Month: May 2015

Why I love Facebook

I was having a debate with my husband yesterday about a mutual friend of ours who has given up Facebook. She gave it up for one month to see if she missed it. As the month ended, she decided that she hadn’t missed it and has now given it up entirely.

I argued with my husband that I couldn’t imagine giving up Facebook. There is a lot of debate in the world today about the evils of Facebook but I see it as a good friend in my life. Facebook does a number of things for me: it replaces my need for soap operas (I can’t remember the last episode of EastEnders I saw), it has brought me back in touch with friends who before Facebook I had lost (and for that I am extremely grateful) and it works to amuse and entertain me and, I hope, allows me to amuse and entertain in return. I also use it to promote my art, gain feedback on my art and annoy friends with my art. Finally, I also use it for news (the ‘end of the news’ type news, that is).

Friends lost and regained thanks to Facebook

Friends lost and regained thanks to Facebook

Then I had a a weird thought: Facebook is like university. Facebook is everything I loved about university. Being at university for me was like living in a non-virtual social network (weirdly ironic, I know), particularly when living in halls of residence. What I enjoyed about the university experience was the instant access I had to friends – I could pop into their rooms for a quick chat (instant messaging), leave a note on their door (leave a note on their wall) or just go to to student bar for half a cider and a packet of wheat crunches and listen to, and perhaps join in on, the conversations of acquaintances (scroll down my news feed).

The joy of finding a phone message left on your door at University - are those days now long gone?

The joy of finding a phone message left on your door at university – are those days now long gone?

Living in halls is a sociable experience, Facebook is a sociable experience. You don’t have to make a huge effort to be sociable in either location. It is there, omnipresent. Access is instant. When I think of the gulf of time between leaving university and logging on to Facebook for the first time I think of a time of relative solitude.

Too much time on our hands (perhas the time we'd spent on twitter now) - hand-written silliness from 1993

Too much time on our hands (perhaps the time we’d spend on twitter now) – hand-written silliness from 1993

I have no doubts, however, that the university experience is very different now to how it was in 1990. Perhaps now the virtual and real world are so close as to be almost identical.

My first year halls

My first year halls

In 1990, we had one phone between 20-odd people (a Mercury phonecard was a prized possession). We hand-wrote our essays. We read books in the library. Parties were organized by word of mouth. TV was viewed in a ‘TV room’ (and Twin Peaks enticed forth a large audience – the student bar was always empty on Twin Peaks night).

Prized possessions in the early 1990s - where are my Mercury phone cards now

Prized possessions in the early 1990s – where are my Mercury phone cards now

Facebook fills that need in me for instant friendly ‘banter’ or ‘bantaaaar‘ as the youngsters of today would say.

I could never  be like my friend, I could never give it up.

The Big Book of…

There are two books that I wished existed in real life.

The first is, The Big Book of What People Say and What People Mean.

I get quite confused by the things people say when they actually mean something different. Why do people do this? Do they do it just to challenge me? What I mean by this is that I need a book which lists those coded messages that the Japanese are so good at and the English are just as good at, along with their actual meanings. My favourite Japanese phrase that belongs in this book is Tabun chotto muri da to omoimasu which means ‘I think that might be a little bit impossible’. Actual meaning = no. Often I wish people would just say what they mean and not say it in code. I think that many other people automatically ‘get’ the code but I don’t. I’m always telling my husband off for speaking to me in this ‘code’ that I don’t get.

This book would be my constant companion if it existed

This book would be my constant companion if it existed

The second is, The Big Book of What We Should Never Do. This relates to the weird thought I had the other night as I went to bed before nightfall. It was only 10pm but it was still light. So I said to my husband ‘I’m sure it says in The Big Book of What We Should Never Do that we should never go to bed before nightfall, at least not after the age of 10 years’. He laughed at me and informed me that such a book doesn’t exist.

I wish I has this book on my book shelf

I wish I has this book on my book shelf

Other entries in this invaluable reference work would be:

  • Get up before 7am on a Sunday No Matter What.
  • Say no thanks to More Wine when offered.
  • Drink wine out of a mug, that is never, ever acceptable.
  • Wear yellow. I don’t care if you think it suits you, it doesn’t.
  • Anger a cat.
  • Go clothes shopping after a lunchtime tipple (never, ever do this).
  • Gatecrash a funeral (although a wedding reception is perfectly acceptable, I’ve only done this once).
  • Say ‘that’s ok, I can make you cheese on toast instead’ to your child who won’t eat vegetables.
  • Go to the toilet before leaving the house in a hurry on a day when you are wearing a skirt or dress (yep, done this a few times).

