Month: June 2016

Tipped over the edge of protest by chocolate orange

This is the weird thought I had last night when I was told by my husband to take a look at the piece of Terry’s Chocolate Orange I was about to eat.

‘Look at it,’ he told me, ‘it is smaller.’

‘No it isn’t!’ I replied indignantly, closing my jaw before biting.

‘Yes it is,’ he continued. ‘Look, there’s a ridge. That wasn’t there before.’

So I looked at him and I looked at the object in my hand. I turned the piece over. I nudged my glasses up my nose and looked closer. I turned it again. He was right; there was indeed a ridge. There was a ridge that I either hadn’t noticed before or that hadn’t been there before. I went for the latter conclusion (I’m generally an observant person).

The bastards had shaved off some of the chocolate from each piece. I was outraged. I was incensed. This was the most incensed I had felt for at least ten minutes (previously, about the EU referendum result, what else?).

Then he showed me further proof (he has a scientist’s mind). He handed me the box. A chocolate orange now weighs 157g. It used to be 175g. I have been robbed of 18g of pure heaven. How dare they? How absolutely dare they? They didn’t even take the time to write to me and ask me whether I’d mind. I am their most loyal customer. I consume one Terry’s Chocolate Orange a week. They could have least offered me that courtesy. I may have said yes.

We’re not the only people to notice this. A quick google on the Internet reveals that someone called Gerry Hassan has also noticed and has commented on Twitter. He blames the Tory Party. They do have a lot to answer for, especially right now. Gerry Hassan is a commentator and a writer. I can tell we could be friends. Anyone who likes orange chocolate and who is as upset about this as me is an automatic friend of mine. I’ve clicked ‘follow’.

We've been robbed!

We’ve been robbed!

The issue now is that I have used up all my passion for protest on the EU referendum vote and I’m just exhausted of all enthusiasm now. I haven’t got the energy to do anything about this orange chocolate slippage except sit and grump, and eat. What should I eat? My favourite type of chocolate, of course, just less of it than I might have done a month ago.

It’s taken me 20 years to realise I actually quite like politics

This is a weird thought that I’ve had over the last few days.

In 1994, I graduated from the University of Exeter with a BA (Hons) degree in Economics and Politics with European Study. I scraped at 2.1. I think I got 61%. I had worked really hard to get that 2.1. I think my intellectual ability then was a 2.2. but with hard work and determination I pushed myself into the 2.1. bracket.

Hope Hall, Exeter University

Hope Hall, Exeter – where I learnt what a demand / supply curve was

From 1995 to the present day, I have barely used my degree for anything work related (I’ve worked for a locksmith, taught English, worked for a Japanese translation service and worked mostly in academic publishing).

This is me on graduation day

This is me on graduation day

Since 1994, I’ve questioned why I did a degree in Economics and Politics with European Study when my interests lie in other areas (art). When asked about what I studied at university, I’ve since been embarrassed to admit ‘err, well, economics and errr, politics’ as if it is a socially unacceptable for someone creative to study something so dry.

At the time of graduation, I probably had a great deal of knowledge of how economics work on the macro and micro scale and about the politics of the UK and Europe. But over the last 22 years, that knowledge has sat at the back of my brain, gathering dust. I have had little need to draw on it.

Every time we’ve had a general election, and when Mrs Thatcher died, that knowledge has been allowed to come out of hiding for a short while and inform my opinion (for good or for bad) on the events of the day. I’ve read the occasional economics or politics non-fiction popular read such as The Armchair Economist, Chavs, Freakanomics and Superfreakanomics. I’ve kept vaguely abreast of political events via twitter, facebook, Radio 4 and the Guardian. It ends there.


One of the few economics books I have allowed myself to read

In 2012, I started a Foundation Degree in Contemporary Art Practice at Shrewsbury College and any interest in politics or economics went further back into my consciousness. I reasoned: art and economics do not mix. They are not easy bedfellows. I choose art. I reject economics. I became even more embarrassed by my non-creative degree.

