Nature writing

Dear friends

I haven’t blogged for so long because I’ve been working both on actual paid work and also on other things, like spoken word poetry which was really getting churned out for a bit during the frustrations of lockdown (let’s not go there), and on nature writing.

I’ve also arrived back after my long absence to a totally different WordPress to the one I’ve been wrangling for the past seven years. So I’ve no idea what this will look like.

My darling Katherine With Words / But First, Coffee put me onto nature writing – sending me competitions to enter, nature poetry, and even two books (that woman … so pure, so sweet, so encouraging, you are the solid rock of my writing life bless you – I’ve read and thoroughly enjoyed Wilding by Isabella Tree, and lent it to my mum who’s also loving it, but haven’t read Diary of a Young Naturalist yet).

But, thing is, I don’t really read nature writing. OOH INSPIRATION – it just struck me as I’m writing – I might call my future book The Professional Tree Hugger, what do you think? I used to live with a Tory who called me that as an insult and did not expect me to take so well to it, and I have since used it regularly to describe myself … Anyway, yes, I haven’t read much of it so I don’t really know how it’s supposed to go. So I wend my own rivulet down the mountain, which could be good, or it could be bad.

So today I have for you a passage, and I’ve got a lot of these so more may appear in future. When I’m out walking I often feel inspired to write down how I feel, what I see, and I want to tie up all these in-the-moment passages and poems at some point into a cohesive narrative on the – well, basically, both the love and destruction of British nature. Fun fun fun!

Meadowsweet

“After the hot, sweet start to June, where the grass was crisp and the air flickered over the roads, and the grasses seemed to defy gravity as they were drawn upwards into the sky, we’ve seen a shift. For a couple of weeks there’s been deluge after deluge. The river rose and flooded the trails, swamping pits and puddles on the higher ground with well-churned mud. And the annual evolution of the meadow revolves, as I’ve snatched a rain-free hour to take my legs and my bike for a much-needed stretch. June saw it freckled gaily with redshank, a flower which will stop you in your tracks from a distance and only gets more beautiful the closer you examine it. The tiny globes clinging to the stem are all different shades of pink, red, and white, and the swathes are like brush strokes through the meadow. And the earth still turns and another month and another rain, and the redshank has given way to meadowsweet. The snapped stem is sharp to the nose, tingling, familiar. And unlike the hogweed and hemlock and wild parsley which are similar at first sight, there’s something so much more delicate about meadowsweet. It’s a handmade lace veil in a field of grandma’s doilies. The plants reach their eager hands towards the storm-racked sky (it’s coming, I can feel it, and the sun is trying in vain to pierce the clouds but merely illuminates them ominously from behind), as the breeze creates a sweep through the deferential meadowsweet like a starling murmuration. I stand, hypnotised by that perfection of fading and swelling movement that reminds my heart of something so long-past, the only thing that remains familiar is the delight.”

Did I take you there?

Yours meadowly

Georgie

In Other News, This is really gross/funny sorry

My (now ex, let’s not go there, fuck the tories, fuck the immigration system, sob, repeat) boyfriend is perplexed by my digestive system, apparently it is too fast and too efficient.

“I think your digestive system is as anxious to be on time as you are,” he said, and proceeded to do an artist’s impression of what I can only assume is a talking turd.

“Come on boys, toot toooooot! We gotta get there on time! Hur-urgh, hur-urgh, hur-urgh” (hauling himself across the bed and shouldering an imaginary log). “Get this THROUGH. Chucka-chucka-chucka-chucka-CHOO CHOO.”

And he called me weird.

2020: Racism still loud and clear

Hello friends

I’m a white girl in a white town. Safe to say I have nothing much to bring to this argument. It’s an argument that’s been going on in some shape or form, mutating, since Columbus landed in the Americas and began a genocide that is still celebrated today.

I hate to be jumping on the bandwagon and I do my best to be an ally at all times, but it’s difficult to not add my voice to the chorus that has ripped through the western world at the death of George Floyd. I don’t have much to say, but I can add my voice in support – because in a world where white supremacy is STILL rearing its repulsive head, a white voice carries more weight than a black one in some situations. The only way a white person can use this well at the moment is to say “Yeah! Over there! Listen to them!” and point to the people who know it, feel it, see it every day. Bear witness to them, listen, make others listen, then use your white witness as a weapon to help the BAME voices be heard.

So if you haven’t seen Trevor Noah’s analysis on the current state of racism in the US, find it on youtube and watch it. If you haven’t seen the beautiful, furious, passionate, respectful, incisive truth spoken on CNN by Cornel West, find it and watch it.

When you see people writing ‘all lives matter’, catapult that shit out of the Twittersphere because they didn’t care about ‘all lives’ til someone tried to draw attention to black lives, the same as nobody cares about straight pride or international men’s day until an oppressed group tries to claim a fraction of time or attention to real issues. Rights are not a finite resource: more for an oppressed group does not mean less for everyone else.

Follow black feminists and writers, BAME authors and speakers and politicians and pundits and comedians. Watch, bear witness, to the evidence on social media and the news. Be shocked and horrified when you see police shooting at people who stand on their own doorsteps to video them marching, armed with batons and guns and riot shields, towards protesters trying to assert their right to live. Be sick to your stomach when you watch American police vans, in ‘the land of the free’, deliberately crashing into pedestrians as they protest a murder. Be filled with righteous anger when you see your black brothers and sisters met with furious, brutal, violent punishment for daring to assert their right to life, when white supremacists with AK-47s are led from the scene of their mass murders peacefully, in handcuffs, a gentle hand placed on the top of their head as they’re put in the van, and with vast resources put behind them for good lawyers, and the weight of their whiteness on their side in the defendant’s box.

Police are perpetrating massive violence against protesters. The authorities have more of a problem with the act of protest than what the action is about. If you also see more of an issue with the mass protesting of one death, acting as a catalyst for change, than you did with that one death, then you are part of the problem. I don’t care if they’re putting in windows. I don’t care if they’re looting Target. This might have been one death to jump-start the motor, but these are the 2020 version of black lynchings and they happen every single day. They are systematic oppression. Death, and the threat of death, is state-sanctioned against black people. They can smash all the windows they want in a state that puts a greater price on that glass than on thousands of beautiful lifetimes.

As Cornel West said, black people are expected to keep a side of a bargain with an unjust, white-biased society that white people violently tear up every day, and when they bite back just once they are kicked down with tear gas, vans driving into protesters, and more violence.

“When the looting starts, the shooting starts” was written, now, in 2020, by the president of the US. Spoken from the most powerful position in the world: the action of looting – stealing boring, man-made goods from boring, man-made corporations which, by the act of their poverty wages and tax loopholes, keep people struggling every single day to make ends meet, keep them downtrodden, keep them unable to access healthcare or education – the action of the oppressed stealing goods is a greater crime than the powerful authorities stealing lives. This baldly, bluntly, viciously illustrates what society values – a society that is currently led, unbelievably, by an openly racist president whose dad was in the KKK. Still. In 2020. We have a man in charge who was brought up by someone who thinks lynching black people is okay. The policies Trump supports are just a slightly sugared version of this intrinsic racism, a little bit more palatable to the white people who don’t like the idea of black people being murdered for being black when you put it like that, but are happy to benefit from their whiteness in a society which places whiteness in a higher position, like Amy Cooper who was all too aware of the power of her words as a white woman calling the police on ‘an African-American man’.

White supremacy still runs through the veins of the US, and the UK as well. We can’t start to tackle the problem until we acknowledge it – ALL of us.

Stand in solidarity. Be an ally. Listen, learn, support.

Black lives matter.

Yours, in allegiance,

Georgie

I’m not following with ‘an in other news’. I’m being too serious.

On… Experts (those we’ve had enough of)

Dear friends,

This has sprung from something I was thinking about in the shower, that place of deepest thoughts, which always slip away before you can write them down.

I have two friends who are some of the smartest people I’ve ever met. Ferociously intelligent. Ask them anything. They’re also wise beyond their years, which is something else entirely, but they’ve hit the jackpot. Not to mention they’re both also absolutely hilarious (another sign, I think, of being ‘smart’ … most comedians are terrifyingly clever, aren’t they?)

Anyway, they both say “ARGH I’M SO STUPID, I’M SUCH AN IDIOT” an awful lot.

And I also watch an awful lot of Gordon Ramsay battling some very stubborn chefs (guilty pleasure), and I follow a lot of political pages which often leave me wanting to tear my hair out. And I look at a lot of people – here, and other places – and I think, Wow. You are so convinced you are right.