As, sadly, such books do not yet exist, perhaps I should write to my good friends at Oxford University Press and suggest they commission these titles. I, for one, would definitely purchase.


Why don’t grown-ups play with home furnishings and their imagination?

I had this weird thought on my way to bed the other night. I was cold and I had wrapped a blanket around my waist to keep warm. I found myself automatically sashaying between the bathroom and the bedroom and I pretending I was a princess on her way to get her valuable beauty sleep. In my head I was about to climb on a mountain of mattresses and find a frog at the top. My way of walking changed from the walk of a regular 21st-century person to the walk of a Disney princess. Mid-sashay I stopped to think about what I was doing. I hadn’t had the urge to do that for over thirty years (most likely more). When did I lose the desire to drape myself in blankets and pretend to be royalty?

Another game I was fond of was twisting myself in a curtain until the space got smaller and smaller and smaller, then untwisting again. When is the last time I did that? I really couldn’t say.

The curtain twisting game - hours of fun

The curtain twisting game – hours of fun

I also enjoyed standing on my head (for hours) and pretending that the house was upside down. In this land you had to step into rooms and you slept on the ceiling. I did briefly stand on my head a few weeks ago but I haven’t played the ‘pretend everything is upside down’ game for many years. (A variety of this game is imaging that what is seen in a mirror is the real world and you are the reflection.)

Living on the ceiling and stepping into rooms is all the rage

Living on the ceiling and stepping into rooms is all the rage

At what point did I lose this ability to play with just my imagination and home furnishings? I also liked making dens behind the settee and pretending the house was a magical land ruled by giants.

As well as living with giants, I liked to lie in bed in the morning and pretend my knees under the blankets were hills and I was the giant of the land. An earthquake could easily be provoked by the need to shift position. The ‘little people’ didn’t like that. I would warn them not to anger me.

Now I am a grown up, I hardly ever prance around the house draped in sheets looking for Prince Charming and as for standing on my head, the last time I tried that a photo was uploaded to Facebook and subsequently I was regarded as a bit of an oddity. Only eccentric, or drunk, grownups stand on their head. Why shouldn’t grown ups play? Why do we change? When do we become, boring?

That dog is not impressed, and I hadn't had any alcohol before doing this

That dog is not impressed, and I hadn’t had any alcohol before doing this

I want everyone who reads this to put their phone, computer, or laptop down and go play – play anything, all you need is a house and your head. Be a princess. Live in the mirror. Twist yourself in a curtain – it is fun, I promise.

The wrong sort of mug

I had a weird thought in Cambridge this weekend.

A magnet for weird thoughts

A magnet for weird thoughts

I need to know whether this is just ‘me’ or whether other people do ‘this’. ‘This’ being only drinking certain beverages in certain vessels (and thinking the same beverages taste differently in different vessels). I have set ideas when it comes to how the same tea and coffee (and other drinks) taste differently in different cups.

This is my herbal tea mug.

My herbal tea mug

My herbal tea mug

This is my morning coffee mug.

Only coffee, no tea in this one

Only coffee, no tea in this one

This would be my afternoon tea cup if I were to have afternoon tea at home.

This is definitely a teapot tea cup

This is definitely a teapot tea cup

Feed me the right drinks in the above three vessels and I am happy. When I got married, we were given a set of Denby mugs. Despite being very lovely, they are hardly ever used. Why?  Because to me, neither tea nor coffee tastes right in them.

Despite it's beauty and solidness, it doesn't make a good coffee or tea

Despite its beauty and solidness, it doesn’t make a good coffee or tea

If I have wine, it has to be in this glass. It is chunky and it is purple. Wine tastes the best in it. Wine does not taste as good in a clear glass.

