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!

Monday, 25 November 2013

Toccata and Fugue

In Dee Minor (see what I did there?)

My life in 2020?
Used to be my favourite year, you know, and if this
was to be it I'm not sure I would be able to complain
very much more than I do now.

Well, probably about the loss of my family.
So, Dee was setting her discussion points, as she does on her blog, and asked if there was anything that people still wanted to do. It's 2013, it's been the future since 2000, and one has to ask where all the time went. I left University without indulging myself but having had my first very clumsy relationship and plenty of stalker-like crushes that my male privilege allowed me to get away with in a way that I don't think I'm entirely comfortable with looking back. I have met and married a wife, had a tumultuous relationship with a madwoman who seemed to like me. I have had two children. I have had four jobs, two at the same place of employment, and gained three degrees since 2000. I have bought two houses, rented six properties and lived in three counties.

Why so serious?

Yes Wendy, we all wear masks, in a
manner of speaking...
My Dad was over on the weekend. It was... a complicated way to make a visit happen, but my family are good at that kind of thing. We all make asses out of Uma Thurman with our assumptions but she is yet to come and kill us for it. Anyway, the point is that, after a slow start, my Father offered me acceptance. He's been 'proud' and he's said that he likes my workaholic nature already. Yesterday he offered acceptance. Why? I have a big house that is clean and tidy. I appear wealthy and well-to-do. And I wanted to tell him that it was a sham. Because it is all a sham.

My respectability, my job, my outward persona is all a big fat lie. I am downright messed up. I have messed with my mind so much regarding sex, for example, that it's hard to know where the part of me that is me begins and where the porn-obsessed part ends. What is action from me and what is a learned conditioned response. In terms of job it's hard to know what is an act and what is really me any more - even with a nice place and good students I have an odd duality that I have noticed before and seems to be increasing. Certainly I am noticing it more in the less stressed environment.

Made up, a figment, a dream within a dream...

In all honesty, what else is there?
I am an artifice and I don't truly know what or who I am. I am most at home playing a role. So at home, in fact, that I am beginning to wonder if I ever don't play a role. I want to say that when I was dressed those times earlier in the year and when I was renting for my new job before moving then I was closest to me. But I don't actually know what that means. I was closest to being myself when I was dressed in clothes that do not match my outward gender appearance operating entirely in secret? Seriously? When dressed for a role that is entirely made up, running scenarios in my head that were the most removed from my daily life I was the closest to being me?

Since 2000, well, more 1998, I have been trying to find exactly who I am. I have discovered precious little. I have plenty that I am not, but not much of what I am.

Except, well, in this case it is for boys.

Though, if GID is genetic/biochemical then what is it that
makes someone male or female?
Leslie, wise and supportive, asked what difference a diagnosis of GID would make. Perceptive. Like a diagnosis of Asperger's or Depression or Alzheimer's or Athlete's Foot it would help identify something that is purely me. Something that is a fact. A Fact. That is, something that was not influenced by my own sense of drama, occasion and a desire to challenge. Something like GID or Depression or whatever can't really be faked - at least, not for long and not with any degree of continuing accuracy, unless you are deliberately cheating and then the labels are meaningless anyway - I'm not sure that I could fake anything like that. I would have nothing to gain by faking that because who exactly would I tell? It would be for me. And if you cheat on something that only you care about the only person you cheat is yourself.

Hence my fugue. A bad lesson and a lack of marking and unresolved sexual tension with Tilly and a lingering sense of discomfort from my Father's visit combine and the result is this blog. Well, more kind of an ongoing thing, if you've been here a while you'll know that. And a question, the same question: what do I want?

Without a clear aim how can anyone bring down the Russian government?

Sunday, 24 November 2013


A while back the family went to have look in Little Narnia (no, really) and saw something that has stayed with us since then. It was a family trip to the YSP and we'd been a few times before. As we move to decorate the house with images and pictures that mean something to all of us Tilly suggested we get a few of these images in frames and hang them up. As I happen to share Tilly's love of these images and the artist, but for very different reasons (well, some of them are similar, we are both historians after all), I readily agreed.

The images are, of course, from the Yorkshire Sculpture Park installation by Yinka Shonibare MBE. We went along originally because the YSP was a favourite haunt of the children's, hence the moniker 'Little Narnia', and we weren't really expecting much from the main exhibition by this oddly named artist that I, naively, assumed must be pretentious and female. Not so. We were somewhat wowed by the use fabric and dress to evoke a time that both of us ought to find pleasantly familiar but that made me feel rather challenged. And I like it when art challenges me to think in new ways. As you can probably remember actually.

