Monday, December 10, 2012

hack hack splutter (probably gibberish)

Sick. Again. I've spent more time ill since I moved to England than at any other point in my life. I don't know what it is about the germs around here but they are unforgiving to say the least. And while British healthcare is tax-funded, and I'm glad of that, I also have learnt my lesson about going to doctors for anything less catastrophic than cancer. Twice now, after bouts of illness lasting at least a week, fever, chills, all sorts of symptoms, I've been told to put my head over a bowl of hot steamy water and breathe deeply--something I do anyway, and tell them I've been doing up-front. It's amazing, with the NHS--if you are sick but it's not likely to kill you or rapidly become a plague, above and beyond not giving a shit about you, they directly express disdain for you. They really want you to go away.

The exhausting thing is, it's not like I'm presenting at the emergency room with a runny nose and a slightly elevated temperature. I'm at a GP, I've waited my turn, I've outlined my symptoms, what has so far been unsuccessful in treating it, and asked for advice. I don't show up the second I get sick, but rather quite late in the game, after I would expect most ailments to have run their course, but they still sit there and eyeball me like I'm some sort of attention-starved hypochondriac intent on wasting precious time they could be using to save children from ultra-polio. Is this some sort of power-trip? Do they want me to feel bad about feeling bad? I'm Sorry I've come into your office with a mere fever and swollen lymph nodes and a painful cough that has kept me from sleeping for the past week. I'm terribly apologetic for inconveniencing you with this trifling concern that has kept me shivering and sweating in bed for so long my real fever has been compounded by the cabin variety. If you are simply incapable of offering any helpful advice or medicine, could you just, maybe, say that? Instead of trying to lay the blame for the wasted trip on me? Maybe a quick "hey, I realise you've been sick for at least a week, I realise your symptoms are getting worse and you're worried, I realise you've come here hopeful that I could help you, but I just can't. It's a virus and there's nothing I can do to expedite your recovery. It just has to run its course. I'm sorry." I would appreciate a modicum of humanity.

Frustratingly, something no doctor seems to understand is, just because I've consented to staying in bed and drinking my meals this week, that shouldn't suggest I'm just a switched-off robot in the closet until I can pick my hammer up again. The fact that I can't bear solid food should suggest that I'm in pain, and while no, it's not a giant tumour putting pressure on my brain, I don't think it's unreasonable to ask for a suggestion if paracetamol and ibuprofen don't seem to be helping manage it in the slightest. No, I'm not asking for opiates or something that would cause withdrawal symptoms. I'm not seeking some sort of recreational high. I'm asking if there's anything that might be more appropriate, that could help me, I dunno, not cough until I'm purple in the face and having back spasms at five in the morning. Why do you think I would have come here if I could manage my symptoms myself?

It's like they assume I should be grateful for the excuse to stay home--that the pain is somehow a fair exchange for the weekday lie-in. Maybe I'm unusual here, but I Like my job, and don't like missing it. If my symptoms were controllable, I'd be there--even if I shouldn't because I'm highly contagious. Wait--is that why I get to enjoy every coughing fit, every wave of dizziness--to keep me off the streets? If I'm not miserable, I'm harder to contain?

I guess mister doctor and I are at cross-purposes here. I've visited the doctor to ask for help for myself. But the doctor's job is to help contain the spread of disease and maintain a healthy, able workforce. Never do you feel quite so insignificant, quite such an anonymous member of the general public as when you're sent home with nothing. While yes, it is more important to keep me away from children and the vulnerable while I'm potentially contagious than it is to eliminate my temporary discomfort, I'm not a fucking soldier. I don't have to man up if I don't want to.

When I get sick, even a little sick, my hearing collapses. While the world doesn't exactly go silent, all sounds muddle into one. If you want me to hear you, you need to ensure you are the only sound in the area and you have my undivided attention. If I'm trying to read your lips, chances are I'm guessing at half of what you say because I don't actually know how to read lips. Even a distant helicopter or clothes dryer will distort speech, so there is no point trying to maintain a conversation on a busy sidewalk or in a cafe. This doesn't make visits to the doctor any more fun--when I say "I've got a cold, just fairly mundane, but my ears hurt quite badly and I'm having a hard time hearing" for some reason this annoys people. I never say "I've gone completely deaf" but rather "I'm having difficulty hearing, distinguishing between sounds--everything is muffled and muddled" and this is apparently not permitted. I had one doctor look in my ears and say "yeah, your eardrums are bulging a bit, just drink some water and that will go down" like I was a stalk of f'ing beef jerkey. Oh, of course, why didn't I think of that? If I keep doing this cactus impression I might never get my hearing back! When I get a cold I spend half my time in bed, the other half peeing. I am no stranger to hydration advice. I also have constantly bulging, painful eardrums. And guess what, funnily enough, several meta-analyses of patient data, accepted and distributed by the NHS, have suggested that antihistamines, anti-inflammatory agents, hydration and bedrest do absolutely nothing for ears like mine. What does seem to do something is grommets, in a lot of cases, but of course that would have to be determined by an ENT. My hearing is pathetic at the best of times, but when I'm sick it's worse and painful. But actually investigating my ears would apparently take money or time or something so I'm ignored, time and again. I suppose I could pester them about it, but I'd miss work. I hate having to squeak to get attention.

