Friday, January 29, 2010

Music to be blue by

According to William Congreve 'Music hath charms to soothe the savage breast'. Well my breast has been pretty savage recently, in fact both my breasts. And it was to music I turned to help me with what we prefer to call PMT these days.

The music I turned to was my typical PMT fare. I suddenly have a craving for Liza Minnelli, show tunes and Rufus Wainwright droning on about this and that. I want to listen to the final trio in Der Rosenkavalier and torment myself with Scott Walker singing Jacques Brel songs. There's definitely a camp theme to the sound track of my hormones, I can't deny it.

I am wondering whether it's possible to change ones mood by making happier music choices. Certainly when I'm feeling on top of the world I like listening to dance music, kitsch sixties tracks and jolly bebop. Could I prescribe these to myself when I have the premenstrual blues or are my miserable choices doing a job? Are they channelling my feelings of disorientation, low self-esteem and self-doubt or exacerbating them?

Next time the black dog descends I'm going to force a diet of jolly, inconsequential music on myself. I could end up tearing a picture of Britney Spears to shreds but it's worth a try.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Where's your airer?

My house is currently festooned with washing. Every radiator has been pressed into service for drying purposes, a variety of clothes-horses stand to attention draped in tops and trousers and the family undies hang in a slightly undignified fashion off a device made to look like an octopus. Personally I think your average octopus is an intelligent and diginified creatures who would not stoop (if indeed an octopus can stoop) to being a tentacled receptacle for airing my knickers. But I digress.

What struck me very much this morning as I came downstairs to my laundry is that you never see a clothes-horse in home style magazines or television programmes. Where do people who live in those minimalist homes dry their minimals? Are those posh vertical radiators any good for hanging out a pair of trousers? Do they just send it all away to be done?

Of course your rustic home is often seen with one of those pulleymaid dryers, artfully dressed with lavender and a few Cath Kidston bits and pieces. You never see one with greying underpants and the black top what did it hanging disconsolately off them.

It's the same with outside drying. I've yet to see a garden design programme that integrates a nice rotary dryer or a washing line. It's all very well having a postmodern structure in your garden made of stainless steel and recycled bricks but where are you going to hang out the sheets?

I could make a plea for more realism in the magazines and TV programmes but that would be disingenuous; I'm as much a mug for decorating porn as the next person. To be honest, I don't want to see homes where people live my banal, quotidien and often chaotic life. I don't want to see their toilet brush, their temporary Sainsbury's bag bin or their washing up bowl. I like the fantasy and it gives me something to aspire too. Still wonder where they put their smalls though.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

I'm so zen - well almost

I dreamt last night about a special kind of portable piano called a Nosh-Nosh. Apparently these are special quiet pianos made by gypsies to use in their caravans. I also dreamt my sister and I were involved in a project to remove all the lichen from an old ruin. We're not really and neither, as far as I know, is there a quiet piano beloved of Romanies called a Nosh-Nosh.

I put my vivid and rather bizarre dreams down to the fact that last night I was deeply stressed. I slept fitfully, dreamt outrageously and overthought to a degree that's bad even for someone like me who's made overthinking her life's work. Add to this my flickering eye and thick throat and I really was a classic example of anxiety.

Tonight some level of calm is restored. I've just been walking in the snow and found myself enjoying the crunch beneath my feet and the way the street lights make it twinkle. In fact I'm so much calmer I might even get the Nosh-Nosh out and have a bit of sing-song before doing some lichen scraping. Aaaaah.

Friday, January 8, 2010

High Men!

If I could go back in history in a time machine I would like to go to the 18th century and listen to Carlo Broschi, known as Farinelli, sing. He was supposed to the greatest of the castrati singers with amazing technique, phenomenal breath control, artistic brilliance and the ability to make the ladies swoon. Despite being robbed of their testes at a young age in order to become a castrato singer, the castrati were sex symbols of their time.

So what is it that's so sexy about men singing in high voices. It shouldn't be sexy should it? Men who speak with high voices are considered ridiculous but a man singing in a high register, whether naturally or in falsetto, has enormous erotic allure. I recently watched a video of a Russian singer called Vistas teasing his mainly female audience by singing in a natural male voice before launching into a male soprano voice they had all clearly been waiting for judging by the loud sighs and use of programmes as fans.

I was listening today to a band called The Wild Beasts where one of the singers uses his falsetto voice to great affect, sounding bizarre yet oddly louche, as if he were recovering from a bout of exhausting love making. Jeff Buckley's beautiful high voice touches me both viscerally and spiritually, at once incredibly sexy and yet other worldy. Don't get me started on counter tenors like Andreas Scholl.

So what is it that makes men singing in high voice so attractive. I think it feels slightly dangerous and on the edge for a start, vocal risk taking. Then there is the quality of the male voice at that register. It's still manly and strong but with this great beauty when done well and utterly different to a woman singing at the same pitch. Ultimately though, I think it's a matter of tension (which is surely the key to all eroticism) - it's not at all effeminate or emasculating because it always essentially male yet playing on the dangerous margins of what that means.

I can completely understand why the 18th century ladies fainted over Farinelli and his ilk. My time machine can't come quick enough!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Let me entertain you

I was in bed last night musing on what a stupid name for a show 'The Vagina Monologues' is. If my vagina was in a show-business, I wouldn't settle for a monologue or even, ahem, a 'talking head'. I'd want to really put on a show with musical numbers, magic tricks and guest artistes. There might even be artistic tableaux and some mind reading activity a la Derren Brown. In fact I might even take it to Edinburgh and call it 'Minge on the Fringe'.

