usually the response is one of mirth. I have never really known what to think of it. At the time I was incensed that they had broken my belt and managed not to hit anyone. Seething, angry and generally humiliated I stalked off to the lost property office, got a spare belt and said nothing. I told my parents that my belt had been snapped, with all the pent up fury that I had, shaking my fist at the sky etc etc, and that was pretty much the end of the matter.  I was expecting laughter.

They were appalled and shocked. They asked what I'd done about it. They were even more appalled and shocked when I explained that I had done nothing and that the last time I'd reported the lead girl, who I do remember, for bullying I had been told to stop making mountains out of molehills. They were appalled and shocked that anyone found it funny, or that I was laughing about it. I was confused. I am confused. They suggested that it was sexual bullying.

I asked Tilly about it tonight. She said she didn't know what to think and it depended on how I'd felt about it. If I was humiliated and angered by it then it was bad and molestation, but if I wasn't then it wasn't and probably worth a laugh.

Then, and now, I had no real reaction. Just the anger that my belt was snapped and I'd have to replace it. I remember burning with embarrassment. I remember the anger and heat in my blood. The 'little bunny froo-froo' fury that would go nowhere and achieve nothing - the futile anger of a pointless thing pointlessly spent with no resolution. I remember the taunting about having no butt by the lead girl (later she would get pregnant, yes, she got pregnant, twice before leaving school - she had issues, serious issues, but this was the days before that kind of thing attracted huge amounts of attention) and reporting it. I was told that I shouldn't call attention from women bullying. I was confused then, and I'm confused now.

I have never associated the butt comments or the trousers incident with sex or sexual attitudes. At least, I don't think I have. One was irritating, like the bullies who stole my pencil case or called me names or just generally made my life Hell with little things that always sounded stupid when I told an adult so I was told to 'stop whining and grow up' and nothing was done, and the other caused anger because my belt was snapped and I didn't like the idea of having to buy another one. I have a thing about my waist, it gets... uncomfortable now and again and then I have to get out of what I'm wearing to make the feeling go away. It's hard to describe and typing about it has made it go all funny. Agh. Yes. So, buying a new belt was something I didn't want to do. What if the belt made my waist all funny?

I'll have to stop this post now. My waist has gone all funny and I need to change. Agh!

Friday, 16 November 2012

Beer Review: Triple Chocaholic

You know what they say about girls and chocolate, right?  Well, this was bought for the sole purpose of me seeing what chocolate beer was actually all about (plus it was on offer) and then I hit on the idea of giving it to Tilly for her birthday.  Having done that I, of course, immediately felt left out and bought myself some.  We shared a night of drinking the beer.  I have ended up with the lion's share.

It is Triple Chocoholic and it is brewed by Saltaire Breweries, which I find doubly amusing because the whole point of Saltaire, when it was built by a philanthropic businessman, was that it would be a place of temperance and order.  The mere fact that it has a brewery shows this is a failed aim, but then you could argue the fact that there is any unemployment there did that too.  I digress.

It fizzed.  I wasn't really expecting that.  I don't know what I expected from chocolate beer, but behaving in so normal a fashion wasn't it.  It had a definite smell of chocolate to it too.  The bottle informed me that there was chocolate malt, chocolate extract, actual chocolate and cocoa malt involved in the production.  The smell was not unpleasant and certainly not the horrid kind of sickly chocolate that one sometimes finds with flavoured drinks of this kind, no, it was more like cooking chocolate, a baking sort of smell, easy on the nose and pleasing all round.  The colour was dark and thick, like treacle I suppose, but more liquid-y.  It fell into the glass like it wanted to be there and swirled pleasantly as the carbonation brought forth the barest hint of a head, then exploded into a frothy mess, and then settled once more to a more manageable amount.

Taste was good.  Definite chocolate on the tongue at first, it lingered as the taste swirled and twirled, transforming slowly into a heavy and satisfying malt with some citrus-like tang of hops.  To my mind this was the clever part, it made you remember that this was a beer and not a chocolate milk or something and it kept the proceedings from becoming over-indulgent, over-rich and nauseating.  Then, once that bubbly citrus has died and the malt was receding it smacked you with the aftertaste of chocolate too.  It was a well-balanced brew that did exactly as it needed to do.  At 4.8% ABV it was no slouch either and punched about its weight.

