Category Archives: NaBloPoMo 2006

Addresses, Google and Multimap

As kelli, Z and I have been discussing, it’s that time of year again. Find your address book. Dig out that old spread-sheet. Look up your Outlook. It’s time to send Christmas Cards.

The problem is that I have lost my address book, I cannot face getting Outlook up and working on this PC, and the spreadsheet never really existed in its own right, I think it was populated from Outlook.

I’ve emailed my siblings and they have emailed me a lot of family and friends-of-family addresses.

I texted my ex and he emailed me his parents’ and siblings’ addresses.

I’ve got CF’s address because her son’s CV’s sitting in my inbox. I heard a rumour that CB was driving horses in Sailisbury and thanks to Google and faxes I managed to track her down. I Googled JT and got her contact details from when she was practising acupuncture from consulting rooms at home.

But there are friends of mine, former colleagues in particular, who I only have the email addresses of, and not even those when they change jobs. I spent an entire evening drawing a blank looking for RG. I rented a room from her once, so I looked the street up on Multimap and the postcode with a postcode finder. Let’s hope the postie knows the number of her house, and that she hasn’t moved.

Allowing liberty to be stolen in the name of convenience

This is the sort of post that I’d rather think through properly, but on the other hand I’m struggling with a subject, so here goes.

I’ve just renewed my car tax online. Logged on to the website, gave them the reference number from the reminder letter, and sixty quid later my car’s taxed and the disc is on its way. This is incredibly cool! It saved me scrabbling round for the MOT and insurance certificate, filling out the form, taking it to the Post Office, queueing for 15 minutes or so, (big queues at lunchtime), and buying a steak bake for lunch on my way past Greggs to help me recover from the trauma.


But…… it further undermines the viability of the Post Office and it’s yet another example of joined-up data (they checked my insurance details and MOT certificate while I was online). Ariel Dorfman‘s comment in the late 1970s on Chile that…

… many otherwise normal, decent human beings in my land allowed their liberty … to be stolen in the name of security…

… reminds us that we can sell our freedom but it is never a good bargain. This is not a new thought. In the 19th Century, Gibbon said of the Athenians

In the end, more than they wanted freedom, they wanted security. They wanted a comfortable life, and they lost it all — security, comfort, and freedom.

Us too, perhaps?

In 1985 Neil Postgate warned us of the seductive dangers of modern life in his book

Amusing ourselves to death

It’s a sobering read, and he was writing it before the wonderweb.

What all these thoughts share is the warning that we will trade the true gold of liberty for the false coin of security, convenience and entertainment. I have just accepted the offer and traded my privacy for convenience. As a side effect I have undermined the viability of a physical service provider, and threatened people’s jobs and the quality of service to those who are too old or too impoverished to use the internet.

I feel dirty. However, I am about to go online to get quotes for car insurance.

I guess I am part of the problem.

My NaBloPoMo hell

Only this post and two others of NaBloPoMo. Woo Hoo!

I started in a spirit of curiousity; I wanted to see if I could blog interestingly every day. I can’t.

The blogs I like writing are what journos call “think-pieces”. If an idea comes knocking on my forehead, I like to consider it for a while, kick it around my cranium and fiddle with it in draft form before posting something which is I hope coherent and reasonably well thought through If it is thought-provoking, or sparks reactions or even a debate, then that’s a bonus.

This is how I engage with the world: I notice something and then prod it until something interesting falls out. It works well with ideas but is not an approach to be recommended with wasp nests.

I need this rehearsing-time to write to a standard I am happy with. Posting daily means I don’t get that time. Hardly a surprise.

Others of course write more of a journal, but I don’t want to put my life out there for everyone to read, and I feel that November has prompted me to use my day-to-day life more than I would normally choose to.

The lazy answer is to rely on quizzes and other memes, and once I have launched my Christmas quiz on on a nervous world I am going to foreswear them for a while.

One good thing though, is that I ended up writing shorter blogs, simply because of lack of time. It remains to be seen if that continues.

So from December onwards I am cutting back to two blogs a week. And hopefully they’ll be more interesting.

Christmas comes but once a year, but lasts for bloody months….

I feel incredibly ambivalent about Christmas. On the one hand it can be a truly magical time of year. On the other hand – ach – insert “Bah! Humbuggery” here. I used to spend Christmas on a feminist retreat with the Buddhists. There is nothing like synchronised periods, pins and needles and flatulence for putting the whole thing into a spiritual perspective.

I have just spent the evening wrapping some presents ready for posting tomorrow, and have written one of those tedious round robins which we all wince over every year. Mine of course is a masterpiece of wit and a delightful syllabub of anecdotage and whimsical humour. (Isn’t “whimsical” a word to put dread into anyone’s heart?).

I don’t really need to do it. I have no children, so I cannot impress. (My godmother has genuinely impressive children – a son who travels from country to country telling their Finance Ministries what to do, another who’s about to be a QC and is married to one of Blair’s babes, a third who’s one of the few internet moguls who’s dot didn’t bomb, and the youngest of whom is equally successful in the army. And they are nice people. Which is even more annoying. And since they are all either a couple of years older or younger than me, the whole thing is incredibly insecure-making. I feel utterly worthless on or about December 10th every year. Enough. It is time to draw this bracket to a close.)

Where was I? Oh yes. The Christmas Round Robin. The Entirely-Pointless-in-my-case Christmas Round Robin, though it was useful to be able to tell everyone about my divorce in one fell swoop: “Happy Christmas! Oh, by the way, we’ve split up and I got custody of the Christmas-Card list”.

