Bureaucrisis

Ever since I was at primary school I’ve always felt a little bit like this:

odd one outOr this:

Meerkats & kittenIt wasn’t anything dramatic or horrible. Nobody bullied me, I had friends and I don’t think anyone noticed. It’s just I didn’t feel the same as other people – not that I felt better or worse than them – just sort of separate. They seemed to understand what life was all about, while I found it all a massive unsolvable mystery. I spent a significant proportion of my time in a state of gentle disbelief; my tiny unformed brain muttering amazedness to itself: “What, so you mean I have to go to this school place EVERY DAY of the week until I’m 16?”, “So those girls actually WANT to all look exactly the same as each other?”, “Sex is WHAT?! That’s got to be a wind up.” “We have to run around a field in giant pants and nobody’s going to PROTEST?”, “Why do people go to work every day when it makes them look so unhappy?”, etc.

wise
This is me now. You can see the wisdom in my wizened cheeks and fathomless eyes.

Of course now I’m all ancient and withered I know that everyone else was probably thinking the exact same bewildered thoughts and feeling the exact same odd-one-outness as I was. But I didn’t know that then, and instead thought that either I or the rest of humanity was a bit off-kilter. Which one I thought it was depended on the mood I was in at the time. But gradually, I got used to the incongruities of the world and came to some sort of ‘agree to disagree’ deal with it.

But that semi-comfortable crust I allowed to form over my childhood incongruousness is beginning to crack. I may now be all grown up and whatever, but secretly, rumbling under the surface there’s a resurgence of that sense of not-quite-belonging-in-this-world. Those things that I used to ponder over – questions about why people have arranged the world like they have – haven’t actually been resolved at all. I’ve learned LOADS of detail about how it’s arranged and read loads of theories about why, but the frustration of it, the sheer brain thumping aggravating reality of it, is no less powerful than it was when I was 8.

It comes in waves, this feeling, and today I had a big one. A tsunami. You see, I have this lovely new job which I’m very excited about. One of the things this job involves is finding young people who need some support in life – ones who have disengaged with the education system and other things – working with them to find out what they want to do and then supporting them to actually do it. This feels to me like a job that’s WELL worth doing. I love working with young people and I think I’m good at it. The fairy godmother who scooped me out of my previous horrible job and gave me this one certainly believes I am, and I want to prove her right. And so far, so good. I have been meeting up with troubled young people, chatting for an hour or so, working out what we can do to help them, filling out a form to apply for the support they need and then getting on and working with them. The form is  bit long, so I apologise profusely for it and make sure we have a laugh as we do it.

Only today I discovered that I’ve been doing it wrong.

There is in fact more paperwork that needs to be done at this initial meeting stage. A lot more.

Bear in mind that these are young people that have been more or less failed by a clumsy, bureaucratic education system despite the best efforts of their teachers. They’re disengaged, they tend to distrust anything that represents authority and the only thing they really respond to is a friendly human that treats them as equals, seems to genuinely give a shit and has a laugh with them.

So imagine you are one of these young people. You have been offered a chance to meet up with someone who wants to help you find your way. You decide to drag yourself to a meeting despite all the crap that’s going on in your life, and the person you are hoping will be able to connect with you says that before they can even be sure they can offer you help, you’ll have to fill out some forms. These forms will then be sent off for approval, and if you don’t fit the criteria, you won’t get any help. Imagine how you feel when you find out that the paperwork you must do before you even know if it’ll come to anything is as follows:

1. A Referral form – 5 pages, including:

  •  Support worker’s details and the college’s details
  • Young person’s details
  • Reasons for referral and which programme they’re being referred to
  • What the student thinks of the proposed service
  • Which alternative solutions have been proposed
  • Additional support needed
  • What advice and guidance has been provided, how it’s been provided and how long we’ve been providing it for
  • Details about other agencies involved. If no other agencies are involved, have any been offered? If not, why not?
  • Summary of education & employment
  • Summary of social & behavioural development
  • Summary of family & environmental factors
  • Summary of personal health issues
  • A ‘soft outcomes assessment’ where the young person has to rate themselves on a scale for confidence, self-esteem, writing, reading, aspirations, and several others, and comment on each one.

