Archive for October, 2012

October 30, 2012

facial wear and tear at work


October 29, 2012

my origin story

31.01.2008 – Click to enlarge

October 29, 2012

Greek goddesses WAY more interesting than Greek gods

Writing exercise, circa July 2011

Pasiphae’s story

I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. I’ve just heard that my oldest friend, Daedalus, has murdered my husband. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad the evil, vindictive old sod is dead, I don’t think anyone will miss him. I’m not sure what happens to me now. I suppose I’ll have to devote the rest of my life to worshipping at some goddess’s altar, or something equally tedious to keep me out of trouble. I’m more sad that I’ll probably never see Daedalus again in this lifetime.

God, what would my life have been like without Daedalus? Daedalus with the huge brain and no common sense. His trouble is he cannot resist a challenge, no matter how dire the consequences are. You won’t believe how my husband finally managed to track him down. Minos was determined to find him and kill him after he escaped from the tower with poor Icarus. Daedalus was in possession of too many state secrets – in particular, the plans for the Labyrinth – and there was all that bad blood between them, what with him designing my “love box”, which, you could say, started all the trouble. Actually, if that idiot Minos had sacrificed the right bull in the first place, none of this would have happened.

Anyway, Minos had thought of a problem that he knew only Daedalus would be able to solve, which would drive him out into the open: something about how to pass a thread all the way through the spiral of a shell, although why anyone would want to do that, I don’t know. Men and their “problems”.

Apparently, Daedalus was being hidden by his new friend, King Cocalus of Sicily, who wasn’t about to give him up. But Daedalus knew how to solve the riddle and couldn’t resist showing off how clever he was, so he told Cocalus how to do it – it involved an ant – and Cocalus presented Minos with the solution.  Of course, Minos knew immediately who had given Cocalus the answer, but he couldn’t come right out and demand that Cocalus hand over Daedalus – that’s not how kings talk to each other, and it would have led to a diplomatic incident – but he let it be known that he was on to him, and that things could get very, very bad if he didn’t give him Daedalus. Cocalus graciously invited him to his palace to spend the night so they could talk things over the next day.

This is the part of the story I like best. Cocalus invited Minos to try out his new “hot shower”, the latest innovation in Sicily. And who do you think invented it? Daedalus, of course, and it was obvious to Minos, even if they weren’t at the stage of openly admitting anything to each other. Minos couldn’t resist trying out Daedalus’ latest contraption, and Cocalus’ daughters contrived to kill Minos by using it to pour boiling water over him. It seems that Daedalus had been tutoring Cocalus’ daughters and had inspired great devotion in them.

That’s Daedalus all over, inspiring incredible loyalty in people, even if I’m not sure how much he deserves it. When I first met him all those years ago, when he first came to Crete, he’d just been banished from Athens for murdering his nephew and star pupil, Perdix. That’s the thing about Daedalus: tremendous capacity for objective reasoning, but absolutely no understanding of the extent to which he is at the mercy of his emotions. I mean, he pushed Perdix off a cliff because he was threatened by the boy’s potential, by the possibility that the pupil might surpass the master.

Of course, I owe Daedalus everything. Things haven’t been easy for me, but I have no regrets. How could I regret the love of my life, my Cretan Bull? True, our son, Aterius, a.k.a. “The Minotaur”, caused us years of heartache, and let’s not even mention all those Athenian youths and maidens he devoured over the years.

Our love was spiritual, divine, transcendent, but Daedalus had to help us out with the physical side of things, and built us the “love box” that allowed us to consummate our love. People say that Poseidon cursed me with “zoophilia” when he found out that Minos had preferred to keep the Cretan Bull he’d sent him – as a sign from on high that Minos was the favourite to be King of Crete – rather than sacrifice it as he was required to. Minos had even tried to pass off a normal bull as the Cretan Bull during a sacrifice, but he was fooling no-one.   Especially as my Cretan Bull was busy rampaging all over the island at the time. When he wasn’t making love to me.  I am sure my Cretan Bull was one of Zeus’ many manifestations – how else could you explain the rapport between us? People said I was sick, possessed, and I was forced to go through all sorts of healing rituals, make cleansing sacrifices and pray for redemption for days on end, until it became clear to everyone that this was no mental or physical aberration – this was real, passionate, transforming love.

