Archive for February, 2008

Spring and Dreams

Posted in Uncategorized on February 26, 2008 by ladyredjess

My supervisor has given me the licence to write my thesis as a novel and thus made me a very, very happy girl indeed. I had been using fragments of fiction in it before (or, more accurately, instances of autobiography), but he said that there needed to be more fiction, and that I wasn’t embracing the concept of fictocriticism. So, in order to be true to the style, he suggested I write the entire thing as fiction. I was exhilarated, and worked out how to write it while on the bus going home. Now I am more relaxed, more in control of my material and completely in command of the style. Which is useful, as now I have to rewrite everything that I have done, and produce 80 000 words in four months. How hard can it be?

And I seem to be happier in general, not least because spring is on its way and the trees are bristling and boisterous with blossoms, while daffodils and jonquils have sprung up in the parks, grinning insanely. It’s light when I drag myself out of bed in the mornings and today I went out to get my coffee wearing a cashmere cardi instead of a coat. As I wrote to an Australian friend, only when you have experienced the (comparative) horror of an English winter can you appreciate Spring like this.

My psyche is clearly undergoing some sort of shift as well, because I have had not one, but two, positive dreams in the last month. It is the norm for me to have disturbing dreams. Where H dreams about having sex in spaceships, or helping Flash Gordon fight enemies in the bush, I dream about people being killed, dismembered or lost. I once woke up crying from a dream in which my mother died of cancer; another time I was stuck on an exploded volcano in Australia, surrounded by blackened shrubbery and pools of lava (this dream is explained by there being an extinct volcano at the back of our property in Oz), and I have fought off men trying to rape or attack me more times than I can remember. However a few weeks back I dreamed of being in a car in a prehistoric landscape, with pterodactyls flying above (I am very fond of pterodactyls). It did end rather suddenly with me being crushed by an overly large bird but I still woke up excited because I never have fantastical dreams. And then, just recently, after dreaming of being in a house which was haunted, and after an attempted murder by a ghost (its hand rammed repeatedly into the side of my neck), I found myself outside with H. We were children again and we leaned over a fence, looking at the water which had overflowed from the creek into the paddocks and formed streams. There were about seven little platypuses wriggling through the streams, which was utterly charming. It’s rare to see platypuses – they come out in the evening and they don’t like noise – so to see seven small ones all bundled together and slipping through the water was delightful. I woke up feeling positively pleased.

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Sweeney Todd with Subtitles and other Ephemera

Posted in Uncategorized on February 21, 2008 by ladyredjess

The week before last I asked H what he was doing on Tuesday night.
‘Going to the gym.’
‘Do you want to go to the movies?’
‘Yeah. What’s on?’
‘The barber of Saville Road.’
‘What?’
‘Sweeney Todd!’
He began laughing. ‘It’s the Demon Barber of Fleet Street. There’s the Barber of Seville, and the tailors of Saville Road, but not a barber.’
‘Oh. Well it’s got subtitles, and I want to go.’

It was the first time I’d been to an English film with subtitles, and I sought it out because I knew I’d never be able to understand what was going on without the words. We went to the Vue in Islington, which I don’t like much, not least because the last time we went there and tried to get a hearing device we were told that they only had them for one cinema, which was showing some thuggish film of the calibre of Die Hard. What, they think deaf people don’t have intellect? Anyway, we got a refund (which didn’t compensate for a ruined evening) and the manager mumbled something about getting films with subtitles.

Evidently they can keep their word, because they showed Sweeney Todd with subtitles. P went in first while H waited for me to get there from work (I had to catch the vile 73 with someone breathing garlic down my neck) so I wasn’t in a what one would call state of grace when I arrived. H bought me ice cream, but knocked it from the cone onto the counter as he leant over to pay. You’d think the girl would have offered a new scoop of ice cream, but no, so I was left to thwack it back into the cone, now replete with salmonella bugs. Luckily I was brought up on a farm and have a tough stomach from drinking rain water into which birds and insects had fallen. P had texted H to say there were only 2 people inside (‘No wonder the ticket cost £10,’ P said), but when we went in this number had increased to 10. ‘Are all these people deaf?’ I whispered excitedly. You can tell I don’t get out much.

It was a dark film – visually and thematically – but the projection of the subtitles meant that there was an enormous, pale square in the middle of the blackness, with the words down the bottom. H, infuriated, complained to the doorman. The doorman consulted the projectionist and they wriggled the words around. The words disappeared and I missed some lines. The words came back, and the pale square stayed for the rest of the film. I ought to have expected no better.

M- told me I could sue places like cinemas if they don’t get their act together, and these days I’m sorely tempted to. If you advertise a product – any product, not just one with the hard of hearing symbol – you make sure it works, and having a frigging square in the middle of a movie just isn’t good enough. At least it was better than the time we went to the Trocadero to see Enduring Love. Naturally the hearing equipment didn’t work, so H took the back of it off and discovered there were no batteries inside. The poor boy went out and retrieved them from the bimbo at the counter, by which time he’d missed the crucial beginning. This is why I become so apathetic about complaining – you have to wait until the movie starts before realising the piece of shit they’ve given you isn’t going to work.

Anyway, it was a rare outing for me, as most of the time these days I remain chained to my desk, staring glumly out the window while trying to get some words onto the page, so that was something. I liked Johnny Depp, but Helena Bonham Carter, although she did a good 19th century Amy Winehouse, was far too simplistic. And there was too much blood. I didn’t like that.

