Doing battle with daily dragons

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Half Past a Monkey's Ass

It's 2.58 in the morning and I've already had a shower. There is something very wrong about that. It's so early that it's still yesterday in LA and that's where we're going. My parent's cats think that Christmas has come early becaue they've been let out of their nighttime basement confinement a whole 5 hours early and are having a grand time chasing eachother around the living room.

Travelling. Meh.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

In the Light of Day

Having rested in the world's most comfortable bed, The Rock Star and I are feeling vaguely more human this morning. In fact, he is, at present, learning "Voodoo Child" on his new, unattractive travel guitar and fighting off amourous advances from my parent's cat, Vandella. We're off in an hour or so to take full advantage of the poor value of the dollar in the local mall.

And now for the promised pictures. And remember what I said about oo-ing and ah-ing. Many thanks to The Rock Star for his steady photography hand. We'll try to get some more up later.



My parent's installed several ornamental ponds a few years ago to cut down on lawn maintenance, however, I think they've discovered that in the maintenance stakes, they didn't come out to far ahead. However, they're beautiful and now play host to half a dozen amphibians or so.



A view from my mother's "fairy garden".



Sweet Home Mt. Airy.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Little House in the Forest

I have slept about 3 hours out of the last 30. The Rock Star managed even less, somewhere to the tune of right about none. But I am sitting in the house I grew up in, looking out at the woods, listening to the pond with it's frogs and watching the incredible feathery firework display in my parent's magnificent garden, so none of that matters.

I am hoping mightily that The Rock Star gets his first real look at fireflies after dusk.

Picture postings to follow. Ooos and Aahs mandatory.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

We're Off!

Just a quick post to say hi-ho Blogapotamus. The Rock Star and I will be leaving for the airport at ass past willy in the morning to wing our way westwards to the land of my birth. I hope to be able to post some sort of travelogue via The Rock Star's new PDA, but in case I don't, I'll see you in about 3 weeks!

Potamus out.

Friday, June 17, 2005

"Complementary" Time Travel

This is one of those things that makes my brain explode. I have a VERY slim grasp on quantum physics. In fact, most of my understanding of the subject comes from repeated viewings of "Back to the Future when I was young due to my crush on Michael J. Fox. But apparently, those studying this completely theoretical branch of physics no longer believe that it is possible to go back in time, get your dad to sucker-punch the school bully and come back home to find that you own a brand new pick-up truck.

This leaves two possbilities: either time travel is not possible or there is some unknown force acting in the present to prevent "temporal gymnastics". Certainly preventing your own birth is impossible: if you went back in time and prevented your own birth, you wouldn't have existed to have gone back in time and prevented your own birth. That's the kind of thinking that keeps you awake at night.

I'm glad someone's doing it, though. I'm just glad it isn't me.

Beans From Afar

There is little better in this life than opening the door to find the postman on your step with an interesting package in their hands addressed to you. In this technological age, this scenario is being played out more often in porn films than in real life, but I had the good fortune of having it happen to me yesterday. (A parcel arriving, mind you, not a frenzied sexual encounter with the postman laden with innuendos about big packages.)

It so happened that my parcel contained beans. Not just any beans, mind you, but black beans, which are amazing and VERY hard to find on this side of the Atlantic. During acbgirl’s visit to us in March, I remarked how I yearned for black beans to make proper Mexican food with and lo and behold, 2 cans of black beans and some yummy diced tomatoes with cilantro landed on my doorstep. For this, I am eternally grateful and may offer to bear her children.

It is actually a fib to say that one cannot find black beans on this side of the ocean, but if one is a lazy cook and wants her black beans NOW, it’s tough titties on the count of the little buggers being sold in big, dry bags that need overnight soaking. For someone who decides what to have for dinner in front of the meat isle in Tesco, this is tremendously inconvenient.

