Tuesday, 31 March 2009


k.a. applegate changed my life.

i must have been nine, or ten, when i first came across applegate's animorphs series, and it captivated me. the story goes something like this: after meeting a dying alien, a group of teenagers are given the power to morph into any creature they touch, and have to use this power to save the world from a body-snatchers style alien invasion that is happening, in secret, all around them. the bad aliens (yeerks) have greater numbers, more advanced technology and a whole friggin alien empire behind them; the american teenagers have pluck, the power of nature and some pacifist, canine-like android friends.

guess who wins.

okay, okay, so the unlikeliness of the final outcome isn't the real point, i know. there are some brilliant ideas on the uncertain nature of morality in war; the dehumanisation of oneself and one's enemy; sanity; how different individuals react and cope with war (each book is told in first-person, and applegate cycles through the six protagonists across the series). perhaps more important than this thought provoking, moral-questioning aspect, however, is the fact that THEY CAN TURN INTO ANIMALS. how fucking cool is that. yeah, they almost got killed in every book, their families were hunted down, they were traumatised by all the death etc etc but they got to be cats! all kinds of cats, from domesticated kitties to big old tigers! how hard can war be anyway, when you have intervals of felineness?

okay so obviously i dont actually think that, but the amazing coolness of animal-morphing was a big part of the books' appeal. i was a bit of a loner child, a little bit at odds with myself, and the idea of transformation was arresting; the descriptions of experiencing the world through the body of a totally different creature had such a powerful effect on me as to be almost intoxicating. i spent hours imagining myself as the different characters, being a hawk, a wolf , a cockroach with and through them. i used to make lists of the top five animals i would choose to become, if someone came along and told me they'd give me the power to turn into five different animals, because you never know, it might happen, it so might happen, at any moment soon, right, right? i even remember ambitiously trying to turn into a peregrine falcon one afternoon, just in case i unknowingly had the morphing talent (okay, so there may have been concrete reason for my loner-ness).

like anything you love as a child, i grew out of the books. i forgot about the animorphs and their battles. but yesterday, reading my book about whales and, more specifically, about the sperm whale, i suddenly remembered the total, uncompromising love i had once had for these books (the mysterious sperm whale was often on my top-five list; they are puzzling, amazing creatures, and we know very little about them). it took my breath away, that forgotten love, and for the rest of the evening i basked in it, carefully prodded and poked at it, laughed and gasped again at the characters and stories.

it was really wonderful. here's to old favourites, to all those tales and fictional friends that make up a part of life, and a part that is just as important as all those people and events in 'reality'. what books/films etc etc did anyone out there adore as a child, what characters were as close as friends?


my sister gave me a waterstones gift voucher for my birthday- with forty pounds on it, wow. and my brother gave me thirty pounds worth of book tokens. that's seventy pound of books. seven-oh. hang on a sec whilst i explode from happiness. now i have to work out how to spend it....

i bought philip hoare's leviathan or, the whale a couple of days ago, and today i got the bell jar by sylvia plath (i have been intending to buy it for about a year now, i do things very slowly), and ordered the cheese and the worms by carlo ginzburg. i love browsing in bookshops (yes, even the big corporate chain ones), even (especially) when i don't have anything particular to search for; i like the messy rainbow of bookspines, the jumble of fonts, the little handwritten staff recommendations- alas, this only seems to be a feature of waterstones stores. plus, at the moment there is a cute guy working in my local (i talk of bookshops like they are pubs...oh dear) even if he does tuck his tshirt into his jeans. oh cute bookshop boy, why do you do that?

the only problem i have is that my local waterstones is far too small. when i say this, please bear in mind my slightly skewed version of small; after all, it has two floors, and i spent about 45 minutes milling around in there today...still, compared to the mammoth inner london stores, it is but a baby. i was fantastically pleased, therefore, to find out that i can use my giftcard ONLINE. i do not have to rely on the limited stock of the nearest waterstones. oh the wonders of the internet! i prompty ordered the book of other people, edited by zadie smith; i borrowed this from the library a while back and it is glorious, but apparantly not popular enough for my suburban waterstones.

have i mentioned waterstones enough to apply for advertising fees yet?

now i have nought to do but sit and await its arrival. let's hope royal mail doesn't lose it, or misdirect it, or decide that packages are far too much hassle to deliver because, you know, they're heavy and all.

this is what i wore today:

the little darling on the ladder is nemo. she is the loveliest, dribbliest little cat in the world.

