Thursday, January 31, 2008

this must be thursday

It's not been a good day so far. The bad day actually began last night when I came to unlock my bike and discovered the lock was stuck. In a very silly, but impossible way. There was little point trying to fix it in the dark, so I left it until this morning. Today, I woke up later than I intended, managed to break a necklace and send beads all over the floor and in the process of clearing it up, knocked a vase of flowers over and spilt water all over the floor. When trying to throw the flowers in the green bin, I discovered the keys to the back door were at work because I'd discovered them in my pocket yesterday, not recognised them and decided someone at work must have put them in my coat pocket by mistake. (Seemed logical at the time, but rather less so now.)

I have now freed the bike, using nail clippers and tidied up the mess, but the whole business has left me feeling stressed and frustrated and unsettled before I've even done anything. And it's windy and raining, so I'm staying in the warm until the rain goes away, hoping nothing else breaks.

Friday, January 18, 2008

fear of museums

Yesterday I went to London for the day* and went to the Horniman Museum and Tate Modern. The Horniman is an intriguing museum in Forest Hill with an odd mixture of things - natural history displays of stuffed animals, ethnographic/anthropological collections, a huge collection of musical instruments, a lovely aquarium in the basement and lots of other stuff. It was the first two I found unsettling. I'd forgetton how much museums can freak me out. It's stuffed animals mostly, especially when there are cases close together, so that there's always another case directly behind you and when the lighting level is low. I know it's irrational, but it's a real effort to make myself walk round corners and look at things. I gave up on the natural history cases pretty quickly, although I did have a good look at the case of extinct birds (Dodo, Great Auk, Passenger pigeon etc, all with their sad stories) and the huge over-stuffed walrus. (Its skin is naturally loose and folded, but the person doing the taxidermy didn't know this and produced an immense beast which a smooth skin, which now sits proudly on an iceburg shaped plinth in the middle of the gallery.) The anthropological stuff in the centenary Gallery wasn't much better. Too many plaster heads and statues and more close together cases and low lighting. I fled in the end, much earlier than I'd meant.

Having rediscovered my museumphobia, I wondered again why I love the Pitt Rivers so much. It has everything that I ought to hate, not much room between the cases, low light levels, shrunken heads and statues. Maybe because it's a sort of test to myself to go in there. Maybe because it knows it's a bit scary and revels in it (there's a brilliant Tim Hunkin collection box in which anthropologists with red eyes point accusing fingers as you approach.)

The Tate is rather less scary on the face of it, but potentially just as unsettling. I duly followed Doris Salcedo's Shibboleth along the turbine hall floor and then wandered the galleries. I tried to resist finding old friends and look at new stuff. I spent a long time watching animations by William Kentridge. They're beautifully made with drawings in charcoal and pastels (I think), each drawing changing and dissolving, as bits are erased and redrawn, leaving palimpsests behind them as characters or objects move about. The short films are set in South Africa in the 80s and 90s, surreally depicting the activities of an exploitative businessman called Soho Eckstein. One memorable image is in Mine (1991) in which the plunger of a cafetiere pushed down by Eckstein lounging in bed pushes down and down, becoming the mineshaft, drilling away and creating the structures of slavery - the infamous plan of a slave ship, a half built pyramid, the showers and bunks of the mine.

Finally, I went and stared at a Mark Rothko. I don't think I've ever done that before. I remember one of my OU tutors talking about Rothko and saying of sitting and staring at his paintings for a long time "The damn things move!". I can see what he means now. I didn't spend as long as I'd have liked, the gallery was closing, but as I stared and moved round the painting and looked at it from close to and far away and from different angles, it seemed to change and shift. The gallery blurb describes the paintings as 'brooding', which seems fitting. Next time you're in London, go!

*Saying that feels weird. London's my home town, but it's not home anymore, Cambridge is. Last night someone asked where I was from and I said Cambridge because that's where I live now. It's true, but it feels odd.

