Thursday, 30 June 2011


What terrible thing did we do today? We went on strike to protect our pensions.

But isn't the government asking people to save for their retirement?

Yes, yes they are.

Out of their wages?

Yes, I believe so.

And isn't it a bit like Robert Maxwell thieving the pension funds of hardworking normal people through his own financial mismanagement?

Yes, it is. How perceptive you are.

But other people are worse off and don't have a pension with such good conditions. You greedy, greedy public sector workers.

These terms haven't been handed to us on a plate. They have been negotiated and fought for, and need to be protected (last time we saw off an attack was 2006 when the current SELF FUNDING pension scheme was agreed.)

£10,000 a year is not a lot of money to live on. When you can't work again. And you've given your working life to public service. If other people are worse off, how does that make it right?

It's like people saying to the Ford women factory workers who brought about the Equal Pay Act "You shouldn't be striking because there are women factory workers in India who get 4p a week!" (btw Ford had to change their practices globally after this, which improved the working conditions of people around the world.)

It is nonsense. How is our not striking going to help them?

And if conditions improve for workers in one sector, it sets precedents for other industries to follow. People power, instead of just exploitation.

Come off it. What about those lovely long holidays you teachers get?

I'm sorry. I'd rather not, to be honest, especially as the prices go up for us. And for those of us without kids, we can't get away from them in school holidays. But the holidays are for the families too - you parents do want to spend some time with your kids, don't you... don't you?

Yes yes. But you're still greedy, other people in this country are worse off...

Let me break it down: if we have less money when we retire, and can't afford our rent and bills and food, then we will be MORE RELIANT ON THE STATE.

And will be competing with those other people who didn't have a decent pension scheme for a shrinking pool of money instead of being self-reliant because we saved throughout our working lives, as the government has exhorted us to.


It is a false argument to set working people against each other and distract from the corporations who are the real money thieves.

It is hard to understand why public sector workers are getting spanked for saving money out of their own wages, towards supporting themselves in their old age when they can no longer work.

I love the headline of this Torygraph article that Rog sent me. "Shock Horror - Teachers' Prudent Financial Management revealed!!!"

Everything we've done has been transparent - we've put our money into a sustainable, affordable scheme & everyone knows where it is and what we've done with it. Which is more than you can say for the banks who got us into this crisis in the first place...

The whole point to the protest against cuts in education, health and welfare is that they are wholly unnecessary, ideologically driven and that there is an alternative.

It's misdirection and lies, but what do you expect from short term Tory thinking?

140 odd years after Marx wrote Das Kapital, & I can't believe we're still falling for this lame old Divide & Rule shit.

Monday, 27 June 2011


The good thing about being ignorant of the theatre is going to see famous plays and not knowing the plot. We saw Seagull at the Arcola (a new translation of Chekov's The Seagull, they'd modernly dropped 'The' - I suggested they could have added an exclamation mark too, like this - 'Seagull!' And maybe some song & dance routines to liven it up?)

It was good to watch it without knowing the story and it was such a quality cast you knew you were in good hands. Geraldine James as the very actressy actress and Roger Lloyd Pack (aka Trigger from Only Fools & Horses) as the doctor. We sat in the front row so in the Arcola you are on a level with them - this was thrilling being in the middle of it though I was a bit anxious they were going to trip over our feet as they stormed on and off stage.

It was the young ones who made it though. The main character is Valentin, who could come across as a moany annoying pain in the arse, but the actor (Al Weaver) made him so real, so vulnerable & lost, it made me cry (and I am very stony hearted usually.) We saw this actor having a drink outside afterwards. M said 'You were brilliant.' He blushed. And the girl who played Nina, an actor with the splendid name of Yolanda Kettle, all luminous and beautiful, starting out all joie de vivre and being fucked over and slowly coming unravelled - brilliant.

I read a couple of reviews which said it was too slow and creaky and boring. Mainly from young reviewers. I don't think it's a young person's play. It's all about worrying about money and unrequited love and how your dreams and hopes get crushed in time and how people can be casually cruel and wreck each other's lives without thinking. (But also funny.) I probably wouldn't have wanted to know this in my twenties either.

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Non fiction

Thanks, One Fine Weasel, for drawing attention to this. What is it about literary canons that make you simultaneously scorn them but also go 'I read that! I read that!'

See below for the ones I did read. I think I used to be more intellectually curious because I read a few when I was too young to really get them. These days I just want ENTERTAINMENT.