Tilly was confused about the whole affair, it was too much like chocolate and yet there was a beer in there, making it hard for her to really come to terms with it.  It meant that there was more for me and I really didn't mind.  Although it is a heavy beer it can be drunk at a reasonable pace and doesn't leave you feeling bloated and full as you sip - you could have a few pints of this before you'd have to retire to the ladies' room to powder your nose or whatever.  It worked well with the chocolates that we had with it (from Hotel Chocolate), especially the tangier lemony ones, and all in all made everything that bit more indulgent.

Drink this with pudding, after a hearty meal, with something trashy on the telly or some music playing softly in another room.  Drink when you're close to bed, relaxed and tired, and drink knowing that no matter how much it tastes like chocolate it won't sit on the hips or any other part of your anatomy as much as the pudding you're having it with will.  It is a heavy ale, so make sure you aren't planning anything approaching a party afterwards and make sure you have time in the morning to appreciate a decadent lie in.  I very much approve.

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Beautiful Things: Electronic Music

It was only a matter of time between starting this tomfoolery of NaNo and writing these entries about beauty before I decided to devote one to musical influences.  Music has always had a bit of a hold on me and the way I think and emote.  From the raw Love is a Catastrophe when Toby and I finally ended the stupidity through to the anger and hurt of Push It when my father left the family home, music was a pretty constant force in my life from an early age.  Indeed, it's only been since Tilly moved in and we had children that I've stopped having it on as a constant companion to everything that I do.

However, neither of the tracks I just mentioned would be ones that I considered 'beautiful' because, to me, beauty is associated with a more positive mindset.  It may well be melancholy but it would be the more wistful side of that rather than the black and dark feelings that I associate with the events above.  Even the little-known That's what you say by Skypark will forever be marred by the fact that I cried to it on repeat in the week following Toby and I splitting up.  Alas, this is not on youtube or I would share it with you.  It is powerful stuff.

Instead, when I think of beautiful music I think of the sort of thing that would make the hairs on the back of my neck stand up on end, the sort of music that would make me think of things beyond where I was.  It transports me to somewhere, and often somewhen, else.  In the case of Jean Michel Jarre's Oxygene that place was the year 3093 and the situation was the 'really not a civil war' setting of London - now a sprawling cityscape that covers most of what we know as England.  Here there was the 'Precinct' in nordwestengland that changed hands on a virtually daily basis and formed the main patrol route of the paramilitary Police force in the area known as Ground Five.  Our hero was Michael Bradshaw, an ex-member of one of the forces struggling for total control of the city, and the nation, that went by the name of Flying Panthers.  He served under his commander Andrew Griffin, several times decorated for bravery in the tail end of the last war and a fully qualified pilot.  They did battle with many gangs and factions every night in high tech weaponised patrol cars and tanks.  This alternate and terrible future was beautiful in my imaginings because it was so clear.  I cannot begin to descibe how the snowstorms and electrical storms looked over the ravaged and broken cityscape, nor what the smells were or how they triggered things.  Basically, the Oxygene album evoked, in me, a thing of terrible and raw beauty that I still look back on with affection and I don't know how.  Listen to it and see what it does for you, even if Jarre is a fraud.

Next up is the, frankly, awesome Forever Autumn from the War of the Worlds double album.  It may be mainly prog-rock noodlings with very little in the way of artistic merit to most people but, to me, it filled me with a sense of wonder that something could be imagined so.  There was also a deep sense of fear when I listened to it, party due to plot and partly due to the narration, about how it had been created.  It evoked such flurries in my mind that I often found that I had to listen to it with my eyes closed.  It was never something I found that I could work to or write to or anything like that.  It was so powerful that I found that I had to literally shut off the outside world whilst it played and let the story take hold.  I have a CD player in the car now (yes, I am that high tech) and I know that playing this there would render me incapable of driving.  In that sense then, in the creation of awe in me, this track in particular is a thing of great beauty.  It speaks to my emotional state, insomuch as I have one, and has very much become how I view the world.  Melancholy and sad but tinged with hope.  My version has the full narration, I'm not certain if the youtube link I'll use here does.  I think it may also explain why I liked Gotye's Somebody that I used to know so much.

Dress-up games

Yes, like this.

