Sunday, October 28, 2007

time's fool / Ab Fab

1. My PhD student graduated on Monday. She is very gifted and absolutely fabulous and looked lovely even in the heavy golden curtain-fabric gown and silly hat. It is 10 years since she began to study with me as an undergraduate - along with 2 other students who have, since then, been amongst her very best friends, and who were also there on Monday. 10 years which feels like about ... 27.

2. Also on Monday, I took LG along to my hairdresser and paid a worthwhile £28 for a new look. LG had declared that she wanted an "80's" haircut. She said it as if thats a good thing. Aghast. I. Was.

We'd dyed her hair a dark reddish purple a couple of weeks previously. Here is her new colour.

With her new haircut I, myself, would look like Suzi Quattro or Rod Stewart in a Very Bad couldn'tletgoofthe80's sort of way.

Little Gem herself looks great, in a Noel Fielding/Mighty Boosh sort of way. She keeps saying "Don't touch the hair!"

The 80's feels like about 43 years ago, but it looks ab fab on LG.

3. On Thursday I went to a funeral, the 3rd in 6 months. A colleague (and friend) with whom I've worked for the past 10 years or more died completely unexpectedly 2 weeks ago, in her sleep, at the age of 56. No cause of death as yet identified. One half of my brain has been busily sorting out cover for her teaching and thinking through curriculum and teaching implications for the future. The other half of my brain expects to see her walking across the campus next week. At the funeral I met up with some past students who I've not seen for many years. In other, happier circumstances it would have been fabulous to see them again.

4. Also on Thursday a best friend Lucy - RW - arrived to stay for a brief visit. (Far too brief, RW, please take note) Her daughter also has a rather 80's haircut. And also looks fab. RW moved from conveniently just around the corner to Ipswich (only an hour or two away, but thats an hour or two too much) just about 2 years ago. Just at a point where my life began to fall apart in a number of ways. Its 2 years which has felt like 22 years - and, strangely, also like about 2 days.

5. On Friday I went to an ab fab graduation party at my student's house in East London. There was much dressing-up in her doctoral robes (hired, but she gets to keep them for a week of fun and frolic), great food, fine wines, cake, dancing and lovely lovely people. I travelled there by bus, having first crossed the Thames via the Woolwich ferry. We used to travel regularly from South to North-East London when I was a child, to visit grandparents; our usual route took us under the river through the Blackwall tunnel, but for a treat we would come back on the Woolwich ferry, eating chips. I had fun with my camera, of course.

6. A final blast from the past this week was my return trip from the party. A friend gave me a lift back home on the back of his motorbike. The roads were very quiet, it being about 2am. We came back through the tunnel.
I had a boyfriend when I was about 20 who had a Honda 750 (quite impressive in those days). I'd been on the rebound from a disastrously messy break-up and trapped living on campus. He had impressive wheels and offered some escape. I still remember that sinking feeling when he bought me biking leathers for my birthday and the realisation hit me that I didn't want to be with him at all really and would have to try to be both honest and kind. Which proved not to be possible.
But the motorbike was great! The memory now has chilly edges when I think of the way I dozed off sometimes, leaning against his back, at speeds well over the limit. I've not been on a motorbike since then - it was an ab fab way to get home last night.

The helmet, borrowed from my host, had also not been on the back of a bike for over 20 years. Does it look its age? or does it look ab fab?

Monday, October 22, 2007


We've been together for quite a long time.

Years and years.

You'd think we'd be comfortable with each other by now, that we'd have grown into shapes that fit - learned each others ins and outs, developed compatible habits and ways of breathing.

We'll be together so much over the coming months.
In rain and biting winds and frost. Maybe even in snow.

So why do we rub up against each other in such painful ways?

Are we incompatible?

But I know that after this annual, seasonal initiation we'll be good together and you'll keep me warm and dry - you have in the past, year after year. I still have faith in you.

So how - why - do you rub me raw? Quickly and imperceptibly. I'm numb to the discomfort until it is too late. Until it becomes pain.

Maybe its my fault. I need to loosen up, not pull so tight. Perhaps we need more space between us?

I hope we'll settle down and travel well together in the future. I think we can. I know old patterns can repeat themselves, taking on a life of their own. But I refuse to accept that the past predetermines the future.