Imagine having that level of self-confidence, and entitlement to being heard.

Why are the most intelligent people I know so full of self-doubt, so modest, self-deprecating, feeling undeserving and alienated and unsure and full of ‘imposter syndrome’?

I can’t help but feel a giveaway of intelligence is the awareness of how much you don’t know. Like having a fish-eye lens – a wide view, but all black round the edges, a tangible circle beyond which you have no understanding.

I don’t want to use the word stupidity, but I think that’s what it is. I’m thinking suddenly of Donald Trump (wonder why). Actually, in a broader context (outside Trump), ignorance is a much more accurate term for what I’m thinking of. But, anyway, I think that’s more like a worldview from the wrong end of a telescope, but with no awareness of that black circle around the edge, despite its proportional increase in size. Perhaps because they never learned to perceive it – that’s the way it’s always been, and our brains are great at skipping over gaps we are completely accustomed to. Or because they are surrounded by people confirming that that’s the way they, too, see the world.

Overconfidence in ignorance is such a struggle – and I believe the root of a lot of problems in politics. If you have no realisation of the limits to your own knowledge, you feel completely in control and fully informed. Whereas the people who are actually well-informed know enough about a subject to see the holes – like seeing the negative space. And that frightens them. It feels insurmountable. It makes them feel stupid. And so the ignorant feel entitled to be loud because they know everything; and the smart ones go quiet because they are aware of their own limits. The worst part is I think, genuinely, both these broad camps are usually unaware of these traits. The ignorant because they can’t see them by definition; and the ‘smart’ because that’s how they’ve always seen things. Often thirst for knowledge causes them to actively seek out situations which make them feel stupid, so they can learn more about whatever subject, so feeling underprepared is a familiar situation for them.

And neither can defend their situation successfully against the other side, because, thinking politically again now, they have been pitted against each other. Instead of everyone having their niche of expertise, whether that’s picture framing or plumbing or political analysis or space exploration, and we all work together and rely on each other which is how it should be, we have this ‘we’ve had enough of experts’ thinking on one side and this ‘they don’t care/they don’t know what they’re talking about’ from the other side. There is no dialogue and no trust between the two. Everyone is an expert at something, and no-one is an expert at everything. That is the point of experts. But we need those experts to not only feel confident in talking about what they do know, but to also be respected. And we need those asking the questions to be respected. Respect in genuine communication is missing.

But this has been cultivated by people who have something to gain from that link being forgotten. That’s who we need to be looking at here.

This morphed. I meant to just put down my ideas about the overconfidence flowering where it doesn’t belong, and this pervasive sense of self-distrust where people have genuine expertise. But it’s strange how entrenched the discord has become.

Yours inexpertly,

Georgie

In Other News

There literally is ‘no other news’. All the news is exactly the same, and not exactly cheerful. I have done nothing, seen no-one, been almost nowhere. I have nothing amusing to relate of late.

The only weird and wonderful I have at the moment are my dreams. I had one that my bestie got preggo and insisted she was naming the baby ‘Humphrey Barr’, which is oddly specific. And another that I was back working as an ecologist and tripped over an adder which sank its fangs into my ankle, and while I was thrashing around in pain, I was still trying to get a photo of it. And I really hope that’s exactly the sort of person I am.

‘Strong’ women lol

Yoooo

Gonna have a wee moan, it’s that time again, and full disclosure, I wrote this about a year ago and for some reason never posted it? But I found it again as I’m drawing on a lot of my experiences as a Strong Woman in a Man’s World for a feminism 101 presentation I’m giving to my all-male lab group later this week.

Been working on a building site. It’s immediately blindingly obvious that I am the only woman there. These men will never know how lonely that feels, and how it immediately puts you on your guard. How you’re literally waiting for them to start saying stuff to you to make you feel small or unwanted or unqualified or in actual fucking danger. They think they’re so grown-up and deserve a clap because they no longer wolf-whistle, but it goes so much deeper.

“Smile, love!” one of them immediately shouts. I pull the ugliest face I can, and spend the rest of the day with a deliberate frown. Fuck you.

I walk past a bloke carrying my snake-wrangling stick. “All right love, lost your sheep?” he asks. OK I did laugh at that, that’s pretty funny. Another driver asked me what the stick was for. God bless my colleague who shouted “Hitting digger drivers when they don’t listen!” I’m treasuring that one.

My hard hat doesn’t fit. They have adjustable straps on the inside, but none are small enough for a lady head because why the fuck would a lady be wearing a hard hat?! The smallest it goes is 54cm. My head is 51.5cm (I just measured). Ah cool.

I’ve had this before. Try finding stout green wellies in a size three or four. Nada. Waders? Actually impossible. Pffffttt obviously women don’t wade. Even at graduation, they didn’t stock mortar boards small enough and I ended up with a pin in the back of mine to stop it blowing away, which looks stupid, and I had to send measurements months before and pay a fortune for the hire (the same as everyone else, and they don’t look like nobs), and you’re telling me you don’t stock small women’s sizes? Do women not graduate? Is this the 1800s? Anyway, back to today, and I’m wearing men’s medium sized gloves because “That’s all we had”, and they’re rendering my hands pretty useless, I’m not gonna lie. From my ecology firm too, not the building site. I’m impressed that someone managed to find me steel toe capped boots in a size four, but they did have to be specially ordered, and I didn’t get them until I’d twice been pressed to “Just try these size sevens!” How about no. I’d like to see him wobbling about in shoes three or four sizes too big and see how he likes it. I’m pretty sure he’d feel a bit silly, no?

I was given work shirts, again from my ecology firm. I refuse to wear them on principle, because they do not stock women’s sizes. These shirts humiliatingly come almost to my knees. I’m done with looking like a fool. This has been done to me before in other jobs and I am too old for it now – I have no fucks left to give, but I do have a ready argument. It’s degrading. They make me look childlike and ridiculous, and I am a fully grown adult with a job to do and I need to be taken seriously. If you’re going to employ women, and you want your employees to wear some form of uniform, buy it in women’s sizes. You are only emphasising our difference, our unexpectedness, our otherness, unwelcomeness, your unpreparedness for female employees. You’re marking us out, you’re stating yet another way we don’t belong. Someone asked me the other day if I was on work experience and I can’t help feeling it was the huge coat and clown wellies – I don’t look like I belong. I look – and feel – like an afterthought. That is embarrassing. I said no, I was an actual real-life ecologist, the lead ecologist on the site today, and the conversation got a bit stilted. Good. Nob.

My job often involves catching reptiles and small mammals on the building site. A builder yells, “Hey, you – lady!”

The lady turns, unsure whether someone is taking the piss.

He waves maniacally, and I go to him. He’s found a field vole.

“Catch it!” he says. “Or – are you afraid of mice?”

Am I fUcKinG aFRaiD oF MIcE

I lunge for it and miss, which is irritating. (Aside: have you ever tried to catch a mouse/vole in your actual bare bloody hands?! Can you imagine? I have, many times times. And about half the time I succeed! I’m very proud of that).

Apart from that, none of the builders speak to me. Someone speaks about me – I’ve been standing in the rain, and one of the digger drivers says to my colleague, “Your friend could have gone in the tea hut, I don’t think there was anyone in there.” There’s a lot to read into that – he doesn’t speak to me, he speaks to the man next to me. I’m a ‘friend’, not a colleague – my worth in employment unrecognised. And why would there have to be no-one else in the tea hut?

My fellow ecologist is an absolute star, and I talk to him a lot. But every question is directed to him. Nobody asks me anything. My colleague frequently draws me in, and I love him for it – someone asks him a question and he says, “Oh, I’m not sure – Georgie, what do you think?” And suddenly old men are peering round at me like they’ve never seen a woman before. Sometimes I think they actually haven’t. But nobody else speaks to me. I am a pariah. The builders are angry with us anyway, because we are ecologists and not builders, and they want to cut down trees which have nesting birds in them, and we reminded them they have a legal obligation not to, and my colleague also pointed out the obvious but unpopular argument that they should have cut the trees down in winter, because it’s not like they didn’t know a massive housing development would be going up, but no, they left it till the height of summer so OBVIOUSLY birds are nesting in there. This does not increase our popularity.

Even my ecology boss was asking about my lecturers a few weeks ago. Said he’d been for a drink with a female lecturer. I said, “Oh, I only have two female lecturers, I doubt I’ll know her.” (Yes, shockingly few, isn’t it?)