Then more recently, David Cameron, in his wisdom or otherwise, decided to call a referendum on membership of the EU. Thanks to him, that part of my brain that quite liked those dry subjects woke up. I’ve spent the last few months getting more and more obsessed with the question: should Britain leave the European Union? I’ve become fascinated with the arguments on both sides and the people who have advocated both sides. I’ve asked: why do they think that way? Where do the divisions lie? Why are their divisions that correlate with age, class, family, education, geographic location and employment? Why does political leaning not come into it? Why? Why? Why? I was completely (and still am) seduced by the remain arguments (Project Fear, as the Leavers coined it). Now I am questioning whether this is because, as many of the current commentators have argued, I am a borderline member of the no-liberal chattering Guardian reading classes? Possibly. More than possibly. In fact, yes. But that’s not what I am discussing here. What I am interested in here is the resurfacing of my interest in politics (and to some extent, economics) that has come about by the referendum. I’ve become an avid Radio 4 listener and I even watched Question Time today.

David Cameron

David Cameron

Now, I hope that there isn’t a limit on what I can be interested in and that the room in my brain for art is not being squashed. My overall hope is that current events will feed into my creativity in some way. I think it will. My current fascination is with facebook. I am utterly gripped by how events have unfolded on facebook and I have spent far too much time than is healthy living there rather than in the real world.

We all have between 100 and 1,000 friends on facebook. We live in our own little social circles in that virtual world. But those circles, like a giant every-growing Venn diagramme, are linked. I suspect that every UK citizen could probably cite identical experiences of how their friends have responded to the referendum result since 6am Friday morning. It goes something like this:

Everyone: shock.

Remain: horror.

Leave: joy.

Remain: anger (including insults to the leavers).

Leave: indignation.

Remain: desperation (signing a petition asking for a second referendum).

Leave: superiority.

Remain: ‘But look what has happened already.’

Leave: ‘This is democracy, shut up already’.

Some Remain: ‘Let’s be friends.’

Other Remain: ‘They lied to you!’

Some Leave: ‘Let’s be friends.’

Other Leave: ‘They are up their bottoms.’

That takes us to today. I’ve become even more of a facebook addict than I was before Thursday (and I have always been a big fan of facebook). But this time in the name of art, economics and politics, which I now realise are the best of bedfellows for me, and about time too.


The theory that only brainy people can’t sleep…

…isĀ  clearly a load of rubbish. That’s my weird thought of last night, at about 11.30pm.

I’m married to someone who is really brainy. He’s super brainy. His brains are off the scale. He has never had a B in his life. He has A Level maths, further maths, pure maths, super pure maths and even more difficult maths, oh and physics. He has a law degree and even though that was 20 years ago, he still churns law stuff on request. He is able to learn things after reading about them once. He rarely gets lost. He is very able to put forward a very well-thought through argument and come out the winner and he knows a lot about computer code. He is Clever. He is Very Clever.

Yet, contradicting what the Internet might predict, he is often asleep before he has pulled the covers up to his chin. He can sleep anywhere and in any position. He sleeps soundly and solidly. At 11pm he’s gone, at 5am he’s back. As far as I am aware, he has never been kept awake by intrusive thoughts such as those which I get: why are we here? Why did so-and-so say such-and-such to me today? What shall I do next? Does this person like me? Did I say the right thing to that person? Why can’t we see colour in the dark? What is colour? What is red? Why do people want to vote leave? Oh no, I forgot to do that Important Thing today. What shall I wear tomorrow? Why do I watch Big Brother? What is Big Brother really about? What can I draw next? These are the thoughts that keep me awake at night.

My night-time thoughts resemble this painting by a friend of mine from Wolverhampton:

My brain at 11pm

My brain at 11pm

Can you see now why I struggle to fall asleep?

My husband’s thoughts at night resemble this painting by Kazimir Malevich:

I wish these were my thoughts at 11pm

I wish these were my thoughts at 11pm

According to the Internet, I must be more brainy than him. But that simply isn’t true. I know what a C is (GCSE English Literature and English Language). I also know what a D is (A Level General Studies). I couldn’t pass a GCSE in further pure applied maths never mind an A Level. I scraped a 2.1 in Economics and Politics and I spent most of my three years in Exeter in the library (I think I got 60.5% so just over the line). I get lost All The Time. I lose the car All The Time. I sometimes lose the carpark.

At least if I could explain my insomnia with intelligence I’d feel better about it and I’d just live with it. Sadly, I think it is just that I don’t have the skills necessary to shut down at night. My off switch is faulty.

My off switch is faulty

My off switch is faulty

Mouth ulcers and nipples have a lot in common

This is a really weird thought (pretty weird for me) but it is something I have every time I am inflicted with a mouth ulcer (and I get a fair few). They usually attack me when I’m stressed or when I stop working. I always get them at Christmas. I’ve got a corker right now. This week is a stressful week.

