Category Archives: Uncategorized

My naivete at Corbyn being in power and a letter to an MP

 

to: “MCCARTHY, Kerry” <kerry.mccarthy.mp@parliament.uk>
date: 6 July 2017 at 17:06
subject: Re: consultations about budget cuts and a question about business rates

Dear Kerry,

Thank you once again for being so open to discussion.
Your question to Sajid about local councils keeping more of their money https://www.theyworkforyou.com/debates/?id=2017-06-26a.346.5&s=Bristol#g362.3) at least puts his response on record, however vague it is.
As a very worried Bristolian I would love to know what you think of the possibility of opposing the cuts that have been imposed on Bristol. Jeremy Corbyn is sure to be in power within months and if we allow the cuts to go through and the libraries and services shut down and cut off, it will be so hard – if not impossible – to get them back.
Is this not the best time to refuse to impose the cuts? Labour are so close to power now and there must be some leverage.
Also, what do you think of the possibility of the Local Government Finance Bill not being debated and passed since it was not in the Queen’s Speech? It is looking extremely unlikely that we will be able to keep 100% of our business rates from 2020, so what do we for the budget already announced?
I am not asking you to reply in place of Marvin, I’m just hoping for some perspective on what’s possible.
Where do you think Glenn Vowles got it wrong in his article?
Thank you so much,
Joanna Booth (@stillawake)
There was no response and our libraries are still in the plans for being defunded, shut down, and turned over to mutual public trusts, which in turn will see many of them defunded and shut down.

Review, The Body Library by Jeff Noon

The Body Library is the second book in the Nyquist Mysteries series published by Angry Robots but this is the first of Jeff Noon’s books I’ve picked up.

There is a fluidness to Noon’s writing that initially made me think The Body Library would be like Ishiguro’s dream-like The Unconsoled. As I read further, however, I felt more like I was in the atmosphere of 1408 by Stephen King or the movie Dark City —  the noir settings and slip-away realities where what’s around the corner can’t be articulated and yet … Things change and reality is different but the writing is well-structured so it’s easy to follow. The writing is as much of a treat as the setting and the story and the characters.

In this magical realism structure, writing such as that below, fits in seamlessly before we go back to the pace of the noir setting.

INK   … his eyes closed and he sank further down into the dark into the flow the fluid all was fluid a black liquid in which his body floated drifted suspended submerged breathing yes still breathing in the liquid in the blackness of the pool he sank down and lay there suspended and dreaming and being read yes being read head to foot every part of him his mind his thoughts his blood and bone his eyes his limbs his heart yes all of him read again and again as a book of flesh where the ink was seeking the stories all the stories of his life every last one being read by the pool of ink in which he lay suspended drifting floating submerged breathing yes breathing still and being read and his eyes…

I loved the story with its world of writing and the mechanics of it all come to life. In 1959, Storyville, Private  Eye John Nyquist is set on the trail of a man who doesn’t seem to be doing much apart from talking to people but as the trail leads to a tower at the edge of the city and an illicit book — the Body Library — he both can’t and can escape.

When narrative structure becomes legislated and mandatory, abstract experimental works become intoxicating. The writer’s life becomes a metaphor for the human condition, which Noon brings to life and then deconstructs again. And when you break down life there’s always some pain right in the middle of everything.

A great read with a creepy child and a place where you can check in any time but you can never leave.

The Body Library is published on April 3 2018.

Uncommon Type by Tom Hanks

It’s a shame really that Tom Hanks is so rich that he immediately garners huge publicity for his book without it needing to be any good. These stories could have been good. There’s a lovely touch of humanity to all of them and a great way of noticing the little details that make up characters.

The ‘atta boy’ from the first story, the effort to not slip in the snow in the second story because Virgil has a prosthetic leg, the light touch of the social influencers in an actor’s interview schedule. The little bits and pieces are there but the narrative arcs fall clumsily right around the middle of each piece.

You can’t fill a story with funny and touching details and assume it will make up for having no purpose. Short stories are tough work and they may take a lot less to construct than a novel but that makes them even more important.

I imagine that fans will love this collection as there are traces of Hanks throughout. He uses the details well and it’s an opportunity to catch a glimpse of his life that isn’t hidden too much. The wealthy man who has nothing to do but is happy with his life, for example, but blended with characters from Saving Private Ryan and every interview schedule in “A Junket in the City of Light”.