That said, I did phone my husband and squeak (well, croak) at him to come home early and make me soup. SOOOOOOUP. I have a guilty conscience when it comes to healthcare--I'm always aware that there's at least a billion people out there who are in worse shape than me, and with whom the doctor's time would be infinitely better spent. But with Boy? I demand soup. NOW.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

So Proud

I'm very pleased that America rejected the 1952 party and appears ready to sally forth into the new millennium. It took bravery and maturity. Bravo.

I printed out an "I voted for Obama" button and pinned it to my shirt on election day to reassure my colleagues. No one doubted that I'd be the type to vote lefty, but they were a little surprised that I got to vote at all. It was surprisingly easy, if a little strange. I phoned my local polling place in Fort Mill (using Skype) in July and they emailed me an absentee registry/ballot request form. I printed that out, filled it in, signed it, stamped it, and put it in the post. Shortly after the DNC I received my official local/state/federal ballot by email. I again printed it and filled it out, but this time I just scanned it back into my computer and emailed the .pdf back to the office that sent it. Bada-bing. I voted for everything from president to national representatives to city council to school board. The coroner and the sheriff were running unopposed but I voted for them anyway. Jim DeMint wasn't up for re-election but I thought about writing in a "and tell that turd to sod off" bubble. Figured that would invalidate the rest of my ballot though, and I didn't want to waste it. (I've noticed that both the Daily Show and the Colbert Report have run the same joke about Lindsey Graham being the first lesbian senator, and while I get the joke, Graham is such a turd I find it an insult to lesbians to try and pass him off as one.) 

Naturally, everyone I voted for (except those running unopposed) lost. I think that means I was voting for the sane, decent people.  I did plenty of research and placed all of my school board and representative votes as far outside of the Fundagelical Convention as I could, so naturally First Baptist of Fort Mill spent all of this morning celebrating. The slimy real estate shark will get another term in the House and the only "democrat" on the county council is known as Bump to his constituents. Yeaaah. 

I live in England. 

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Oh, and by the way

I've had a birthday. I realize this happens every year and is not in itself particularly remarkable, but I think this one was significant for the fact that I no longer have any claim to the phase of life known as mid-twenties.  At 27 my grasp upon it was slippery at best, but now, a year later, I've been officially kicked off the team. I'm in the 28-30 crowd.

I'd like to take a moment to acknowledge what this means. As a 28-year-old I'm now older than a significant number of music stars ever became--I guess this means I've passed the cut-off date for rock-n-roll. If I took up drugs, tight skirts and loud music now I'd be seen as pathetic and rather disgusting--a cry for attention from a has-been who never had-been. MTV is not trying to rock my vote anymore--no journalistic article, even a really patronising one would describe me as a girl, or even a young woman now--just a woman. I'm one of those Real Adults you hear about as a youth and secretly fear--a responsible adult doing responsible things with money, property, community and nation.

Except I don't really have any property, and aside from the pension plan at work and repaying loans for my MA I'm not doing much with money that most 20 year olds aren't already doing. (Reader, if you're a 20 year old with an advanced degree, I'm impressed but a little baffled.) As far as community goes, I work with technical theatre students for a living, so while I may be taking a bit more responsibility for their health and safety than they are, I'm hardly in a position to be a good influence on the next generation. Seriously, they're artists. If you're too overtly well-meaning toward them they bite.

I voted early in the US election by email and now get to sit tight and watch it play out. As much as Ward Cleaver of the Mormon Party scares me, there's not a whole lot I can do or say from the UK that would impact anyone's vote--ex-pats around here are already going to vote for Obama, I'm preaching to the choir when I sign a petition, and no one reads this journal without already knowing me and my views pretty well. (Hi Mom!) Romney has the cold dead eyes of a killer, but a lot of Americans apparently look for that in their leadership so who am I to burden them with sanity? Meanwhile Cameron is a self-aggrandising nonce who is striving to cripple the NHS so he can eventually justify dissolving it and giving his cronies in the private insurance industry some coin, but that's blatant to every nurse, cabbie and coal miner in the UK and no one seems able to do anything about it--especially me, as I can't actually vote here. 

