Dry January

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The lid stays ON…*sniff*…

I’m going alcohol-free for January in aid of Cancer Research.

Those of you who know me will probably remember my little tussle with cervical cancer that resulted in a Wertheim’s hysterectomy five years ago. I’m finally signed off from having to have follow up smears every six months and I can now go back to a bi-annual date with Metal Mickey (or his godson, Plastic Pete). The whole process took nine years from the first dodgy smear test to the final test a few weeks ago.

A month or so ago I was jollying my friend Claire along about some tests that she had to undergo following the birth of her baby. Then the results came back. Less than six months after giving birth, she now has to undergo six weeks of chemotherapy and radiotherapy. starting on New Year’s Eve.

For some reason, that made me want to do something positive. Well, I got our girl gang to club together to buy a bottle steriliser and I’ve got plans to start doing freezer packs of squished carrots for little Joe’s weaning, but then I wanted to do a little bit more, which is when I found out about the Dryathalon. So, as of 1 January, in solidarity with the Shep, I will give up all alcohol for the month of January, so she’s not alone when she pokes miserably at a cranberry and soda in the pub.

Again, if you know me you’re probably thinking, “Hang on, Smithsky, you only have to sniff a glass of wine and your face turns an entertaining shade of purple and you suddenly need to take a nap. You have even been known to be violently ill after a mere three pints. So you’re not exactly hardcore are you?” To this I say, “It’s a medical thing, actually. It’s called Asian Flush. So Google it, why don’t you? Oh hang on, here’s a link.”

To be honest, I think it’s going to be quite hard, even if I don’t drink all that much. I rather like a glass of wine to help relax me at the end of a tough commute. When I’m laying waste to the opposition in a pub quiz, a beer helps to stimulate the grey matter. And I have absolutely no idea how I will get through a choir practice without the soothing promise of alcohol at the end.

But you can help in two ways.

  1. Donate via my JustGiving page. Just click on the link or on the fetching pink button in the sidebar.
  2. Email me your recipes for non-alcoholic cocktails. I might even write a feature on them for the blog…
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So here it is…

Yep, it takes Christmas and a post-Archers lull to get me to update the blog. Marvellous.

Family news: everybody’s fine. Charlie’s first school report (they do termly ones at Deptford Green) showed straight As for everything except Science (“I went to a arts-focused primary school!”) Art (A B for behaviour?! Who doesn’t muck around in Art? Art’s all about mucking around) and French (“The teacher’s rude, mum”). She has settled down really well and has a little gang of geeky friends to hang out with. She is also a Student Leader and has to check everybody’s homework and uniform. I think the class elected her because she’s nice and they assumed that she wouldn’t be too hard on them. Unfortunately they weren’t to know even the smallest smidgen of power activates the Hard Bastard gene, and she is quite remorseless in sticking to the rules and handing out detentions to wrongdoers.

Our Gap Year guest, Chanelle, made it safely back to New Zealand and starts uni in March. We’re slowly repossessing the spare room, finding the odd discarded garment and wondering what to do with the broken suitcase in the cupboard. But it was fun having her around and Charlie loved having a big sister figure to bicker with.

Courtney pine
Courtney Pine at the Hideaway: our Christmas treat

Christmas was low-key but lovely. This is the first year in forever where I didn’t have to work on Christmas Eve and the first in few years where I wasn’t stressed to the max by work (last year I was frantically rewriting knowledge check questions for Santander’s HR team until midday, signing off a course on project management for LRT and doing final delivery on an intranet training course for a TOP SEKRIT CLIENT). In fact, it was so laid back that Martin and I managed to fit in a visit to our favourite jazz venue to see the legendary Courtney Pine. It was still a school night so we had to leave just as he really got going but still…it was magical.

 

Oooh another one…

Bit of a flurry of activity here. Sorry about that, but after attending the Mumsnet Blogfest on Saturday, I felt inspired to update this place. I’ve got plans to blog my research reading  for my MA project (along with all my malaises and moans about the subject). My Mostly Film writings are also under a separate category and if I find any more interesting family history stuff, it’ll go under Family Stories.

So…Blogfest. I’ve never done a blogging festival before, but my friends Jenny and SouthwarkBelle, both bloggers, persuaded me it would be a laugh (gin may have been consumed during this conversation).

The day was divided into two morning and two afternoon sessions, with a small awards ceremony and a drinks party in the evening.

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That’s Margaret Atwood. In her house…

The first morning session was all about motherhood and creativity, with Bridget Christie, Meera Syal, Margaret Atwood and some bloggers (I didn’t really take notes…sorry…). It was interesting to hear people discussing how they negotiated childcare and creative work – something for which you need time and space.

I had a bit of a problem with the event logo. You can’t really see it in the photos, but the logo was purply pink with a slightly offset red shadow. From a distance it looked a bit like the beginnings of a migraine.

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Not bad. And I got mints too!

The mid-morning session on photography yielded my first ever goody bag! It was a rather snazzy Western Digital portable hard drive. The label said it was 3 terabytes, but my macbook can only detect 1 terabyte. Still, can’t be greedy. My images, posts, documents and embryo ibooks were all backed up and safe almost as soon as I plugged the drive into the USB port. What more can you ask for?