I’ll never forgive that bastard Theseus for killing my Cretan Bull at Marathon. Ok, he did subsequently rid the world of the Minotaur, who really was a bit of a pest. I have never been able to look at another man, or beast, since. Not that things were ever great between Minos and I. I didn’t want him, but I didn’t want anyone else to have him either. As the daughter of the God Helios I have a few extra-mortal tricks up my sleeve and I put a fidelity charm on him, which made him ejaculate serpents and scorpions, killing any woman he had sex with. Anyway, I shan’t miss him. I will miss Daedalus terribly, though.

October 29, 2012

fugue state

24.02.2011 Thursday

It’s 11.27. Crap. What the hell have I been doing all morning? Well, I’ve paid loads of bills and paid about 2000 euros to unblock my credit card, which involved being spoken to very rudely by some 14-year-old call centre employee who finished off our conversation by saying “if you can understand Italian…” The little wanker.  Anyway, I’m now much poorer and my credit card still doesn’t work which is probably just as well or I’d have spent a load of money on itunes by now as well. It just doesn’t feel as real when you’re buying things on iTunes. iTunes is very dangerous. I should definitely be in belt-tightening mode. Anyway, I’m feeling vaguely virtuous, but why did that take 3 hours? What the hell else have I been doing?

October 28, 2012

Still so true


October 28, 2012

the pursuit of ignorance

Monday 16th Jan 2012.

The universe doesn’t want to give me any answers today. Mainly because I don’t want to ask it any questions.

I might be disappointed by the facts, so maybe it’s for the best. Anyway, what you don’t know can’t hurt you. That’s what they say, isn’t it? I have a superstitious belief that “knowing it makes it so,” i.e. if I ignore it, remain ignorant of it, deny its existence, it’ll go away. The alternative, paying attention to things, makes them real, like if you pay attention to your health, you’ll get ill, or at least turn into a hypochondriac. Knowledge hurts, makes you focus on the unpleasant facts. And who wants to do that? Chances are, it’ll all become moot eventually, anyway.

October 28, 2012

a curse on Atkins and all his ilk

Tuesday 24th Jan 2012

As I write it’s 18.40 and a carbohydrate-free evening yawns ahead of me. Last week I was practically hallucinating by the time I went to bed at the end of the second day of my two-day-a-week, restricted-calorie all-protein diet.  I was seeing the bread, specifically, the toast I would be shovelling into my mouth the following morning. I was so hungry that when I was flossing, I noticed I made a point of swallowing the bits of food I pried from between my teeth. Ewwwwww. Desperate times.

Why does protein always smell so disgusting, anyway, whether it’s lentils, eggs, bacon, steak, fish – ugh, one more disgusting than the other. Just thinking about protein makes my stomach heave. A curse on Atkins and all his ilk.

October 27, 2012

Idea for a line of self-help book titles

A new line of book titles brought to you by Happy Bunny Publications: self-help books aimed at helping the people that buy them as gifts for the people that annoy them.

October 27, 2012

metro rage


A man standing over me on the metro sighed loudly just now as my small rucksack, resting at my feet, brushed against his feet. The train isn’t crowded. My immediate response is to glare daggers at him, thinking, thankfully not out loud, “Are you sighing at ME?!” in the manner of Robert De Niro inTaxi Driver. This is one of several variations of “What the fuck is your problem!” that I seem to be saying this a lot these days – is it only these days? – to myself, and out loud. M. does it quite a lot too. I hope this is normal.

October 26, 2012

turns out I’m right to be scared of cows

26.10.12 Thursday

I read somewhere that in the UK there’s a surprising number of cow-related deaths every year. They may look cow-like, docile, but their horns are harder than bull’s horns, I seem to remember reading somewhere else, and they weigh A LOT. The heaviest class of fighting cow on Sunday weighed around 600-800 kilos. The 600 kilo ones were the meanest.

I am not going to check the above facts, in case I’m wrong, and the reality is disappointing. Like with ostrich milk.