I may be 28, but I'm just as left-wing, pro-choice, anti-theistic, counter-patriarchal, feminist, state-education supportively idealistic as any naïvely youthful 27 year old. Hear me roar.

Saturday, October 20, 2012


Ginger Biscuffin Noms

2 US Cups white lily flour (all purpose would probably work too, just sift it)
1 US tablespoon baking powder
1 US teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons sifted buttermilk powder (MUY IMPORTANTE! NOT milk with vinegar!!)
½ teaspoon ground ginger
(chunks of stem ginger would be nice too)
2 tablespoons nice shortening (who am I kidding, Britain has nothing. Buy Crisco from America.)
grate a sizeable handful of butter into it, probably a bit more than a quarter cup
1 US cup Ginger Beer (Old Jamaica works nicely, but stir it to flatten it first)

Heat your shitty-ass oven to 425 Fahrenheit. Mix ingredients in listed order, whisking dry ingredients thoroughly before cutting Crisco in, then grating butter directly into the mixture. It should resemble...erm, well it's sorta granular with the little chunks of butter in there but I can't think of anything not gross it's similar to. Add ginger beer in small splashes and stir in well. Mixture should be sticky (I wound up using about ¾ of the ginger beer, but that may change with the humidity so be prepared.) Spoon into a muffin tin (or roll it out and use a biscuit cutter if you're feeling classy) and entrust to your oven for about twenty minutes, or until it passes the toothpick test. There should be enough butter in there for the ginger biscuffins to just fall out of the tin when they're done, so fling onto the counter to cool. Yields about 8 muffins, maybe more if you roll out into biscuits.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Blurp, Blorp, Smoosh

Last week I took a class. An awesome class.  A class that makes you glad you're an adult who has finished regular school so you can spend a whole week doing this sort of class.

A class, in short, in mould-making and casting, skills which are very useful to my Props students and which I, until quite recently, had absolutely no hand in. But no more!

Yes, I, your humble narrator, am now absolutely teh awesomzors at pouring silicone on knick-knacks.

I've uploaded photos in chronological order, starting with Tuesday, as I forgot my camera Monday. I had a classmate and a teacher, but in the interest of courtesy I have excluded photos of them and their work as I don't really know them. But their work was quite good--in several instances, better than mine. Anyway.  The shot at the top is at home this past Saturday at dinner. You'll see. Pictures!

This is my 3D mould of a candlestick the morning of day 2. The original candlestick is encased inside. By this point I had poured and smeared silicone all over one side, and had let it harden overnight. I then made a trough around it and filled that with plaster, which sets up quite quickly (less than half an hour). The little dots help everything line up when you're reassembling it. The plaster jacket poured around it holds the silicone mould in the right configuration while the casting medium sets. Everyone catch that?

Your humble narrator MISSING A HAND OMG WTF AAAAA  graciously volunteered to demonstrate how Alginate works, an algae-based form-taking compound that typically works exactly once, but very quickly. Only used for safely taking moulds of people's parts, you slorp it on fast (and cold!) and let it set (in about three minutes). Then gently remove (in my case, I wiggled my fingers and it came off) and fill with plaster within an hour to get an amazing copy.

My hand, supported in rice, waiting to be filled with plaster.

Not bad, eh? Embiggen for detail. The alginate mould was, unfortunately, destroyed in the process of removing the plaster cast, but that's normal. Now I could mould the hand in silicone, which takes at least 8 hours to set up, without my fingers cramping up for 8 hours. 

My original candlestick, with its freshly-cured and freed plaster shell, waiting for its second silicone layer.  Neat thing: with enough petroleum jelly, the silicone and plaster you see here will not stick to the silicone and plaster you pour to make the other side, so the dots just form themselves! Poured second silicone layer and put aside.

Cookin' up some vinyl. Yum. It smells like custard-scented plastic, particularly so when you  melt it.  It gave me a headache.

My classmate pouring vinyl over an ashtray she would like to use as a lamp base. The vinyl takes a couple of hours to cure, so we left these overnight.

Wednesday morning. The brass-coloured coin on the right is the original, found in a pencil-box in my house.  I think it belongs to my landlady, though what its significance is (if any) I couldn't begin to guess. The yellow form above it is, you guessed it, the vinyl mould. The terracotta-coloured mould and block above are modelling wax (very very soft, smearable, smells like crayons) and the off-white set are Sculpey.

Wahoo! After a quick plaster-pour and set in the morning, the candlestick decanted beautifully. Silicone is amazing--it even copies the sheen of the original. The belly of the knick-knack is ever so slightly satin-textured, and that will reproduce accurately no matter how many times you use it (which could be an indefinite number with reasonable care). My classmate's prototype was glossy ceramic, and it transferred the gloss perfectly.

