30 November 2009

Let's All Keep Calm

From the literally ones of responses that have poured in, it appears that there is concern that people may be defriended. Chillax: no one is going to be defriended.

Today I had my very last set of supervisions for this term. I still have Study Skills supervisions, but no more with my regular students. How irritating it was, then, that my last supervision should turn out to be with my least favourite student of this cohort and my most favourite, simultaneously. My least favourite student is a young man whose abilities as a literary critic are, let us say, in directly inverse proportion to his pomposity. He is very pompous. My favourite student, by contrast, is very quiet, but when he does speak he is always right on the money. My least favourite student is disappointing enough on his own, but having him in a duo with my most favourite student was something like having an inferior diamond on a piece of showroom velvet, then putting a first-water diamond next to it: the first diamond was just bearable when it was alone, but now it's impossible to turn a blind eye to its flaws (although I'm guessing that in that metaphorical (well, similical) situation you wouldn't want to put up your hand repeatedly at the first diamond and say, "Don't speak! Now, go ahead, second diamond" -- although maybe you would. I'm not a gemologist, so what do I know?).

I am sorry to see this term go. I liked pretty much all my students, and my very favourite (from a different cohort) I liked very much. He had a sense of humour, and you could see him actually,
physically struggle with interpreting literature. When he was leaving the final supervision last Friday he gave me a little extra smile, and I was quite flattered, until I stopped and had a look at myself shortly afterward in Boots and realised that all my red lipstick had come off, leaving me with only a bright red lip line, and that my hair was MASSIVE. So I'm guessing the appreciation was merely intellectual. Or perhaps he thought I had deliberately modelled myself on Mrs. Rochester (on the right, there - we were doing Jane Eyre), and he was admiring my themed look.

Incidentally, none of my students in those supervisions recognised Mrs. Rochester as a symbol of potentially terrifying female sexuality and repressed womanhood. This reading has become so commonly accepted in the States that it's now simply understood, not to say banal. So I was very surprised indeed.

In other news, I engaged in snotty one-upmanship with a man on match.com. He contacted me, and I contacted him back. His initial e-mail was widly extrapolatory of my profile, and I wrote back asking him how he'd got these impressions. He responded by saying we should talk on the phone, and I wrote back saying I felt uncomfortable talking on the phone to people I don't know (true), so I would like us to continue to communicate via e-mail for a while (of course I should have cut this all off after his initial e-mail, but, hey, I'm desperate). He then wrote back an e-mail in which he basically flat-out stated I was a weird for not wanting to talk on the phone, insulted the study of Wordsworth (??), told me I was naive, and informed me that I had missed out on something great by refusing to get to know him.

Now, I know it's fruitless to engage with the lunatic, and that there is nothing to be gained from such engagement since the lunatic always think you are the lunatic, but I have been low, and I think I just wanted to feel I was superior to someone. Or to feel that I was in some way worthwhile. Or...who knows. Anyway, I wrote back and corrected his spelling and grammar. Was it petty? Yes. Did I derive any long term satisfaction from it? No. Was it pleasing for three hours? Yes. And that's enough for me.

Boy, I certainly am going to have lots of stories to tell my fifteen cats when I'm old.

And in the final bit of news, I had coffee with Mr. Cielo yesterday (chillax! again. It wasn't a date. It was a hanging out. Although I'll give him credit: he managed to keep a conversation going for one and a half hours with someone with whom he apparently has zero in common). After this coffee (which, as the previous parentheses demonstrates, showed me how little we had in common), in a fit of temporary Idon'tknowwhat (defiance mixed with desperation, I suspect), I invited him to the dinner party I'm throwing on Sunday to honour Pearl Harbour Day (it's my favourite holiday). And he accepted! But everyone else there is a close friend of mine, and they all know each other! Now it will be me, a bunch of close interwoven friends, and Mr. Cielo! To whom I have nothing to say! Argh.

And lastly, BF sent me this poem, saying it made her think of me and this blog. I like it very much, so I thought I'd reproduce it here.

Who Is Now Reading This?

May-be one is now reading this who knows some wrong-doing of my past life,
Or may-be a stranger is reading this who has secretly loved me,
Or may-be one who meets all my grand assumptions and egotisms with derision,
Or may-be one who is puzzled at me.

As if I were not puzzled at myself!
Or as if I never deride myself! (O conscience-struck! O self-convicted!)
Or as if I do not secretly love strangers! (O tenderly, a long time, and never avow it;)
Or as if I did not see, perfectly well, interior in myself, the stuff of wrong-doing,
Or as if it could cease transpiring from me until it must cease.

Walt Whitman

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25 November 2009

The Okay Looking and Darned

When I heat my milk to "very hot," if I put my nose very close to the milk and inhale, I can smell the smell I remember from when my father used to buy us powdered milk while my parents were separated. Before he mixed in the water, the granules out of the packet smelled the same way. I suppose in the heating process the milkness separates from the water, so I am smelling the beginning of the powdering process, perhaps.

You will notice that I am back to making my own hot drinks.

I'm currently reading F. Scott Fitzgerald's Tender is the Night. I remember when I first started going out with Irishboyfriend I read The Beautiful and Damned, and I became deeply depressed. In fact, I think The Beautiful and Damned may be the most depressing book I've ever read. Uch, I wandered around gloomy for at least a week. Fitzgerald is interesting: clearly, he was able to see the desperation and hollowness at the root of the privileged Jazz Age lifestyle, yet he wasn't able to stop living that lifestyle until circumstances forced him to. This ability to see clearly in others the very foolishnesses that you yourself are enacting seems to be a more common life paradox than I supposed, though.

In any case, Tender is the Night is also depressing. Thanks, F! I don't remember The Great Gatsby as a laugh riot, but I also don't remember it as all that lowering: nonetheless, it would seem that I ought to stay away from Fitzgerald novels, because I am now depressed. Although obviously we can't blame TitN for this with certainty (also, the short stories are not at all depressing).

Certainly, circumstances round my way are a bit gloomifying lately. For one thing, talk about tango seems to be taking a larger and larger role. Not tango itself: just talk about it. This is sad, because I like talking about tango to some degree, but now things have got to the stage where anytime it's mentioned I feel myself tensing up and all the joy leaking from my heart. It reminds me of that scene in Remington Steele where Laura and Mr. Steele go to Mexico, and every band that comes by at dinner plays "Guantanamera." "Guantanamera" is an enjoyable song, but you don't want to listen to it at dinner every night, especially repeatedly: to make the simile a bit more apt, Carlos Gardel is a fine singer and his tango songs are moving, but if he simply burst into song every time I sat across from him at dinner (which would admittedly be pretty extraordinary, because he's dead), I would soon choose not to sit with him, and I would grow to dislike his songs greatly.

