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Photo Post Of The Week (sort of)

In which we remember Christmas


First off: we’ve got a visitor coming again, a week today. Does anyone from Bristol who might be reading this know of anything interesting that might be happening next weekend? Anything artistic, or musical, that’s maybe a little quirky and offbeat, that we can take him to? After all, there’s bound to be something.

Secondly: although I still have at least 6 or 7 weeks backlog of photos to get online, most of the ones I’ve been posting to Flickr this week are shots that have already appeared on the blog, in a few days over Christmas.

Having said that, though, here are a few of this week’s uploads, from Christmas itself.

Family Christmas Family Christmas Family Christmas

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Anniversary

In which FP remembers things that happened on this day


On this day last year, we spent most of the day travelling, in the car, on planes and in airports. We drove from Yorkshire to Manchester; hopped from Manchester to Denmark and from Denmark on to Latvia. I spent quite a few blogposts beforehand writing about how excited I was; but only a couple, afterwards, talking about how great the trip had been.

Today isn’t going to be nearly so exciting. The Parents are coming to visit for the day; and we are spending the day shepherding them around, letting them take us out to lunch, trying not to get too annoyed with them, before taking them back for their train home.

Nevertheless, for me, this is a bit of a special day. It’s the first birthday that I’ve had since me and K have been living together properly; so it’s definitely going to be one to remember.*

* My 0x1fth birthday, if you must know. I have asked K if next year I can have a cake with “20” on it, and she looked at me suspiciously.

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Advent

In which The Mother sends an advent calendar


Despite my age, my mother still makes sure to send me an advent calendar every year. I’m not quite sure why she feels the need. She buys me one, sends it, we remember to open the doors for a few days, then leave it and suddenly remember, around the 20th, that we now have a few weeks worth of chocolate to eat. So far this year we’ve opened it every day, but I’m not really sure how long that’s going to last.

When I was small, of course, I got one every year – but always kept the previous years’. This was in the days before chocolate advent calendars – or, at least, the days before my mother felt it worth buying chocolate advent calendars, which I didn’t start receiving until the 90s. Back when I was a child, every year on the first of December the advent calendar collection would be stuck up on the doors of the house, and every day thereafter I’d run around the house opening each day’s doors. We did, after a few years, start running out of doors.

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Photo post of the week

In which we photograph the deep blue sea


I grew up not far from the sea. I didn’t go down to the beach or the seafront very often, but I was close enough that you could see out to sea from the top deck of my school bus. I’ve always felt good by the sea.*

On the other hand, I grew up in an area where the sea is the colour of weak milky tea. So it’s always nice to go somewhere and find that the sea can, actually, sometimes be storybook blue.**

Mouth of the Carrick Roads, Falmouth Gyllyngvase Beach, Falmouth Porthminster beach, St Ives
Boat, St Ives St Ives harbour Boats, St Ives

In other sea-related (or, at least, tidal) news: the mystery words on the shore of the Avon, which we spotted last weekend and posted about, have been identified: an artwork to highlight litter in the sea, by an artist called Pete Dolby. Thanks to Liz for writing and letting me know.

* You could argue some sort of genetic memory, because my mum’s family’s descended from a bunch of 19th-century Cornish fishermen (and smugglers, no doubt), from Looe and Polperro. On the other hand, my dad’s family’s from Derby, which is as unsealike as you can get.

** Pure water is, as a matter of fact, very very slightly a pale blue colour. You can see it, just about, if you run a bathful of water in a white bath. That’s not the main reason the sea can look blue, though. And different cultures have seen it different ways; the Homeric adjective for it is “wine-dark”, and you know how dark Greek wine can be. I’ve heard that the ancient Greeks didn’t quite distinguish between blue and green in the same way as we do; but I don’t know enough Greek to tell you how true that is.

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It took a little wine to make a window

In which we discover a Lesbian who wants publicity


This post has nothing, really, to do with the above title; I was listening to a Hefner album this morning, heard the above lyric, and liked it. Maybe soon I’ll write something which applies to that title, post it under a different title, and so on.