Cutting air-vents into some fiddly bits to prevent bubbles getting trapped. The vent must carry straight through into the rest of the piece.

GIANT CHRYSALIS. Or mould wrapped in cling-film ready to have plaster poured in it and shaken vigorously. 
Plaster poured, time waited, cracked open, success! Well, not really success--I mixed the plaster too thick and it set up a bit too fast, so there's more bubbles than I would have liked, particularly near the bottom (the last part I poured, by which point the plaster was already setting up.) Whoops.

But hey, my air bubble vents worked! Everything seeped out nicely.

Cleaned up and tidied. Did you know you can cut freshly-cast plaster with a scalpel? I do now. I finished up the bottom later.

As a curiosity, my teacher coated the handle in a thick paste-like silicone and let it harden over night, just in case. It came in handy. We also poured 2D moulds in silicone and left them overnight to cure.

Original at the bottom, while the top two are a study: both copies are made with a plaster compound mixed with iron for strength (and to give it a nice terracotta appearance) but they are resting on their moulds--vinyl to the left and silicone to the right. Embiggen for detail--you'll see that the vinyl one looks nicer, nice and smooth, but the silicone one, while rough and kinda crappy-looking, is actually a perfect copy of the original. Vinyl doesn't take absolutely the best copies of things, but it has three very distinct advantages over silicone--it is slightly cheaper, it sets up faster, and it can be melted down and re-used over and over. But silicone does the job far better.

Thursday morning. A shell being copied in polyurethane resin, padded out with Fillite, a lightweight industrial ash that is used to stretch polyurethane (as a cost and weight-saving measure). This process involved swirling the plastic resin carefully around the mould until it hardened (well, until it stopped moving).  It sets up in about twenty minutes. 

The shell to the left is pure polyurethane, no filler. The shell to the right is With some barnacles. But they're long dead. My landlady had about eight of these.

Check those deets! Polyurethane's potential for producing accurate replicas is OFF THA CHAIN. 

My teacher's genius idea for adding increments to disposable cups. Only works if you regularly use the same cups, of course, but this style is pretty easy to find, and dirt cheap. Great for polyurethane and polyester mixing. 

Oh dear, this is getting a bit silly. Original at the bottom, then a polyurethane copy with faux gold leaf powder added to Part A. It was lightweight and shiny but the gold comes off if you rub it. Then a polyester copy, filled with actual bronze and copper powders. Quite heavy, and polish-able to an antique-like glow. Then the two terracotta plasters, then wax, then a cruddy polyester one from the vinyl mould (made with leftovers, hence it is not full), then sculpey, then polyurethane/gold leaf in vinyl (again, leftovers). It gets worse.

Now it's your turn!

A polyester/metal powders apple, using a mould that was laying around. I've polished it a bit with steel wool to bring out some highlights. It is very cute. This was Friday morning.

A polyurethane copy of my candlestick's handle, with green pigment and faux steel powders mixed in. The steel just darkened it, really, which I think gave it a slightly antique-y feel. It was an experiment. As you would have noted earlier, polyurethane cures opaque, so suspensions in it don't show up very well.

Set handle copy in the mould for hollow cast attempt. The hollow-mould technique probably would not have gotten enough PU into the handle space for it to work otherwise.

Photo down the bottom of the mould to check how it was all curing in there.  Looks good!  Hollow PU casting involves rolling it around and around and around and around until it stops moving. Takes a while but it saves money on resin, which isn't cheap. Pretty much nothing involved in the mould-making and casting process is cheap.  The copy came out really well but I forgot to take pictures of it and my camera battery is dead. Maybe I'll update this after I take a picture. 

So yes, I learned something. A thing or two. I learned a lot of other things that aren't detailed here but these were some of the cool things. I also really enjoyed it. I screwed up a few times but was able to figure out what I'd done wrong (mostly speed and thickness-related issues that get better with practice).  The things I brought home look nice, and I'm proud of them, though what on earth I'm going to do with them now I have no idea. I'm back at work this week, ho-hum. Maybe next summer I'll take a class in ceramics. Or sculpture.  Or blacksmithing. Or silver-smithing. Or painting nudes. Or painting naked people.

MOAR! Just two--the middle ones are Jesmonite, a type of plaster that is mixed with a plastic polymer for added strength. The yellow one is Jesmonite with chrome yellow pigment powder, left over from my classmate's hollow cast. By the time I'd made my 10th copy I was giggling like a moron. I'm rich! I'm rich! I'm awaiting the arrival of my clear cast polyester copy, in a translucent blue with glitter. (classmate's idea). It wasn't set up by the end of class Friday so the teacher said he'd put it in the post, along with my vinyl mould and a few other things we poured.