Of course the benefit of a show called 'The Vagina Monologues' is that it desensitizes people to the very word. Even maiden aunts of the most proper kind, receive flyers for the the local theatre containing the 'v' word. Every Z list actress in the world - and some non-actresses - seems to have been in it so you can bet your bottom dollar it'll be on round your way at some point.

Since the show began you can even say 'vagina' in the office without shocking anyone as in 'Have you seen The Vagina Monologues?' (although never as in 'Have you seen my vagina?' - this can result in dismissal on the grounds of gross misconduct).

So hoorah to TVM for helping the 'v word take flight but c'mon let's have Vaudeville Vulvas, full of fun and old-fashioned, family entertainment.

ETA: I've never seen 'The Vagina Monologues'.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Sixteen today

It's Patrick's sixteenth today which lead to a discussion between J and me on just what you are entitled to do on reaching this milestone. We came up with the obvious one and riding a moped and discussed how in our day you could legitimately buy fags at sixteen. However we were a bit stumped for any other benefits to moving on from fifteen.

Thoughtfully Connexions have made a list of things Patrick and his fellow sixteens are allowed to do:
  • You can have a full time job if you have officially left school. You need to remember that you can't work full time until the last Friday in June - even if you have turned 16 before this.
  • You can live independently, subject to certain conditions being met.
  • You can get married with your parents' or guardians' consent.
  • You can ride a moped of up to 50ccs.
  • You can pilot a glider.
  • You must be 16 before you can legally have sex, whether that's with someone of the same sex or opposite sex.
  • You can have an abortion without your parents consent.
  • A boy can join the armed forces with his parents' or carers' consent.
  • You can apply for your own passport.
  • You can have beer or cider whilst eating a meal in a restaurant or an eating area of a pub, but not in the bar.
  • You can buy lottery tickets, including scratch cards
  • You can change your name by deed poll, with your parent or guardian's consent.
  • If you are in work, you are now old enough to join a Trade Union.
  • You can choose your own GP
  • You can claim social security benefit
Choosing your own GP, joining a Trade Union and buying a lottery ticket! I imagine most sixteen year olds will be breathless with excitement at the prospect of any of these. Possibly a little more exciting is being able to pilot a glider (perhaps one your parents have kicking around the garage) or ride a moped (ditto although slightly more likely than an abandoned glider).

The one I think I'd like best, were I sixteen, apart again from the obvious one, is being able to change your name by deed poll. I would have loved a more glamorous, outrageous name which is probably why you can't do it without parental consent.

So how will we celebrate Patrick's new rights.? I suggest I buy my sixteen year old a beer, or cider, to eat with a meal in a pub this weekend (whether he wants it or not) You never know, we might even go there in my spare glider after he's selected a new GP and bought a few Lucky Dips.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Sitting in the corner with a half empty glass

If there's one thing that makes me feel negative, it's positive thinking. I've always felt that the idea that if you wish for something hard enough you'll get it and that you can somehow control your destiny by the force of your own will is dubious at best. The orthodoxy of the positive thinking gurus is that somehow you can make yourself happy, successful, prosperous, desirable etc just through having the right mind set.

Personally I find this deeply flawed; of course we can all make choices about whether we are cruel, lazy and abuse our bodies but shit happens and it happens to nice people who don't deserve it and can't prevent it - no matter how hard they try. No, I think 'positive thinking' is an idea that rather than liberate people traps them into feeling an onerous sense of responsibility for things beyond their control.

So I was glad on reading '59 seconds: Think a little, change a lot' by Professor Richard Wiseman, to see that science actually supports me, concluding that creative visualisation exercises are 'at best ineffective and, at worst, harmful'. He cites a case often used by 'positive thinkers' in which a team of researchers interviewed a number of graduating seniors at Yale in 1953. Twenty years later they followed up these individuals and found that those who had specific goals at that time had achieved more than their colleagues who had not, thus providing proof of the power of goal setting. The problem is there is no evidence that the experiment actually took place and it may in fact be apocryphal.

About a year ago I won the chance to have some life coaching. In the middle of a very difficult period in my life, just getting myself back together after a hellish divorce, I thought it might be interesting and so approached the idea with an open mind. My life coach was a lovely and credible lady who has done very well for herself. I have enormous respect for her achievements but I found her ideas difficult to accept. She asked me visualise where I wanted to be in five years time , telling me that we have control over what happens to us and whether we get the things we want through the power of positive thinking. She called this concept 'vibrational escrows'

Vibrational whats I hear you cry? The idea apparently comes from a woman caller Esther Hicks.

'You have in your vibrational escrow all those things you want and you could pick any one thing on the planet that's going wrong or in your life and give it your undivided attention and you could keep all of those things that you want from happening because you've activated such a vibration of lack over this one thing....'

I thought about this very deeply; it seemed to be a barmy idea and one I found difficult to swallow. I asked her about a situation in my own life. My baby son was stillborn at term. I had no warning of this, I didn't take illicit substances, smoke or drink during my pregnancy, I ate the right foods and went to all my appointments. I never for a second had negative thoughts about my baby and yet he died. For years afterI tortured myself trying to think what I might have done to 'make it' happen. Over time I came to accept that I could have done nothing and that it was simply 'one of those things'. It didn't happen because I was bad, any more than the women I saw as I left the hospital smoking like chimneys while heavily pregnant, kept their babies because they were somehow good or better.

My coach listened to me and said that maybe it was too early for me to understand and accept the concept of 'vibrational escrows'. I had to agree and didn't go back for more. To be honest I feel I have more control over my life by being rational, active and thoughtful about it. Positive thinking seems to me to be another way of delegating responsibility for your life to another 'being' and to me that's the beginning of where it all goes wrong.

Nah, I'm happy with my half empty glass thank you.