Doing battle with daily dragons

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Minor Hiatus

Everybody deserves a little holiday. Just wanted to say that I'll be afk for the next few days visiting with some in-bound friends who are coming to stay on our little floating domicile. We haven't actually figured out how it's going to work yet, with 4 people living on the boat, but it'll be a mini adventure.

Just for the record, The Rock Star is sitting behind me singing Zepplin's "Immigrant Song" as Fozzy Bear. I love my life.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Rage

Just a little fun for the holiday weekend. What is your favorite ever angry album?

I don't know why I got to thinking about this today. I'm not particularly filled with rage at the moment. But my all-time favorite throwing shit (not literally, of course.) at the wall, kicking the pets, letting it all out kind of album has got to be Pretty Hate Machine. A high school boyfriend gave me the album when I was 16 and it's been my complete hate-favorite ever since.

Interesting sidenote: The boyfriend, I was told, became gay for a bit after we broke up, then decided he wasn't actually gay, but MUSLIM, married a cheerleader called Brittany and named his first born Luke Skywalker. I don't think any of that had to do with the music, though. I wouldn't blame you if you think I'm lying about any of that, but this is the kind of thing that happens when you cross my path.

Locked in the Closet

When I was a child, my mother used to read me a book which I’ve long since forgotten the title of. It was about a classroom full of children on another planet, far in the future. On this planet, it rained every day except for one extraordinary day every 20 years when the sun came out for 1 glorious hour. The story takes place on the afternoon of the event: One child in the class, Margaret, had been born on Earth and told her classmates how beautiful it was to see the sun. The children all believed she was lying and locked her in a closet. Suddenly, their teacher gathered them together and led them outside just as the sun broke through the clouds. For one hour, the children frolicked, laughed and basked in the completely alien, warm orange glow. But as suddenly as it had come, the sun disappeared behind the clouds and the rain began to fall again. The children cried as they came back to their classroom, saying, “Margaret was right. It WAS beautiful.” A horrible realization stole over the children. Margaret was still locked in the closet and had missed the sun.

This is a wholly depressing story to read to children. If it didn’t depress me then, it sure does now. And it DEFINITELY did today as I had my nose pressed up against the cold glass windows of Purgatory watching all the people in their lovely spring clothes basking in the sunshine. If you were one of them, chances are I was hating you a lot. If you were sunbathing in the privacy of somewhere other than the range of sight outside of the shop window, then you were exempt from my hatred, but it’s best not to tell me what a nice day you had.

This happened last week as well. Friday and Saturday- like a new Eden; warm with the promise of much budding and fertility. Two guesses where I was for these most magnificent of days. Sunday- like a scorned woman; bitter, chilly and unpredictable. I was ready to throw myself off of my front porch, but it takes a concerted effort to drown in 3 ½ feet of water and quite frankly, I wasn’t willing to put in the time.

I’m hoping to catch the weather off guard this week by working unusual hours. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Food of the Gods

I feel compelled to share with the world an extreme culinary experience that I had this weekend. But, keeping to form, you get to hear another story before I get to this one.

The village we live in, up until recently, has been pretty small. Land is a premium here and when the powers that be knocked down the old cement works, (they blew up the last chimney on Christmas Day the first year I was living here. It was a very weird Christmas morning; out in a field with about 200 other people watching something blow up. Happy birthday baby Jesus. BOOM!) a housing company snapped up the land and put roughly 2 million 5 x 5 foot square houses on it. The Rock Star and I went to have a look at one on the pretext that we were a young, married couple intent on buying. (Two out of three isn’t bad.) Of course, the show home was overwhelming at first, especially to two people who have been living in a 6’x 58’ tube for the last 5 years. But then we started to notice that all the fittings were chipboard and worst of all, the toilet in the upstairs loo had been installed so close to the shower, you couldn’t open the door. Mmm.

What I’m trying to say, in my own charming, roundabout way, is that our village is small apart from the new estate full of miniature houses. So one wouldn’t expect to find a four star restaurant hiding out nearby. However, we are blessed with The King’s Head.

The King’s Head is a beautifully converted carriage inn and is run by a rather distinguished French gentleman called Georges de Maison. (My mother in law, however, is convinced that he’s actually called “George House” and from the east end of London, but that’s just her little theory.) The food there can only be described with the rather pretentious term, “divine.” It’s a definite “special occasion” kind of place due to the fact that it’s “vastly expensive.” Luckily for The Rock Star and myself, we were “not paying.” My in-laws kindly treated us.

It’s one of those places that you know is quality from the moment you walk in due to the vast and puzzling array of cutlery surrounding your place setting. (I don’t know about any of you, but tiny knives and spoons that look like they can’t possibly have any sort of culinary purpose make me distinctly nervous.) But the pre-dinner champagne cocktails (with a sugar cube and a shot of brandy in the bottom that send you straight to the ceiling) tend to relieve the performance anxiety a bit.

The signature dish of the place is the Aylesbury duck, which m.i.l and b.i.l enjoyed heartily. I’m a fairly recent duck convert, and still have some reservations about eating the same animal that sits on our jetty every morning and eats out of my hand. I hope that someday the ducks that float happily around our barge will forgive me for thinking that they taste awfully nice with hoi-sin sauce and spring onions.

I personally went for the beef medallions with brandy, cream and peppercorn sauce. I like cows too, but they don’t stare in my window every morning, so it’s a little easier to tuck into a steak.

The Rock Star enjoyed desert particularly due to not only the amazing brandy snaps, but the rather attractive, French, desert cart dolly. (We both have regional accents that make us go particularly gooey; for me, it’s Scottish and for him it’s French.) “For desert, I do ‘ave ze sherry trifle, ze shacolate mousse, ze souflette…” I went for “ze meringue” myself and nearly melted under the table due to its unbelievable amazingness. To top it off, I think French Girl tried to make up for the fact that her accent was charming the pants off of my husband; she gave me an extra strawberry.

