Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Similar silliness

On Saturday night, as we trundled through the mean streets of Forest Hill, Toller used a lovely metaphor:

"Knives on sticks for the eyes of the tall"

A pint of, yes you guessed it, lovely cider, for the first person to tell me what the Ginger King was metaphorising...

UPDATE: Dan wins. The answer was of course umbrellas, (rather than brollies as our common northern friend supposed. Tsk).

And here's the first umbrella poem that came up on Google.

The parasol is the umbrella's daughter,
And associates with a fan
While her father abuts the tempest
And abridges the rain.

The former assists a siren
In her serene display;
But her father is borne and honored,
And borrowed to this day.
By Emily Dickinson

I think rhyming 'fan' with 'rain' is possibly a criminal offence.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Bronze bullets

Ever since I was a young girl, I've played with the silver, ahem, pen. After reading too much Roger McGough in the years 1998-2004, I was frequently tempted to write silly little pomes that amused few people other than myself. And Toller, occasionally, when he was kind enough to read them. In some ways, posting a selection here exposes the pomes to a wider audience. In other ways, ways that are somewhat closer to reality, the crowd grows tougher but no larger...

The art of seduction
I am a temptress
and leave a lot
to be desired

I didn't know
if I was born for this —
a doctor's waiting room.
It nearly killed me
trying to find out.

If I go too far,
Feel free to follow me.

On the accidental bombing of a wedding party in Afghanistan by US pilots
Confetti and hand grenades
Falling from the sky
Looked up to sing Your praise
And got one in the eye

Obviously it wasn't hand grenades but B-52s, but I was concerned that the pome would take on unwelcome love shack undertones.

And something a little longer...

I found a scrap of newspaper
in a book I never read again.
It was the colour of titian,
burnt at the edges,
More like a child's art than heritage.

A piece about Auden,
from the 1940s, a literary man
turning back into pulp.
I think he was young then.

But it broke in my hands
Like overworked glass
Tired of the hedonist's cycle;
Like the dying Chiron
Who summoned hope
Only to say goodbye.

The harder I tried to save him
The more fragmented the message became,
As if it was only ever meant
To be written in the stars.

It was like a letter I once wrote to you
But never sent.
Those over-edited stanzas
Are now stuck to my desk
A reminder,
Keeping me whole.

Monday, March 13, 2006

On the bench

An excuse is as good as a reason, but a bad excuse does not a good reason make. And, sometimes, the better the excuse the more unreasonable one sounds. So enough of this "Sorry I haven't been in touch for ages", "Let's meet up soon at some unspecified and permanently postponed date", "I've been thinking about you lots but failed to put Pen to keyboard", this excuse from Mary Ann Evans is the one I'll be using from now on.

"It is worthwhile to forget a friend for a week or 10 days ... for the sake of the agreeable kind startle it gives one to be reminded that one has such a treasure in reserve."

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Helping Hand

I am aware, of course that The Guardian probably doesn't need any additional advertising. But I would like to just flag up this piece on God by Terry Jones.

And now I have.

UPDATE: Jbob has kindly sent me Downing Street's response.

The beauty of blasphemy

Does starting a craze make one crazy? And does one reply constitute a craze? Ponder the answers to these and the other great questions of life while you enjoy this HP...

Higgledy piggledy
Jesus Christ Superstar
Possibly god’s son, caused a commotion.
Complained of his job -
Messianhilistically -
'The only bad thing is no hope of promotion'.
By Toller

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

The terror of dactyls

Higgeldy piggeldy
Vyacheslav Molotov
Dined with Von Ribbentrop (German and fink).
They worked out a new pact
Then moved on to cocktails: “It’s time for a drink.”
By James

Today, Jiminy Cricket introduced me to a new and extremely addictive form of poetry. Combining elements of the haiku and the limerick, Double Dactyls — or Higgledy Piggledys as they are more commonly known — are short poems that adhere to a strict set of rules (see below) and often contain a humourous or unexpected ending. During the course of today, subbin' articles on mergers most foul in the European utility sector became increasingly unattractive, while attempts to create my own HP became something of an obsession.
So here you go...

Higgledy piggledy
Feminist Woolstonecraft
Defender of women, their rights and their wrongs
Engendered a monster
And surely thought Shelly a heartless Don John.

The rules are:
An HP always has the same first line
The second line is always a six-syllable name
The fifth line is always a made-up adverb, also of six syllables
The rhyme scheme is abcdec

"An obsession is sudden and o'erwhelming and can be acted upon, rather than a crush, which smoulders away in the back of one's mind."

