Happy Halloween

This is my entry for Mama Kat's Writers'Workshop

We'll be away in Cappadocia this Halloween so no trick or treating for us.
As a family we're not particularly attached to Halloween - neither my husband nor I grew up with it, as it just wasn't a big thing in France or the UK in the seventies and eighties. But where we live now, there is a sizeable American community, so there are parties and events every year and we usually take part and enjoy it.

So here's some crafty Halloween stuff in honour of the celebration we'll be missing.

This is a witchy pinata, recycled from a Christmas Angel. We actually made it for an Easter party but everyone commented that it would be better suited for Halloween, so...

It's not always easy to find whole pumpkins here, we usually buy them sliced, and when they're whole, they're often the pale green variety and huge. Last year we found one, so we got carving and Zombie school girl and witch boy were able to take a jack o' lantern to the party.

Finally, no Halloween is complete in our household without Doctor Who monsters. Here are some Dalek cookies Charlotte and a friend made:

Happy Halloween!


Mean people are dumb

I was listening to a Women's Hour podcast this morning at the gym. While I just love Jenny Murray, I sometimes get pretty upset at the things I hear, especially now everything is going pear-shaped in Britain with the conservatives and all.

So I just wanted to remind myself and you all, that not only are the bastards trying to put us down mean, they are also pretty stupid. So here goes.


Too early for Christmas... part II - the candied citrus peel.

We normally do our Christmas Pudding on the last weekend of November. We normally manage to miss the real Stir up Sunday by a week. Don't ask how that works.
That means, we normally chop up our dry fruit (and make the mince meat) and make our candied peel on the day before. It's usually a rush. A panic, even.

This year Charlotte has been asking to start proceedings early. She's generally been pestering people about Christmas since 1 October. Yesterday I finally gave in, because she's right, she's annoying, and I saw a Pomelo at the supermarket.

A pomelo is a huge, slightly misshaped citrus fruit. 'Im indoors reckons it's a prehistoric Citrus fruit, before they started the kind of genetic manipulations that led to the tangerine and - I believe - most of the citrus fruit we actually eat. He's in fact been buying them for Christmas for two years running. The first year, it just rotted on the balcony. The second year, we got around to using some of the peel for the candied peel. Then we planned to use it for some mythical thai dish that 'Im indoors had seen on the internet, and it rotted in the fridge. This year, we've used the peel, and I'm planning on juicing it. We'll see what comes of that.

Anyhow, here it is (next to a lemon so you can see how big it is):

Yesterday I set my daughter to work. I juiced three oranges, two limes, one lemon, two grapefruits, and she took off the remaining flesh and the pith. 'Im indoors and I have a running dispute as to how much pith should remain. He thinks it tastes nicer with some. Quite how he knows that, seeing as I've always removed most of it, is a mystery. Anyhow, I say I'll leave some, I don't, and that's that.

Then I got her to slice it. Small. (Again, 'Im indoors reckons bigger is better. Same principle as above applies).

Next step is the syrup. For that you need equal quantities of water and sugar (how much depends on how much peel you have. Duh.) And some limoncello. Even Charlotte reckons it tastes better if you add alcohol. She'd like not to go on record as having said that.)

If you want to know how much we used here's our measurements.
First we decided to try measuring out 150 of something called Haferflocken. Then as it didn't seem to be enough, we added 125 of GrieB. (Yes, we have a German measuring jug.) For the limoncello, I put in a bit. Then, as the bottle was nearly finished, I decided I might as well put the rest in. Don't worry, we have another bottle in the freezer.

Bring the syrup to the boil, bang the peels in. Stir, and basically stick around until it looks right - or until you get bored, whichever comes first. Another possibility, one I'm currently exploiting, is to leave your daughter in charge - after all, she was the one who wanted it done today! That's not panning out quite as well as I hoped though, as she keeps calling out to ask if it's done yet.

Once the peel is in the pan, she complains a little less: it's sort of fun watching the colours become more vivid and the peel more transparent as it cooks.

When you feel that it's done (it looks and tastes right, you're bored, your kitchen elf is getting bored) you put the fruit out to dry on some grease proof paper. For an hour or two, maybe. Either until you remember to do it or need the space in the kitchen. The you put it into jar.
How long does it last? Well, I've just found some of last year's batch in the back of the fridge. It's fine. Want some?