I burst out laughing at the news – which you’ll have heard by now – that campaigners on Lesbos are suing a Greek gay rights organisation* with the aim of getting rid of the word “lesbian”. The word, they say, infringes their human rights. I’m smelling a rat over this story.*** I suspect that “campaigners” actually means “publisher Dimitris Lambrou”, who is the only person mentioned in any of this. If he wants us to stop using “lesbian”, he really ought to come up with an alternative suggestion, because “gay woman” doesn’t really cut it in my opinion. I suggest “dimitrians”, or possibly “lambroans”. Either would be ideal, I reckon.**

The Mother had something to add when she heard all this. “Back when I was a nurse,” she said, “we used to get crank calls all the time. One girl I worked with had a man on the phone, who said: ‘are you a lesbian?’ ‘No,’ she answered, ‘I’m Church of England’.”

I’m sure I’ve heard that story before, as a joke. Never mind.

“She didn’t know what it meant, you see,” continued The Mother, making sure I got it. “Mind you, neither did I then.” This would have been in 1960 or so. And I’m not surprised. Back then she was pure and virginal, The Killing of Sister George hadn’t been made, and I definitely doubt that The Well of Loneliness was on the curriculum at Cleethorpes Girls’ Grammar.

* actually, in the stories I’ve read, it’s not entirely clear what type of organisation is being sued

** He would no doubt object to “sapphic”, too, because he’s claiming that ‘new historical research’ has discovered that she was married and loved men. ‘New historical research’ presumably means ‘I looked it up on Wikipedia’, like I just did; it gives both of the stories Lambrou mentions and references them to a 1982 edition of her surviving poetry. In short, his claims aren’t new, by a few thousand years, and nobody’s going to be surprised by them.

*** it’s just as iffy as the “man regrows missing finger” story, also in the news, which Ben Goldacre has easily debunked

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Career options

In which we wonder why FP never thought of that


The Mother is always fond of saying: “you know, with your brain and your skills, you could have done so much better for a career! You could have done anything you wanted!”

So, when we heard on the news this morning about the teenager who allegedly made millions from internet crime, I was slightly surprised she didn’t say anything. I was almost expecting: “Why didn’t you do that? You’re just as bright as he is! You could have made millions from botnets and fraud by now if you’d only put your mind to it!”

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Nationality

In which the family seem foreign


My parents are not Norwegian. They’re English, have hardly ever left England, don’t speak any languages other than English. Until last week, my mother hadn’t had a foreign holiday for 35 years, and my dad had never had one at all.

Now, often, you can look at someone, and spot their nationality. It happened to me in Paris the other month: I only had to go up to someone and say “Um … bonjour?” and I’d get: “Hello, can I help you.” Sometimes the hello came first, so I’m sure it wasn’t just the accent or the awkward pause. I’d assume that the same would apply to the parents too, as they’ve hardly ever left Britain.

But no: they set off for their first foreign holiday together after 30 years married, and they get on the ferry to Norway. They arrive at the ferry terminal in Newcastle, where you’d think the staff would be used to spotting the difference between Norwegian and English people. All of a sudden, everyone, even the English terminal staff, automatically assume they’re Norwegian. Getting on the ship, they’re being greeted: “hello … hello … hello …” – then as soon as The Mother appears on the gangplank, the greeter switches to Norwegian.* Why, she has no clue. Apparently, people from Norway, people from Newcastle, people who meet a lot of Norwegians, automatically assume my mother is one too. Strange.

(and on their return, they brought me a giant sausage. Which appears to be Danish. But that’s a blog for another day, when I’m not too lazy to get the camera out to shoot a picture of it)

* Whether Bokmål or Nynorsk, I don’t know – as the parents don’t actually know any Norwegian of either sort beyond “Does anyone know where the toilets are?” they didn’t appreciate the subtlety – never mind the subtler still differences between spoken and written languages.

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A failure of logic

In which we don’t always believe in belief


You often hear people saying something along these lines:

Something horrible happened, but we survived. And then something else horrible happened, but it could have been so much worse. Someone Up Above must be looking after us, because we got through it.