 2. Programme agreement & initial assessment form – 9 pages, including:

  •  Young persons’s details (again)
  • Key worker details
  • Personal advisor details
  • Qualifications
  • Disabilities
  • General background
  • Ethnicity,
  • Achievements, qualifications, experience and action support that is required
  • Language, literacy numeracy, ESOL & key skills evidence and action support that’s required
  • Career preferences & suitability + action support needed
  • Interests & hobbies + action support needed
  • Learning difficulties or other support needs + action support required
  • A section for 3 things the young person is good at and 3 they are bad at + action support required to overcome these
  • Learning style assessment & action support required
  • An individual learning plan, including details of why this chosen programme is right for this learner, details of where the young person wishes to progress from this programme, details of the young person’s other key objectives, details of activities and support needed to enable them to meet their goals, details of the expected length of time required to complete these activities and achieve their goals, details of hours of attendance each week, which days they will be attending,
  • Two pages of all the levels, start dates, end dates and course codes of the qualifications they’ll be taking.
  • Details (AGAIN) of support being provided to ADD VALUE to the programme
  • Details of support activities to be provided by other organisations

 3. Initial assessment tests to be completed in literacy, numeracy & IT and results to be attached to above form along with the results of a learning styles test (also to be completed)

 4. A two-page Information, advice and guidance sheet, including:

  •  Young person’s details (AGAIN)
  • A section called: Where am I now? – young person’s experiences, qualifications, personal circumstances (AGAIN)
  • A section called “What do I want to do now and in the future?”
  • A goal setting section with activities. Students have to identify an overall goal, then make short term and long term targets and identify what activities are needed to achieve those targets. Who must do the activities and when each one is going to be done by.

 5. A time sheet of all the activities that are going to be done with the student and when, and all the activities that have been done so far.

 6. If the young person is under 16 there’s a whole “extended learning pack” to complete (I haven’t seen what delights that holds yet)

 7. Finally, an enrolment form that is double sided A3 in tiny print and requires all their personal info AGAIN. Including previous education, all their grades for everything, what course they’re applying for, benefits details, ethnicity, etc…. 

bureaucracy cartoonIf I was a disengaged young person – and I know this because I WAS one once – I would get up and walk out. It would fill me with fury. I would rant and fucking rave and go out and get pissed and decide that the ‘proper’ world was definitely NOT for me because it’s clearly mental. And of course THEY’D BE RIGHT. They’d be BLOODY RIGHT. It is INSANE.

And everyone in the meeting I attended about this KNEW it was insane, but none of us have any choice in the matter. If we want to be able to draw down the funding we need to help these young people, then this is what we have to do. The agency with the money require this paperwork before they will even consider funding a student. And there are two MORE batches of paperwork that have to be done in the TEN weeks that we may be working with a student who is accepted on the scheme.

It takes me two hours with a student to go through the first form. I DREAD to think how long it will take to do the rest. All of this is time that I should be spending working on what that young person (and the other young people on our scheme) need/s. I was employed in this role because I am an innovative teacher and hopefully an inspiring one. Students tend to like me and I really do like them and we work bloody well together. I am shit at paperwork and I hate it. It’s waste of my time and the time of our already disenfranchised young people.

No bloody wonder I felt at odds with the world when I was a kid.

I was bloody right.

ORIG-bureaucracy

 

 

Weekly Photo Challenge: Forward

These weekly challenges are difficult. I usually manage something, but last week’s topic, ‘kiss’ ended up stumping me altogether. I looked through my street photography and was disappointed to note that I’ve never managed to catch any spontaneous snog pictures, and my family are not particularly known for their public displays of affection. The closest I came up with was this romantic moment between son 2 and his girlfriend. It’s not a kiss, exactly. alice and jay finger

My interpretation of this week’s challenge is better than last week’s because… well… I actually did one. Only… ‘interpretation’ is probably not quite the right word – the proper word is something like, ‘literalation’ because I’ve taken the challenge, and sort of sat still with it.

