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Dreadful Nonsense

"I've read your blog. it's really funny. you should write a column." - Jon Ronson

Active Listening

31 July 2007
I was lying on our bed yesterday evening, having just returned from my first day back at work in almost a month (between Open University courses and Near Death Experiences, I’ve been a busy girl this month) and I was trying to explain to He Who Only…my frustration at my brain’s ability to constantly question any decision I try to make.

I’ve almost definitely made a decision about the next course that I take following my graduation from the Open University, and this decision is one of those life-changing, career-altering and very-expensive kind of decisions that will be looked back upon in the years to come, and I would like the looking back, when I do it, to be with positive rather than negative feelings.

I was detailing my thought process to He Who Only…, showing him how, on one hand, this option (Option A) is good, but of course, on the other hand, this option (Option B) is also an attractive one. But the first hand option (Option A), although it’s going to take up to five years to complete, is the right one, I think, but on the other hand, it’s the most expensive one and in the meantime while I’m doing all of this for the next five years, I’m going to have to cut right back on the number of shoes I get to own.

He Who Only… turned away for a moment, and then turned back again, as I continued to show him how my brain is constantly turning over Option A (on the one hand) and Option B (on the other hand) and when I next looked over at him, he was accompanying my speech with a glove puppet show, having strapped on two socks. One on the one hand, and another on the other hand.

Silence is Golden

26 July 2007
Sorry about the temporary lack of posting. This is due to three things:

1. I am still off work and wondering around the Nest'O'Love trying to motivate myself to do things during the day, and ending up watching constant re-runs of Location, Location, Location and Columbo and wondering where the time goes. I did think, when my GP signed me off, that finally I could do things like catch up on some OU study or go for long, lovely walks, get back into the swing of things down the gym or even just rearrange my wardrobe to make some more space, but in the end what I've done is clean for about two hours every day and then spend the rest of the time dribbling into the sofa pillows waiting for He Who Only... to come back from work and rouse me from my stupor.

2. In the time not spent dribbling, I have discovered the joys of Facebook, and I've spent far too long turning people into zombies and buying fishes to be able to do anything coherent enough to merit a blog entry of its own. Even while writing this entry, I got distracted and ended up drawing graffiti on someone's wall. This really has got to stop.

3. I have a list as long as my arm (my long arm) of things that I should be doing with this time that has been gifted to me, this spare time in which I could be applying to universities for further studies, completing the study I'm currently doing, catching up on my reading, sorting out all the things that could happily go to the charity store, reorganise the kitchen so that we can actually fit things in cupboards again, hell, even just hoovering up the bits of Christmas tree that are still lurking behind our sofas. But, like I say, it's mainly been dribbling. The presence of the list of things to do is, if anything, holding me back even more because (a) I don't know where to start and (b) I'm too busy dribbling.

Anxiety attacks aside, this week has been quite a relaxing one, but, I'm afraid, quite boring. So please forgive the lack of posts. Today we're going to Nottingham to escape the London noise and hustle (not to mention the bustle). I'll be back Sunday. Hopefully with something more interesting to say.

I only read that bit about computer screens just now

20 July 2007
As He Who Only... commented as we left the hospital, points 4 and 5 applied even before the chimney landed.

My Worldly Possessions

Having had the last three days to recover at home, I've come to see what's most important in life. It's this kind of thing that helps to put things into perspective: an accident of this nature, a near-death experience, if you wish, can really help to clarify things. What I've come to realise over these last three days, when left on my own in the peace and traffic noise of the Nest'O'Love, is that possessions are incredibly important. Incredibly important.

We've been in the Nest'O'Love for over a year and a half now, and in that time we've seen every single other flat in this block be moved in and out of at least twice over. What I'm constantly wondering is why everyone else seems to move away while we stay here, and we've come to the conclusion that (a) everyone else is rubbish and (b) we've got the best flat in the building. The one thing I know for certain is that it'll take a great deal of upheaval to get me to move out of here now that we've been here for so long. For one thing, I've never been allowed to be entirely in charge of the decoration of a flat ever ever ever. Oh, I love living with He Who Only... for many different reasons, but one of the big bonuses is that he pretends he has absolutely no opinion about interior decoration and lets me get away with sticking any old shit I've bought off eBay up on the wall. His default response to anything that suddenly arrives on our walls is "Oh, that's very pretty. Like you". I think you'll all agree he's a master at this.