Secondly, one of my friends is engaged in behaviour I dislike. Even worse, one of my friends is engaged in behaviour I deeply dislike. Usually I try to balance behaviours I dislike against my overall liking for the person, and I can often make space for the disliked behaviour in the larger whole. In this first case, that's becoming increasingly difficult, and in the second case, it's not possible: that behaviour is not just morally unpleasant to me personally but is also being performed in the face of plain evidence that my friend would not like it if someone were doing the same in return. That is, it is not just morally unpleasant (a debatable label, since the only morals that count here are those of the participants) but also illogical and, well, stupid. Stupid in that it reveals my friend to be considerably less reflective and even just sensible than I had thought. So people are being hurt (I know), people are behaving badly (I think), people are not being respected (I believe), and people are behaving ass-ishly (I must admit). Yet I love my friend, and to cease to hang out would cause my friend puzzled pain. Yet I don't feel right making some grand pronouncement, because the disliked behaviour has already been going on for some time.

That one causes me to heave a heavy sigh.

Then, I had a saddening therapy session today. I dislike therapy sessions in which I want to cry, because I consider it shaming to cry in therapy: I don't like to cry in front of other people in the first place, plus I'm there to do rational work on myself, plus my problems are essentially inconsequential in the grand scheme of things, and I'm not going to compound the self-indulgence of going to therapy by self-indulgently crying. So the session was upsetting because I nearly cried. But also, of course, it was sufficiently upsetting that I nearly cried: it's hardly heartening to say to someone aloud that all the evidence suggests that you'll never find a partner, then enumerate the evidence (can you enumerate evidence? or is it evidences?) that suggests that, then admit that you're depressed because no one cares for you specially, then admit in the end (even if you've known it before, and the therapist has, too) that you have no self-confidence and many reasons to believe you're unpartnerable (although I think the stuff after "and" should come under the above enumerated evidence[s]).

I think I'm just going to have to accept that when I look back on my life I will see here a long period in which I was deeply unhappy, with that unhappiness very occasionally interspersed with happiness. And I think I'm also just going to have to accept now that I am now deeply unhappy, and have been deeply unhappy for two or three years. I can't fix this or alleviate it, so I think I'm just going to have to think of it as something I'll endure and then get past. The therapist today suggested that we take a moment "to respect that unhappiness," which if you don't pay attention sounds like one of those crawly New Age things certain therapists say, but if you do pay attention perhaps does something important: it seems to me that it might suggest that that unhappiness is a temporary condition, & hence one that has to be acknowledged rather than accepted.

I also think, as I have had occasion to think before, that perhaps I should just stop being friends with many of my friends. It would certainly make my life easier. I think (as I have had occasion to think before) that I should try to locate some people of my own age and be friends with them. But the difficulty there is that everyone sometimes acts irritatingly, so how am I to say that my new, more age-appropriate friends would not eventually act as upsettingly as my current friends?
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24 November 2009

Pruderie Anglaise

One day last week I was discussing with some people at the lunch table the fact that I'd been trying to persuade B. to stay. One of the people was a friend of a friend, Mr. LaMosca. He knows me, but he doesn't know me very well (and I don't like him much, although he may not know that). He said to me, "Vespertina, why don't you share your love with B, if you know what I mean?"

Now, here we have what I find a strange situation. What I did, I believe, was say nothing, or say something like, "I'm not going to do that." What I wanted to do was say, "You're revolting." What I now think I should have said, and wish I had said, was, "How dare you? You scarcely know me. How dare you make such a grotesquely inappropriate remark to me!"

But the second thing I felt was a kind of amazement at Mr. LaMosca's remark. When did it become all right for us to make remarks
about quite intimate matters in a casual public way? I'm going to bet that my father didn't tell any of his women friends that he had a thing for seeing two women together (even if he did). I bet my mother never had a friend say at lunch, "If I don't get laid soon I'm going to be really depressed," as if she were saying, "If they don't serve croutons with the salad again soon I'm going to be really depressed," as a friend did at my lunch table the other day. I don't want you to say those things in front of me, because I don't want to know those things about you. My sex life is my business, not because sex is bad, but because that life is MINE, not yours. If I want to have sex with my friend to entice him to stay (which, although I'm not entirely sure, I believe qualifies as a low-level form of prostitution), that too is my business. If I talk about sex on this blog, and about my sex life, it's because when I write I conceive of this as having no audience, or at least an audience that will never meet me, and so these are in a way private utterances (yes, this is how I think while I write, although when I'm not writing I know that's not the case).

It seems to me that in some curious way we've lost a sense of perspective, or of awareness, so that the ability to recognise situations in which it's inappropriate to say something has eroded, as has the sense of whom it's inappropriate to say them to.

Or perhaps it's just that these days I hang out with very young people, and so the sense of what should be said, and when, has yet to be worked out?

For me, personally, part of my difficulty in these situations is that I dislike people who attempt to shock or browbeat you with sex: those who make sexual remarks because they want to see you be shocked. I dislike that kind of power, and I dislike giving that kind of value to adolescent idiocy (although in the case of Mr. LaMosca's remark, I think that actually bordered on sexual harrassment). So I sit there and listen to it without flinching, even though I'd like to flinch. And also, as I've said before on this blog, I'm not a prude, and I don't want to be thought one. And I want to be someone people feel they can be honest with, or talk to if they need to, and one of the things people are shyest about talking about is sex. But I guess maybe this is a place where I should take a stand, if this distresses me so much: am I not allowed to say, "I don't want you to talk about this in front of me" or, "I find that offensive/inappropriate"? I've already started saying, "This is not a subject to discuss at the lunch/dinner table," about more general private discussions. Of course, that's taken enormous effort of will on my part, but I guess having exerted that will in one area, I can exert it in another.

I left that party early. I told everyone I had a headache, but the truth is that I left because I felt fat, and because I didn't have a partner. I felt miserable without someone, and when I looked around at all the people who weren't there with someone and who didn't seem to mind, I felt ashamed and a failure for being miserable. It thus seemed better not to be there, so I left, and now I'm glad I did. I missed out not just on having my own multifarious inadequacies thrust in my face, but on being shocked. And no doubt I would have had my sense of being a failure increased when no one else present appeared to be shocked at what shocked me.

Tonight I left the milonga early because my hip muscle still hurts, and I want to rest it. Who knows what shenanigans I thus missed there?

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23 November 2009

My Waterloo

This afternoon I was walking down the shiny wet street when I was hailed by a voice, and looking up, discovered a fracquaintance. This is one of my favourite things that happens in
WhereIlive: I love meeting people I know by chance on the street or in the shops. I don't know if I would love this if it occurred elsewhere (the couple of times it happened in Otherhome it was nice to see the person, but I didn't have the same feeling of warmth about the meeting itself), but here it somehow gives me a feeling of belonging, of being so much a part of the community here that I meet people I know anywhere I go.