Oh, it turns out I wasn’t imaginging things.

October 26, 2012

message to future me: “You’ve been brainwashed!”


I’ve discovered where you can write letters to your future self.

Why would you write to your future self? What would you write? This is what I asked my students today. These are the sensible answers they came up with:

  • notes from a younger you, reminding you not to make the same mistakes
  • to test the strength and endurance of your convictions over time
  • to remind yourself of the reasons you think/believe something
  • to remember who you were in the past

Nicola suggested you could use it to play tricks on your future self by sending yourself messages like “You’ve been brainwashed!” or “You are actually a man!”

What if you started receiving letters from yourself in the past and you have no recollection of writing them? How weird would that be? What if they were telling you about buried treasure?

October 25, 2012

yes, that’s 20 episodes in one day

24.02.2011 Thursday

I watched 20 episodes of the 3rd season of In Treatment yesterday. The theme is how stuck and paralysed Paul the psychiatrist has become. His patients are a difficult-to-love gay teenage boy, an actress who is failing to acknowledge her sister dying of cancer and who is estranged from her daughter, and Sunil, a recent immigrant from Calcutta who seems to be on the verge of committing some kind of violent punitive act against his daughter-in-law. If this series lives up to expectations Sunil won’t conform to stereotype, or at least therapy will be a way of averting disaster.

What’s fascinating still about this series is how people need to make sense of their lives, even when it means casting themselves as the villain, the failure, the unlovable one. It has to make sense at any cost – not making sense is more unbearably uncomfortable than a story with a tragic ending. That’s wild isn’t it?

October 25, 2012

what do YOU smell in a glass of wine?


October 25, 2012

ostrich milk

24.10.12 – journal – Morgex

On Sunday, when we’d got to the cheese course one of the carpenters, Carletto, said he wondered what ostrich milk tasted like. He’d seen it advertised online. Luigi sounded dubious and said that aren’t they birds, therefore NOT mammals, therefore couldn’t produce milk, therefore couldn’t produce cheese? And I just had to say, forced by my genetic predisposition to need to contradict everything anyone says, “No, I think he might be right. There’s something strange about ostriches. I think they might be mammals, like the duck-billed platypus.” I actually managed to sow seeds of doubt, and not just in my own head.

October 25, 2012

the battle of the mean girls

More details about the fighting cows. That their moo is closer to a roar than a moo. And what is it with all that rubbing their face in the dirt? There’s the usual pawing the ground you see in bull-fighting, but here there’s also this vigorous and prolonged rubbing of both sides of the face in the dust they’ve just been kicking up. The first time I saw it, I thought the cow might have a bad case of conjunctivitis. Now I think it might be more like those pre-fighting rituals where you daub your face with dirt to look scarier. Or it could be the cows saying “This is my  turf, this is where I’m  going to go sleepy-byes tonight.”

In terms of violence, it’s nice that no-one wants them to injure themselves or each other, and you certainly don’t see the leaping around typically associated with broncos at the rodeo, but, according to Christina, they do, occasionally, lose a horn. They fight by horn-butting each other, and their owners often put plaster of Paris on the horns to protect them.  And I actually saw, during at a couple of the constests on Saturday, when two cows had locked horns, one of them getting enough leverage to lift the other completely off the ground by the head . It was quite startling. Also, I’m pretty sure they were often going for each others’ eyes, the bitches. The cows.

M. was laughing at one point at a cow who seemed to be using her tail like a windscreen-wiper to spread the shit that was coming out from her behind in all directions – including all over her backside. It was hard to tell whether it was voluntary or involuntary, but as a “get off my turf” tactic the cowshit-spreading strategy looked pretty good.

October 25, 2012

oh my god, I’M Sheldon!

22.02.2011 Tuesday

What did I learn from attending Toastmasters for four years?

