Thursday, 13 June 2019

Garden Haircut

It's been a busy week for me, with my work's conference taking place. I always leave having a haircut and shave to the last minute, as I've never liked getting a haircut, but I feel I have to do it just to show respect for my workplace and my colleagues.

I think this dislike stems from being a child, when I would always come away with snips of hair stuck in the collar of my clothes, which would itch and scratch at my neck. And no matter how many times they got washed, they never seemed to come out. My parents never seemed to take it seriously, and thought that I was just whining. But I knew how uncomfortable it was, and how much it irritated my neck.

In the end my Dad used to cut my hair for a bit, and then we used to have a hairdresser come around to the house. This made it much easier, as I could jump straight into the shower and there wasn't really time for hair to get stuck to my clothes.

After I left home, I grew my hair long at University, but later had to start getting it cut at barbers again. By now I had learned to wear the same top every time I went, usually something a bit old that I never really wore that often, but now I hated going because of the question: "How do you want it?"

Personally, I just wanted it cut. I didn't really care what it looked like, I just wanted it shorter. This was never a good enough answer though, and so once again I would take long periods of time between cuts, only going when I really had no choice not to go.

Now however I have a wife who can cut my hair for me, but between us we always seem to put it off until the last minute still. I think there must still be some residual block in my mind to getting it done, even though it does feel somewhat liberating when we finally get around to it.

This time we did the cutting out in the garden, on a nice warm afternoon, which also had the bonus of us not having to do any hoovering. So here's a little vignette of poetry, since I've not had much time to share my mind with non-work activities.

Wind whips the snips of hair away
Swirling in the air the settle on the grass
Nesting material for birds

Thursday, 6 June 2019

Stopping the Rot

I've been struggling to find something to blog about over the past few days. You could probably call it a creative rut. So it occurred to me that that's exactly what I should blog about.

It hasn't helped that the kids haven't slept all that well lately, and so we haven't slept well either. There's also the spectre of my work's Conference next week, over which I've been pretty anxious on the basis that I have to be in a small space with a few hundred people for two days. (Yes I am an introvert). Needless to say, none of these things help the creative process.

It is also quite common to have creative peaks and troughs, so it is not a concern. I had a much worse period at the beginning of the year when I had so little mental energy that I couldn't even begin. It just gets a bit frustrating after a while, especially since I have very high expectations of myself and what I should be doing.

But you just end up thinking about the blog, or trying to write a poem and nothing inspires you. Not the things your kids say, or the fact that there's no milk in the office again, and I don't even want to think about Donald Trump. But having opened my mind a little and come up with the inspiration to write about a lack of inspiration, it suddenly flows. It's a strange thing this creativity.

Anyway, there are some of my thoughts on creativity and inspiration, and so here is my poem:

Up and down
Like a rollercoaster ride
I just can't decide
What to write next
I'm not hexed
Just vexed
When my brain is blank
And I can't think
Pushed to the brink
Of the precipice

Sunday, 2 June 2019

Day at the Museum

I recently took my eldest to the Natural History Museum (for the second time). She had an interest in dinosaurs a year ago, but it has grown stronger over the last year. However, the funny thing is that her fascination has rekindled the love of dinosaurs that I had when I was a child. I can't help but wondering if this is something that other parents have noticed when their kids start taking interest in something that they loved as children?

They have a great bit in the museum where you can look at and handle real fossils, bones, animal skins and shells, and the people help out by asking questions. They also don't provide the answers, so they just let the kids think about it, using their natural inquisitiveness to bring out good ways of thinking. Here, my daughter showed off her dinosaur knowledge of Stegosaurus (her favourite) and Spinosaurus.

We also saw a great show about oceans, the creatures that live in them, and how we have to look after our environment to ensure that animals survive. We also saw Sophie the Stegosaurus and had a good look around the dinosaur gallery, where again my daughter showed she had more knowledge about dinosaurs than some of the other kids there.

She was also thrilled to see Andy's clock from Andy's Dinosaur Adventures and Andy's Prehistoric Adventures (both Cbeebies programmes).

Anyway, all this dinosaur stuff has inspired a dinosaur poem:

In the morning I trapped a Velociraptor
While on my way to work
It caught its claws
In the closing doors
And the train driver went beserk

Later my tour bus was a Brachiosaurus
And I sat astride its neck
Standing tall
At the palace wall
We made the Queen a nervous wreck

I practiced judo kicks with Archeopteryx
In the local park
With feathers flapping
And sharp beak snapping
All the dogs began to bark

Then I foiled a con with Iguanadon
We came to an old man’s aid
The thief he paled
At the thumb spike wailed
And fell to the floor and prayed

I planted crops with Triceratops
When the farmer was unwell
He used his horns
To dig out the thorns
But his dung made an awful smell

I taught some phonics with a Baryonyx
At one of the local schools
But parents complained
That it hadn’t been trained
And must be against the rules

I rowed the Isis with some Coelophysis
Though they struggled with the oars
But as a team
They picked up steam
And we won the coxless fours

Wednesday, 29 May 2019

This Mortal Coil, by Emily Suvada

If you can get past an early scene in which the heroine has to eat the raw flesh of a diseased victim in order to gain immunity to the same disease, then you should enjoy this book, but there are several scenes just like it which are not for the squeamish.

The story is set in a future where all the human population have a screen grown into their arms from birth, on which there are various apps which do various things such as help heal or augment sound and vision, as well as allowing you to experience VR.

Genetic research has also moved on to the extent that people can change their physical appearance, not by changing DNA itself but by expressing genes in different ways (at least that’s how I read it – when it gets to the nitty gritty in can be a bit complicated but this doesn’t detract from the story).