In fact, I was on the street coming from a seminar at which we had been discussing a book by my friend J. J. is the sort of scholar who has his books talked about as the topic of whole seminars (in other words, he is a famous scholar), and I wanted to go because I wanted to see what they would make of him. As it happens, they made a good deal more of him than I, because I didn't get a chance to read the extract, and I haven't read the book for years. So I must read it again soon. In addition, though, I found the seminar interesting because as part of it we got into a short discussion/disagreement about whether "history writes literature," and I've been thinking about this topic ever since.

This disagreement started because one of the men at the seminar objected to his sense that J. believes that history writes literature; he said, "History does not write literature." Now, obviously this is a tough statement to respond to truthfully without knowing what he means by "history," and in my usual articulate way I asked him what he did mean: "Do you mean, things that happen to people?" Nice. What I meant, and eventually half-managed to say, was, "Do you mean historical events?" - although what I also meant and mean is, Day to Day Events and Alterations that Arise from Historical Events. As far as I could determine (for the conversation became rather crowded at that point), Yes, he did mean that. So what he meant was, Historical events don't write literature.

In which case, I must say, I believe that history does write literature.

We are our backgrounds, surely? We are other things besides them, but we must ineluctably be where we came from and what surrounds us. I confess here that I just can't imagine how anyone could argue against this now, how the notion of a person as an untouched island can exist. And if we are our backgrounds and surrounds, then it follows logically that what we produce is, too. After all, as a product of the self, what we produce has the same influences as the self that produced it. While I wouldn't argue that literature is simply a flat reflection of history, I would argue that history influences what is written - in terms of subject matter, but less obviously, and I would argue more frequently, in terms of how it's written and how subjects are approached. Indeed, one can validly argue that without the French Revolution Lyrical Ballads would never have been written, not just because the Revolution inspired Wordsworth and Coleridge, or because it opened up society to them in ways that made plain utterance the speech of the common man interesting, but because it forced writers to focus on England, since they couldn't GET to Europe, and the notion of examining the poor of England, rather than some great European sight or theme, arose (or was suggested, or was implanted).

Of course literature also transcends history. We may be our backgrounds and our surrounds, but we're not just our backgrounds and our surrounds. But of course, as I pointed out in the only decent observation I got out in the whole seminar, that's the contradiction of literature: Literature is trascendent, and that's why we study it; but literature is not transcendent, and that's why we study it.

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18 November 2009

Le Nez, La Nariz, Nasus, Die Nase

I am reading a little book entitled Modern Delights, in which various famous people take a very short space to dwell upon one thing that delights them, and the reason why. This got me thinking about what I would put in such a book, leaving aside all the things the contributors already put in. Interestingly, no one selected as their delight Petty Hatreds, in my opinion one of the most delicious delights life has to offer ("Peas? God, I despise peas!" "Look at that haircut! What a stupid haircut!" - these little stabs of rage let you know you're alive and vivid). Nor did anyone select Talking About People You Know When They're Not Around, another joy of minor but complete exquisiteness (a subdivision of this, Talking with Someone You Like About Someone Both of You Don't Like, is perhaps even a little more pleasurable). I cannot select Music, because that goes beyond delight, and I was going to select The Smell of Cut Grass, but Tim Rice beat me to it. Plus, I own a candle that smells like cut grass, and once something gets into the state where it can be imitated and thus enjoyed separate from its self, it would seem to be unavailable as a source of enjoyment in its own right. So after careful thought I decided to enlarge upon the I've Got a Candle That Smells Like Cut Grass strand, and name my delight as: Smelling.

Right, don't get me wrong. Not the way I smell, but the act of smelling. And let's be clear: when I say "smelling" I mean not just generally being hit by the smells of the world, but rather really smelling stuff, deeply and fully. The best way to do this is not to smell actively (although you can do that), but rather to let the scent seep into you slowly, while you attempt to clear your mind of anything else.

Scent is underrated as one of life's delights. We know we like to see and touch (actually, another one of my delights could be Touching Stuff You're Not Supposed to Touch); we know we like to taste; and we're pretty sure we like to hear. But rare indeed is the person who admits to being conscious of scent, or who gives it primacy. Big mistake. Scent is, I believe, the only sensuous experience you can have that isn't mediated by thought or conscious neural byways, and it has the most plangency of any such experience. And smelling deeply gives you maximum pleasure in this regard.

Let's take the example of spring sunlight. Spring sunlight has a definite smell, and it's one of the happiest smells in the world: it smells not yellow, or even clear, but a little bit hot. I don't mean it IS hot - if I meant that, I'd say it - but it smells like heat. Next time you go out into spring sunlight, give a big deep sniff. It smells different from winter sunlight, or from late summer sunlight (which offers its own olfactory pleasure): it has a little hint of hot lying underneath it.

Most smells have layers, and those layers are very interesting if you don't let them go past but rather try to grab and describe them. The clothes of S.A., for example, smell like an old (but not antique!) dry wooden wardrobe (incidentally, he does not keep his clothes in an old dry wooden wardrobe). For a long time I thought that was just his scent, but then I discovered that B's clothes smell exactly the same way. So maybe it's some male Russian thing, although since they don't eat the same things, and S.A. doesn't even live in Russia anymore, I'm not sure that can be true. At the milonga on Tuesday I put my face partially in O's hair while I led her, and although her hair smelt of coconut (as she confirmed afterward), at that level of closeness the coconut divided itself into several sub-scents: a slight sense of oil or cream, a vague sweetness, and a slight dark nuttiness that I also associate with the smell of coffee (one of my top favourite smells). Books smell a number of distinct ways: some high and acidic, some like inexpensive paper, some glossy and heavy. I wouldn't know any of this if I didn't linger over those scents, at least in my mind, and that lingering is a source of enormous delight.

I would say I think every scent can be interesting and even pleasurable, if you linger over it the right way, but then I remember the smell of feet, and I am forced to admit that such is not the case.

Interestingly but unsurprisingly to those who know me and him, this disquisition leads me to think of my FTT, who perhaps smells better than any person or thing I have ever smelt. He smells so good that the only way to describe it is to say he smells so good that the only way to describe it is to say he smells so good. In fact, the only real way to describe it might be just to say he smells so. But as this suggests, the pleasure of this smell is not increased by anatomisation: its ideal experience is as pure sense; you just open your nostrils, blank your brain, and breathe in. Que onda, indeed!

But perhaps this is true of all delights: they are worthy of examination, dissection, and precise description, but ultimately the primary delight of delight is just revelling in it. So I say, Bring on the scents!