(Need to read more science, clearly. That's arts graduates for you. Am shockingly ignorant about how most science works. )

What did you read and like? Or wish you had read?

The Story of Art, Gombrich - did it for 'A' Level Art History, so it was compulsory. Nice clear introduction I think.

Ways of Seeing, John Berger - read this about the same time, couldn't make head nor tail of it. Probably should read again.

The Autobiography of Alice B Toklas Gertrude Stein Clever modernist lesbian couple in bohemian pre-war Paris, meeting all the great artists. Funny, deadpan flat style.

Mythologies by Roland Barthes Read this at college, nothing stuck, should probably read it again.

The Electric Kool Aid Acid Test - Tom Wolfe - Gonzo tale of square journo tripping with Ken "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" Kesey & Merry Pranksters in 60s America. Funny. Not as good as Hunter S though.

Dispatches Michael Herr - about Vietnam. "I was there to watch." The first of the 'embedded' journalists, all the more chilling because of its dispassionate observation.

Homage to Catalonia George Orwell Read whilst living there, of course. But Orwell is one of the best writers ever to write in English, I will make it my mission to read everything he's written. (Plaza George Orwell in Barcelona was the first square in the city to get CCTV. He's spinning in his grave.)

The Diary of Ann Frank Quite amazing book - I think her dad (who published it) was an amazing man too - it's so unflattering and truthful about family life, made worse under horrific claustrophobic conditions.

Bad Blood, Lorna Sage. This makes me feel sad. She was my tutor at university. Just a really warm, funny, charismatic, ridiculously intelligent and interesting woman. She had a great, smoky voice, you could happily listen to her all day. I saw her interview Gore Vidal at university, that was a good conversation to listen to, they got on like a house on fire. This book is all about her mad gothic Welsh family.

Critique of Pure Reason Immanuel Kant. Compulsory for first year philosophy. Well, bits of it. Oh god, the flashbacks.

The Female Eunuch Germaine Greer What? She's more entertaining than Simone de Beauvoir, at least. I do think she's gone a bit mad these days.

A Brief History of Time Stephen Hawking. I bought it. I tried.

In Cold Blood Truman Capote THIS IS GENIUS! I'd forgotten all about it. Truman Capote had written moody Southern Gothic and mostly fey little short stories, before single-handedly & surprisingly inventing the genre of faction, all about a real life brutal murder case. He grew so involved that he started to empathise with the murderer, who asked if he could be present when he was electrocuted.

Friday, 17 June 2011

Bridesmaid torture

Looking over someone else's shoulder on the tube at a review of a film called Bridesmaids, I had a sudden horrible flashback to my bridesmaid experience.

According to my stepmother, I once mentioned in passing that I wanted to be a bridesmaid (nb I have no recollection of this) and she never ever forgot it.

So at age 13, at my most terribly shy and self-conscious, the beginning of the years when I would only wear big black overcoats and listen exclusively to the Cure, she blackmailed her nephew into making me a bridesmaid at his wedding. I wanted to say "But I was 5 when I wanted to be a bridesmaid. 5!!!" But it was too late and would have seemed rude & ungrateful, so I had to go through with it.

All the other bridesmaids were Essex lasses who had frosted flicked highlighted hair and wore electric blue eyeshadow and scary amounts of terracotta blusher. They thought I was a freak and clearly felt very, very sorry for me. We all had to wear a peach mock-satin frilly off-the-shoulder number. With a giant hoop in the skirt, like Scarlett O'Hara. Only not.

People kept coming up to me during the wedding saying "Why aren't you dancing?" "Because I'm wearing a fucking giant hoop" I wanted to say. If you had looked up the word 'misery' in the dictionary there would have been a picture of my face to illustrate.

Thankfully when my sister got married years later she only asked for her friends' little kids to dress up as bridesmaids, which is as it should be. We could all wear what we wanted. The kids looked cute dressed up as little fairy princesses. But grown women should not be forced to appear in public as toilet roll holder dollies.

Friday, 10 June 2011

Mmm firemen

Walking out of work, I see a fire engine parked up outside a local tower block. There's a smoky scent in the air, but no smoke, no fire.

I cut around the back of the flats to get to the bus stop when lo! There are firemen, actual firemen, a whole posse of them, in their lovely reflective uniforms and helmets, walking out of the building.

