Category Archives: memes

Putting the Me in MeME

I said I wouldn’t do another meme but I have been thinking about the whys and wherefores of this blog for the last few weeks and worrying about NaBloPoMo slightly, so this is particularly a propos. I picked it up from Charlotte, who gracefully credits yogamum.

1. Do you promote your blog?


2. How often do you check hits?

Two or three times a week, maybe weekly. When I remember. It varies.

3. Do you stick to one topic?

Absolutely not. The blog is where I blart out whatever is on my mind at the time, be it a haiku about birds, photos of places I’ve been, rants about the government, or attempts to understand my own reactions to something I’ve read.

  • I have wide-ranging and eclectic interests
  • You have a butterfly mind.
  • They are completely unfocused.

It’s an indulgence.

4. Who knows that you have a blog?

Well you do, obviously. Most of the friends I’ve made online, many of whom are real life friends now. Colleagues and family don’t.

5. How many blogs do you read?

Not enough, which is bad blog karma. I do read the ones in my blogroll, but intermittently. I keep links to some closed blogs for sentiment’s sake.

6. Are you a fast reader?

It’s a Sunday game; I couldn’t read for my County.

7. Do you customise your blog or do anything technical?


8. Do you blog anonymously?

I blog pseudonymously, which is different. Aphra Behn is a pseudonym I use more or less consistently across the internet at the moment.

9. To what extent do you censor yourself?

I don’t talk much about my emotional life, my relationship, living family members, my employers, books, my studies or my finances. I do talk about my sexuality, my medical situation, my politics (such as they are) and to some extent about my job. Basically you have a certain amount of access to the inner Aphra but less access to the outer Ms Behn.

10. The best thing about blogging?

Feedback. In the words of Chrissie Hynde: I want some of your attention.

This seems to be a self-tagging MeMe, so feel free to post about YouYou. If you link to me, I will certainly read it.

Charlotte poses some questions

I cannot pretend this is anything more than a bit of self-indulgent blog-streaking but the answers Charlotte gave the questions put to her in the Interview meme are illuminating and fun so I decided to give it a go. Besides which, I thought she’d ask interesting questions. Guess what – she did. The answers of course are another matter.

1. Social justice is important to you. When did you first become
aware of injustice in the world and what was your response to that?

I had a nice long answer that encompassed being the youngest of four, feminism, the Miners Strike, Live Aid, and the Countryside and Anti-War Marches of the Blair years. But then I realised that although I don’t like injustice, what really gets me going is dishonesty. It is the moral and intellectual dishonesty of the Blair crowd that enrages me, not to mention the Tory sleazeballs before them.

For me, the first political question is “what is government for?” Surely it is there to make life for the people fairer, easier and safer. To support and protect, if you like.

How dare they take us into a war which – entirely predictably – caused the deaths of 56 people in London on 7/7? And there’s more, it seems, to follow. This will go on for generations. In what possible way is the world a safer place because Blair has spent the last five years wanking all over Iraq at Bush’s behest? And the junior doctor thing? How does instituting a Cultural Revolution against doctors improve our health-care exactly?

Honesty is part of who and what I am. I tend to stare reality in the face to see which one of us blinks first, and I have very little patience for people who are self-serving and self-deceiving. I’ve had my moments, my years, of self-delusion but I am never comfortable with it once I realise it. And the self-serving arrogance and abuse of power of those in power continues to enrage me. I think I have voted for the government only once in my life.

2. You love words, and yet you seem to work in an industry that involves software/numbers. Is this your dream job? If you could start your career all over again, would you take the same direction or do something radically different?

Well, I love mathematical and systemic elegencies too. Besides which, a lot of it is words: my job is to sit between business people and technical people and stop them wanting to throttle each other. I’m a go-between, a buffer zone and a translator.

Actually, it is my dream job. I get an intellectual challenge from my work which I can’t get elswhere and which I miss when I’m not working. I am a compulsive asker of questions and maker of connections and much of my job involves understanding systems. It is easy enough to understand explicit systems that are known about and documented. The fun is in uncovering implicit systems. I like uncovering how things would work if you made this group of people accountable for those decisions; what would happen if that team had access to this data; why does this group behave in this counter-intuitive way and so on.

