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Tuesday, 28 October 2014

How the Government saves the lives of migrants

The Foreign Office have decided that they can’t support the search and rescue operations that drag destitute migrants out of the sea when their overcrowded and inadequate ships have sunk.  They say this move will discourage such people from attempting the crossing in the first place and therefore will, in the end, help save lives.

I don’t want to live in a country that thinks this way, ruled by a government that can’t make the link between handing over your life savings in return for a journey that will very likely end in death or detention, and the misery of the life that person is trying to escape.  As if the migrant will say, well gosh, you know, the boat is likely to come a cropper but now the British Government aren’t going to try and save me, I don’t think I’ll risk it after all.
Would Theresa May refuse to haul back a kid running across the road because they haven’t used the Pelican Crossing?  Would she forbid the Fire Brigade to put out flames caused by unlawful smoking?  Would she prefer to let a person jump than help them down from railings they’ve trespassed onto?

Do you know what, don’t answer that.

Monday, 27 October 2014

Amazing Things I Didn't Know Until Now

I used to be a solicitor and in order to get that job, I had to pass something called the Common Professional Exam (the name always struck me as a curious mixture of self-deprecation and assumptive universality) and the Law Society Finals.  They’re called something else now.  My first lesson in Contract Law was held in a drab classroom at Bristol Poly (that’s also changed its name).  The lecturer, a polytechnic stereotype - wild hair, stained shirt, corduroys - had condensed the course into a well worked system of abbreviations and acronyms.  Thirty years on I still wonder about the E or ITs of a K, whether the Cn is adequate and whether I can demonstrate ICLR.  The lecturer also used to refer to the makers of poor judgments as Mr Justice Blankety Bollocks which was another thing I loved about him. 

What I remember most vividly, though, is amazement that at the age of 23 I didn't already know that a contract required consideration, that some terms would be automatically implied and that a wink and a handshake didn’t necessarily mean you'd got a deal.
It shocked me that this basic and useful information was saved exclusively for people studying law.  I abhor the removal of Legal Aid, but one benefit might be more people get to learn about this stuff.

A few weeks ago I joined an acrylics painting class in Brighton.  The teacher, another iconic figure - flowers in her messy hair, patterned leggings, patterned skirt, patterned teeshirt, patterned glasses – has been showing us how to make colours.  All of the colours found in nature are made from three - yellow red and blue.  And each primary colours goes wonderfully well with the mixture of the other two.  That’s why the blue beach hut looks lovely next to the orange one and why you should put lemons in a purple dish.   I was reminded of my first class in contract law, and this sense – why on earth hadn’t I learned this stuff before?  It’s so fundamental, so interesting, so simple and explains so much.

So, what’s the moral?  That the school curriculum is a bit limited, that lawyers like to keep the most useful information for themselves, that I should have done Art A' level?  Probably all of these.  On the other hand, I’m kind of excited to find out what the next really obvious fact is going to blow my mind. 

Friday, 7 December 2012

Would you pay £80 for this sofa?

Begging your indulgence as I flog the upholstery theme a touch longer.

A couple of weeks ago, I bought an old sofa bed from Emmaus for £80.  It had loose covers in a very dirty white.  This was how I planned for it to look:

And this is how it turned out:

Hurray for Dylon.

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Top tips on how to upholster an old chair from someone who knows absolutely nothing about it

My mother bought this chair in 1961 for 5 shillings.  It was neither a bargain nor a rip off.  This is what it used to look like, so you can see why I liked it.  Trouble was, the velvet was worn to sheer, and a cloud of ancient dust flew up each time you touched it.

I asked three upholsterers about doing the job.  Two said it would cost £1000; one said it would cost £500 plus materials and talked rather a lot about gluing on braid; one refused the job altogether.  In the end, I decided to do it myself.  How hard could it be?

These are my top ten tips:

1.  Choose fabric that makes you weep for its beauty.

2.  Pick a day when you want a distraction – planning permission’s been refused; your parents are splitting up; your daughter’s boyfriend has got a job in Bali and she’s decided to give up her university place to follow him there.

3.  Be brave, be very brave.  
4.  Use the old pieces as a pattern but don’t be surprised if they bear no relation to what will actually fit.

5.  Think of it not as a chair but as a character out of Beauty and the Beast.

6.  Under whose moral code are wrinkles in velvet wrong?

7.  Hold the tacks in place with your fingernails.  It’s what they’re for.

8.  If anyone comments say “it’s meant to be like that”.

9.  If they persist, hand them a pair of scissors and a hammer and say “I’d like to see you do a better job”

10. Be jolly pleased with yourself and get started on another.

Friday, 28 September 2012

The Definition of a Queer Plunger: (as overflow from my regular twitter spot - word of the day)

A queer plunger was a form of 18th century confidence trickster, defined by Grose's Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue like this:

"Cheats who throw themselves into the water in order that they may be taken up by their accomplices, who carry them to one of the houses appointed by the Humane Society for the recovery of drowned persons, where they are rewarded by the Society with a guinea each; and the supposed drowned person, pretending he was driven to that extremity by great necessity, is also frequently sent away with a contribution in his pocket."

Good trick, but can you imagine the paperwork?

With many thanks to Peter Bowler and his "Superior Person's Little Book of Words" for this, and many other excellent pieces of information.

Friday, 13 April 2012

Lucky 7: seven lines from new writing

Voula Grand (@voulagrand) tagged me on her Lucky 7 displacement activity.  It was a surprise, partly because I've been so absent on twitter lately, but more perhaps because I've kind of given up on the writing, for now anyway, put the fruits of my back breaking labours under the bed, giving myself a holiday from chasing the ephemeral.  Frankly, you see, writing is about 2% wonderful fun and 98% mental breakdown and being foul to the family.
But I'm glad to bring the old thing out, dust it off, and find page 7.  And line 7 is this bit  - the narrator is about to walk out on her family and this young man is NOT the love interest, but one of those angels who play a tiny part but move mountains:
I am exhausted.  There are no seats, so I crouch onto the paving step by the town hall and lean uncomfortably against the low metal rail.  And there I stay, watching the world.  The world that knows what it’s doing and why it’s here.   My attention narrows to a young man, not much more than a boy, holding a clipboard.  He’s standing in the middle of the market square inviting people to take part in his survey.  He has an orb of yellow hair and as people drift towards him, he leans after them slightly, following for a step or two.  Definitely a sunflower.  After a bit, he notices me watching him, lopes over and sits down beside me on the slab, folding his long legs under him like a foal.

The instructions for Lucky 7 are:
  • · Go to page 7 or 77 in your current manuscript
  • · Go to line 7
  • · Post on your blog the next 7 lines, or sentences, as they are – no cheating
  • · Tag 7 other authors to do the same

The 7 writers I have chosen are these - I haven't asked them first, I'm afraid, they don't have to do it if they don't want to:
Liz Fenwick  @liz_fenwick
Liz Harris @lizharrisauthor
Keris Stainton   @Keris
Kate Lord Brown  @katelordbrown
Sive Nicoll  @SiveNicoll
Sarah Addyman  @SarahAddyman
Debbie White  @Bluestockingmum
I hope you enjoy reading 7 lines from their new works as much as I'm looking forward to it.

Monday, 5 March 2012

No one here but us cushions

Here is one I made for a friend of mine.  She thinks her work's cut out bringing up five kids, she should try making them out of felt.