December Links Post

Things I have done

  • Reached a stage of procrastination so acute that I thought it was a good idea to start making Etsy Treasuries.

Things friends have done

Things strangers have done

  • Made this great tutorial on how to make your own filigree masquerade mask. I think you’d need steadier hands than I have to make it work.
  • On the theme of tutorials, this blog is full of useful beading tutorials.
  • Created this beautiful costuming and tapestry blog which is full of very revealing and fascinating posts (illustrated with photographs, of course) for anyone interested in those crafts.
  • Written a very charming round-up of English letters that ceased to be English letters as a result of French printing presses, or for other less amusingly xenophobic reasons.
  • Made what a friend describes as “an in-browser tool for making up nonsense words to your phonetic requirements”.
  • The British Library has made available online a truly staggering number of medieval European illuminated manuscripts.
  • Made an entire kit for constructing a language from scratch!

That’s all for this year! Have a happy new year, everyone who observes the Gregorian calendar, and I hope 2013 is better.

Advertisements

Describe “red” without using the word.

This post is a response to one which I shall not link to but which was in my opinion more saccharine and anodyne than the exercise warranted. 


Blood. It is blood. Fresh blood. The kind that comes
from your nose after it’s been kicked or punched or
filled with too much cocaine. Not the dirty old
leftovers of your womb, not the sad, sluggish,
suffocated stuff crawling in your veins back to the
lung for their fix of air. New blood. Clean blood.
Bursting with life and love blood, the spray of the
artery and the streak of the pin-pricked finger tip.
The knowledge that you have lived because you can
feel life leaving you. The blood of your winter-
branch capillaries: the blood that fades to pink in
the whites of your eyes. The blood in your mouth
when you kiss too hard but can’t stop. The blood on
the broken glass of mirror before it dries.
Haemoglobin. Oxygenated iron. An emulsion of
nutrients. The living oil of a machine too complex,
delicate, and astounding to be reproduced except
with mere animal fucking. The blood of a frightened
child’s first proper fall. Blood.

The Science of Communication and the Communication of Science

There are very few Christmas traditions in what I would loosely term “my family”, but one of them is that at some point I sit down with my other half and we watch the Royal Institution Christmas Lectures together and regress to being excitable ten year olds. The very first RI lectures I can remember watching on TV were to do with the progression of climate change, ice core samples, and separating out data sets. The lectures are aimed at children, much like the one – one – my school consented to take us to regarding Faraday somewhere in Bristol in the late 90s, but I have a great love of well-constructed children’s education tools and enjoy amassing Usborne language books, Horrible Histories books (and songs and clips from the  TV show, which is award-winning for a reason), and really patronising and condescending books about science written in the 1930s-50s and aimed at Curious Schoolboys. While I enjoyed children’s literature as a child I had the greatest pleasure from the books which were quite self-consciously trying to teach me things about the world more concrete than “don’t be an ass” and “learn to share, you selfish little prick”.

The rise of popular science writing and popular history writing has been an absolute boon for me: I opted out of history as soon as I could at secondary school because both of the teachers we had for it were unbearable (usually referred to in conversation as “the paedophile, and then the useless one”), and our Science teacher (we had one covering all all three of Physics, Chemistry, and Biology, and took a combined exam) had given up on us as pupils before we even sat down. Consequently, and with a deeply anti-science hippy New Age parent at home during the holidays, I wasn’t given the grounding in the sciences that other students might have been, and while I’ve learnt a lot of practical skills from my mother she was never very interested in the academic pursuit of anything. No help there.

I was eventually drawn back to the sciences by a fleeting mention of quantum physics in a dreadful piece of erotic horror about serial killers when I was 17, and promptly overreached myself in trying to read people’s dissertations on the internet. I ended up falling sideways into a well-known and not exactly well-regarded book, The Tao of Physics by Fritjof Capra.

This post comes off the back of a couple of recent brouhahas, carefully chronicled and dissected by a friend of mine in two posts with which I agree wholeheartedly. There is a bad smell about the idea that one must come at knowledge from a specific direction and that it must be communicated in a specific way: granted, when acquiring data it is important to design one’s data collection methods (be they physics experiments, medical trials, or sociological surveys) in such a way that they will be easy for someone else to repeat as identically as possible, in such a way that contamination of the results with the trial-maker’s personal biases is as limited as possible, and in such a way to make it easy to isolate where you fucked up if you fuck up or the thing you are trying to find out turns into a shit tornado and blind-sides you with Knowledge Which Was Not Really Expected. This does not mean that the same set of rules designed to communicate information between people well-versed in a discipline’s encoded language (usually encoded that way for ease of transmission of accurate information between people who are already very well-versed in the basics, not-so-basics, and very-not-basics) should be applied when trying to impart a general understanding of the subject.