  • that I either feel like the most boring, weird person in the world. Or I feel like I’m some kind of misunderstood genius and no one could possibly grasp what I have to tell them.
  • that the point of what you say, even if it’s the most beautifully constructed story or argument can be totally obliterated by the way you say it: i.e. if you’re inaudible, monotonous, don’t make eye-contact with them, make no reference to your audience, ignore your audience, talk over your audience’s heads, …
  • that even the people who make your eyes glaze over, the most boring-sounding geeks, the most self-obsessed spinsters, often have hidden interesting sides and fine brains. You’ll only find this out if you assiduously attend the bi-monthly meetings for at least two years. It takes this long to make you feel that you belong to the same race as your fellow toastmasters. NB. I met two of my best friends and my partner of 5 years at Toastmasters.
  • That I find it almost impossible to listen to feedback, that I don’t trust it and find most of it useless. It’s also that I don’t believe I’ve got anything to learn from these people.
  • I still don’t understand the point of the speech where you’re supposed to practice body language. And vocal variety.
  • that I sound like Natalie Portman in Black Swan.
October 24, 2012

How to win an argument


In the lift on the way up, to pass the time M, as is his wont, smacks me on the arm, and then pretends nothing happened.

“Ow!” I say.

“What?” he says.

“You hit me on the arm!” I say.

“I didn’t!” he says.

“Denying it does not make it not so.” I say.

“What are you talking about?” he says.

“You hit me on the arm!” I say

“Prove it!” he says.

He hits me on the arm again. Repeat until we get to the 6th floor.

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October 23, 2012

the 25-year-old shepherdess and her herd of fighting cows


20.10.12 Morgex

Our neighbor, Cristina, was in the field, looking after her cows, brown and white ones and black “queens”, the aggressive breed that competes in the Bataille des Reines. She explained that they couldn’t be left alone as the black ones were constantly escaping and getting into fights. The black cows fight each other, terrorise the milder-mannered brown and white cows, and the younger black cows gang up on the older queens, and they spend all day fighting and injuring each other. One of the black cows had a big, fly-covered scratch, not quite a gash, on her side, from a reigning queen making sure she knew who was boss. Cristina explained that they are all pregnant, and aren’t allowed to fight in the competitions unless they are.

One of the herding dogs was patently terrified of the cows. The oldest one, Cherie, was lying semi-immersed in a puddle. And the other, the most sprightly, would zoom off barking its head off every time a crow flew overhead. This one would also get upset and run over barking at any black cows that started pawing the ground and looking like they were getting ready to fight.

Cristina kept us there for about 45 minutes, obviously grateful the company. One of the brown cows gave her hand a vigorous licking with her dark tongue, very much like a dog. They nuzzled her like dogs too. The queen that’s fighting in Aosta tomorrow wasn’t in the field as she was being kept in the barn in case she eats too much and goes over her weight class tomorrow. I feel like becoming a vegetarian again. How can you eat things you feel such affection for, as Cristina obviously does?

October 23, 2012

Cow gladiators – La Bataille des Reines, Aosta 21.10.12


October 23, 2012

Making hard things soft …

22.02.2011 Tuesday

Alan is determined to print new business cards and we have to come up with snappy, memorable titles that don’t feature the word “consultant”, as that scares off the punters. Here’s what everyone else has come up with.

Ron      – Knowledge Ecologist

Brian     – User-Centred Designer

John     – Enterprise Transformer

Alan      – Innovation Bricoleur

Julia       – Organisational Catalyst


  • Manager of the Unmanageable
  • Mental Mentor
  • Experiential Experimenter
  • Myth Exploder
  • Shaker-Upper
  • General Interrupter
  • Random Idea Generator
  • Fire Starter
  • Organizational Hygienist
  • The Inquisitor
  • Behavioural Engineer
  • Problem Handler
  • Professional Scape-Goat
  • Fomentor of Anarchy
  • Engineer Whisperer [this is what I went with]
  • one of those little fish or birds that eats parasites off large predators
  • mind-reader, oracle, wise woman, sooth-sayer, fairy godmother, witch, fool

my motto is …

  • Making Hard Things Soft
  • Order into Chaos and Vice Versa
October 22, 2012

The most insulting self-help books to give as gifts

22.02.2011 Tuesday

I wonder if there’s a book that would teach S. the social skills she lacks to get on in life? What would I put in a book to help people with no social skills develop them? I ‘ll have to interview myself.