They are nice enough stories. They could have been better.

Uncommon Type by Tom Hanks is out now.

Review, Lobbying for Change by Alberto Alemanno

Alberto Alemanno is an academic and an advocate for citizen lobbying and this book fits in well with both of those narratives. The content is well-researched and comprehensive without losing focus on the main purpose: how to lobby as a citizen.

I admit I was a bit impatient about getting to the lobbying part, which doesn’t get addressed until the 30% mark of the book. The theory is important, however, and since I quickly waned in my interest after finding out what lobbying is and how to do it — with some specific and concise examples and a handy instruction section — I can appreciate the effort that went into the first part of the book.

The instructions on how to lobby are clear and accessible and dispel the notion that only a few well-placed people or corporations in society can take part in this type of activity.

One of the latest lobbying actions Alemanno took part in was trying to get glyphosates banned through the EU. The chemical that has been linked to health concerns was renewed for five years through parliament but it could have been renewed for fifteen years. Citizen lobbying has helped in limiting the renewal to a much smaller space of time.

After years of campaigning by NGOs and citizens about its alleged harmful health effects, demonstrated by the four million signatures collected by the European Citizen Initiative (ECI) ‘Stop Glyphosate’ supported by WeMove and Avaaz, no decision-maker could turn a blind eye to such concerns.

Alemanno writes about lobbying the EU but there are legitimate avenues for citizens to have their voices heard in local arenas too and instructions can be found for those as well. When efforts are harnessed in the right way we can all make change happen to a certain extent.  Lobbying for Change: Find Your Voice to Create a Better Society reveals various routes  other than through the traditional forms such as voting. This is called citizen-lobbying and through these years of austerity it’s a nice start to be given directions about how to help.

One example in the UK is the Petitions Committee that provides a mechanism for people’s opinions to be heard. If a petition receives 10,000 signatures, Government will provide a response; if it reaches 100,000 signatures, it will be debated in parliament. So far there have been 44 responses and two debates in parliament.

This book feels like a positive addition to our times, which aims to empower when all around feels like a disempowering exercise to benefit corporations and those already in power. A small read for a greater purpose.

[Also see this book review on the LSE blogs]

Lobbying for Change by Alberto Alemanno available through The Hive (which benefits local bookshops)

Every Which Way Crochet Borders by Edie Eckman

With crochet, a title such as Every Which Way Crochet Borders is beautifully literal. The borders are delicate, colourful, and well explained. The explanations are clear and concise. There is some preparatory content before the borders are written out in patterns.

There are 139 new border designs with step-by-step instructions and symbol charts. The instructions are clear enough for beginner crocheters, and the patterns are creative and fun enough for more advanced hookers.

The styles are creative and fresh, which is brilliant in crochet because there is so much information and so many patterns already out there. I loved this book and would buy it myself. I’d use it for knitting and crochet projects.

Every Which Way Crochet Borders by Edie Eckman is out now.

Writing challenge 2017

Write for five minutes a day [see link].

Also, is Scrivener worth using?

 

Books for Christmas Lists

I have far too many half-written book reviews unposted so I’m going to ignore them for a second and post about books for Christmas from DK.  [NOT SPONSORED] They sent a list of their books to see what I thought and these are the ones I liked – and we have some of them.

star-wars_year-by-yearStar Wars Year by Year: A Visual History, Updated Edition presents the full story of Star Wars, including all the latest additions to the saga, just in time for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. £35

 

 

 

baby-touch-and-feelBaby Touch and Feel Christmas – £3.99 Ages 0-2 We got this one for Lois. It’s very sweet: explore the sparkly world of snowflakes and Santa together with this touchy feely book.

 

 

 

Disney Pixar Finding Dory Essential Collection – £14.99

Ages 6-12

dory-the-collection

The slipcase for the books lights up when you press a button to illuminate the sparkling coral reef and help find Dory.  It contains the Finding Dory Essential Guide and the Finding Dory Ultimate Sticker Book.

 

 

 

peter-rabbit-anniversary-edition

 

The Ultimate Peter Rabbit £14.99

This special anniversary edition celebrates 150 years since Beatrix Potter’s birth. Packed with artworks and insight from the Potter estate archives.