We went to a museum the other day and, in it, there was a recreation of some Victorian streets, which is good.  The children were thoroughly enjoying exploring them, though weren't terribly taken with the Hallowe'en stuff on display about the place, and we happened across a room that told us it was free for children to dress up.  And dress up they both did: there were dresses and jackets and caps and hats and all sorts.  The Boy wore a hat and a street urchins costume, which he absolutely loved, and went charging off barefoot to explore the streets.  Girlie chose a long satin dress and eventually wore a mop cap to go with it.  Both of them were very taken with the experience.  Then we put them back and the Girlie re-dressed in circus get up, like a clown, in another part of the nuseum.  It was a good experience for them and they enjoyed it.

And it got me thinking.  I used to love the idea of dressing up as a child.  There are pictures lurking somewhere of me in a toothpaste tube outfit, presumeably around Hallowe'en but I have no idea, and dressed as a skeleton (paper bones on a bin bag).  But fancy dress was often beyond our abilities.  In a Christmas play at school I was a reindeer, the pattern for the mask was given and the brown supplied by old trousers and a jumper.  Then in another play I made a donkey mask and tried to dress all in grey, surprisingly difficult.  In both cases my own masks were badly made and the costumes were... well, lacklustre.  I'm not terribly practical.  At University I dressed up a few times but, again, I was totally rubbish.  I lacked the wherewithal to make a decent costume and the confidence to really push the boat out.

Love this sort of thing.
The point of all of this?  I scuppered my own chances of dressing up and making a big thing of it, there were no circumstances against me.  It was fear, pure and simple, and a basic inability to organise myself to create costumes.  The lack of practical skill compounded these self-imposed restrictions and meant that I never really got involved with fancy dress when I would have been able to.  I missed the opportunities to dress up, to be outrageous, in effect, I missed the chance to really crossdress in public and in a socially sanctioned way.  The nearest I ever got was with Catherine's bet back in 2006.

Maudlin.  That is all.

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Beer Review: Tod's Blonde

I love little breweries in the UK, I really do, they seem to have an endless supply of oddly titled and generally very drinkable varieties of beer.  When I went to a beer exchange night with one of my friends he brought some beers from a brewery in his village that only serves in that village.  It was excellent.  So, naturally, when I happened across Little Valley in a National Trust property that was literally just up the road from the place I jumped at the chance to nabe me some.  Cost me more than what I usually pay for beer too.

So it is that tonight, Matthew, I shall be tasting and reviewing Tod's Blonde.

It has rapidly become apparent, throughout my beer drinking of late, that I rather like me a nice blonde ale.  Something about Pale and Creamy seems to speak to my inner beer drinker.  This had a nice look about it, claimed to be cool and crisp and had an ABV of 5%.  Just my kind of beer.  I was therefore a little surprised when it fizzed so upon opening.  There was more than the usual wisp of CO2 and it seemed very like it was going to get in the way of the beer.  Also, on pouring it out I was surprised to see it being... well, cloudy.  Even Tilly commented that it looked like someone had peed into the bottle and, well, she wasn't wrong.

I took a sip with some trepidation.  It was indeed very yeasty.  And not the spicey yeast that I've had in beers in the past, just yeasty.  It wasn't tastey, it didn't really work for flavour and it was, well, yeast.  Worse, there was no bitterness to the hops that had been used.  There was no variation in the falvour.  I persevered with it but it just wasn't a very nice beer.  Mind you, it was very coy about what hops had been used to create it on the bottle, simply telling me the no-brainer that hops had been used in the creation of the product.  Well, no shit.  But there was no really fire from those hops.  There was also malt used in it, and the malt didn't really show through either.  I know what you're thinking: I said it was yeasty and so perhaps I'd got some of a ruined batch.  No, the yeast wasn't that strong, it shouldn't have over-powered anything, but there was just nothing else in there.  I could have been drinking poorly flavoured water but for the fact that I could tell there was alcohol in there.

Don't drink this.  If you see it, know it to be an over-priced beer that trades entirely on the fact that it is local.  It says it's organic, which usually makes for a great little beer, but in this case it fell very flat, despite the extra carbonation that it had recieved at some point.  I was disappointed.  I waited for this and spent a bit more than I'd have liked on it.

Monday, 12 November 2012


A follow up post: get me!