If I could start again I’d like to live in a world where I could have got a good first degree in maths and modern languages and started off by working for an emergent technology firm like Lotus. But I’m pants at languages and not good enough at maths so I am where I am. Which isn’t a bad place to be.

I think there’s a parallel universe where another Aphra is an estate agent, but that’s another thing entirely.

A very young Buster

3. Who has been your favourite cat and why?

Right pronoun. Hard call.

Buster was fearless and inquisitive, friendly and fun.

Slasher looking serene

Slasher was a zen master apart from the killing things bit which we won’t discuss; he could appear and disappear at will and was an intensely private cat and loving and peaceful company.


Tiger is very sweet. another serial killer of course, but very affectionate.

There have been others: Madam, another Tiger, Archer and Aitken, and Curly, but for sheer cheek it’s probably Buster.

4. Aphra and the WI. Discuss.

Hoo hoo. What’s not to like about an organisation of middle aged women who heckle Blair by slow hand clapping him and making him sweat? Oh, and the nuddie calendar shots too, don’t forget those. I’m a country woman, I’m also a subversive and I like the company of women.

5. If I could guarantee you an all-expenses paid, no strings attached, month-long holiday on your OWN, where would you go and what would you do?

This is the hardest question of all.

With company, I’d go on a road trip; possibly in the Australian outback, possibly trying to do Scandinavia justice. A month isn’t that long, to be honest. But I’m not sure about a road-trip on my own, I like my own company but I like my own company in my own home.

I could probably do two or three weeks on a beach, but not a month. Perhaps it would be interesting to do one of those Mediterranean cruises where clean, young, gay academics provide lectures about Canaletto and the Mycenaeans. I would avoid those life-style holidays on a Greek Island where desperate, single women paint each others’ auras and have emotional crises brought about by too much oestrogen, not enough sex and too close a proximity to the scuba-diving instructor’s bum.

I’d probably visit friends and relations like Rabbit in Winnie-the-Pooh. Meet up with a few Internet Wierdos. Shoot a few breezes. Down a few glasses. That sort of thing.

But I’d rather have a companion, a car and an atlas, to be honest.


  1. Leave a comment saying, “Interview me.”
  2. I will respond by emailing you five questions. Please make sure I have your email address.
  3. You will update your blog with the answers to the questions.
  4. You will include this explanation and offer to interview someone else in the same post.
  5. When others comment, asking to be interviewed, you will ask them five questions.

5 reasons why I blog

Severine has tagged me with the meme asking for five reasons why I blog. I realised I didn’t actually know the answer to that one, so I thought about it for a bit, and here they are.

I blog to help me think – Some people think in images, some people work on gut feeling, I think in words. Sometimes I don’t know what I think until I hear myself saying it. If the level of background noise is too loud, I lose the ability to think. So working through thoughts as writing helps me define them and refine them. But any kind of writing would do that, and I certainly didn’t keep a journal or a diary as regularly as I blog, so why do I blog?

I blog to spark conversations – Blogging is not just about writing, it is also about reading, and I like it when people read and post comments. I came here from a cyberplace which was much more conversational and I miss that to be honest. But I do like to talk about ideas with people, and if I write to help me think I post it in cyberspace to start a conversation. But you can have conversations in pubs or chat rooms or any one of any other kind of social space. So what’s different about blogging?

I blog for the attention – The very first words I posted here are: “I want to see what happens when you start over again in a place where you have no history and no credit”. In other words, I want to see just how much attention I can generate. But if it was as simple as that I would blog very differently. The blogs which have garnered the most attention are the medical ones, and if I was nothing but a stats-tart then why would I post things which I know will reduce the stats?

I blog to indulge myself – A photo here. A haiku there. Commentary, poetry, analysis. I could claim it is to try out different forms of self-expression, but if you ask me it’s just a matter of self-indulgence. But if that was all it was, would I put so much effort into making it easy to find specific posts?

I blog to influence others – The ridiculous, incredible, Kafkaesque cock-ups of the recruitment of hospital doctors in the UK have outraged me, and still worry me sick. In less than a month’s time thousands of junior doctors will be out of a job and thousands of hospitals will have unfilled junior doctors positions. The rotas are going to fall apart, because they don’t have the doctors in place to staff them. This terrifies me as a patient, disgusts me as a tax-payer, and enrages me as a voter. But the issues are complex and run completely against any kind of common sense, so people don’t believe those of us who talk about it. I wanted to explain them. But that doesn’t really explain why I blog, because if it was a matter of campaigning, then a campaigning blog would do it better than this one. So what else is in it for me?