“Really?” he said. “Oh, I thought it was always fairly even representation in ecology, that surprises me!” The irony of him making this statement to me while we were on a bat survey and I was the only woman in a group of six men seemed to bypass him entirely.

The other damn thing which I find SO rude is that every fucker asks me how old I am. I’ve started saying “That’s a rude question.” I do not always answer.

I spent two weeks working as a solo ecologist, sharing a tiny tea hut with two machine drivers, and they passed around an awful video of a young woman turning up on a building site and doing a striptease for all the builders and then it’s obvious what happens, and I was FUMING. The foreman laughed at me, sat between them, grossly uncomfortable. “It’s clearly bypassed someone’s sense of humour!” the foreman said. I snapped “You are AT WORK. That’s disgusting.” The other bloke says, “That would never happen anyway, ’cos you don’t get women on building sites.” This starts a debate and they insist it’s just because ‘women don’t like mud’. What utter bullshit. And they say things like “You do get women on site! I used to know a woman digger driver. Only the size of you, but she was all right!” Utter, utter bullshit.  I tried to explain how alienating it was to arrive onsite with everyone staring at you (in the least irritating way possible – I liked one of the blokes in fairness, apart from the video thing) but it fell on deaf ears. Even the bloke who taught me to drive a digger on another site said things like “It’s so bitchy here they should all be wearing skirts” and “All women just want to bitch about each other and drag each other down, it’s in their natures,” and “Do you have a boyfriend then? Someone to cook dinner for at home?” Bleurgh.

The machine driver offered my colleague a go in the dumper truck. He’s a man in his late thirties, but he’s only driven work vans, cars, maybe a ute or a mole as groundskeeper. He turns them down. I’m desperate to have a go, but they don’t offer it to me. I’ve driven over twenty vehicles – a narrowboat and a fishing boat, an eight-ton and a thirteen-ton digger, and seventeen cars big and small – manuals and automatics, from a sports coupe with a top speed of 140mph to a family sedan to my own adored, tiny car, and eight various 4x4s from a decrepit Nissan to a brand-new Range Rover Evoque to a beautiful, indestructible 1998 Landrover Defender. I learned to drive at the age of fifteen, in a tractor. I can change a wheel and a battery. I love driving. I have a spotless record. They do not know this. They make assumptions. And I do not get asked.

Bored of it, tbh.

Bored. Of. It. All.

Yours boredly,

Georgie.

 

In Other News, Elegance Personified

Went to a gig in Manchester recently, it was a short-notice surprise gig in all those storms because the band, Spanish Love Songs, was supposed to be on the ferry to Ireland which got cancelled. Me and my mates were scrambling round trying to cook, eat and get ready all at the same time because we were running late thanks to the myriad charms of Decathlon.

H goes, “We need to leave here at half past, walk about 15 minutes to the bus, I’ve got it on google maps, there’s a shortcut!” I shoved three tinnies in my handbag for the bus ride, and we literally ran out her flat. “Here!” she said, sprinting into the back garden. “There’s a path through here!” Readers, this was not true. We followed what was probably an animal track through the garden, into the bushes, and hit a fence.

“Back this way!” she yelled. We ran up the street. We ran down the street. We could not find this damned shortcut. Which was turning into a very long cut.

Eventually we found an opening – and ran slap bang into a bloke who said “I wouldn’t go down there if I were you, there’s a tree down!” Well, since we’d now found the damn shortcut, there was no way we weren’t going to use it.

The downed tree cutting off the footpath was a lot bigger than I expected, but I’m an agile young thing and I had doc martens on, so I shouted “Come on, we can definitely do this!” I climbed up onto the slippery tree, soaking wet from the storms, and tried to put my foot down on what I thought was a branch on the other side rather than plunging into the sludge.

It wasn’t a branch. I crashed through the undergrowth spectacularly, soaked to the skin, tangled in brambles, crushing the tinnies. It was VERY funny. I looked like I’d shit myself. Covered in mud, we sprinted to the bus stop – and we’d missed it anyway.

When we got on the next one and cracked the cans, they exploded all over the backseat.

HOODLUMS, dear readers.

Gig was SO good and 10/10 worth it 🙂

Book Reviews!

Hello dear friends,

I love my bookshelf so much. Floor to ceiling, books lined two deep on the shelves and piled up on top of the neat rows when I ran out of space. Full to bursting. My whole childhood and teen years are ensconced on that shelf, before social media and youtube and TV to quickly and easily distract me like fast food. And it’s not just books on there – the top shelf is home to a little print of Istanbul, and the next shelf to some of my own paintings, and below that photos of my niece, and below that a few knick-knacks – a Matilda mug, a mug with bees on it, a little doll’s house piano – they’re all mementos of my life, little things that make me happy, and it’s me.

This year (2019) I made a conscious effort – particularly in the second half – to read more. Reading makes me really happy. Scrolling through facebook is quick, easy, junk entertainment, but it doesn’t leave me feeling fulfilled or sated. I must read thousands of articles, blog posts, opinion pieces, but how much do I retain? I feel so trapped by my own habits.

Two years ago I went abroad and left the phone, internet, even electricity and water, behind. But there was a bookshelf. I read 34 books in six months despite a crazy job and no light at night.

Old habits – or rather, intermediary habits – have since crept back in, but I’m trying to keep the magic of reading. 2019 brought me 24 books and I’m going to review them now, see if you find any ideas. In the order that I read them:

The Tattooist of Auschwitz, Heather Morris. 7/10

This book told a heartrending, desperate and emotional love story in the most sanitised, prosaic way possible. 11/10 for the story. 3/10 for the writing. Worth it.

The White Queen, Philippa Gregory. 6/10

Not one of Gregory’s best, I feel. I was pretty invested at the start but got decreasingly so through the book to the point that I can’t remember the end because I was just trying to get done. But I love history and mostly it’s told really well. Basically there’s just a lot of it.

How Did We Get Into This Mess, George Monbiot. 10/10 and more

If you’re interested in the climate, the environment, science, politics, history, economics, society, nature writing, issues like vegetarianism or population or plastics (any single one of the above, and especially how they interact), you will love this. I felt a true passion and awakening from this book. I need the whole world to read it.

The Serial Killers, Colin Wilson & Donald Seaman. 6.5/10

Creepiest damn book I ever read and it’s all true. There are some fucknuts in the world. It’s a psychological sort of profile of things serial killers have in common, reasoning (or lack of), and worst of all, case studies. it’s terrifying. But it’s written pretty dryly.

Lamentations, Katherine Wright. 8/10

I’m very lucky to count this on my list being as it’s unpublished, but I’ve no doubt it will be one day. A rollercoaster into a pit of religion and warped psychology, searing the dark underbelly of motive and reward, and how you sanction what is ordained by God. Think the Kardashians meets religious fervour. Possibly. I’ve never seen the Kardashians. But that’s the idea.

The New Moon With The Old, Dodie Smith. 4/10

Disappointing. I Capture The Castle is possibly my favourite book ever; I found other works of Smith’s online and treated myself (I will just insert a note here; most books are bought for me as presents or lent to me, or I buy them in charity shops. Some places online you can get books for a penny plus postage. Fresh reading is an expensive and usually unnecessary habit). This one did not live up to expectations and I wouldn’t recommend it. A bunch of nice but spoiled kids live in a house, their criminal dad disappears, and through a series of unlikely and ridiculous events they all find rich benefactors, everything is fine, and no lessons are learnt. The end.

This Changes Everything, Naomi Klein. 10/10

And more again probably. Also one of the best books I’ve ever read, and shows you how we came to create a society which relies on the destruction of itself. All the twisted little interdependent avenues of filthy rich political elite and the death of the world. Read.

Last Chance To See, Douglas Adams and Mark Cawardine. 10/10

I had the honour of meeting Mark Cawardine this year. Legend. Lovely guy. I also re-read this book on a plane next to my mate Katherine (of Lamentations) and couldn’t stop giggling. She said ‘Watching you read it is the best advert this book could have.’ I love it – a serious, sad subject told with all the hilarity of fieldwork, unpreparedness and cultural misunderstandings.

Robin Hood and His Merrie Men, author unknown. 8/10

I enjoyed this children’s book a surprising amount and even being from Robin’s neck of the woods, knew surprisingly few of the stories. It was a very old version, very cute.