Oh, one last thing. If you liked this post, would you mind terribly clicking on the RSS feed, here, or the Google connect buttons (top left)? And if you didn't like it, you might still want to look around. There's three of us, you know, so you're (almost) bound to find something you like. And then, if you've still got time, you could share this post or stumble it, or both and get in touch with your local tv station to sing our praises. We'll love you forever.

Pumpkin pie

We had way too much pumpkin.

Our local supermarket sells it sliced. Last week, we made soup. 'Im Indoors, as he likes to call himself - maybe as a reflection of the fact that he'd like to spend a bit more time indoors instead of running after Max's scooter all the time - found a recipe involving lentils, and chard stalks. Yes, chard stalks. It turned out lovely.

Then this week, he bought another batch and roasted about half with herbs and spices to use for risotto. I made one risotto last night, with one slice of bacon, chopped (we have to economise our bacon here), some peas, and a few leaves of reyhan, a deep purple basil. I got some duck stock out of the freezer and, of course, the pumpkin. The other roasted bits are sitting nicely in the freezer, waiting for more risotto opportunities.

So that left me with a biggish quantity of pumpkin to use up - it doesn't keep well once it's sliced up.


A rare genetic disorder

This morning, as Max was getting into the lift to go down and wait for the school bus, I noticed that his rubber boots were split at the back. The whole length of rubber was gaping. So I unrolled his trousers a bit to cover as much of it as possible. Not too much: the reason the trousers were rolled up was to hide a big tear at the bottom.

These are not old clothes. They are not even second hand, or cheap. I bought the boots two weeks ago and my husband picked up the trousers around the same time. I have no idea why our children's clothes are always stained, or torn.

Well, maybe. Ours do the same thing. So it's probably  genetic.
That's it. There is a gene for not being able to keep clothes neat.
I can prove it.

We wash our clothes in our own washing machine. My husband is anal very careful about putting them on the right cycle. I'm not, but then I never go near the wash basket.

For the past eight years we've had a person coming in regularly to clean our house - aren't we lucky! - and she irons all our clothes. She's way more careful with them than we'd ever be. If we knew how to handle an iron, that is.

She's not so great about putting them away in the right place so I do that. And I am very careful anal about it.

Clothes that need to be dry cleaned are, eventually. Things are repaired when they need to be.
So our clothes are extremely well cared for (well, sort of: we don't have suit bags, shoe horns, padded hangers, fuzz ball removers, we often don't handwash stuff for ages, and only if it really really has to be handwashed and I don't bang it in the main wash 'by mistake' after it's been in the handwashing basin for several weeks - erm. I'm in danger of losing my point here).

So you see, our clothes are perfectly cared for. 
Then we wear them.
We don't climb trees (often).
We try not to walk in the mud if there's a dry pavement (unless we don't see it because we're talking).
We roll up our trousers, or tuck them in our boots if it's raining (then forget to tuck them out again).
Still, we're a mess.
There are no wardrobe malfunctions.
That's just how we are.
Any cures for it?

This was my post for Mama Kat's Writers Workshop. The prompt was: a wardrobe malfunction.


I know it's way too early to be thinking about Christmas...

... but I need some inspiration.

Every year we make an advent calendar. Every year it's different and takes some time to make. And it being an advent calendar, it obviously need to be done by 1 December, and not 24 December - a fact that keeps escaping my mind so that I think I've got an extra month to think about it.

So what I'm going to do is post pictures of past calendars (only the past four years - before that, I hadn't yet gone digital), and hope that somebody comes up with ideas!



This is sister 3's entry for Tara' galery week 32.
The theme started with halloween, and ended up with Red. Isn't she surprising ?!!!

Well, I'll travel a little too with the theme this week
You see today's a very special day
Today is Sandrine's birthday
She's 40
She's my big sister, I'll be 40 in 2 years let's say tomorrow !!!!
But I don't mind, cause I think her life is great, she managed to do great things, 40 is the start of others !
So Sandrine, I wish you a RED AND HAPPY BIRTHDAY :

 with PARTY AND FUN !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

with a rose for its smell and tenderness

 with hot peppers to make it spicy !!!!!!