Our heroine is Cat Agatta (a clever use of the four nucleotide letter bases to create a character name), whose father is an amazing genetic scientist, but who has been living alone since he was abducted by Cartaxus in order to find a cure for the Hydra virus which is threatening to destroy humanity.

A soldier then appears at her house, who knows her father and breaks the news that he is dead. Between them they find out that her father found a cure, but that she must de-code it in order to release it to the world.

The story continues on at a great pace, with believable characters and believable motives, and contains more twists than a strand of DNA, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I would strongly recommend it to anyone who likes science fiction.

The world it inhabits is probably a cross between Michael Crichton and Hunger Games/Divergent, and so if you have read and enjoyed those writers then you will enjoy this.

A great start to the trilogy, and I look forward to reading the next instalment. Click for Emily Suvada's website.

Thursday, 23 May 2019

Going Down The Diamond

I'll start by saying that this is kind of a companion piece (although not at all planned) to my wife's recent blogpost - at least in terms of the fact that it relates to school.

My daughter's school has this thing called "The Diamond". If you behave well, or do good work then you go up the diamond. This all sounds great so far. But if you behave badly, or do something against the rules, then you go down the diamond. Suddenly sounding not so good.

But it get's worse. If you finish in the lower parts of the diamond then you can be sent to the headteacher, or even miss playtimes. Yes, they stop children being able to exercise and get fresh air!!

Reason's for going down the diamond can be for talking or hitting (kind of OK, but some children just don't conform well the the strict rules of keeping still and quiet for long periods of time at school, and they shouldn't be punished for this).

Apparently you can also go down the diamond if you don't get changed fast enough after PE!

There are better ways of encouraging children, without completely throwing their mental health out the window. But it's symptomatic of the way's we deal with people generally who are slightly outside the narrow field of what it conservatively "normal".

People with alternative lifestyles, people who identify as LGBT, or even ethnic minorities within a fairly heterogeneous population are often selected against through various cultural processes or expectations.

Obviously as parents there is not much we can do to change school practices, only try to explain to our daughter that we love her for who she is and the school diamond isn't going to have any effect on that. But it will take time.

Here is my poem for this post:


Fear in

My daughter’s

Eyes at the thought

Of dropping down the

Diamond; A system to penalise

Those less able to conform to the rigidity

Of the classroom; In the way we take money from

Those less able to fill in a Universal Benefit claim form; Or

Ostracise those who do not identify with binary

Gender; Or think less of those whose

Skills lie with their hands instead

Of their brains; We should be

Inclusive and encourage;

But like diamonds

We all have


Monday, 20 May 2019

Abortion Rights

As a man I really struggle knowing what it is I can say, or be allowed to say, when it comes to abortion rights for women, since it is not something that my body will ever have to worry about.
However, I know that denying women and girls the chance of abortion, on the basis that once an embryo has begun it deserves more rights than the person carrying it, is wrong.

There are so many reasons why safe, legal abortions are good. From controlling population growth, to the physical and mental health of women, to reducing the burden that is unwanted children, both on families and on a society.

And it simply comes from elements of the population wanting to have complete control over others, to have power over them for the simple reason that it scares them to be without it.

Men and patriarchies have controlled the world for so long, that now they are beginning to see a hint of a swing against them (for let’s be honest, for all the emancipation, women’s lib and #metoo, barely anything has changed), they are acting to reverse even the most minor changes.

I read that we all have bodily autonomy over whether we would want to provide a blood transfusion to someone, in order to save their life. Our dead bodies have bodily autonomy, when it comes to organ transplants, again in order to save another life. However, women will not have that bodily autonomy when they are pregnant, just in order to save a small bunch of cells.

This perfectly describes the double standards at work, without even going into the ability to own a gun and how many lives are destroyed by that weapon on a daily basis.

My hope is that these recent episodes of curtailing abortion rights become nothing more than an outlier, when we look back upon the history of equality. However, my fear is that it is the embryo of something far more sinister.

As such I have been inspired to two poems for this post:

Poem #1
Barely a foetus
Unknowing; unaware 
Potential in a bunch of cells

Thousands of women
Desperate; in fear
Living their own personal hell

Twenty five men
In full control
Keeping control for themselves

Poem #2

Beginning to grow
But not yet formed
Still in an embryo
Nourished and warmed

By right wing powers
And the patricarchy
Gaining new life
By mother's misery

For those who will suffer
And that reason alone
It should be aborted
And never condoned

Wednesday, 15 May 2019

Disturbed Nights

I am certain that it is something that affects most parents with children of all ages, especially those with younger children.
However, one of my daughters has been waking up more than once a night for about two months in a row now, and she, and we are not quite sure why. The chances are it is nothing more than needing some sort of closeness at night, maybe reassurance.
She usually comes in at some time around midnight, and again at sometime between two and three, often snuggling herself up close to me.
Most times I don't even notice, and even when I do, she cuddles up and falls asleep so quickly that I am quite content for her to be there. On occasion I get slapped (accidentally) or kicked but for the most part I am happy to give her that reassurance or that closeness.
If anyone out there reading this has experienced something similar, then I would love to hear from you, and whether you got to the bottom of the behaviour?
I am certain that it will pass at some point and she will remain in bed again all night. We have experienced this in the past with her for various reasons, and it is likely that this is nothing more than developmental.
The main reason that got me writing this particular post today was that this morning saw a slight change in routine. I was woken with a couple of slaps to the head and was told by her that she wanted to be carried back to her own bed. This has inspired this post's poem:

I wake to a slap on the head
A demand to be carried
With imploring arms stretched high

I stagger with blurry eyes
In the small hours darkness
And lift her back into her bed

I wanted to sleep alone
She says snuggling amongst toys
And purrs back into snores

I am for her a strong bridge
And sinking into my own bed
Drop into sleep like a stepping stone