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I've got a new toy - a shredder! Not as in Shredder, baddie of the Teenage Hero Mutant Turtles, but shredder as in chewing up lumps of garden rubbish and spitting out chippings It's great fun - you poke hedge clippings in the top, and it chomps and roars and spits the chippings out all over the place, ready to use as mulch, and rot down into the garden. So I spent a happy day forcing branches of blackthorn into the machine, scratching my wrists and arms to pieces. Still, I've cleared the hedge trimmings from the front lawn, - it's a start.
Someone actually reads my ramblings! I got an e-mail from some guy who read my February entries - bit of a shock, really, suddenly finding there‘s an audience out there. I'm supposed to teach children to think of their audience as they write, and style the writing accordingly - do I follow this sound advice, or carry on writing whatever is in my head? Since I don't know who will read this, I think I'll just carry on as usual, in the belief that whoever reads this does so because they haven't anything better to do, not because it's intrinsically interesting.
Talked to a couple of friends on the phone last night, both full of apologies that they haven't been in touch, because they‘ve been so busy at work. Worrying that I feel neglected or something - do I feel neglected? No, not in the least. I know they‘re busy. I just feel smug, because I have time to amuse myself as I'm not busy at work. I don't have any money, of course, but is that a problem? No , although I don't like being dependent on Alan, but he enjoys working and would be bored at home all day.
Rejected again! Even the Blood Donors don't want me. Went last night, and they couldn't find a vein in my arm, so they turned me down again. Don't think I'll go again - so there! And my car is persecuting me - the intermittent windscreen wipe is not working, so when I go to wipe the screen it does a couple wipes intermittently, then gets enthusiastic, and wipes vigorously until it gets bored and switches itself off. That was annoying, but I could live with it, but today I can't switch the bloody things off at all, and it's not raining today!
Why can sleep be so hard to achieve? I'm tired, my eyes close, muscles relax, and I start to drift, but suddenly have to wake up again. For no reason. I turn over, settle down again, begin to drift again, and wake up again. And then the thoughts start. The worries, the memories. Things that I can put out of my mind when I'm properly awake, or properly asleep, but in this half conscious state, neither awake nor asleep, I can't get rid of them. The past still haunts me, and I worry about the future. And I can't sleep.
A lovely sunny spring-like day, blue sky, big fluffy white clouds, things beginning to grow in the garden. I spent the day painting the gates green, unfortunately I didn't stir the paint well, and the second gate is a different shade of green to the first, but they look much better. According to the Old Woman, they "look like the belong to somebody" again. One of her more irritating phrases - she used to say it every time I cut the grass. Then I shredded things with my Shredder, and ended up with lacerated wrists and fingers from the blackthorn. Ouch!
I've got a new car! Nasty little thing! Small and low, with a sloping windscreen, raked back so it feel‘s like I'm wearing a cloth cap on my head when I drive. My Big Yellow Beast had to go to the garage to have it's wipers fixed - they're still going full blast all the time the engine's on, so we rang the garage to complain, and they've lent us this one until they can fix mine. It's a Fiat Punto, and it goes alright, but I don't like the low roof, and small windows. It doesn't feel very friendly.
It's been raining all day. Too hard to go and finish painting my fence. So I've had some music on. I do like the Masfel CD, it's very good, loud and satisfying, not like anything else we've got. It is hard to write about music, to describe it in words, when it's a different medium entirely. I could try to liken it to other pieces of music, which isn't much help, given our slightly obscure tastes, or I could get technical, and elaborate on the instruments used, the proficiency of the musicians, but that doesn't describe the response it evokes.
Instructions from the Shed calender: Stand in the doorway and stare at the floor. Very useful advice. The calender suggests several useful things to do this month: on the 4th - make pancakes (not in the shed); 5th: kitchen redecoration day (presumably to remove traces of pancakes from the ceiling after over-enthusiastic tossing); 18th - luxury day off; 28th fix wobble. Last month it suggested arranging the collection of empty jam jars, and size-order the flowerpots, celebrating St Brace-yourself day on the 14th. I really should organise my life around these gems, what better advice is available? Tie pieces of string together!
Yesterday's papers were full of the War - it's inevitability, the lack of support for the US/UK, the fears of neighbouring countries, the potential for escalation and the opportunities it will provide for international terrorist groups. It's very depressing. And nowhere can I find a reasonable explanation for Mr Blair's infatuation with the US. Why should we be linked with them? What special relationship are we supposed to have, and why? We're far closer to Europe than the States - a couple of years ago, Blair was full of "taking us into Europe" why have we suddenly become part of the US?
Irate and indignant again! The Old Woman is being a martyr again, and it drives me round the bend. If she would like me to make her bed for her, she only has to ask, and I'll do it willingly. But no, she prefers to struggle with it herself, only to exhaust herself, and not leave time for breakfast before the Dial-A-Ride man arrives to take her out. So off she goes, looking sorry for herself, being a martyr, because she has to go out and be sociable. So I went shopping - (me - retail therapy? Surely not!) - only the supermarket.