A Bull market?
For example, take Revolution Kid, the boy with the head of a bull calf. For a start, the pose is lifted almost entirely from the awesome Liberty Leading the People, thereby referencing a genuine revolution and the active role that youth played within it. Secondly, the gun is a replica of the gold plated weapons favoured by Colonel Gaddafi, bear in mind that this was made during and after the civil war in Libya. Then there's the fact that the bull calf is the head rather than any other part of the body - the attitude of the youthful revolutionaries personified and neither deified nor ridiculed, but noted and respected nevertheless. The clothing too, a mixture of late Regency (thus white history) and Dutch print fabrics associated with Africa, and so a comment on the hypocrisy of the West (the Dutch print fabrics were made from raw materials supplied by Africa and chiefly sold back to the people there at a much high price) in relation to the revolutionary activity. Also, one hand holds a Blackberry phone in twin recognition of the power of social media in the Arab Spring and the London Riots in 2011.

Terrible beauty that I would so like to wear
Then there's How to blow two heads off at once (Ladies) which is one of my favourites. It wasn't actually at the YSP when we visited either time but I feel that it speaks to me more than do the other works. Here we have two female mannequin posed in a dueling posture with eighteenth century flintlock pistols. I love the fact that, because they are headless, it is impossible to discern emotion or how the participants are taking the stance. Are they seriously having a duel or are they playfighting with the idea that they will make up? Then there's the dress - inkeeping with the period of the weapons but again with the Dutch print fabric design that was explained above. In this case I feel that it enhances that style of clothing from the era and brings out the flamboyant nature of the time and the act that they are engaged in. Not to mention that, because these are women with firearms, we are subverting the commonly accepted view of aggression and honour even in the modern world. And I like that kind of thing. Obviously. I especially love the careful crafting of the clothing and the way that this theme is repeated in much of Shonibare's work. His love of the female form and of playing with cross-dressing (his short film on the death of the King of Sweden has women in the roles of both King and assassin for example) seems to speak to my own thoughts on the same. In a few cases I simply take joy in the representation that he offers of female garments.

Take these biting satires on the role of women and the powerful in the Regency and, by extension, in modern society as an example. He invokes the fantasy setting of a well maintained garden, clearly gentry owned and thus rich, aloof and powerful in a political sense. And he shows the baseness of the emotions associated with it. There are a number of pieces like this, with men taking women, women taking women and, interestingly, no women taking men. In the small amount of reading about them that I've done Shonibare says they speak about power relationships in the modern world as well as the historical world that he suggests with the dress styles and the way in which they are posed. Certainly it makes sense that, in the modern world, there are no women taking men from behind. Indeed, it very much a man's world now in a way that, beyond the gates of the ancestral piles and stately homes of the eighteenth century, it wasn't quite yet at the time. Obviously men were on the rise following the Enlightenment and Renaissance but women weren't quite pushed out of ordinary life and ordinary positions of influence and power just yet, that would have to wait until the Industrial Revolution kicked off in earnest. Given the proximity of that event to the period depicted one has to wonder if that wasn't a consideration for Shonibare as well.

Also, the noise from the water as you
looked around the whole room with
these things in plays an interesting

I was also very taken with the Four Elements where each element was personified in a different way. The man representing fire with a gas lamp for a head with a stance that suggests he has been surprised by an idea that, with a gas lamp for a head, he must have had. Or the water man who is pouring a drink that he can never have because his head is the tap that pours the water (and, ominously, has an Indian complexion). Or the woman struggling against a high wind for a representation of air, her dress wrapped against her legs and her body bowed against the pressure of the wind that blows in her face meaning that she must struggle against the tide. I love the parallel to Feminism, whether or not he meant it, and the way that there is the intersectionality of oppression hinted at with the pigmentation of the skin on this one (Shonibare ought to know, he's black and increasingly disabled). The one that really brought this home to me, though, was the one for earth. In which we have a figure in a posture reminiscent of strength and power in clothing that is all in 'earthy' tones and a deliberately vague pigmentation that could be anyone and anywhere. More to the point, the generally male figure has breasts and is wearing a long dress over a pair of trousers, which I love as a comment on how the Earth ought to be.

You see what I mean?
Earth is also the favourite because of that combination of masculine and feminine that is totally deliberately done. I could stand for a long time and just look at that individual image because of the power it holds in my own life. That longing to be both at the same time, but not in a sexual sense rather in a mental way. I've said before that I quite enjoy my male parts and the Earth mannequin is very much in a traditionally male posture, proudly wearing the trousers and tensing as if for a fight. I get the impression that this may be a comment on environmentalism than gender-politics on the part of Shonibare but I find my meaning in the latter. The addition of a dress train, along with the hint of breasts, to me embodies that longing that I sometimes feel. I have no desire to stay as a woman but I often feel that there is something missing physically in my chest area, no other way to adequately describe that, and the longing to wear clothes that are designed for women is well documented here already, so probably won't bear repetition now. At least, not while I'm discussing art and revolution. It also taps into my desire to see women more represented in my teaching and understanding of history because I feel insulted by their omission and left out as I often identify more with their trials and struggles than I do with those of 'Great Men' who usually dominate both the understanding of and the experience in History.