Friday, March 03, 2006

You are what you drink

Well I never did. It seems that despite my best attempts to be seen as an alluring and entertaining specimen of the finer sex, I come across as a west country drunkard. My addiction to cider is the aspect of myself, my personality, my soul if you will, that predominates in even the most sober of situations. I'm rambling now, as I await a coal wrap with bated breath...

Cider with Penny

Romantic poetry

First draft...

Down in Arthur's Camelot
Together we will shagalot
Like Guinevere and Lancelot

Second draft... (with thanks to Gutenberg)

Down in Merlin's Camelot
Together we will shagalot
Like Guinevere and Lancelot
While Arthur dines on Winalot
And drunken vicars sinalot

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Answering back

This amused me...
His coy mistress to Mr Marvell

But for the purists amongst you...
To his coy mistress

Things I wish I'd never done...

...sent this email (reproduced verbatim) to my tutor at university while very drunk and all kebabed up. Obviously republishing it here makes it all ok.

Firstly, the essay on Mariam in all probability was mine - but seeing as you sent it to me, with the normal explosive marking at least a week ago, in -1st week I think all is sorted. But, however, me 'n' XXX were talking this evening over an Achmeds, about faustus and all that, and we thought you might know. You see, on the one hand, Faustus is just a wee metaphor for what we can never achieve, and what we must always wait for, yet on the other hand, it would be interesting, in a purely literary sense, to know whether he was eternally damned. You see, if he was then, like Giovanni, he commited no other sin than wanting to know, or possess through knowledge, too much. Yet, if he had the cognitive power to realise the insufficiency of his thought, doesn't he deserve, in a humanist vs solifidianist sense to achieve that potential? Is the tragedy of Faustus the ephemerality of his sensual experience, or the fact that he, as an individual with free choice, chooses that over eternity? - the old, 'I believe in the freedom of the will. I have no choice.' Is 24 years a metaphor to Faustus, or does it in fact seem like a sufficient amount of time in which to engage in whatever the world (metaworld, whatever) has to offer, thus can we desire comprehension beyond Edenic assurance? And would we want to? The problem with Faustus is the humanity of his questions. He meets a devil (a devil! what I would say to a devil!) yet merely asks who made the world. Yet surely he is questioning who made his world. If, as I reckon, the play reveals an insight into Faustus' psyche, then the absense of God, renders his syllogism true - he obtains no Grace because Grace requires faith, faith requires legitimate yet inconclusive thought which Faustus doesn't possess because he cannot accomodate it within his reductive pseudo-humanist ideology then Faustus is merely questioning who made his world, not just the world he lives in which is a culmination of renaissance influences, but the world which his interior self inhabits, a world constructed of books without a meaning which transcends brevity. Also, doesn't God say that you cannot see his face? So the absence of God / Christ is necessitated by the grandiose divinity of his existence, thus the devil, however realistic in presentation, is always going to represent the eternal over the existant?
Just wondering.
Have a good/ very good weekend
You know what, I really don't know. Nor do I expect an answer.

Buy and imbibe

Things I am looking forward to today include... wandering around under a blue Clerkenwell sky and buying a bottle of wine from the off licence I discovered yesterday. Buying wine during work hours seems strangely rebellious, even though I don't intend to drink it until the wizarding hours.

Things I am not looking forward to include... eating fekking pumpkin seeds.

Mixed messages

Yesterday was a day of misinterpreted messages, when an absence of emails was understood as a reluctance to email, and when the ambiguity of idiomatic English caused distress and heartache.

The confusion continued until around 10.30pm, when I left the Hole in the Wall, an extremely noisy pub next to Waterloo station, and got the train home. A lady, hap a girl, with a delectable western European accent asked me for the newspapers that were on the seat next to me. But I thought she wanted the seat, so snatched the newspapers away saying "No, no, no" (which is what English people say when they mean "Yes, yes, yes"). The man opposite looked at me with loathing, astonished at my selfishness in not sharing the Evening Standard Lite (which is free) and the property section of the Independent (which should be free). I then realised my error, and because I was drunk, decided to rectify the situation and give the newspapers to the lady. But as I neared her seat, cap in hand and tail between legs, the train lurched into Putney and I lurched into the poor woman's lap. "I'm most awfully sorry," I said. "I thought you wanted the seat, not the newspapers, but here they are. I'm leaving now. Good night." She smiled the smile of a foreigner who is eternally grateful not to be English, took the newspapers and bid me au revoir.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Monsters and martyrs

This is an article I wrote prior to last year's general election. Obviously it's a little dated now, but I think the main argument still holds true. Since writing it, Patricia Hewitt has become health secretary, but I haven't noticed her achieve much since talking on the role...

Monsters and martyrs: why today's women in government are putting me off my vote

Nearly 100 years after Asquith and his Liberal government first rejected a private members bill to give women the vote, we have another general election imminent. The 2005 election will be only the nineteenth time in the history of parliament that women have been able to have a say in who governs them.

