In Which I Continue To Navel-Gaze To Olympic Standard:

I have exams. They are more time-consuming than I thought they would be.

Also, I am still trying to find a house to rent.

Also also, I’m still working.

Some of these things are good, or have unexpectedly good consequences. For example, doing my exams means that I get to see the few people that over the course of the year, I started to consider friends, rather than acquaintances. This is a good thing, as I will most likely not see these people until they return to Sheffield, late in the Summer.

Likewise, working is a good thing, as it means that even though I have exams, I also have nails! Well. I have nails on all the fingers on my right hand, and on three of the left. I can never seem to get my thumbnails to grow. Or stay grown. I think I bit them too much, and now they’re sulking.

Working is a good thing for other reasons, too. The temp company are giving me a fair amount of work, which is nice and means that they’re more likely to keep giving me lots of work. And, most excitingly, last night, I was a waitress/kitchen porter/assistant/general dogsbody on a boat! That sailed! This may or may not be the right terminology. We were on a canal. I’m not quite sure what you call that activity, or indeed that vessel. It was big, though. Amusingly enough, the kitchen on the boat was larger than the kitchen of the flat I viewed recently. You could fit more than one person in it. Just.

Although we did bump a bit, possibly on the side of the canal. I’m not entirely sure. I don’t think we were meant to. But by that point, the party (40 women of various ages for a 40th birthday party; you could tell whose birthday it was, as she was wearing pink and feathers and a huge badge) was collectively drunk enough not to mind. They also didn’t mind the cheesy, cheesy music that the DJ put on. I forgave him, because he played Livin’ On A Prayer and I Will Survive, which are good to sing along to when you’re washing up. Especially I Will Survive. We sang that in my school choir. Although my music teacher hid it well, I suspect that she had a remarkably good sense of humour under the scary persona. She also taught us Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life. Although she did glare when one of the sixth-formers sang “life’s a peice of shit”, loudly and enthusiastically, when the lyrics we were given had it bleeped out.

Anyway. That’s almost all the navel-gazing I have time or inclination for. This afternoon, I do an exam. Then I come home and ring estate agents, elusive though they are on Saturdays.

In other news, I recently found four double-ended knitting needles (for circular knitting purposes). And I’ve got a big bag of black wool, as it was good quality and going cheap in a charity shop. I’ve also got two different shades of grey, and pink. I’m very, very tempted to try to knit a goth scarf – lots of skulls in different shades of grey, and then a rogue skull, either in pink or wearing a pink flower. But I think this may be beyond me and my somewhat limited capabilities. Does anybody have any better ideas?

It Burns, I Tell You!

It turns out that birds’ eye chillies really are the most evil thing on the planet. I may spike my housemate’s milk with them, because goodness knows how else I’ll get rid of the damned things.

I tried a new recipe today, for a chicken noodle soup thing. It worked fairly well, although it could do with a few alterations. Including not using a whole birds’ eye chilli in one portion, when the recipe wanted half of a normal chilli, if there is such a thing.

Also, not including spinach. Because a slice of chilli – with seeds – hid itself in a spinach leaf. I didn’t see it, but the second I started chewing, I knew it was there. I knew I should’ve deseeded it.

The pain, the pain of it all!

Turning Navel Gazing Into An Olympic Sport

Students. They have parties, apparently. I know this, because there is one in my flat.

Therefore, I am hiding.

My (nice) flatmate was all dressed up and clearly Entertaining, with a capital E. Which made me sticking my head round the door to talk to her about vegetables a bit weird, to say the least.

However, she didn’t seem to hold it against me.

And, on the plus side, I have been playing all kinds of good music to drown out the yelps. Yelping is, it seems, some kind of required activity. It must be, because people do it outside my window too, when they’re feeling particularly merry. So far on my playlist:

  • Revelry – Kings of Leon
  • The Killing Lights – AFI
  • The Heart of Everything – Within Temptation
  • My Favourite Game – The Cardigans
  • I Need A Holiday – Scouting For Girls

Every time I do these kinds of playlists, I feel like my taste in music is getting increasingly eccentric. For example, the songs above can be blamed on my sister, Llencelyn, J, one of J’s friends, and my sister (again). This becomes more strange on imagining all of those people present in the same place at the same time. The gathering would suffer from jetlag, for one.

