To my MSR (clearing out the closet)

To my MSR,
you made me a cup of tea. you gave me nutritional couscous with vegetables in minutes and it gave me hours of energy. without you, my festival weekend would have had crashes from loss of carbs. I’d have lost energy. I’d have felt empty inside.

When someone spoke about their love for their grandfather’s letters at a workshop curated by the caretakers from the museum of love, I remembered that I had something from my Grandma Nancy with me. I was cooking with you when a text came through that she had died. We had camped at an inlet of the sea, beneath a town with a collective hangover that stank of urine. A day before I’d written a postcard to Nancy, sharing my delight in seeing red squirrels scampering overhead and wanting her to know that her birthday gift to me was being well used.

MSR, you make me proud of my competency in self-care. I can cook quick and I can cook tasty and I can cook to meet my body’s needs. I can avoid firey death through taking appropriate precautions. I can feed friends hot sugary tea when they need it most.

MSR, we’ve had good times over the last five-  or is it six?- years together – I’m sorry that I’d let it be so long since our last outing. You’re gonna pass the Marie Kondo exodus of superfluous things for certain. MSR, I need to put on a laundry load now, so that’s it for now, but just so you know, I got some deep appreciation for you, and I’m feeling it strongly right now. Let’s make some plans, ok? I don’t want to let it be so long again!
– Eva Weinstein
PS: here’s a photo of you. brim-full of couscous and vegetable on a sunny evening in a French campsite. We’d just come over the Pyrenees, when we’d cooked on a rocky outcrop on the way up and a dewy meadow on the way down, remember?

MSR

RIP Dominic Raoul Lucas

In memoriam immortal of MSN, and the genre of ‘adult alternative rock’ with quarter speed scrubbing and Dave Matthews ‘Crash into me’, the best album ever*. *Alongside the rise and fall of Ziggy, and other great albums.

I would like to share some words of a dear friend, and my response, some  six years late, to them. Before I continue, I should put a trigger warning for depression, suicide, and caring for those who are depressive and/or suicidal.

The person in question is Dom  Lucas, someone I liked greatly from when I met him in my first philosophy class in 6th form. It was apparent at his funeral, that a deep and lasting impression was a response he often evoked, even in those who had counted him only as an acquaintance. Continue reading

hoping for a revolution

  1. When a revolutionary moment arrives may you not gather to spectate

    the swarms of vultures are already foretold and they do not raise the dead they document.

    Fling yourselves far and wide

    to carry onwards and bring home the good tidings.

    Seek out the fertile soil in which to grow

    but also in the stony soil pass over as tumbleweed;

    scatter seed as the wind blows you and hope someday a shower will follow close on your heels to perform the alchemy of dust to green shoots to gold…

    2. When there is hope don’t smother it-

    draw it out even to the breaking point;

    shattered hope still dews the pavements on Monday morning

    when the carnival is over a hangover is not too heavy a burden to bear.

    There is sometimes some cause for hope

    some hope for a cause

    some cause

    some hope

    because if there is not,

    what is there?

Spring Cleaning

Metaphors in this song were first jotted down in spring 2012, my first in London. I lived sparsely, in the attic of a friend’s father’s house, and worked 9 – 3.30pm in a special needs school 10 minutes down a quiet road on a bike. Aspirational lifestyle – I had more time on my hands than I yet knew what to do with. A year later I had the opposite time problem, as I juggled three part-time jobs, and I picked up the pieces and made them into a song.

It’s my most reliable song to perform, and actually has a catchy tune and regular chord structure that other musicians can pick up. And I’ve stuck up a BANDCAMP. Woohooo. The quality of the recording is pretty grim, shall redo when I have some decent headphones. Also I need to address the buzzes in my guitar from when I lowered the bridge from laziness about building my hand strength.