The only drawback to our infrequent visits to the King’s Head is to feeling decidedly inferior when trying to prepare dinner the next evening. Especially if one does not actually own a table. The Rock Star and I will be having cod fillets, cous cous and broccoli on our laps this evening, if anyone cares to join us.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Sláinte!

So, it’s St. Patrick’s Day.

Bit of a funny one, this holiday. The celebrations traditionally associated with the day of Ireland’s patron saint seem to have little to do with his accomplishments. I’d like someone to show me the illuminated manuscript that tells of the sacred downing of the liquid tar. Perhaps the sacred weeing in the alley behind the pub? Or even the holy act of copious regurgitation?

And lo, Saint Patric did sey unto hys mates,
“Thys round’s on me, lads.”

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Misadventures in Bumpville

Ow.

I had a nickname in college. Nicknames are rarely unfounded. William “Refrigerator” Perry did not gain his moniker at random; he got it by squashing people as flat as they might have been trapped under a Whirlpool. My epithet was equally founded.

They called me Bump.

I have NEVER been graceful. A while back, we were at dinner with some people and the husband of the couple we were dining with mentioned that his little girl wanted to take ballet lessons. “I think we’re going to try to steer her away from that,” he said, “She’s a complete klutz.” His wife kicked him under the table. But this brought back a rather early memory of begging my parents to continue in gymnastics and getting steered into a children’s drama course instead. When I was a teenager, I assumed they just didn’t want me to get into the weird world of bulimia, creepy, old guy coaches and not getting your period for the first time until you’re 26, but looking back now…I’m thinking they were more worried about me falling off the parallel bars and cracking my skull open.

Nursing a bruised knee from the snowboarding session with The Rock Star and The Girl yesterday evening, I am compelled to make a list of my Top 5 Bump Moments in ascending order of comedy factor.

5. Almost Joining the Long John Silver Society- Mel Brooks once said, “Tragedy is when you cut your finger. Comedy is when you walk into an open sewer and die.” Some people go a funny color when I tell this story, but there is always something inherently funny about injuring yourself and living to tell the tale.

Right, here’s the thing about skiing: As children, which among us has NOT been shouted at for running with scissors? And yet, upon clipping our feet to ski bindings and hurtling ourselves down a hill, we are handed two long, sharp pokers. Pokers which I managed to use to great effect when I fell down on the slope and jammed one directly into my eye.

“Aaaaaa! Not funny! NOT FUNNY!” I hear some of the more squeamish among you cry. Keep your pants on, I’ve still got my eye, but at the time it happened, I was completely convinced it was somewhere in the snow due to the large amount of blood that I saw on my glove. (From a cut below my eye, it turned out.) I asked my boyfriend at the time to help me find it and it took rather more convincing than it should have for me to believe it was still in my head.

Lasting Damage: A black eye for a week and a slew of “cross my heart and hope to die, stick a ski pole in my eye” jokes, but other than that, none.

4. Hand, Hand, Fingers, Thumb- You would have thought that after my first skiing experience, I might have though twice about strapping myself to two planks of wood again, but you’d be wrong. I was EAGER to get back on the slopes.

This time, my downfall (literally) upped the ante and sent me to the emergency room with a dislocated thumb. The same boyfriend accompanied me to the local ER where we met a host of other injured skiers and a man who was so impaired by alcohol that he whizzed on the nurse. And they wonder why they have to BEG people to work for the health service.

Lasting Damage: At the risk of sounding like your grandfather, “It gives me trouble when it rains.”

3. “I’m Lovin It…”- A fairly recent addition to the list. While dining at probably one of the poshest McDonald’s in the UK in Leytonstone, I was leaning forward against the arm of a couch to illustrate a point to my better half when the tread of my boots let go of the floor and I ended up face down between two of the cushions with my legs in the air over the side. Wearing a skirt was what catapulted this onto the list. At least I was wearing my “ROCK” pants.

Lasting Damage: Only the knowledge that The Hairy One, who was sitting behind me, probably now knows I wear “ROCK” pants.

2. Man Eating Foliage- This one wasn’t really my fault, and doesn’t sound it, but it rated highly for its comedy potential. While walking along a completely pitch dark street with friends, I completely disappeared under a pile of leaves that I hadn’t noticed was right in front of me. I mean, I vanished. They looked back and I just wasn’t there. It was a pretty big leaf pile.

Lasting damage: Anyone ever get covered in slugs? It’s good for waking up in cold sweats for many years to come.

1. I’m Gonna Live Forever- There is no one who has not wanted to crawl into a hole after trying to do something cool and utterly failing.

My introduction to the world of professional theatre was a summer season working on a showboat moored on the Ohio River which will remain nameless. (But it’s in Marrieta, Ohio, has a great restaurant and sounds a lot like “Leaky Snatcher.”) The ensemble, who numbered about 20 (14 of us lived in one house. Yeah, it was EXACTLY like you think it was.) were bound together by a mutual loathing of our executive producer and we spent a lot of time sitting around bitching.

The conversation had turned to old TV shows and for some diabolical reason, I decided to stand up on a folding chair and announce, “I’m from the Fame School!” I then attempted to do the rather famous split legged leap up into the air, but being a complete dork, this was not to be. One of my socks slipped on the chair and brought the whole thing crashing down on top of me in a tangle of arms, legs and metal. I have long since forgotten which of my compatriots made the comment, but I will attribute it to my good friend, Ms. Pixy: “Hey, if that kind of thing happened on the show, I would have watched it all the time!”

Lasting Damage: to my Pride: inestimable.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Eating Snow

The Rock Star and I are hitting the slopes again this evening. Gently, I hope.