What I need now is something by Ian Dury so that Kirsten could be at my crazy virtual party. Or I could claim that Fairytale of New York (the Pogues and Kirsty Maccoll version) could be her contribution. Sam would have a somewhat amusing choice of either Linkin Park or MC Hammer, and Lee has introduced me to Jim’s Big Ego.

What I’ve actually got now is Stray Cat Strut (Stray Cats), which at least means I get to say hello to my father!

A Bit Of A Breakthrough

On Friday night, I went out with the Troll, and some of his friends. Because I’m a masochist that way. And, more accurately, he invited me out, saying that I’d meet new people and promising, when asked, that he wouldn’t come on to me. So. I met up with him, and he bought most of the drinks, because he is rich at the moment, and I am relatively poor. We talked about silly things, inoccuous subjects, and managed, for once, not to argue. And I talked to his friends, at least two of whom were nice, and, around about midnight, said my goodbyes, because I turn into a pumpkin if I stay out too late. Five minutes later, he called, saying that the person whose floor he’d wanted to sleep on had bailed on him, and could he sleep on mine.

On the way back, we talked about more serious things. Things like consent. He started it; he reassured me that he would be “a perfect gentleman”. I told him I didn’t give a fuck about that, I just didn’t want to be assaulted. Which is pretty reasonable, I feel.

I also explained to him that while he can think of consent in abstract terms, I don’t have that luxury. I told him that, although I didn’t think that he would assault me, if he did, there would be fuck all I could do about it. I pointed out that nobody would believe me; I’d met up with him, I’d had drinks that he’d bought me, and I’d agreed that he could come back to mine. Given that, if I went to the police, odds are, they wouldn’t even investigate. And I told him that that kind of knowledge colours the way you see the world. And that what seems like a perfectly reasonable and innocuous request to him (asking to sleep on my floor) is actually not a small thing at all, for me.

I told him that there are different kinds of coercion, and that even if he didn’t use violence against me, there was nothing stopping him waiting until I was asleep, or nearly asleep, and climbing into bed next to me. And that anything that happened then would be just as much assault or rape as if he’d beaten me and forcibly restrained me.

Then I told him about having my drink spiked. Not in much detail, but enough. I don’t think anybody has ever told him anything like that before.

After I told him about it, he was quiet for a few minutes.

I asked him if he was ok (because women are not the only ones to have their drinks spiked, and if you have and only realise later, it can hit you hard) and he replied that he was fine, but that he was “thinking back through all my girlfriends to make sure I’d never done anything like what you’ve said.” He paused. “No, I haven’t.”

If he had, I wouldn’t have expected him to tell me, necessarily. I’d like to say that I believed him wholeheartedly – after all, he did stay on my floor, and I remained unmolested – but in all honesty, I’m not sure that I can. He had an awareness that there are some things you shouldn’t do –  hence the “gentleman” comment – but I suspect that he’d never considered things like nagging for sex to be wrong. What I would say is that if he has done any of those things in the past, I highly doubt that he’d do them again. Because doing them with a knowledge that they’re wrong would make him, in his own eyes, a Very Bad Person. And while pandering to one’s ego is not a particularly good reason not to rape, if it means that one less woman has to deal with the fact that her otherwise charming boyfriend has done less than charming things to her, it’s a good enough reason for me.

You Know Your Homework’s Going Badly When…

… you plug in numbers and get back “1=0”.

This is what is known in the trade as Not Helpful, or, if you’re feeling tired, Fuck It, I Will Just Have To Hand In A Paradox.

It’s 50-50 at the moment which definition I choose, but either way, I suspect my tutor will be a bit surprised by my work.