There is a dismaying lack of Mexican fare in general in Great Britain. This probably comes from being too far away for the Mexicans to sneak successfully over the borders. The town where I went to college, despite being in northern Indiana, had a staggeringly large Mexican immigrant population due to the staggeringly large number of high paying factory jobs in the area. The food that these people brought into the community was gut-bustingly amazing and since moving to the UK, I have been at a loss to replace it. The great British multi-cultural food is of course, curry, and while a nice chicken tikka biriyani goes down a treat every now and then, I would secretly much prefer a burrito and some spicy rice.

The Rock Star loves anything hot, so hopefully, upon our arrival in the States next week, we can find a good Mexican place in which to satiate my lust for tortilla based cuisine. We’ll be gone for the best part of 3 weeks, so that should be long enough to find an appropriate eatery.

But we’ll be back soon enough. I have my beans to consider.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Quote of the Week

Moot wins this week in an utterance related to one of The Rock Star's favorite expressions of shock and surprise.




The Rock Star: I actually managed to get a client to pay up.

Moot: Well...I would say shit the bed...but I won't.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

A Day At The Races

After the lunchtime news, at the point that I usually lunge for the TV remote to prevent myself from being aesthetically dirtied by Neighbours*, I was instead intrigued enough to watch the start of racing today at Royal Ascot.

I have to admit that I’m not a great horse racing fan. Any sport where, to convince and animal to carry 110 pound guy on it’s back faster than all of the OTHER animals with 110 guys on THEIR backs, it has to be soundly beaten for several furlongs, doesn’t sit well with me. I also have to admit to a tiny bit of apprehension about horses. I was never one of those little girls who wanted a pony; I was always slightly afraid to have a pet that could kick me to death. Where we live now, in Buckinghamshire there are a number of renowned racing stables who exercise their horses in nearby fields. These twitchy, eye rolling, head tossing, mouth foaming, bit chomping bastards are prime candidates for the mount of one of the Four Horseman of the Apocalypse.

At any rate, amidst the bewildering commentary liberally peppered with words like “cuppy”, “chute”, “bobble” and “blow out"** there was the obligatory fashion report along with the obsequious arse-licking that accompanied the daily royal parade. The hats are of course the main focus of fashion at Ascot and there were some truly spectacular headdresses on display. My favorite was perched atop the head of Michael Owen’s wife and looked as if a white peacock had had the misfortune to run into her head in mid flight at mach 3.

But, to tell the truth, it’s jealousy. I YEARN to wear a huge and inappropriate headpiece. Hats are certainly more the rage here in the UK than they are in the US. Weddings here are prime hat wearing occasions, but everyone we know who’s gotten married has either gone somewhere else to do it or the bride was knocked up, so they had to make do with a registry office affair. I am, myself, champing at the bit for an excuse to go out and buy something to ram on my head with enough feathers on it to almost completely obscure my face, and I desperately need someone to create an occasion for me.

So if anyone out there is getting married and planning on a posh event, my hat and I promise to sit quietly in the back and not be any trouble.

I might even buy you a pony.

* For American readers, a vile Aussie soap opera where everyone lives in paradise, but complains non-stop about how crappy their lives are.

**Which I thought was very funny in regards to horses. “Yeah, my horse had a blow out on the back straight. Can I get him patched?”

Monday, June 13, 2005

Miss Potamus's School Of Manners

What I learned over the weekend.





When venturing out with friends, the first thing on one’s mind is “What shall I wear?

Ladies- When dressing for the evening, consider the image that you wish to present to the world. If you are desirous of attracting a gentleman, dress modestly and flatteringly. If you are just out to pick up any old wanker, by all means, tits out.

Gentlemen- A shower is a good start. Considering that after a few beverages you may wish to put your arms around a chum, a member of the opposite sex or perhaps a complete stranger, please do not skimp on the Right Guard.



Upon entering a leisure establishment, politeness to the large door custodians is a must. Here is an acceptable manner of address.

Custodian: I’ll have to search you.

You: Certainly, sir. Perfectly understandable. Can’t be too careful these days.

Here is an UNacceptable exchange:

Custodian: I’ll have to search you.

You: The hell you will.

The number of large, prominent scars on a custodian’s face might help you to remember that it always pays to be polite.