When getting ideas across to people (we were taught in my “Feature Writing” class, which I think I got my worst mark in) it’s important to consider your audience and the access that they do and do not have to specific information, language codes, and social touchstones. For example, if you are writing about something which has taken place in a culture foreign to the readers, you need to take a moment to explain the significance of culture-specific events or tragedies. Often when this happens, we draw on analogies. We say “Diwali, which is like Christmas to Hindu people”. Now you can immediately argue that it is fuck all like Christmas, but the analogy conveys in a limited number of non-sidetracking words the cultural weight of Diwali to people who have a culturally Christian background and no exposure to Diwali, and allows them to weigh up how they would feel if a terrible terrorist attack took place during Christmas, and apply it.

Analogies are very useful tools for introducing new information to people. They provide a frame of reference, and the frame of reference can be defined too: “like Christmas in that it is a major festival of cultural as well as religious importance and basically everyone celebrates it in this country or is aware of it happening around them even if they don’t”. Analogies can be used as stepping stones, or stepladders, to keep raising the audience’s understanding of what they are being told, until they have an adequate grasp on the situation. At each step, once understanding is established, more information can be brought in.

This is of course a lot easier in a conversation than in an article, as you can gauge the knowledge levels of your audience, solicit feedback to determine their understanding of what you have told them, and correct assumptions which have fallen short of the mark.

Analogies are priceless in helping people get to grips with new perspectives, by linking back an emotional truth to their own experiences. What they are not, cannot ever hope to be, and should not be, is wholly accurate. Apart from anything else, the only perfectly accurate map of the territory is the territory itself … which is, itself, an analogy, wherein “the territory” stands in for the expert-level information you wish to impart, and “perfectly accurate map” stands in for the analogy. Analogies are similes by nature. They state “it’s like when someone makes fun of you for your looks” or “it’s as if you walked up to someone and said HA HA I CAN HIT YOU AND NO ONE WILL STOP ME.”; an analogy is not a perfect representation of the facts, it is good enough to get someone onto the next stage of understanding.

I find that the trouble presented both by people who dislike popular science writing and the people who behave as if all writing about feminism must never contain humour is that they fail to understand fundamental tenets of human communication outside of academia. Within academia perfection or as near to perfection as we can come is vitally important. One must be able to defend one’s ideas, especially about feminism, with as much force and rhetorical and moral energy as possible. Academia is designed for competition, and breeds competitive writers.

This doesn’t work very well for communicating to the wider world the importance of the work being done both by scientists and by academic feminists. Not everyone speaks the same language code, even when we’re speaking the same language. Imperfect analogies, jokes, and relating the importance of ideas to practical applications help to break the ice and diminish the intimidating gibberish of an unknown code linked to a background that isn’t shared with the reader: the ability to treat someone as a friend and confidant who is coming with you through the confusing waters of a new but exciting idea rather than a rival to be fenced with is important.

I have seen it argued that the idea that “academic language excludes working class women from feminism” is condescending to working class women, and the argument was made by a working-class woman. Who was an academic. So perhaps the language of exclusion needs to be changed: academic code excludes women who do not have and may not want to have an academic background. Practical feminism would include people whose lives do not allow them to spend their lives writing essays and reading articles and familiarising themselves with the history and theory of a subject; practical feminism requires that analogies and commonalities are used. Practical feminism does not equate “lack of education” with stupidity and it does not value a prestige dialect over a transferable vernacular.

The same can be said of various sciences. The vast majority of people do not have the time or the inclination to dedicate on becoming scientists in the professional and academic sense. The streets still have to be swept; the tables still have to be laid; the traffic still needs to be directed. The inability or disinclination to inhale entire forests of articles should not be a barrier for a person to a) the enjoyment of learning, and b) using the principles of scientific enquiry to protect themselves from shysters and frauds. Providing the average human being with an easy-to-use shield against pseudoscience or an explanation for why thing X does not occur when thing Y is invoked is a public duty, and kindling an interest in one’s field ought to be the entire purpose of communicating about it at all.

I have an amateur’s mind when it comes to both feminism and the sciences. I came to feminism as a child, raised by a second-waver, and missed a lot of the indoctrination which has to be reversed at a later age; I came to science late, after my (arts) degree, and had a lot of anti-science indoctrination to be chipped away at. I have never made my living writing about feminism and nor, if I can help it, will I ever be required to. From the position of an invested amateur, it strikes me that true love of the sciences and a lifetime of dedication to them should go hand-in-hand, and in that love should be the joy of being able to pass on the benefits of a specific discipline or the scientific process itself onto others who have not had the chance to love it as you do. Jealously hoarding interaction with the sciences like a cantankerous, lab-coated dragon behind an impenetrable wall of “imperative” jargon is not the act of someone in love with their field, it is the act of someone in love with the prestige conveyed by enigma.