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So. My friend B. has been visiting, staying with me for a week. When he first wrote and asked if he could stay in my room, I was hesitant: we knew each other last year, but I wouldn't say we were close, and in fact we were different in ways that seemed to indicate deep incompatibility. But when someone writes to you and says they've always thought of you as a friend; you've suggested that they could come visit; now they want to come visit and they want to stay with you - you can't really say no, can you? So I said yes, and he arrived.

And, in fact, it isn't bad. It turns out you don't really know a person until they come live in your room. This makes sense, if you think about it and interpret it literally (by which I mean, don't substitute "house" for "room"). You and the other person are in a small space, and even if you're only both there for a couple of hours before you go to bed, that's still the time of day when you're unwinding and thinking most ramblingly. Plus, you see somebody brushing their teeth, and that's pretty intimate (I used to have a friend in college who couldn't stand people brushing their teeth outside the bathroom: for him, you brushed your teeth in private and in a designated area). So one way and another, just by virtue of being around, B and I have managed to discuss what makes someone smart, feminism, finding love, the personalities of some of our friends, our families, our siblings, how he feels about his life, and the plusses and minuses of capitalism. And although nothing untoward has occurred (yes, back down, hopers! This was suggested to me as a solution to my problems as early as February [which seems years ago], but I don't think either of us is interested), I can see now how those "last man on earth/arranged marriage with a semi-stranger" scenarios could work out. Because if the person is always around, and if they're reasonably pleasant and thoughtful (good heavens, he volunteered to make me, and then made me, a cup of tea!), they do grow on you. Purely by virtue of being constantly thrown in the way of someone not totally anathemic, you become attached - and by being exposed to that person you discover they have opinions and thoughts of a type you'd never have expected, and these pleasant discoveries increase your liking of them.

With the result, in this case, that now that B has gone off to a conference for a couple of days I find myself rather missing him - or at least finding it odd that he's not around. And also find myself thinking that my life will be fractionally the poorer when he leaves for good on Sunday. Which I certainly did not think when he left for what was supposed to be forever this July.

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16 November 2009

Because It Is Painful, and Because It Is My Hip

I have pain in my right hip. I've always been very concerned about my knees and hips, because one of the long-term difficulties of a lot of ballet dancers is hip and knee pain. I haven't done enough ballet to have earned that pain, but I've always been worried that I'd wind up with it by freak -- largely I'm worried because I'd be devastated if I couldn't use my legs easily, and this worry makes me keep an eye out in this area. However, when I took ballet in college I couldn't pass my leg from arabesque to a la seconde

without a quick sharp pain in the thigh and hip, and when I asked my teacher she checked and told me I had a muscle that didn't flip over when I circled my leg (although my a la seconde was certainly not as high as the one pictured here). I had no reason to doubt her, and I think it's probably this muscle (which I now see is called my tensor fasciae latae - at least, that's the one that hurts) that's getting irritated, and probably because I don't stretch it as much as I used to. So tonight at the gym I took care to stretch on the floor afterward, which had the double benefit of loosening my thigh (as it were) and feeling really goooood.

Earlier today I had PracCrit supervisions. I've now managed to cluster all my PracCrit supervisions into a single morning and early afternoon, which nicely leaves the afternoon free for other things (in this case, writing supervisions). Even more pleasurable today was the fact that we again did one of my favourite poems (which makes it sound as if these poems just happen to come up. What I mean is, I chose one of my favourite poems), a haunting brief piece, part of Black Riders and Other Lines, by Stephen Crane:

In the desert
I saw a creature, naked, bestial,
Who, squatting upon the ground,
Held his heart in his hands,
And ate of it.
I said, "Is it good, friend?"
"It is bitter - bitter," he answered;
"But I like it
Because it is bitter,
And because it is my heart."

Of course, I've always liked the last three lines of this poem most. I interpret them as a kind of metaphor for the revelling in sorrow that people often do. It's curious to me that we seem to like lingering over emotional pain more than emotional pleasure, but it seems we do, and those lines capture that: I am eating my own heart, yes, but I like it precisely because it causes me pain and because it is mine to eat - because it is my right. There's also a relish in self-destruction there - a kind of auto-masochism - that I find both familiar and fascinating.

The smalls liked the poem too (Hurrah!). But they came up with all sorts of other interesting observations. Probably my favourite was that the description of the way the creature holds his heart makes it vividly physical, so that there's a visceral sense of the repulsiveness of the act (I had felt this repulsion, but never thought about what in the text produced it), so that the heart is simultaneously an object and a symbol (this simultaneity is quite hard to produce in your head, and is thus quite fascinating). But I also liked one student's point that the two "bitter"s, separated by the dash, give a sense of two divided halves meeting each other, thus reflecting (or suggesting) that the meeting between the speaker and the creature is a similar such meeting, and another student's observation that whereas the instinctive reading encourages us to give the creature an ugly (in fact, bitter) tone, it is possible to read it as simply thoughtful or accepting, reflecting or simply commenting, rather than relishing.

Way to go, students!

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15 November 2009

Yo Soy La Milonga Longa

Tonight was the autumn all-night milonga, much anticipated and eagerly attended. And indeed it was very good, although this seems to be one of those nights when I managed to alienate or escape the attention of every man I know, bar one. I did see my VTTT, and also OSF, but neither one danced with me. Indeed, only once was I danced with by someone who wasn't already my friend - although to be fair I came home early because my feet are in agony, so who knows what might have happened? As it was, though, it's one of those nights where if you wanted to you could believe that you'd done some unknown thing to make everyone mad at you.

I don't believe that, though, and it isn't what I want to blog about. What I want to blog about is my FTT. I haven't mentioned him for a very long time, and you might have thought he'd left. But no! He's still very much around, and in fact he plays a larger role in my life than he ever did. Just not as my FTT. But he still dances tango, and he sometimes still dances it with me. And he danced it with me tonight, and while he was doing so I realised that I love dancing with my FTT more than anyone else I dance with.

I think my VTTT is the best tango teacher in the world. I'll have other tango teachers, I know, and they'll probably teach me all sorts of cool and interesting things, and because I'm more advanced I'll probably learn more with them. But no tango teacher, I'm willing to say now, will ever be as good in my eyes as my VTTT. He was exactly right for me. And in just the same way, I don't believe I'll ever enjoy dancing with anyone else as much as I enjoy dancing with my FTT. He takes you in his arms and it's like...it's like trust made into action. He smells just right, and the way he holds you is gentle, but simultaneously certain: you feel that he knows everything about how to do what you're about to do together, and that he'll make sure you do it smoothly (of course, this is true. I see him dancing with other women, and I can see how he's reading them to learn how to compensate for them, but to compensate in such a way that they never know he's compensating). And his steps are so small, and even when they're not small they're intricate and clever, so when you follow them, if you're going to follow them as well as you want to, you have to be him a little bit. It sounds mad, I know, but it's sort of like dancing with a parent's whisper, or with the hand they stroked you with when you were little and sick, and at the same time it's like having an intensely private experience - not sex, but a private experience - in public.