Monday, September 17, 2012

The Power of Nonsense

This post by my spouse and other current events in the lives of my family members have spurred a frustrating line of reasoning in my mind today.  When we don't have a clue what's going on, when we have no means of influencing what happens to us (with regard to a particular desired objective) the human brain has a funny tendency--it tries to draw cause/effect relationships between utterly unrelated factors (which will either help or hinder the progress of the objective).

To expand off of Ben's example, our attempts to fake out the bus gods were unsuccessful nearly all of the time, but the one or two occasions when walking away from the stop actually did coincide with the bus arriving reinforced the notion that it was worth a shot. We probably would carry on trying our pointless summoning dance, getting more and more frustrated and convinced the universe was out to get us, if the opportunity to gain relevant information had not presented itself on the always-open public transit website on my phone. It is this access to live bus locations alone that has prevented me from ever downsizing back to a dumb-phone. The bus tracker provides not only invaluable information--it is a reminder of the existence of information, a souvenir from the day I stopped feeling helpless to TFL's whimsy.

It is a pure, simple example of the triumph of understanding over superstition. But understanding is not inherent, nor is the relationship between cause and effect always obvious. In my instance, the failure of the bus to arrive on time, or within its expected time-range, could have a whole host of causes--from heavy traffic, to a passenger-related incident on the bus, to a drivers' strike to the fire-bombing of Catford by the disgusted city of Greenwich. All I know is that I don't have a bus when I should. A more inquisitive mind than mine might be inclined to undertake a simple research project to this end. Perhaps one might catch a bus heading the opposite direction to inspect the route the desired bus should be coming through. If the route appears clear, perhaps they could contact the depot to enquire if there has been a bus breakdown or a sick driver. Once they're told off by the depot receptionist they could check a newspaper about that all-too-possible strike. There is plenty of information out there waiting to be discovered for the patient, unperturbed passenger with nowhere in particular to be. If you follow the scientific method, more often than not you will figure out what the hold-up was.

Or you could do the impatient-commuter version of a rain dance.

If, like me, you are too chicken to annoy a bus dispatcher, too desperate to get where you're going to try going another direction purely for the sake of inquiry, or too trusting in your state to believe the drivers would do such a horrible thing as leave you stranded on the side of the road, you'll probably just stick to rain dances. But why is this? Is it intellectual laziness? Faith? Something else equally as childish?

I tend to think it is somehow related to my capacity for empathy, albeit perhaps a capacity which has developed far beyond its usefulness. As a feeling, reacting entity who has grown up (and on a larger scale, evolved) within communities of other feeling, reacting entities, I seek to place myself within my environment--establish how I relate to the people, objects, and events going on around me at all times. It is entirely likely that, as I have observed how my actions have affected other people and theirs in turn have impacted me, on a less-conscious level I have attempted to apply my understanding of this relationship to my other environmental elements (that is objects, events, and other non-person phenomena). Perhaps the inner baby in my head, still thrilled with herself for figuring out how to fit all ten toes in one mouth, assumes that I should be able to affect anything that affects me. "Surely, if the bus can make me late, I must be able to do something to make it early!" Furthermore, this same dribbling, grinning moron, lodged firmly near my medulla oblongata, who was the centre of the entire universe for about two years, sincerely believes that anything which has affected me must have been meant for me personally, be it a hurricane, a found dollar, a pleasant breeze or a late bus. This has compounded with the beautifully-crafted sense of white-kid guilt instilled in me by the South Carolina Department of Education to force my default assumption to be, whatever negative happen-stance befalls me, I deserve it, either because I'm a horrible person or because I don't appreciate the nice things I have. "I see. I accidentally smushed that snail but was more disgusted than sorry, so this is my punishment. No bus."

As I meander through my everyday, I realise that the ol' thinker in my head is making a lot of junk up to either make sense of, mitigate, or disappear from view the billions of unrelated events that make up the world around me. I want everything to be linear, despite the fact that it rarely is. I want effects to have obvious causes, I want to know why and how things happen, and I want to be able to control the factors which nevertheless control me. In most ways we are completely helpless, the hovering end of the slinky which has no idea that it has already been dropped. But rather than acknowledge this--an acknowledgement which has surely landed more than a few people in quiet, padded rooms--we attempt to control, or perhaps pretend to control, everything we can. The rain dances don't work, and on some level we are of course aware of this, but without access to genuine understanding of what the hell's going on we can either embrace the nonsense or the crushing futility of existence.

Oh these things always spiral downward rapidly.