Just before lunch, we had Think Bombs: three well-known people (Sandi Toksvig, Val McDermid and David Baddiel) gave five minute presentations on a topic that was supposed to stimulate conversations. They were all seasoned (and excellent) performers, but the cynic in me spotted that David Baddiel had a show to promote, Sandi Toksvig was promoting the Women’s Equality Party, and only Val McDermid seemed to be just there to encourage us to silence our inner critics and find space to create.

After lunch, we had probably the most interesting session for me: how the Internet changes public discourse and campaigning. Stella Creasy offered some great practical advice on engaging MPs in your campaign (give them something specific to do, don’t just ask for their support) and Nimco Ali talked of her campaign against FGM. This was a livelier session, with plenty of contributions from the floor and I learned a lot about how people use social media as a campaigning tool, not just to ‘raise awareness’.

I can’t remember much about the next session, but afterwards there was cake…

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We were getting a bit worn down by the last (and possibly the most gruelling) session, discussing how much of your private life do you put in the public domain. The panelists had all put something of their inner lives on the internet (and made a living out of it), and I came away not really any the wiser about whether it was a Good or a Bad thing. Possibly I was getting cross and tired by this point and I needed more tea.

But then there was an odd awards ceremony (three prizes, all of which seemed to go to the people sitting in front of us – I was reminded of eLearning awards that seem to circulate around three or four agencies). And then there was wine…

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I’m holding a glass of prosecco and a sealed plastic glass of rather smooth Merlot that I snaffled for Mr S. We drank, we raided passing canape trays, Belle and Jen hugged fellow sciencey/health bloggers…then we picked up our groaning goody bags and went home.

Blogfest’s focus seemed to be on writing and creativity, getting published, promoting your ideas. I already write for a living, and I’m happy with doing the odd MF piece or scribbling on my blogs without having to be sold the middle-class writer lifestyle (they didn’t go into the fraught ‘pitching ideas to harassed editors and being paid in magic beans’ side of things much).

On the plus side, the sciency philosophy bloggers were lovely, and I learned a few interesting things, read some really good writing and drank lots and lots of coffee.

And it must have worked because I’ve spent two evenings updating and fussing around with this blog. So, maybe this is a new start, eh?

 

Venice

We went to Venice at half term and I’ve only just got around to blogging the pics (they’re already elsewhere on Google Photos)

It was beautiful. I loved every second, even the rain, the semi-flooded streets, the fog, the mosquitos and the damp. I loved getting lost in the maze of alleys and cut-throughs. Surprisingly, the actual ‘sights’ weren’t as brilliant as just being there, shopping in the supermarkets, having a quiet coffee and watching the world go by, and investigating many many glass shops. We’ll be back.

Amy Sings the Blues

MostlyFilm

Asif Kapadia’s documentary about the life and death of Amy Winehouse has been a fixture in the London top ten since its release. It has been praised for its sensitivity and dedication to a ‘true’ picture of Winehouse. But does it just follow a standard narrative for jazz musicians in the movies? Sarah and Martin Slade compare and contrast with the biopic of another jazz legend, Billie Holiday.

Amy

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Chartishm project

Every time I think of the Chartists, I get the late Tony Benn’s voice in my head, talking about the achievements of the “Chartishts and the Shuffragettes and the Levellersh who battled for the rights of ordinary people…etc”

This may get annoying because I’ve started pondering what to do about my MA again. I finished the taught half of it last year, which apparently qualifies me for for Post Graduate Diploma in History Stuff. To get my full MA I have to sign back on with the Open University and complete a 15,000 word research project on a subject of my choice. The only rule is that the subject should be an event or subject confined to an area of Britain or Ireland.

The final essay for the first half of the MA was an outline project proposal for the second half, so I do have a topic that I have researched and presented and had accepted by my tutor.

Except that I didn’t really like it then, and I don’t like it now.

It was a study of the Peckham Experiment, a community health project that ran from 1925 to 1950. The Experiment is a bit of a local legend; there was a purpose-built centre, participants were encouraged to initiate their own activities, there was a creche, a farm that produced food for the community cafe, and there was a swimming pool in the roof.  But the  project wasn’t ultimately a success and I wanted to examine why that was. The founders blamed the newly-formed NHS (they were anti-socialised healthcare), but some historians have blamed the founders…so there was a lot to look at.  BUT, I didn’t think that there was much in the way of a contribution to historical research.

So…

Then I pondered doing something about the Asylum in Asylum Road.  It was built in the early 19th century and was meant to provide sheltered accommodation for elderly licensed victuallers who had fallen on hard times. My project would compare the provision of care for the elderly in the Asylum with elder care at the nearby Camberwell Workhouse.

This one would involve a lot (and I mean a lot) of stats and analysing original source material.

Then I read this article on Chartism in Camberwell and it piqued my interest. The Chartists had large meetings down the road in Kennington Park. One meeting ended in a riot which resulted in houses and shops being looted in Bowyer Place. I had ancestors (market gardeners) in Bowyer Place. In addition to that, the ‘ringleaders’ who were convicted were two young black men local to the area. And one of the leaders of the Chartist was a black British-born tailor called William Cuffay. So it ticks the family box, the local box, black people in London before 1960, the yes-I’m-a-leftie box…

The Chartist thing also requires lots and lots of reading and notes. I’ll have to read The Making of the English Working Class again (yawn) and I’ve found Dorothy Thompson’s essays on Chartism. That and a few overall histories of early 19th century London should be enough to get started…

 

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