Now another thing. The dress I wore tonight comes up to my middle back, and when we were dancing he put his hand on the portion of my back not covered by my dress. Of course he put it on my lower back as well, and for the most part, but just for a few seconds he put it on my bare upper back. He didn't mean it intimately, and I didn't take it intimately: it was where he had to put his hand to guide me, and it was where he happened to put his hand. But simply as a physical experience rather than a gesture with intention behind it, and indeed in the very casualness of its assumption of necessity and acceptance, it was the most intimate physical gesture I've experienced in months. And it felt so nice.

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09 November 2009


Well, reader, I have had a date. A date that went quite well but then didn't pan out. The date - let us call him Mr. Blue, although we could just easily call him Mr. Green (this would be a hilarious joke if you knew his real name) was zippy and lively, but he is also very busy. As a result, although he at least appeared very eager to set up a second date, he did not get in touch by the time he promised to, to set up said second date. I dislike being forgotten about, and I dislike being made to feel that I can be placed on the back burner, but I accept that busy people have busy lives, and that I may be being irrational in my sensitivities. So I contacted him; he was most apologetic and promised to get in touch by the end of last week. As, indeed, he did not. He did get in touch today, apparently with no memory that he'd arranged to get in touch by the end of last week - and when he got in touch, it was to say he had no time this week, but perhaps could squeeze me in next week.

Now, you may say that the guy might just be incredibly busy. You might also say that even if he got in touch late, and even if he got in touch to say he couldn't see me, he still got in touch to tell me he'd like to see me. You would be justified in both these comments. But my response would have to be that I don't want to begin a relationship with someone I'm going to see once every three weeks, and I don't want to begin a relationship with someone who either can't get in touch by the time he promises to get in touch, or forgets when he promised to, or doesn't rank me high enough to get in touch when he says he will. In any case, I told him I didn't want to see him again.

Of course, I am an elderly woman of manifest unattractiveness, but, as I said to S. this morning, I seem incapable of settling for a second-stringer and have too much dignity and shame to have some sort of fling with someone embarrassingly younger, even if that were an option. So I had better find some way to come to terms with the very real possibility of being alone for the rest of my life, and to negotiate that.

In any case, this is not what I wanted to discuss. Part of the easiness with which I gave up Mr. Green (or is it Mr. Blue?) arose from the fact that there were already things that bothered me about him: he cursed casually in conversation; he leaned into my space across the table (more alarming than irritating, but...); he did that thing where the person asks a question and then partially answers it themselves. But above all of these was the
fact that he referred to me not once, not twice, no, not even just three times, as an "Anglophile." I loathe being called an Anglophile. Now, strictly speaking the definition of "Anglophile" is "a person who is fond of or greatly admires England or Great Britain," and I would be willing to say I am fond of England or Great Britain. But this is one of those situations where nuance matters a great deal. For one thing, I do not "greatly admire" Great Britain. There are many things about Great Britain that I downright hate: the TV licence; the inability to complain calmly; the shop assistants who make you feel that you're disturbing their lives by asking for help; the drinking and the fatness. But even leaving those aside, I am not an "Anglophile." "Anglophiles" have mugs with Princess Diana on them, and cushions with the Union Jack. "Anglophiles" talk about "pea soupers" and "high tea." "Anglophiles" do things like go to the Lake District to look at the Romantic views. "Anglophiles" love Brighton Rock because it depicts Brighton just the way it used to be, even though they've never been to Brighton, so how would they know?

I have a mug with Struwwelpeter on it, and a cushion with a pineapple (don't ask). I have never uttered the words "pea souper" without ironic emphasis in my life. You couldn't get me out on a viewing tour of the Lake District with a whip and the promise of a snog by David Tennant when I got off the coach. And the thing that struck me most forcibly about Brighton Rock was that Richard Attenborough's head looked massive - much too big for his body.

Look at that! It' s like some freakish melon (he was excellent, though. And it was an excellent film. And probably the hat makes the head look bigger than it is). (Actually, now that these two photos are placed near one another, I notice a certain "large head" theme.)

Also, and let me cite this as my main piece of evidence, I live in England. "Anglophiles" do not live in England. They visit England, where they wander around the streets saying, "Oh, Gahd, it's so old!" and when they get home to America (note use of home) they say things like, "And at the hotel breakfast was just dry cereal and juice! It's what they call a Cahntinental Breakfast. But we luhved the Tower of London, didn't we, Ted? They have these guys in red suits guarding it called Beefeaters, 'cause of the beef they used to get to eat!" The last time I went to the Tower of London (twenty years ago), I spent all my time thinking that those crown jewels must be fake versions of the real ones, because you'd have to be mad to put the real ones on display. And you know what? They are!

So I am not an "Anglophile." I am a German resident in England; at a pinch I will accept American resident in England.

In other news, tomorrow night I'm attending a party where I might just get to meet Tom Stoppard. Although considering the "couldn't talk to Nick Lowe for fear of making a hair-related fool of myself" and "began a conversation with the world's foremost Byronist by telling him I loved him" experiences of yore, I'm not altogether calm in my mind about how such a meeting might go.

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07 November 2009

Other Blogs

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06 November 2009

Vocal Exercises

This blog posts by time of writing, which means that if I have a post I want to come after another post, I actually have to create it first. In this case, I do have something I want to come afterward, so I created it first and it's below. But I wanted to start off with something less serious and more pleasant, so this one appears first.

I remember once when I was TAing for my advisor, she told the class that in Don Juan "Byron finally found his voice," meaning that he finally found the voice that suited him best, and in which he could do most. As you know, I'm working on a novel. This is hard going - novels are not easy to write, and it turns out they're even less easy to write if you are trying to make them work well as you write them (who knew plotting took so much thought? Well, Charles Dickens, as it happens. He plotted all his novels in detail). But I think I've found my voice. I expect it will be irritating to some, if not to many, but it really is my voice: the right one for me, and the one in which I feel comfortable. Or perhaps it might be better to say I've found my idiom; I've found the way of moving and constructing the speech of the novel so that it allows me to do what I at least think I want to do.

ANYway (BUEno), in PracCrit this week we prac-critted John Donne's "A Valediction, Forbidding Mourning." The smalls had terrible trouble with it, but I have none, and the last poem I put on here went well, so I thought I'd put this one, too:

A Valediction, Forbidding Mourning

As virtuous men pass mildly away,
And whisper to their souls to go,
Whilst some of their said friends do say,
"The breath goes now," and some say, "No,"

So let us melt, and make no noise,
No tear-floods, nor sigh-tempests move;
'Twere profanation our joys
To tell the laity our love.