Similarly, to care about feminism as a movement is to care about accessibility and flexibility of ideas and to be able to apply both “good enough for now” and “we can still do better” to every battle and communication. Turning every attempt to communicate feminist ideas to a wider audience into an opportunity for struggles for moral or theoretical dominance only turns away people who have contributions to make, as does walling up “real understanding” behind academic concepts. A woman should not have to attain a degree in higher education in order to be able to assert her right to self-determination or for her peers to listen to her, and the people who have climbed that particular giddy mountain may well feel that an equality of attention paid to unaccredited feminists removes the prestige of their achievements or in some way belittles the effort involved in fighting the academic battles.

Rather, in feminism and in science, the point of climbing the mountain is to make it easier for others to follow behind you. This, too, is an analogy. It is imperfect, much like the essay; I am the very spit and image of a nobody and a nothing person, hectoring the intelligent and great and good from the bottom of the damn mountain. But I would really, really appreciate it if you would continue to throw the rest of us a rope, and let the populists keep talking.

Sewing: In which I work on my (fabricated) family crest

Fabricated! Because it’s on an old shirt! Do you see what I did? I made a pun! I used to do… stand-up… anyway. I am not sure if my embroidery is better or worse than my jokes. I haven’t really done any for a very long time, and the last lot I did was just a white outline of St Sebastian on the sleeve of a shirt which I think I still possess (the front of the shirt was printed with “LUCKY LIKE ST SEBASTIAN”, which the astute will know is a song by Momus, and the very long-memoried will know is the song which first alerted me to the existence of said saint. I was introduced to the work of the divine Momus by a woman named Catharine, who by not-entire-coincidence sent me a card and a minicomic of a very silly webcomic I was drawing 10 years ago, when I first knew her.

That was an unnecessarily lengthy preamble. I am not deliberately trying to live like it’s 1100-and-something at the moment because I like the internet and antibiotics and warm houses and a distinct lack of civil war in my country, but an over-indulgence in Cadfael and a break from heavy-duty writing means I’ve had to find occupations for my hands, which seems at present to involve “masochistic levels of needlework”.

Progress Shot 1.

I vaguely pencilled in this design by tracing a print-out of my crest, which I inexpertly sellotaped to a Lumie daylight lamp which is actually in my house to stop me from going bonkers of winter. The outline is in black sewing machine thread and was the first bit I did.

Progress 2

Threading the needle for the metallic gold floss was such a pain in the posterior that I abandoned my original plans to do the flourishes in gold and began them in matte silk bronze instead, with black shadows. The little red drop is a bead.

Flourishes

I spent an increasing amount of time unpicking tangles in the length of the thread until I realised that if I just kept the thread short I wouldn’t have to deal with that problem any more, and that the needles I was using for it weren’t exactly hard to thread. Also, I stabbed myself in the hands a lot. Not just in the finger pads, where a thimble might have helped, but everywhere, including in that painful stretch of skin between the thumb and forefinger.

Flourishes 2

The flourishes expanded, using up an entire twiddly skein thing of floss (technical term), and I made the idiot decision to fill in my angel’s banner with machine thread (in wine red) because I didn’t have any red floss. It’s possible to be much more precise this way, but it’s also more fiddly, the needle is harder to thread, and you spend much more time bleeding and swearing.

My grandmother’s level of patience and internalised rage must be phenomenal.

Revenge of the metallic thread

In addition to finishing off the shadows on the flourishes and the obvious installation of the gold thread, I’ve also tied up and tidied up her wing feathers and hair with machine-width thread in the appropriate colours, and begun blocking in her face in white machine thread because, I don’t know, it wasn’t already fiddly and annoying. And also because her skin was smudged.

A word on the metallic floss. It decoheres so immediately that there is little to no point attempting to thread a needle with it as with ordinary floss of the same gauge. What I did here – because I am an idiot – is to remove a single machine-width thread from the skein thing and use the same method I did for the angel’s red banner. This took forever and was incredibly irritating and I don’t advise it at all.

Current

Bringing us up to date: I have begun blocking out the mirroring side, and am thinking about what to do with the helmet and the gaps which are visible. There was no way this was ever going to be symmetrical, but hopefully I can avoid turning it into a giant mess. Ms Angel’s legs have also been filled with machine thread, by way of a diversion from blocking.