Bloody Jack, L.A. Meyer. 8/10

A YA fiction, and a re-read. I love a re-read. This is the first of, I think, twelve books. I love them all. It follows a super-smart, kick-ass girl in 1803 (ish). She dresses as a boy and joins the Navy. She has amazing depth of character and overcomes a lot of adversity on the way, but there’s no straight happy ending… hence the many other books. Love it. She had quite an impact on me growing up, and I enjoyed it just as much as an adult.

Living Dangerously, Ranulph Fiennes. 8/10

It takes something for a man to come across as a prick in his own autobiography, but Fiennes achieves this. I wouldn’t want to be his friend and I feel very sorry for his wife. However, you can’t fault his fucking incredible and absolutely insane adventures, or his retelling of them. A good read.

The Snows of Kilimanjaro, Ernest Hemingway. 4/10

I give books a score as I note the title and author. This is good because although I only read it three months ago, I remember very little about it. It’s a book of short stories but I felt they were stilted. I certainly wasn’t invested in any of them and I get the impression Hemingway wasn’t particularly, either.

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, Agatha Christie. 10/10

Can’t go wrong with an Agatha Christie. I never guess ’em. Very much enjoyed. No spoilers.

Fundamentals of Soil Ecology, Coleman and Crossley. 7/10*

*As far as scientific writing goes. If you’re after entertainment, look elsewhere, but this book managed to hold my interest. Soil is some good shit. Literally.

The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle, Stuart Turton. 8.5/10

Hm. A puzzler. I started this book and got bored. It was all mystery and I felt like it was purposeless, not intriguing. It was too much to be bothered with and after several chapters of the same character I couldn’t see where it was going and it was annoying me. I put it down and left it for months. Then I picked it up again and it suddenly got into gear, heading off in some interesting directions, and what really struck me was the excellent writing, completely new and unique metaphors and similes, and I felt like I was standing in each of those bodies when he first awoke. And then when the circle closed I found I had actually really enjoyed it. So give it a chance, and you will be rewarded.

The Witches, Roald Dahl. 9/10

When I come home (to my parents’ house) I often pick up a children’s book for old times’ sake. I picked this one up because I’d read an article the day before on scary characters in children’s books and that illustration of the Grand High Witch came back to me. I opened the book to see if it was as scary as I remembered and holy shit yes it is close your eyes. So I re-read the book and again, enjoyed it just as much as a grown-up. You find new corners as a grown-up.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows. 8/10

You absolutely see where it’s going but somehow it doesn’t spoil it. The characters are all rounded and you care about all of them. And it’s real (ish) history and opens a door most British people have never noticed.

Chocolat, Joanne Harris. 10/10

Oh dear, another re-read, but I swear they are just as valuable; you take new angles in a re-read, notice new things, delve a bit deeper into the flavour than you can when you’re ripping through the first time just desperate to know what happens. You can savour it… like chocolat. This is a beautiful book with the classic good vs evil reframed in a modern but old scene, battles of wills, scrying in smoke and steam. Mother/daughter, crime and punishment, friendships, sex, God, sin, good and evil, magic and sense. It also has a splendid sequel called The Lollipop Shoes that no-one seems to have heard of but which is brilliant.

Soil Processes, Brian Knapp. 5/10*

*Very dull even for science writing, but useful. On this list mainly because a) I did read it and b) that’s an achievement in itself. Not recommended unless you’re doing soil biology in which case, knock yourself out.

Soil Carbon Dynamics: An Integrated Methodology, Kutsch, Bahn and Heinemeyer. 4/10*

*Once more, I ain’t here to recommend this. But I bloody read it (I only included proper books, not papers). Drier than sub-Saharan soil, but useful (to me. I’ve had it out the library and no-one else has requested it in four months, put it that way).

Cloud Atlas, David Mitchel. 9/10

Thankfully back on stable ground (haha). Again, took a while to be sure of this one. And at the end of the first part I was like NO!! – a feeling which headbutted me at every damn interruption/switch – but the boomerang returns. Thoroughly enjoyed. The creative design is astonishing. I’ve never seen the film but it’d be interesting if only to see how the hell you can translate that to screen.

This Is Going To Hurt, Adam Kay. 9/10

This is a hilarious cry for help. Every British person needs to read this. Our beloved institution is creaking and the people who are holding it together are like frayed rope, overworked, overstretched, and giving huge personal sacrifice. Also: people are idiots.

And Then There Were None, Agatha Christie. 9/10

ARGH Agatha, dear Agatha, so aggravating and such GENIUS. I once more didn’t see the bloody opening!! But that’s the key to her brilliance. When the curtain falls you’re like DAMMIT how did I not see it?!

Face It, Debbie Harry. 7.5/10

Gosh, this. Halfway through it, I had such a vivid dream about living in the steamy punk underground of 1970s semi-slum New York. It’s so recent and so ingrained in culture and yet now a fairy tale, killed off by gentrification, living history erased. She takes you back there to the filthy alleys and bedsits and drug dens and underground clubs and the heady rush of creativity and frustration and anger and this upwelling of freshness and dirt and rebellion. She lived an absolutely crazy life. I feel I probably didn’t get the full impact as much as someone who lived through the seventies because she drops so many famous names who are just not in my lexicon. But I want to know all about them now, too. And I want Chris Stein’s book Negative. (I am a massive Blondie fan, btw; if you’re not, you might not like this as much, although I’m pretty sure everyone could get something from this book). I was left a bit frustrated with what seemed to me huge omissions – why did she and Chris break up? She skips over that with alarming speed! Literally the end of a very intense 13-year relationship comes with the line (approximately), talking about the death of a friend, ‘It was even worse because that morning Chris and I had broken up’ and THAT’S IT. She also talks about her drug addictions openly over the early years – but never talks about giving them up, and I imagined that would be a pretty huge thing to write about. Is 75-year-old Debbie still a smackhead? Who knows. But I did love it. Vivid.

 

That’s it, that’s all my book reviews for 2019. I think I’ll make this an end-of-year tradition.

Enjoy some good books!

Yours readingly,

Georgie

 

In Other News: Mum

I must have funnier things than this but it happened yesterday so it’s fresh.

I was thrashing my mum at Scrabble (we’re cool) and I played ‘chi’ and she was all ‘Hey that’s not a word’, I said yes it is, it’s life force or summat.

She then tried to play ‘ugg’ and I was like Whoa whoa whoa there. She’s like “You played bloody ‘chi’!” So I pulled up a dictionary on my phone, and ‘chi’ was there (letter of the Greek alphabet or Chinese life energy, you’re welcome for next time you’re playing) and she huffed and then I searched ‘ugg’ and obviously, no results because it’s bollocks.

I was like TAKE IT OFF hehehehe.

And she says to me in a really small voice, “You’re so meeean. I gave you everything.”

I started laughing and she continued petulantly, “I gave you life.”

Honestly it was the funniest thing, and eventually she laughed at herself too. I beat her 340-260 thereabouts.

The Skit

I haven’t written a blog in ages. I have been short of inspo and also distracted by many other projects. However, I just watched a video online of two little kids doing a skit and it really brought back a memory, you know when it’s like Bang! Wow I completely forgot that ever happened in my life, how have I forgotten that?! I’m so glad your brain stores little treats away from you like that. Well, I’ll share this with you.

I did a skit when I was ten. I moved to New Zealand near the end of the school year and all the kids in that class were super sweet and went out of their way to be my friend and be really kind to me.

There was a talent show on at the end of the year for all kids in any year group, doing any activity. And a few kids in my class – sadly I can’t remember them all now, but Kerry and Shelly were two of them, and there were a couple of boys too – had written a PLAY. At the age of ten. And guys, it was frickin genius. I wish I had a copy, or a video of it. And they asked me to be in it, to be nice I think.

We spent lunch times rehearsing in the classroom and making each other cry laughing. And then the talent show was up. It was presented by our wonderful, and extraordinarily beautiful headteacher, Mrs Stewart.

The plot, as I remember it, went like this.

We all got on stage in pyjamas and sleeping bags. We huddled down and chatted. The scene was set in a creepy haunted house. We were kids proving to each other that we were brave enough to handle it. We made jokes, made each other laugh, and scared each other with tales of the haunting.

Then Kerry said, in her character, “Guys… I need to go to the toilet.” She stood up, and we made her go alone. She felt her way across the darkened stage, and heard a voice saying “I’m going to get ya… I’m going to get ya… I’ve GOT YA! Mwa ha ha ha haaaa!” Kerry screamed and ran off stage.

I was up next. “I need to go too,” I said, and the same thing happened. “I’m going to get ya… I’m going to get ya… I’ve GOT YA! Mwa ha ha ha haaaa!” I screamed and ran away.