Instead of dreaming up a lovely metaphor for overcoming hurdles in life or whatever, I’ve just chosen pictures of walking. Or shambling. Or in some cases running. There are no deep meanings here, and you won’t be drifting off to sleep at night even slightly more enlightened than you were before you saw my pictures of perambulating mammals. Sorry.

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Feminism: Wrestling with my Ambivalence

SWEARING ALERT: If you are sensitive to any particular arrangements of letters, don’t read the conversation bit at the end.

If  push came to shove I would identify as “feminist”, but I am very wary of some of the ways that term gets used by both other feminists and by anti-feminists. The only reason I would use it is because to say you’re not a feminist is tantamount to saying you don’t agree that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities. And that would just be plain stupid.

feminism quote

So, I am a feminist, and ‘feminism’ to me is the idea that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities. Nothing more complicated than that. So that’s the standpoint from which I am writing this blog entry. It began when I happened to click on this link.

The article is about a Twitter project where women can record the instances of every day ‘sexism’ they encounter in their daily lives. When this was published, the group had just received its 20,000th entry.

everyday-sexism-get-your-examples-out-for-the-L-Xx0gRQ

At the word ‘sexism’, my Radar of Dubiousness starts whirring. I’ve started to feel an unbidden bubbling discomfort with words that end in ‘ism’. A lot of what I read around these isms nowadays seems divisive and combative and I frequently wonder if what were once useful terms are now so loaded with dogma that they are almost completely counter-productive in terms of successful debate. It seems that whenever someone is identified as a something-ist (Feminist, Humanist, Nationalist, Marxist, etc.) then everyone starts making assumptions about what the speaker/writer is saying based on what they think they know about the ism in question and not listening to exactly what is being said. This results in profoundly frustrating debates where pretty much every contributor is punching a straw man the whole time and nothing is achieved except frustrated rage and a deeper embedding of dogma on all sides.

straw manThe unlikeable term ‘sexism’ is usually used to denote male-on-female prejudice, but as a mother of two splendid sons and the spouse of an excellent man, I also cringe at least once a day at female-on-male sexism. Indeed, it’s perfectly acceptable in the media to imply that men are basically dribbling halfwits without the wherewithall to clean baths properly or know when to buy their sardonically critical wife flowers (that stupid rabbit thing advertising air freshener in between sections of Emmerdale). Perfectly lovely and intelligent women I know crack jokes about man-flu, men always being wrong, a bit stupid, useless and generally in need of the guidance of women. Even those who have great spouses do this because it’s just become part of everyday banter. These women are not being evil, they’re just not thinking how this might make men feel because there’s an assumption that men are so confident in their patriarchal power that you can’t really hurt them. Even if that were true of fully grown men (it’s not), is it also true of our small sons? Are they all born with the power to feel ok about themselves in a culture where it’s acceptable to constantly say men are a bit shit just because they are male? Is it only girls who are damaged by the repetition of negative gender stereotypes?

I was working with a group of young mums a couple of weeks ago and this conversation happened.

S: … yeah, well all men are twats aren’t they?
[general agreement from all present]
[pause]
Me: Didn’t you say earlier that your boyfriend gets up with your son to do the night feeds so you can sleep?
S: Oh yeah. Well, yeah he does…
Me: So, not all men are twats then?
S: Well, no, but you know what I mean…
A: Mine does night feeds too, and he makes me breakfast before he goes to work…

These young women were perpetuating the stereotype of men as useless, when evidence in their own lives points to the very opposite. It’s sort of like phatic talk about  the weather – nobody really thinks about what they’re saying, and nobody picks up on how damaging this could be because it’s socially acceptable to mock men.