I believe it is customary to wish people some sort of festive greeting

As we don’t really do Christmas in my household today has consisted of my boyfriend being unduly delighted about having pants with no holes in them, and watching Casino Royale in the living room while I sit in bed drinking wine and fiddling around with fonts. It may be neither what the birth of Christ was intended for nor what Disneyfied morality demands (I’m not going to visit my family and you can’t make me), but it’s not bad. I have a mince pie now and everything.

I hope you’re enjoying yours, too.

Jewellery Post: Victorian, Elizabethan, and Medieval

22 inch / 56 centimetre strung acrylic and garnet chip rosary with gold-plated curb chain, brass crucifix and Mary, and gold-plated findings.This dramatic and unusual crucifix features a front fastening to make it easier to put on by yourself without having to rotate the necklace or reach behind your head (ideal for fashion-conscious folk with joint problems). Also features a striking contrast between bright red seed beads and deep red garnet gemstone chips.click on source for listing
Click on image for listing

22 inch / 56 centimetre strung acrylic and garnet chip rosary with gold-plated curb chain, brass crucifix and Mary, and gold-plated findings.

This dramatic and unusual crucifix features a front fastening to make it easier to put on by yourself without having to rotate the necklace or reach behind your head (ideal for fashion-conscious folk with joint problems). Also features a striking contrast between bright red seed beads and deep red garnet gemstone chips.

24 inch / 61 centimetre lightweight brass chain with accents, coppertone lobster claw clasp, brass setting, glass cabochon and reproduction of Elizabethan map of London.Transport yourself to Shakespeare’s time with this delicate cabochon necklace: the scene contained depicts a tiny sailing vessel passing across the Thames, with the North Bank in the background, and the original dates from the time of the bear pits and the first Globe Theatre on the South Bank. The perfect gift for the historically-minded or fan of Elizabethan theatre.click on source for listing
Click on image for listing

24 inch / 61 centimetre lightweight brass chain with accents, coppertone lobster claw clasp, brass setting, glass cabochon and reproduction of Elizabethan map of London.

Transport yourself to Shakespeare’s time with this delicate cabochon necklace: the scene contained depicts a tiny sailing vessel passing across the Thames, with the North Bank in the background, and the original dates from the time of the bear pits and the first Globe Theatre on the South Bank. The perfect gift for the historically-minded or fan of Elizabethan theatre.

19 inch / 48 centimetre bronze cross chain necklace with coppertone and bronze findings, a brass setting, and resin cameo.A demure and sweet necklace for daytime wear, this pendant comprises a white-on-black cameo of a butterfly resting on some flowers, reminiscent of Regency porcelain work; the frame consists of very tight, compact scroll-work.click on source for listing
Click on image for listing

19 inch / 48 centimetre bronze cross chain necklace with coppertone and bronze findings, a brass setting, and resin cameo.

A demure and sweet necklace for daytime wear, this pendant comprises a white-on-black cameo of a butterfly resting on some flowers, reminiscent of Regency porcelain work; the frame consists of very tight, compact scroll-work.

Other pieces are available from my Etsy store.

Fiction Post: On an ordinary day in the saddest part of the year.

“Someone should write a book where the main character slowly falls in love with the reader.”
Taking this as inspiration, and I went somewhat awry. I think it would take someone a lot more literary than me to make a whole book of it.

On an ordinary day in the saddest part of the year – a time which varies depending on who is telling the story – I will find myself by the pond in the park. For me the saddest time of the year is also the coldest and darkest: the pond has calf-high loops of rigid wire in a fence around it as a nominal reminder that we must not stray into the ducks’ domain, and in winter they look like prison bars.

Everything else is beautiful, although it’s sad. You’d know if you were watching this. There are fern patterns in the ice on the windows of the closed-down green houses. The ice on the pond has black holes in it where the ducks congregate and quack like macaques in the hot springs of Japan. I would like to go to Japan.

All of the naked branches are clothed in frost and every person who passes is a dragon, or a sudden smoker, puffing out hot air with a little sigh that says they’re secretly delighted, still, with the miracle of breath made visible. My lungs are cold in spite of the coat.

The coat belonged to my mother. I tell all my friends it was inherited from my grandfather, which is true in the sense that he bought it from her, but it was my mother’s coat. The ones who know more about clothes look dubious but no one questions me. I know they gossip about it behind my back, but in the end I can take them to places they cannot otherwise access, so they will not subject me to the same friendly mocking they do each other.

Sometimes I wonder if this would be easier if I was a Catholic. My best friend is Catholic. He claims it makes no difference but I’ve seen him offer up confessions whenever we’re stuck in a toilet cubicle together. Small spaces and close company make him honest whether he wants it or not; I don’t think it’s the drugs.