Once inside, you will undoubtedly seek liquid refreshment. Drinking establishments in this day and age are often crowded, leading to spillage. Take your time leaving the bar and if you ARE unfortunate enough to spill bits or indeed, the whole of your drink, please remember:

-Should you spill half a pint of Carling down a ladies’ back, take a moment to stop, apologise and perhaps offer to fetch her a bar towel to prevent her from having to spend the rest of the evening with beer-flavoured underclothes. UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES offer to lick the remainder of the drink off of her.

-If someone in your party wishes to refrain from drinking, it is bad form to refer to them as a “pussy”, a “lightweight” or “gay.”

-Bottles are for drinking out of, not for fighting with.



If it is your good fortune to have entered a drinking establishment that features live entertainment, then a jolly evening is in store for all.

-The Lady Terpsichore will always weave her wicked spell when music is in the air! It is up to you to show consideration for your fellow dancers. Keep your movements gentle and confine them to a reasonable personal space. Do not flail, grind, spin or freak those around you.

-Always ask permission before attempting to dance with another patron. There is a possibility that her partner might be nearby, or if you are very unlucky, on-stage, holding a very heavy chunk of mahogany and contemplating what kind of amplified noise it might make when it cracks your skull open.

-If you find yourself attracted to one of the gentlemen performers, try to restrain yourself from suggesting to him that you wish to engage in sexual congress in the toilets. At the very least, have the decency to do so in the alley behind the establishment where you will offend no one other than the local rough sleeper.



The evening is at an end and it has been memorable. Although you may be insensible with drink, it is still sensible to mind your manners.

-When the large door custodians comes to your table and bellow that it is now time to vacate the premises, and appropriate response is:

You: Of course, my good man. Many thanks for a job well done.

And not:

You: Make me.

Because they undoubtedly will.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Power of Prayer

Right. This is one of those things that my parents always told me never to bring up in polite conversation but the Internet tends to break down those long held conventions due to its shockingly anonymous nature. The only reason I’m writing today is because I’m trying to duck The Christian and come up with a good way of explaining to her why I don’t want to engage in a “healing prayer” session.

IMPORTANT POINT TO KEEP IN MIND BEFORE UNSHEATHING CERMONIAL KNIVES, SACRED TEXTS AND SNAKES: I have NO problems with religion. It enriches people’s lives and gives hope and comfort in times of great stress and grief. I have nothing but admiration for people of faith although I think it goes without saying that extremism of any sort makes me deeply uncomfortable.

I’ve had a fairly unpleasant last two weeks. No biggie, just basic life stuff, but a little traumatic nonetheless. Now that the Christian is self-employed, we often meet on Tuesday afternoons for lunch and so this past Tuesday, when she asked me how I’d been, I told her and solicited a sympathetic response with an unexpected side note:

“Do you want me to pray for you?” she asked.

This is not the kind of question that anyone can easily answer “no” to, my agnosticism aside. It’s a nice gesture; an offer to remember someone in your thoughts and speak your name to their deity of choice in the hopes that whomever they believe presides upstairs might action their proposal. (Interestingly, Intercessory Prayer studies are fairly common in hospitals these days and come up with some pretty hard to dispute results.)

“Sure,” I said, diplomatically, “I can use all of the positive energy I can get at the moment. "

Feeling that I’d satisfied HER, you can imagine my reaction when I received a text the following day saying,

“hi hun. is tues ok for a cup of tea and some healing prayer? xx”

At first I had to stop and try to figure out why she needed to ask ME if she had a cup of tea while she was praying, but then it occurred to me: she wants to pray WITH me rather than for me.

Let me tell you about my last experience of group prayer.

I spent almost every summer of my college career living and working in Goshen, IN where I attended college. The Shakespeare company that I worked with was brilliant, although not high on the pay scale, so I spent time looking for odd jobs around campus. Being a theatre major, I was acquainted with some of the sound and lighting equipment in the theatre so when I was offered a week long stint doing sound and lights for a visiting Pentecostal summer camp, I jumped at the chance.