Snowboarding at Xscape in Milton Keynes has been slightly anti-climactic after having been on REAL mountains. Going from this view at the top to this one was a little disappointing to say the least. However, it is pointless to complain about being close to a place with snow in southern England, and when you think about it, it was a fairly decent engineering feat to create an artificial mountain in the middle of a concrete jungle. A big bugger it is, too. We live roughly 30 miles away and can SEE the damn thing from the top of Ivinghoe Beacon on a clear day.

We don’t fall quite so much anymore. Our spills now come from overconfidence (the fastest way of breaking something) rather than ineptitude. I know that my parents still worry about me when I go, though, so I usually tell them after the fact.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Roll D20 to Save Versus Embarassment

The Green Fairy has devoted her most recent column to her discovery of the work of one of Christianity’s literary visionaries, Jack T Chick: A man whose obvious insanity and slim grip on both reality and effective conversion tactics have brought to life some of the most hilarious religious tracts since Martin Luther nailed his grievances to the church door at Wittenberg.

My personal favorite is “Dark Dungeons” which rails against the evil practice of geeks worldwide; playing Dungeons and Dragons. In the third panel, the Dungeon Master, a woman who’s obviously been to the Silver Ravenwolf school of witchcraft, tells her young apprentice, a gamer called “Debbie” that since her character has achieved 8th level, she’s going to teach her how to “REALLY cast spells.”

Now, I’m going to admit to something and nobody better laugh. (This feels rather like standing up in a circle in a village hall on a Tuesday night and saying, “Hi, my name is Galetea and I’m a recovering….”) I played D&D myself in college. (Not only that, but I also admit to having a rather substantial “Magic” card collection.) It was kind of a survival thing; the group I fell in with consisted of a great number of folks who’d grown up locally and spent a lot of high school together, fighting orcs, slaying interdimentional beings and hanging around in imaginary taverns, starting fights. If I wanted not to be sitting in my dorm room on a Friday night, twiddling my thumbs, I learned that I had to suck it up and buy a 20 sided dice. (Hi, my name’s Galetea and I own a 20 sided dice. BUT I DON’T KNOW WHERE IT IS, so that should count for something.)

What I would like to get my hands on are some figures regarding the percentage of D&D players that use role playing as a springboard for the occult. My guess is that 99.999999% of all gamers are in more danger of Jolt Cola poisoning, light deprivation and senseless arguments about whether or not the DM should allow a Chaotic Evil character into the party (Hi, my name’s Galetea and I’ve been involved in an argument about whether a Chaotic Evil character should be let into the party) than becoming entangled with the forces of Satan and “all his little wizards.”

You, my secret brethren, I know you’re out there. And you know who I’m talking about.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

How to Tell Time

I experienced lust this morning in the high street.

A few months back, we were visiting some friends when I saw something on their wall that I literally wanted to rip down and run away with. It was a clock, with little multi-colored pills at the number stations. This doesn’t sound particularly interesting, but in my tiny little magpie mind, it was SHINY. And, as I bitterly accepted that theft might endanger our friendship, I vowed to discover the source of my obsession.

Today, while hurrying up the high street to begin a day of toil in Purgatory…there it was. SHINY SHINY SHINY! RIGHT IN THAT WINDOW! RIGHT THERE! THE SHINY THING CAN BE MINE, PRECIOUS, ALL MINE!

Reason did not enter into it. To be honest, I’m not entirely sure why I’ve got such a hard-on for this clock in the first place other than SHINY that it SHINY really caught my fancy. So, at lunchtime, I left my compatriot in charge of the shop while I went to satisfy my craving for the treasured timepiece.

Upon closer inspection of the window display that featured my lovely clock was a surprise. ANOTHER clock, more shiny and delectable than the first! Lovely, juicy, happy colors in a swirl that might potentially be bad for the eyes, but I cared not for trivial optical concerns. The shiny must be mine.

And now that it is, I have to ask…where on earth did I think I was going to put a clock?

Friday, March 11, 2005

Bidding on Bollocks

Believe it or not, I was actually searching Google for this, which, by the way, is very funny. But this little Ebay sidebar made my evening.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

The Cost of Addiction

I’ve been sceptical up until today, but it appears that spring is actually coming. There hasn’t really been much evidence to support this hypothesis other than that the seasons have supposedly been going round and round since the world began to cool. But today, there were signs. The daffodils are beginning to crack their green, leafy heads. Birds are singing their feathery little hearts out. And the cat was outside, getting high.

It’s a terrible thing, addiction. It can ruin the best and furriest of us. Our family cat, Moggins, has struggled with it all of her life. In the winter, she seems to come down, become reflective, even sober. But when the first green shoots of The Dragon force their way through the earth in springtime, all of her coldly nurtured resolve melts and the terrible wheel spins once more.

It’s catnip season.

It’s funny, when you think about the way humans think about catnip. If YOU were to drop acid, you’d be risking believing that you are being chased down the street by a 15 foot tall Mars Bar. However, we have no compunction about doing the very same thing to our cats by presenting them with sweet little mouse-shaped toys laced with street quality White Lightening.

Moggins has a whole bush of the stuff. At the moment, only the first very green little shoots are poking through the ground. While enjoying the fleeting cold sunshine with The Rock Star this afternoon, we noticed her taking her first hit of the season.

She’s not really much entertainment value til the paranoia takes hold. Suddenly, both of her ears will go back and she’ll fiendishly attack an invisible foe, biting, scratching and kicking with all her might. Just as suddenly, she’ll race across the lawn, coming to a screeching halt under the pampas grass and look behind her to make sure that whatever her grape-sized brain made her believe she was being attacked by is nowhere to be seen. Then she’ll sleep. And on waking, the tender green shoots will beckon again.