Terrible beauty again.
One wonders is that is what Shonibare
shoots for with much of his work. The most
classically 'beautiful' of his work is often
coupled with an underlying strand of pain,
misery or just plain cruelty. But even that
strand stands apart as almost
beautiful. Like a mushroom cloud.
Finally there's the ballerina on a mushroom cloud that was loved by the Girlie. I honestly don't know how best to interpret this but there is definitely something that keeps me coming back to look at it. The graceful beauty of the ballerina echoed in the deadly beauty of a nuclear explosion and then opposed almost at the same time by the terrible nature of that black cloud rising into the sky. The combination of death and the prettiness that is equally present in the young mannequin with no head - a life devoted to an art form that is increasingly seen as irrelevant and flippant but also that spits out the young when they become too old with little to support them and few transferable skills but the memory of their training and the money we hope they put away during their time as performers. That's for most, not all. It was that same transience that I caught when looking at works by Degas that captivated me in Sixth Form. That feeling that these women were not actually being represented for their beauty but for the fact that they would soon pass. A sadness over their actions and their futility, after all, Degas didn't know it but the First World War was coming to sweep away the life that he was recording. Shonibare does know it, he clearly knows his history, and has juxtaposed his dancer with war of another kind that would sweep everything away. And, obviously, there is something for me in the ballerinas. Duh.

If you haven't, he's worth checking out. So is the YSP!

Saturday, 23 November 2013

Beer Review: Newcastle Brown Ale

Another blast from my youth here, but this time one that dates to my time in Sixth Form, when my cohorts would attend clubs with imaginative names like 'the Twisted Wheel' and 'the Front Page' and engage in under-age drinking and other such shenanigans. I am, of course, referring to the offering from Newcastle Breweries that is Newcastle Brown Ale, affectionately remembered as "Newky Brown" and the go-to drink of choice for people who called themselves such things as 'Kipper' and 'Greebo'.

Why tonight? Well, I thought that as I no longer have to drive to church on a Sunday morning (and the day has conspired to destroy any chance I have of doing any work) - the church is within walking distance - I'd have a beer and damn' well enjoy it. I have constructed furniture from IKEA, bought LED lightbulbs and nearly worn knickers but bottled it and plumbed for standard boxers instead. So, yes, from the comfort of a newly decorated living room (we added pictures, we haven't done painting or wallpapering or anything as energetic as that) I am drinking and reviewing a beer.

Opening it I was struck by the fact that the bottle is clear glass, meaning that the deep brown colour was provided entirely by the ale itself. Don't laugh, I genuinely hadn't really thought about it before, so I didn't know. Also, the lack of carbon dioxide smoke was a positive sign that this hasn't been too tainted by the mass-production and wide scale distribution of a staple beer. Aroma wise, there was a fruitiness to it, not as citrus-y as you expect from a well hopped beer but nor as deep and oaky as something with a bit more malt. It put me in mind of something like mouldering apples, dried orange or the kind of smell one associates with the whole foods aisle in a supermarket - you know, freshness with a nutty undertone. It poured well, making a froth for a head that reminds me of the one on Ruddles County in that it's not particularly strong or long lasting. Obviously sparkling and with a syrupy look to its progress.

At 4.7% ABV it's no slouch when it comes to strength and the taste reflects this though, surprisingly for something as ubiquitous as this, it doesn't taste cheap and nasty either. In fact, it was quite mellow, putting me in mind of Manchester Brown Ale, though I'll confess that the comparison has me thinking that the former does much better. It carries that fruity taste atop an obvious and strong malt, the source of the colour I suppose, and there's a much deeper section to that fruit. In fact, it is very similar in tone to those spiced drinks one gets warmed as samples in IKEA, so like that Glogg stuff. Actually quite nice. Over the top you get the standard yeasty spice and then, as an encore, there's the taster of something else, almost chocolate like in tone but very much more like the malt.

I have to say that I have been pleasantly surprised by this beer as I was expecting something a bit cheap and a bit nasty given how popular it was during my Sixth Form years, and how cheap it must therefore have been from the tap. Also, given the quantities I have seen this in whenever I pass the alcohol section of any supermarket, I was expecting something corporate and bland, without too much depth or any kind of genuine character. Whilst this doesn't match the likes of Ilkley Black for that or even get close to some of the nicer craft ales it does make the most of what it has and so I can now understand its popularity. Indeed, it has a touch of Old Peculiar about it (though that might make me unpopular in beer review circles, so I'm glad I'm not really in them). I can imagine this would go down well in the company of some friends all dressed to the nines in best dress finery or slouching in onesies without make-up. It is unassuming and, if you hit the bottle, you could pretend it was something rather special.

Enjoy this on an evening of relaxation, preferably autumn or spring, with a light meal and some company, the kind that prefers to mull things over rather than talk. Offer a few big thoughts, then inwardly digest them as you sup this ale. Consider the lightness of being, the hypocrisy  of Gandhi, the union of mankind and the perfidity of Albion. Then watch the footy and have a second as you yell sporting advice from your sofa. It's that kind of beer. But I like it.

