Friday 30 October 2009

short stories

I have just finished reading 'No one belongs here more than you.' by Miranda July (a strikingly multi-talented person). I am not sure what to write about these stories. Most are written in the first person and the characters in them are mostly slightly dysfunctional, with very strange relationships with the people and the world around them. They are often people unable to acknowledge or articulate the thoughts and feelings that they have. They are stories in which nothing happens but are really about the strange places that people go in their imagination. The style comes across almost a little stream-of-consciousness. What is intriguing is that she looks at the world in quite a unique way and sees things that most other people have not even thought of. I liked the one about the woman who has a port wine stain removed from her face, but finds that it continues to dominate her thoughts and how she feels about herself, the lack of it tainting her relationships, until it strangely reappears. I think my favourite is 'How to tell stories to children', about a woman who develops a very strong bond with her friend's child, becoming an alternate parent, a refuge from the real parents who's relationship is fraught and self-indulgent. You get the definite feeling that the adult needs and gets as much out of the relationship as the child does, and when it turns sour it is she that loses most. The stories are all quite emotionally intense, people needing something from the others in their lives, or even from total strangers. They are the kind of stories that make you feel very normal and ordinary, and grateful for it.
Here is another baby picture, just because babies are lovely.

Tuesday 27 October 2009

Baby Blanket

The baby has more hats than she needs so I decided to make something with a little more long lasting. This is the part felted blanket. It is nuno felted on a piece of muslin. We (that's Tish and me) layered un-dyed merino on one side, which I rolled for a while so it was safe to turn over. Then I made a design on the other side with some blended red/orange/yellow/pink edging and some plain dark red in the centre. Tish and I then rolled it back and forth to each other across the living room for most of X-Factor on Saturday night.
This is the finished article after it has been soaped and shrunk.
Just for the record it shrank from 150 x 90cm to about 100 x 60cm.
And I think i might want to keep it now as it is really wonderfully cuddly and soft. Maybe I can just hold it for a few days until we go back to see the baby again:-)

Saturday 24 October 2009

Strikes and all that

Ok, I've been avoiding commenting on the strike but what the hell.
It is very frustrating to read journalists writing about Royal Mail, because mostly they have very little knowledge of how the system works. Many people still think that being a postie is some kind of gentle stroll round the streets chatting to people as you go and stopping off for numerous cups of tea and getting home for lunch. For a start, the time you get your post is not an indicator of how efficient Royal Mail are. If a postman does (as we do here) an average round of 4 1/2 hours, then some people will always get their post by 9.30am and some people will always, especially if they live in a little village in the middle of nowhere, get theirs at 2pm. Our start times have been pushed back to such an extent that there is *no such thing* as post arriving at 7.30am any more.
When I first started here I found it amazing that you could go home early if you finished all your work. My shortest working day ever has been 4 hours. There is no other job where this happens. But the times when you are early has got less and less as the workload has increased, and since the last dispute we now have 'swings and roundabouts', where time you save one day is balanced against any time you go into overtime on another day.
The management view is now that we are a 'business' with all that that entails. My opinion is, and remains, that Royal Mail is a public service. It should not be even part-privatised. No other company could possibly set up a comprehensive delivery network. Royal Mail has what is called the 'Universal Service Obligation', which means every household has a right to a daily postal delivery. It is not fair that any company coming into the market should not have to fulfil the same obligations, but of course this is not the case and companies can come in and cherry pick the easy bits of the service, collecting and processing bulk mailings and then getting Royal Mail to deliver them for a pittance. Pay really isn't the primary issue this time, we are fighting now to keep a decent service for the public and to have a say in how the company changes.
I am not sure I want to get into the 'all we get now is junk mail' and 'the internet is taking over' kind of arguments, because for many people the postal service remains a vital part of their life. I think that there will be many changes over the next 20 years. I personally hope junk mail will be taxed out of existence, even though it keeps me in a job. My environmental sensibilities clash frequently with my job when I have to drive a mile to deliver a letter I know will go straight in the bin. Though on the other hand shopping by post is much more environmentally friendly; people stay home and wait for stuff to be bought to them.
So I have been on holiday the last few days and was saved the problem of deciding whether to strike. I did last time, mounting a lonely picket line outside my office which the others all crossed, though it earned me the respect of people down in Gloucester Mail Centre. This time lost income is something more of an issue and I feel that the issues are more wooly and that the union should have tried harder to avoid this confrontation (you wonder if some of them like all the media attention). It makes us look if we want to preserve some kind of 'nostalgic' image of what we do, and press stories about ruining Christmas really don't help get public support. All in all, it's a big mess and talking is the only way out of it.
Anyway, I am not sure I always like Spiked's attitude (argumentative for the sake of it) but I did read this excellent article about the postal dispute. It counters very well the way the dispute has been presenting in the media.
Back to knitting now, working on more socks:-)

Tuesday 20 October 2009

baby days

Welcome to Althea, born on Saturday morning to my wonderful friends Julie and Al. We dashed up to pick them up from the hospital, and do a little bit of looking after and quite a bit of cuddling the baby (though there was quite a long queue for the cuddles). The reams of advice they have to give these days makes having a new baby such a complicated business. The midwife was most insistent that she should not wear hats in the house, so she is going to have to take a daily trip up and down the street to ensure that the whole collection of home made hats gets used.
We are all looking forward to being part of her life.