He told me the important thing about the guilt you’re given is that there is a man in a special costume who takes all the guilt away at the end of the week. It’s like showering after a festival. All the dirt slides off you. God forgives you.

I think that’s why I’m telling you this. It’s easier to be honest with a stranger. I think if you could see this park you’d know why it makes me think of her. Everything is still, waiting for a chance to wake up but forgetting how to, like the world’s in a trance. The plants are hypnotised to near-death. My fingers are a colour they shouldn’t be.

And there are bars around the pond, decorated with icicles like no one told them Christmas has been and gone. They’re … symbolic, I think. They’re symbolic, aren’t they?

Issah (that’s my best friend), says the other thing a priest does is he leaves a silence for you to talk into. Tingting says the same thing about her therapist. But there’s such a thing as too much silence. I’d really like you to answer me. Some sort of sign that you already know what I’m telling you, and you’ve forgiven me. I don’t believe in God. And I don’t think anyone I know would be able to forgive me.

I watched a film. On my own, the day afterwards, because I couldn’t stand to … I didn’t want to be around anyone else then. It was already cold. I sat and watched it on my Macbook in this park until my fingers went numb. It was an old film, one where the black-and-white makes everything feel profound and you think that’s what the past must have been like, more profound. More important. The way the Seventies were just dampened colours and it’s easy to imagine the whole decade was faded and depressed.

It was called The Seventh Seal. I looked it up once I’d watched it, it was free with some promotion, because it was so old. It’s famous. I wasn’t really taking anything in, but I remember the line that they said:

“Faith is a torment. It is like loving someone who is out there in the darkness but never appears, no matter how loudly you call.”

I asked Issah about that and he told me to stop assuming he was an authority on religion when he didn’t even believe in God any more, and I said he still said things like God forgives you when you tell him the truth, and Issah said some habits are hard to break.

My head isn’t cold, because I put a hat on over a scarf. I look homeless. There are pigeons, and they’re loud and alive and even though their bodies are grey they seem colourful against the desaturation of frost.

A week after I asked him that Issah said that the reason it’s hard to let go of God even when you don’t really believe any more is God is the only thing that really has the authority to forgive you for everything. I thought he knew, then. I thought I was going to tell him. I thought he might take it with the dispassionate cast on his eyes that you have, and that I could absolve myself, and we would somehow still be friends afterwards. But the thing is Issah is here, and he can’t see the way you do, he sees things that aren’t the things I show him.

I don’t know if that’s better or worse. The grass has frost on it. Every blade is wearing a coat. Their coats are white and cold, and mine is brown and I had to pull off the lace from the collar. I watched my mother unpick stitches for years but when you come to do it yourself it’s different: my fingers and thumbs bled onto the fabric more times than I could count.

Once God forgives you, Issah said, that means you have to forgive yourself too. That’s like the flag, the signal: you have to forgive yourself now. After that you’re going against God, and self-recrimination is indulgence. He got that part from Tingting. Tingting got it from her therapist. Tingting’s therapist says: “After a point, you are simply feeling guilty for the sake of feeling guilty. You’ve decided to be penitent. It’s become your personality. You don’t want to be forgiven, you just keep on asking for forgiveness because you’re stuck there, stuck in this moment of horror at yourself. It becomes inflated until that moment is all of your moments.”

People walk at different speeds in this weather. The ones who are in pairs shuffle along together, trusting that company will keep them warm. The ones alone are brisk and certain, even when they’re lost. They have no lassitude: that’s for when you can feel the sweat slide between the fabric of your clothes and the skin of your back, not when your breath is white and hanging before you like a warning. You must out-pace your breath.

In one of our toilet cubicle confessions Issah told me. He was leaning on the wall with his forehead and he had just been sick. I dodged most of it. He said:

“When I was thirteen I punched my sister in the punani. Smack in the pussy. Pow. I don’t even remember what we were fighting about but she cried like I’d just tried to kill her.”

He looked at me with that distant clarity of being high, talked with that far-off inflection of wandering through a brain that feels like it’s working properly for the first time. All revelation and no deception.

“I kept thinking afterwards that I ought to feel bad about it but it just seemed really funny,” he says, in my mind, like a loop. “Do you ever get that, do you ever want to feel one thing because you know that’s what you ought to feel, but you just don’t, you feel something else, you feel the wrong thing?”

That was another time I thought he knew. But that time I didn’t think I’d tell him, because I’d made up my mind that it was between me and my conscience. My conscience is creaking like a table with too much piled on it.