Here are 3 things that I learned about Pentecostals:

- God shows up in their dreams and gives them extremely specific messages regarding what He would like people to do.

Worship Leader- I had a DREAM, last night, brothers and sisters, a DREAM from the LORD. And the LORD told me that he wanted YOU, Jimmy, yes YOU Jimmy, to go to INDIA! To INDIA Jimmy, and spread the WORD of his LOVE to all who will HEAR you!

Jimmy- But I’m only 9!

- When God decides to speak during a worship service, He often chooses a human vessel for His Word. Sadly, we have neither the neural nor the speech capacity to receive the unadulterated Word so it tends to come out as gibberish. Like getting one of those scam e-mails from Korea, but not having the right font installed. (I’m sure God is kicking Himself for not installing the “receive my Word” function in the lot of us, because we’d probably be better at knocking off some of the outrageous shit that we do to each other if He had.) What it does come out sounding like is this.

Rapturous worshiper- Bleep blip bloogitty blargh jibber jabber rama lama ding dong!

Second rapturous worshipper- I know what he said! He said, “Glory be to God in the Highest! Praise the name of the Lord!”

Third rapturous worshipper- Really?

-God makes people fall down. Seriously. He just knocks them right over. For the first two days, campus security was frantic with the incidents of fainting and convulsing, but after being told by the worship leaders that their campers were merely “overcome by the holy spirit” they started ignoring the writhing, foaming bodies on the ground and went back to making sure that no one was stealing bikes. I went to a Mennonite college. Mennonites are deeply embarrassed about that sort of thing. They like pot luck dinners, being nice to people, service trips to Africa and hymn sings. No one ever falls over in church unless they are experiencing a heart attack.

Seeing as how the Pentecostals liked to spend almost 6 hours a day in worship services, I ended up getting paid very well to sit up in the sound booth, keep an eye on the boards and read Lord of the Rings for the first time. Saturday night, round about the time Frodo was departing for the Undying Lands, the week had reached its zenith; the closing prayer service. My counterpart backstage was the theatre’s technical director, a man with a dry sense of humor that was beginning to wear slightly thin after a week of liaising with the leaders of this unusual outfit. I could hear him grumbling to himself over the headset as the worship session’s intensity ramped up a notch to include all three of the previously discussed elements. But suddenly he went quiet.

“Are you there?” I whispered.

I received no reply.

“Hello?”

Still nothing. The ominous silence lasted for almost 5 minutes when suddenly, one of the worship leaders burst out from behind the curtains of the stage next to where the tech director had been sitting and began running up the stairs towards the booth.

The headset flared to life.

“Lock the door.”

“What?”

“Just do it. He’s heading your way.”

WHO?”

The door to the booth flew open to reveal the worship director, with a look of dreadful determination on his face. In two strides, he’d crossed from the door, grabbed a hold of my head and began to feverishly pray for my salvation.

I have discussed on this blog before the fact that I am a dork. Anyone else confronted with a slavering madman who had grabbed them by the head would have aimed for the happy sacs and run. Indeed, if this particular gentleman had attempted the same thing in the street, even my dorkdom wouldn’t have prevented me from dropping him like a bag of laundry, but for some reason, since I KNEW HE WAS TRYING TO PRAY FOR ME, I froze like a popsicle and waited for it to be over. I had kind of a long wait, by the way. I think he was fairly determined that whoever was listening would know he was REALLY serious about saving my soul.

This is not a story that I’m going to tell the Christian because I’m not entirely sure that she’s not the head grabbing type too. I like the idea of prayer as quiet, good feelings touching you from far away rather than something uncomfortable sitting right next to you promising to be your conduit to the Divine. If we’re creatures of God, prayers need no conduit other than our own hearts. If we’re holy in our own right, then the same is true.

Perhaps when the Christian arrives on Tuesday, I can let her know without offence that I'd much rather just have the cup of tea.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Stroll Yourself Thin

The Rock Star and I have taken to walking. Over the past year, the pace of our lives has left us little time for exercise and it’s getting to the point where it’s hard to deny that the waistbands of our jeans are a little too tight.