boys are stupid
So it was with a certain amount of dubiousness that I went to explore the everyday sexism project http://www.everydaysexism.com/    Apart from being bugged by the question, ‘if we are going to tackle sexism shouldn’t we tackle it from all sides rather than just one?’, there was the nagging feeling that many of the annoying things people say are down to basic stupidity rather than sinister sexism. There are a hell of a lot of stupid people out there, and to be honest, some of the things posted on the everyday sexism site could be shrugged off as just the spoutings of the intellectually deficient. I’ve never been certain that explaining identity politics to dribbling morons is a productive way to pass the time.

http://www.gapingvoid.com/old_images//stupid002.jpg
http://www.gapingvoid.com/old_images//stupid002.jpg

What really struck me as I read through the contributions, though, was that the majority of them were about inappropriate touching and sexually intrusive language. Comments to do with getting back in the kitchen, etc, while irritating and puerile, can often be fairly easily shrugged off, but when someone feels they have the right to touch or comment on parts of your body it feels incredibly invasive. And it seems from the site that this stuff goes on ALL the time.  I’m a bit too middle aged and confident to be a victim of this kind of thing nowadays but I have some stories from my less confident past, so I showed some friends the site and asked what their experiences were. The following (edited) discussion ensued and includes anecdotes from three friends and myself. I’ve used false initials for privacy.

P: Ok, I’m reading the everyday sexism site. I hate it when boys say their shit comments are “banter”. Using a friendly word to justify being an absolute COCK.

I had one today. I might add.

J: What happened?

P: Nylon wearing man on the Underground asked me where I was getting off and if I was “the lucky girl who would be dealing with his erection tonight”. He touched my leg and I thought my gut was going to explode. Things like that scare the SHIT out of me.

S: I hope you were HORRIBLE to the disgustoman.

P: I was too scared to. Just walked away, and left the train at the next stop before boarding another. Shouldn’t have to.

S: Understandable. It makes my skin vibrate with angry. The casual sexism makes me angry. Yesterday we saw a bloke that was at a training event we went to. He was horrible to me there (and ignored us yesterday) because when he made a sex comment to me I reacted with some overt disgust. He got a bit nasty after that because I showed him up.

P: What thing did he actually say?

S: I can’t remember exactly, something about my arse, I think. But his aggression in response was visible.

P: Did he do that “you can’t take a joke”, “calm down” response? Fucking HATE that. It’s NOT a joke, I don’t know you, you’re a COCK.

S: I can’t exactly remember, but that sounds likely. He is one of those men whose pupils go too big too quickly. It makes me so very angry.

P: I get really scared when people are suggestive. I REALLY don’t like it.

S: It can be horribly intimidating. It makes me turn into the incredible hulk a bit.

P: I’m not brave enough to do Hulk. I don’t feel like I do anything to be victim of men being horribly explicit and suggestive. It’s horrible. Especially when they’re inebriateds.

S: It’s just_too_horrible.

P: Don’t really know what the answer is.

S: Eugenics. It means staying away from places. Which is EXACTLY the problem.

P: I don’t know if it’s getting worse. I think there are just more mediums to be sexist on, and information is more accessible.

J: What do you think of this?

S: It’s a pointless thing to say.

P: Dislike the possessive pronoun more than the actual implication.

J: I couldn’t decide whether it was funny or not. Part of me agrees with her, and then I think ‘am I just being humorless’. But the comments under the article are horrible.
Yeah, the possessive pronoun. But is it funny? Someone wrote, “imagine if it said, give this to your black maid…”

P: Fucking Hell. Never read the comments to anything on the internet, ever. Misanthropy.

S: Yes. Fucking stupid people. Someone take their keyboards away. It’s not massively offensive exactly, but it’s not funny. It’s old hat. It took EFFORT to make that label. Effort for a shit joke. Pointless.

P: Some years ago I did a presentation on Neurophysics in front of my class (which I was graded highly for). And at the end of it some boy from the back of the room shouted
“Yeah, that’s great and all, but get back in the kitchen” and all of the boys laughed.
Sort of, an attempt to devalue everything I had said.