I just wanted to thank you for listening. I was wrong about the silence. You’re not judging me, I can see that now. Why would you? You’ll close the book and read another and there will be worse people. I’m not so self-indulgent that I think other people don’t do and think worse things.

And you’re not here, so you’re not seeing my skin lifted up to reveal an ugly streak of maggots underneath. And you don’t know me, so I’m not going to spoil anything for you. You take me as I am. Thank you.

I know you’re impatient. I don’t even know if I’m the main character in this story. I think Issah probably is, or Tingting, or Colin. Probably Colin. Colin’s white. You don’t get many stories like this one, and I think mine’s already finished. So it’s probably really a story about Colin, because he travels around the world and meets people and saves lives, and he always has stories. He is a story full of stories. So thank you again for listening to me, because I only have this one, this one story and the good graces of some swanky nightclubs.

Well, I’m thinking about what Issah said, here in the park, in the cold, with my back to the river that hasn’t frozen and my face to the pond that has. I could turn around and face the river: that would be symbolic too. Guilt is self-indulgence; sometimes someone else has to tell you that you can forgive yourself now; do you ever feel the wrong thing?

Something small with feathers shakes off the ice from the twigs over the bench when it flies off. This is where it becomes too complicated for bathroom stalls and cocaine to really understand. I don’t feel guilty about the thing, I feel guilty about the feeling, I feel guilty because I don’t feel guilty, and how twisted is that?

It’s easy for you, I bet. You seem a compassionate sort. You haven’t closed the book. You’re waiting to hear what it is. You’ll be disappointed when I tell you it’s not a murder or a rape or even one of those disputed places where someone doesn’t want a baby and takes it away, or has too much to drink and can’t remember anything except a girl crying.

I could be lying about that. Maybe I want to impress you. You seem nice. My friends aren’t nice. They’re clever and they’re stylish and everyone wants to be like them, and Issah knows how to say the right things and Tingting works her therapy angle like it’s a mirror, and Colin is polishing his halo and using it like a lasso to snare girls, I’ve seen him do it.

But they’re not nice. Not like you. You picked this up and you’re listening to me. I bet you’d give me some gloves or a cup of coffee. You might even try to hustle me into the nearest café: you might just sit with me in the cold. I guess in a way you’re sitting with me in the cold right now, and I would never say this to any of my friends because they’d snigger at me but that thought makes it a little less cold.

Have you ever felt the wrong thing? I meant to take good care of her clothes and deliver them to her but I didn’t, I just put them in a charity box, except for the coat. They asked me if someone had died. I lied and said she had. I don’t know why I lied to them then, but I know now: it’s easy, everyone knows what to do when someone’s dead. You feel sad and you cry and you move on and you throw their things away and you leave flowers by their gravestone.

I have nothing to feed the pigeons and they are going to leave me soon. Are you going to leave too?

You’re not.

If this was a toilet cubicle and we were doing MDMA crystal and I’d come up I’d say to you, I just feel so guilty that I handed her over to them like that without trying harder, because that is the kind of shit that everyone says when we’re fucked up. Emotions we don’t feel but that we know we’re supposed to feel come on us like a revelation and I suppose that’s why I go out with Issah and Tingting and all of these people whose names don’t matter. It’s only when you’re under the right conditions that you can trick yourself into believing you have the right feelings.

I don’t feel guilty about handing her over. I didn’t feel guilty about picking up the phone and calling them to my house. I don’t feel guilty about wearing her coat after I did that to her. And I know I should, but I don’t.

Instead I just feel guilty that I don’t feel any guilt at all, and it’s so much easier to say this to you. I think it’s because I can’t see your face. I don’t know if you’re a man or a woman or a bearded lady from a freakshow or a drag queen or an elephant that learned to read, even. It doesn’t matter that this isn’t my story and you’re just reading through this conscientiously to get to the interesting part with Colin paragliding or whatever the story is really about. Honestly now, and you know I’m telling you the truth because I’m not in a bathroom stall riding on a crystalline wave of fake truths and pretend feelings with you: I love you for this.

So now you know that for the time it takes for me to tell you this, I love you: can you hang on a bit longer and listen? I haven’t said this to anyone. I’m not going to say it again.

I was relieved.

It was like someone had picked up the whole of her weight out of my arms when I picked up the phone. Every word I said, every time they agreed with me, I felt myself getting lighter and lighter. When they told me a date and a time it was dancing there like the cautious flames of a fire. When I was ten I used to light fires in my bedroom. That’s one of the toilet cubicle confessions I gave Issah. That one at least was true.

You could have burned the house down with the heat of my relief when they came to take her to the hospital. I didn’t feel guilty. You’re supposed to feel guilty and filled with self-hatred and all I could think while she screamed at them and bit them and begged me under three different names – none of them mine – to make it stop, was:

I don’t even know who you are. Just go. Just get the fuck out. Please go.

