Monday, 27 June 2022

Failing

'The Fell' by Sarah Moss finally came and it was a quick and engaging story. I like books that cover a a brief period of time, it makes them feel very immediate, as if you read them in real time, as the events unfold. Kate goes out for an evening walk. It'll just be an hour, up to the top and back down she reasons, she needs to be out of doors ... but she is supposed to be isolating. Her neighbour Alice, sees her go, but is more worried about her own situation. Her son Matt surfaces from his video game to find her gone, and when he realises that she's not just in the garden who can he ask for help when his mum has broken the law. And Rob from mountain rescue tromps across the moors with the team of searchers, not judging or blaming, only hoping that she will be still alive when they find her. 

Kate follows a raven up the hill, he seems to be waiting and coaxing her on, and then after she falls he hovers around, waiting to peck out her eyes she muses, but in her delirious state she imagines him taunting her:
"Another mistake, says the raven, shall we make a list? We could go all the way back, couldn't we, tell me, Kate, what was the first mistake you ever made, would you say? What poor choice set you on the path to where we find ourselves this evening? School, she thinks, school was all mistakes, though whether this night was determined by the time I left school - Raven, you're not my mother, you're Miss Boucher, aren't you, Miss Boucher who told me off in front of the whole canteen on my first day because my shoes were the wrong colour and she wasn't interested in my weird duck-feet and my mother's admittedly hereditary last-minute approach to matters such as shopping for school uniform, it's as if both of us and probably now poor Matt as well think that if we ignore for example Christmas or summer or the beginning of the school year it might go away and we won't after all need presents or sunscreen or the right shoes, which isn't entirely mad because the end is nigh, we do know that, and if we're about to die in a nuclear war or that one where the magnetic poles swivel which she always imagines as the planet flipping, Australia on the top and Greenland on the bottom and all the fuses in the world blowing like fireworks as the planet spins through the darkness, or a more conclusive plague than the current slow-burning one or any of the many other reasons for the streets to run with blood, who wants to have spent their last days of ignorant normality looking for navy lace-up shoes in a size 2H?" (p.114-5)

And as she struggles to reach shelter and drifts in and out of consciousness he harangues her further:
"So yes, mistakes: the two big relationships of her life, her education, the lack of a carer, not to mention not being a great mum, not really understanding how to be a mum until it was probably too late because don't they say it's the first thousand days that determine the course of a child's life, Matt's future already damaged by her drinking coffee in pregnancy and crying when he had colic, not to mention not being a great daughter either, not to mention failing to cope with lockdown even though she hasn't been sick, hasn't lost anyone, and not only failing to cope but actually failing to isolate herself when told to do so, not to mention failing to go home before dark, not to mention failing and falling off the rock, yes, you could say there were mistakes.
Breathe through the pain, but it's the sort of pain that stops you breathing." (p.139)

Lovely atmosphere and the insides of people's heads, which works well in a book that has not much is happening, and of course taking place during lockdown when people were very physically isolated from each other. It is weird for me to read a novel like this; lockdown did not happen for me, I went to work, where social distancing barely happened, and did not get any of that navel-gazing time when everyone was wiping down their shopping and looking out of the windows and counting how many times their neighbours left the house. And it feels strangely all so long ago now. Has life returned to 'normal'? In some ways yes. I still have a 'wash your hands' reminder sign up in the hallway. 
Anyway, Kate sings to the raven, and she mentions this song, so for your enjoyment, The Manchester Rambler:

Stay safe. Be kind. Ramble somewhere.