What did I read and do when I was last unemployed and at my most misanthropic? I read the book I got mum for Christmas, “How To Talk To Anyone”, (that she was really insulted I bought for her), “Change your life in 7 days,” “Resistance is Useless,” …  Did I ever manage to read “I’m OK you’re OK”? Dad had a shelf of books like this, “Straight And Crooked Thinking,” “Games People Play.” I bet dad bought them hoping mum would read them. I also did Toastmasters, I went “biodancing”, I read any new-agey crap anyone passed on to me about Bach flowers and equations to do with love. I should make a complete list. I should make a list of books that would be the most insulting to give as gifts.

Here’s an idea for a self-help book for the badly-brought up.

“Were you raised by wolves? A checklist of the things good parents should have taught you.”

October 18, 2012

wine doodles























October 18, 2012

world fails to spin off axis

Journal 21.02.11

It’s Monday, I have been looking after A  since last Thursday. Some of it has been fun. It was good to see Alessandra yesterday as well. Poor thing has just been systematically and publicly, on Facebook, cheated on by her latest man. I think the Earth would fall out of its orbit if Alessandra actually got together with a decent man. So all is right with the world: I am unemployed, Alessandra is single, S. is leaving dirty tea cups all over the house.

October 18, 2012

morning pages

Journal 21.02.11

The trouble with journaling on the computer is that it’s easy to get distracted by emails and all the other things I could be doing on it. I need to decide that all I’m going to do for a period of time is journal, write randomly like this. It’s got to feel like doing floatation tanks, like nothing can touch me while I’m doing this. Of course, it’s particularly impossible today with A around, but he’s glued to this Spiderman cartoon I downloaded for him. Now Alan’s sent something boring-looking. Ooh, the pull to read the document is strooong, but I will resist, as it’s very unlikely to contain any earth-shattering revelations. Now I want to watch Spider Man with A – it’s a really good episode, about when Peter Parker gets a costume from outer space which is an actual alien. A is sitting on a chair with his eyes 5cm from the TV. Please God no-one ever read what I’m writing. This is absolute stream of consciousness stuff which is why I sound so retarded. Even when I’m conscious of what I’m thinking I can’t help sounding retarded. Obviously I am a bit. Trouble is I pass for normal in most situations. It was interesting seeing Massimo (Alessandra’s) yesterday. His voice sounds like mine, like it was never used when he was growing up. I wonder if he recognized a fellow introvert. I hope the bloody dish-washer finishes soon. It’s going to be quite hard to cook without any pots and pans. God, I am such a bird brain. Maybe I’m more like a bird than a snake. Andrea compared me to an eel, but that was only because of the slippery part. I feel like a snake or lizard because I need to lie around re-charging my batteries before engaging in intense bouts of activity which completely run my batteries down. I’m not very mammalian. Birds are not mammals, but they’re warm-blooded. Are birds reptiles? As dinosaurs they certainly bore a great resemblance. I suppose they’d have to have a warm-blooded metabolism to generate the energy to fly in a constant way, rather than being forced to depend on heat.  Why don’t I just trust my reptilian tendencies? I could accept that I’m going to be unproductive a lot of the time, that it won’t be “efficient” to hire someone like me if you need to see your workers constantly at it. If you want to see results you should hire me, but don’t expect to understand the processes I follow or to see how I deliver the work. It’s just not like that. Ohh, Peter Parker has his clothes off, and looks very sexy. I have about 15 minutes before I really should start cooking. I wonder when the bloody dishwasher will be finished. I wonder if –

October 18, 2012

wine doodles

October 18, 2012

how to horrify Italians

Journal 21.02.12

At lunch today, one of my students asked if it was true that when the English do the washing up, they wash the dishes, cutlery, glasses, pans in the same bowl of soapy, greasy water, and then don’t rinse them. I said it was. I explained that for Brits, ecology is more important than hygiene, which is what Italians are obsessed with, and that the Italian way of washing up would seem disgustingly wasteful to a Brit. Interesting what different connotations “disgusting” acquires in different languages. Another student recalled his ex German girlfriend getting very upset when he did the washing up and rinsed things. Apparently, the Germans wash the dishes with a soapy sponge under running water, but then don’t rinse. I think I probably do the washing up the German way. Rinsing on top of that seems like overkill.