I haven’t visited. That’s the other thing: if I told anyone about the guilt they’d think I felt guilty about sending her and they’d understand why I don’t visit. The fact is, as deceptive as the black ice on the path over there that’s claimed three couples already, I’m not withholding my affection. I just don’t have any left. I don’t know who she became. I don’t know what happened. I just know that one day it was easier to have her put away somewhere away from me than it was to keep answering her.

And I didn’t feel guilty. And I don’t feel guilty except I think I might be defective. As a person.

And then I think about Issah punching his sister in the cunt and how he just thought it was funny. Or how Tingting’s written a song about the rape that got her that therapist and she calls it “My Asshole Got Busted Now I Get Free Attention” when we’re high. It’s so ugly, like Colin’s girl-getting halo and the shaving scar he claims is from a machete. We’re probably all defective as people.

Are you a defective person too? Is there this one thing that you did, ten things that you did, a hundred things that you did that can drive you out into the freezing cold in the park to watch the sun go down ten minutes after it’s risen? Did you punch your sister in the cunt or have your mother sectioned, did you lie, did you cheat, did you steal? Have you thrown up on your best friend’s shoes, waiting for the rush of honest emotions to beat down all the lies in your mouth, only to realise half-way through the next week that the honesty is the lies you’re telling when you’re sober?

Would you even be able to love me back?


© Delilah Des Anges 2012: for more fiction & poetry, try either my lulu store or searching for my name on Amazon.

Book Release: Hannah Matchmaker’s New Skates

This is a tale of woe and rejection, or more appropriately of “writing something for a very specific market”. A while ago a call was out for short stories about rollerderby for an anthology of said stories, and I wrote a short story about a girl who receives a pair of magic skates by accident, because I thought it would be a nice change from the “by day a librarian: by night a FLAT-TRACK VIXEN” news stories that make up every single bit of media coverage about one of my favourite sports (for the interested, the only sports I really have any time for are: rollerderby, boxing, and MMA). Possibly due to my assumption that people would find this charming rather than weird, it didn’t get accepted.

I was considering posting the story here on the blog, and then thought “I know I’ll make it into an eBook and give it away for free on the Amazon Kindle site”.

Turns out Amazon don’t really like you giving things away for free very much.

Short story: Hannah Matchmaker is struggling to make progress as fast as she’d like at Rollerderby, until she gets her hands on some new skates… A story for fans of Rollerderby who are already pretty au fete with the jargon.(I was trying to give this one away as a free eBook but Kindle were like NOPE MINIMUM $0.99)
Click on image for the kindle page

Short story: Hannah Matchmaker is struggling to make progress as fast as she’d like at Rollerderby, until she gets her hands on some new skates…

A story for fans of Rollerderby who are already pretty au fait with the jargon.

So instead I’ve given it the lowest allowable price on Amazon, which is $0.99USD, and if you’re a Prime member or whatever you can borrow it for free. Sorry about that. I would rather it was freely available since it’s only a short story, but if you think a short story might be worth a dollar give it a go!

Jewellery Post: Now With Added Wallpaper

I’d come up with a better and more descriptive title but at the time of writing this post I have just been into -4C freezing fog and I want to be placed in a bucket of hot water like one of those chilled piglets in that Youtube video.

24 inch / 61 centimetre gold plate accent chain necklace with gold-tone setting, resin cameo, glass pearl drops, and matte rhinestone details. This is a longer necklace but can be shortened to a choker length to suit your measurements on purchase, please either leave a note to seller at the check-out or convo me with the required measurements.
Click on image for listing

24 inch / 61 centimetre gold plate accent chain necklace with gold-tone setting, resin cameo, glass pearl drops, and matte rhinestone details.

This is a longer necklace but can be shortened to a choker length to suit your measurements on purchase, please either leave a note to seller at the check-out or convo me with the required measurements.

23 inch / 58.5 centimetre strung bead necklace with gold plate findings features silver plate bead caps, acrylic beads, glass beads, ceramic beads, vintage glass pearls, freshwater pearls, a silver dragonfly bead, and a Swarovski crystal bead.You don’t have to be mad to wear this dazzling burst of colour, but you do have to love variety! A perfectly unique blend of varying beads designed to really catch the eye and make sure there is always some new colour combination to explore. Goes with absolutely everything in your wardrobe, guaranteed.
Click on image for listing

23 inch / 58.5 centimetre strung bead necklace with gold plate findings features silver plate bead caps, acrylic beads, glass beads, ceramic beads, vintage glass pearls, freshwater pearls, a silver dragonfly bead, and a Swarovski crystal bead.