My mother has said it a lot in the past, but she’s not the only one. And every time I think: hang on a minute. If someone has their eye on you, if someone saved you, why did it happen to start with? Why did you need to be saved? If someone’s looking after you, how did something so horrible happen?

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Devotion

In which The Parents are keeping track of all the numbers


The Parents have always been fans of gadgetry. Moreover, whenever they get a new gadget, they become strangely devoted to it. I can still remember, when I was small, and The Parents bought a dehumidifier. My mother set it up in the middle of the kitchen with its back off, sat down in front of it on the uncomfortable kitchen stool, and watched it operate: watched the ice slowly and imperceptibly build up on its freezing tubes, before melting off again into the collection bucket.

My dad’s always been worse, if anything, so I knew what would happen as soon as his latest toy was fitted. A solar water heating system, complete with dials and gauges and sensors and settings to tweak. As soon as someone gets in the shower, Dad is in the airing cupboard watching all the sensors slowly change, checking that the solar pump starts up at the right point,* watching the water tank temperature, the solar collector temperature, the glycol flow rate, the system pressure, monitoring all the dials he possibly can. And, as soon as you get out of the shower: “Was it hot enough? The tank temperature was down to fifteen degrees – the pump activity reached 90% because the collector was still up around thirty”.

He loves it; he loves tracking all the various numbers. But, as a wise person once said: just because something is measurable, or tweakable, doesn’t mean it’s worth measuring or tweaking.** Nevertheless, I wouldn’t be surprised if, the next time I see him, he’s started drawing graphs.

* Yes, we have an energy-efficient environmentally friendly solar water-heating system now: so why does it need an electric pump, powered by our local gas-fired power station no doubt, to run it?

** I have no idea who first said that, but I’m sure I first read it in Essential System Administration.

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The churchgoer in the street

In which major international issues do not disturb the local parish


Given that today, in the news, there’s rather a lot about the slowly-growing and now likely forthcoming schism in the Anglican church, I thought I’d ask the average churchgoer in the street about it. Well, the average churchgoer who is also my mother, at any rate. She’s a fairly average “active” Anglican, though. She’s white, middle-class, female, edging towards elderly, lives in a commuter village, and goes to church every week. She’s a Sunday School teacher, has organised the parish’s Christian Aid collections, sings in an ecumenical Christian parish singing group,* and generally is far more active and puts more effort into religion than most churchgoers, never mind the huge percentage of Anglicans who tick the relevant box on the census but never cross the threshold of a church for anything other than weddings and funerals.

So, I said: “what are you going to do if the church splits in two? Is anyone going to leave St. Nick’s over it?”

Her answer: “What split?”

“You know, the one that has been rumbling for the last few years.” I tried to explain how the rather homophobic Peter Akinola is a figurehead for a group of largely-American homophobic conservatives, who do not like the Archbishop of Canterbury and have been threatening for some time to lead a schism, sometimes in the hope of bending him to their will, sometimes apparently meaning it.

“I’ve not heard about any of that,” she said. “We don’t talk about that sort of thing at church. That’s nothing to do with us.”

So, there you have it. I don’t think The Mother is particularly ignorant. As I said above, I think she’s probably less ignorant than your average churchgoer is likely to be, because she takes a very active interest. But to her, the politicking of a motley band of Americans and Africans isn’t important. An earthquake in Lambeth Palace isn’t important. The Second Coming occurring in the Lady Chapel of our parish church probably wouldn’t disturb most of the congregation, so long as it didn’t disrupt the Mothers Union or the bellringers, and everyone still got a cup of tea (or coffee) after the Sunday communion service. For your average English Anglican, dogma is something you recite during the service without really listening or understanding. It certainly isn’t something to get all argumentative about.

* where “ecumenical” means “Anglican and Methodist”, because they’re the only churches in the village. I’m not sure what they’ll do if those often-suggested plans to subsume British Methodists within Anglicanism ever make much progress.

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