The others got very scared when we didn’t come back.

(Their fictional characters were blissfully unaware, of course, that backstage Kerry and I were in full thespian mode, doing a quick-change for our vital parts.)

The remainder of the brave kids got up, wrapped in their sleeping bags, and started to shuffle down the stage to our little curtained-off bit, previously of no note whatsoever.

The haunting voice rang out again. “I’m going to get ya… I’m going to get ya… I’ve GOT YA! Mwa ha ha ha haaaa!”

The kids all stumbled around and clutched each other in fear. “Guys!” one whimpered. “Guys I think it’s coming from … inside the bathroom!”

They edged closer and the laughing got louder…

They squeaked in fear…

And then a boy jumped forward and RIPPED the curtain (the ‘toilet door’) back and –

What?! –

Who was there but?!

“MRS STEWART?” all the kids chorused as one, proper pantomime.

Of course it wasn’t actually her, but Kerry was dressed up as our beloved headteacher, and I was next to her playing her friend, and we clinked beer bottles together and laughed manically and then Kerry – sorry, ‘Mrs Stewart’ – stuck her finger up her nose and yelled “I’m gonna get ya, I’m gonna get ya – I’ve got ya! Mwa ha ha ha haaaa!” and then pretended to eat a bogey. And then we pretended to down our beers.

The End.

Honestly I would be proud of that if I wrote it now. I wish I had had a hand in writing it!

Mrs Stewart saw the funny side… We got first place!

What absolute weapons.

Unfortunately our year six teacher didn’t see the funny side so much, and gave us a lecture on how alcoholism is a very serious problem and not to be laughed at (we were TEN, nobody mentioned alcoholism, and fuck mate it was hilarious shut up) but still, a piece of work that, now I’ve remembered it, I’m very proud of. Hahaha.

Yours actingly,

Georgie

In Other News

Aye, I’ll do an In Other News while I’m here, why not.

‘Absolute weapon’ is a phrase I’ve picked up from my Mancunian office buddy. Another is ‘get in the bin’. This week she told our other office pal to get in the bin, and he actually did?! Except he is a lot larger than the bin, and he could only fit his feet in, which got stuck, and he started to topple over, and couldn’t fight his instinct to try and step which caused him to crash full-length across the office floor and end up with his head under his desk and his feet still stuck in the bin. Haven’t laughed so hard in weeks. This man is 29 years old and mere months from being a Doctor.

Never grow up, kids.

Bidentity

Evening, all.

I don’t have a rant to go on today. I just want to talk about something. Writing it out helps me as much, if not more, than anyone who may choose to read it.

What I’m going to talk about is bisexuality and identity.

I have friends who I talk to about this all the time. And I have other friends who I barely mention it to (or who don’t even know, through my own omission and their assumptions in a heteronormative world). This isn’t anything against those friends – for me, more than anything, is it’s a very personal thing, when you think about it, to mention your sexuality – and I’m really not the kind of person to just be like ‘HI I’M BI’. Generally, if it comes up at all it’s in passing, because it’s relevant to something else we’re talking about.

I’m going to get personal now, and tell you about (sigh) my ‘journey’ (ew).

I always felt weird as a teenager. My friends had crushes on the hot male history and science teachers. The only teachers I had crushes on were female ones. This added a LOT of fire to my already-extremely-awkward personality. I got bullied for being gay. And the thing was – I wasn’t sure! Maybe I WAS gay – because I certainly didn’t like any boys. But I didn’t feel any pull of attraction, like that, towards anyone at all really, for a long time. So I was stuck in a ‘maybe I am gay’ rut, and at school, gay was the worst insult. So I felt pretty horrible about the whole thing. My parents thought I was gay too, and my dad constantly made jokes about it – which was their way of telling me that a) they already knew so I didn’t have to do the whole coming-out thing because they knew how horribly embarrassing I would find that and so I would probably never say it, and b) letting me know that was absolutely fine. Personally, I’d go about it in a different way, but their hearts were very much in the right place.

In my later teen years, we have a whole crash of views coming in. I’ve got my parents who are fine with it, and being gay is spoken about openly and without prejudice in my house; half of my mum’s cousins are gay and as a little kid we’d go and see Chris and his boyfriend. Cool. But school was a whole different ball game, and at that age your parents are almost out-of-focus compared to the social pressure and even hate you get from peers. But another worm in the can was my religious experiences. As a teenager, I identified as a Christian (still do) and the few friends I had were also Christian. As a group, we were greatly influenced by more conservative Christianity, and we started attending a club-like ‘church’ on a Friday night involving disco lights and speaking in tongues and wild dancing and solemn heartfelt prayer with raised hands, and fainting people in spiritual communion, and a lot, a LOT, of highly questionable messages. Things like how, at fourteen or fifteen, we should be thinking about getting married, looking for the person we would marry, and making ourselves into the sort of person they’d like to marry. Girls were virtuous ‘God’s daughters’, all sweetness and light and housewifely and child-bearing and holy, and men were strong and it was their job to take care of girls, but with that came control over them. Girls were told to dress modestly to put across the sort of personality that would make a good and modest wife. Did I mention we were fifteen. Yeah.

So I was battling a lot out – general teen weirdness, social pressure, my interpretation of my own faith, my friends’ faith, a belief that if I was gay I’d be facing this sort of bullying my whole life and it would never be ok no matter what my parents said. A mess.

Well, I went to college and didn’t think much of it there, just felt a sort of release from it because I was with different people and things were a bit more mature. And then I went to university and didn’t think much of it there, either, I’ll be honest, until I was in second year and found a guy I fancied. Wow, a guy! And someone I fancied! He was so gay. But we seemed to want to fuck each other, put bluntly (which we didn’t, because of a different avenue of religious questioning which we shall put aside here). It didn’t work out, anyway, and I’m pretty sure he’s at least bi too.

Then we hit third year of uni. And I’m not really sure what happened over the previous two years but I guess just exposure – exposure to ‘gay is ok’! Exposure to bromance, girls kissing in clubs, an openness about sexuality in general I hadn’t seen before in my small-town Christian life. The earth-shaking revelation that feminism has been for me, and the open embrace true feminism offers to everybody. And somewhere in there, although I can’t pinpoint the exact moment, the realisation that being gay and being a Christian are not mutually exclusive and we have a God of love. Love is love. OK. Doing well!

So, third year. New year new me. I grew in confidence. I was happy with who I was. I had amazing friends. I loved my course, my uni, my friends, my life. I started a new accepting church. And as far as I remember, my sexuality wasn’t bothering me at all.

Then a comet hit me in the form of a new girl on our course. Our interaction was in all truth pretty brief, but I can credit this girl with a lot. She was openly, confidently, sexily gay. She was the best flirt I’ve ever met and she was relentless, and when I was with her I found myself being much more flirtatious and witty than my usual standards. And she made it clear she found me attractive and she asked me on a date and she asked me (a lot) to have sex with her. Stuff went wrong because it wasn’t the right time. I make a rule to avoid regrets in life, but if I was to have one, I honestly wish it had gone better with her and that we’d both been more mature about it. But, we moved on, became good friends. But that small thing I had with her blossomed and, as silly as it sounds, that was my true realisation moment. OK. I am a bisexual.

Over the course of that year I came to terms with myself. I started being more open about it with my friends (well, getting off with girls in clubs will tend to do the talking for you). I did get a boyfriend, who was a Christian, but before we’d gone anywhere I told him, because if he hadn’t been ok with it, I would have finished it before it started.

But the time I spent with that guy was my first love, which does funny things to your brain, and it was an unhealthy relationship on top of that and significantly stifled who I really was. So I may have taken a backward step there.

But then I came out of that, and I was ready. I was me. I got myself back. And I LIKED GIRLS.

Over the last couple of years my feelings towards women have intensified and I don’t know whether that’s my sexual feelings in my maturity genuinely getting stronger, or just that I’ve become more open and accepting of who I am.

I told my current, amazing, boyfriend, that after that ex I said I was ‘done with guys’. He took it quite personally as evidence of my man-hating feminism. I didn’t really get chance to explain that that wasn’t it; I just emotionally connect better with women because I understand them, and I wanted a relationship with someone who wasn’t stifled by the toxic masculinity endemic to our culture – someone with emotional eloquence, which women tend to be better at than men (tend! No blanket rules! Purely because of our socialisation). And I wanted to explore my sexuality and my identity. It was far, far more than ever being ‘done with guys’ because they hurt me. It had nothing to do with that. I just wanted to open up my other side to myself.