Sunday, 29 March 2009


i woke up at twenty to nine this morning, lazed around in bed for ten minutes (you know, that lovely bit of time between waking and moving that involves nothing but duvet appreciation), got up, went to the loo, then rolled downstairs for a hello-world-good-morning cup of coffee, just as the clock was chiming ten.

headspun to look at clock.

what are you doing, clock, i said.

dad, what is the clock doing, i said, why does it think it it ten o clock?

thoughts in head: have i gone mad did i black out did i actually just wee for an hour it was just quarter to nine definitely nine but i just heard the ten o clock bird (NB. our kitchen clock chimes with a different birdsong for each hour. they sound more like gary numan studio outtakes than birds).

dad, have i gone mad?

dad stands there with his thoughtful face on, hmmm, i wonder what could have happened, what could possibly explain this.

i sit at the kitchen table going thorugh every possible way i could have just not noticed an hour disappear. being quite a worrisome and imaginitive person, the list is long and somewhat unlikely. most of the situations involve injury and/or fatality.

dad stands there looking worried by his daughter's possible brain rupture/insanity/memory loss.

i sit at the kitchen table getting more and more frantic and confused.

dad stands there.

dad stands there, and waits a full five minutes before telling me the clocks went forward this morning, and i'm not mad or concussed, and that i have not been drugged in order to have my DNA harvested by a mad scientist to create a clone that would one day seek to kill me.

HO HO HO. evil git. he was so pleased with that joke.

Tuesday, 24 March 2009


my mum handed me a bundle of old postcards yesterday, said that she thought i might like to keep some of them ; my, she was so right:

the insect ones are my favourites, i love the colours of them, and the beetles themselves are just beautiful creatures. it's made me want to watch david attenborough's life in the undergrowth again (who knew that slug sex could be so eerily beautiful, and a bit weird, and a bit icky, all at the same time? david attenborough enriches my life SO MUCH). the righthand beetle is my bookmark at the moment, a highly coveted position.

tried to work today, but my heart wasn't in it, my eyes fluttered away from the page every five seconds like indecisive butterflies. not good.

what i wore today: i spent a very long time trying to find somewhere in the house with enough light and space to take a full length photo- we are having building work done so everything is in chaos. i bounced around on all the beds in the house, but my parents' won out in the end. i felt like some strange goldilocks...

Monday, 23 March 2009


the good weather broke today. laying in my bed this afternoon, reading, i watched as bluegrey clouds colonised the sky, squat and hunched, and listened to the rain's steady drum.

the wind changed too, became spiteful and sharp, a wronged friend. walking back from the train station this evening- i went to see dancing at lughnasa, at the old vic- my fringe my coat my legs were slapped and tugged, my flesh made tense as an exam. at the top of the hill near my house, i started to run, trying to outpace the cold cold punching air. i flew downhill, legs spun wild, like the cars that highspeed down the road late at night, like the bike i could see freewheeling just in front of me. running fast- too fast- crossing roads- not slowing- hoping for no cars- i imagined falling, saw my body slow arc through the air, saw the concrete of the pavement hit my cheek.

suddenly i am in cornwall, a summertime years back, racing down a hill on my bike, going fast, too fast, no brakes fast, terrified and overjoyed at the race, the pace of it, the out of control speeding down into the valley. i fall, of course, when the smoothconcrete of the road changes to gravel, a slipsliding surface, uncertain beneath the wheels. i fall to the left, graze my knee, thigh and arm, stop breathing for the shock of stone on skin. my whole body shakes as i walk back to our holiday cabin.

the wind seems less cruel at high speeds. i reached the bottom of the hill, slowed to a walk, breathless, intact. i looked up and found orion, the only constellation i know. walking to my door, i could smell the blossom on the trees that line my street.

Sunday, 22 March 2009


today i turned twentyone. it was bright and sunny, and i went to osterley house, an old manor with gardens, lakes and cow-filled meadows.

i found myself walking behind the most amusing dog i have ever seen. he less walked, more waggled along, bottom bobbing up and down like an apple in water. when he came to the edge of a puddle his owner shouted 'no! no! not in the puddle. stay. STAY! NO, STAY!'; unperturbed by this, he went and stood right in its centre.

inside the garden house:

the temple of pan (because who doesn't have a neoclassical garden cabin in which to pass the spring and summer days):

by the lake:

mum- 'pretend to be reading, look interested':

what i wore today:

what i wore today, pt.2:

(oh, to be an eighteenth century man!)

Saturday, 14 March 2009


end of term:

packing packing packing packing

wait! oh!

oh OH wow i thought i had lost THAT (smiles all round) ...... back to pack-packing


eating soup


packing packing packing hey where did all my tights go packing packing packing stop sit down look at maps of europe and dream of summer

summer with friends, on trains round europe



Saturday, 7 March 2009


what i wore today:

what i bought:

marjane satrapi's persepolis. i am inlove with this book, and was lucky enough to find it second-hand this morning. yay! one of my absolute favourite pages is:

marx throws a rock at descartes. tee hee.