Post script to the abortion debate

Dunk sent me a link to this article on the Science Based Medicine website, which is very interesting reading (if you have ten minutes or so). It is stepping away from the ethical arguments and talking about how decisions like the one to repeal Roe v Wade have wider implications and are just part of what is happening to attack science based medicine. Health care decisions must be made about what is necessary for the care of the patient, not what some random people think is the 'right' thing to do. There are many circumstances where abortion is medically the necessary thing to do to protect a woman's life; a woman suffering a miscarriage, a woman diagnosed with cancer, a woman suffering pre-eclampsia, a woman who's baby has been diagnosed with a condition that is terminal. He outlines the extreme cases where women have been denied life saving treatment because the foetus in their uterus had a heartbeat. The threat of criminality muddies the water for doctors making decisions about the care of pregnant women; just how near death do they have to be before it is ok to sacrifice their unborn child. There are no other circumstances where one human being is legally obliged to sacrifice their life for someone else. If someone is drowning, you are not obliged to jump in and save them. If your organ is a match for someone who needs it, you are not obliged to give it to them. A pregnant woman should have health care decision made based on her needs, not on the needs of the foetus. 
These things are not straightforward. Don't be taken in by people who say they are.

Stay safe. Live with compassion for other human beings. Imagine living with the consequences of your worst bad decision, and be slower to pass judgement.

Rain at last

The rain came down gently this morning and dampened everything in the garden. It is all feeling very lush and colourful.
And things to eat are coming along too. I have had loads of lettuce, and even some rocket. The basil plants indoors are coming along nicely. The tomatoes offer a tempting anticipation of juiciness to come soon:
The foxgloves that I have been nurturing for 18 months have finally flowered. It was a lot of care and attention and I will probably just let them do their own thing now and hope for some self-seeders:
Damp lavender filling the space next to the bench:
And other little unexpected treasure:
Meanwhile, in Japan:

Stay safe. Be kind. Go outside and see what's there (cos the scary crawlies are inside).

Saturday, 25 June 2022

What America needs now is a sex strike

Even when you know it's coming some news still hits you like a thump in your stomach. So yesterday the good old US of A took yet another step back to the dark ages. Women are not really people after all, just walking uteri, baby making machines, who need to relearn their place. I am so angry I can almost feel the steam coming out of my ears. I was reading a review of a Japanese graphic novel in the Guardian that led to another article about abortion in Japan, where women still need to get their spouse's permission. It's not about the babies. It's never been about the babies. It's about the control of women; always has been, always will be. So I turned to Tish this morning and said, 'America needs a sex strike', and I don't mean a couple of weeks or so, I mean a sex strike until the law is changed. Because, I know you know this, banning abortion does not stop abortions happening. Some people are 'elated' it seems, like this woman on the BBC, who thinks that offering diapers and baby clothes is enough support for expectant women, in a country where it costs thousands of dollars to give birth in a hospital. It is frightening to see policies becoming more restrictive, in Poland for example, and other countries desperately trying to persuade woman to have more children which you can see heading in the same direction. Interestingly sex strikes have been used for a variety of reasons over the years, and while not necessarily effective it feels like the appropriate response to the current situation. According to polls the vast majority of people in the US support the right to abortion in some situations; I don't understand how it happens that the people with the extreme views are the ones making the decisions. In the UK (where abortion is still technically illegal) rules were relaxed during the pandemic, allowing women to take medical abortion pills at home, and I had a memory that this was extended recently, but now I cannot find the information anywhere. (Edit 26/6) Browsing coverage this morning I found this article on the Independent website, that uses the phrase 'pro-abortion activists'. Nobody is 'pro-abortion'! Nobody thinks abortions are great and there should be more of them. I hate the way that language is used in this debate, drawing hard lines. We all think there should be fewer abortions, we just disagree on how this is achieved. Pro-choice activists want better healthcare and access to contraception, more sex education and paid maternity leave, affordable childcare and respect for women's autonomy. The 'pro-life' activists just want to remove women's hard won rights. And then I also found this article by Sonia Sodha in the Observer, that she argues so eloquently, and reminded me (of course) about the change of policy in Ireland that followed a public debate and referendum. Here the Guardian has some suggestions for ways you can support women having continued access to abortion. The Abortion Support Network in the UK also provides financial support for women travelling from Europe and Northern Ireland (where the situation is abominable and complicated). 
I find it frightening when I see these kinds of right wing attitudes dominating politics and thus filtering down to impact on real people's lives. I got a letter from my employer yesterday telling me they were imposing a pay deal, and how lovely it was that I was going to get my money, plus a backdated lump sum, nice and quickly, in the face of the current cost-of-living crisis (oh look, inflation is at 9%, so we are going to give you 2% and you better be goddamn grateful), because they want to preempt the union's strike ballot and get everyone one to think how much easier it is to just take a the little bit of money on offer rather than fight for decent pay, and it makes me more angry at the tactics. Sometimes being angry is exhausting.