Opening My (Shortsighted) Eyes

Today is Blogging Against Disablism Day. I’m not currently disabled, which is to say that I have not so far personally experienced any disability. But of course, to say “I’m not disabled” is rather naive, considering the myriad of things that could affect my body in years to come. My family has a history of thyroid problems, for example, and while I don’t know whether that comes under the “disability” category, I do know that my mother is on pills – and will be for the rest of her life – so that she can stay awake past 8 at night, and get up earlier than 9 in the morning, and so that she can actually remember conversations that she’s had.

Anyway. At the moment, my thyroid is functioning properly, and so am I. I’m shortsighted, sometimes in more ways than one, but I’m able-bodied.

And recently I’ve had a few things bring home to me just how pervasive (dis)ablism is. In myself, yes, and that’s something I’ve been working on ever since I had it pointed out to me. But there’s other things, too. I saw a post on Hoyden About Town which should really be read by everybody, the gist of which was “don’t compare your colds to a chronic illness”. I’ve started to see things. Things like the way that you might find a supposedly progressive space, where perhaps one or two of the toilet door signs have the braille equivalent underneath, but there’s no way of knowing how to find them, because there are no braille signposts. Things like stairs in weird and stupid places, which are fine for me, because I can jump down two steps without thinking, but which I notice when I’m walking with an older woman and her grip on my arm tightens.

Things like my university accomodation. There are lifts to every floor, and every floor is level. But unless you can stand up, it would be very hard to open doors from the inside, because the handles are too high up. There’s no storage space in the kitchen that you can reach without standing up, unless you want to put your food under the sink, which leaks. We might have a wet room for a bathroom (really to save space), but the showerhead isn’t detachable, and there are no handles to help people with.

Things like big public events. I’ve been temping, and one of the places I was temping at was a horse race. All of the seating was up a hill, up stairs and almost completely inacessable for anybody with mobility issues. I was a security officer. One of the people I met was a man with mobility and speech difficulties – some of my colleagues had driven around the course to make sure that nobody was left in places that were about to be shut off, and found him. Since there wouldn’t have been time for him to walk back unassisted, they gave him a lift. They asked me to take him wherever he wanted to go, but it was clear to me that they hadn’t really talked to him, probably assuming that his speech impediment and odd walk meant that he also had learning difficulties. I was fairly certain that he didn’t. And, as it happens, if he did, it was certainly not severe enough to impede independent living. He was also – unlike some other men that day – perfectly polite and considerate, and very interesting to talk to. All he needed was somebody who had the time to let him finish his sentences, and could lend him an arm over grassy areas, which he found difficult to cross. I saw then how well-meaning assumptions can be damaging. I made a connexion between the way my colleagues that day treated that man, and the way my colleagues in the past had treated a regular customer with mild Downs Syndrome. There again was somebody who was pleasant and friendly, who just wanted a bit of a chat, and something cheap to eat, and he became my customer simply because nobody else worked out that they could treat him just like any other customer. Their loss, because it guaranteed me – and him – one pleasant interaction in the day.

Things like public transport, too – things I’d seen but not really registered. There are lifts now at most big stations that I’ve been through. There are announcements on some London busses, informing everybody where the next stop is, and what route the bus is on. But it’s still not really geared up for people who aren’t able-bodied. The big stations are horifically loud, and disorientating even if you can see. On the transport itself, if you’re in a wheelchair, you’re lumped in with either buggies or bicycles. Charming. And on commuter trains, people who are quite capable of standing sit in that space. If you wanted to travel at a peak time, you’d have to be going from one end of the line to the other, because you clearly wouldn’t get to that space once the train started to fill. And when you do find somebody in a wheelchair using public transport, you start to get a weird space opening up around them. Not just enough space to let them move properly, but a gap that looks like the entire crowd wants to distance themselves from that person.

I can see enough to realise that I’m likely only picking up on the most visible examples, rather like the way that one of my male aquaintances has worked out that I get treated differently to him at pubs, but still doesn’t see that the wage gap exists for reasons other than the tired old stereotype of “women take time out to have children”. And I can see enough to know that I ought to find out more.

Lucky for me that it is Blogging Against Disablism Day, which gives me the opportunity to sit down, shut up and listen to so many different accounts all at once. It’s not my story that’s important. I know enough to know that.