Thursday, 5 March 2009


i don't know how many of you have come across dora: she's a short wearing, map reading, compass using, bilingual explorer and she is one of the best characters on children's television. in a tv world populated by sexualised, superficial female characters, concerned with make up, hair and boys, dora is a breath of fresh air.

or rather, she was. you see, the people who created dora don't actually own her; no, she was sold to mattel, who plan to rebrand her somewhat. there dora is, smiling happily up from the mattel website, wearing... wearing a pretty, fairylike turquoisey dress, of course. it's an 'aDORAble' new look, kids (we should hate mattel for this wordplay if nothing else). dora seems to have become a barbie figure: each doll has her own 'fashion', from dancer to 'birthday wish', of which precious few seem to convey any of the brilliant kickass doraness that made her so, so refreshing.

i don't know how much of a difference this will make, but head over to http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/Dora_Makeover/ and sign their petition; and even if dora continues to transform into this typical, small-minded character, at least some kind of protest will reach the company.

Wednesday, 4 March 2009


'Space is big. You just won't believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it's a long way down the road to the drug store, but that's just peanuts to space.'
Douglas Adams.

this week i have been reading about science in eighteenth-century england, and i came across orreries. although i had seen one before, i never knew what they were called. so, my degree IS useful. aren't they beautiful? they plot the course of the planets around the sun (not in any practical, accurate way; they were meant to look pretty and prove you were clever and educated). an intricate metal solar system. sigh. want.

and now, from the wonderful to the awful. exploring bbc iplayer this evening, i found the blurb for a programme that the bbc have chosen to categorise as history: 'Psychic investigator Andy Matthews and his team go in search of Northern Ireland's ghosts'. EXCUSE ME? HISTORY? i am deeply offended on behalf of my subject. huff.

this is what i wore today:

my dad is from grimsby; the tshirt is like some regional injoke.

Sunday, 1 March 2009


so, the british press has recently been set ablaze by the online comments of a random man, on the subject of Cerrie Burnell, a children's television presenter. Cerrie was born with one arm, you see, and this is apparantly causing grief and anxiety in homes all over Britain: children are scared, they are distressed, they are asking their parents questions about human difference (oh god, no).

i don't quite know where to start with this.

let's begin with my more calm thoughts on the matter, the ones that appear after an issue has been swirling round your head for a little bit. i noticed a great number of the responses, be they by journalists or anonymous posters, stated that children just don't care, that they are more accepting and that it is the parents that have a problem; and whilst this is probably more true than not, it doesn't take into account the parents who say that their child is distressed by Cerrie's appearance. i think this is an important issue to address, because it helps fuel the argument of the complainers: noone wants to force a three-year-old to look at something that distresses them, right? making children cry is not generally seen as a Good Thing. how can we respond to this, if we don't want to be branded as bullies? instead of capitulating to the demands of the parents (obviously, because they are wrong), or ignoring their concerns completely, we should enter into a discussion with them: it is just as important for adults to have their experiences and views broadened as it is their children, after all. have you tried asking your child why they are upset by Cerrie's arm, we could say. since fear is often caused by the unknown and unfamiliar, have you considered trying to explain to your child what she or he is seeing, instead of just changing the channel? if these sort of things don't have any affect, have you considered not projecting your child's reaction onto the WHOLE CHILD POPULATION OF BRITAIN and demanding that a perfectly able and talented presenter be sacked? no? something to think about, maybe.

(okay, so the last one might not win awards for diplomacy).

i have to admit, the nice, understanding part of me, the part that advocates conversation, the part that tells me to face opposition with a quiet voice and a will to engage, is probably not the most vocal or prominent part of my brain. my immediate reaction to the story was something like this (as shouted at the computer screen whilst reading):

1. wtf.

2. no, seriously, wtf.

3. 'One father said he would ban his daughter from watching the channel because he thought it would "give her nightmares" '- did you ASK your daughter, at all? no? oh, i see, you're her FATHER, you can obviously READ HER MIND.

4. oh hallo, did you just use the term "political correctness" to explain Cerrie's employment? did you really just do that? really? did you? "political correctness"? really? of course there must have been HUNDREDS of candidates more suited to the job than Cerrie, hundreds of two-handed, sparkley, talented, two-handed, amazing, two-handed candidates who were ignored because they didn't tick the "minorities" box. what kind of a world do we live in, eh, where such DISCRIMINATION is unchallanged?

4 a. you realise you just implied that, when it comes down to it, Cerrie isn't a skilled, brilliant person, but a disabled person, right? or, a skilled disabled person, if you're being generous. the bbc may have given the job to the best candidate, you know. well, you obviously don't.

5. you are scared that your children will ask you a QUESTION? you want someone to lose their JOB, because you can't face a tiny child asking you to explain why not everyone has two hands and arms? this is one of the most pathetic things i have ever ever heard ever. ever. grow up, please. this isn't a reason to sack a tv presenter; it is, however, a reason for you to reflect on your parenting skills.

all in all, people make me very angry, rantwriting angry (sorry, guys). for something a little more balanced and calm, let's hear from Cerrie herself:

"I am pleased that this whole thing with me has raised the issue and that attention has been drawn to the fact that disabled people in this country do face real prejudice."Her message for those commenting on website message boards is that she hopes the controversy will help other people "see the person and not the disability".

wise words. let's hope it happens.