Stay safe. Be kind. Show some support (moral or financial, whatever you can manage).

Wednesday, 22 June 2022

Read a book in one sitting

I don't often read books in one sitting. I remember doing it with 'The Road' (a long time ago), that was so gripping I could not put it down. I picked up 'Unsettled Ground' by Claire Fuller (who I find I have reviewed twice before) (and now I want to get the fourth of her novels and read that too) on Sunday afternoon after work and just kind of sat reading while Tish watched some true crime drama thing, thinking I would just make a start on it. I went to bed two-thirds of the way through and just carried on reading, until I got to the point where I might as well do another half an hour and finish. 

It tells the story of Jeanie and Julius, who, when their mother dies very abruptly, find they must deal with the outside world that they have mostly managed to avoid. It is a tale of smothering mothering and slightly socially awkward people, who, because they are bound together find that maybe they can face the world after all. But what emerges is that their mother had other things going on in her life of which they were unaware. I find it sad that there are people who see life as a transaction. Their mother refuses to take from society, because she fears owing anything in return, and so taking assistance from others comes hard to her twins (who are 51, by the way). Their bond is threatened when Julius develops a crush on a local woman, who appears to reciprocate, and Jeanie fears she will be abandoned. Her life has been filled with fears, and she is forced to face up to some of them, and I found her surprisingly adaptable and resourceful.
Here, the root of all her fears, from her childhood illness (Dot is her mother):

"Dot got her handkerchief out from her handbag and covered her face with it, rocking back and forth where she sat on the chair next to the doctor's desk. He called for the receptionist to come in, and Jeanie was led by the hand, back to the waiting room. There, heels on her chair and arms hugging her knees, she stayed until her mother came to fetch her. Was it then, when they got home, that Dot explained that the fever and the aches that Jeanie had suffered from when she was younger had weakened her heart and made it fragile, or was it later? Either way, her mother said, 'Think of your heart like an egg. You know what happens if you drop an egg?' Jeanie was worried her mother was going to start crying again and if she did Jeanie wouldn't know what to do. Perhaps the doctor had given her mother a pill to stop her crying when Jeanie had been in the waiting room. As her mother spoke, Jeanie imagined something within her chest the size and shape of a duck's egg but with a pinkish tinge and its shell so thin that the creature inside was visible: curled, bloody and featherless, it knocked and scraped on the shell's inner layer. What mayhem would it cause if it broke free?" (p.18)

That's all, no disclosure. An excellent read, thoroughly engaging, lots of real people, even the incidental characters have depth and subtleties. The library has 'Swimming Lessons' for me so am off to the gym now.

Stay safe. Be kind. Read a book in one sitting.

Tuesday, 21 June 2022

30 Days Wild - bees, bees and other stuff

Ladybird nestling in a random flower.

Gorgeous shiny jewel green, possibly, hoverfly, I can't find an ID on him:

Honey bee in Julie's garden this afternoon:

and honey bee in mine too when I came home:

Stay safe. Be kind. Weed your friend's garden.

Sunday, 19 June 2022

30 Days Wild - Bee Identification Help

I was in the yard after work and repotted my two remaining avocado trees. The smaller one I cut right back the other day as all the leaves on the main stem had some kind of mildew. I remembered how much they flourished last summer spending a couple of months outside so they will sit on the garden until September. 
I have been keeping an eye on the bees of course; I have so many different things flowering at the moment but they continue to love this purple self seeded stuff the best. I spotted this one and got all excited thinking it might be a honey bee ... but on researching I think not. My best guess is a wool carder bee but would love it if someone more knowledgable could confirm or correct me.

Stay safe. Be kind. Fingers crossed for some rain (just enough to fill the water buttts).



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