Movement of the earth brings harms and fears,
Men reckon what it did and meant;
But trepidation of the spheres,
Though greater far, is innocent.

Dull sublunary lovers' love
(Whose soul is sense) cannot admit
Absence, because it doth remove
The thing which elemented it.

But we, by a love so much refined
That our selves know not what it is,
Inter-assurèd of the mind,
Care less eyes, lips, and hands to miss.

Our two souls, therefore, which are one,
Though I musto go, endure not yet
A breach, but an expansion,
Like gold to airy thinness beat.

If they be two, they are two so,
As stiff twin compasses are two:
Thy soul, the fixed foot, makes no show
To move, but doth if th'other do.

And though it in the center sit,
Yet when the other far doth roam,
It leans, and hearkens after it,
And grows erect as that comes home.

Such wilt thou be to me, who must,
Like the other foot, obliquely run;
Thy firmness makes my circle just,
And makes me end where I begun.

Ah, such a poem!

And yes, that is a dirty joke in the second-to-last stanza.

A wasp has flown into my room and landed on the far wall. I believe it's fallen into the torchiere lamp and burned to death, but I'm afraid to check, because I'm afraid that when I look inside the lampshade, if it's not dead it will leap out and sting me in the face.

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Difficult Thoughts

I've been watching the American TV show "Mad Men" on DVD (and also, cheatingly, on iTunes -- but I have to stop that; it's very expensive). I like "Mad Men" a lot - I like the clothes, I'm vaguely interested in the characters, and I like the acting. The show is set in an ad agency in the early 1960's, and I think what I like best of all is the way they all speak, more clearly and precisely than we do now. I think the actors and creators must have made a conscious decision to have the characters speak this way, perhaps to be true to the time, and I like it so much that now I'm trying to speak that way myself.

This is all neither here nor there, because what I want to talk about has nothing to
do with speech, or with clothes. What I want to talk about is the episode of the show I watched earlier this week. In that episode, the beautiful and very voluptuous secretary who is the sexpot of the show got raped on the floor of her boss's office by her fiancé.

When I was a teenager, the state I lived in had no marital rape law. In fact, I don't think many American states did. The issue was under review in my state, though, and because it was thus drawn to my attention I've always been aware of it. Spousal rape is a curious thing, because (as prosecutors know) if it isn't violent rape but rather "simply" non-consensual overpowerment it's hard to prove. Also, at least one argument goes, since sometimes women have sex in marriage or relationships when they don't really want to, how do you draw the line between sex you have reluctantly, and rape?

Well, let me tell you, if you'd watched this episode of "Mad Men" you would not have asked that question, and you would never ask it again. The woman in this episode is essentially overpowered by her fiance; it's what we would now probably call date rape: "You know this is what you want." And as he's having sex with her the camera focuses on her face - an obligatory shot, of course, but the woman playing the secretary had such a look: not of pain, nor of anger or sorrow, but simply of humiliation. There was no obvious forcing going on, in the sense that no one was slapping anyone or gripping anyone or even really doing anything that wouldn't happen during consensual sex (although I couldn't help thinking to myself that she must have been dry, and that they weren't showing that discomfort), but that look of shame, of having betrayed the essential self, was terrible enough. And I thought to myself, naively I suppose, that anyone who's ever wondered why that should be a crime, or even just why it's unforgivable, doesn't have to turn to the realm of rational arguments: they just have to see that look. The inner experience that produces that look look makes it unforgivable.

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04 November 2009


The thing about deciding to stay away from the losers and the clearly third-stringers is that when eventually it dawns on you that a loser or a clearly third-stringer is all you're going to get, you have alienated all of them. And then it's just you, fifteen cats, and the gas stove.

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03 November 2009

In Fall a Young Man's Fancy Turns to Love...

...it seems. A middle-aged woman's, too, but it appears the young man is or young men are having more success.


Names, reader, are strange things, and they play a surprisingly large role in my life. As it happens, I hate my name. This will not make much difference to you, as you don't know my name, but hate it I do. Fortunately, it's one of those names that you can make a number of other names out of, and most of those names I like much better -- unfortunately, I can't decide which one I like most of all, so I just introduce myself by my real name (also, I feel curiously that introducing myself by another name would be a lie). Undoubtedly my favourite of all the names I get called is the one O.M. calls me. Second favourite is the one that sounds almost like my name but isn't. But because both of these are long I don't think they will catch on. So I am known by my lousy real name, or, to a very few, by a family nickname.

If I tell you that this family nickname is limited only to those invited to call me by it, and that if you call me by it uninvited I will, in fact, tell you not to call me by it, you may get some sense of my involvement with names (interesting fact: my VTTT called me by this nickname after knowing me for two weeks, and he is the only person I've let call me by it without invitation, and after so short a time). But you would not have the full sense. For I have, gent. reader, a bizarre taxonomy of naming that no one has ever managed to figure out, including me (and BF and I once spent a fair amount of time trying to do so).

The initial rules are fairly simple:
  • If I don't know you at all, you are called by both your names when I refer to you in conversation. So, for example, all famous people I talk about are called by their full names: "Brandon Flowers," "Roddy Frame," etc. (the exception here is writers, who are called by their last names).
{subsective remark: I hold in enormous contempt those people who refer to the famous by first names only. These people come under the label "morons" (a label with a different but hazily different meaning than "idiots," but that's for another post). If you don't know someone famous personally, don't call them by their first name.
  • When I get to know you, I will then call you by your first name.
  • If I know you, and you are my age or younger, I call you by your first name.
  • If I know you and you are substantially older or in a position of power over or in relation to me, I call you by your surname plus an honorific.
Pretty simple, you would think. But oooooooooooh no! For there are bizarre byzantine byways here. For example,
  • If I know you and like you very much, I will probably continue calling you by both your names, to your face.
  • If I know you and dislike you, I will continue calling you by both your names, but not to your face.
  • If I do not know you and do not know your name, I will almost certainly give you a nickname, which I will use in all conversations about you, even after I know your real name. Once I come to know you, I will cease to use that nickname.
except in certain unclear and non-parameter-defined instances. So...my VTTT will always be my VTTT to me (and, in fact, I have no idea whom S.A. is referring to when he calls him by his actual name, and in fact in fact I find such references vaguely distasteful, as if he's calling him by some made-up name),