The future is not set.

In the meantime.....

the blisters bloody hurt.

Friday, October 19, 2007


Twice in the past week I've been interrogated about my photographic activities by persons of a security disposition.


has been going on outside my office window.

Well, who wouldn't take photos?

Its a set for a costume film with Keira Knightley and Ralph Fiennes and the campus has been full of people with live geese under their arms, baskets of cabbages, straw, horses, large trailers, lighting and film equipment, sedan chairs - and persons of a security disposition.

I just leaned nonchalantly out of the window and took a few snaps while waiting for some photocopying. One of the security persons waved vigorously in my direction. What a friendly chap, I thought, and leaned a bit further for some better shots.

A couple of people with walky-talkies passed me on my way back to my office - and they soon hunted me down there, wanting to interrogate me about the photos I'd taken, the camera, my intentions, blah blah blah.

They hadn't even been filming for goodness' sake. No glimpses of any famous peeps while I was around.

I was told that some actors were rather distracted by flash photography during the previous days filming. Yeah, right. Keira et al are put off their strokes by camera-flash. At a distance. In daylight.

Yesterday morning I was on my way to my weaving class and stopped to take pics of some flats which always attract my attention. I love these corner rooms, the different things they are used (or not) for.

I turned around and found myself nearly nose to nose with a policeman "police community support" officer wanting to know what I was taking photos of, and why.


He did seem like a fairly amiable young man and we chatted about diversity of architecture in the area. I wonder if monitoring of lurker-stalker-peepingtom-paparazzi-snoop-voyeur-noseybonk activities is a clearly articulated part of the job description?

I wonder if I looked like any of the above?

If people don't want strangers looking through their windows, they put up nets or blinds, right?

Sunday, October 14, 2007

tick tock

Funny old thing, Time.

I had a Big Discussion with LG this week about the nature of time. She was trying to get her brain around the way time stretches and contracts, oozes and gushes, veers from great speed to sluggy torpor. She thoroughly stretched my powers of debate and explanation but I finally managed to communicate what I thought about about relativity and perspective.

She couldn't initially grasp how our experience of the elasticity of time is possible, given the constancy of the clock ticking away regular minutes and hours, but she understood an analogy: though a car might be travelling at a constant speed (like the clock), it could seem to us to be going either faster or slower depending on whether we were standing still, or were travelling at speed ourselves.

It seemed like such an obvious and familiar point to me, but was a bit of a revelation to her and our discussion has left me reflecting on my teaching, and how I no doubt still make lots of wrong assumptions about my students' thinking and how much they do or don't understand what I am on about. And this very point - about how our experience is always a matter of interpretation, and how interpretation depends so much on our stance and context - is important to so much of my teaching.

And though we have only been teaching for a couple of weeks this academic year, it is LG's half term in a week's time. Its an uneven half-term this year - so not actually half-way to Christmas. But still. Blimey.

This certainly makes time seem very loopy.

Today we had a family party celebrating my sister's 25th Wedding anniversary.

Double blimus.

Blimey o'reilly, even.

25 years.

It was my brother's 25th in the summer and I spent some time searching through old photographs, to find some choice pictures for an album his children were putting together.

How were we ever so young? and how is it that I now feel just as young, but also so.... not old really (well... just sometimes) but - i suppose the feeling is that I've travelled a long long way? In terms of the way I see things now and what I've learned - some of it too late I fear; in terms of what I wish I could return and tell my younger self.

But then, would I - the younger me - be able to grasp it?

It will also be my 25th wedding anniversary next year.
I can't at the moment begin to approach any kind of thinking or feeling about that.

Time, time time see whats become of me.

I saw this sundial on a pavement near home this week - and yes, it was telling the right time.

But I had to check against the time on my mobile phone, to know this.

I've stopped wearing a watch lately. I'm always glad not to have to wear a watch at weekends and when on holiday. And I also had to get a new (and outrageously expensive) strap for my watch, so was watchless anyway for a while. And it occurred to me that I only really have to wear it when I am in the classroom.

Making the most of the moments comes much easier to me when the loops and whorls are not measured against a watch.

Its a bit like exploring a place by wandering, without a map.

And I suppose a change of seasons is part of the context for my musings about time. It just seems so impossible that it is still not 6 months since mum died, it feels like half a lifetime. Except for those moments when it seems like half a breath away.