Caitlyn / Calvin came on here and offered a very challenging remark, pointing out that my alter-ego exists to allow me to revel in that alter-ego.  At first I was a little defensive but, you know, I think there's a point there.  This sudden creation, or realisation, of Joanna and her writing NaNo this year and taking over the Google+ channel (now associated with the other blog rather than this one) has coincided with the general relaxation that I have around this place and my reasons for posting here.

That I do post here and do so fully aware of what it is, and create this space for the exploration of that part of me, has come to mean that I am more comfortable with that part of me.  It has developed since the first posts here and the early narrative so that it is clear that there was always more to the cross-dressing.  This blog has been more than cross-dressing, even though that is the highest count for labels it does not dominate the way one would expect, and the community I have come to know engages in much more than (and in some cases not at all) cross-dressing.  What I have discovered is that this community, these people, are brilliant and supportive.  And I have discovered that I like that.

I like the space.  I like the investigation.  I enjoy the chance to build a new identity.

And the only fly in the ointment is the fact that some people on G+ do not know.  But this is my fault.  For not being me online generally.  For clinging to what people think.

So, yes, the alter-ego (if that's even the right word) is not a defensive thing for me.  It does not create a shield between me and all of this, it is not to protect me from anyone.  It is... well, it is a silly thing.  Instead, what we have is an attempt to shield my activities and a silly little charade, even if it sprung fully formed, that allows me to play at being a person.  Whether that person is me or not is rather irrelevant, the point is that it is a version of me that I can play at being without ever actually being held to it.  It is a lie.

What is a complicated shield is the use of versions of web browsers to prevent recording of my activities and the creation of other accounts to 'play' with - sock puppets that require little risk.  After all, if anything goes wrong on G+ I can just remove Joanna from the stream.  The same goes for this blog and the e-mail address that I have repurposed for this blog and G+.  They are means by which I can revel in being something that I am possibly not.  I have always felt the need to wear, well, different personalities, different roles.  In my job I am a different person in the classroom than I am in the staffroom (not that I'm in there much, but you get what I mean).  I am different at home with the children and I rarely go out.  I roleplay all the time.  The confusion has always stemmed from that nugget by the Pet Shop Boys The question of identity is one that's always haunted me and the person I pretend to be depends on who is with me or introspection as I walk, I need to change the way I talk. I am constantly looking for 'me'.

On this blog I may have found it.  But it won't last.  I shall question it again, I know.  Joanna is simply a named version of those roles that I don.  I have the Nazi, the other named one, and I have the teacher, I have the father and I have the son, I have the student and I have the victim, the martyr, you get the idea.

I have no idea what this post is about...

Friday, 9 November 2012

The Plague

Well, everyone in my family has vomited on me this week so it was, perhaps, little surprise that I spent today being ill rather than at work.  And here was me putting the whole thing down to stress.  And that also explains why it is that I have created a number of problems at work whilst not even being there!  I'm pretty darned special that way, I guess.

Yes, the Boy woke me on Monday morning at 2.30am by vomiting around my head, following it up at 4.40am with more vomiting.  He repeated the performance at just gone midnight Tuesday morning, again over me and the bedclothes.  Girlie followed suit, taking out my jeans, on Tuesday from about 5pm onwards, the Boy took out my t-shirt and slippers at about 8pm and my wife hit me around 11pm.

Wednesday and Thursday they all stayed in and vomited as one, with me clearing up as best as I could.  I stressed on Thursday night, relying on a saved and scheduled post to keep things going here, and completed planning for a lesson sometime around midnight, having started planning at around 9.30pm.  Then I joined the party at 2.20am and followed up at 5.30am, 7am and 8.30am.  This meant that I had to stay off work.  Nightmare.

At least, and I should be thankful for small mercies, it all came out the right end.

I also attended my first hangout and realised that Joanna's existence on G+ is... tenuous.  There were some lovely people there and, well, I felt that I was misleading them a little.  My voice (I have no video facility anyway) would have been a dead giveaway, but these people were so nice.  I feel like I was lying to them.  I mean, I wasn't really, but I kinda was as they thought it was a female joining them.  Nothing else, just... well, I feel guilty I guess.  And about work too.  I was trying so hard to organise things in my absence that I may have got carried away and I made some mistakes.  Big ones.  And, as we know, my mistakes tend to rear up and bit me on the ass when I'm not looking.  No surprises therefore that one of them already has.  I'm sure there are others, but I don't know what they are yet.  Oh well, I appear to be better now at least.