I like it even more given the 'splosion of beer when I tried to get it into bottles, but that's a story for another time (if I remember to write it).

Friday, 22 November 2013

Drinks of an alcoholic nature

An odd one this evening as it doesn't really classify as beer (despite my tagging of it as such) and we're settling down to an episode of Sherlock, which you really ought to watch by the way. This is from the stable of Hooper's breweries who have form on this alcoholic versions of normal soft drinks.

Onward! As claimed on the bottle it is indeed sparkling and it does indeed fizz like one would expect dandelion and burdock to fizz. No surprises there. Much like the hound, the gigantic hound, on Dartmoor this is coal black and smells like you'd expect. Definite hints of summer garden mingled with autumn burnt wood tang as you would expect from such a thing. Actually, it's a tad disappointing in terms of its taste given that it is 4% ABV and it is supposed to be more concentrated flavour than your standard soft drink version.

Still, it's pleasant enough fayre for an evening spent watching some overly clever TV with the wife. Not sure what else to add to this review, how bizarre that when reviewing things that aren't beer I have so much less to say. I think I just grew a beer gut with that admission.

Thursday, 21 November 2013



It's a spamming link, I know, but the article contained here may be relevant to our interests. Certainly made me sit up and read carefully.

I may be back later to edit and blog further, I may not. Marking.

Updated for your viewing pleasure:

Tuesday, 19 November 2013


I am very late to this particular party, I know, but Tilly and I have just watched the first episode of the second season of Sherlock and I want to be him. The eponymous hero, that is, I would like to be like that. And I don't know if that means more than it sounds. Consider - the hero is disassociated from normal life to the point of fault and beyond, meaning that he is virtually indestructible, and he is lauded for his uncanny ability to elucidate and cogitate. I rather like that. He may also be rude, obnoxious, objectionable and autistic but, somehow, intrigues a professional dominitrix (don't even get me started on the patriarchal fantasy on display there) enough that she cracks before he does. They always do, don't they.

Anyway, an update (as the last one was well-nigh impenetrable even to me). Work is back on an even keel, still plenty of marking and other gubbins to get done but I'm feeling more on top of things at the moment. A lack of 'manipulative twits' (thank you, Leslie) certainly makes a huge difference and the students, I thought I was having an issue with one set, seem to be back to how they were at the beginning - which is nice.

Tilly has dyed her hair again and is going to get a new tattoo soon. No, we still haven't really talked about, well, anything, but I wasn't really expecting any change after we moved if I'm honest. And she has shown a continued aversion to physical contact and to thoughts of anything beyond that as well. I think I may have to just suck that one up and get on with the rest of what makes us a family.

Girlie has been much better. No more tantrums and no more vomit since the last post, for which I am grateful. Tilly has worked hard to make sure that they see plenty of other people and see them more than once and so Girlie is feeling much more settled. It is clear that she is making friends and putting down roots. Sure, she misses where we used to live and her friends there, but she is settling here and that is very welcome. The Boy too. He misses having me as long as he used to in the evenings (I finish an hour later so I arrive home later) and there are no woods nearby, which is a shame, and nothing else to yet create a mythos. However, he is still happy with things. Both of them now have access to tablets of the cheap budget 7" variety too, courtesy of the cash-back on the mortgage we took out, so that's nice. They work on them collaboratively and don't appear too addicted to them, but then neither Tilly or I control their access to them and so they regulate themselves. Works with food, why not electronic devices?

I've still not added to my wardrobe despite planning to since 1st September. This is mainly down to fear on my part. Of what I'm still not certain. I have the cash secreted for the purpose, carefully hived away and saved, and I have plenty of access to various supermarkets and even one or two actual clothing stores not to mention the plethora of charity shops within walking distance and thus easily visited without arousing suspicion. However, the fact remains that I have not. There is a box in the wardrobe in the spare room, beneath a collection of old audio tapes and behind some random junk, that holds all the clothes that I own that were designed for those of a more physically female persuasion. And the boots. And the shoes. Delving there in a morning ought to be easy, but I have not been doing.

William may be back from his long absence. He may not be either. However, there are flashes and fragments of ideas that may or may not go somewhere if I have the time and the inclination at the same moment to sit down and start typing.

In the meantime, have a bang on this:

Monday, 18 November 2013

On Failure

Far over the misty mountains cold
To dungeons deep and caverns old
We must away, 'ere break of day...
Success is rare, fleeting, and not what most people believe it to be. Like the opposition in Russia 1855-1964 it is hard to trace a case where success was made or where they were effective. Peasants rose and were quashed, achieved effectiveness and then were crushed and left with no hope so that by the time succour arrived in the form of Khrushchev they had neither hope nor recourse when the Virgin Lands failed and brought dust and death. Nationalities rose and took their flight only to find themselves betrayed and handed over by their Western allies or else broken on the back of the Nazi wheel to actually anticipate liberation by the Soviet forces.