Poor, hairy little junkie.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Fooling with the Dictionmanary

On the ITV lunchtime news, I just heard the Rev. Jesse Jackson use the word "disenfranchismentality." No joke.

Haloscan's Comment Massacre

I love having all the info before installing a new piece of software. That's why I'm particularly pleased with the good folks at Haloscan for not letting me know that installing their program would actually DELETE all of the previous comments. I grudgingly admit that it IS a better program than the Blogger comment facility, but it doesn't mean I wanted it to vandalize my little blog. Upon serching through the forum, I discovered the catch: You want your comments back, pay us 12 bucks.

I'm of two minds on this: One one hand, it's advertised as a free service and I really didn't see anything about the loss of informtion while installing the program. (But then again, I am impetuous and like to have my toys NOW! Fuck reading the instructions! The Rock Star will tell you that I often speak before I think. When he makes fun of me, he often says, "WHERE'S MY...Oh." or "HOW THE HELL DID THAT...Oh." And he's right.) On the other hand, the people who developed the software paid for it out of their own pockets to begin with. My guilt has, unfortunately, overruled my righteous indignation and paid up. The US exchange rate helped my decision immensely, though, I must say.

In light of this little comment crisis, I thought I'd take this time to thank folks who've left little nuggets of wisdom strewn over the face of my blog and encourage you to grace me with your insights in the future.

I thank you.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

So, Tell Me About Your $%!*@ing Mother...

This is a 100% True Story. It’s something of an old story, but I just thought of it again today, and since I’m feeling a bit blue, it made me laugh. I love storytelling and tales that are fantastical, but sometimes, real life just beats all of the knights on white horses hands down.

My father would want me to say first off that he didn’t really want to go to the psychiatrist in the first place. Actually, first off, he’d probably say he wished that I hadn’t published this story on the internet for public consumption, but that’s beside the point. If this had happened to me, I’d want to write an episode of “Seinfeld” about it.

I am my father’s daughter in many ways. I have been continually discovering things that he’s passed on to me. My slightly wonky pinky fingers, my hair coloring, my love of science, nature and exploration, my ectopic heartbeat and one of my personal favorites, Seasonal Affective Disorder or rather, in it's ironic acronym state, SAD.

This is pretty much as it sounds. In the winter, when sunlight is at a premium, all of the little happiness receptors in your brain decide to have a holiday in Barbados without you, leaving you feeling a bit miserable. (As you can imagine, living through an English winter with this condition is a feat of endurance with much love and chocolate required for survival.) Maryland is much the same, although you might see the sun there twice a week rather than twice every four.

So, to combat this annoying little slice of cerebral treachery, my father usually gets some sort of prescription happy pills from November through May. In America, for some strange reason, a GP can’t issue a prescription for anti-depression medication, so you actually have to suck it up and go to a shrink.

So my father, mild mannered, nice guy, walks into the office of The Good Doctor.

Now, we all live with certain handicaps. Some even keep us from entering certain professions. So you can imagine my father’s shock when the first thing The Good Doctor says when he sits down in his office is,

“Before we begin, I must tell you that I suffer from Tourette’s Syndrome. I’d ask you to please not be alarmed by any outbursts.”

“Of course,” my father replies, his trepidation levels, I can only imagine, rising.

(Just to interject, can you IMAGINE a worse profession for a sufferer of Tourette’s than PSYCHOLOGY? Albeit, bomb squad member creeps to mind.)

The session starts out mostly normally. It’s just a routine Q+A necessary for the prescription of anti-depressants, so it’s not terribly in-depth. The Good Doctor’s tics, at first, seem to be more of a throat clearing nature than the full on, “AARDVARK! PANTIES!” style of Tourette’s behavior that is so often characterized for comic effect in the media and is actually relatively rare among Tourette's sufferers. However, as the session progresses, my father becomes aware that the agitation level of his physician is growing as the throat clearing starts to become more pronounced until, in a physical and vocal explosion, The Good Doctor leaps from his chair and yells “HEY!”

Let me just tell you how much my father didn’t want to be there in the first place. Being trapped in a room with a psychiatrist with Tourette’s made a winter of feeling slightly off color look pretty attractive in comparison. Especially since the outbursts from the Doctor were becoming more frequent.

After 45 minutes of enduring “HEY!” and leaping up and down like a coach in a major league baseball game, my father was released from the care of The Good Doctor with a prescription and one hell of a tension headache.

Another thing about my father; he’s not a big drinker. Especially when it comes to spirits. But on his return home, he poured himself a triple cognac and went straight to bed.

You just can’t make stuff like that up.

Bad Headline Writing

MSN ran a headline this morning that read, "Bare Breasted Protest for Charles." Now, is it just me, or does that conjure up images like this?

Monday, March 07, 2005

Monday

Today is just one of those days that begs to be broken down into a list.

1) The Rock Star is ill. He’s usually the king of Fighting Off Lurghi, but this time his little white blood cells were all looking at girlie magazines while the enemy stormed their barracks. I’ve spent most of my time today plying him with soup, smoothies, ibuprofen and enough of that nasty Buttercup syrup to gag a horse. (He’s been self- medicating with the syrup, to be honest. It’s one of those “drinking straight from the bottle” kind of coughs.) I just left him downstairs looking pitiful and watching the old “Starsky and Hutch” series on his laptop.

Against my better judgement, I’ve continued sleeping in the same bed with the gurgling monster that my better half has become. I’ve been packing away as many vitamins as I can over the last week or so, in the vain hope that I can avoid his phlegm-filled fate.

2) Anyone who read my “Adventures in Medicine” posting will be pleased to know that after the fuckery of last week, I managed to actually get an accurate ECG reading from the surgery this morning. Totally normal in all respects. I discovered in the course of the week that my father suffers the same annoying “ectopic” heart condition; entirely non-threatening, but intensely irritating. So that’s one less thing in my life that I have to worry about.