This time around, the major political parties have been actively courting the elusive woman's vote. I'm sure most politicians think they could recognise the woman voter a mile off: mid-twenties (to mid-sixties), politically aware but not a news junkie, anxious about pensions (but not the economy), concerned about MMR, MRSA and SATs, anti-war but willing to admit that they find Tony Blair the sexiest of the prime ministerial hopefuls.

But female voters are not a homogenous group and while women are traditionally more consistent voters than men, it is age and class, not sex, which seems to determine whether women turn out on polling day. A report by the Fawcett Society in 2004 concluded that while nearly 70% of middle-class women over 55 voted in 2001, only 20% of working-class women under 24 plan to vote this time around.

Why is the latter group so disengaged from the electoral process? While class and age are relatively good indicators of voting tendencies, the gender gap, as the difference in political attitudes and voting choices between men and women is known, is rather more difficult to explain.

Political engagement does not depend on electing people like yourself: black people can represent white constituents, sexagenarians can represent teenagers and men can represent women. But the relatively small number of female members of both Houses is a problem. And it's a problem across the world. Perhaps surprisingly, Rwanda tops the league table for having the highest percentage of women in parliament. The USA, however, where women have been able to stand for election since 1788, lags China, Angola and Turkmenistan in its number of female representatives.

Much was made of Blair's Babes after the 1997 election. While a number of women have risen to prominent ministerial positions, none have made it to the top of one of the big four: the FCO, the DOH, the MOD or the Treasury. For all the hype surrounding Blair's Babes they remain just that — youngsters in the political game, always giving the impression that they are still learning the ropes. Politically speaking, they've never grown up.

Take, for example, the rise and sharp fall of Estelle Morris who left her job as education secretary because she felt she wasn't up to the job. Or the long line of earnest, well-meaning female ministers — Patricia Hewitt, Harriet Harman, Tessa Jowell, Margaret Hodge - who would fail to give a convincing answer on the Today programme even if they were just asked their name.

The Right seems much better at producing political heroines, even if they are the sort that you love to hate — Margaret Thatcher, Ann Widdecombe and, on the world stage, Anne Coulter and Allesandra Mussolini — women who all emulate the aggressiveness associated with male-dominated politics.

But despite being interesting and powerful figures, Thatcher, who only appointed one woman to her cabinet and couldn't survive without her handbag, and Widdecombe who converted to Catholicism after the Anglican Church began appointing women priests, are hardly feminist icons for today's young women.

Occasionally of course you do get 'villains' on the left as well. Jane Griffith, the ex-Labour MP for Reading East, appeared on breakfast television to call those who condemned the appointment of a gay bishop in Reading bigots, but ran to the notoriously illiberal Daily Mail when she was ousted from her seat by a gay man. Left or right, women in politics are either monsters or martyrs.

But the problem is deeper than simply a lack of inspirational individuals in politics, and the problem of women in government would not be solved simply by having the first Labour or Liberal PM. At the moment, Westminster politics is a man's game and it's very tempting to say "Look at the state it's in! We need more women!" But the so-called feminisation of politics espoused by some of the more prominent female members of Blair's cabinet is not the answer. Who wants a girlie government where everyone remembers each other's birthdays, phone calls double in length and the infamous red button has to be redesigned to match the curtains?

Tessa Jowell said, in an interview with the Guardian in 2002, "We are the most feminist government in history, but we still have to feminise the process of government. We have to engage better and more directly with people at home, abandoning some of the confrontational aggressive language of politics that turns people off."

But instead of feminising government, we should be politicising women in a radical and active way. Voting is a right and, as it is not a right that everybody in the world shares, it is a privilege. But that does not make it an obligation.

Women have a history of political activism outside the ballot box: the prison reform movement, the Greenham Common protests against nuclear weapons, Women Against Pit Closures, the wages for housework campaign, the English Collective of Prostitutes, the campaign against pornography. The list could go on. While men in suits have been dining in Westminster, women in cardigans have dominated non-governmental politics. But though often effective, these have been issue-based protests, which ended when the problem was either resolved or no longer the in-thing.

The separation of small women's issues from large men's politics, like the separation of Women's Hour and women's pages on the radio and in newspapers, reiterates the assumption that the hard stuff should be left to the boys. We need a change from big personalities, big policies and big parties to small politics, where local government of local people concerned with small-scale issues ? even if they are part of a much bigger picture, prevails.

Premature emancipation

Deary me. That was all terribly easy. I feel like a cat who's got the cream, only to discover that it's got bird flu as well.

Blogging eh? What larks! They will get better, I promise...