Lucia also told us that she wears rubber gloves to load the machine. This is not wasteful, just ridiculous. She explained that that way she doesn’t have to touch the bits of food she has to scrape off the plates – with a piece of kitchen roll. I said that using kitchen roll to scrape food off the plates would be seen as appalingly decadent by Brits. She retorted that she wouldn’t be using a fresh piece, but a used piece. Stefano teased her saying that she would use a snotty used kleenex to clean the plates. I said that Brits probably wouldn’t think twice about doing that.

I remember the last time I went to Luxembourg – 4 or 5 years ago, when we stayed with Ann and Colin who would get terribly upset if you filled the kettle with more than what was required for the cup of tea you were making. In fact, if you weren’t making tea for more than one person, you probably shouldn’t bother. T. puts surplus boiled water from her kettle into a flask.

October 18, 2012

they’re nothing to do with me


One of my sister T.’s memories about going holiday with the family was when they missed the overnight train from Milan to Paris. I wasn’t there, although it feels like my memory. My mother and four children, including 3 small ones, were waiting on a train platform late at night to catch another night train to Paris. They wouldn’t have had couchettes to look forward to, or even booked places, they wouldn’t have had any food or water, or anything that would offer any comfort, since mum would have been in charge of packing. There would have been luggage all over the place, and no obvious way of transporting so much with so many small children. At least one of the small children would have been crying. They would all have looked scruffy. Not dirty exactly, but unkempt. T remembers a man looking askance at them all and remarking to his companion “I hope I’m not expected to travel with that bunch of gypsies.” T remembers stepping away from the family, not wishing to be associated. I wonder how old she would have been – 16?

October 18, 2012

a tendency to overgeneralise


I’ve always hated board games, most of them anyway, like monopoly. I don’t mind the pure chance ones, like Ludo, which allow me to be totally fatalistic, but games like monopoly which require decisions and strategy as well as luck just made me feel like a stupid loser. I don’t know how much I believe in self-determination, if that’s the right word: I’ll never forget when I was 12 or 13 deciding that I was going to get a handle on Maths, that if I just studied enough I’d be able to do ok and pass my tests. I based my conclusion on a sample of one test, which I studied for and did more abysmally than usual on, that there is no cause and effect, things are totally random and I might just as well give myself up to my fate, and I was fated to be crap at Maths. Look how I still write it with a capital letter.

October 18, 2012

10 defining moments


  1. at school, doing worse at my math test after studying than when I didn’t do anything
  2. losing the creativity contest at the conference to the Sausage Eating team, whose idea was “eat sausages”. Our idea was for pasta that would change colour when it cooked. How could we not win?
  3. Going from deciding I’m surrounded by cretins and morons at the beginning of the conference to thinking I’m surrounded by the most brilliant people ever
  4. Having M tell me he loved me the first time we slept together
  5. passing my Financial Strategy exam
  6. when dad died he became Saint Dad, while mum became The Evil One
  7. being with S. and A., how I can flip between being all sweetness with A to superbitch with S. I’m like one of those really annoying people who baby talk to their dogs and are horrible to everyone else.
  8. My boyfriend dumped me, the bags in which I’d stored all my summer clothes were stolen, my dog died, I thought I’d never smile again, and then I met my baby niece, Clementine
  9. Having my wishes come true, and then realising how superficial my desires had been
  10. how I go from being wildly opinionated to having no opinions at all
October 18, 2012

dad’s writing voice


On the rare occasions I’ve been able to bring myself to read dad’s notebooks and scribblings to himself I’ve been horrified by his writing – and him an English teacher. His language sounds so affected, like he’s trying on some kind of persona that never fits. He never got to find his “voice”. I remember thinking when I was growing up, when are you going to do something? When are you going to write your novel, publish your volume of poetry? I asked him when I was about 21 what kind of writing he liked best, and he said “the aphorism”.

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