Friday, 31 December 2010

New Year's Eve... live from a sofa near you

Firstly I must tell you - something weird happened tonight with me and Darth Vader.

Bear with me. There's this guy (or gal) calling themselves Darth Vader on Twitter, and they asked for a three word description of the Dark Lord of the Sith. I replied saying I couldn't do it in 3 words, but gave a link to this blog post. 'Darth' re-tweeted my link to his quarter of a million followers. So suddenly (not that I follow my stats on Statcounter or anything) I've had 1500 people (and counting) visit that post...

...for an average of 5 seconds.... hahaha! Andy Warhol was wrong - not even fifteen minutes,

added later: ... although Darth doesn't tweet that often so I'm still getting hits from it, and a few new followers, and a great story which both self-agrandises and self-denigrates... but does end up with people wanting me to explain (in detail) what Twitter is and what's the difference between Twitter and Facebook and Blogging and Linked-in and my arse. (Not really - just added that in to see if anyone was paying attention.)

It just goes to show how many sad, lonely people who don't get invited to New Year parties are getting something out of Twitter, and the internet. It's nice for us them.

I've been trying to be positive, what with my top Christmas pressies, and my highlights of 20210 (hey... I can't drink tequila and type!) and not mentioning the BAD BITS and the CONTINUING SAGAs and the TROUBLES AHEAD. But really.

Must I bear alone the trauma of my mother's gift of a leopard-skin shower cap (and matching snuggle) and 48 boxes of chocolates? Could be worse - my BFF got a doorstop, a tea towel, teabags and (ahem) 16 random library books.

Anyway, there's some more cheap fizz en route so I'll stop here. But if you're reading this tonight, here's some comfort for you - 'staying in' is the new 'going out'. Twitter said so. But then it says a lot of things.

HAPPY NEW YEAR EVERYONE! Cheers!! *raises can of Stella and gets all teary...*

Thursday, 30 December 2010

My 2010 Highlights

I always get a bit contemplative this time of year. I suddenly cease to be any fun at parties, preferring to dwell on the year past and

The ten best things that happened to me this year:

1. I got a job as a library assistant. It's the sort of job I'd have liked on leaving school. If that had happened I'd probably still be there and there's no counting the adventures I wouldn't have had. But it's kind of nice to be doing it now - far less stressful than some of my other recent incarnations!

2. You! I started writing this blog last winter, have had lots of unexpected fun and interaction with great fellow-bloggers through venturing into blogland and celebrating my 100th post!

3. Coming second in THREE poetry slams - Liverpool Most Romantic Poet, Liverpool Glam Slam, and the far less glamorous Morton Arms Poetry Competition

4. Learning to cope with the anxiety which has affected me badly over the last few years. From having a panic attack during a yoga relaxation session back in February to...

5. ...celebrating my 200th live poetry performance a few weeks ago (since my first open mic in 2003)

6. A very enjoyable fortnight in Madeira!

7. Lovely short breaks in The Lake District and Prague

8. Earning a total of £287 from writing/performing... *sigh*...must try harder.

9. Many visits to Scotland. Not for nice reasons, but it was good to get to know it a bit better.

10. Arriving at the turn of this year better equipped than at the turn of the last - materially (better gadgets etc) but also emotionally.

What have been the highlights of 2011 for YOU?

Monday, 27 December 2010

OK, Let it STOP Snowing Now!

Where I live, you can go for years without a dusting, a flurry, or even a frost!

But I've just been making a list of how many times - and where - I've been snowed on during the last few years.

March 2009 - My first proper snow (alright ice) sighting for years and was too much fun NOT to mention - heli-hiking on Fox Glacier, NZ (of which more in a supplemental post to come).

April 2009 - Unexpected blizzard whilst staying in the Mt Cook YHA - unseasonably early (equivalent of early October!). The 2nd picture is near neighbouring Lake Tekapo.

May 2009 - Patagonia. OK, winter in Patagonia we weren't expecting a heatwave. Torres del Paine, Perito Moreno Glacier (3rd pic), and Ushuaia were all quite chilly.

January 2010 - snowed in at home! (4th pic) This never happens.

January 2010 - snowed in in Scotland - twice!

February 2010 - snowed in in Bury. A walking weekend (note absence of the words 'exotic', 'luxury' or 'pampering') turned into a chilly knee-deep stumble in a desperate bid to escape.

March 2010 - Scotland (again). 2-storey mounds of snow outside Tesco in Keith (could have been worse - mounds of snow outside Keith in Tesco)

* there may have been a bit of summer here *

November 2010 - snowed in in Scotland. I mean really snowed in. Read this post.

November 2010 - snowed in in Prague (bottom pic)

December 2010 - snowed in at home again. It is starting to thaw... but the year ain't over yet!

It's just a good job I have a range of cold-weather head-gear you will not fully appreciate from these pictures alone.

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Ho Ho Ho! My favourite Christmas Jokes

It's a funny time of year - and I hope these Christmas jokes make it just a little bit funnier:
Q - Why is Christmas just like another day at the office?
A - You end up doing all the work and the fat guy in the suit gets all the credit.