You don’t have to be mad to wear this dazzling burst of colour, but you do have to love variety! A perfectly unique blend of varying beads designed to really catch the eye and make sure there is always some new colour combination to explore. Goes with absolutely everything in your wardrobe, guaranteed.

18 inches / 46 centimetres bronse cross chain necklace with brass frame and painted glass glitter “jewel”.Simple but sparkling, demure but dazzling, this delightful little contradiction draws the eye without being too showy. Perfect both on its own and with either ribbon chokers or longer necklaces.
Click on image for listing

18 inches / 46 centimetres bronse cross chain necklace with brass frame and painted glass glitter “jewel”.

Simple but sparkling, demure but dazzling, this delightful little contradiction draws the eye without being too showy. Perfect both on its own and with either ribbon chokers or longer necklaces.

As always, other items can be found in the store.

Stop Pretending Art Is Hard

I’ve had an eventful few days which have involved, as a friend poetically put it, “sailing on the tequila river” (I also apparently refused to kick Madonna in the teeth, which I have no memory of but which I stand by even if my sober rationale is a little less profoundly confusing). They also involved dumping myself and my friend on the carpet at my flat so that we could, in her words, “listen to all the sad music in the world, drink cider, and cry”. I am thirty.

In an attempt to reinstate the mood somewhere north of suicidal, my friend (a Finnish scientist/engineer/all round genius, and one of the nicest and most enthusiastically nerdy people you could hope to meet) introduced me to Amanda Palmer’s Ukulele Anthem which I’d never listened to all the way through before.

Aside from being very effective at making us both stop sobbing pathetically into an Ikea rug, because it is very upbeat and catchy and funny, this song did a good number in reminding me that I want to talk about Art. Not the way I’ve been talking about Art in that I Swear I’ll Finish It Eventually 100 Things blog post series, but from the perspective of making art happen.

I do a  lot of furtling around with various things because I am not blessed with an enormous attention span and the world is so full of interest things I want to try my hand at that I will die not having attempted most of them: some of them, like music, I am very bad at. I cannot play a single instrument despite valiant attempts at the bass guitar and piano; my singing is enthusiastic rather than melodious. I still occasionally launch myself at a number of music-creation programs in order to do something discordant and horrifying. I’m no good at it, but I enjoy the process of making it, and I enjoy the fact that at the end, though I haven’t got a perfect piece of work I can show someone, I have made a thing where there was no thing before. Even if everyone wishes I hadn’t made that thing.

Doing things because you enjoy doing them, if you do it for long enough, makes you better at them. This is especially true if you get bored of doing them to the same level and want to make them better or bigger or different, and start looking for how other people do those things, so that you can take away what you need of how they do them. Not everything other people do to make themselves better at the thing you do will help, sometimes the way they do it won’t be the way you do it.

Because there are a lot of tutorial posts on the internet to help people improve at their chosen craft it becomes hard to separate “I do this thing because I enjoy it” from “a lot of work goes into a discipline before someone can become really good at it”; there’s confusion, and people become angry being told “you must practice every day and try out every single way of learning how to be better at this in order to be perfect” when they really just want to make lopsided but satisfying clay models of their favourite My Little Pony characters.

Surprisingly for, well, anything, a lot of truisms about creation are actually uttered on the internet:

  • You have to practice a lot at shit to be good at it. A lot. Like almost every single day. For a really long time.
  • If you’re going to spend that much time working on something it should be something you enjoy. Do it because you love it and it makes you happy overall, not because you think you should become good at it.
  • Sucking at something is the first step to getting good at it.
  • You do not have to be perfect.
  • The methods that work for some people may not work for you; it is up to you to try them out until you find the things that work and occasionally after that keep trying new things. Just in case.

The things that get lost in the struggle to get people to accept one important fact are often important themselves.

Art is not hard, and you can and should do things you are bad at because you enjoy them, not to become good at them.

Being good at art is fucking hard, and takes a really long time. But if you love it, the fact that it’s fucking hard won’t put you off.

For my own part, music falls under “I like making it but don’t care to become good at it”, visual arts come under “I know ways of getting the results I want but rarely enjoy it, so I never practice enough to become good”, jewellery comes under “I am better at it than I was and I enjoy making it so I keep getting better”, and writing is “I have been doing this for a very long time because I enjoy it, I want to get better at it, and the fact that I love it and want to get better at it means that I don’t find trying to get better such a hardship”.  There are people for whom everything is “I love it and want to be brilliant at it” and there are people for whom everything is “it’s fun but I don’t care if I’m never any good”.

And that’s the third point:

Both are okay.