Saturday, October 29, 2005

A Truncheon on the Fridge

So I flicked on the TV and the ITV lunchtime news was having some debate on crime with viewers' texts scrolling along the bottom of the screen. One text read, 'I keep a truncheon on top of my fridge.' The ITV tabloid-ey news exasperates me with its Great British Indignation. And in case we all get overheated, they end with coverage of The Royals that presumes 'The Nation' holds The Royal Family in deep respect and affection. No other option entertained. Yet I still can't put into words why my indignation (at their indignation - ha ha) is of any higher value. Maybe it's not.
We were having a similar debate at writing class on the value of 'real' literature over pulp fiction and genre books. Some of the class were saying, 'what's wrong with a bit of both?' but our long-suffering teacher was close to throwing himself out the window at our inability to ascend to the higher plane of outright fidelity to good literature. 'There's no way back,' he said.

It reminds me of the time that my English teacher at school wrote 'exasperating!' on my essay. I was actually quite pleased. I thought, well, he wouldn't get exasperated if there was nothing worth saving. It led me to deduce that I had hidden potential and maybe he'd be the one to coax it out. (The fact that I had a crush on him helped fuel this theory).

He introduced us to Shakespeare. We took parts reading out Othello. My friend and I would flick ahead to check our lines. During all the stabbing in the last scene, my pal had to shout out 'Oh, bloody period.' Aged 15, she didn't relish it at all. In fact, none of us relished Shakespeare at first, but I'm glad we did it now. Maybe I needed someone to get exasperated at me.

Well, I've digressed and I'm still no further forward in exploring the merits of good art over bad art. One man's indignance versus another's. If anyone has any answers in a sentence (or two), feel free to jump in. Or not....


Thursday, October 27, 2005

Oh God, I Am One


I was reading an article in the Observer Magazine on 'The New Puritans.' The term is used by the Future Foundation (monitor of social trends) to describe a growing band of people who aim to be socially and environmentally conscious. Fine, you think. All fine and good. But in the process, the New Puritans are becoming ever more critical of those who aren't as self disciplined as they are. New Puritans object to rampant consumerism, smoking, junk food, pesticides, SUV's, the widespread binge and debt culture, etc...

And I thought (with alarm), oh god, I am one! I have the power to annoy friends (and even strangers) with my transparent thoughts, my side glances. And yet I'm caught in the middle. When I see supermarket trolleys full of jumbo cola bottles, battery chickens, Mr Kipling's tarts etc...well, I don't even need to explain. Yet ten years ago I would have eaten most of the above. So why am I being such a mental dictator? There was this woman infront of me at the checkout and she was buying 'diet' everything - diet cola, diet white bread, low fat ready meals, weight watcher's cakes. And I wished she wasn't duped by less healthy foods. I wished she knew an easier way. I confess, there is a Gillian McKeith inside of me, fighting to make me unpopular.

But the supermarket in Partick is more friendly than Byres Road. People call you 'darlin' and 'love'. They are big on self disclosure (unlike me who blogs..). An old woman volunteered that had a sore breast. Another woman told me she was 'too auld tae carry a bag o' tatties up the close'. It's like a community centre or a doctor's waiting room. There were a couple of immigrant kids who seemed to have no English except for the word 'Hamburgers.' So they ran round the aisles yelling out for processed meat.

Okay, somebody stop me now?
PS. friends keep asking me what blog stands for. T'is short for web log.

Monday, October 24, 2005

I am in Rome

People of the world!

I have been to Rome. So I am standing there in the Plaza Navona, and it is such a paradox. On the inside I feel ill to the point of near collapse, glancing at Italian policemen with the flashing thought - maybe they can save me (yeah, right...); and on the outside, I look like any other tourist. I agree to take photos of a Canadian couple. I make jokes about the plethora of pope postcards. I pat Italian dogs. I sit by the edge of the fountain and think 'I am in Rome.' I repeat it over and over like a mantra. After an hour, I get a taxi back to my shabby 3 star hotel and fall into a comatose sleep for 10 hours of the day.

The next day Francis and I get a train to Bologna. The rain is Glasgow-esque, clinging to the train windows, greying everything. But the hotel is great. Mineral water in glass, not plastic, bottles. Warm marble bathrooms. White towelly bathrobes. Sanctuary. Thank God, or Teenage Fanclub.