3) I received my US tax return last week and it’s been sitting like a small, flat, ugly accountant on my desk, fixing me with a burocratic and disapproving look ever since. I haven’t even had courage enough to take it out of its wrapper. One would think that since I don’t earn any money in the US the need for a tax return would be near zero. Well, one obviously doesn’t think like the IRS. For any of you who have never SEEN a US tax form, rest assured, they can make grown men sit down and weep. The most ridiculous part of my situation is, I have to sift through these mind bending forms to JUST TO FIGURE OUT WHERE TO PUT THE ZEROS. It makes me want to throw things.

4) Just so that I don’t sound like a big bundle of negatism today, I’m rather excited by the prospect of our summer holiday. My parents are generously letting us travel with them again this year. (We spent last August in Florida doing Disney, Cape Canaveral, etc.) The West Coast is our destination; our route being from L.A. up to San Francisco, down to Yosemite National Park, (hurrah again for National Parks, say I.) out across Death Valley to Vegas, up into Utah and ending with the Grand Canyon and Phoenix. It’ll entail rather a lot of driving, but the scenery out of the windows of the car will be something else.

I think I may now retreat for a nap…a safe distance from The Rock Star.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

The Quality of Mercy

Since it's a lazy Sunday and I'm inspired by the body art question of my Friday meme, I thought perhaps I would recount the story of my first tattoo. I was staring at it in the shower this morning (when I say shower, I mean tub that you sit in and hose yourself down with the showerhead while trying not to drench the entire bathroom. Calling it a shower is charitable.) and realised that it’s rapidly coming up on its 10 year anniversary. For old ink, it still looks fabulous.

Dreamy lines indicating a flashback sequence.~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Picture this: The summer of 1995. I was 20 and enormously frustrated.

My parents and I have a brilliant relationship. It has not always been that way. It improved vastly when I left for university 500 miles away and spent almost all of the following summers living in the tiny Midwestern town that it occupied. But in the fall of 1995, I was to spend a semester studying (another charitable word, as it turned out) at Cheltenham and Gloucester College of Higher Education, (Now much less of a mouthful: Gloucester University) so decided to return to the bosom of my family.

I was utterly used to living as I pleased after two years away from the house and was surprised to return home to find rules in place that had to be followed. I know I shouldn’t have been; in effect, I was a guest, living under their roof and using their resources. (Plus, I spent quite a lot of the summer with a musician who smoked WAY too much weed, so that probably didn’t help in the anxiety department.)

Enter Virginia.

Virginia (not her real name, by the way) is my best friend from high school. We’ve known eachother since we were about 5. Realistically, we knew this would probably be the last summer we’d ever be in the same place at the same time. It was a sad realisation; that your childhood is coming screaming to a close, but we faced it with chins up and tried to catch as many fireflies as we could.

The idea came from Silent Bob, the musician. He had a rather spectacular piece of ink on his chest; two koi carp, one in reds and oranges, the other in blues and greens, swirling around in a graceful yin yang shape. When I told him how much I admired it, between tokes, he drawled, “Why don’t YOU get one?”

To be honest, I don’t remember HOW I came to decide that I actually WOULD do it or how I came to decide WHERE I’d do it, but I DO remember deciding that I was going to be damned if I was going to do it alone.

There were two tattoo studios in our hometown of Frederick, Maryland at the time. The one we chose, Marks of the Spark (slightly reminiscent of a dentist's office; A Good Thing) and the other one, which, to my knowledge, didn't HAVE a name; only a light up sign out front which, at night says, “TA OOS AN BO Y PIERC NG.” It was situated next to a Harley Davidson dealership.

Marks was (and still is, to my knowledge) run by a husband a wife tattoo team called Alfie and Marge. Alfie looked much like you’d expect a tattoo artist to look, but Marge looked and talked like your mom, only covered in tats. Virginia and I crept into the parlor with the obvious trepidation of anyone who’s ever let someone stick sharp, ink filled needles into their flesh and leave something permanent enough that you might, someday, be ashamed to show your grandchildren. Yes, Virginia, we ARE going to get inked.

Marge did both of us. She chatted merrily away over the sound of the buzzing needle. “My kids are going through a rebellious stage,” she said matter-of-factly, “they don’t WANT tattoos.” I hadn’t thought of that particular outcome of getting inked; the immediate decision by any future children that anything mom does is fundamentally un-cool. Personally, if my kids want ink, that’s okay by me, but as long as they live in my house, there will be conditions.
  • A) It absolutely HAS to mean something. To my mind, if you’re going to mark your body permanently, it has to be a significant reminder of the time in which you received the mark. There’s definitely something to be said for LOOKING cool, but if my 16 year old wants a little rose bud on her right breast, she’s got another thing coming.
  • B) Its gotta be small. Like it or not, there are things people assume about you if you’ve got an obvious tattoo, especially women. (Men seem to be able to pull it off better) Even I do it. My mother plays the organ and did a biker wedding once where the bride had a backless dress, the better to show off the most enormous dragon tat you’ve ever seen. (Some guy also tried to bring beer into the ceremony. I think my mom felt a bit out of her element.)
  • C) I get to go with them to make sure they don’t end up in “TA OOS AN BO Y PIERC NG.”
To make an already long story shorter, we both emerged with matching flower vines on our feet, both feeling euphorically victorious and butt-clenchingly nervous at the prospect of returning home to conceal our foot art from the Powers That Be.

I’m a bit of a Nature Child at heart. Having shoes and socks on in the middle of July is not in my character. If I could go barefoot all year round, I would. I have extreme Hobbit feet, even to this day. Even my mother remarked upon this fact over the next week as I lounged around the house in a very old pair of closed toe deck shoes. Having my little piggies enclosed in the heat of the summer was becoming slightly unbearable. It became clear that I was going to have to come clean for the sake of comfort.