J:    That IS the same sort of thing. Everyone knows it’s a joke, but. I suppose it’s like all irony, it’s only irony if you know it’s ironic. If you don’t, then it’s true.    I used to think that about that comedy programme where they played up all the Asian stereotypes. Funny if you know they’re being ironic. But if you don’t then it just backs up stereotypes.

S: I know what you mean. It’s quite complicated when you start thinking. People should be nice to each other. But sometimes it’s hard to tell when they aren’t.

J: Yeah! And sometimes they’re not even sure they’re not either.

S: It’s just thickness that jeans thing. Really. Even just in terms of humour. Unoriginal. If you can make me laugh and the offensive is for that actual purpose then ok, but when the offensive is real and joke is shit then fuck off and die.

[topic moves back to everyday sexism site]

S: Thinking about it, I’ve never particularly experienced the ‘get back in the kitchen’ stuff. I’ve experienced people thinking I’m stupid because of being a young/girl. But mainly it’s sexual. Actual touching and/or repulsive words.

J: Yeah. You’re right. I haven’t experienced the kitchen type stuff either, I think. Only sex stuff.   There was the rapey man on the beach when I was 16. Who didn’t even speak to me when he was doing it. Or after. And once a bloke tried to put his hand in my knickers and when I protested he said “fuck you then” and walked off leaving me alone in the dark somewhere scary.

P: That made my nose tingle.

S: Christ. That idea of being disposable if you aren’t willing to shag is hideous.

P: ACTUAL touching is worst. Hate.

S: I have grabbed their hands and actually screamed at them more than once when they did uninvited touching. One time I grabbed a bloke’s hand and explained to his girlfriend what he’d been doing. He did it when she was stood NEXT TO HIM. AND another time when that happened and I grabbed the bloke’s hand and did anger, he apologised to my boyfriend not me!

P: I mostly just cry and then hide under my duvet for a day with a swiss roll.

J: That apologising to the boyfriend not you makes me want to kill. My friend’s boyfriend wrote ‘slag’ all over my walls because I started going out with someone and wouldn’t shag him. And a bloke told my boyfriend he was lucky because I had good tits. I was embarrassed enough to hide under my duvet with a swiss roll.

S: Thinking it’s acceptable to say that to say that is so weird.

J: Yeah, it’s all about ownership.

P: A few weeks ago when I found myself in that horrible night club a boy came up behind me outside and picked me up from underneath with one hand. And I was wearing a dress. Then when I did some struggling he started making shushing noises so I went home.

J: Fucking hell. He was a total stranger? Was he young

P: Yes. Completely. He practically lifted me via genitals. Puke. He was about 27/28.

S: my friend’s boss, the big MD of the company tried to kiss her at the Christmas party. She refused and he did that typical ‘if you tell anyone then I’ll ruin your career…’. He got married a month later.

Someone I know was sexually assaulted by a bar tender when she was drunk and when she reported it to a policeman they said it was her fault for being drunk.

Oh, and the fact I get paid less than every man in my department despite the fact I am a manager and they are not.

J: I was sitting with a group of ‘friends’ once and a perfectly harmless bloke came in and said, “you’ve got to listen to this!” and it was (I think) a NWA song about a policewoman being raped. It had her screaming and crying for ages. Everyone thought it was really good because it was a policewoman and the police were bastards.

S: Someone put his hands down my pants on a dancefloor. Another bloke was doing repulsive finger/tongue movements right in my face, but my boyfriend headbutted him. Another man put his hand up my skirt once, I turned around and punched him in the head and he pushed me. My friends went for him and he got kicked out.

J: Our friend’s daughter was raped by a bouncer at a night club, and all the other bouncers enabled him to do it.

S: And he got away with it.

P: This all makes me feel HORRIBLE.

J: Sorry, P. Remember it depends where you hang out and there have always been shit people, but there are plenty of lovely.

S: There are LOADS of fucking brilliant people. There are. I have been in situations where people could’ve taken advantage and my lovely friends who are boys have looked after me and kept me safe.

P: Yes. There definitely are. I know that. But even ones who are potentially brilliant think with their penises when they’re my age. Learnt that shit people congregate in certain places and it’s best to just avoid them.