On Friday we're speeding along the autostradle towards Milan, music playing, eating pizza slices -everything that's bad for my illness but I'm defiant, tired of limitations, past caring. I think, good! Bring it on. Don't show me the price tag.

I was reading William Leith's 'The Hunger Years' - a fascinating memoir/analysis of hunger (in the literal and wider sense). He explores the consequences of our 'buy now, pay later' consumer world where people are programmed to want more and sod the consequences. Nothing like me, then.

In Milano it was dull but 20 degrees. In the cathedral square everyone else was in coats but I was damn well going to wear a t-shirt. You've got to take your warm air where you find it. Bella bella.


Sunday, October 16, 2005

You Guys!

Doesn't this look comfortable? They're called inversion tables and they cost from £100 upwards. I have no 'try before you buy' option, so I was improvising with a collapsed ironing board propped up against the sofa. I have this theory that inverting myself would help the blood flow to my brain and ease my migraine type headaches.

So I was lying inverted on my ironing board discussing the fact that a trip to Pollock Park on a Sunday afternoon might involve big queues at scone counter. You'd have to arm yourself with a Bavarian loaf and go in there swinging,' said Stuart. He was right. My head was too sore so he left me to it.

My dad phoned and I asked,

'What are you guys doing?'
'Pulling up my blouse and getting out my nipples.'
I thought this was some weird Spike Milligan moment. Dad said that they met a woman in America and anytime she and her husband were asked 'What are you guys doing?' she made a show of pointing to her breasts, in an excuse-me-I'm-not-a-guy way. Personally, I'd have asked for a computer print out of her DNA with a double X chromosome. They could have been falsies. (Will this get me more hits on google?)

Lastly, has anyone skyped yet? It's amazing. Free calls over the internet. Just check out and buy one of those call centre head sets. It's the next revolution.


Friday, October 14, 2005


The paps of Jura.

Pap Fiction

Write, don't think. Just keep writing. This is what our writing teacher recommends we do in class exercises. He means fiction but I think the same 'dive straight in' ethos is required for blogging.

I don't sleep till 3 or 4 am so I'm often online after midnight. Tonight I went with Stuart to a John Peel tribute gig to see Camera Obscura. It's just an accident that my closest friends are in bands. I mean, gigs give me migraines. Hilarious irony. But I do like Camera Obscura so it was good to hear a few songs.

For my dinner I had some corn on the cob - grown in Stuart's dad's garden - in Ayr! I didn't even know that maize corn could grow in Scotland. Since when could we grow yellow food? I love the thrill of getting free food from nature with no pesticides. I like to find wild berries and mushrooms. Even if I don't eat them, I like to see them flourish.

When I lived on the Island of Islay as a teenager (the halcyon pre-illness days) - I would do seasonal farm jobs like turnip thinning and potato picking. Crawling about in the soil and the fresh air all day. I'd ache at night but it would be a good satisfied ache, and I fell asleep like dropping off a cliff. And I'd wake up next morning and look out my window to the Paps of Jura....(called paps as they look like boobs. Maybe the mention of this will get me a few more hits on google).

I'm trying to post a photo of the view but it stubbornly refuses to copy and paste so it'll be in a separate post till I learn how to show and tell like the other bloggers. Technology. T'is great if you know how.


Monday, October 10, 2005

Set Radar to Scone-age

Blog phase one is delighting in the novelty of blogging, the distances words can travel, the immediacy of it all. Blog phase two is a hovering feeling that you'd better write some more as leaving the blog unattented is like being a lazy parent. So excuse me blog, if I've left you alone infront of the telly, dribbling yoghurt on your bib.

I had an enjoyable weekend. On Friday night Stuart and I went to an informal poetry evening in Tchai-Ovna. Some of my friends were there and we saw Tom Leonard read. What a performer.

On Saturday Belle and Sebastian were playing. The spontaneous Bob Dylan cover and Stevie's new song were brilliant - 'To be myself completely, I just have to let you go.' What a line. i.e Stevie, not Bob! Afterwards, Francis and I went to the Woodside and chatted to Camera Obscura.