And with sex...but I don't want to talk about it...


Oh, one last thing. If you liked this post, would you mind terribly clicking on the RSS feed, here, or the Google connect buttons (top left)? And if you didn't like it, you might still want to look around. There's three of us, you know, so you're (almost) bound to find something you like. And then, if you've still got time, you could share this post or stumble it, or both and get in touch with your local tv station to sing our praises. We'll love you forever


Une promenade en automne

The weather's been sort of thundery lately. Most days. Sometimes it's so loud it wakes us up in the night. The rain falls hard enough that cars wheels are completely submerged, and there's waves on the roads. Surprisingly, I haven't been suffering from migraines at all (not even that night when I dared to drink red again and overdid it a bit...). For the first time in years I can look at a cloud and not feel threatened. In fact, I'm so confident I've even given the sky the finger once or twice... I'm stronger than you, buster.
But I was worried I wouldn't be able to take my weekly walk with Max. Fortunately, it didn't rain, and without the threat of migraines, I was fully able to appreciate the beauties of the season.


Portraits of Autism #11

I read this really interesting piece yesterday. It was about how autistic adults are forming communities, and how that surprised some people because, after all, aren't autistic people not very good at social relations? That's what the experts tell us: autistic people have trouble relating to others, they don't empathise very well, so by rights, they should always be isolated.

That brought in mind other things I'd read over the last few months. One expert telling a mother her child will never be potty trained because he wasn't at 8. Another one saying her child was simply dreamy, and that there was nothing to worry about. Both, of course, turned out to be wrong. And that's really what we should expect. Because it's very hard to be an expert at something no one really knows anything about. If being an expert means mastering the existing body of knowledge, then yes - there probably are experts in autism. But if it means having a clue what causes autism, knowing what will, without a doubt improve the learning abilities of a child, make him or her more comfortable with the world around, then no, there aren't any.

Of course there are lots of people with plenty of experience, who don't claim to know anything for certain, but generally have a pretty good instinct of what's going to work or not with a particular child. And if something 's not working, they usually have no problem giving up and trying something else. That is certainly the case with the teachers at Max's autism centre. Yet, they're young, and they can't have studied for more than a few years for the qualifications they need to work here. Their experience must be limited: I don't suppose most of them have worked for more than five years or so. But they work hard. Within a day, they see many children. And they work intensively. They pick up on one child's needs very quickly. They establish a relationship, not just with the child, but with the parents and the school teachers. They're not experts, they're exceptional people.

As to the psychologists, the neurologists, the child psychiatrists who claim to be experts - well, they certainly don't have that kind of experience. Nor do they have a clear grasp on what it is they're supposed to be experts about. Is autism a neurological condition, is it psychological? Does any one even know what that distinction really is about? According to us philosophers (who of course know everything!), neither the neurologists nor the psychologists really know what they are talking about, that is, they're very good at studying the bits of brains or human reactions they look at, but it's not very clear how and why they think any of that relates to what goes on in any one's mind or heart.

The psychiatrists and neurologists are also those people who, forty years ago, would have blithely recommended you put your child in an institution and forget about them - or failed to recognise their autism altogether. Autism is in many ways a newly discovered condition, and as such, it's not clear to me that any one should really constitute themselves experts. There just hasn't been time to build up a decent body of knowledge or to learn about its applications. Any study that we actually might trust and that is not built on antiquated prejudices about autism is bound to be very new. Basically, we won't know the results until another decade or so.  So when people make claims about what works and what doesn't work with autism... they're either basing them on very short studies or making confident predictions. In any case, that's no what scientific expertise is supposed to be about, so I stick to my guns: there are no autism experts.

So I'm always much more inclined to ask the advice of one of the teachers at the centre than that of an eminent sometingist who has no experience working with autistic children. And I don't think anyone should let themselves be upset by what a so-called expert says.  There are people who's business is to make you feel small in order to make themselves feel important. And you shouldn't feel small. No one spends as much time and energy on your child as you do. As far as the only expertise available to us - experience - is concerned, you are the expert. I'm certainly not saying you shouldn't pay attention to what anybody else says: there are some very good professionals with invaluable information and skills, people with experience, people who've devoted their lives to helping kids like yours. But these won't be claiming expertise. They won't be putting you down, or minimising the importance of your instinct and experience.