So we’ve started trying to walk into the office every morning ( only a mile from our mooring) and having a vigorous evening yomp through the hills after dinner. I just wanted to share two pictures to convince you city folk that it’s time to pick up sticks and move somewhere where you don’t end up with lots of black stuff in your nose when you come home from work everyday.



Some of our local hills. We live at the foot of the Ridgeway; a path that's been in use since the Stone Age. It was a lovely evening last night; very quiet except for the skylarks, who sound like dozens of little flying modems.



A most satisfying sunset over The Vale.

Seriously guys, black stuff in your nose or skylarks. The choice seems pretty clear.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Movie Moments

Nothing happens on Tuesdays. Since being informed that last Saturday was my last day in Purgatory, I suddenly found that I had rather a lot of time on my hands. There are many things that I could be doing right now, but as I am about to be whisked off to lunch with The Christian, I thought I’d have a quick natter at you lot.

I was staring at our DVD collection this morning while The Rock Star was blow-drying his voluminous barnet and got to thinking about moments. Not whole films, but just bits of minutiae that were hugely memorable for me. I’ll throw two of them out there for public scrutiny and invite everyone else to do the same.

Drama

The Godfather- To begin with, this movie basically owns. It’s often touted as a “guy” film, but anyone who appreciates cinema can’t help but have their aesthetic asses completely kicked by it. My moment of moments though, is the few seconds before Michael leaves the toilet to shoot Sollozzo and McCluskey. It’s a hesitation, with his back turned to the camera, but in those few seconds, you can see the enormity of his decision; the life he’s leaving behind and the life he knows will follow…all with his back to the camera. Unbelievable.

Comedy

Dogma- Not everyone is a big fan of Kevin Smith and his foul mouthed philosophical meanderings liberally peppered with dick and fart jokes. Me personally, I’m a huge fan. (Except for the woefully self indulgent Chasing Amy. To quote Smith, I believe that it “licked balls.") I especially liked this pseudo-religious outing; although it bore most of the hallmarks of a traditional Smith film, it also showed a great deal of thought about the inherent contradictions of his own Catholicism. Plus, he probably got 15 elephants worth of hate male for suggesting that Jesus was black, so you gotta admire that.

My favourite bit: The lead character, Bethany (Linda Fiorantino) is visited in the night by an Angel of the Lord: (Alan Rickman) a flaming apparition with a booming voice…and puts him out with a fire extinguisher. This is particularly amusing, as the first thing the Angel says afterwards is, “Jesus Christ, look at my suit!”

Open movie season people. Let’s hear it.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Monsters in Uniform

Okay, so Russell Crowe has been arrested in New York for being himself. The funny bit is that the arresting officer's name was Mike Wysokowski. Now, I could be wrong, but isn't this also the name of the eyeball guy from Monsters Inc?

Adventures in Medicine Part the Second

I have been subjected to rather a lot of Health Care recently. Health Care in Britain is significantly different to Health Care in America in that it is Free. In America, people wishing to engage in Health Care must first part with a fairly substantial sum of money and in the case that the fairly substantial sum of money is not available, Health Care professionals might suggest to those people that they might prefer to go away and be ill somewhere else. Quietly.

On our last holiday to the States, The Rock Star developed a heinously sore throat which necessitated a trip to the local drive thru health clinic at 12am. At the reception desk, were we charged $120 for the privilege of seeing the doctor. In the examining room, we were charged $60 for the test to determine whether or not The Rock Star had a case of strep throat. And finally, at the pharmacy, we paid another $70 for the prescription. That’s what $250 bucks gets you in the States. For millions of families without insurance, this is their only option. WE were lucky enough to have purchased travel insurance and managed to recoup the whole amount with relatively little difficulty when we got back.

This is the kind of scenario that the Not Really Free NHS is quite good at coping with. Basic Health Care is what the NHS does best. Sore Throat? No problem. Broken leg? That’s obvious enough. It’s the grey areas of medicine that seem to be a larger problem.