Culture in a study on glass plates.
Russian Empire, 1912.
Under the Tsars there was undirected brutality and destruction, pour encourager les autres, followed by nationalistic chauvinism and destruction of culture. The Soviets celebrated the different cultures whilst undermining their underpinnings and purging all those who were less orthodox. The successes, fleeting, were themselves terrible and made matters worse: the destruction of the Provisional Government in an armed coup by the Bolsheviks, harnessing a genuine desire to see the end of a terrible war and the end of political strife. Followed by a terrible Civil War in which the most Pyrrhic of all victories was won. Then the ousting of the errant Khrushchev by the Brezhnev clique in 1964, dooming the USSR to moribund economic stultification and sure death. An assassination of Alexander II leading to the 'silence of the graveyard' under his son, Alexander III and the voluntary, almost relieved, abdication of Nicholas II don't even count as successes for the opposition however fleeting.

The Girlie had reached insanity.
Went to sleep easy enough.
Suspect Maccy Dee's as the reason.
Not my choice, but I am not at home.
So it is in life and relationships. Tilly seems to care, offering help and time and space when I am depressed - she helps keep the wolves at bay. But only so long. She is no more interested in my emotional state than I in hers or those of my children. Sleepless nights, disturbed sleep and nothing I can do - I try keeping the Boy at bay but am beaten by... I don't actually know what. Tilly grows tired, irritable, defensive. The kind of mood that when I have it Tilly says she feels bound to attack and grow angry with. I do not react that way, of course, because I am a coward. Girlie vomits on the stairs, I return to Tilly in the kitchen and the house in a state I am all too familiar with. Of course I tidy, attempt to clean, engage with tired and ill-looking children. I shoot down my Boy's expectations by not joining him in bed, averting my eyes from his tired and pleading face. Tilly retires, as usual, to a different room. This time the bedroom rather than the kitchen.

They have always been there, on the front lines of the
coming revolutions. For no revolution is safe whilst
women are ignored and a great many more fail when
support is withdrawn.
Different but equal?
Oh, Adolf, you crack me up.
A small victory with a semi-difficult class at work, enough to get a lesson through, and enough to make me feel that maybe I'm not fighting a losing battle there. Comparisons made to their last teachers, both Doctors, but the arrows go wide and do not wound - I have played this game myself too often and know how to dodge and tell the right story. A colleague, also new, a safe pair of hands who is a lovely person but, when the time comes, I doubt very much will rise to the occasion and be a good enough teacher to beat a good field. And I feel bad because I have been there once, but I learned quickly because there was no support and a much harsher teacher than I. Perhaps I am too nice? An interjection from the Head, a sulk with near tears and once again I am cast in the role of comforter without really knowing what comforting is. A new student, Asperger's, placed in my form because of my understanding. And I wonder - is it idle boasting that has brought me here?

And I lie. I cheat. I manipulate. As I always do. And here, even here, I am not so much honest as ranting. Garnering sympathy for the unsympathetic and understanding for the inscrutable. "Does History record any case where the majority was right?" and I find myself in agreement - it does not. "Historians are dangerous people," wrote Khrushchev, "they could ruin everything". In that sense, I am very much a historian.

"History will be kind to me, for I intend to write it" - Churchill.
"My blog is kind to me, for I write it."

Saturday, 16 November 2013

Beer Review: Oyster Stout

Despite my Odyssey into brewing and the recent move of the barrel from the kitchen to the pantry and thus into the final stage before bottling (and the drinking of a sample to work out what it's like) I still haven't reached the point of self-sufficiency in beer supply. That means, of course, that I am still sampling the delights  of our local supermarket when it comes to bottled real ales.

It appears that, since we moved, we have entered the area that is mainly served by Marston's Brewery. They have most pubs under their banner and a good deal of the bottled ale is also from their stable. It would, of course, therefore be pretty churlish not to sample their offerings. Truth be told, I had this the first time whilst I was renting but tonight I have actually managed to sit down with an Oyster Stout to review it properly.

It promises much on the bottle, being the silver medal winner for bottled ale in the 2011 CAMRA awards and so says much about the fruity aroma and the taste that has a hint of chocolate with a creamy mocha head. It does not really lie on any of these points. On opening there is a snick but most of the carbonation remains in the bottle. Pouring, however carefully, produces a very large head that is indeed a brown colour and very creamy. It's also very deep, but it does dissipate reasonably quickly. The aroma has the citrus one would expect of the hoppy nature of this beer and I would suggest that it's less oranges and more lime or something exotic. Dark colours abound - molasses and treacle spring to mind - and the whole thing has a certain presence that is lacking in an IPA or similar. It feels like it ought to be causing some sort of frost to develop or be heavy enough to bend light, though it actually does neither.