Oh, one last thing. If you liked this post, would you mind terribly clicking on the RSS feed, here, or the Google connect buttons (top left)? And if you didn't like it, you might still want to look around. There's three of us, you know, so you're (almost) bound to find something you like. And then, if you've still got time, you could share this post or stumble it, or both and get in touch with your local tv station to sing our praises. We'll love you forever.


La femme francaise...

So the Global Gender Gap report 2010 says that France comes 46 out of 114. The New York Times interviewed some people to try and figure out why that might be. Some of the stuff that's reported on the video makes me sick. As does some of the stuff that isn't said.

No one, apart from the journalist conducting the interviews, remarks that one reason for gender inequality might be that there is no equal division of labour in the home. French women may know how to carry a handbag, but French men don't seem too adept at changing a nappy or loading a washing machine.

So maybe women stopped in the street or interviewed at the park don't want to bitch about their partners on film. But from a woman who is a politician, and a minister of economic affairs, business and employment you'd expect better, wouldn't you? Not if she's Christine Lagarde, apparently. Here's what she says about the gender gap:

Either it requires so much sacrifice that they're not prepared to commit, or they find it unpleasant, not rewarding based on their values, and essentially they say, you know, thank you very much for the glass ceiling, we've cracked it but there's not enough air up there, so I don't want to go.

So basically, women don't make it to the top because they can't hack it. They're not like men. They're soft. And this despite a prompt from the journalist suggesting that maybe the lack of equality at home would be a good explanation for women's lack of success at work!

But what am I thinking. Of course, if women do all the housework and childcare it is simply because they find it more rewarding based on their values! What an unnatural French woman I must be. Me and most of the others I know. Thank you Christine Lagarde for reminding us of our true nature.



my favourite pictures


This is Sister 3's entry for week 31 of Tara's Gallery at Sticky Fingers. The theme this week was:
My favourite picture

It's not that I always want to do more than the others
It's just that Tara asked for a story with the picture, and I like the 3 of them...

I took this picture in summer 2009
see, this is my MUM
We were at " l'ile de RĂ©" wich is kind of a little paradise in France, a little island where everyone cycles a lot
It was a difficult time
She was waiting for results
Cancer, or not
She was told she had nothing, then a cancer, then maybe nothing, then that she had to have her breast taken off, then not...
She came with us one week
It had been years since she hadn't cycled; she was afraid...
She fell twice !
Each time she'd across someone, she would throw her bike against this person, and fall
The 1st time, she hurted herself, but climbed again, and tried again
Ok the 2nd time, we stopped cycling...dind't want to kill anyone...
She didn't have cancer
She's quite convinced that she killed it
Well maybe, seeing what a "warrior" she was on the bicycle

This is Nina
You know how Hubby forbides me to post a picture of our daughter
But this time, I convinced him, because how could I speak of favourite picture without my beautiful girl ?
On this picture, Nina was born 20 hours earlier
And this is so her !
Quiet, you can seat her somewhere, and forget she's here
Watching, observing,
Shy, sometimes you'd think she's sad, no she's just her, taking pictures of the world aroud her, analysing everything
For christmas, she wants a camera
She is 6 now
I am so proud of my baby

I took this picture for sticky fingers, for the theme on the 7 sins
It was my "pride"
So it seems natural to post it here
I love this picture because I find it lovely, and I was proud of myself !
And I love it most of all because we spent a real good time this time with my family, trying to find the best ideas to represent the 7 sins !

Oh, one last thing. If you liked this post, would you mind terribly clicking on the RSS feed, here, or the Google connect buttons (top left)? And if you didn't like it, you might still want to look around. There's three of us, you know, so you're (almost) bound to find something you like. And then, if you've still got time, you could share this post or stumble it, or both and get in touch with your local tv station to sing our praises. We'll love you forever.


The God thing.