The thing is, that for the last 8 or so years I have been writing them to hide more than they reveal. Since I strayed from the path of the conventionally married, I have come to regard my private life as being private. Now my life is deliciously and delightfully dull (other than the bits of it that aren’t) so earlier this evening I found myself writing to my distant cousins and my mother’s bridesmaids to tell them that I moved house last year and I joined the WI.

I really have no idea whether or not it’s worth it.

Perhaps I should just send them a link to this blog, or one of those bloody memes, and be done with it.

I think I’ll spend the rest of this month devising a Christmas meme to launch on the 1st of December. That’ll cheer me up. Bitch that I am.

Bah, as I said. Hummmmmmm….BUG.

Gender meme

It’s not mimetic and lazy blogging. It’s feminism. Right? This is mandarine’s gender meme.

1. Three things you do that women usually do

Wear matching undies.

Come over all unnecessary near firemen.

Wear perfume.

2. Three things you do that men usually do

Negotiate with builders.

Rebuild the household PC.

Fall deeply asleep immediately after sex.

3. Three things you do that women usually don’t do

Reverse park in on go, three weeks out of four anyway.

Swear. Like a fucking trooper. In a sewer.

Drive more than 20,000 miles a year.

4. Three things you do that men usually don’t do

Spend four hours solid on the phone to a girlfriend, and at the same time finish the ironing, cook supper, sort the laundry and tidy the kitchen.

Have my legs and underarms waxed. Though in this meterosexual world, that’s hardly a differentiator.

Dye my hair.

5. Three things you don’t do that women usually do

Shower or bathe every day. I am well socialised so most of the time I’m hygenic but left to myself I’d be, well, left to myself.

Iron sheets. I don’t iron anything much really, which is why finishing the ironing doesn’t take long, but is put off for months.

Bitch about people; I never say anything behind somone’s back that I wouldn’t – in a pinch – be willing to say to their face.

6. Three things you don’t do that men usually do

Watch sport.

Drink beer.

Mow the lawn. Ever.

7. Three things you don’t do that women usually don’t do

Fart in public.


Choose someone else as the nominated driver.

8. Three things you don’t do that men usually don’t do

Calorie count.

Lie about my age.

Disagree with my escort in public. Gentlemen don’t do this, and neither do I.

Winter bus stop

cold feet, cold fingers,
cold legs, cold face, cold eyelids,
heavy rain, darkness

Calvinist Weather

I loathe and dislike the darkness and storm-lashed bad temper of winter, and I’m not too fond of the coldness of it either. I loathe them to the point, sadly, where I can’t always enjoy the summer the way I should because it will be followed by winter. ‘Ah yes’, I say to myself as the sun set fades at 10:30 on a downy summer’s evening, ‘but it’s all downhill from here; it’ll be gales and dark by 4.00 before I know it’.

How Calvinist. You’ll be punished for enjoying the good things god gave you. How much better to be miserable all of the time.

Then it struck me that the hard-line protestant religions, including Calvinism, are all either from the mountains or the north. They are from places with seasons, anyway; places where the winter is a dangerous endurance-test, rather than a mild interlude.

How much nicer to be an easy-going Catholic where it doesn’t really matter what you do, because the next day’ll be mild or warm or pleasant or wonderfully hot, and all you need to do to enjoy it is confess and get absolution. No bitter frosts, week-long gales, dead plants, damp houses, pneumonia, chilblains or frostbite for you. Just a couple of hail marys and go in peace and have a nice day.

Time and tide

Have you noticed that different people have different event horizons. (Does “event horizon” mean what I think it means? Ah, no. Hmmm. Almost. Oh well, never mind).

My name is Humpty Dumpty, and I refuse to define my terms.

Have you noticed that different people need different amounts of notice for future events? The one I chat these things over with told me that his aunt once asked him “but how do you know what you will be doing in two weeks?” To which his answer was “I look in my diary”. Obviously. Which may be why she goes to India on cheap standby flights, and I don’t go at all.

My event horizon is about 6 weeks. It used to be about 4 but the one I have to plan things with works shifts and rotas and things, and then I have Other Commitments which have to be slotted in, so now I know in principle what I’ll be doing for all the weekends from now and on in to the middle of January. Late January actually.

I once went out with someone who valued Spontaneity. He had an event horizon of two weeks. I ended up having to Schedule Spontaneous Weekends in amongst my plans for seeing my friends and doing other things, otherwise I’d never have seen him at all. This was pretty important, since I was in the UK at the time, and he wasn’t. On the other hand, my flights were cheaper. This fell sharply into contrast when, at about this time, I tried to book a weekend with my friend R, who had every single weekend for the following three months accounted for. Now that’s scheduling!

This all came to mind because I had an invitation to a works Christmas party for the 7th of December. I have had plans for then since the middle of October, (it is the WI winter knees-up, if you must know), so I couldn’t go. But the invitation gave us just under two weeks notice for an evening do. I said that I thought that was an inadequate amount of notice, but the people around me looked at me as if I was the unreasonable one. But it isn’t as if the party organisers hadn’t known when Christmas was this year, is it now?




Anyway, that set me to mulling over event horizons, and thus we have the blog you see here.

Morning ritual

naked goddesses –
maiden, mother, crone – rinsing
chlorine from their hair

Otters 43 x 365

I’ve just found a fascinating site: a pen-portrait of 365 people, each of them in no more words than the writer has lived years, each of them influential in the writer’s life. The result is like a series of prose haiku. Elegent. Spare. Sinewy. Fascinating.

Tie me down please, before I think it’s a cool way of spending the next 12 months.

Here’s a rope.

Here’s another.

Don’t forget my ankles.