 

az-of-garden-plants

 

A – Z Encyclopedia of Garden Plants £75

The ultimate garden reference book  that comes in a carry-box.

 

 

365-lego365 Things to Do with LEGO® Bricks – £16.99

Ages 6+

LEGO fun for every day of the year. This book is packed with fun and quirky activities, such as: build your own LEGO pet; challenge your friends to make the tallest LEGO tower against the clock; and learn how to make a stop-motion LEGO movie.

 

winter-wonderland-stickers-legoLEGO Winter Wonderland Ultimate Sticker Collection – £7.99

Ages 6+

Lots of Lego this year for Mersina but all while keeping in mind that anything Lois gets her hands on will be destroyed (or eaten). Nevertheless, this one also looks good – exploring wintery worlds and decking the halls with candy canes. I

 

 

 

No, you stand up

As one mass murder after another places men on the front pages of newspapers these last few weeks, another man, on Facebook, is telling women to take up more space. Be noisier. Be loud and gross. Stand up for yourselves, etc. As if these are good things because men already do them.

Apart from the obvious irony of a man telling women what to do, I wonder for what kind of woman this would be relevant?
Would it work on Serena Williams after her 23 Grand Slam tournament women’s singles titles?
Ellen Degeneres and her $50 million annual salary?
Marie Curie who won two Nobel Prizes?
Steffi Graff who won 22 Grand Slam snigles titles and the only one to win a Golden Slam?
Chrissie Wellington, four-time Ironman Triathlon World Champion, who wrote about using her urine to disincentivise fellow competitors from using her slipstream in races?
Would it work on Hilary Clinton? Whose number of people killed is a lot higher than the number of shares this guy got?
Would it work on Theresa May or Margaret Thatcher? Destroyer of countries, societies and individuals?
Who are these girls who need to take up more space? Who need to be loud and gross?
The ones already doing full time jobs plus many other unpaid jobs and whose hours are filled with responsibilities?
The women who are leaving their homes as refugees and being the strongest survivors amongst the roughest (literal) waters?
He is not talking to empowered, strong, intelligent women or girls. He is talking to victims who if they want to be heard must rise up. He is not rallying against the structural inequalities, which see women weighed down with all the opposing forces available and still succeeding more than men. The ones who couldn’t work because they had to care for children and then had their pensions ripped away with no chance of making money to sustain themselves in the meantime.
He is not talking to the ones succeeding in making black lives matter, speaking up for the environment and the world when men seek to destroy it.
He is not speaking to the doctors and the teachers and the nurses who not only are expected to work for free but are now going to be paying the universities to let them work.

Don’t tell us to take up more space. Look at yourself and own your guilt and role in this crazy and unequal world.
Let’s look at some reality for a second?
How many mass murders have there been in the last 12 months?
How many were committed by women?
How many countries were invaded? Who invaded them? Who benefited?
Who destroyed more of the planet?
Who perpetrated more of the crimes?
Who had more road accidents?
Who caused more harm?
Who abused more?
Who helped more?
Who provided for more?
Who took care of the children?
Who took care of the dying? Of the patients? Of the babies?
Who created humanity?
It’s a sad state of affairs when most of the negatives are perpetrated by men, most of the positives are created and sustained by women, and it’s men who are telling women to be like them?
Why, for God’s sake? We don’t need more chaos, aggression and disaster. It’s time for men to become the humans they were meant to be. It’s time for them to sit down, shut up, and care about things around them. Talk less, listen more, help others and repair, rebuild, and nurture.

You stand up. You acknowledge your shame and blame. We will do just fine without some guy on Facebook telling us what to do. We will be even better with fewer men on the front of newspapers.

What I look like

I read someone’s post about how they hated having their photo taken and it reminded me of how I felt about my appearance.

Actually, it reminded me of how I felt about other people’s.

I saw a documentary about the smallest man alive a while ago and he met the tallest man alive. Both were so beautiful and kind and loving. How could anyone not love these people? They deserved love. If they deserved love, I deserved love.

I saw another show about burn victims and there was a little girl just four years old who had most of her face burnt terribly and was writhing and screaming in agony in the hospital. What kind of person would not love that little girl more than anything? She deserved love.