My salvation (oh, the irony) came in the form of The Reverend Harold B. Wright, the godsmith from my childhood house of worship who, the Sunday after The Inking, delivered a rather cracking sermon on the nature of forgiveness. (I’m not a religious soul, but Christ had some pretty decent convictions in that area.) Following the service, we went out for a leisurely lunch and I decided that it was now or never.

“Guys,” I began, “I’ve got something I’ve got to tell you.”

Across the table, my parent’s eyes widened rapidly to the size of small diner plates and I realized what had entered their minds. Silent Bob and the prospect of a shotgun wedding.

“No, hey…nothing like that!” I said quickly, seeing the visible relief wash over them. “What I mean is,…Virginia and I have been friends for a long time and….”

Again with the eyes. I’m not sure if the second prospect that occurred to them was more unwelcome than the first, but judging by their feelings about Silent Bob, I doubt it.

“No, no! Listen,” I began again quickly before I did any more psychological damage, “It’s just a tattoo! I got a tattoo!” I stuck my foot out from under the table for inspection.

“Hmm,” ventured my mother, “I noticed that. I thought it was just a pattern on your tights. It’s pretty.” And that was that.

I would definitely recommend trauma to anyone who’s trying to break any difficult news. Making my parents think, in the space of a minute that I was A) having a weed monster’s baby and B) a lesbian, made a tattoo positively (if you'll forgive the obvious foot pun) pedestrian.

    Sticks and Stones

    Life is full of firsts, although they seem fewer and far between the older you get. We should always endeavour to keep those firsts coming; it keeps the spirit young. There are exceptions to the rule, however, and I was granted a first yesterday evening that I could have done without; being attacked by a stranger in a nightclub toilet.

    First off, let me say that I was in no danger at any time. I wasn’t even frightened. I had a good 5 inches on my assailant and sobriety on my side. But she had all the venom of an angry drunk and no one to unleash it on until I walked into the room.

    Again, this was a situation in which my “it’s easier to be kind than to be unkind” training let me down badly. It was VERY hard to be kind to this harpy as she was trying to bite, scratch and kick me and calling me an “ugly bitch”, “fucking cunt” and “American whorenaldf.x…la.” (Or something to that effect. Like I said, I was the only one with sobriety on my side. I’m surprised she even noticed that I was American.)

    After locking myself in a cubical and trying to reason with this alternately weeping, angry and hysterical mad woman, I was saved by the arrival of the club’s female bouncer; 10 tons of solid muscle in a ponytail.

    What surprised me most about the encounter was how shaken I was afterwards. The Rock Star (who was playing a gig at this venue) said it was bound to be shocking; it’s not every day that you encounter someone who wanted to hurt you for no reason. (Although The Rock Star spent most of his time in college being attacked in the street for no reason other than that he happened to be walking home from Tescos.) I don’t know what it is about me, though, that can’t believe in the nature of randomness. Even if my first reaction was, “I wish I’d cracked her head open on the hand dryer and made it look like an accident,” some small, traitorous part of me kept thinking, “If only I could have understood why she was so angry, maybe I could have made a difference, even for a minute, in this damaged person’s life.” This is woolly thinking, I know, but it makes for a feeling of lingering guilt that I can't seem to shake off.

    I don’t know what it was about this particular encounter that’s stuck with me, I just wanted to share, I guess.

    Friday, March 04, 2005

    Meme and My Shadow

    I got a slightly more interesting version of a fairly common meme in my inbox; thought I’d share. By all means, copy, paste and enjoy.

    When’s your birthday and what’s your sign? April 14th, Aries. The Rock Star seems to fit his astrological profile quite well, (he’s a Gemini) but I don’t really have the typical Aries personality.

    What’s your tarot card? As a gift for a friend a few years ago, I made a custom tarot deck and actually got down to finding out what they all meant. At the moment, it would be “The Star” out of the Major Arcana. The Star means that your life is in an in-between period and that you have time to sort out your role as actor or spectator.

    Do you believe in ghosts? Logically, no, but then the person who doesn’t believe in ghosts is always the first one who gets gacked in the horror film. I believe in energy and the different ways and circumstances under which it can be absorbed. Who can say how that energy manifests itself? I don’t have enough hubris to pretend that I know everything there is to know about stuff like that.

    Have you ever been a fanatical fanboy/girl? If so, what was the object of your fandom? I have to admit to being an extreme fangirl, although, in my defence, it was rather a long time ago. When I was about 12, I turned on PBS (the only non-commercial network in the States) and was exposed to Doctor Who for the 1st time. I was totally hooked and went as far as going to a (shudder) convention. My father even built me a rather spectacular cardboard K-9 for my bedroom. Wow. That’s all really pretty embarrassing.

    If you could have any superpower, what would it be? Geek Deflection. Anyone who’s heard my Crunchy Piece of Paper Theory will understand. The Rock Star’s is the BEST, though. He’d like Reaper Projection; to be able to make a realistic, pant wettingly frightening image of the Grim Reaper appear in front of anyone at any time.

    A style genie grants you three wishes to use to improve your looks. What are they? What kind of container do you reckon a “style genie” lives in? And how do you get them out? 1) $#!*ing sort out my hair. 2) 145lbs for life, thank you, very much. 3) Nibble proof nails would be appreciated.

    What color are your eyes? And what color would they be if you got to choose? Blue. I suppose every girl who’s ever heard “Brown Eyed Girl” has wished it could be about her, although I’ve heard some dubious rumors regarding the name of the song in the first place, so I’m not so sure. If not blue, then I suppose a very light grey. One of my teachers in primary school had grey eyes and they were spectacular.