Sunday, August 05, 2012


So the husband and I have been glued to the Olympics since day one on the ol' interwebs here. I'm quite thrilled--as of today, both of my countries are in the top 3! I think I read that Michael Phelps has now retired, or will have after his last medley relay, so I'd imagine he and a collection of archers and rowers are currently (and will remain for the next week) completely trashed somewhere near Stratford.

We have very much enjoyed Team USA's cycling kit. Even though they're not wiping the floor with other riders, they certainly look like they should in their Captain America unitards.  Though they missed a trick letting Colombia take the most appropriate helmets. Tsk!

I think sporting would be universally improved if other events employed glitter, sequins and eye-shadow to the same extent as the women gymnasts. Canoeing, hockey and javelin events could all benefit from a little bling.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Update: Doloreta

I am sad to say that I learned my neighbour's name the other day. The husband signed for a package for her. It is apparently Kamila, which is a very nice name and I hope she does good things with it. I was not present when the package was signed for or collected, and I never saw the parcel or the person who collected it, so I am still none the wiser as to the shape of her face or demeanour.

I, however, am determined to keep referring to her as Doloreta, partly because I don't know how thick the walls are, really, and it makes it a lot less obvious that I'm talking about her if I use the assumed name, but mostly because I don't really want to think of her as someone with a real name or a real existence outside of my head. I know it isn't fair but as I still can't pick her face out of a line-up and still don't understand a word of what wafts through the open windows I want all of my thoughts with regard to her to remain a complete fiction. Maybe one day I'll develop a really comprehensive and exciting life for her and write it down in a book and make my millions. At the very least I want to keep Doloreta as my own, my pretend exciting neighbour who is even now carefully plotting the public humiliation of her vile ex-husband or covertly running a discrete brothel for the Polish Mafia.

Even the fact that Boy had to sign for a package for her is too much--now I know that she periodically leaves the house. I'll just edit that in the narrative to her napping and missing the doorbell, or having a stomach bug, or being too busy burying an apostate in the cellar to answer the door.

How Apt

I think there should be one of these, quite large, plastered on every train platform and bus shelter in London. Thank you, husband.

Monday, July 02, 2012


I have discovered a new and dangerous disease that seems to be sweeping through the citizens of London. Recently dubbed (in the past thirty seconds) Dysjanuasis, it is an astonishing disability to handle doorways.

I'm not suggesting British people are too fat to fit through doorways, or incapable of pushing, pulling, or turning knobs upon them, but rather they can't pass through them effectively. For many sufferers this extends to stairways, tunnels, bus stops, and sidewalks, but the effect is similar across all: you get to, just through, or just in front of the doorway and stop.

Why do you stop? Sometimes it is to rummage for a phone, or to tie your shoe. Other times it is simply to enjoy the fresh air, or curse the rain. Most often you have no reason whatsoever, and simply stand there, looking like a damp sock. Either way, you stop directly in the path of other people--sometimes hundreds of people--who need to pass through the door, or mount or descend the stairs, or get off the train, or on the bus, or move quickly down the platform or through the tunnel. More importantly, you stop directly in the path of people who are already moving, sometimes quite quickly, meaning they have to skid to a halt lest they knock you into the street, or down the stairs, or into the (often sizeable) gap between the platform and the train.

Among children, Dysjanuasis expresses itself through such symptoms as: temper tantrums, wiggling, wandering, glassy-eyed stupidity and/or fist-sucking confusion. Among adults, however, Dysjanuasis is asymptomatic with the exception of the doorway failure itself. Sufferers respond poorly to conventional treatments, such as being asked to move (side effects include: astonishment, hurt feelings, rude retorts, and in exceptional circumstances, starting fistfights), being shoved out of the way (side-effects: huffing, shouting, how-dare-you-ing, tutting, and simply failing to move out of the way despite the shove), being slammed headlong into (side effects: belligerence, wild accusations, further failure to move, and the impressively blind-minded "look where you're going, asshole"), and no treatment appears to have any lasting effect.

Therapies are usually begun in childhood but effectiveness of all approaches requires further study. While some parents adhere to the principle that instruction ultimately leads to independence ("move out of the way sweetie so the nice lady can get past you." "okay mommy" Life Lesson Learned!) others contend that regular instruction leads to a reliance upon further instruction ("Ow! Why did that lady trip over me?" "Maybe next time you'll get off the escalator at the appropriate time, schnookums.") so instruction should come through experience of consequences. Either way, neither approach has resulted in any measurable improvement in the condition, and indeed some sufferers may develop the condition spontaneously, or after years of therapy.

Will there ever be a cure? Is it deliberate? Is it a symptom of a larger condition? Am I ready to punch someone next time I get smushed in the train doors because I can't get off thanks to some slack-jawed idiot in flip flops with a handbag the size of Rhode Island, or trip over the crossed ankles of a suit nattering into his phone halfway down the stairs to the Tube? Science may never know.