I blog as a displacement activity – two, three, hours of an evening spent puttering around the internet rather than painting the house, reading or studying. Shockingly, it used to be more when I hung out in a writing community. I’m aware that I could have got myself at least one post-grad degree in the time I’ve spent hanging out in cyber-space. At any given moment, I’d rather be blogging than doing the ironing, and once I’m sitting at the PC I’m hard to shift. I’ve just bought myself a sofa to replace the awkward and uncomfortable day-bed I’ve got in my living room, so maybe I’ll start watching TV instead.

Ok, that’s six reaons, but another nice thing about blogs is that there’s no word-count.

So how about you. I’m very shy of tagging, but I am genuinely curious why these folks blog:

  • Santra
  • Dr Z
  • Teuchter
  • Paddy K
  • You – if you don’t really know why you blog and fancy thinking about it for a minute or two.

Aphra Needs….

Here’s a silly thing I picked up from Charlotte. You type your web name into a search engine with the word “needs”. “Aphra needs” is nearly but not quite a googlewhack:

Aphra needs temporary work space. If you know of any, please call Claire Scheinbart at 737-5274

But somehow, I don’t think aphra needs our help.

Aphra needs to be the center, which makes sense in a decentered world.

There’s not much there, so I removed the double quotes and discover that it takes a lot to keep me in the style to which I have become accustomed:

APHRA depends in funding on international and regional organizations and …

Or perhaps we might want to plan a public function, such as a fund-raising event for Aphra which, we hear, needs a sizeable contribution

I rather like the sexiness of this one:

Read the poetry of Aphra Behn. … who, by all Means wou’d needs see her undress’d, for other Reasons more than a bare Compliment; which she perform’d with …

In reality, there’s not much I need right now, except a cup of tea and Patricia Hewitt too develop an illness too complex to be treated privately, preferably one which requires undignified and invasive treatment, painful investigations and where the national centre of excellence is a rather run-down teaching hospital.  I want her illness to be really, really obscure too, so that the students all have too trail past and be asked too demonstrate that they understand the least savoury aspects of it in a public ward.

Just a thought.


Teuchter’s post on Bliss has encouraged me to say “Fie!” to all politicos and count my own blessings. I agree with most of what she has posted, but I am adding a few of my own:

The smell of clean, fresh cotton laundry. One of my colleagues smells of freshly washed clothes. I’m not even sure who it is, but it always makes me feel brighter myself. It’s even better when it’s freshly washed bedlinen of course.

A cat, purring. They are such contented little bastards that it’s hard not to be soothed.

The perfect line on a bend. My days of driving expensive German machinery faster than is appropriate are done, but still I like the feeling of taking just the right line on a series of nicely cambered, sweeping down-hill curves.

The distance. As the mother of a friend of mine said, I like to stretch my eyes. I need a horizon to look at and the pleasure goes up in proportion to the number of miles away that it is.

May. Well the last two weeks of April, all of May and the first half of June. Nowhere is lusher or fresher or more teeming than England, then. Every day of May is precious.

Puns. I take deep and devious delight in a neatly turned pun, though most bits of wordplay will do it.

Good second hand bookshops. A good second hand bookshop should not be too large, too damp or to dusty, and it should turn up one or two affordable books by authors who are old friends, but sadly out of print. I am always delighted to find one of the novels of Margery Sharp for example.

Falling asleep in the sun. I do this very rarely because one so rarely gets goldilocks days when it’s not too hot and not too cold. But it is such a treat when one can.

The first mouthful of the first cup of tea of the day. What more can I say?

I think that’ll do for now. I am off to drink tea and read some pre-war detective fiction. More bliss.

Eight random things

Dr Z, bless his scrubs and stethescope, has tagged me to reveal 8 random things about myself.


I guess these have to be eight random things not already revealed here.

Double humpptt.