Spring cleaning

When I lose touch with the moment I live in/ scum settles in my mind/scum and dirt and clutter, gets pretty obscene/I can’t see what’s before me til I scrub it clean

So much to untangle to much to say/all of these thoughts keep getting in my way/I’ll line them all up at the surface/cause then I can pack ’em away

 

Won’t you help me get my  tidy on? I got some spring cleaning to do

though in the end I’ve got to get down to it I’d appreciate some help from you

 

If I get into a scrub a dub dub I’ll stick at it til the task is through

but right up til I get into that zone it looks so hard to do

 

Dust down those cobwebs they’ve been shutting out the light/ take a deep breath’ sort out those piles of shite/ let the light shine onto that skeleton in the cupboard/once it’s seen the light of day I can put it away

A bit of tangled wool can chill in the corner/ I’ll unpick the knots some rainy day/it’s ok to have some shit that’s not sorted/as long as I can pack it away.

So won’t you…..

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The life-changing magic of tidying: book review

The Life-Changing-Magic of Tidying up: a book review

Marie Kondo is the most endearing guru I have ever had the pleasure to read, and ‘The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying’ is her bible. Cathy Hirano translates from the Japanese for Vermilion books (pub 2014). Her Capitalisation Of Every Word in the contents does not come across as trite and patronising,  instead it prefaces Kondo’s direct, clear style.

Honouring the teacher is a widely acknowledged Japanese value, and Marie Kondo quickly convinces that she is an expert and an individual worth listening to. There is no Gilian Keith style pseudoscience, rather Marie notes an observation and proposes an explanation. Her ideas come from her childhood passion for housewifery, which developed into a ‘serious’ pursuit of tidying aged 15. This is not just another inbred descendent of Lakein’s 1973 classic ‘How to get control ofyour time and your life’ with a thread of softeness from Brene Brown’s ‘Gifts of Imperfection’.

In a nutshell, the Mariekon method consists of handling each possession, and considering whether it is a positive or negative emotional relationship by asking the intuitive question ‘does this spark joy?’. Joy is not widely used in contemporary English, which I think is fortunate, as it asks the reader to define for themselves what ‘joy’ may be in this context. My mind goes to Alice Walker’s ‘Possessing the secret of joy’ and considers what breadth and complexity of feelings may inhabit long disused objects.

I was evangelised on Marie Kondo by my sister in law while I lived in a house with a horrific ex-casino carpet and chronic damp problems under the bed. I bought the book, and read it with an initially skeptical eye before leaving for the summer. In the autumn I descended on my childhood bedroom with a vigor I have never before brought to tidying. Before, the end point was always a clear floor, which I could hoover, and a clear desk that I could wipe. This time it was to resolve my tortuous relationship with objects, and spring clean my soul.

One aspect of her language grated with me: her use of the term ‘feminine’ to designate a life lived elegantly. This is a knee jerk reaction on my part as an individual dedicated to queering gender concepts, and resisting all binaries. In act her book is based entirely on binaries, which are all connected to the replacement of mess with tidyness. This book is a manifesto for correctness from chaos. My family slogan was ‘Nature (and my family) abhore a vacuum’ and this was used to justify the absence of clear surfaces as a constant of life.

Looking around my room right now, there aren’t so many clear surfaces. But I am wearing a jacket that was disused by my friend, as it is a funny linen shape ‘Well, it’s good for writing in, but not really practical’ they explained as I handled it at their house-clearing party. And I am writing  on an impulsively downloaded app called ‘calmly’, and I have written an appropriate length of text that is roughly coherent, and it is now time to get breakfast before I tidy my room properly, for the sake of my mental health.

And it appears that light jazz is the appropriate soundtrack. Actually, scrap that, I’m putting on First Aid Kit. Or maybe I’ll do some gardening.

 

 

 

Writing for invisible audiences

I don’t like it anymore. Well, maybe I do, a little bit. But I don’t need it anymore, and I have a preference for writing for specific audiences. This blog has helped me write when I have lacked purpose for writing, to write for the sake of my need to organise and express my introspection.

Shouting into a true vacuum of space siphons off some thoughts, because nature abhors a vacuum [our family motto for our messy house]. But I want to direct my communication energy into networks now.

Something has changed drastically over the past three months in how my brain and body work together. I think I am better now than I was before.

I’ve  had a few diagnoses handed to me as bitter pills, syrups in silver spoons and disguised as refreshing glasses of water. I resist all of them.

