22.3.07

Pieces

It’s official. I’m getting soppy in my old age. Usually I am able to walk past vagrants, vagabonds, Big Issue sellers, buskers, preachers and Eastern European women peddling their children, without batting an eyelid. Today, however, I walked past an old woman selling the Big Issue and was wracked with guilt for not buying a copy. She was dressed in a thin coat and a headscarf and was standing in the rain with this really wistful look on her face. Not so much, “Yes, I get benefits and live in a cosy council flat but am suckering you out of money anyway,” kind of look but more of a “How did I get here?” kind of look. As the traffic lights turned green I almost turned around and went back but of course I didn’t. Instead I walked on with tears pricking at my eyes. Can you imagine? Me.

On top of this, I’ve been listening to emo rock music (Famous Last Words by My Chemical Romance is currently on repeat). Perhaps I’m lucky that I’m in some sort of susceptible phase because I discovered what I’ve adopted as one of my favourite poems. “In Our Tenth Year” by Simon Armitage is one of the Love Poems on the Underground and as I read it, I was entranced. I say I’m lucky because it is not often I am touched, whether it’s by a stranger or by a piece of art. I can think of only two pieces of visual art that I have ever been affected by and it’s a good feeling. So, yes, perhaps I’m getting soft but it’s okay. Sadness just proves we’re alive, right?

*Shakes herself back together again*

I need a new man

So. Post-Schumacher Formula 1. It’s just not happening for me. I told myself that I love the sport and it’ll do just fine without Schumacher, and may even be more exciting since there’s more competition but I’m afraid it just isn't happening. Schumacher has been in the sport since I started to watch it roughly 15 years ago and though his departure last year left me cold, I still had high hopes for the sport – hopes that were unceremoniously dashed on Sunday. The race was alright but without a driver to champion, I couldn’t really get into it.

The soporific Hamilton is never going to get me excited and, even as a Ferrari supporter, I can't bring myself to like Raikkonen. He's so charmless, he may as well be inanimate. Supporting Alonso is like sleeping with the enemy... a very rich, young, talented and perhaps-attractive-in-a-craggy-sort-of-way enemy but an enemy nonetheless.

And, so, I've decided that Massa is my new man (not that I could bring myself to give a damn about what happened to him during the course of the race). I'll try him for now and let you know if I manage to dredge up any sort of real passion in Malaysia.

15.3.07

Let them eat cake

I get pissed off about a lot of things (as many of you know) but yesterday that went beyond the customary grumble and moan. Yesterday I found out that the BBC is axing BBC Jam; its online education service, pending a review. The closure of the £150 million learning project is due to complaints from commercial rivals that the BBC breached the launch conditions under which it was given consent by the government and the European Commission (i.e. that content would complement commercial material rather than replace it). 

In other words, free resources are being ripped away from (at least) 170,000 users in order to make fat cats fatter. 

I know there are a lot of things wrong with the world. I know that competition should be encouraged to ensure quality in products and I know that sometimes difficult decisions need to be made to strengthen economy but this really rattled my bones. I have a strong belief that access to education and learning materials should be free. Yes, this may cripple the education software industry but surely there is something morally wrong about taking resources away from children so that a bunch of bureaucrats can drive around in a Porsche instead of a Lexus?  

Ok, ok, ok, I know it’s not as black and white as that. I know that BBC Jam may be a threat to those who earn a living in the education software industry but I still can’t get over it. Why should only those children whose parents can afford to pay for overpriced software benefit from digital learning? It is one thing to charge extortionate amounts for software but it is another thing entirely
to try and quash the free alternatives.  

It makes me really angry and I know there’s nothing I can do other than file it away in my “Life isn’t fair” box but... it’s just not fair. 

6.3.07

My life and art

Almost a year after the release of Life, Love and Assimilation, I am still asked how much of the novel is based on my life. I always provide the same answer; it is fact-based fiction. When pressed, I tell people that 60% of it is based on my experiences whereas 40% of it is fiction. Even this fails to satisfy some readers. Some pick out specific scenes and question the amount of truth in them. Others want to know if my real-life relationships are as “warped” as they are in the book.  

Earlier this year I gave a reading as part of an event at the Idea Store in Whitechapel. I thought it was pretty worthwhile but I did feel that I had dampened the mood a little since I chose a particularly scornful extract. The audience was partly made up of pre-GCSE students so perhaps I should have chosen something “softer” but as most of you know, I’m pretty damn irresponsible with things like that (i.e. I’ll say what I want regardless of anybody else).  

After the reading, I received a few e-mails asking if my relationship with my parents was really that bad. I admit that that particular excerpt was loosely based on my personal life but I was taken aback by the way people immediately conjoined my two parents.  

If Kieran’s life was truly parallel to mine, she would have made it explicit that she loves her father. She would have said how grateful she is to him; how much she respects him. She would have told us how sad she gets at the sight of old men struggling with heavy groceries because she knows that is what her father has done all his life. She would have recognised the suffering her father endured in the efforts to provide his children with a better life. She would have explained how she shunted her true desires to make her father proud and told us how heartbreaking it was to bring shame to him. She would have said sorry and she would have said I love you.  

Kieran would have said all the things she couldn’t say to her father in real life.

2.3.07

Pictures

Ok, I couldn’t help it. I tried to refrain, I really did but the second picture was too much to resist. Regular visitors will know what I think of Cameron and therefore understand how amusingI found these pictures.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
I can think of my own one-fingered gesture I’d like to make at His Royal Toffness.

1.3.07

World Book Day

I’m feeling kind of guilty since World Book Day should really be a bigger deal to me than it is this year. The truth is I don’t even read a lot any more. I have at least twenty books on my shelf that I haven’t read, which is pretty damn poor for someone who is always banging on about how the youth of today doesn’t read enough. It takes me far longer to finish a book than it used to. This is partly because I’ve been busy but also because I feel kinda guilty about reading when I could spend the time writing/rewriting my own book.

As a writer, I have been asked to join many a book club and though it would be one way to encourage me to read more, I have always declined. See, reading is a pleasure for me. When you set a time limit on a book, it almost becomes a task. This is not to say I would discourage people from joining a book club, I just don’t think it’s for me. 

So anyway, there wasn’t much of a point to this entry. I just didn’t want the day to go by unmarked because I think it’s truly worthwhile.