As it happens, I met him, fell in love, and life took its course, as it does.

I’m also incredibly blessed with my group of Christian best friends from school, who stayed my ultimate bezzies, and who all went away and had the same love-is-love, feminist awakening I had, so we’ve supported each other and become closer than ever and have such a wholesome dynamic as a group and as individual friendships I cannot sing these girls’ praises high enough. I love them with all my heart. If you’re reading, girls, you are LIFE, thank you xxxx

And one of them had a bisexual awakening too, and so we’ve become a sort of support group for each other, us two yammering away about our queer little feelings surrounded by the warmth and true ally-ship of our oldest mates. It’s the best. So that’s helped, too, with confidence and openness.

The back story has gone on longer than intended but it helps me to iron out how I got here.

Because now all that’s bothering me is that nobody seems to know. Bi erasure is a thing. Both me and my bi bestie are with guys. People assume we’re straight all the time. She’s married so that will always happen to her. And I’d like to marry this guy, so it’ll probably always happen to me too.

But it’s something that I now see as so intrinsic to who I am, how I see the world, that I feel a sort of desperation in it, a weird urge to just yell it at random moments, or bring up things in conversation. I literally imagine being able to tell people in an unplanned scenario. I joked with Bi Bestie (she’ll love that as a nickname… not) about feeling so invisible I might get a badge. As it happens, after that skype I really did google ‘bisexual badges’ and they are a thing, and now I own two. And a gay pride one. Yessss.

It’s a hard feeling to describe because you feel like it shouldn’t matter, in this day and age, but it just cuts having people make assumptions about you. And although our sexuality doesn’t define us, for me I do feel it’s an important part of who I am, and it just gets ignored, unacknowledged, unnoticed. And there’s no real socially acceptable time to just yell ‘HEY I’M BI’. You don’t really see bi people on tv, or read about them in YA lit. You might see the struggles of a gay person on tv, but I’ve never seen the rather different struggle of being bi, and all the confusion and frustration and feeling of being invisible that that brings. And when I have brought it up, I’ve heard things like ‘I don’t get it. Like, I get being straight. And I guess I get being gay. But not… both?’

Something I also struggle with is FOMO – I’ll never know (I mean, if all goes according to plan with my amazing boyfriend, who I love, respect and adore, and would never swap for anything) firstly what it’s like to have a girlfriend, but more importantly to go about the world with my identity on show, saying yeah here look is my girlfriend, I am queer, I am visible, I am part of this community, just…. Being. Being all of myself.

And how lucky and blessed are we to live in this age where we have the freedom (here, at least), to go about the world like that?

I just wanted to explain how it’s something that affects me all the time, and I think about it a hell of a lot, and I sometimes just need to talk about it. Thank God for my amazing friends and boyfriend. Thank God for my amazing accepting validating church. I’ve never had anything but positivity about my sexuality from people of faith since that short-lived stint in the rock n roll Christian conservatives club in my teens.

If you are Christian and queer, may I suggest the Christians for LGBT+ facebook page as one of the warmest and most affirming religious spaces I’ve ever come across.

And now you all know me better than you ever wanted to, and it’s way past my bedtime, I’m ringing off. Love you all. Thanks for being here. And being queer.

Yours bisexually

Georgie

 

In Other News, I punched a guy

A pal – my Bi Bestie, in fact – insisted on going clubbing for her 25th even though we are too old for those shenanigans now.

Five minutes into our first club and one of my pals got a very thorough groping.

Five minutes after that, he came back and got me.

But this time he’d picked on the wrong lass. He made to dart away as I turned but I was too quick for him. I punched him so hard in the head he nearly fell over. Despite what he’d just done, I still had to fight the urge to laugh because he’d just been punched in the head by a woman a foot shorter than him and nearly fell over, but the funniest thing was the pure surprise on his face. No anger. Just utter astonishment.

His dickhead mates set him back on his feet and he came back over to me, holding his hand up. “High five yeah, all good yeah?” he said, expecting the response he’s no doubt had countless times from women he’s assaulted, who are afraid of taking it further and want to de-escalate the situation. Again, wrong lass.

“I’m not high-fiving you, you’re fucking disgusting, if you ever do that again I will fucking deck you,” I yelled, aware that in the noise of the club my anger was more important than what I actually said.

Now he looked furious and I thought he was going to punch me in the face. I dared him to, and one of his mates slung an arm in front of his chest.

At this point, the bouncer arrived, assessed the sight of a small girl yelling at a large man, asked no questions, and threw him bodily from the club.

Result.

 

You know you’re an ecologist when

Dear all and all dear

I’m an ecologist and on the British Ecologists Facebook page (yup) someone started a ‘you know you’re an ecologist when’ thread, some of which were highly amusing.

My top four from there were, in order:

  • ‘After a couple of unexpected surprises, your husband won’t even light the candles on his children’s birthday cakes because (muttered darkly) “you never know what you might find in a matchbox in this house”’
  • ‘You’re getting strange looks from a group of hikers as you walk back to your car, oblivious to the fact that the morning’s catch of snails that you thought were safely tucked away in your backpack are now crawling all over your back.’
  • ‘You get stopped by the police (doing 35mph just inside a 30mph zone) at 2am and you are not wearing trousers because you fell in a bog during a bat transect.’
  • And my favourite, ‘You are involved in a minor-but-serious-enough-to-involve-the-police bump in your car (not your fault!) and you are nervous talking to the police because you really don’t want to have to explain the dead swan on the back seat…’

So I decided to make a little list of my own and put them on here because yep life gets weird.

You know you’re an ecologist when…

  • An off-duty police knobhead runs a numberplate checks on your car (apparently) because ‘We’ve had a lot of rural crime round here’ when you’re armed with nothing but a weather writer and a see-through shirt after a downpour. Obviously, very threatening.
  • You break your finger hitting it very hard with a large hammer putting up a reptile fence
  • You can’t shake hands with a client because you broke your finger hitting it with a hammer when you were putting up a reptile fence… leading to a VERY awkward interaction where the client doesn’t know what to do with his outstretched hand and sort of pats your elbow and then looks horrified with himself
  • You get accused of planting bat droppings in someone’s loft to get more business
  • You’re on the way to a field site and fall in a ditch
  • Your car is FULL of equipment and mud and, frankly, smells
  • You’ve worked 8am till midnight and you’re on the same all week
  • Strangers ask you ‘what’s in the bucket?’ and you just proffer it towards them rather than say the words ‘Thirteen slow worms’ and just watch their reaction
  • You get fourteen ticks in two hours on a bird survey and have to dig them out in the office
  • Your freezer is full of creatures to identify later
  • You have at least one skull, and probably more than one pot of something very questionable on your desk (personally I have a few owl pellets; my colleagues collect bat shit. They are, quite literally, bat shit crazy.)
  • You can not only identify lots of kinds of shit, but get a bit excited about them too. And you don’t even mind if things poop on you. A slow worm pooped on you? Well, that means you caught a slow worm! Congrats!
  • You can sniff out dead animals
  • Your trousers are covered in literal shit but hell, they don’t need washing, they’ll only get more shit on them tomorrow. They’ll be good till the end of the week.
  • Your family text you pictures like ‘Is this a bee? It’s in my garage, what do I do?’ You have become the insect queen.
  • Ditto plants. ‘Is this poisonous?’ YES IT IS put it down!!!
  • It’s perfectly acceptable to leave a literal shit on your boss’ desk (as long as it isn’t your own)

There’s a lot of shit-related things there isn’t there. Ho hum.

Today I found fox poo, deer poo, hedgehog poo, and shrew poo. Nothing has shit on me for at least a week though, but I did get eight ticks in 45 minutes. I do think this job will kill me.

Au revoir pals

Yours shittily

Georgie

 

In Other News

I was back home with my parents, my favourite hilarious people. Dad said he’d cut his finger. Mum had a look and it’s a fair decent slice, and she said it looked dirty.

I said “I got a deep one yesterday and it was so dirty I thought I’d wake up to a disgusting infection.”

Dad said, “Have you had your tetanus?”

I said, “Yes, have you?” He said, “Yes, a long time ago!”

“So how did you do yours?” I asked him.

“Oh, well, the fire brigade doctor came round and we queued up and all got the – ”

He didn’t get the rest of it out as me and mum drowned his voice with our laughter.

Pro life = pro death

Hallooooo

Today we visit the cheeriest of topics: abortion. And be warned, it’s a long one.