Taste is good. Not too carbonated with a hint of sugar on the tongue before the hops and malt rob it away, then there's a taste that one associates with the seaside before the chocolate notes, for there are some, run over the tongue and take over. Hops are in evidence but they are too light in the face of some pretty strong, if quick, malt and that something extra provided by the brewery to set this apart. They claim that it would be good to have seafood and I can actually see why with they said this. Still, I can't get over the fizz, knowing through my brewing how this added I get the impression that they've added just a little too much to what ought to be a much flatter, and thus heavier, beer. At 4.5% ABV it's not exactly a slouch but nor is it such a large hitter than you won't enjoy the evening. However, it doesn't drink like something of that strength, it feels lighter, and it looks like it ought to be much stronger.

Ilkley Black it is not but nevertheless it is a worthy ale to have on an evening, after all this is my second time drinking it, and it has it's place. We had a pork stir fry for evening meal and this is a nice follow up with enough body to it to fend off the lingering pleasant taste of the homemade stir fry sauce and crunchy vegetables.

Drink this with a meal, as recommended on the bottle, and I would suggest that something like moules frites would be the way to go, a la Normandy style. If you can't make it to Normandy or mussels aren't really your bag then consider getting in some cockles in vinegar in a small tub or prawns with a good sauce (I recommend getting some salad cream [like sour mayonnaise] and adding paprika and some tobasco, mixing until pink and then slathering over the bed of freshly cooked prawns) and enjoying as part of that experience. Surprisingly summery for the look and the weight of it, so find a nice beach, let your legs hang free and bare and soak up that tanning feeling.

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Here Comes the Rain

In case my tortuous posts of late weren't warning enough, it appears that depression is back in force and that my urge to dress is rising. Today I found it difficult to get out of bed on the same level that I was feeling last year and before, had a frustrating day made worse by my own mood and wore my favourite knickers all day under my normal clothes ostensibly because I was out of underwear (they were in an other room).

I'd talk in greater detail but I suspect that depression would colour my words more than I want them to be coloured right now. Also, it's the same gripe as ever: I just want to dress. I'm genuinely beginning to believe that the sole reason for enjoying and coping so well with the first half term of the new job was down to the fact that, on an evening, I was dressing. Now that I'm not I've ended up feeling under pressure again and ditching Nano. I never realised how much I relied on dressing.

Is this GID?


No descriptions necessary with this post.
I'm not very good at expressing the full emotional impact of Remembrance on me, nor the way it can be hijacked for other ends. I am not usually able to articulate the feelings I have when people argue that Remembrance Day (Sunday closest to Armistice Day, 11 November) should be a celebration of freedom and a reminder that freedom isn't free. Especially when the freedoms supposedly fought for by all those men and women dying in wars under their different flags are rarely, if ever, actually granted to those who fought for them nor their families nor their children and when, in our time, wars are actively fought elsewhere, in our names, to remove our freedoms as well as those of the people who are unfortunate enough to live in the areas we decide are valuable. For it is we. We cannot escape the fact that the government that purports to represent us, actually does represent us. And therefore, when they claim to be doing things in our name we must take responsibility for that. We cannot blithely blame others for what we stand by and let happen.

And that, that, is why I believe we should respect veterans. We should respect those who say nothing and carry out what they were ordered to do. But we should be wary.

I cannot articulate any of that effectively. So I'm going to let Sassoon do it for me:

You told me, in your drunken-boasting mood,
How once you butchered prisoners. That was good!
I'm sure you felt no pity while they stood
Patient and cowed and scared, as prisoners should.

How did you do them in? Come, don't be shy:
You know I love to hear how Germans die,
Downstairs in dug-outs. 'Camerad!' they cry;
Then squeal like stoats when bombs begin to fly.

And you? I know your record. You went sick
When orders looked unwholesome: then, with trick
And lie, you wangled home. And here you are,
Still talking big and boozing in a bar.

And, again, thinking about some of those that travelled to Wooton Bassett, or those that publish pictures festooned with their flag asking us to 'support our boys' by not opposing wars or claim that war is necessary to defend freedoms against the terrorists / muslims / communists / totalitarians or whosoever we've decided to demonise lately, Sassoon encapsulates my feelings and says them all the better because he knows and I do not:

You smug-faced crowds with kindling eye
Who cheer when soldier lads march by,
Sneak home and pray you'll never know
The hell where youth and laughter go.

Saturday, 9 November 2013


I like the corset.
I've been using The Matrix a lot lately to introduce students to new forms of essay, where they inevitably fail the first time no matter how good the preparation for it, using the 'jump program' sequence: "Everybody falls the first time" even Neo. So, when I got an opportunity to nab the DVD (I had the VHS) for less than £2 of course I leapt at it. It reminded me how terribly dated some of the references are now and how much we thought we were safe from history and conflict generally around 2000. Aw, bless it and the chunky phones of doom.

I remember reading fanfiction of it in which genetic males had residual self-image as females or vice versa on fictionmania, of all places, and also on more mainstream fanfiction websites whilst at University. I wondered about that as an explanation. Just as I wonder at the genetic information that suggests a 3 in a thousand probability that people are, in fact, born the wrong gender. I've said before that I rather like my male parts and can't really imagine having female versions. That stands. But, at the same time, I am minded of the fact that alcohol doesn't change behaviour - the belief that it does allows people to think that it will. It is an argument in favour of the on-going nebulous assumption that I am vaguely autistic that when I get drunk my behaviour does not change because I do not expect it to. I used to think that there was something wrong with me on that level (and maybe I was right, but not about what was wrong) and it is a diverting realisation. In much the same way, part of the reason I am happy with my parts is because I have always had them. Until recently, I felt the same way about my name.