Oh!  Positivity!  Elle created a lovely caption for me over at Rachel's Haven based on the alter-ego post.  It was lovely and I am greatly honoured.  It was a lovely surprise and a little light of happiness on an otherwise guilt ridden day.

And so, to bed.

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Beautiful Things: Visuals and Literary

Another venture into the world of beautiful things to keep things fresh during NaNo.  Don't worry about that smell, I'll have the dishes washed and put away before you know it.  Oh, that?  That's just some food that I... uh... forgot to... clean... away.  Yes, moving on from the state of my surroundings and my inability to clean (maybe I ought to indulge in a maid's dress or something?) let's get to the beautiful things.

You know, I am minded of Bill Bailey impersonating Chris de Burgh at this point.  You'll see why with the video link.

I don't care that the NSDAP were totally and
irredeemably misogynistic, I happen to agree
with the apparent message about motherhood
being an acceptable and powerful thing.
Sometimes I find that beautiful things weren't designed as high art or big concepts but, instead, were just functional at the time or even designed to convey a political message.  I have the greatest of respect for propaganda of all types and creeds in that the whole point is to convey some pretty pointed and specific messages in a way that remains entirely accessible, usually at the lowest common denominator, and also retains the message purely enough to carry the weight of whatever political movement is using it.  These ideals and messages reach their apogee, in my humble opinion, in the propaganda produced by the totalitarian regimes of Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia.  Here we find purity of message, albeit a tad on the evil side of things, with an alliance with artists and idea-smiths who crafted work passionately and with the kind of zeal one rarely finds anywhere else.  You could, of course, find such passion and zeal in more savoury creations in the revolutionary art of 1920s Russia, or even Depression USA, but these often did not have the weight and resources behind them to turn them into truly iconographic items.  For that reason, I open with these images that speak to me in a way that I am sure neither the regime nor the artist intended.  I disagree with nearly all of their messages (though I reserve the right to respect collectivism as an outlook and the idea of women breastfeeding children as a Good Thing regardless of who promotes them) but the power and passion of these images has to be noted.

Is no one else getting chills from this?  It's just awesome.
If you haven't, read this.  Or see the
film, both work.
The cover is beautiful too.  Haunted
me for months.

Now the literary beauty.  There is a beauty in novels and in writing in general that I find incomparable.  It is not a visual thing, per se, but a thing of the mind.  I can no more describe what happens when I read than I can write a shower but I do know that both the shower and the reading are immersive experiences when they are beautiful and are as life affirming as anything else that I know.  I submit to you the novel K-PAX as a good example of this.  It is a wonderful piece of literature, in the populist sense, that tells a story and weaves it so well that you end up living the novel rather than simply reading it.  I can recall putting it down and wondering what the characters were doing in the moments when I was not reading about their lives.  I can remember how it completely changed the way I was interacting with the people around me because in the back of my mind I was living as if the whole thing was completely real and ongoing when I got home.  I didn't read the book, I took holidays from the world it invoked when I went to work.  This was much the same sensation that I had when I was reading The Time Traveller's Wife too.  Here the language that was employed did the trick of making me want to keep reading and did so in such a way as to bring home to me the power of the story and the rawness of the emotions contained within.  Its non-linear approach and the ability to drop me into the plot wherever it wanted made me respect it.  This was a novel I even read aloud to my then partner, Toby, and I don't really do reading aloud (well, I do now, with my children, but I never really did before).  It was a novel that stood the test of being read aloud and stood the test of me being the one doing it.  For these reasons they would be considered beautiful but there was so much more to them that I simply fail at describing.

Beauty, it is an ephemeral thing.

Oh, the video link:

Monday, 5 November 2012

My alter-ego and I

I suspect that many, if not all, of my visitors have been keeping up to date with the very interesting situation over at Caitlyn's / Calvin's blog.  I have found the whole thing fascinating, which has meant that I can't really post there because I have nothing to add but my own rubber-necking attitude and basic nosiness.  I would go further and say that when I first started reading about it I never really considered that I had anything like that kind of issue.