I've always been fairly vocal about my atheism. I could afford to be. Being brought up in the French middle classes in the seventies and eighties, atheism was the norm. There were catholics among my peers, but aside from bragging a little around first communion and confirmation time, when they'd get to go on retreats and miss school and then get presents, they pretty much kept it to themselves. Nor did we receive any kind of religious education. Christmas was about decorating the tree, big family dinners and presents. Easter was all about hunting for chocolate in the garden. Of course we'd occasionally wonder why people had nativity scenes near their Christmas trees, and why the church bells made such a racket on Easter morning. But even that made sense to an atheist child. Different families had different interpretations of the whole Santa thing. We had Father Christmas, but some people in the East had Saint Nicholas, and some baby Jesus. Either way, the presents got delivered. As to the bells, well we don't believe in  anything as improbable as the Easter Bunny in Paris (improbable and a little freaky, if you ask me). It is the bells that drop the eggs in the garden. So there.

As I grew up I learned about tolerance, about accepting that people believe different things and that these things matter to them, so that it's not ok to be in your face about your own conflicting beliefs.  I even learned that there might be some value in knowing a little about those beliefs you don't share. They are, after all, an important part of what shaped our culture. So I learned about the lives of the Saints and stories from the bible by looking at pictures. Not terribly reliable, I know, but better than nothing.

What I never experienced, was the need to be tolerated. As an atheist, I've always felt I was part of the righteous majority. Those who believed otherwise had to tiptoe around me. I was the norm, they were the ones seeking acceptance. And then, I came across this post. Someone was writing that as an atheist, she had to be very careful about revealing her beliefs - or lack thereof - and worse, had to watch her children's behaviour. I'm not talking about Iran, here, people. I'm talking about America. It turns out that in America, whereas it may be ok to choose one religion over an other, it's not ok to be an atheist.

This was brought home to me again the other night when I watched Glee. So this show is like the Breakfast Club meet Fame. A bunch of geeky kids meet up and sing songs so they can win a competition and become popular. Every week there's a theme. There's been Funk, Madonna, Gaga, even Britney Spears. But this week was God. One of the characters, Kurt, is facing tragedy. The others want to help him by singing spiritual songs. He thanks them but no thanks. As a gay teen he's never felt that welcome by religious communities, and also, he doesn't believe in God. But, says one of his friends, you can't prove God doesn't exist! So Kurt replies:
You can’t prove that there isn’t a magic teapot floating around on the dark side of the moon with a dwarf inside of it that reads romance novels and shoots lightning out of its boobs but it seems pretty unlikely doesn’t it?

A good point, I felt. But his friends were offended. They thought he'd gone to far. And then, they gathered round the place where Kurt's tragedy lays (sorry, trying to avoid spoilers here), and prayed. At the end of the episode, Kurt breaks down, agrees he's been a bad boy and goes to church with Mercedes. The moral of the story is: if you have to be an atheist, make sure no one has to know about it, it's offensive.

Well, I guess it's useful to know what the other side has to put up with. What do you think?


Portraits of Autism #10

I haven't told everyone who knows us about Max's autism yet. I sort of assume the word will have gone round. And by now, if someone doesn't know, it takes me by surprise. Last week I bumped into an acquaintance at the bus stop and she remarked on how much better Max was speaking now. I said that yes, he'd made a lot of progress. And then she came up with stuff about how he must have been confused by our use of three languages.

I said no, it's because he's autistic. Lo and behold, she didn't know. Her eyes opened wide, she took a step towards us, hands outstreched, palms upwards. We'd just informed her that a tragedy had struck our family. She was confused and wanted to make us feel better. 'But he looks so normal', she said. 'And he's very clever.'  Yes, I said. Autistic people are not abnormal, and some of them are very clever. I was probably a bit short. It had been a long day. I'm sorry for it as her reaction came from the heart. It was well meant.

For a lot of people - including most of us parents, for a few weeks after we find out - an autism diagnosis is a tragedy. An autistic child is perceived as a failure and a liability. A failure not because parents could have done better and produced a more 'normal'child, but because people feel that a child with autism will never be happy or fulfilled. That child's future is already crossed off in black in their mind.

Now, I don't go for autism 'cures' and all that claptrap. I fail to see how a condition that is fundamentally a set of facts about how the brain functions could be eradicated. As I wrote in a previous post, the closest to something resembling a cure you can come to is that you learn to deal with sensory overload, learn to behave as neuro-typicals would, you learn to respond in certain ways and you learn to suppress inclinations to behave in ways that would be perceived as weird or disruptive.