Crasy, psychosis (gateway to schizophrenia), bipolar affective disorder, manic episode, borderline personality disorder, PTSD, none of these are what I want, though each offers a cloak to wear on different occasions. Crazy means a good thing in the local slang, ‘jungle english’, which also has a catch-all phrase for illness: ‘jungle fever’.

I’ll continue to struggle to beat the borders in my brain and along the way I might learn a thing or two about #junglefever

Giving up on teaching*

*[not all teaching. mainstream, qualified teacher status teaching]

I haven’t written about education for a while. I’ve spent a lot of the last two years feeling pretty overemotional around my feelings toward teaching. My new year’s resolution for 2016 was not to work in schools all year – and though I went in a bit of a bonus decision limbo tailspin last week – I have now finally officially withdrawn from my PGCE. When I get moments of inclination, I’ll be picking out ideas & reflections about schools & education to write up.

At the end of last summer I had a defined moment when I allowed myself to feel the depth of my disgust for performing to an audience that is coerced to be present and pay attention.

I’d woken on the Sunday of a festival with my head buzzing with possibilities. The night before I’d had hours of venturing, theatrically playing fantasy politics with friends and strangers, drawing out and empathasing with vulnerabilities over the scope of our power and our complicities in the face of global capitalist exploitation and injustice, then eventually finding a group of people to share music with until we were all too hoarse to sing and deadbeat tired to let our fingers co-ordinate on our fingerboards. They said my rarely shared, soul-baring songs were beautiful. I revelled in my capacity, in free forms of performance, to draw people to me.

I went to workshops that morning. First, vagina appreciation badge making. Then a speaker on an education development project, who described Freiriean pedagogy without jargon. The audience were rapt, if lacking active involvement – reminding me of Radical Education Forum’s strength in holding participatory space. Then a theatrical workshop on the museum of love, objects of love. I shared a letter, had deep connection with someone I’d met once before in a partnered activity, and recommended bel hooks’ All About Love.

After that, a spoken word artist spoke of a community and youth centre that, despite its fight, was closed for the lack of 35 000 pounds funding. The week after it closed 40 000 pounds worth of criminal damage was committed locally. His 9yrold son’s performance was testimony to his power as educator as well as performer. When he invited others to take a turn on the mic, I shared the horrors of the exploitation of unicorns with the audience, and it worked. Chatting after, I felt acknowledged by him as a person worth talking to, and we went together to catch Akala’s set.

Akala was giving a truly emotionally generous performance. Sharing his passion with the crammed tent. Believing that his audience was open to receive words against racism, against colonialism, against capitalism. I was rapt, and it seemed the entire audience’s attention was fully drawn in. His criticism of school as one facet of oppression struck straight to me. It focussed my awareness that compulsory schooling is not something children have any choice over, and many children explicitly resist it with everything available to them, only to be coerced by a whole spectrum of emotional and social manipulation backed up by the power of the state to partake in the routines, tasks and other expectations put forward by the school and implemented by teaching and support staff. And the disjuncture between participating in this coercion, and the ethics I live the rest of my life by showed starker than before. If I promote respect for all people, regardless of their position in any hierarchy, and consider consent to be a foundation for any meaningful respect, how can I have a relationship for 6 hours a day, 5 days a week, with 30 people in which there can only ever be the illusion of consent?

The self confidence I had gained, from living the expressive, confident self that had been restricted to the margins by the PGCE allowed me to release the fear of finding myself purposeless and skill-less if I were not to complete it. This fear gone, my disgust at the oppressive system I had operated as part of drove out everything still tying me to the idea of completing the PGCE. Two years of my life dominated by it [for negative CV points]? Better not let it have any more. A second batch of student debt? Who says I’ll ever even earn enough to repay it. Less chance of being paid a decent wage in any area of education? Well, that’s pretty unfortunate, but y’know. I’ll deal. I have to admit that I failed to complete a PGCE because of my mental health? No, I do not, because although that was a part of it, it is not the strongest narrative: I am not finishing a PGCE because I fundamentally don’t want to occupy the role of teacher in compulsory schooling.

owl pla

still from an animation of an owl destroying a Professional Learning Agenda (PGCE paperwork)