S: That’s true. It’s a fucking infuriating shame. But it’s true.

P: I’m under my duvet. Confused as to why it’s so difficult to accept that I’d rather strangers didn’t attempt to touch my vagina/anything without consent. I might wear a sandwich board saying so.

S: You have to put that stuff in a box and put it away. The only way it can be thought about is objectively, in a different context, in a trying to work out why people are broken way. There isn’t a simple explanation.

And eating makes the universe better. Brian Cox said so. Or something.

J: It would be funny as fuck if you did wear a sandwich board. But people would call you a crazy uptight feminist.

P: “Don’t touch my vagina please”. (I’d put “please” so they wouldn’t think I was uptight).

J: They’d think you were a lesbian.

S: I think there’s a ‘don’t touch my vagina face’ that can be developed a bit.

J: We could make Don’t touch my vagina face masks.

P: It should just be a regular face. I’ve eaten a six pack of Mars Bars since we started this.

                                                                            ***
J: My friend L just shared these joyous anecdotes:

” A bloke suggested he should carry me like god had intended – like a 6 pack of beer. That’s why women have 2 holes. When I told him to fuck off he said I had a fit body but a bad attitude. I should sort myself out.. Told him to go fuck himself. It made him even more outraged. Other girls actually said I should be pleased he fancied me because he was good looking…

….Oh, and Mr Day who stuck his fingers down my top every time I got a Maths question wrong and gave me an irrational hatred of Maths. Cheers for that!”
S: Fuck SAKE! I hope someone shot Mr Day in the fucking face.

__________________________________

So. Yes. Just four random perfectly usual well(ish) balanced women, and they’ve experienced all this stuff between them. It’s quite disturbing.

There really is a serious problem here, and I don’t know how it should be addressed. But this conversation made me realise that the everyday sexism project IS doing a useful thing. I may wriggle a bit at the terminology and wish it could be a bit more inclusive of male experience as well, but this stuff needs to  be talked about. I don’t want our daughters and their daughters to continue going through this shit. In fact, I can feel the latent angry feminist rise in me as I type. Time to log off.

 Bill-Bailey-007

 

Weekly Photo Challenge: Home

Being my mother’s daughter, aesthetics has always been a big thing for me in terms of home. My mum never feels completely at home in her dwelling place unless she has made it look and feel the way she wants it to. She lives in a lovely Cornish cottage with wobbly cob walls and beams, but her aesthetic is essentially Scandinavian (which makes sense because she is Swedish), and she had been unhappy with her small, dark kitchen for decades – unhappy to the point of wanting to leave the house. But last year, she and dad had an extension built with a new kitchen that fits her need for light and clean lines and now she is incredibly happy in her home. Here’s a picture of it when it was just finished:

parent kitchenAlthough my aesthetic is a more cluttered one than my mum’s, it has always affected how contented I have felt in my dwellings to the point that, even when I have lived in squats, caravans and benders with almost no money at all, I have tried to find ways to make them please my eye, or at least feel like they belong to me in some way.

In the squatting and travelling world most people had next to no money, and all our furniture and possessions were found in skips or given to us or bought from jumble sales, resulting in what could politely be called an ‘eclectic’ style of home decor. Looking at some of these pictures now it seems funny to think that I loved these rooms in one way or another. Today, I would pay a lot of money not to live in them.

The first is a shot of my first home away from home. It is the top room in a three storey squat in Falmouth in the early eighties.

my room 10 quay hillThe carpet, chair, chair cover and bobbly lamp shade were skip finds, and the pictures were either lifted from gigs or torn out of magazines. I can’t remember where the painting came from. It looks like squalor to me now, but I really liked it then.