But none of that means that I believe my child's future as an autistic adult is hopeless. Except for the most severe cases of autism, there's really no reason why an autistic adult shouldn't leave a fulfilling independent life. Sure, they're going to have problems that neuro-typicals don't typically encounter. And that's to do with the fact that they'll be part of a not very well understood or accepted minority.

So it's not rare that I get the suffering silent stare when I tell people my son has autism. By contrast, if I try and talk to them about actual problems we face because of his autism they tend to trivialise them.
- We have sleeping problems, I say. 
- So do we. 
- Potty training is hard. 
- Yes, it is for all of us. 
- He doesn't like to go to school. 
- Well, lots of children don't. 
- He won't brush his teeth and has to go to the dentist. He has big tantrums. He's not speaking well.
- Yes, yes, we have all these problems too.
For each of these problems people will tell me that their children are going through exactly the same thing. Well they're probably not, not all of them together, anyhow. Not unless their children are autistic too.

Take the tooth brushing thing. Throughout his early childhood Max regularly got abcesses because of his teeth. At the dentist, we were told he had to be operated under anaesthesia. They got pissed off with him because he wouldn't stay still enough to take an X-ray. They couldn't understand why we wouldn't just make him. They took out four teeth and repaired several others. When we went back to have placeholders put in his mouth so that the teeth wouldn't move around too much, he refused to open his mouth. So now god knows what will happen.

Take the tantrums. Autistic children have meltdowns, not tantrums. They're brought on by their inabitlity to cope with the sensory input from the environment. They're unstoppable - really - and often violent. The only thing you can do about them is try to prevent them from happening by controlling their environment, and, if you can't, then try to make sure they don't injure themselves or others. Max broke my glasses twice. I've had countless painful bruises. He's had marks on his forehead from the banging.  He's a lot less twitchy now about noises and crowds and things, and a lot better at keeping his cool, and the tantrums are rarer and shorter.We' re breathing again.

Potty training is hard for every one, is it? Well, I just got Max sitting on the toilet every evening this summer. He hasn't had soiled underwear for going on for 14 weeks now. He's eight. I can tell you that before that we washed a lot of dirty knickers.

The sleeping thing isn't resolved yet. He still needs me to be with him as he falls asleep - in our bed - and he wakes up every night and moves from his bed where we transported him, back to ours. We play musical beds all night, and we're considering buying a camp bed to make life a bit easier.

He really likes school this year. It's the same school as last year - same class, in fact, he's now two years behind, and he's gotten used to it. He goes willingly every morning. Last year, and the year before that, there were some days he didn't want to go. If we tried to make him he would scream, then meltdown. There was nothing we could do. One of us had to stay home, rearrange meetings until we could get our childminder to come and take over. We were exhausted by the impredictabity of it, and it didn't help when people wondered why we simply didn't make him go. Or lock him in his room with nothing to do so he understood not going to school was not going to be fun. He couldn't hack it. He did his best but some days it was too much. Punishing him at home probably wouldn't have worked, even if we'd been willing to have him scream the whole day long (which he was perfectly capable of doing, he has very healthy lungs).

Our life isn't a tragedy because Max has autism. But it's been hard. And it helps if people understand that Max isn't some lost soul who'll never have a proper human life, but that he's a little boy who's struggling to deal with every day things he's expected to learn to do. Our difficulties are trivial, for the most part, in that they concern details of every day life. But that's a great part of what autism is about, not being confortable with the minutiae of what every one else regards as normal. At least, that's what it seems to be about for our son. *

* I seem to find myself carried away by generalisations when I get stroppy in writing. Please remember tbat autism is spectrum, and that people who are on the spectrum are very different from each other.


At the centre where I wait for Max, a little boy just finished his lesson. His mother and grandmother crowding around him, trying to make him say 'bye-bye' to his teacher. He won't say it, then he'll wave the hand but say nothing, then he'll say it without looking at the teacher. Eventually he gets it near enough right and they let go. The teacher leaves, the grandmother walks out. I say 'bye' to the boy. He stops in his tracks, turns around, slowly, looks me in the face, breaks into a smile and says: 'bye-bye', with a wave. His mum bends down to him and asks him to use the proper Turkish word. 'Say 'Hosce Kalin, Hos-ce Kal-in' '.