( and furthermore, if he weren't called my VTTT, I would undoubtedly call him by both his names.)
  • If I have given you a nickname and then come to know you, but have known you only by that nickname for a long period of time, you will retain your nickname (even if only in my mind alone) forever.
{subsective, speculative, interpretative remark: in both cases above, it seems that there is a tipping point after which your nickname simply becomes your name. After that, your real name will always sound weird to me.
  • If you have an amusing name, I will continue to call you by both your names forever, or the name that is amusing only. So Seamus Right has always been called Seamus Right, even after I got to know him quite well. And Mr. Perfect, the tango dancer, is always called Mr. Perfect.
  • If I am romantically or sexually attracted to you, and only I know it, I will use your name to other people as little as possible, and I will be careful inside myself when I do, because just saying it will remind me how much I like you, and I'm afraid other people will see that on my face.
  • In contrast, I will use your name unnecessarily often in conversation with you, because saying it will be a secret mark of love for me, so when I say it I am telling you I love you.
  • If I love you and we are involved, I will almost certainly often call you by just your last name plus whatever honorific is applicable, e.g., "Dr. Higher."
  • If I do not like you, but I don't want people to know that I don't like you, I will not use your full name or otherwise, but will simply call you "that man/that woman," plus a descriptor of you, e.g., "that boy who plays the piano."
  • In some cases, if I am sexually or romantically attracted to you and other people don't know it, and I don't know your name - or I do - I will also refer to you in the manner above.
So, you see, it's all quite complicated and mysterious. Names, it's plain, mean quite a bit to me, although it's unclear just how. Perhaps I am secretly Native American. Be thankful I simply call you "reader": consider what I could be calling you.

O.M. complained about my predictions. "Why can't everyone get to be happy?" she asked. So here are some predictions in which everyone gets to be happy:

Sometime in the near future...ONE WOMAN will encounter a man she is attracted to...ONE MAN will kiss a woman he is attracted to...and ONE WOMAN will keep her job. THREE PEOPLE will find themselves loved by the same person. And, in the LONG RUN...all will be well.

And finally, let us all spare a moment of silence for Claude Levi-Strauss, dead today. He was a seminal social anthropologist, a sensible man, a stereotypical vision of a French intellectual, and my friend M.X.'s mother's boss. M. Levi-Strauss, I, personally, salute you for your essay on the incest taboo. It was very helpful to me.

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02 November 2009

Hathing a Blog

You know how sometimes you discover something that makes you realise there are other people out there like you, and it makes you happy? Well, this has happened to me with Geoffrey Chaucer Hath a Blog. You wouldn't think that there'd be anyone out there who would devote themselves to writing a blog entirely in Middle English - an idea I find extremely funny - and you certainly wouldn't think that there'd be very many people out there who'd want to read such a blog. But you'd be wrong on both counts! Someone has written a blog in Middle English, and it has tons of fans.

It's impossible to explain to you how funny this blog is. First of all, it employs modern idiom, but in Middle English spellings, so that at one point "Chaucer" describes himself as feeling like a "yonge lover who hath ydumped been." Second of all, sometimes it's just plain silly, as when he devotes an entire post-half to "Lynes of Pick-Up." And it's clear the writer has lavished huge amounts of time on it, so that you get carefully executed and witty things like this:

But the most delightful thing about it is that it's clear the writer and many fans are totally into it. They find it funny, too. So just when I feel like the only OCD lit nerd on the planet, with a weird sense of humour to boot, it turns out I Am Not Alone.

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To Heaven and Beyond

Well, it's been Hallowe'en: my second Hallowe'en here. In fact, my second Hallowe'en here was remarkably like my first Hallowe'en here, in that I wore my nurse's uniform and went to the college disco (this year rather unfortunately named "The Hallowe'en Bop." Blech). The big difference, though was that I went with a group of friends (also, the nurse's outfit was a bit too tight, as I've gained some weight). And I got to talk to Mr. Cielo!

"But who is Mr. Cielo?" I hear you ask. Fair enough! Mr. Cielo (this is actually his name. Well, sort of) is a friend of a friend of mine, but even before I knew he was her friend he was, as he remains, a very cute guy who's at my college.

There are many kinds of good looks, reader. There are "Who's THAT guy?" good looks (I've met one of those here, as well). There are the good looks discussed quite recently on this very blog. And then there are the kind of good looks that make you go "oo!" when you see them, and make your day a little brighter for a few seconds. Mr. Cielo has this kind of good looks.

"But what does he look like?" I hear you cry. Yes, this is a bit of an odd one, because although I myself find Mr. Cielo lush, my friends are mystified. So perhaps what he looks like will not be attractive to you. I would say, he looks like some sort of toughened-up Slavic aristocracy - perhaps the heir of a family that had some peasant blood brought in to revivify the stock. A simpler way to approach this question would be to say, Waddya think he looks like? I'm the least imaginative person in my physical taste ever, so naturally he's reasonably tall (although the accessible side of tall, so perhaps about 6 ft. at the most), very slim, with blue eyes, a large nose, high cheekbones, and pale skin. But the sad truth is, reader, that the best way to describe Mr. Cielo is to say that he looks like, well, an ideal SS recruit. I'm sorry, but this is really true, because I found a recruiting poster for the SS online when I went to look for a photo for this very post, and the man pictured looks remarkably like Mr. Cielo:

This is quite ironic, really, because Mr. C. is Silesian, which means he's Polish, which means he would have been second in line for the chop, after me.

(Incidentally, when I went looking for pictures on the internet, I found a site that specialises in selling SS memorabilia. How gross is that? I've done my best to remove all Waffen indicators from the picture above, but I'm still of two minds about including it.)

Anyway, it turns out Mr. Cielo is quite the flirt, so we stood around and flirted for a bit. Twice. Yes, but the difficulty with flirting is that eventually it runs out - light banter can only be sustained for so long - and then you either have to move it along (not something I particularly wish to do after 15 minutes) or part. I opted for parting both times, but the second time not before I stood outside chatting to him, and discovered that he is one of those men (this type seems to be limited to men) who is constantly checking people out over your shoulder. I wouldn't swear that he was checking out women, because I couldn't see behind me (although I checked out of the corner of my eye a couple of times, and they did seem to be women), but he certainly flicked and flicked his eyes behind me pretty much the whole time we were talking. Oooooo, I hate that! Hey, and newsflash, men: all women hate that. To be fair, it seems to be the province of the scuzzy and the young, which suggests that after a certain level of maturity men at least learn to hide it better (women of course do this checking, too, but they seem to be much better at hiding it right from the start), but until they do learn to hide it, it's very, very rude. Dance with the girl that brung you, as they say down Otherhome way.