They have been there since the beginning
and they will be there at the end.
Of war, I mean, of war.
I had been assigned a name at birth and, because I had always been called that name, I couldn't imagine being called another. I played a role-playing game and gained the affectation of 'Hardaker' as another identity, but it was simply another name to add rather than replace my own. Um... this was because, in order to get my attention, some friends from that role-playing game had to shout my name at me. I didn't respond to my name so they yelled 'Hardaker' and I instantly responded. It was... funny? Anyway, it tells me something about names.

Then I started this blog. I changed an old e-mail account to match it. I have commented on forums and on G+ using the persona that this blog is created in. And I have realised that I rather like being called Joanna and referred to as such. I do. I even went searching for one of those named coca-cola bottles in the name of Joanna. Never found one (got a Rebecca one though that I use at work). Even my bank greets me as Joanna on the website (you can put in any handle and I figured only I would ever access it, equally, as security goes, it's pretty damn' safe as it is unconnected IRL to me). Interestingly, it was only through using it on this blog that I found I liked it. I did not start this blog with it being a name that I could imagine being applied to me, it was simply another layer of anonymity (I've been through the reasons for the Rebecca moniker before). Is it the same about gender?

And anyone who says, as a TV, TG or CD, that they never saw
the Spice Girls as a valid cross-dressing experience is a liar and
a cad.

I mentioned that the 90s took a shit in our house recently. It reminded me of the following, which is now playing on a loop in my head:

We had some family/friends over today. I put the forward slash in because, though they are, strictly speaking, Tilly's family they count more as friends and I mean that as a positive and complimentary thing. As a married couple without children I often find myself idly comparing them to us. They are younger than we are (hey, I am truly old for even mentioning that point). We went went out for a meal and Tilly had a pint as well as myself, which was nice. But she's on the defensive a lot at the moment, frustrated and irritable. It's... wearing. Anyway, we still aren't talking much at the moment, the joys of Nanowrimo, and I'm still counting (six months now).

I am ever more convinced, by the little conversation we have had on the subject, that the last time I spoke about this in depth, here, was pretty much on the money. We've linked arms a few times since the move, even held a hands for a short while in the park, but these are the exceptions rather than the norm. Increasingly we're drifting back apart to the worst of times back when I was in that depressive state that everyone who reads my blog enjoyed hearing about so much. I hear it's a sarchasm.

Why? Well, it's blindingly obvious that our friends are having sex. The little jokes they make suggest that they believe we are at it too. Tilly does not disabuse them of this notion. And, sad as I am, I find it grates on me a little. Work too. It seems that most married couples, even those recently (in a year or so) with child are clearly at it in a comfortable, non-boastful way. I can't even broach the subject with Tilly for fear of being told that I talk about nothing else again (it's been, what, a fortnight now since I last mentioned anything connected with sex). And, were I to do so, I would open myself up for another tirade about how little sleep Tilly gets at the moment, how tired she is, how much needs doing in the house (not that she's complaining you understand, she says as she complains) and how much I'm not making any kind of effort. It's a fond point for her. I make no effort. She wants to be woo-ed, but does not know what this means. Forcing her to watch films and snuggle doesn't strike me as being terribly romantic (what she says she wants) and, as she pointed out the other day when I was complimenting her on her clothes, it seems a bit rape culture-y to be forcing her to do anything on a romantic front. Buying flowers, cooking meals, paying compliments, none of these are considered 'romantic' enough to count as woo-ing.

So... I don't know.  I don't know.

Friday, 8 November 2013

School girl blues?

In my head this is what I mean.
I'm... not a fan of the slutty
schoolgirl look.
It is Comic Relief coming up where I work and, to raise money, the staff are being entreated to come in fancy dress on a Roald Dahl theme in general (ape-ing the campaign headed by Terry Wogan for Children in Need where people were urged to dress as a character from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory). Instantly, of course, I thought of Matilda from Matilda. Two reasons: 1. it's the only Roald Dahl book that I ever read cover to cover (my father read Witches to me, but it didn't have the same effect and I watched a film adaptation of The B.F.G. In school they started reading The Twits but, and I can't remember the reason, I never heard it all. Was Danny: the Champion of the World a Dahl story? If so, I've watched a made for TV film of that too) and 2. it's a female character.

Also, there was a feeling, an assumption if you like, that it would be an easy costume to get together. Blue pinafore dress, school-type blouse, grey tights and red hair band. Ha! Ha ha ha! A brief online search has shown that there are few to no blue pinafore dresses in size 14, roughly my size, and none of those have skirts that would reach the knee. Also, very few places do adult sized school shoes or non-fetish schoolgirl costumes any more. I am a sad serial fantasist.