Oh, one last thing. If you liked this post, would you mind terribly clicking on the RSS feed, here, or the Google connect buttons (top left)? And if you didn't like it, you might still want to look around. There's three of us, you know, so you're (almost) bound to find something you like. And then, if you've still got time, you could share this post or stumble it, or both and get in touch with your local tv station to sing our praises. We'll love you forever.

Mad Women, or Life on Venus.

I've read a few posts about female characters in tv series recently. And they're mostly about whether it's ok to slag them off or not. And sometimes about whether they can be people we identify with in the way that the male characters are. I think the first is true if the second is, that is, it's ok to slag them off if at the time you think they're potentially good role models. So when fans make crass comments about River Song in Doctor who, about her physical attractiveness, calling her whiny and bossy, and wishing she was dead, it's not ok. Bitching about Buffy's perm at the beginning of season 4 is just fine. What was she thinking?


I'm not moving to a place that's named after a nursery rhyme character.

On Wednesday, someone shared a link of Facebook about the discovery of a "Goldilocks planet." That's a planet whose orbit around its sun makes it not too hot, not too cold, but potentially "just right" for life to develop. Within an hour the link attracted a large number of comments, some humorous, some political, about who should pack their bags and move to this other planet, twenty light years away. That's the inspiration for this week's Weekend Assignment

I'm just not. It's silly.

Plus they almost certainly won't have WiFi. And I bet getting pork products and the teas I like will be even harder there than it is in Turkey. So no. I'm staying put.


First daughters

 This is my entry for Tara's Gallery at Sticky Fingers. The theme this week is: Here come the girls!

These days and age, what with women keeping their own names and sometimes even passing them on to their children, family lineage is becoming harder to trace, and maybe a little less significant. Or another way of seeing it, is that it's becoming less interesting to men, but that other aspects of lineage are coming out more clearly.

Pink books are for boys. Girls prefer blood.

Do you read chick lit? I do. I've read all the Shopaholic books. I've read things I don't remember the name of but that tell the story of a recently divorced woman who finds love after lots of comical mishaps, or of a younger woman who finds love after lots of comical mishaps. And there are always friends involved: the sassy girlfriend, the gay best friend, the enemy from high school who's rich and anorexic, the parents, etc. These books satisfy my need to have a number of written words entering my head everyday -  can't all be good words! And they sometimes make me laugh.

I used to recognise these books in the shop by the cover. Just like you can recognise a sci-fi book because it's usually dark blue with some exploding orange star or spaceship in the middle.
But that's no longer the case. Now most books written by a woman are pink. Just so you know, if you're a man, or a serious woman, to avoid them.

I bought a new copy of Emma, the other day - I recently had to refill the Jane Austen gap on my bookshelf, not an actual physical gap, you understand - haven't had one of those since I was about four. The book was off white, with a black silhouette drawing of the kind that you sometimes see in fashion magazines, and details were coloured in pink.  The back cover spelt out the main lines of the story in a very chick lit kind of way. Emma's attractive, gets into trouble, finds love.

Now I'm all for the pimping up of classics so that more people read them. But surely turning Emma into chick lit is ensuring that less people read it, no? Unless we assume that only women read women novelists in the first place.

Part of me doesn't have a huge problem with  what that says. That is, I tend to read mostly women novelists. I also tend to think of some writers, like Hemingway, Salinger, John Irving, as 'boy writers', i.e. people who write books that boys like. As opposed to just 'great writers'. Now I know that's not fair, that it reflects double standards, as I wouldn't want writers I love to be dismissed as 'girl' writers. And even if I thought that so-called great male writers were only fun for boys, I wouldn't say something like that in a public forum, like err, on a blog. It wasn't me who wrote I thought most great novelists were women novelists.

But whatever you think about John Irving, Jane Austen's novels aren't just for girls. They're not a way to pass the time and giggle on the train - although they'll be that too. They're for discovering, thinking about, growing old with. Reading Austen is good for us, it helps us mature intellectually and emotionally.  So the thing is, if only women read Jane Austen, we'll end up with a world full of wannabe Elisabeths, and Eleanors, and truck loads of Bingleys and Willoughbies to match!

I feel this can all be avoided somewhat if we ditch the pink covered Emma and turn instead to this:

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