    What’s your favorite piece of clothing? I have two t-shirts that I live in; a yellow vintage t with “Yummy Motor Parts” written on it and a grey Zeppelin shirt with the neck cut out. Comfortus Maximus.

    Do you have any pieces of body art? I like that it’s called body art. I’ve got a flower vine on my left foot, a butterfly on my right, the Chinese characters for “theatre” on my lower back. (I actually ASKED a Chinese person recently what it said and was very relieved to discover it DOES actually say “theatre” and not “stupid white girl who thinks she have Chinese tattoo.”) I have a good story about how I broke the news of my first tattoo to my parents, but I’ll save that for later.

    Who is your favorite famous historical figure? It’s hard to think of just one, but I suppose I love the idea of Shakespeare most, providing he actually did his own writing! Artists of all kinds are cool too.

    What’s the last book you finished? Goose Girl, by Shannon Hale. A really beautiful faerie tale about a young woman with extraordinary gifts. In my opinion, some of the best writing done today is being done for young adults.

    If you were a house, what kind would you be? WTF?? Right, if I must…a beautiful but chaotic little cottage in the middle of the country with ghosts in the kitchen and glis-glis and sparrows living in the attic.

    What’s the worst thing you ever found in your fridge? The Rock Star and I had a two week trip on the boat during which time we had to switch off the fridge to conserve battery power. We ate fresh food every day. When we returned, we discovered to our horror that neither of us had cleaned out the freezer which contained 3 chicken breasts. Both of us nearly yaked from the smell. It was like a scene from CSI, trying to clean that bastard out.

    Sunday dinner: Beef or Lamb? Erm…beef, I suppose. But they both taste equally nice with roast potatoes.

    What’s the most memorable punishment you ever received as a child? Ooo, no mistaking that one. I was a toddler with a temper and I ill-advisedly threw a VERY sharp pair of scissors at my father hard enough for them to stick in the wall behind his head. (If my aim had been better, I might have bought enough time for a getaway.) I got the spanking of the century. Deservedly so, I think!

    What was your favorite toy when you were little? For comfort, a big stuffed sheep called “Lisa” and for pure entertainment value, a little post office my mom made for me out of a refrigerator box.

    What was the last song you heard that made you cry? Songs having to do with memory tend to hit me right between the eyes. The last one that kind of took me by surprise was “This Shirt” by Mary Chapin Carpenter. It’s just a song about this shirt that this woman has owned since high school and she describes all of these things she’s done while wearing it over the years. I know, I’m a goober. But my all time personal tear jerker is “Nightswimming” by REM; another piece about the persistence of memory.

    Okay, this has nothing to do with the question, but I had a friend in college who was convinced that the song “Mr. Jones” by Counting Crows was about the narrator’s penis. I think my friend might have had a crack habit.

    What was the last album you bought? Ben Harper, Welcome to the Cruel World. iTunes has spoiled me a bit for being able to buy only the tracks that I really love.

    What song are you listening to right now? Crazy Nights, Kiss. Rock.

    What are you going to do after finishing these questions? Make fajitas. Mmmmmm.

    No Comment

    I don't profess to be exceptionally computer literate. The Rock Star assures me that I'm probably more literate than your average user in that I understand that computers are stupid creatures that only do what you tell them to and are not completely mysterious alien machinery. (Plus you can play spider solitare on them.) Sometimes a little bit of searching can locate the root of the problem.

    That's just a long winded way of saying that I turned off the doohicky in Blogger that disallows anonymous posts. :)

    Thursday, March 03, 2005

    Rolling on Rock

    My iPod is simply the best toy I’ve ever had. I love it so much I could lick it. I’m just sitting here at my computer with my groovy headphones hooked over my ears listening to some rather crunchy guitar rock.

    I didn’t start out as a rock chick. My parents were more folk oriented and I grew up spending warm summer evenings at outdoor areas with aging hippies listening to the strains of Joan Baez, Arlo Guthrie, Pete Seeger and Peter, Paul and “How on Earth Have I Been in a Band With These Two Balding Guys For 35 Years?” Mary. I can also credit the parentals for a love of classical music. I’m a total goober for it. It makes the hairs on my arms stand up and with embarrassing regularity, makes me cry.

    But I believe I might have caused a ripple of concern when my first cassette single turned out to be by Aerosmith. (Someday, I WILL see them live. The Rock Star says that when we do, I must bear my breasts at Stephen Tyler. “No wife of mine is going to an Aerosmith concert and NOT getting her breasts out,” he says. I believe he might be joking, but we’ll have to see.)

    The college years were a bit of a musical journey. I lived in an all-girl dorm where absolutely every living soul (including me) on my floor owned one if not all of three albums:

    Indigo Girls by the Indigo Girls
    Graceland by Paul Simon
    August and Everything After by Counting Crows

    Not many of us shaved our legs for four years, if you catch my drift. It was safe, cathartic, melodious and could be heard coming out of just about any room at any given moment. It was female bonding music; perfect for late night ramen parties, studying or early morning showering.

    It wasn’t until meeting the Rock Star that I completely understood the anarchic joy of a truly amazing guitar riff. The thrill of making such a terrible and exciting noise. I’m sure that anyone who’s ever written one experiences the same silver wire sizzle straight through the cerebrum.

    This is why I am so utterly at a loss to understand some of the bland and soul sucking music the industry is turning out at the moment. “My heart leaps at nothing/when I turn on the radio…” A lyric from a song by a very good band that we know. Who DOESN’T want that electric, hot white energy in music? Who ordered the shipment of whiners?

    May I just say again about licking my iPod? Mr. Brownstone. V. good choice.

    The State Game

    Although I now find myself being slowly absorbed and digested by Great Britain, I am an American girl at heart and apart from its politics, it's a pretty fabulous place to see. Here's a little meme that I borrowed from Blues Mama's site.