You get asked some strange questions at interviews - what would I do if I ruled the world? Abdicate - obviously! Okay, so it's not a "real" question, the chances of ruling the world while being an Education Officer at Ironbridge Gorge Museum are pretty minimal, so it's a "psychological" question, probably to test my leadership skills, and being flippant probably isn't what is required, but seriously, being pragmatic, what else could you do if you had to take responsibility for the mess the world is in? Any answers, Mr Bush and Mr Blair? I'm not likely to get the job anyway
Spring is here! Lovely warm sun, fences to paint, hedge trimmings to shred, outside being busy all day, and my feet ache, and I've got huge scratches on my arms and my fingers are stiff, but it's sunny and lovely. I've got some new leather gloves, which actually cover my wrists, so my hands are protected, but blackthorn is evil stuff, and attacks me through my clothes, if it can't get my hands. However, I've cleared the drive of debris, and uncovered all the daffodils on the bank before they give up in despair at being smothered in prickly branches.
Strange how offspring tend to dominate the conversations. We had some friends round for a meal, and as always, the conversation twisted round to the Girls. Theirs is smaller than ours, only nine, but they wanted to talk about her just like we do about our Girl. Natural parental pride, I suppose. The danger is becoming obsessive, living our lives through her. I hope we don't do that, we try not to, and to let her go gracefully, but it's not easy. I wanted her to have her brother to share the burden of parental love and expectations with her.
War gets closer - a "peace" conference in the Azores, but only the pro-war leaders attend. Odd double speak - peace when they mean war, diplomacy when they mean bribery. Blair is still frantically trying to get another UN resolution, to legitimise the attack on Iraq -why? Why not try a different method - why not try negotiation rather than confrontation. Diversionary tactics, rather than straight forward bullying? Any half-way competent teacher will tell you that the worst way to approach conflict in the playground is by confrontation, are nations so very different? And, Mr Bush/ Mr Blair, who is the real bully?
The prospect of war without UN backing has caused a split in the Labour party - resignations galore! Well, not quite. Only a minor Aide to a PPS has so far resigned in protest, others still talk a lot, but are still there. There is a feeling that Blair will get a sympathy vote when (if) he allows a parliamentary debate. He goes on about his sincerity, but being sincere in what you do is not enough, if the action is still wrong. No one doubts the sincerity of the Palestinian suicide bombers, but that still doesn't make their actions right.
100 words isn't enough......What makes Tony Blair so suspect is that he talks as if he is working for peace, but isn't. He claims to be a christian - it's an Act of Humanity to remove Saddam - but is happy to send troops out to Iraq with the intention of killing people. I'm not a christian - there's none so atheist as a lapsed catholic - but I've always understood that one of the basic christian tenets is You Do Not Kill. One of the Ten Commandments, no less. And if you claim to be a christian, don't you have to obey?
He should be seventeen today - old enough for his Provisional licence, ready to book his first driving lessons, tall, thin, gangly - he still looks at me with his twelve-year-old eyes from the mantelpiece, and I cannot picture what he should look like today. It's not the past I grieve for, I know he was a happy little boy, he enjoyed playgroup, school, his friends, his family, his bike, above all his Lego and his drums. It's the future that I miss - his teenage years, the band he was going to play in, the girlfriends..... what would he have been like?
We are besieged by insomniac owls. Lovely sunny afternoon, happily shredding branches in the garden, and all afternoon, there was an owl hooting furiously in the oak trees by the stream. Owls are supposed to hoot at night, in the dark, not in the middle of a sunny afternoon. I suppose it's because it's spring, and time for nest-building - owls do build nests, I presume, and I know how difficult it is trying to view houses in the dark, but still, this is somewhat unseemly behaviour, and not at all what one expects of well-brought up owls. No hooting, please.
War is here at last. Sanctimonious homilies from St Blair about the necessity for action. Pictures of George Bush saying his prayers (!). It's bad enough that they start an unnecessary, unethical and illegal war, but spare us the hypocrisy, please. If it were any other country but the US following this course of action, the UK government would be Speaking Out against Aggression, but of course it is the US, so aggression is re-named pre-emptive strikes, and bombing Iraq is an act of humanity. Who was it elected these men? How dare they do this in the name of democracy?
The Girl has been busy again, taking part in a 24-hour die - in, in protest against the war. She rang last night, jubilant because they had had a lot of support from passers-by in Durham, and offers of hot soup at midnight, to see them through the night. Good for her, although I doubt that protests will do any good now. I have just been reading a leaflet from a campaign called conscience, trying to provide an alternative destination for our taxes, so that conscientious objectors can opt not to allow their taxes to go to pay for conflicts.