Here goes:

  1. I cannot raise one eyebrow – it’s either both or none. I mind this. My natural sarcasm is hampered by not being able to stare at someone, meet their gaze, and raise one eyebrow.
  2. On the other hand, I can touch type at a reasonable speed, 60ish words per minute, which means that I can stare at someone, meet their gaze, and continue typing. Most people find this unnerving after about 20 seconds.
  3. I stopped studying any kind of science when I was 12 or 13. Despite this, I got B+ on an online quiz: “how well would you do at 8th grade science” so it seems I haven’t forgotten the little I did learn. I do think my parents were mad to make me specialise in arts / humanities at such an early age though.
  4. I can’t bake sponge cakes but I can make really good shortcrust pastry, though its been a few years since I’ve bothered.
  5. I can only speak one language; yet another flaw in my education, though I was so lazy at school that I was never going to learn to speak another language there.
  6. I like total solar eclipses and have been in the umbral path of two though so, unfortunately, have the clouds.
  7. I like road-trips but don’t do enough of them.
  8. I scare trains; if I buy a ticket, the train will cower shivering further up the line and arrive reluctant and late at the station where I want to catch it.

I’m not tagging anyone else because everyone I was going to tag has already been taken, and I am far too much of a wuss at the moment.

Happy bloggiversary

It’s been a year now, and the time has come for the traditional taking of stock.

I arrived here on May 10th 2006 with few expectations:

I want to see what happens when you start over again in a place where you have no history and no credit. … This is a step outside [my] comfort zones, to see what happens when – without any background or explanation – a person starts to blog.

I set out my store fairly early. This was to be about anything that grabbed my attention, but my private circumstances would remain private. Yeah, right. I am too fond of blog-streaking to maintain an air of mysterious anonymity, and in fact in my third post I was discussing my reaction to violent erotica. At that time no-one knew I blogged here and the anonymity went to my head. By Post 5 I’d got stuck right in and was discussing how I define my sexuality.

So much for just sticking with ideas.


Fame on the cards for Ms Patronising HubrisOf course my Big Blogging Event has been the MMC and MTAS debacle. For a while there were no informed, independent explanations of what was going on and the Patients’ Guides brought me what every blogger wants: glory, recognition and in-bound links, but I didn’t have anywhere I could kick back and let loose.

Once I’d unburdened myself, I needed to return to my random ways even though it meant reducing my stats. So now I blog about MMC and MTAS only when it all becomes too much. Not quite true. The whole thing leaves me speechless and I find photoshoping about MMC and MTAS strangely soothing. I am not sure if it was FerretFancier or Dr Rant who produced the Most Wanted image, but I was delighted to find it in pole position in Google Images the other day:

My other Big Blogging Event was a brain-dump about questions which was a compulsive expression of several years’ thinking about questions, and which was met with a resounding silence with the noble exceptions of Kelli and Sol.


Moving further back in time, I was still finding my feet in the first part of last summer, and many of my entries aren’t worth the pixels they are displayed with. However, here are half a dozen blog entries from May, June and July last year which missed out rather by being written in those early, low traffic days.

In fact, of course, the whole thing is simple self-indulgence about me, me, me. Which make’s Sol’s question about her style all the more interesting.


The other half of the blogosphere is the blogs one reads. The most delightful post of the year was, without a doubt, the Candy Battle of Helm’s Deep.

The most upsetting blog-reading and posting experience I had was, by a long way, chez icanplainlysee. I’ve been abused online and offline before, I’ve been disagreed with. But this was the first time I’ve been disappeared. On the other hand, this did help me find the intelligent dissenters listed on my blogroll as “Classy Aenenomies”.

Charlotte’s posts about her children enthral me, partly because Charlotte herself shines through so strongly and partly because she does not take anything for granted.

I steer clear of rabidly feminyst blogs, mainly because this sort of thing enrages me. On the other hand, I have the bottom image from this post on my kitchen wall.

The Eerie Apricot’s description of a school concert where the parents are too exited to shut up and pay attention to their kids on stage has disturbed me and depressed me since I read it. Unfortunately she has deleted her blog.

Mr Angry’s posts on the IT industry almost always having me laughing, except when they make me wince.

It is difficult to pick a single post from Compartments because she is one of the most consistent bloggers out there; here is just one example of her clear-eyed intelligence about the world she half-inhabits.

There are a large number of FtM bloggers out there but the only two that I read regularly are also doctors. Nathaniel is in the process of transitioning. Z is more interested in being a doctor and human being.


However, a year on I am even less sure why I blog than I was when I started.