So, so much for Mr. Cielo. Which is to say, he's not in the running for long-term partner. But then, he hardly was before. Mr. Cielo has a roguish twinkle, and some truly sexy MLW (mature laugh wrinkles), but as the word "roguish" suggests he is also one for the ladies, and knows he is one for the ladies, and is fractionally too practised at being one for the ladies for my taste. Obscure as this prejudice may be, I feel that if you are a smooth lothario you should at least have the decency to mask your smoothness and lothariocity as sheer linguistic serendipity: "What, this banter? Oh, it just comes to me. Just lucky, I guess." (but then I, of all people, should be aware of how much effort it takes to disguise a practised silver tongue as a spontaneous one.)

Even leaving Mr. C (who was dressed an eighteenth-century nobleman, by the way, only without the knee breeches, and thus contrived to look even better than usual) aside, this has been a week of surprising developments - indeed, some of them have been downright astonishing. In fact, it has been one of those weeks in which there are numerous developments all at once, WHOOSH. Unfortunately, it's unclear how those developments will continue to...er...develop, and of course since I can't name names I can't say who is experiencing which development. So I thought the best thing to do was to present these developments and their possible future outcomes in the manner of a film preview:

Sometime in the very near future....ONE MAN will betray the beliefs he thought he held....ANOTHER MAN will make unexpected changes in his life. ONE WOMAN will move defiantly forward....ANOTHER WOMAN will experience disappointment. ONE MAN and ONE WOMAN may know bliss....ONE MAN and ONE WOMAN may know sorrow. At the very least, NEW CONNECTIONS will be formed, and OLD CONNECTIONS will be loosened. For some...long-hoped events will occur. For others...possibilities will be abandoned.

And the best thing is, it's all as open-ended as that, and it's all completely true.

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01 November 2009


Two posts in one day! Unusual, I know, but I just remembered something else I wanted to blog about - complain about, really.

What is it with the English and toilets (or bathrooms, or restrooms)? When I first started coming to England, it was a place that spurned central heating, and having stores open on Sunday, and decent cakes, and other basics of life that reasonable members of society take for granted. These days it has improved in all these areas: one no longer has to shiver in the corridors or huddle close to the feeble gas fire; one can shop until 5 on
Sundays; as a previous post has discussed, the cakes can be positively succulent. Yet still the English seem to believe that going to the toilet must be a form of punishment: almost without fail the toilets are hideous dim enclaves - rooms that make one suddenly realise the actual, full meaning of the word "dank." It seems that, by some architectural quirk or secret agreement, all of them are designed to have a chill breeze flowing through them on even the warmest summer day. The toilets themselves have the cheapest possible plastic seats, and the floors are made of this weird substance I've never seen anywhere else, like sandpaper thickened with plastic and applied in a gritty sheet. Even my toilet here at home has a version of this floor!

Now, I'm not saying I think that toilets should be lavish affairs, or that one should necessarily give unnecessary comforts to an area that is,
let's face it, not one you use very often, and not one whose appointments you're much interested in as you do. But one could contrive to put together a public bathroom, or a bathroom in a public area (like a store), that suggested cleanliness, pleasant brightness, and perhaps a bit of elegance - indeed, there might even be advantages to doing so. Not for the English, however! The only pleasant and attractive public toilets that spring to mind are in the Russell Square Hotel (quite swish, actually, and in all-white motif) and the Waterstone's on Piccadilly (where they went for a stained wood and tile look). Although things may be changing at least even in this department, because the last time I went to King's Cross the formerly truly divey public women's restroom had been given a gray granite and light grey floor tile upgrade.

(Incidentally, while there I had a look at the take-away amenities machine [because one of my more obscure even to myself fascinations is with what type of condoms is offered in a given public bathroom - yes, I don't get it either], and they were selling "extra-strength condoms." I'd never seen these before, and on the train home I got into a bit of a think about why one would choose to use them: after all, extra-strength would seem to equal thick, which would seem to equal not good, in condom world. Then I remembered that King's Cross is famous for its prostitutes - and it all made sense. How thoughtful of you, King's Cross! Snaps to you.)

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Drawing Nighy

I realise that I forgot to mention that I went to see Arcadia again. I went back in September, and I went with S. This was a lovely experience: it turns out to be great to go to the theatre with an actor, because they pay a good deal of attention to the acting choices that have been made and how they do or do not work. So I got a whole different view of the play. I shall try to go see more with him.

The best sight, however, was neither S, nor Arcadia, but rather Bill Nighy, whom I saw walking down Piccadilly an hour or two before I went to the play. Now, as it happens I love Bill Nighy in any case (dry wit! angular looks! cool glasses! weird disease!), but what makes this sighting cool is that Bill Nighy starred in the original production of Arcadia! And what makes it even cooler is that while he was starring in that production he twinkled at me in a lift!! I was temping at the National for two days, and when I was coming back from lunch in the theatre canteen I got into a lift with many people. What I remember second-most vividly about that encounter was that I was wearing a really nice skirt: a gathered circle skirt (gathered at the waist, but as a result very wide at the bottom) in olive green with paler green and yellow stripes; it buttoned at the front of the waistband, which was about four or so inches wide and rested slightly below the natural waist (which is why it looked good on me, because normally circle skirts, with a thin waistband at the natural base, make me look hippy and dumpy). ANYhoo (BUEno), there I was in the front of this lift, by the button panel, and when I looked up this tall blond man twinkled at me (this is a curious facial expression that only the English know how to make. It defies explanation). It made my day. I had no idea who he was, since I knew nothing about Arcadia or Bill Nighy: it was only a few months later when the play got famous that I realised who that lift-twinkler had been. Thinking about it now, I realise that Rufus Sewell might have been in that lift, too, but I never kick myself over having missed him. I'm just always pleased that I got twinkled at in a lift by Bill Nighy (actually, now that I think about it I saw Rufus Sewell a few months later, anyway, on the street. He was wearing a very nice overcoat: navy blue slouchy wool). This time, though, Bill Nighy did not twinkle at me: in fact, he didn't even see me, although I did try to catch his eye on the off chance that he might twinkle at me again.

As if the coincidence of seeing the star of a play, whom you'd first seen while he was starring in the play, while you were in the process of preparing to see the revival of that play, were not excellent enough, the excellence is increased by the fact that there is an echo of this in Arcadia itself. In the second half of the play, Lord Byron has returned from his visit to the Levant and has become colossally famous as a result of Childe Harold. In the house that he visited in the first half of the play, three years before, Thomasina is very puzzled that he has not contacted her. "Why should he contact you?" her brother asks. "We exchanged many significant glances when he was here," she says. "I do wonder that he has been home almost a year from his adventures and has not written to me once." "It is indeed improbable, my lady," says her tutor Septimus. Well, I exchanged a significant glance in a lift with Bill Nighy, and it seems to me indeed improbable that sixteen years later he should encounter me walking down Piccadilly and have no memory of me. Or, indeed, notice me at all. But thus it was.

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