My favourite wine glass

My favourite wine glass

In Cambridge this weekend, my husband, knowing how much I like to have my own mug whenever I’m away from home, brought along my herbal tea mug (see above). This worked well and was very much appreciated. I really enjoyed my before-bed herbal tea that night. However, the next day I wanted a coffee before getting up for breakfast. I only had the one mug, my herbal tea mug. I was prepared to give the mug the benefit of the doubt. However, the coffee tasted wrong in it. It wasn’t good enough. It didn’t feel right. My herbal tea mug is not a coffee mug. He should have brought along two mugs for me (three if we were to have afternoon tea).

Am I alone in this weirdness? Or am I just being a bit of a diva?


Where is it? Where is the black beast?

Today I have had my first day of manning my art exhibition. As well as my artwork, the artwork of my fellow student, Bill Sample, is in the exhibition. His artwork has been inspired by a series of poems by Ted Hughes about crows. For his exhibition, he has painted large drawings of crows, made a number of crow statues and created a giant inflatable crow. The artwork includes some of the lines from the poems. To complement the artwork, he has a CD of Ted Hughes reading his poems, which we have to leave on repeat, playing in the background.

I have been listening to these poems, on repeat, for six hours today. I have been staring at Bill’s black crows, for six hours. I have been looking at black feathers and black eyes all day. I have been touched by the power of the crow. I have been told to find the black beast (the inner black beast within) over and over again. Where is the black beast? Will somebody please find him?

I started off the day fairly chirpy. I ended the day feeling down and more than a little disturbed. The crows are out to get me. They are there, lurking, waiting, wanting to peck and pounce.

So, jumping back to reality now, my weird thought is: can the mind be so easily disturbed by a depressing soundtrack and a dark view? Or perhaps I have a very susceptible mind? Would a stronger mind be able to listen to Ted Hughes crying in his deep, gloomy voice: ‘Where, oh where, is the black beast?’ without feeling changed in some way? Repeated music is a well-documented form of psychological torture. After today, I think that any form of repeated soundtrack does the trick. It doesn’t have to be Brittany Spears.

Apparently, the Meow Mix was used by the CIA as a form of music torture in the war on terror. Of course this isn’t a joking matter. The effect of this on repeat combined with sleep deprivation is hard to imagine.

See how many times you can stand it before your mind starts to go?

He's coming to get me

He’s coming to get me

I have more hours of staring at and listening to crows tomorrow. It’ll be interesting to see what state my mental health is in tomorrow evening. Watch this space. Who knows where I’ll be by Friday?

The Black Beast

Where is the Black Beast?
Crow, like an owl, swivelled his head.
Where is the Black Beast?
Crow hid in its bed, to ambush it.
Where is the Black Beast?
Crow sat in its chair, telling loud lies against the Black
Where is it?
Crow shouted after midnight, pounding the wall with a
Where is the Black Beast?
Crow split his enemy’s skull to the pineal gland.
Where is the Black Beast?
Crow crucified a frog under a microscope, he peered into
the brain of a dogfish.
Where is the Black Beast?
Crow killed his brother and turned him inside out to stare
at his colour.
Where is the Black Beast?
Crow roasted the earth to a clinker, he charged into
Where is the Black Beast?
The silences of space decamped, space flitted in every
Where is the Black Beast?
Crow flailed immensely through the vacuum, he
screeched after the disappearing stars—
Where is it? Where is the Black Beast?

Ted Hughes


What I fear more than ballons

I have quite a few phobias, probably more than the average person.

I am scared of (to differing degrees) the following: balloons, fireworks, party poppers, worms, vomit, belly buttons and not being able to find a toilet if I need one.

I have sweaty palms downloading this image

I have sweaty palms downloading this image

However, this week I realised that there is something I am scared of much more than any of the things in that list: boredom. I am really scared of being bored.

Aghhh run away!

Aghhh run away!

The last nine months (since about September) have been the busiest few months of my life. I’ve had two major work projects going on at the same time and my final art course project started in November and is due to finish in May. An evening hasn’t passed without me having some work to catch up on, or a blog entry to write, some art to research to do or some more work to catch up on. I feel as if I haven’t sat down for longer than five minutes in nine months.

My brain when I am busy

My brain when I am busy

I have a to-do list of all those filddly jobs that never get done: book cat in for her MOT, ring dentist to check they have the correct phone number for me, sew on Cubs badges, sort through pile of letters, check bank account, do invoices, read a book for half an hour without distraction.