Seeing as I lead a cloistered life, H provides most of my entertainment, and some of his stories are worth repeating, esp as he’ll never get around to putting them into his own blog, not least because they don’t involve willies. He went to Columbia Road last weekend and asked his favourite man (on account of his humour and cheap flowers, not his appendage or appearance) what he could do to stop his lupins dying, because last year they hadn’t come up.
‘What do you mean you killed your lupins?’ the man said. ‘Lupins are impossible to kill.’
H must have looked dejected, for the man softened and told him to put them in the soil as soon as he got home. Yes, it is a bit obvious, isn’t it … but I digress. H had been walking behind a lady in a black burqua, as she had a pram and was clearing a convenient path through all the people. Then she stopped before the lupins man, who had his back to her. He turned around, took a backwards step, threw his hands in the air and cried, ‘Aw my gawd, I thought it was a stickup!’
The Eastenders tittered around him. God only knows what the woman was thinking.

And the other day H came home with a gem from the office – you can describe someone who is ugly, he says, as having ‘a face like a sackful of smashed crabs.’ I laughed and laughed.

The rest of my entertainment comes from reading fiction. I read Toni Morrison’s Sula, then The Bluest Eye, both of which were so engrossing that I didn’t even panic when the Tube stopped in a tunnel on the way to work. I found the former a little plodding, but its beginning and ending illustrate why Morrison is so good at her craft.

It opens thus: ‘In that place, where they tore the nightshade and blackberry patches from their roots to make room for the Medallion City Golf Course, there was once a neighbourhood.’ From that sentence you know the book is going to be about uprooting, and the loss of a natural environment, which mirrors the loss of childhood. A good writer, for me, is someone who can encapsulate an entire novel in their first line like this. The closing sentence is also poignant: ‘It was a fine cry – loud and long – but it had no bottom and it had no top, just circles and circles of sorrow.’ It’s a very feminine image, being circular, which hearkens back to Nel’s friendship with Sula. It also mirrors the rings on a surface of water which has been disturbed, and the continuity of the rings suggest the pain can never end.

The Virtues of Deafness

Posted in Uncategorized on February 9, 2008 by ladyredjess

It has now been a month since our sojourn to Thailand (the annals of which shall be written up if I ever find time). Positive effects of said holiday lasted one week, which was quite good I thought, considering that it pissed with rain for 6 out of 7 days, I was jetlagged and didn’t get enough sleep and was slotted immediately onto on my treadmill of library-thesis-research. Then the seasonal affective disorder returned and I went back to being my usual gloomy self.

Not a great deal has been happening, and not a great deal shall happen, for the next five months, whereupon I shall hand my thesis in. However, the thesis is going well at last, if nothing else is. I have also been cheered by the appearance of blossoms, daffodils and the absurdly sunny days. Elliot maintained that April was the cruellest month, but I always thought February was. This year it looks like neither of us it right.

I was ruffled however, by an incident at the corner store, when I finally had to explain to the pint-sized old Hindu lady, from whom I have been buying milk from for a year, that I was deaf. I wanted to buy a packet of Pringles, having one of my 6-monthly cravings for chips, but I couldn’t hear what the price was as she never speaks loudly. Eventually she rolled her eyes, and (on the verge of tears) I said that I was deaf and wearing a hearing aid.

‘Oh, you’re like that, are you? I never knew.’ she said. Ten out of ten for tact, wouldn’t you say? And of course you didn’t know you stupid cow, but that doesn’t mean you can treat your customers badly. So she can take her Pringles and her milk and shove it; I’m going to the Muslim guys whose shop is in the other direction.

I’ve been reading on the theory of disability for my thesis, so I’ve been thinking about these things more than usual. In a book titled Enforcing Normalcy, published in 1995, I came upon the following: ‘until now, American Sign Language was listed in the data base [of libraries] as an “invented language” along with the language of the Klingons of Star Trek’ (4). My oh my, haven’t we come such a long way.

Meanwhile, I loathe the word ‘disability’ and think it should be taken out of the English lexicon. Look at it – it contains the word ‘dis’ and is inherently negative. No person is disabled, they just have a different way of operating in the world. Yet a lot of the books I’ve read about deafness and disability have been quite negative. Sure, it sucks to be deaf, but there isn’t much point on dwelling on the bad things if there’s nothing you can do about it. And there are indeed positive aspects, such as not being able to hear your flatmate bonking in the room above you (which is occurring as I write, hence I have my hearing aid turned very firmly off). H, however is not so lucky, but God blessed him with a wonderful sense of humour, as evidenced by the following textual exchange, which took place during the day, as I was coming back from the Millais exhibition at Tate Britain:

To H
OK, so I officially have a problem. Have accidentally bought b’day gifts to self from Topshop but the dress is AMAZING. Shall wear it on b’day. Hope A ok etc xx

To J
Oh dear. Never mind, you deserve present for self. Just got back, fuckwit knobend is here. Currently locked [with A] in her room. Oh joy. xoxo

To H
Oh my god, how disgusting. On my way back now. Xx

To J
I think there may be a localised earth tremor in East London. Strange vibrations in the house. And screaming! Maybe a book fell on A.

To H
I need to write a blog entry titled The Virtues of Deafness and message it to e’one on Facebook.

To J
Doesn’t matter, it’ll be over in 38s … like clockwork.

I have cautiously turned on my hearing aid. There appears to be …silence. Maybe it’s safe to venture out now and see if the foundations are still sound.

Time to open Facebook … or not … ought one to maintain a sense of civility in such situations?