But look around, leaves are brown
and the sky is a hazy shade of winter.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

seasonal ramblings

Whoever was painting these yellow lines clearly had a bit of a ramble. The line did begin at the edge of the road...

Three sites for you to click.

First, and most worthily: the breast cancer site.
This site makes money for free mammograms for women in need in the US - visiting and clicking on the site boosts the number of visitors, attracting advertising and making more money. I've just added this to my favourites to remind me to visit daily.

Second, and most nostalgically: conkers.
This is the first year when I don't think I've stopped in the street to pick up conkers. I wont miss the increasingly dusty and wrinkley pile usually accumulated by LG and myself this time of year - but I do miss their gorgeous chestnut shine and satisfying roundness. I think its partly the contrast between the chesnut and the spikey green shell which is so appealing - finding one newly splitting out of its horny-outside silky-inside little nest. Aaaah, I'm going to have to go for a walk later with camera and empty pockets....

Apart from the aesthetic appeal of the conkers, they have such nostalgic connotations for lots of Brits. Like those other old playground games like french skipping, british bulldog, hopscotch.... All of them "levelling" - cheap, accessible, easy - and potentially bruising.

There are also a lot of sweet chestnut trees in Greenwich park, which I walk / cycle through regularly. This is the edible type of chestnut (still sold in London on street corners, roasted - for some stupidly outrageous price, ££?? for about half a dozen, hot and notquiteburnt and just delicious). [though i'm too mean to buy them]

The outer case is much more viciously spiky than the horse chestnuts, but that doesn't deter locals from collecting them in the park. Its quite common to see people picking up huge sackfuls - especially the local chinese/vietnamese communities. It is necessary to fight the squirrels for them though.

This isn't one of my photos. Its from Wikipedia. I always feel surreptitious using Wikipedia etc. because I spend so much time telling my students "IT IS NOT A RELIABLE ACADEMIC SOURCE".

oh and now I can't remember what the 3rd site was going to be.

de dum de dum de dum.


No, nothing.

Ah well. Instead of a 3rd site, do a quick google image search on "falling" and see what you come up with.

Friday, October 05, 2007

random ... and autumnal (as it turns out)

I'm sat at my computer with no idea at all of what to post, and unsure whether to take a break from blogging until inspiration hits, or to just write and see what comes out.

You can work out which way that decision went.

Its feeling quite autumnal here now and though I've spent some time resisting the change of season, thats not at all to do with the season itself. I enjoy autumn, especially when its bright and sunny as it is now, with complicated and smudgy patterns on the pavement from last week's wet leaves and conkers thudding on the road around me as I walked to work today.

I passed some large and tempting piles of leaves today, but resisted. Maybe I should go back in my wellios?

I'll be glad to be wearing jumpers and slippers and scarves again.

Must get the chimney swept.

Too late to get the boiler serviced, the heating is already on.

I remember standing in my grandparents' garden, waiting and watching for the sweep's brush to emerge from the chimney. It was a long, thin, dig-for-victory garden in London and - as well as all the veg. and fruits - my grandad grew glowing giant-headed chrysanths (mnmnmns) and beautiful dahlias. Which seem to be back in fashion lately.

My garden at the moment is a bit dishevelled, with some late flowering cosmos, michaelmas daisies, plumbagos, ice plant, autumn crocus, sages - and a tree laden with yellow crab apples. This year has apparently been the best apple-crop year in living memory in the UK and the arms of my tree have never been so close to the ground. Mum would sometimes make crab-apple jelly from them. This year they will be staying on the tree for the birds to feast. I suppose the seasons always bring a new pain when someone has died.

My spell-checker wants me to put a "c" in dishevelled. My dictionary tells me that this is the medieval spelling. Is it also an american spelling? What does it mean to be "hevelled"? (or (chevelled"?)

I've made my elderberry syrup for this year. Each year I make more, and each year we seem to use it up earlier than the preceding.

How long would this post be if I just kept splurging out the thoughts which cross my mind? possibly long enough to take me up to G&T time.

But I wont inflict that on you, I will go and walk around my garden and poke in my frog pool. And take some photos of my crab apples:

Happy and/or relaxing (and if possible both) weekends to all of you.