If you don't book me in for my MOT soon I'll, I'll drink toilet water

If you don’t book me in for my MOT soon I’ll, I’ll drink toilet water

However, the work load and the college demands are due to ease after May 19th. May 19th has loomed as this golden date of freedom for me since November. I’ve had to to people: ‘I can do that, but only after May 19th’, ‘I’ll be free, after May 19th’. Now we are two weeks away from the golden date of May 19th, I’ve started to feel a bit jittery.

I’m due to start another college course in October, I also have a video to make in June and July for the History Makers project, I still have a fair amount of work to do, I’ll still be helping out at my sons’ school with various art projects, yet I fear boredom will get me before October. I fear not being busy all the time. I fear not having the need to run everywhere. I fear not having my brain whizzing with thoughts all the time. If it is not whizzing with work thoughts and art thoughts, what will it think about? That is too scary to contemplate.

So I need a few balls to replace those that will drop. I know that I shouldn’t find new balls. I should enjoy the time to have fewer balls.  But how? I don’t know.

Three balls are enough

Three balls are enough

Why are car colours so boring?

Recently as a family, we have been looking to buy a second car. We have a dark blue car and had a red car till last week when we suddenly decided to get a certified car removal company to help us get rid of the red car and ever since then have been looking for another car as having a second car at home is more of a necessity for us. I wanted a purple car. A purple car would go nicely with a dark blue one I thought. However, there aren’t many purple cars for sale. My weird thought is: where are all the purple cars?

Will this car do?

Will this car do?

Whenever car shopping, one naturally starts to notice the cars on the roads. So as we started car shopping, I started to see with new eyes the many cars that passed me by as I sat and sipped my coffee in one of the many coffee shops I patronize. I also looked at cars in car parks, cars parked on the side of the road and cars on TV. The conclusion: cars these days are mostly either grey, silver, white or black.

Why is that? There aren’t even that many red or blue cars on the roads at the moment. I’m sure that even five years ago (when my eldest and I used to play ‘count the car colours’) there was a better mix of blue, red, black, silver, grey and white cars. Now, it seems, the black, silver, grey and white cars have overtaken the roads and overtaken the world.

My dream car

My dream car

We have now bought our car, after poring over the details on Car Check, and it is black. It isn’t purple. We couldn’t find a purple Ford Focus (or whatever sensible make of car we went for, I wanted a Beetle). The range of  colours that bland cars come in is the following: grey, silver, black or white. I think that is most unfair.

What makes my argument for searching for a purple car weaker is that apparently going boring is the best option, financially.

This admitting of defeat on my part is especially irksome to me as the colour of the car you choose to drive, it is argued, says something about your personality. I’d like the chance to reflect my personality through my purple car (creative, intuitive, unique – that’ll do me) but I have no choice. Instead, I have to change my personality to match my car (it seems I need to become more aggressive, competitive and intimidating).

I think this is the car we bought but I didn't pay attention

I think this is the car we bought but I didn’t pay attention

So Grrrr I’m going to be ANGRY about not having the chance to buy a PURPLE CAR grrrrrr.


I’ve just learnt something new. The other day, I was watching an old episode of Friends when a weird thought came to me: the personalities of sit come characters seem gradually to expand in annoyance over time, to an exaggerated state and to the point of irritation. At the moment I am making my way through old DVDs of Friends episodes and I am currently on season 8 episode 10. I am just two seasons from the end. And Joey, Phoebe, Ross, Monica and Rachel are all getting on my nerves. They weren’t at the beginning and they weren’t just two weeks ago. They are now.

Is she a bit of a tidy freak or an obsessive tidy monster?

Is she a bit of a tidy freak or an obsessive tidy monster?

So today I decided to google this weird thought of mine and to my horror I find that I am not the first person to have this thought. Not only that, there is a word for it: Flanderization. Students have probably written essays on it and I didn’t realise. It is a well-known phenomena. The phenomena is named after Ned Flanders, a character from The Simpsons who started off in the animation as a fairly benign man next door with nothing outstanding about him but over time he changed to become a mad religious zealot.

How did Ned change over time?

How did Ned change over time?

Do people suffer from Flanderization in the real world? Possibly. Perhaps that is something else for those same students to write essays about.