I think ‘pro life’ and ‘pro choice’ are misnomers. To me there are only ‘pro life’ and ‘pro death’ arguments… but probably not the way round you’d assume.

The self-identified ‘pro-life’ camp doesn’t seem to mind women dying.

And the self-identified ‘pro-choice’ side is allowing those women to live.

There are people who would immediately take issue with that and argue that abortion kills babies. Well, it doesn’t, does it, really. It isn’t a viable life yet. I liked the analogy someone set sail upon the internet about whether in a fire you’d rescue a whole tray of embryos or the crying toddler in the corner, and no one on this earth would pick the tray of embryos.

I’m not saying foetuses aren’t important or valued. They are.

And because someone would probably ask me in a real-life conversation, no, I don’t think I could personally get one (unless it was rape and then I think I would) BUT HERE’S THE THING.

It’s not about me. Or you. Or any individual and what they would or wouldn’t do.

We don’t all have identical ethics, circumstances, dilemmas, and desperations. We are humans.

Women’s bodies should not be a political battleground. They should not be weaponised against women themselves. These laws are a form of pure control. Women’s bodies should be nobody’s business but theirs and whoever they choose to share it with.

Men make these laws. 68% MPs in the UK are men. Men hold 77% government offices in the USA. In fact, out of 200+ countries in the world, only two have more women in political offices than men: they are Bolivia at 53% women, and Rwanda at 64% women. (The whys and wherefores of this are one for another day, but perhaps a simplified contributor might be that women have to have the babies. And they are made to have the babies. And then there are no support systems in place to re-route post-birth. Well, why should there be, that’s biology right? Women have the babies and then look after them! Except, wait, we’ve managed to lap biological difficulties in every other fucking aspect haven’t we, look at the phones in your hand and the Viagra for your dick and the rockets on the moon and tell me we can’t come up with a solution to shared childcare I DIGRESS).

So, these men, anyway, they don’t know or care about a woman’s biology. They don’t care that loads of women often have late periods. They don’t care that some women might only get one every six weeks, or might be on birth control that usually stops them getting periods altogether and one egg just slipped through the net. They want to force women to bear children, which is a tool of subjugation as old as time.

The really fun part is, it does take two to make a baby. So where’s the political battleground for men’s bodies? Oh wait

https://www.mic.com/articles/95402/one-chart-shows-all-the-times-politicians-decided-to-regulate-men-s-bodies-in-2014

here is a fun graphic for that!

In 2014, legal restrictions proposed to regulate women’s bodies in the USA: 468.

Read that again. ONE YEAR. IN 2014. FOUR HUNDRED AND SIXTY-EIGHT. IN ONE COUNTRY.

Not all of these passed, sure, but they were proposed in actual government to tell women what to do with their own bodies.

And legal restrictions imposed on men’s bodies?

ZERO.

Something here really doesn’t fit for me.

(Point: yes loads of this focuses on America, for two reasons: one, excellent data availability, and two, it’s one of the few western developed nations to still cling to this medieval attitude in law.)

Ok, so a woman has to grow the thing, but they don’t spontaneously appear. And last time I checked, ‘contraception is a responsibility for both people’ is said A LOT.

And here’s another thing: the men responsible for pushing these bills through really are all about control. I’ll tell you for why…

They don’t mind when the boot is on the other foot, as long as they still have control.

Tennessee Republican representative Scott DesJarlais pressured his mistress (ooh so extramarital sex as well! Bravo!) into ending her pregnancy when he’s supported a national ban on abortion. AND – HIS WIFE, TOO!! And he used to be a doctor and slept with several of his patients. Sounds a real nice guy who definitely has your best interests at heart, doesn’t he?

Republican U.S. Rep. Tim Murphy of Pennsylvania also had an affair, and texts were made public in which she told him: “you had zero issue posting your pro-life stance all over the place when you had no issue asking me to abort our unborn child just last week when we thought that was one of the options.” Ouch.

Scott Lloyd, a human garbage patch who somehow got the gig of Head of Office of Refugee Resettlement in the US, removed abortion and contraceptive services from refugees and personally blocked a 17-year-old refugee who was a victim of rape from getting an abortion. And, oh yeah, paid for his ex-girlfriend to get one.

Elliot Broidy works for the Republican National Committee and raises funds for the party because of it’s ‘pro-life’ stance AND paid the woman he had an affair with to keep silent about her abortion, organised by Michael Cohen, interesting.

Could go on.

So the thing is, these stupid fucking badger merkins KNOW that there are circumstances where an abortion is the best option BUT NOT FOR YOU NO. Only for them. Because in super-Bible-belt-sinless-raging-white-Christian America I guess you only go to hell for shit if other people find out?? These people have no religion, no faith. They are poisonous. They use religion as a tool for control and coercion. Nothing more. They are toxically hypocritical. They do not care about the lives of babies. They care about the lives of women being corralled. They care about control. This does come down to men believing they have a right to control women.

They. Do. Not.

So, contraception. Logically, then, to reduce abortion rates you would support contraception. But no, these blithering jizzmongers don’t want that, either, removing vast swathes of Planned Parenthood funding and overseas aid for any organisations which are even connected to abortion providers (as any organisation having anything to do with contraception usually does).

So what, then? I guess they are trying to encourage abstinence? In their good Christian ways?

Well, we all know that statistically, abstinence until marriage is doomed to fail, and you’d think these raccoon giblets would know that better than most, but apparently not.

Here’s a link to a scientific paper which proves a positive correlation between abstinence-only education and … hahahahaha… pregnancy and STI increase.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3194801/

“These data show clearly that abstinence-only education as a state policy is ineffective in preventing teenage pregnancy and may actually be contributing to the high teenage pregnancy rates in the U.S.” So they can fuck right off with that one.

And personal responsibility? Knowing that sex can lead to a lifelong commitment? Well here is some news, no contraceptive method is 100% effective. So I guess no intimacy OH WAIT WE ALREADY DECIDED THAT WAS BULLSHIT sorry. It just doesn’t work. And this whole women-don’t-have-sex-then thing completely ignores the fact women are also people and enjoy sex and want to be intimate with the person they love. And I bet the people who sit on their high horses banning abortion are exactly the sort of men who would pressure women into something and then disappear into the sunset.

Because, another argument then: well, have the kid, and get support.

But saying a father should support his offspring is very different to it actually happening. There are no guarantees.

Take me for example. I’m 25. I work a just-above minimum wage job on a one-year contract at unholy hours. I live in a friend’s spare room. I have little savings and no personal space. My partner lives currently 2000 miles away. I live 200 miles from the rest of my family. I have nothing of my own except a very tiny car. And, when we’re in the same place, I’m sexually active. With one method of contraception. I guess to some that would be ‘reckless behaviour’ then. Because there is no way on this planet I could have a baby in this situation. I’d have to quit my job, move back in with my parents and put a huge burden on them, I would lose my independence, any progress in my career, chance of improving that or saving to have a baby at a better time, I would feel so trapped and desperate and alone. So I guess by that logic I should just not have sex then. Ever.

I feel safer knowing there would be a way out, if I ever needed one. I hope I don’t. But until you’re in that situation, you will never know. And you cannot prescribe something like that to another person. You just can’t. It’s not your body, your life, your pain or suffering.

Next argument: so give it up for adoption. This completely ignores the physical and mental trauma or going through childbirth, bonding, and then giving up a baby and never seeing it, never knowing. I can’t say what’s what, it isn’t my place, but for some people, a termination of a non-viable embryo which isn’t really alive yet is an easier option to live with.

We haven’t even touched on the ravages of pregnancy. According to the NHS, ‘it’s common for women to experience mental ill health’ in pregnancy. COMMON. Maybe for some people, that is just not an option. If it’s something you have struggled with your entire life and spent thirty years trying to build, imagine watching your existence crumble away in a single minute.

And not to mention pregnancy can be deadly. It’s all right those ‘some exceptions’ people – that’s OK if the risks are identified. But just carrying a baby has severe risks. Maybe some people just cannot face what pregnancy can do to a body – from permanent disability or illness, right down to death. It’s terrifying. This is not an experience that law should be able to enforce.

I can’t imagine those not-so-quite-anti-abortion men previously mentioned standing up to volunteer, if they could, can you?

Personally, I quite enjoy the videos of dudes hooked up to electrodes to simulate labour.