I love this stuff, but it causes me great pain

I love this stuff, but it causes me great pain

When I have a mouth ulcer, I need to be with my tube of bonjela at all times. Bonjela is a strange substance. It provides some relief from the pain of mouth ulcers but only after an initial 10 seconds of blinding, ear splitting, toe curling pain. The only other time I have experience pain like that is when I’ve attached a baby to my nipple. So, therefore, today’s weird thought is that mouth ulcers and nipples have a lot in common. Thanks God I do not suffer from any chronic pain, as I would probably take green malay kratom all the time.

She may be smiling but her toes are curling in agony

She may be smiling but her toes are curling in agony

Breast is best of course, I am a firm believer in that particular philosophy, but for me it was the most painful thing I have ever voluntarily and actively sought out to do. I have never before or since (and this includes childbirth) experienced such excruciating pain as I did when I tried to get a screaming child to suck on my nipples. The best comparison I can think is putting bonjela on a really juicy mouth ulcer.

Note: Future mothers reading this, do not be put off by my tale of toe-curling pain. It is not the same for everybody and the pain lessens after a few days (or weeks in my case, not that I lasted that long with number three child).



Even though it is irrational for adults to fear ghosts in the dark, I still do

This is a weird thought I had at 3am when I woke up needing to go to the toilet. I’d just had a dream that I was being shaken by a ghost so I was reluctant to move from under the duvet with the memory of the fear I felt in my dream still vivid. So I fought the urge because I was scared that if I got up in the dark, I’d be attacked by a ghost between duvet and bathroom or between bathroom and duvet.

This is what I thought was out to get me at 3am

This is what I thought was out to get me at 3am

So instead, I snuggled further under the duvet and I tried to get back to sleep. Sleep didn’t come easily due to bladder discomfort. So while trying, I came up with a number of questions about the irrationality of adult fear of ghosts.

  1. Why do we think ghosts only lurk in the dark? Surely it doesn’t make any difference whether it is light or dark to a ghost. If there is a ghost in your house he or she is just as likely to be prowling around the landing at 3pm as 3am.
  2. Why do we think we are safe under a duvet? If a ghost really wanted to cause you harm, he or she would seek you out even as you lay quivering under a duvet. A duvet is not a ghost protection device.
  3. Why do we assume ghosts are out to get us? I have come across lots of people who claim they have encountered ghosts and not one of them has been harmed by a ghost.
  4. If ghosts aren’t solid and we can’t touch them, why do we think they can touch us (and presumably hack us to death)? It doesn’t make sense to be afraid of something that is perhaps just an echo or a faint image. Who is the strongest in this scenario – solid man or ethereal ghost?
  5. Why are we always scared of ghosts in human form? How about all the flies, spiders and slugs that have died where the house now stands? Could they jump out at us while on the loo?
  6. Why do we fear just one ghost? If ghosts exist, wouldn’t they hang about in groups, have parties, like we do sometimes?
  7. Even if we’ve never seen a ghost, ever, in 44 years, why do we worry that one might show up now for the first time? (At least, that is what I was trying to convince myself at 3am this morning.)
  8. If ghosts do exist, and they do want to cause us harm, surely if they had half a brain they wouldn’t try when we are expecting them? I was expecting a ghost at 3am. I’m generally not expecting one to appear at 3pm when I’m on the way to the toilet in the day time. That would be a better time to spook me, surely?
  9. Why do we think that if ghosts exist we would be able to see them? Perhaps I am watched by ghosts as I sit on the toilet at 3am but I can’t see them watching me. If so, who cares? Good for them. Let them have their cheap thrills. If that’s the case, there’s no point fearing them.
  10. Ghosts or no ghosts, if I need the toilet I’ll eventually have to go so I may as well face the ghosts now rather than when I’m in more pain in ten minutes, fifteen minutes or twenty minutes from the moment I wake up.

This last thought persuaded me that I just had to go. But wouldn’t it be a great end to this blog if I could tell you that I met a friendly ghost last night. Sadly, no, I didn’t. All I met was a cat which I accidentally thudded my foot against on my way to the bathroom (she likes to sleep in doorways).

Is that a ghost in the toilet, or a cat?

Is that a ghost in the toilet, or a cat?