On Sunday Stuart and I set the radar to scone-age and drove out into the country looking for quality home baking. We keep joking about a guide that we will publish, listing and rating all the 'wee old lady' cafes that we find on Sunday drives. The carrot and walnut cake of Kilearn was almost unsurpassed.

In the evening I enjoyed the Alan Bennet documentary (he'd enjoy a good scone trip too). Then I said farewell to Frankie boy as he's off with Teenage Flan club on a pastry tasting tour of Europe for 7 weeks. Well not really, but you know what I mean.

My writing night class starts on Tuesday. Yay.


Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Investigating intae stuff

Hi again,

A friend sent me a link for literary quotes of the day -

so I'll subscribe to that and see if it lends me any inspiration. I like it when I hear vernacular snippets that wouldn't qualify as a literary but capture something subtle and true. My dad told me that someone once complained to him that they found apples to be 'an uphill struggle.' (I've taken to making smoothies myself and the conversion is total - every day I drink a few glasses of a pulped banana/strawberry/pear/orange juice).

So I've been stuck inside a lot this week. Fluctuation in symptoms is just one of the many bewildering aspects to ME. One day I can get out for a few hours and pass for normal; the next day I feel as if I've accidentally swallowed a cocktail of horse tranquilizers with a dash of arsenic -and a wee pink umbrella on the side. Even reading is a struggle.

Then there's the ME spectrum - the brutal facts are: some people with ME are bedbound for years and have to be fed through a tube. When I can get out for a 'coffee' with friends, then I feel lucky and grateful for that hour.

I was at my brother's house yesterday and he lit a crackling wood fire and cooked me a great veggie lasagne. I've always known that 3 of the things I'd cherish in life would be

-a real fire
-a garden
-a cat or a dog

I can hold these on my reserve wish list. Or should I? From my limited knowledge of Buddhism - it teaches that desire only makes us unhappy and the key to fufillment is savouring every moment, without climing up on its shoulders to see what you can have next. (When I went to restaraunts I used to always look at the dessert menu first. No longer. My body protests at excess sugar.) Whoops, this wasn't meant to go all Gillian McKeith on you.

Which brings up another aspect of World Wide blogging - popular cultural references. Are there people reading who think 'Gillian Ma Who?' Oh, you get this jist.

'You'll need to get that investigated intae...' I was once told. So then: to pull this ramble together. For a life worth living? Investigate intae everything, pulverise fruit into a drinkable form and have a nice Now.


Saturday, October 01, 2005

Nice Wheelchair

Guten Tag!

The Scotsman has published half of the poem Nice Wheelchair, in their poem of the week slot. (Space restrictions meant they couldn't publish the full poem). No such restrictions here in blog world. Nice Wheelchair is taken from 'Seats for Landing' available to buy from

Nice Wheelchair

‘That looks a nice one,’ says Dr Walker, standing erect.
I smile at her from my bed.
Luftwaffe grey with tyres the colour of dough;
It’s more compact than I expect -
for the right fit, a woman from social services
draped her measuring tape
around my bony pyjama-ed hips.

Okay, I’ll consent to being in a Nice Wheelchair,
if, just say, I was on my way
to the labour suite;
a full-mooned belly bursting with new life.

Outside for the first time in four years
I notice kerbs and weather in my wheelchair.
Any weather is better than no weather.
I learn that babies are the only people
who dare to look you in the eye.
Hello bold, bright-eyed babies, I salute you!
I am one of your kind:
a 22-year-old baby
in a big buggy
brushing past tinsel in Woolies.

A handsome security guard holds open swing doors
as my mother manoeuvres me into sharp December air.
This is not meant to be, I want to tell him,
this is not the real me.

We drink tea from paper cups, my mother and I,
just so I can watch everyone walking by
behind a wall of glass. I sit in the regular seating
and hide the wheelchair behind plastic palms.

It is a stick that eventually waves it off.
A Quentin Crisp walking stick, steadying me
to the next lamppost and the next
until it is just a prop, a driftwood strut
and I can leave it behind too.

In January’s milky sun, I am walking alone.
I am using shoes – oh the thrill of chunky black shoes.
Look at me everyone!
I am Neil Armstrong, I am Fred Astaire,
I’m walking on ground, not air.