Monday, May 07, 2012

Still Married

It feels strange, to not be worrying about our wedding anymore. Every morning I wake up is a morning I don't have a wedding looming over my head, or a nagging feeling of guilt when I'm not spending my leisure time fretting over hairstyles or music. I go to work. I come home. My husband and I eat dinner and read. I get a full night's sleep. It's nice.

But more importantly, I've discovered that once you're married, you stay married. You don't have to keep doing it. On some level I still believe it's like a driver's license, and we'll have to go renew it every few years or we'll lose it and have to re-sit the test. And this one went fine but what if we get into bad habits and don't pass next time? Or if the rules change? I think I'm afraid that at some point the marriage bailiff is going to come to the door and inform me that, upon review of my actions as an alien, atheist artsy type that I'm not actually qualified to marry a British man and they'll revoke my wifedom and issue Boy to a low-tier aristocrat as a handmaid. And while I realize this is all complete nonsense, after years of underemployment and regular migration, I've gotten used to application forms.

That does lead me to the next item on my agenda: in the next couple of months I really do need to jump on applying for indefinite leave to remain. The wedding was the easy part--and the cheap part. After I've saved up the necessary sum (after paying back the in-laws for our share) I'll be dumping a huge pile of pound coins on the desk of a disgruntled civil servant who will then glare at me distrustfully until no reason can be found to have me deported, at which point I'll get another two years before I can apply for real indefinite leave to remain, pay said civil servant another huge pile of coins, and enjoy a bit more scrutiny. By 2016 I may be able to apply for citizenship. I don't think I'm done with the Lewisham Register Office--they also host citizenship ceremonies (but sadly I can't make the Affirmation in Welsh unless I move to Wales. Ten whole minutes of Welsh lessons for nothing.) once every two months or so, by the look of it. I find it funny though--the granting of indefinite leave to remain is as formal as smushing a sticker into your passport, but citizenship, which is basically tying a bell to the sticker in the passport, gets all sorts of ceremonies and solemn vows and refreshments available in the atrium. While I would like the opportunity to vote for my community representatives, I find it far more important to know I can legally remain in my home with my husband.


Married life is quite similar to pre-married life; while Boy's name has changed to Husband and we've gotten a few letters addressed to Mr. and Mrs. Husband Himself, a practice I find so offensive as to be nauseating, we're still ourselves and continue to enjoy our home life the way we have for the past few years. A few things have gotten easier: Boy's little sister has become my sister-in-law, boy's mum has become my mother-in-law, and boy's brother's fiancée will eventually become boy's sister-in-law but will still not actually be related to me. You'd think we'd be siblings-in-law. Seems like an oversight. Oh well, we can still be friends.

Our honeymoon went quite well after a few initial hurdles relating to a construction site within inches of the bedroom we rented, but we were able to move to a better location and then had a lovely time. It was quiet and fairly uneventful, though we did learn how to use an induction stove (we didn't actually cook anything, just boiled water. Voodoo, I tell ya.) and the view was always beautiful. We hiked, we talked, we gazed out over Torbay, we relaxed and laughed and let the reality of our officially-recognized relationship sink in.

The weather has been messy lately but my tulips are still holding in there. Well, some of them are. The deep violet ones (two of which we snipped for the wedding) are holding up, a few of the yellow and red ones did okay for a few weeks, and the double white and pinks came up but never bloomed. I guess they were too heavily mutated to manage to bloom again on their own. I'll replace them with something more genetically simple this fall.

Still married! We really did it!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Wedded details

14 April 2012. Lewisham Register Office, Evelyn Suite. 2:00pm.
Officiants: Jenny (Registrar), Abby (Ceremony Conductor)
Ceremony Guests: 28
Ceremony Guest Home Cities: Greenwich, Mottingham, Eltham, Brooklyn, Beckenham, Charlotte, Fort Mill, Miami, Guangzhou
Lines flubbed: 0
Tears shed: 4
Pre-Marital Kisses: 5 in hallway, 0 in suite
Marital Kisses: at least 50

Dress: Vivien of Holloway (plus shrug, belt, and two crinolines)
Fascinator: Mad Hatter (Brighton)
Shoes: Heavenly Feet "Tulip" in red
Tights: Anne Summers (plus garter belt)
Hair: Sinead Milligan, Rockabilly Belle
Flower/Boutonnière: home-grown deep violet tulips
Suit: Next three-button in grey
Tie: black with white polka dots