Three men die on Christmas Eve. St Peter says they can get into heaven if they have something Christmassy with them.
The first guy clicks his lighter. 'It's a candle!' He says, and is allowed in.
The second guy jangles a bunch of keys. 'Jingle bells!' He sings, and is allowed in.
The third guy thinks for a minute then fishes a pair of ladies' knickers out of his pocket.
'In what way are they Christmassy?' asks Saint Peter.
'They’re Carol’s!'
We were very poor. Every Christmas my mother would give us all a haircut and then we’d sit down to Xmas dinner with all the trimmings.

Q- How does Darth Vader know what Luke Skywalker is getting for Christmas?
A - Because he has felt his presents.

A woman goes into a post office to buy some stamps for her Christmas cards. 'What denomination do you want?' asks the lady at the counter. 'Good God!' she said. 'Has it come to this? I suppose you'd better give me twenty Catholic and twenty Protestant.

Q - Why does Santa come down the chimney?
A - Because those pants are tight and he wriggles a lot

I got a Helium book for Xmas. I can’t put it down.
I got a U2 jigsaw for Christmas. I'm starting with the Edge.

I bought my kids a David Blaine doll for Christmas – they couldn’t open the box!

Tampax are replacing the string on tampons with a piece of tinsel – but just for the Christmas period only

More seasonal sillies in The Funniest Christmas Joke Book Ever

~ That's all folks! ~

There's more Christmas humour at

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

The Silence Museum

Outside it is always noisy
but within these walls, more than a metre thick,
we hold, insulated, the history
and lost examples of silence.
Visitors are ushered, whispering
through padded cubicles, astounded.

Turn off your phones and music,
speak only in whispers.
We Curators live in silence.
It is our vocation – chosen
from the quietest children
we were trained to listen.
It is like a religion.

The first floor is devoted
to the silence before a sound
with perfect specimens of the pregnant pause:
the counted silence between flash and thunder
that measures your distance from a storm,
the animal quiet of the dog that will be first to bite,
the charged stillness of a held breath
between the last tick and the explosion,
and, the prize of our collection,
the last natural recording of a pin about to drop... 

Beautiful isn’t it?

On other floors we preserve
examples of the silence after a sound –
the straining, listening silence after
the bump in the night,
the sullen tongue-holding of the instructed silence,
one minute silences filled with awkward sorrow,
and rare samples from ground zero
those twin silences of shock and awe.

Our interactive exhibit invites you to consider:
the silence of the crowd at the call for volunteers,
the silence of a majority who oppose without speaking
– the silence that is mistaken for complicity,
the silence that is suffered in.

Listen for a moment…

Our researchers are gathering examples
that measure silence – its depth and width
from the silence of mutual understanding
which needs no vocabulary
to the dumb silence of incomprehension,
from an argument seen through triple-glazed windows
to the last wilderness on a windless day.

Many silences are near extinction.
But we can manufacture them
using the exact wavelengths and frequencies
that echo the weighty absence of sound in space,
and we are close to containing
that final silence
when your own music stops,
and your body ceases whispering
its rhythmic commentary.

(c) Clare Kirwan 2005        

First Published in Aberrant Dreams

Picture: Los Angeles new Museum of the Holocaust

Friday, 3 December 2010

Presents with no future

I've thought of a brilliant idea for giving someone an amazing FREE Christmas Present - but all I get is abuse when I mention it. It depends how you look at it - cheapskate pressie from tight-fisted weirdo or  sustainable gift that saves the earth's valuable resources? You decide!

First you 'borrow' (ok steal) the library card of your loved one / sidekick / awkward relative (henceforth know as 'the recipient')  - or you could use your own. Then you go to the biggest library near you and use the card to borrow (this time I don't mean steal) as many of the most gorgeous, newest 'coffee table' books as the ticket allows (eg in Wirral you can get 16 books out on a card!) 

You know the kind I mean - the ones the size of coffee tables, full of mouthwatering photographs or ephemeral nonsense. Books about art, travel, confectionery, puppies, gardens, Star Wars, steam trains, latex... whatever your recipient's 'special' interests may be. Books that lift the heart for a moment but cost £40 in the shops and no matter how beautiful they are, you couldn't justify buying them, and if you did they would barely be looked at after the initial flurry of excitement.

So on Christmas Day your recipient gets a big pile of wonderful books* to browse through over the holidays - to entertain guests, provoke conversations or merely to provide alternative surfaces to put your nuts on! Then when your recipient tires of them you just pop them back to the library. Job done! 

You haven't broke the bank, the author gets a cut through the Public Lending Right, your library is supported and your recipient is touched by the gesture and the effort you put into choosing the best books! 

After all - it's the thought that counts, isn't it? What do you think?

* This probably only works with books. It would be unreasonable to buy someone, say a box of choccies just to look at and then take back to the shop in January. I'm not that cheap!

Other posts about books:       Top 10 Books for Writers         The dog ate my library book