This is one of the best things in our flat. It's a giant poster from eBay, which (although you can't really tell from this photo) takes up almost the whole wall over our bed. When my brother saw it, he was moved to respond "Very good, Shar", which is the highest praise possible from my brother.

My new favourite thing are these Banksy templates, which I bought off of eBay for very little money indeed. They can be used as actual, real-life, street-culture graffiti templates, all the better to show Mr Gordon Brown how little respec' you have for him and his homies. I prefer to use them to decorate my front room. I'm so terribly urban.

My ridiculous collection of shadow photos also now runs all the way from the ceiling to the floor of our hallway, and I'm going to have to find another alcove in which to continue the series. They're all of me and He Who Only..., taken over the last three years and I think it says a lot about how patient he is.

I'm not making this up

19 July 2007
I don't believe in God. I don't believe in fate. I'm almost entirely superstitious-free (apart from when I'm on an airplane). Most importantly, I don't believe in karma. Which is good, because if I was a believer in karma, I'd have to really think about what I did to deserve what happened to me on Tuesday

On Tuesday, a chimney fell on my head.

I'm not going to go into the details of how or why it happened, because it happened at work, and I'm not supposed to blog about anything to do with work. Also, the details of the accident, who was at fault, and why it ever happened are all being argued about between the respective insurers of the respective parties involved, and because I work for an excellent law firm who know exactly how to kick some large corporate ass, I'm not going to hurl myself into the middle of it all.

However, the things I've learned from this experience are detailed below:

1. I'm a screamer.
One thing I've never been sure about was whether or not, in times of crisis, I'd be one of those people who stares on-coming death mutely in the face, and bows down to the inevitability of it all. Turns out, I'm not. Turns out, I'm a screamer. I didn't know this, but on Tuesday, as various bits of masonry came down through the ceiling and landed on my head and hands, I let out a blood curdling screech that Jamie Lee Curtis would have been proud of and which, apparently, could be heard on the floor below. I'm pretty proud of that.

2. Riding in an ambulance isn't as much fun as you might think.
Mind you, I didn't merit the full siren treatment, so it might have been more fun if I had. But, since I was strapped down on a back board with a neck brace and the full works, all I could think about was "Ow! Ow! Ow!" every time we went around a corner. Those things are not built for comfort, let me tell you.

3. I touch my head quite a lot.
Seriously, until you have a lump the size of Guernsey growing out of the right hand side of your head, I don't think you realise how often you mess with your hair.

4. My brain has a very good sense of humour.
For the last two days, I've had Last Night I Nearly Died by the excellent Duke Special playing on a constant loop in my head. I didn't even realise I knew all the words until now.

5. It's not the tetanus injection itself that hurts.
It's the ache that follows about two hours after the injection, sets up home in the muscle in your arm and refuses to go away. Two days later, and it still feels like an elephant has been using the muscle in my arm as a jump rope.

6. Everyone's a personal injury law expert.
The quotes I've had for what I could get in compensation range from £1,000 to £50,000.

7. I must really eat more cake.
The first thing I did once I got home from the hospital - after lying down for about two hours and watching two episodes of Buffy Season 5 to calm me the hell down - was go up the bakers and buy some of their donuts. I've wanted to eat their donuts since we moved into our Nest'O'Love almost two years ago now, but never got round to it because I was worried about getting fat. For fuck's sake. I'd've died at work, and left behind a marvellously svelte corpse. What would have been the point of that?

And this...

16 July 2007

... this is why I can never, ever, ever travel outside of Western Europe.

(Photo courtesy of the fabulous Carol, who - HURRAH! - is coming home in October)

I actually squealed with delight

14 July 2007

Here Hair Here

11 July 2007
In a break from the blogging about Uni, and thanks to popular, insistent demand, here's a photo of my new hair. Only one side of it. You don't get to see the other side.


(Yes, I know you can't see it properly. I've done that on purpose.)


10 July 2007
We had a half day today, which still meant getting up at 7am to beat the shower fairies, but also meant that, when 1.30pm came, I no longer had to think about counterfactual thinking or the causal order effect and how robust it will be when complicated by irrational thinking. And that, you'll all have experienced at one time or another in your lives, is a great relief.

Since I am staying in Sussex Uni, and since that's technically in Brighton, I thought it would be rude not to head towards the sea and throw some stones at it. So that's what I did.