The next one is also from the eighties. It’s a squat bedroom I had in Hackney, London. I had a thing about purple in those days, and I spent about a week’s food money on paint. There was no B&Q with shelves and shelves of coloured emulsion then, instead you had to go to a specialist paint shop and pay what seemed a LOT of money to have a pot mixed for you if you wanted a colour other than magnolia or white. The effect in this very old and tatty photograph is – as you can see – pretty garish. I think the red wall hanging was made by my grandmother and is now sadly lost.

london squat roomMy second purple room was in a squatted flat on Stamford Hill Estate.

stamford hill estate roomThe next picture is of the inside of a caravan we lived in on some wasteland when son 1 was small. We had no running water, no electricity (hence the tilly lamp), very little money and no toilet, and we used to visit the local tip regularly because in those days you could buy things for a few pence. We glued some hessian wallpaper up and made curtains from some material we found there. The table came from my parents’ house (I think) and I covered the kitchen cupboards with cut out pictures from magazines and books. Again, I wouldn’t want to live in it now, but it felt very much like home in 1992.

caravan united downs

But this post wasn’t supposed to turn into a bemused peer into my domestically cacophonous past – it’s supposed to be about home and personal aesthetics. It was triggered by a visit to the home of a much loved friend yesterday. This friend, T, has fallen in love with a man, R, whose home is now hers too. Their home is one of the most wondrous places I have ever been, partly because it is incredibly rooted in family and regional history, but also because R has such a strong aesthetic that it saturates every corner of the place. His aesthetic is kind of timeless but in parts surprisingly modern; it’s very traditional but also includes elements of eccentricity that prevents it looking like every other envy-inspiring home in Country Living magazine. Here are some photos.

R and T’s home knocks me for six every time. I find it almost impossibly beautiful, and my friend H and I regard it as a very special treat to visit. Yesterday, however, this wondrous place struck me as even more of a home than ever before. The air had shifted in some way, and it took me a while to realise that of course this was because there has been a new addition to the place – one that brings with it mess and chaos and the need for an occasional plastic object. Here it is:

Seeing how this unutterably lovely little bundle of disruption has affected this place, I realised that although I’ve yearned most of my life for a home I find aesthetically pleasing (and have now finally got one that’s almost there), it’s not the aesthetics after all that actually make the home.

In fact, the times when home feels most homely are when our aesthetics are being disrupted: when we have Christmas in mum’s perfect kitchen and there are people and dogs and mess everywhere; when an otherwise tastefully decorated Christmas tree is hung with odd lumps of paper and glue made by a child’s hands; when there’s a curled up cat and all his cat hairs rumpling up the sofa cushions; when spouse puts a Darth Vader head he found in a skip on the bookshelf next to my tasteful antique map of Cornwall. A home that is TOO visually beautiful can feel a bit intimidating, and I have visited people’s houses in the past that have given me hideous inferiority complexes. Aesthetics will always be important to me because I’m a visual person, but I’m not looking for perfection any more. Perhaps I can put up with the flimsy fake brass door handles I inherited with this house after all.

carlisle_brass_fg27_georgian_shapped_lock_handle

P.s. If you would like to experience the joy of visiting R&T’s house, they offer various types of accomodation at various times of year. Please see their website for further details.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Unique

UNIQUE. That’s a difficult one.

If I’m honest, I’m with Chuck Palahniuk when he has Tyler Durden say,

“You are not a beautiful and unique snowflake. You are the same decaying organic matter as everyone else, and we are all part of the same compost pile.”

I may not have put it quite as grimly as that, but still, my instinct is that ‘unique’ is pretty much impossible when we’re all made up of the same basic ingredients.

So I left the word rattling around in my brainhole for a day or so while I did the hoovering, sorted the socks, cooked spaghetti bolognese, cut my toenails and other notably un-unique activities – and then my mum’s voice appeared in my idea vacuum saying that exact word – ‘unique’. She has used it on more than one occasion, I remembered, to describe my spouse and why we have managed to stay together for so many years. And lo! I thought about it and saw that it was so. If there’s anyone in the world I could describe as unique, it is definitely him.

Which is ironic since he entirely agrees with Tyler Durden’s sentiment on uniqueness, and most certainly would have put it in such a grim way. He has specifically asked to just be chucked on a compost heap when he dies. I think that may be against the law.

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