ETA: One lovely thing about the Horniman is its gardens. Green spaces in London are always special; this one is at the top of a hill, with a gorgeous view across London, has a bandstand and an enclosure with goats and geese and chickens and a rabbit and lots of bits of interesting garden and sculpture. I sat on a bench and ate my lunch admiring the view. It was a little bit cold and damp, but I sat on a plastic bag and braved the odd stares of parents with pushchairs and dog walkers.

Another lovely thing is the aquarium, which was full of very small primary school children getting excited at fish and crabs and frogs (especially the bright blue poison arrow frogs.) My favourite thing in the whole museum is the jelly fish tank. There's a large white rectangular window with curved corners, inside which white moon jellyfish swim around against a deep blue background, illuminated by blueish (maybe UV?) light. The effect is simple, beautiful and abstract, fitting these gorgeous, otherworldy creatures.

Monday, January 14, 2008

it's done now

Despite all the obstacles, the essay's done, printed and handed in. Phew!

And I've been watching Dr Who. Don't even blink! Brilliant!

Sunday, January 13, 2008


I have an essay which is due in tomorrow. It needs work. I've already had one deadline extension (just as well, I had no brain from Tuesday to Friday or thereabouts). I really need to get it mostly finished tonight so I can tidy it up in the morning.

So naturally, I'm blogging.


Thursday, January 10, 2008

can I have my brain back please?

I think somebody stole it. I've spent another day feeling woozy and energy-less. I did do an hour's scribbling, but that's as close as I can get to working on my essay. I can't seem to focus properly. Probably I shouldn't even be trying, but even with a deadline extension to Monday, it feels like it's never going to get done.

Maybe another good night's sleep will help? I don't know. I'm beginning to despair of ever feeling normal again, but it can't last forever.

At least I can fill in time with my new favourite thing - BBC iPlayer. (Only, why does it not work with Firefox? Grr.) Last night I watched Sense and Sensibility and Pop! What is it good for?. Tonight, probably more of BBC4's pop analysis stuff and maybe some Dr Who. Comfort TV has got to be better than comfort eating.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

the trouble with Austen

I do love a good costume drama romance. The current BBC adaptation of Sense and Sensibility being a case in point. I wonder though, whether they're quite good for one. However tangled and supense-filled the romantic upsets and twists and turns, there's always a happy ending, the heroine always finds her man, although she usually learns some important lessons on the way. Do they paint a picture that's too neat, too hopeful, too much certainty of finding love and marriage? Perhaps. But the process of learning is important too. Jane Austen's heroines don't get their husbands on a plate, they must learn and change first, whether that means leaving behind sily notions of gothic romance or wrong first impressions. It's the humanity of the process that makes the novels more than silly romances and that makes them last, as well as Austen's wit and narrative voice. Perhaps they're not a bad impression of finding love after all. I think it's just the apparent inevitabilty of the process that worries me. Hmm.

a little more time

I asked, I got an extension 'til Monday. I've been in bed all day, too woozy to read, so knitting. I hope an early night tonight will help too and I'll be able to do a bit of work tomorrow.

Hmm, this is a really boring blog at the moment, isn't it? Sorry.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

fuzzy fuzzy clouds

If you're well enough to write coherent sentences but not well enough to structure an argument, are you ill enough to get a deadline extension?

If I don't feel better by tomorrow morning, I think I shall ask.

Friday, January 04, 2008

locked in the library

Not literally, but I've been here all day, working on the essay that's due in on Monday. I've made pretty good progress today. Nearly at 4000 words, another push tomorrow and it should be done, with a day in hand to tidy it up. At least that's the plan.

I now know more about Bartholomew Fair, William Poel and the Elizabethan stage company and Renaissance lath and plaster than I did this morning. And I have a slightly sore feeling throat which I hope is just the result of too much dry air conditioned air and not the start of something nasty.

My brain is quite tired. Home soon to wind down with knitting or a (non-work) book or just sleep.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

It's 2008!

Happy New Year everybody!