Mind you, I can't complain. Tilly bought some NOW CDs so now we have a steaming pile in the kitchen where the 90s of our youth has taken a huge shit. Smells good. I ought to get back to Nano-ing now.

I know I know, I'm running out of animated

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Gag Reflex

For reasons I don't fully understand the last couple of days have seen me blindsided by a few things.

Firstly - hair again. I know I've been talking about this a lot, but when I got the day to mark back on Saturday, I ended up finding Tilly's wig that she used back in 2007 for a Murder Mystery evening on Hallowe'en - a sort of strawberry blonde long hair wig - and I wore it briefly. Sure enough I made some of the tresses fall so that they obscured my left eye and I loved the feeling of having my sight impaired a little like that. I almost didn't notice it, but I knew it was there. And looking down was brilliant. I didn't wear it for long and I didn't do anything special in it, but it was a very nice feeling.


I'd love to be able to wear a dress like that.
No, really.
Secondly - work. I don't know what's happened, but this last week has been insane! I think part of it was not having the time I needed over the holiday to do the work I needed to do, which makes sense, no... I know that's the issue. Doesn't change the fact that for the first time I am stressed at work. However, I can't complain, that took a good long time. Having a trip running isn't helping either, but, again, if this is the worst the school can throw at me (with the promise of it being over by the end of the week) then I haven't done so badly at all. Not to mention the fact that I continue to receive praise and recognition for what I am doing. This is nice. I know it can't last forever, Machiavelli tells me that what I do now that is seen as special and lovely will soon set a new expectation so that people will complain when I don't meet my high standard, but I intend to enjoy it while it lasts.

And yes, I quite like the idea of drooling.
This is from wikipedia, apparently, though who knows
what article it accompanies.
Thirdly - ball gags. No, I have no idea either. I happened across one whilst looking for, of all things, source material on Churchill. It was an image. And since I saw it I have been consumed by the urge to check out more images and have looked into ordering one online. They are relatively well-priced, from what I can gather, at a fiver a time. Given that I now have an official £20 budget per week for food shopping and 'going out' costs I think I can gather together a little now and again and afford a fiver in, say, a month or so. The only restriction is how to get it delivered and where to store it. The alternative is to find a shop in the physical realm but that has its own hazards and pitfalls. I may have managed to go in and out of the one back where I used to live but I haven't even seen one where we are now. And then I'd have to work up the courage in less than the seven years it took last time.

Right, got to create a model essay in twenty five minutes and still find time to update my NaNo. Ah, November, so full of tomfoolery!

Saturday, 2 November 2013


It has begun.
I have started writing for nanowrimo 2013, like I did last year, but there are several differences this year, things that I am missing due to a lack of preparation brought on by having moved over the summer months rather than spent time planning and editing. First of all there is the fact that I am missing a plot and the inclination to continue with last year's rather successful little story. This is a bit of an issue. It's not that I shall never return to my story, it's just that, right now, I'm not ready.

Yes, it's a stock image. But, yes, it sums up my
thoughts on the lack of a buffer and the lack of
a print screen function.
Then I'm missing the ability to 'print screen' on this school laptop for some reason. This is becoming more than an irritation (try writing instructions for computer operations without that function and you'll see what I mean). This has prevented me from using some images that I was hoping to craft another caption with whilst the mood was still with me. I've had to put that on the back burner and so was unable to start nanowrimo with a clean creative slate - my usual preference.

Unlike last year I haven't had the time to prepare posts for this blog either. This means I may have to suffer the ignominy of another month whereby my post count is lower than my usual. Which sucks a bit, I do value people reading this blog and I am aware that not posting here turns people away.

Oh how I'd love to look like that.
Even if for a little while.
Also I'm missing skirts. Sounds odd, but over those five weeks renting and being away from home I got rather attached to my twirly effort and realised how versatile it really is - billowing about it could be cool but standing still and walking more slowly and carefully created a warmer sensation. I could skip in heels and be summery and cool or I could walk with small steps about the kitchen and be warm and cossetted. Now that the cooler weather has well and truly drawn in and we're trying to keep the bills down for a much larger house (this means less heating and less heat retention - the drawback of living in house made in 1909 I guess) I could do with that option again. Jeans and trouser just don't cut it. Sure, they're warm but I can't tuck them in around my legs when sitting down and rely on the shared heat of both my legs to warm down to the ankles the same way. I mean, I can use a blanket but that's not as practical for getting up and moving around.

Finally, I'm missing my usual creative sparks that accompany this time of year. I've had a desultory drizzle of some ideas but the full scale storming sleet has been curiously absent. I suspect that this is partly down to beer brewing and having an outlet at work for ideas that I have previously lacked. It could simply be that I'm tired, since moving we haven't really managed to just sit and do nothing, or it could be that by watching things on the telly again (Sharpe for example) I'm not exercising my imagination much.

I'm not complaining. Just missing things.