Let me explain, when I started this blog and the whole adventure of the last year or so, I was writing primarily from my own perspective.  This blog has been a place where I can truly be myself, in a way that I cannot be anywhere else.  I think nothing now of posting on here about loving wearing dresses or knickers or anything.  If I wear clothes designed for other people then I am happy to post here about how it made me feel, my reasons for doing it and even how it all pans out.  I've even, for the very first time, posted something of my fantasies on this place.  And you, my lovely readers, have kept coming back and giving me pageviews - which I am eternally grateful for because I am a complete attention-whore.  Some of you lovely people have a very special place in my heart because you have commented and have offered support, you know who you are, or simply called me by a name I liked and treated me with more respect than I deserve.  In all of that, I have been myself and the 'me' on show here is as much 'me' as I think I'm ever likely to get.

Imagine my surprise when I started this mad NaNo thing this year.  The part of me that posts here and lives in the real world has been doing this since 2006 and that's the part of me that usually writes the prose and the stuff that appears on this blog.  The part of me that posts here lives a life and does things in my job and is, to all intents and purposes, me.  But look closely at the first sentence of this paragraph.  I wasn't going to use that to show what I meant, I was going to refer to my other blog, but then I saw it was already right there.  This is what I mean.  I think I have created an alter-ego.  I think Joanna, or Bex, has become slightly separated from who I see myself as.  That is, she has a life of her own.

She has her own Google+ account (I already have one), her own youtube account and even her own e-mail.  She posts on Google+ these days, not me, and she uses words and phrases (like "totes" for example) that I would never really think of using.  She's more fearless than me too.  She's started using the laptop during the day as well, carving out time to be her more and more from my own life.  At least, that's the best way I have of describing it.  No struggle, no worries, just an observation.  When I started getting in contact with old friends again recently I found that she already had a set of friends and haunts that had nothing to do with anyone I knew.

That's it, by the way, it was just a sudden observation as Joanna starts her first NaNoWriMo.

Friday, 2 November 2012

Beer Review: 1698

Hmm, it's been a while.  I may be out of practice.

Tonight I have been mostly drinking 1698, a heavily fortified beer from Shepherd Neame brewery, who appear to be fast approaching being the one I drink the most from.  Certainly my last sojourn to Black Sheep left me feeling that it was no longer my beer.  This one is in a stout little bottle and makes few or no claims for itself.

Presentation wise, which is not something I usually comment on, this was a good beer for me.  It has the name of the beer and not a lot else on the bottle and that got me intrigued.  The bottle smoked nicely when I opened it and the smell, well, it was a good smell.  There was something almost manful about it, like it was about to go out and hunt some woolly mammoth.  I poured it out, into a glass(!) and found it to be a very nutty brown.  It's like they took autumn and bottled the colours before adding alcohol.  The smell remained positive, like burning wood hanging on a wet breeze or the smell of old woodsmoke on the morning mist.  No, really, pretentious that may sound but it is the truth.

First taste was good.  A nice, heavy-set feel to it.  Also, a bit of a kick, like a mule kicking out from behind a heavy velvet curtain so that it doesn't hurt, but you still feel the power behind it.  At 6.5% ABV it certainly wasn't hitting below its weight and it was a good reminder that you can't really have more than a couple of these on an evening.  No getting totally plastered on this one unless you specifically set out to do so!  The taste was reassuringly close to the smell, there is a definite hoppy quality to it in the mouth and the fizz from carbonation doesn't rob too much from that but the malt... I don't usually go in for the malty beers, they often feel a bit too heavy and run like treacle ought to, but this one was warm and familiar and, well, smooth.  It took over from the hoppiness at the right point and left the bitter tang that I like in a good beer.  I wish I were being pretentious and 'foody' but these are genuinely the best ways I can think of to describe this.  It is a strong taste too, one that can survive the kind of food I have with a beer on a good night, which is a distinct positive.  However, it is not over powering so it is possible to have this with a meal without it dominating proceedings.

Drink this in the cold cold evening, after the sun has gone down and when there is the sound of drums over the horizon.  Drink to keep out the chill, in front of a roaring fire when you feel as though danger is near or there are haunted things out to spook you.  It's not a typical Hallowe'en beer, you could just as easily drink this throughout the winter, but by gum it's a good'un to have around you at that time of year.  I will, most certainly, be acquiring this to have again and I think it may have edged out Sovereign as my favourite!

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Beautiful Things: Art

A new project to keep me in practice throughout the manic NaNo season!  Also, an attempt to live up to the title of the blog by posting things that are generally uplifting and, well, positive.  In this first post, of at least five over November, I shall be looking at some art work!