(One of our school trips is to visit a fire station, where you get a safety talk and get to watch the firemen wield a hose, I've never managed to get on this trip. They keep telling me it's because it's not my year group and I have to stay in my own class & teach, but this just seems mean. *)

One of them is tall, black and handsome. He looks up as I come down the steps. I look back. Cor. They all turn left as I turn right, but I look back to check him once last time before he disappears out of my life forever and he's looking back too, he really really is! That's when I stumble down the steps and twist my ankle. Arses. Minus 10 groovy points, as my friend Dave would say.

*Did you know there's a dating website called Uniform Dating? Unfortunately not eligible, teachers don't have a uniform.

Questions for couples

Do you speak about your other half at work? Do you use 'we' when you're talking? Do you ever talk about your relationship with your colleagues or your friends? How soon before meeting a new person do you mention your partner?

I'm curious. And intrigued.

Thursday, 9 June 2011


top & skirt by Slaminsky
top & skirt, a photo by Slaminsky on Flickr.

Did I mention finding a vintage 60s Pucci suit for four quid in a charity shop? I think I did on Twitter. Don't like to repeat myself but it was exciting. Not a label whore but this was like finding a little bit of sixties history. It says minis & bubble cars, Julie Christie and swinging London.

Now, keep or sell? It's not really me, but it's not going to make my fortune in reality, and it is a lovely thing.

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Inconsistent Tits

It's a scandal! We've uncovered some kind of terrible twisted conspiracy in this country - the madness must stop.

Thanks, Arabella, for alerting me to this interesting bit of research on What Katie Did. We always knew shops had no standard size for women's clothes, but check out the stats for bras here. Absolutely ludicrous. They're trying to drive us insane, like the husband in Gaslight, by means of our lingerie.

Now, who do we know at Channel 4? Can't you just see a brilliant scathing documentary on this? I'm gonna email Mary Portas. Mary Portas would sort the bra industry out.

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Bras, again

Someone told me something revelatory about bras today. At least, it was a revelation to me, and I will share it with you, dear reader. It has only taken about 30 years to get this.

Cup size is only related to the back measurement. So within the measurement of 34 cm, there is an A, B, C, D and E cup. The same for a 30 cm, 32, cm, etc etc.

CUP SIZES HAVE NO RELATIONSHIP TO OTHER CUP SIZES. E cups have nothing in common with each other. They are only related to the back measurement. When people say "She's an E cup" it has no meaning or significance, because it's leaving out half the information. It's like telling someone what time to meet you, but not the place. Physics, people.

I always wondered why I was the same cup size as glamour models when clearly I'm not as, um, gifted. This is why.

I would like to thank the woman in John Lewis who told my friend about it. It was like achieving enlightenment without having to do chanting or fasting or anything.

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Reviewing Tracey

'It's pretty difficult for me to do drawings not about me and about someone else.' *

So I went to the Tracey Emin show at the Hayward -( can I just take this moment to big up the Art Fund card, which is very handy if you go to lots of exhibitions, a lot of them are expensive).

I didn't know whether to go or not. Because I always had a certain sympathetic interest, ever since catching 'Why I Never Became A Dancer' a long time ago on TV (a heartbreaking early film about sexual humiliation), but then she's everywhere and a bit overexposed these days. And the complaints about taxes turned me right off. If you are from a deprived background and you get to be super-rich and successful, bitching about paying your taxes is very poor indeed. And she voted Tory.

This first room you come to has the derelict pier and bathing hut. It is the strongest thing there, like something out of a dream. Then there's room after room after room of drawings, embroideries, sculptures, films, prints... all about Tracey. Some of it is funny; 'I dream about sitting on your face' reads one monoprint. But most of it is desperately sad.

It strikes me that it is mostly images of women, themes that have been edited out of art history by the classical canon. She doesn't do mothers or madonnas or odalisques. She does do abortion, depression and mental breakdowns. Maybe that's why she gets people's backs up.

When you see her work in a more diluted setting, in group exhibitions, they are always interesting, compelling. En masse you can't quite get your head around this amount of self-obsession. By the end of it I was quite wrung out and knackered.

Maybe if you are, I don't know, Rembrandt, you can get away with only focussing on self-portraits. She's honest and direct and fascinating... but I'm surprised so many reviews mention her draughtsmanship, because she can't draw for toffee. If you visit this show, take a look at the drawings of people, then check out their hands. There aren't any. Hands are tricky to draw.