There was a man who because of cancer had no nose. Who was I to worry about the size of my nose?

Another man had his jaw smashed off in a car accident when he went flying through the windscreen.  He had to wear a prosthetic so as not to provoke the responses of horror from others. How arrogant and shallow would I have to be to worry about any problems with my jaw?

I cut my hair as short as possible to donate it for wigs for cancer patients and as it grew out the appearance niggled at me. I then saw a woman on Instagram with no hair due to chemotherapy. She looked amazing. If I could love her and her appearance then why would I worry about mine?

It made me realise I was very grateful for my hair.

The bigger thing I realised was that I was not interested in hearing from anyone about my appearance because if they could judge me, what would they say about that four year old girl? What about the littlest man in the world or the woman without hair?

That’s my standard. Those people deserve to be loved and if people can judge me then they are judging those beautiful people who have gone through so much, too.

I’m not here to judge others’ appearance, I’m just passing through.

Crocheted rib cowl

Not sponsored and even though I mention brand names, there are no affiliate links or anything of the sort

I’ve not written much about any type of craft recently but thought I would mention this new crocheted rib cowl that I’m making for the second time.

I started to crochet less than a year ago because I was looking to make a baby blanket and I wanted to make one like the ones my friends Kimberlee and Mouse made for their babies. I couldn’t find any knitting patterns that were similar and then discovered Granny Squares. It was a bit of a revelation. Well, for the next 11 months or so, I didn’t know there was more to crocheting than Granny Squares. I bought lovely yarn and made many. At some point I moved on to another project and part of the reason was that my baby had arrived and her wonderful auntie Jenny had already crocheted her a perfect blanket herself so I wasn’t as motivated as I had been.

Lois's baby blanket from Auntie Jenny

The granny squares are still unjoined but I learnt to love crochet.

I have found that it’s easier for me to crochet than knit because the project isn’t as likely to unravel. When I’ve crocheted enough, I take out the hook, pull the loop to make it longer, and put it all away for another day. With knitting, and especially lace knitting, there is so much that can go wrong and with my sleep deprivation and lack of energy, I just couldn’t find it in me to make some of the more creative stuff.

Crochet seems to be more comforting, mindless (depending on the pattern – see Sophie’s Universe) and quicker for me.

Unlike with knitting, where I already knew some of the basic stitches, I found crocheting harder in terms of learning the physical process of it. There was a proper learning curve with in-built frustration and lots of repetition required to perfect / learn the techniques. I could create a chain with no problem but then making the magic circle was incredibly tough for me and also learning how to hold the yarn with the right amount of tension.

I used two books I borrowed from the library and plenty of YouTube videos. I still couldn’t do a magic circle until I found a new technique from one of the most amazing CALs (crochet a long’s) I’ve ever been part of and read. Hours and hours of work have contributed to this tutorial for the Sophie’s Universe project. Also, this Facebook group of crocheters is genuinely the nicest group I’ve belonged to. There is rarely any arguing at all and the members spend a lot of time supporting each other and praising everyone’s work. It also represents a hell of a lot of countries.

So here we are to the mindless but great crocheted rib cowl:

 

Crocheted rib cowl in Skeino

Finished rib cowl in Skeino

 

I had some luxurious and beautiful yarn by Skeino that I wanted to make sure I used up so I found something that I thought would be easy and that I would wear. I mainly scrolled through Pinterest while nursing Lois.

 

yarn skein

Skein of Skeino from Yarnbox March

 

 

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Half-way through the Skeino crocheted rib cowl

I am now making the same cowl but with Manos del Uruguay yarn from the Clasica range.

 

boxed yarn

Manos del Uruguay yarn, Clasica, from Yarnbox April shipment

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Crocheted rib cowl in Manos Clasica

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Half-way through crocheted rib cowl in Manos Clasica

I’m not sure it’s turning out as nicely so will see. I may even try to find a different pattern but so far the actual crafting itself is nice.

After writing this I remembered a competition that Deramores had for blogging about a trend and the chance to win £500 worth of yarn. The competition is now closed but there are six blog posts about different trends and the rib cowl is one of the ones written about – crocheting that looks like knitting. If you’re interested, the blogs are here. They seem to be great crafty blogs too.