There is a definite look of Virginia Woolf about
this one too.  Tilly always said that she thought
of herself like Virginia Woolf, there was the picture
this resembles up next to it. 
The first image is Destiny and is, according to wikipedia in Russian (no, really) painted by John William Waterman.  It was an image that Tilly put up on her wall by her computer back when she moved in and we actually had an office and I remember being very captivated by it.  She told me that it was something to do with the wife of Aeneas, or the fellow from the Illiad (on which the Aeneid was based), waiting for his return - hence the ship in the background.  I have no idea if she's just drinking seductively or if she's drinking something to get rid of the child that she is so obviously carrying or what.  Whatever is going on in the image there is something there to fit most viewers.  I find it truly beautiful.  I could happily stare at it for hours.  I recall that I used to get illicit glances of it when Tilly and I were working side by side in the office and mourned its loss when we lost the office and it became the nursery.  I looked it up again quite recently and was again struck by it.  The muted colour, the use of the eyes, the look of the woman and the whole darn thing.  I suppose it would make a fantastic caption too, but I lack the creative skill to realise it.

The door is ajar, she is about to be
discovered and the lover who sends
the letters may well be in for some
The second image I know not the title.  It was posted on Google+ a few evenings ago and I found it wonderfully captivating too.  This one for different reasons.  Clearly the subject here has been getting love letters, for they are scattered about the bottom of the mirror, and one of them enclosed the flower she wears in her cleavage.  There's also the baring of the neck in the mirror, her hands raised in supplication and surrender, the longing in her eyes.  Her hair is long and completely impractical and her kneeling position indicates some sexual connotation that I feel certain the artist was aiming for on some level - the fact that it is a rose in her busom is not lost on me either.  For these reasons I found myself rather unrealistically identifying with the woman in the picture, she seemed to me to personify the feelings I have for the relationship with Tilly - hastened by her recent practice of using make up to create the smokey eyes effect - it's a success in my direction.  Here we have similar lovestruck longing for that which cannot be attained and with no real chance of success.  A naivety that prevents knowledge of how best to proceed and a fantasy based almost entirely on missives that carry little in the way of concrete sentiment lest they be discovered.

Yes, beauty.  I hope to do some more of these before the month is out - unless NaNo kills me.

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Beer Review: Ghost Ship

Adnam's gave me Broadside back when I started drinking a beer a week and it was not a good call opn my part to drink it.  Therefore, when looking for a Hallowe'en beer, I was a little wary of trying this out.  But it was cheap-ish and wasn't more Shepherd Neame, which I think I'll like regardless these days.  So it was time to try something new.

Tonight, then, I am drinking Ghost Ship, a pale ale that claims to be 'ghostly' and has an eerie picture of a sailing ship on it, so it can't be all bad.

Upon opening there is a smell that smells like beer.  That is, there's a definite air of hops and an underlying maltiness to it, there is yeast but it is not overpowering or anything like that.  It just is.  The colour is a rich nutty one - the kind one finds on desks from Victorian times - and it puts me in mind of walnut.  It should be inlaid with coloured woods and lined with velvet or something.  Still, there is a carbonation and if you pour it badly you'll end up with massive head that takes a while to clear.

First taste is none too shabby.  It's 4.5% ABV and so it does let you know that straight up.  My overwhelming impression is that this is a spicy little number, so hoppy, and then there's a feeling that its been bittered.  I don't think there's anything citrus like to the beer, but that could be the take away meal having its input.  Overall, there's a spice and there's a swirl of yeast to it, as one would expect I suppose, before the underlying malt smoothes things out as much as it can.  The fizz is a little much, but it is bottled, and so this would probably taste better if it were on draught or something - but I can't vouch for that as I haven't had many beers on draught!

Aftertaste is far from lingering and I found myself a little didappointed at that.  It is a pleasant enough beer and certainly very much inkeeping with the IPAs that I've had over time in this little adventure.  It's not one of my favourites but it does the job for a dark Hallowe'en night after reading Voyage of the Dawn Treader to my daughter.

Best drunk at a moderate pace and probably with a select few.  It doesn't cut the mustard for a full and frank discussion about the merits of taste and aroma and it probably did better with my meal than it would alone.  So drink with food and then move onto something a little more refined if you want to talk about it later.