Another argument: get rid of abortion in law and it won’t happen. I’ve never, ever understood this. The people who peddle this shit are like flat-earthers and anti-vaxxers. This isn’t an experiment or a practice run. In the whole of human history, abortion has only been legal ANYWHERE for a maximum of 99 years (personally I’m surprised it’s that long! – and where!). As far as I can tell (wikipedia), Soviet Russia was the first country to legalise abortion and put it under state control, in 1920! Lenin cited economic and social factors post-war and post-revolution which made it extremely difficult to support children, and he apparently recognised that banning it didn’t make it go away.

Because abortion has been around for as long as humans have. According to WHO, abortion rates are similar in countries where abortion is legal and where it is not. Natural abortifacients have always been known. And of course, the one which springs to most sane people’s minds, is the image of a woman in a darkened room with dirty instruments and blood on the floor. So many women die or are damaged for life through back street abortions. They die from internal bleeding or sepsis. They lose their wombs to necrosis. In 2006, the figures were that 70,000 women a year die from backstreet abortions – and that’s what we know about. These figures are from Abortion Rights UK/The Guardian.

Making abortion legal doesn’t increase abortion rates. It makes the abortions that would happen anyway safe.

I am not here to debate when life begins. But 90% abortions in the world take place in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. Only 1.6% abortions in the UK happen after 20 weeks and these are almost entirely due to foetal abnormalities which would be terminal.

I would unequivocally support my mother’s right to choose whether or not she had me.

The ‘pro-life’ people are nowhere to be seen when it actually comes to supporting life. They are not there for the nappy changes and the sleep deprivation, with the funds for the costs of a baby, with a magic cure for physical and mental pains, with jobs which match your pay and qualifications after having a baby, or of course a cure for not wanting a child at all.

There is no analogue between women who want a baby and can’t, and women who can but don’t want one. Every woman on this earth is an individual and should be able to choose for a start what her body goes through (pretty basic idea, to me) but it’s comparing apples to spaceships to insult these groups by comparing them to each other. A guilt trip helps precisely no-one. It does nothing for the woman who wants a baby, but makes the hardest decision anyone could ever make even harder.

And why do women choose to have abortions? Statistically the most common reason given in the US is ‘negative impact on a woman’s life’ which is very broad. Second is financial instability. Thirdly is relationship problems and unwillingness to be a single mother.

That first reason encompasses an entire woman’s life, remember. Less than half of girls who have a baby before they’re 18 graduate high school. Think how that leaves your entire future. Not even a high school diploma. How are you going to earn enough to support a baby? How are you going to earn enough to support yourself over the course of your life? What are your career options? Any skills, talents or dreams you may have had are gone. Your ability to provide a better life for another child in the future is affected. These girls are more likely to become trapped in dependent and abusive relationships. How can a girl go from having to put up her hand up to go to the bathroom one day, but being responsible for a tiny helpless human the next? And in trying to take the decision away from them, we are enforcing the paradox that they aren’t mature enough to decide to have a termination, but they are mature enough to bring up a child??

Other reasons frequently cited include: I don’t want any more children; stigma around sexual activity; my partner wants me to; and the health of the woman or the foetus. 1% abortion seekers are victims of rape. Think about that. It doesn’t sound like much but it fucking is.

89% women gave at least two reasons. 72% gave at least three.

Women do not seek abortions lightly. The myth that abortion is used as another form of birth control is precisely that – a myth. There is nowhere in the world where abortion is entirely unrestricted. You cannot just turn up, as though you were getting a haircut, like some people seem to believe.

OK, I think I’ve got everything off my chest that I needed to say. It’s taken me 2600 words and a colourful search history, but here we are. There should be a legal opportunity. The rest is up to the individual. I do not believe there is an ethical case for the banning or undue restriction of abortion. It will still happen, it will just be deadlier and more secretive and more shameful and cause untold pain.

I’m going to leave it there.

Yours very definitively,

Georgie.

 

In Other News… A Difficult Essay To Follow With Comedy…

Errrr…. Well,  I once farted on a bat survey and the bat detector picked it up, does that count?

So it turns out silent farts actually aren’t silent. I found it so funny I had to text my best friend and she replied with ‘Good luck to whoever tries to identify that one’ and I creased.

Your Point

Hello dear friends

I feel like I last wrote maybe a week ago but it’s five or six now. In spite of that feeling, much has happened.

I spent two weeks in Lebanon, for a start, which is a beautiful country and you should all visit. It has Jeita grotto and Balou-Balaa which should be on the wonders of the world list. The cities are intense and the food is wonderful and the mountains beyond imagination. Go.

I wrote most of this in the middle of a workday last week, because inspiration strikes at inappropriate times. I’ll leave the context to your imagination, but it was an office day and not a lizard-catching day, I’ll give you that much.

I feel like a wild animal that’s learned to put on a shirt, but I am half an inch from clawing my way out and diving into the woods. I feel so constrained and the seemingly endless ticking of the clock and repeated days and structure and timetables is slowly suffocating me…

We’re told in theory to practice critical thinking when in practice, any initiative, any deviation from the expected and taught, is discouraged or punished. THIS is the right answer. Through school, through work, under teachers and curricula and bosses and clients. Education is failing to keep up with society and life, becoming irrelevant with startling speed in today’s world, and the science in the office failing to keep up with science in the hallowed and protected halls of research, where access to knowledge is not a right, but a tax. And then the homogeneity of society is puzzled at, despite a social and cultural training throughout our entire lives funnelling us into tools rather than toolmakers, lasering us towards one tiny speck of light in the far distance, whittling away any unnecessary personality or individuality on the way whose attentions might cause you to deviate for half a second towards something you actually enjoy.

Uniformity is enforced, sparks of light flickering out wherever you look, forcing people into the boxes of greater good where they spend miserable lives, like a dog on a treadmill running towards the treat dangling in front of it, never able to reach it. The more we claw upwards, the further away our aspirations move.

My boss questioned my ‘motivation’ a few weeks ago, I think groundlessly; but either way, it made me think of what I have so far done with my life. I did everything the way we were told. I answered all the questions right. I sat the exams. I was funnelled through that precise school system. I went to university. And then I went back to university. I had a dream in mind, a career. I did everything we’re ‘supposed’ to do, things we are taught will make your life better, will give you the satisfaction society insists is just out there, waiting, as long as you make the right choices. And then at the end of it you will achieve the homogeneous dream: get a good job, save up, get married, buy a house, have kids, work cheerfully, retire comfortably, die happy.

And at the age of 25, sitting in a plain office, staring up at a double monitor showing me reports and maps, the realisation hit me: all we are promised does not exist. It is a mirage. I am 25, living in someone’s spare room with not a legal leg to stand on, on minimum wage, having survived on a shoestring alone for seven years, with almost no savings to show for ten years in part- or full-time employment (hi university), debt which is undoubtedly larger than any difference in my gross lifetime earning capacity between university attendance or lack of, my partner is stuck 2000 miles away in a bureaucratic sinkhole, my family is 200 miles away, and I have a distinct black hole feeling that All Is Not Quite Right. All dripping under the umbrella of Brexit, which lies under the marquee of Global Climate Disaster (yep, it’s always there, above every single one of us, and ready to collapse on our heads).

So I suppose if my motivation was suffering, it’s probably… just… that.

My boyfriend called me a nihilist after my last blog post. After googling what that is, I think he might, sometimes, be right. Not all the time. But there’s definitely a streak of it if you push the right buttons.

Yours gloomily,

Georgie
In Other News, It’s Not All Work And No Play

My office is not a bad one to work in, if you have to have one at all. We have a laugh, and we have a dog (improves it 1000%).

Someone’s got hold of the office number and has called several times asking for the boss, let’s call him Steve, as ‘he’s won a prize!’ You’ve never heard anyone so excitable as this conwoman.

‘That’s funny as I’ve never entered anything,’ Steve humphed, the first time.

Now, our favourite thing to do with these calls is put them on loudspeaker…

“Hello, is Steve there please? This is Louise calling from WhateverTheFuck Competition, he’s won a prize!”

As a matter of fact, Steve himself usually answers the phone.

“Steve?” he says. “Oh – oh yeah – I’ll just go get him for you.” He then balances the phone in the furthest corner of the office while we snigger quietly and uncontrollably.

After about five minutes of hilarity, he then picks the phone up again and says, “Hello? Is there someone on this line?”

“Hi, yeah!” Excitable Louise gasps on loudspeaker. “Is that Steve?”

“Oh – Steve – he’s around, I’ll just go and find him.” And Steve abandons the phone again.

And repeat. She stayed on the line twenty minutes once. Three repeats.

How we laughed.