    The States in bold are ones I've visited and the underlined ones I've lived in for a period of time.

    Alabama / Alaska / Arizona / Arkansas / California / Colorado / Connecticut / Delaware / Florida / Georgia / Hawaii / Idaho / Illinois / Indiana / Iowa / Kansas / Kentucky / Louisiana / Maine / Maryland / Massachusetts / Michigan / Minnesota / Mississippi / Missouri / Montana / Nebraska / Nevada / New Hampshire / New Jersey / New Mexico / New York / North Carolina / North Dakota / Ohio / Oklahoma / Oregon / Pennsylvania / Rhode Island / South Carolina / South Dakota / Tennessee / Texas / Utah / Vermont / Virginia / Washington / West Virginia / Wisconsin / Wyoming / Washington D.C /

    My parents are teachers (my father retired two years ago) and in my mind (probably in theirs too) the biggest perk of the job was three months off in the middle of the year. As a teaching career isn't renowned for its huge paycheck, we did a lot of driving holidays. In the days when I could still read in the car without feeling like I was on the Gravitron at the county fair, these were ideal for seeing large bits of my truly enormous nation.

    It is a mortal sin not to see the National Parks if you are an American citizen. They are one of the reasons that I still love America, even though it's being marched grimly to the gates of hell by our strategically shaved monkey of a President with the evil legions of religious extremists leading the way, waving little flags with dead babies on them.

    Sorry, sorry, sorry. The dead babies were a step too far.

    Was I talking about the National Parks?

    Living in England, it is hard not to be struck by a deep sense of human history. Farmers dig up hordes of Roman coins, Bronze age flints and jewelry, etc. Relics of ancient humanity are all around us. History is a heavy weight here that bears down on everything; even the land. In America, it is difficult not to get a sense of natural history. It’s hard not to be awed by vast mountains, deep canyons, skyscraping trees, blue-green algae hot springs and volcanic wastelands. These things are deeply good for the soul and should be seen by everybody if they get a chance. Sometimes, it’s good to feel very small to get some perspective.

    Wednesday, March 02, 2005

    Burrowing Instincts

    Sweet merciful god, it’s colder than a snake’s ass in January outside.

    There is something deeply uncomfortable about cold. As creative mammals, we try to bring our own solutions to inhospitable climates, but rarely ever get past the quick fix; the space heater, a giant marshmellowy parka, hot chocolate. None of these comforts can actually get us past the fact that we are trapped in our burrows for the winter, waiting desperately for spring to arrive. There are exceptions to this burrowing instinct, however. I pass women on the high street on weekend nights, layers of toned flesh exposed to the elements and wonder how they manage to look so composed when every last fibre of their being must be screaming out for an arctic fleece and a pair of salopets. An outfit that would reduce their chances of pulling, but might improve their chances of getting home without fanny frostbite.

    I’ve always thought that humans are more in their element when the mercury rises above 85 degree F or so. We were born in the cradle of the world in Africa; why shouldn’t we relish our sweat and sensuality? A perverse part of me likes the feeling of blood and air temperature meeting even if it means wilting like a flower.

    Oh my goodness, I could just die right now from wanting summer to happen. English winters are bad for me, bad for you, bad for everybody. Bad, bad, bad.

    Tuesday, March 01, 2005

    Weebl Madness

    I haven't cruised the Weebl site recently, but this one nearly made tea come out of my nose.

    Adventures in Medicine

    So, I’ve not been completely well lately and I went to my ever efficient local surgery to find out why.

    I am a month shy of 30, a woman, a non-smoker, and, while not as fit as I should be, not so grotesquely unfit that people make oinking sounds at me in the street. There’s really not much chance that there would be something wrong with my heart, but my GP said I had a “twitch”. Everyone has had a strange muscle twitch that they couldn’t stop for love or money. One in the eyelid is especially socially unacceptable as it makes people think you’re winking at them which can be either advantageous or dangerous, depending on the wink-ee.

    Well, supposedly, I’ve got one in my heart that will, I’ve been assured, go away on its own. “It’s just a muscle, like all of the others,” said my slightly wet GP. However, a discernable heart twitch that makes you feel like the whole damn show is about to stop is much more worrying that a fluttering eyelid for the individual concerned, so, to make both of us feel better, she ordered an ECG.

    The timeline of my ECG:

    • Take off shirt.
    • Get little sticky suckers stuck all over most ticklish areas possible.
    • Nurse realizes she has no idea how to use the machine, as it is new, unfamiliar and laden with technological foreboding.
    • Gets other nurse, while leaving me lying topless, cold and sticky-suckered on table.
    • Other more surly nurse arrives and explains that she’s done it all wrong and has to re-do the whole thing.
    • Ripping off and re-sticking on of sticky suckers resulting in little tears forming in the corners of my eyes. Jiggling of cables.
    • Patient in next room over collapses because the silly bastard came in to have a load of blood taken without eating breakfast first, so am left again lying topless, cold and sticky-suckered while nurses attempt to revive him and comfort his traumatized 3 year old.
    • Original nurse returns, presses a button, smiles, and says, “You’re done.”

    Imagine my total non-surprise when I returned to my GP to find out the results and she informed me that the scan had been lost. Upon my return home, I was contacted by the not- quite- sheepish- enough surgery.

    Secretary: We really are very sorry about all of this. When would it be convenient for YOU to come back to have to scan again?

    Me: How about tomorrow?

    Secretary: There aren’t any slots open tomorrow.

    Me: How about Thursday?

    Secretary: There aren’t any slots open on Thursday either. How about Friday?

    Me: I work on Fridays. So this really isn’t about what’s convenient for me, is it?

    Secretary: I’m sorry?

    Me: Nothing.

    Secretary: We can fit you in on Monday.

    Me: That’s dandy.

    NHS, WTF.