The weather, you'll note, was less than a perfect July day, but it was still tremendous to be off campus, walking about on my own, and staring out into the sea again. I've said it before, and I might say it again one day soon, but I do love (as does everyone else, I know) being by the sea. And the fresh air! The fresh air is just amazing. I'm such a Londoner now, I feel that if you can't actually physically chew the air around you, it's the best thing ever.

When I had been contemplating this half day in the weeks leading up to the summer school, I had planned to go on some great shopping spree, rampaging through The Lanes and ransacking every shop in sight, but as it turned out I was kind of too exhausted to try on clothes, and I kept being distracted by shiny pretty tiny things. So instead I bought some ridiculous large Rachel Zoe type sun glasses and swanned about, picking things up and putting them back down again. I spent a fortune in a comic book graphic novel shop and made embarrassing enquiries about back issues that I hadn't previously dared to. I'm pretty pleased with my purchases, it has to be said, and since I packed most of my belongings on the way here, I didn't really have room for anything more bulky. So, Buffy Season 8 on the train on the way home then. How fantastic.

I love Brighton. Have I said? Although these horses struck me as looking terrifying and evil, as if they've got some plot to take over the world. I think I've been watching too much Dr Who.

Graphs and stats and bar charts... oh my!

09 July 2007
That said, of course, it's obviously already getting so very much better.

Today, a massive success. In fact, from yesterday around about when I pressed "publish post", metaphorically pulled my socks up and decided to take life, once more, by the horns, the turn around has been fantastic. For one thing, instead of spending my time blogging about how miserable I was, I spent the rest of yesterday teaming up with another girl and melding our two shoddy experiments in to one that I think might actually have a chance of throwing up some interesting and - more importantly, in terms of my degree - some statistically significant results. Anything we can put on a graph is astonishingly fine by me. I'm a graph kinda gal, ladies and gents. You heard it here first.

So once I got over my massive sulk that may or may not have stemmed from the fact that I was more hormonally charged than I had realised, having lost track, calender wise, of the significant days of the lunar cycle, if y'all know what I'm saying, and I think you do, I've cheered up no end. It's amazing what a bit of menstruation will do for you.

Sharing too much now? Good.

The summer school, in tiny summary, is going much better and I was just thinking to myself not 20 minutes ago as I walked across campus from the last lecture of the day (on autobiographical memory) towards the computer labs where I am currently researching literature on superstitious and irrational thinking and not, as one or two of you may think, pissing about wasting college resources blogging, I was just thinking to myself how much I'm starting to enjoy the routine of it all again.

Oh, I love me some routine. We get up at 7am, queue for the showers, get dressed, go down to the cafeteria, queue for some breakfast, walk to our tutorial at 9am, have an hour's tutorial, run our experiments for an hour, go to a lecture, queue for lunch in the canteen, act as participants for other people's experiments for an hour, have another tutorial, queue for dinner in the canteen, have another lecture, and then head off to the computer labs for further research for the following day. I don't know about you, but this is a dream come true for me. I was built for a life of academia.

Right. Let's get researching.

Hi! My Name Is [please insert]

08 July 2007
Oh, you guys. It's just not working out as well as I had hoped it would.

You know what it's like. You're away from home and staying in a strange place. You've got timetables that include events entitled "Ice Breaker" and "Disco" and "Quiz Night" that you're not obliged to attend, but attendance is strongly encouraged. You have to wear your name on a badge, and the badge must be displayed in a very obvious place about your person and not, as I had hoped, in your back pocket. You are literally colour coded (I'm in the big purple group, and in the green sub-group of the big purple group). You start to wonder if this is all real.

So summer school hasn't started off so well. First there was the discovery that I'm in one of the worst blocks of accomodation on campus - which is fine in itself, if a bit too similar to the place I lived in my first year of university which was, I think, one of the worst years of my life (uni for me got so much better in second and third year once I moved off campus). Then the discovery that one of the showers isn't working, which means that there's one shower between 12 of us. Then, the traipsing around the campus trying to find various buildings. Turning up at one, only to be told we should be at another. Turning up at the another building, only to be told to go to a third as yet unspecified building. Deciding the follow the group to a fourth building, being told to wait in a corridor, waiting in said corridor until we are led back to the first building, and then asked where our timetables were, because we should have them already, and aren't we supposed to be in the second building by now?