There was a small anti-war demonstration in Shrewsbury today - about fifty people waving banners and walking round the town square. We hung around with them for a bit, but Alan didn't want to march, saying there's no point now the war has started. I don't know, I think we should still stamp and shout and make a fuss. Nothing will stop it happening, but maybe the protests may make it shorter. There's still world -wide protests, not just the Girl in Durham. Another big march in London, Switzerland, Norway etc. Is anyone listening? Not yet, but we live in hope.
The first pictures of civilian casualties from Baghdad - babies, of course, women, children. The pictures we come to expect from anti-war papers. The pro-war papers feature burning buildings, and glorify the "shock and awe" tactics. Big boys toys! Had an idea for a campaign - start a "this is not...." campaign. Pictures to Tony Blair of injured babies: This is not Leo Blair. Pictures of injured women to George Bush: This is not Saddam Hussein. Pictures of burning building: this is not 10 Downing Street/ The White House etc. Obvious, but do they really look at the pictures in the papers?
Visitors! The Jolly Old Girls have come to stay ( my mother-in-law and her sister). Suddenly the house is full of talking, not about anything in particular, they just natter to each other, all the time, non-stop. They both live on their own ( except they see each other nearly every day) so when they get together, they talk. Makes me realise how quiet the house usually is. Not that we don't talk, we do, of course, but not to the same extent. They sit in the evenings, after the daily dose of Soaps on the telly, arguing over their crossword puzzles.
Took the Old Girls out for a trip into Wales. They were full of delight at the lambs, and the daffodils, at excitement of finding a Safeways in the local town (?). They have a collective age of 155 years, but they still get excited over lambs! Both of them are fit and healthy for their ages, and enjoyed walking along our hidden valley. It did look spectacular, with the trees all bursting into leaf, and primroses and stuff coming out. Strangely enough, they didn't fancy a dip in the prospective swimming pool, can't think why not, the sun was out!
We're sleeping in a castle tonight. Huge black oak carved staircase, leaning badly, enormously high ceilings, icy spiral staircase to the bathroom, dark evil portraits of fat complacent and above all old men, presumably Masters of the college or something. All distinguished by their white hair (or lack of it) and their extremely well fed figures. Most unpleasant. Although we're sleeping in student rooms, I can't imagine anyone young living here. It's very spartan - a pair of beds, singles and squeaky, two desks, two wardrobes and small chests of drawers, all best quality flat-packed furniture, singularly inappropriate for the room.
Marched all round Durham cathedral this morning. It's enormous! The pillars are huge, and each one has different patterns carved in the stone. There's a new stained glass window, celebrating the cathedral's 1000th anniversary, which is lovely. Not particularly religious, but pictures of things like the local glass-blowing industry, and Stephenson's Rocket, and miners and sheep as well as St Cuthbert. Very pretty. Also some nice wooden carvings, also modern, the Pieta Madonna, carved from what looks like drift wood. She's got a lovely face, soft focus and sort of hazy, with a big (deeply symbolic) split through the wood.
Took the Old Girls to Hawkstone Park today, and they managed the trek round the follies. Alan had forgotten how steep the paths are, particularly at the start, climbing up to the White Tower. Good thing I took my hiking sticks, they both needed them. Eileen doesn't like going underground, but wouldn't admit defeat, and followed us through the Serpentine tunnel and frightened herself silly. I had to go and rescue her, ‘cos it was all dark. They chickened out of the Swiss bridge, not liking being suspended over a 200-foot drop. They did very well for their ages.
Anti-war protests are no longer peaceful! There was Trouble in Bishop's Castle, when the Stop the War group's demonstration spilled out over the road and Stopped the Traffic! Considering you can walk the entire length of the high street without seeing more than one car at a time usually, this was Shocking! At least they are still making noises. Around the world, the demonstrations seemed to have stopped being Peace marches, and are now openly Anti-American (and British, by association). Not just as expected in the Arab states, but all round the world. Coca-Cola is no longer available in Germany.
Mother's Day. The Girl gave me a large rattan-work squirrel to hang up in the garden - by the neck! Not sure where I shall put him yet, somewhere as a warning to other squirrels, I think. Two duty phonecalls from my brothers for the Old Woman, but nothing from my sister. I was telling John about the Girl's anti-war activities, and he actually agreed with her and supported what she is doing. First time he's ever shown any political opinion. There was a demonstration on the roundabout in Eastbourne which he almost felt compelled to join. Getting Radical, he is!
Two more job applications completed. Selling myself again. The usual stuff goes on, and we worry about money, make plans for the future, work on the house and garden, then switch the television on, and watch the world falling to pieces in Iraq, and I start to worry about the future. It's not impossible that this invasion of Iraq could trigger a major full scale conflict between Islamic nations and America ( and Britain, by association). Then there's the on-going conflicts (US-backed, of course) - Israel/Palestine, India/ Pakistan, North Korea/ US. And Africa, of course. And I worry about getting a job.
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