14 April 2012. Shrewsbury house, Library. 3:30pm.
Reception Guests: 60
Toasts: 2
Tears shed: many
Best dance: Cousins, Vampire Weekend
Catering: Food Unlimited, Sydenham
Flowers: Covent Garden Flower Market tulips in Red, Yellow, Violet, and Parrot (orange/yellow wrinkly)
Lighting: Festoons with paper shades, Central School of Speech & Drama (borrowed, hung by siblings)
Sound: Playlist selected by siblings; audio equipment borrowed
Tables: 6, each with a different bright, primary coloured cloth and electric tea lights in votive holders
Favors: wind-up toys, bubbles

Food Service: Buffet
Foods: Dressed salmon, cold roast beef, jambalaya, couscous with roasted vegetables, a variety of salads, North Carolina cole slaw
Desserts: Key Lime, Pecan, and Apple pies
Drinks: Red & white wine, champagne, bottled lager and ale, Biddendens sparkling for bride & groom toast

Accommodation: provided by family for international guests.
Wedding Night: bride & groom retired to The Pilot Inn on Greenwich Peninsula, our generous and helpful next-door neighbours accommodated locked-out international guest. (Now we've gotten to share a bottle of wine with our neighbours! Sorry my sister sleeps like a log; thanks for breaking the ice!)


It would appear that I'm married.

That was fast. And fun. I think. It's all a bit of a blur.

We are very happy.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

So. Oof. This whole "getting married" thing is harder than it looks. I am beginning to understand why many women just wear the cake and do what they're told by the caterer--partly because caterers are incredibly pushy and don't like brides who stray too far from the established format, and partly because this whole...organizing things thing is really hard. You have to organize things that it never even occurred to you that you needed to have.

Like selecting "my colours". Most couples are granted 2. I have made no arrangements and have no particular views regarding colours, and as things have gone with the flow in my head about fifteen have made their way into the mix. Red, blue, black, yellow, green, purple, orange--I haven't really gone for any pastels, metallics, or sheers so I suppose that's something, but the very idea of picking a colour never crossed my mind. And I am so flatly opposed to the idea of a woman being alternately crammed and fluffed into the least flattering colour on earth for what is supposed to be one of the most joyful days of her life that any sort of white and silver "classic formal" look never even came close enough to the window to be thrown out of it. I am wearing a black dress with white polka dots, with enough crinolines under it to make it stand up by itself. It is pretty and I like it so I'm wearing it.

'Cos you see, I see the options between "traditional" wedding dresses (note: the word "traditional" will now always go in quotation marks. I find the very idea of mindless, unsubstantiated adherence to the behaviours of one's forebears so repulsive as to be nauseating. "Tradition" and all of its associated prejudices have no place in my home.) as "big white dress" and "tight white dress", neither of which look good on anyone except very fit women with very dark skin and hair. White is awful--it makes even the thin and attractive look like a bloated pink beach ball, unless you get spray-tanned, in which case you look like a bloated orange beach ball. And the choice between strapless and strapless? Ooh, let me think. How about no, my arms and side-fat are flopping at just the idea. Usually those bodices look fine if they're altered perfectly to fit you and you stand perfectly straight all night, but the second you slouch or gain (or lose, ha ha) a pound, you're either swimming in it or spilling over it like Punxutawney Phil wriggling out of his hole in search of his shadow. And the unhealthily skinny? They just look like naked women standing behind a cardboard cut-out of a dress. It's unsettling.

And EGAD the planning. Not only do I dislike the idea of placing my guests in some sort of optimised seating configuration, but it is also completely impossible. I have four families and a variety of friends to arrange, most of whom are the mother-in-law's nearest and dearest. I don't fault her for this--she has at least 40 immediate relations who live in town, whereas I'm grateful for my 7 kinfolk who have saved a lot of money to make the trip--but ensuring that they don't huddle off in a corner en masse, thereby straining the floorboards so far that they snap, is going to be a challenge. They're a close-knit family, which I fully believe is something to be admired, but they tend to be so to the exclusion of others. This was made abundantly clear at a small engagement party the parents of my affianced held for us last autumn, where mum's family separated itself by several metres from dad's small knot of siblings for the duration of the afternoon. Aside from Boy's siblings there were no real intermediaries, so while we tried to mingle with everyone casually and evenly, crossing the back-garden divide was so awkwardly obvious it felt like we should have sought gate clearance.

Hopefully the introduction of my exotic, foreign family and oddball (and differently foreign) friends will give the in-laws an interesting diversion from their local gossip, and maybe they'll even find something in common. But the question this poses is, do I put a few of the local family at every table to spread them out, allowing them to dominate the room, or do I allow them to form their impenetrable bloc and make everyone else feel excluded?

I have no idea how to manage people, or to manage when people manage themselves. I don't like this.