Gordon blimey, boys and girls, it's been a stressful first 24 hours. I'm currently sitting in a tiny, very dark and very cold room, cast in the shadow of a massive tree that is blocking all of the bright shining sunlight from entering, and leaving me shivering in the near-darkness as I redesign once again an experiment I've been redesigning now for about two months and that I'm supposed to be running, on my own, tomorrow, on up to 24 unsuspecting participants. I'm not happy because (1) my bed's too small, (2) I don't like it here and (3) I want to go home.

Someone please come take me home. Many sobbing thanks.

We're all going on a...

06 July 2007
I just spent about 10 minutes reading my own archive, which is the blogging equivalent of standing looking in the bathroom mirror and thinking to yourself just HOW GREAT your new hair cut looks. Two things have come from my reading of these archives:

1. The realisation of how fucking hilarious I am. I really am very funny, and also a very talented writer, and also quite profound, and also I mention Jon Ronson quite a lot, actually. Which is always a good thing.

2. I’m really, really looking forward to going to my Open University Summer School tomorrow.

I was reading the archives from July 2005, the last time I went to summer school. I don’t remember blogging from there, and I may well have written these entries in retrospect, or alternatively written them in word and the posted them on my return, but they brought flooding back memories of things I’d totally forgotten, and a huge enthusiasm for what is to come in the next seven days.

For the next seven days, I will be in Brighton, doing a seven-day Cognitive Psychology course, in which I’m expected to design and carry out a psychology study. The one that I’m planning to do I have given the jaunty title of “Irrationality and counterfactual thinking: superstitions and the causal order effect”. It sounds like a lot of fun, I know, and I’ve been torturing my friends making them do pilot versions of it for the last couple of weeks. I will also be spending literally days taking part in the other students’ experiments, and hopefully laughing as much as I remember laughing at the Summer School two years ago.

So there may be blogging silence until my return on the 14th, at which point there’ll be a glut of back-dated entries, or I may well be blogging from my uni bedroom in between watching episodes of Seinfeld on my laptop and passing out. Who knows? I certainly don’t.

Have a lovely week.

Requires Accompanying Parent or Adult Guardian

03 July 2007

This rating was determined based on the presence of the following words:

* pain (8x)
* fucking (3x)
* sex (2x)
* bastards (1x)

Looking up at the stars

01 July 2007
In my gym, the way down to the basement swimming pool brings you along the main stairs that connects reception to the changing rooms. Because it’s a women-only health club (filled, as you’d expect, with rampant tattooed lesbians and modestly covered Muslim and Jewish ladies in equal part) most people walking this route don’t cover themselves up particularly well, as there are no horrible men to spoil our fun. There is also a strange policy that allows, at certain allocated times during the week and weekend, any women with kids to bring their children in to the gym, so long as said children are female (or male under 2 years old).

I was happily on my way to the pool this morning, clomping down the stairs in my flip flops that have the hardest soles known to mankind and enjoying the echoing sounds they make around the walls, when a little girl, no more than two and half years old, turned around and yelled back up the stairs: “IS THAT YOU?”

I was slightly taken aback, and may have even stopped where I stood on the stairs. “Is that me… making the noise?” I asked.

She nodded.

“Um… yes,” I said. I felt chastised. By a two and a half year old.

“THERE’S SOMETHING ON YOUR LEG!” she yelled up at me.

I urgently examined my legs. A new bruise? A big spider? A previously undiscovered scar? I couldn’t see anything. I looked down the stairs at her, my eyes pleading for clarification.

“YOU’VE GOT STARS ON YOUR LEG!” she yelled in explanation.

“I’ve got stars on my foot,” I corrected her, starting to walk down the stairs again.

She paused for a moment to let me past, concentrating her entire attention now on my right foot.

“… YOU’VE GOT STARS ON YOUR FOOT!” she yelled again, just so we were both clear.

“Yes, I do” I answered, stopping then to have this whole thing out once and for all. “Do you like them?”

She thought about it for at least 10 seconds and then whispered “(…yes)”.

“Thank you, “ I said, and attempted to carry on towards the pool while her Mum tried to coax her out to reception.

We nearly got away with it too, until the little girl suddenly started up again “I’VE GOT LIPSTICK ON MY MOUTH!”

I thought that at least deserved a response, so I turned briefly, told her she was looking very pretty, and hastily continued towards the pool, just in case she had one final retort in reserve.