What got me started this morning was this. Our local hospital trust seems to have a small spot of botheration in the keeping- people- alive department. This does not exactly fill me with confidence as I am expected to present myself there from time to time for various Health Care procedures. When the Rock Star and I succeed in spawning, this is the hospital in which our children will be born. Last year, during a visit to the A&E, my confidence was shaken further when The Rock Star happened to look down the opposite side of the trolley on which I was lying.
The Rock Star: Are you leaking anywhere?

Me: Um, no. Why?

The Rock Star: Then I think a categorical “Ew” is in order.

Discovering that you’re lying on a gurney covered in someone else’s blood is certainly a situation that you might expect to find yourself in if you were, perhaps, the title character in a horror film entitled “Doctors of Death III, but not down at your local A&E on a Friday night. (Which, if you ever HAVE been down an A&E on a Friday night, would be more like a movie entitled, “Drunk Guys Who have Hit Things Really Hard And Can’t Feel It Yet II”) The nurse who I informed of this gruesome situation didn’t seem to be particularly concerned about foreign platelets rampaging all over the emergency ward, so by the time I left, the trolley was still completely sanguinated.

Here’s my thing: I’m pretty sure that 80% of basic Health Care is mental. We love to scare the shit out of ourselves sometimes: You have a week long head-ache. Even though you KNOW you have persistent sinus trouble and that its hay fever season, some little traitorous little voice in your brain goes, “You probably have a BRAIN TUMOUR! HA HA HA!” This is why we need doctors. Their function is to take one look at us and say authoritatively, “Don’t be a tool. You have hay fever. See all that stuff dribbling out of your nose and eyes? Go take some Sudafed.” Authority is everything. We believe them because they have an expensive education and we don’t. (Well, maybe we did, but not many of us would be comfortable asking someone else to take down their trousers and cough.) It’s when the belief begins to erode that the problems start; when you find blood on your hospital trolley or leave a surgery feeling like your GP was too tired or fed up to adequately answer your questions. When the reassuring side of Health Care breaks down, when you can’t trust a hospital to be clean, that’s when the whole things becomes less like Health Care and more like Triage; patch you up as fast as possible and boot you back out onto the battle field not being totally sure that you’re not going to get gangrene in that bullet wound. There seems to be little time for reassurance or bedside manner.

I’m not trying to take potshots at a profession that I know is difficult and frustrating, but it just seems like the NHS is getting a little lost in the wilderness. Come home, Lassie, come home. And bring your stethoscope with you.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

"Reality"

So the Rock Star and I have recently acquired magic telly. We call it magic because anything other than 5 channels is nothing short of a miracle. This does not necessarily mean we watch more, but it means we have a larger selection of things NOT to watch.

I’m willing to bet that most people out there are as weak willed as we are. No matter how educated or media savvy you are, there are very few among us who are immune from car crash TV. Sometimes this is literal, in the case of World’s Scariest Police Chases with Sheriff John Bunnell (you’ve seen him; the very earnest, orange man with white hair and deeply frightening teeth.) but it could be anything, from one of those “informative looks at the porn industry” to a spirit-sucking reality TV show. (Reality TV. Bad for me, bad for you, bad for everybody.)

Sadly, The Rock Star and I engaged in compulsive viewing of “Newlyweds: Nick and Jessica” the other night. This piece of media pizzle has been running for ages in the States, and being the secret gossip junkie that I am, I knew of its existence, but not until viewing did the gruesome truth rear its ugly head.

On one hand, it’s nice to see that being rich and famous doesn’t automatically make you a) happy or b) smart. But has the need for voyeurism really replaced our taste for good old-fashioned story-telling? Shamans around campfires from the beginning of human history have been grounding us by telling the tales that make us who we are. Is what we’re finding out now that we lack imagination and would rather peek in someone’s window to be a critic rather than engage creatively, listen carefully and be inspired?

THE WOMAN DIDN’T KNOW WHAT A FUCKING PLATYPUS WAS. Let’s get back around the campfire.