Saturday, 31 March 2007

A new creature in the family

Since my (our) son left home, over three years ago now, I have been thinking about getting a dog. I miss having someone cute and dependent, maybe it's a control thing, maybe I'm institutionalised I don't know. But as neither of us are home regularly at the moment getting a dog seems a bit cruel. So anyway, a few weeks ago we were in Carlisle for some reason and we saw a notice in a pet shop window 'Dragons in stock now' or something like that. Of course we had to go in and see what a real dragon looks like. I had visions of a creature from Harry Potter. But on entering and before we saw any dragons we saw the most darling baby tortoises and were stopped in our tracks. We stood and watched them for ages: chomping on greens, trying to turn one another over, clambering about. But finally had to leave the shop and do what we had gone to Carlisle to do.

So, next week is my birthday and my poor husband never knows what to get me, apparently I'm hideously fussy. I've been angling for that expensive brown bag that I mentioned a few posts ago, but he's too scared that he gets the wrong one.

This morning I woke up and the sun was shining, I was a little hung over but it was nice and snuggly in bed and I felt quite cheery. Then he said the words 'it's baby tortoise day.' Yes, he had decided to get me a baby tortoise for my birthday and today he was taking me out to chose one. So once I'd struggled out of bed and had the requisite two buckets of tea followed by a 'quick' shower, off we went in the car back to Carlisle to spend several hours in the aforementioned petshop mulling over tortoises the size of a two pound coin. Some were a bit dozy, others seemed intent on fighting and some seemed to do nothing but eat. But one was extra tiny and inquisitive looking, when I held him in my hand he turned round in a circle gazing about the room and stared straight at me. He pushed with his right hind leg and tickled my palm: he was the one.

And now here he is, safe and warm in a vivariam on top of the drinks cupboard in my study. I, once more, have a tiny creature to feed and nurture. Hurrah!!! There can be no better birthday present. Welcome to my lair little Rollo.

Wednesday, 28 March 2007

Fitting in

And so one isn't an oddity, but just another chap rushing out in overalls to buy some more files at the nearest shop. St. Ives has absolutely enraptured me, not merely for its beauty, but the naturalness of life... The sense of community is, I think, a very important factor in an artist's life.
Barbara Hepworth – 1970

Cornwall was fab: from the tiny little fisherman's cottage we stayed in built right on the edge of a cliff, to the amazing land and seascapes, to the pretty little towns and villages and to St. Ives where lies the Tate and, best of all, Barbara Hepworth's studio and garden. Bursting with over twenty-five years worth of sculptural progress this was the highlight of the holiday. Here was the live/work space of someone who lived a truly authentic life. And it was possible to see, through her work, how she had reached that exalted state: she had the good fortune to find herself in a town that suited her character, interests and way of working. And she then set about making the most of her luck. It all, then, came together to create glorious harmonious sculptures that seem to be the work of genius but could just as easily be seen as the products of contingency and sweat. If she'd ended up living in Wakefield – where she was born – would she have produced such beauty? I guess it's impossible to say but one feels the answer would be no, especially given the quote above.

It seems to me that that sense of community she talks about, that feeling of fit, is something we all need, and to an extent it is just good luck if we get it. It is, of course, possible to go out and look for it but I think whether a place is right probably isn't evident immediately. So one could find one self kind of semi-settling in somewhere only to realise this isn't the place after all and having to move on again. One could, indeed, never find it and be constantly moving on. One may even, in one's desperation to find the place one fits into, not notice when one has found it. And, of course, most of us have commitments that prevent us from moving from place to place anyway: lovers, children, jobs or whatever. How nice it would be, though, to find and be able to settle into the place where one is able to thrive. I wonder how many of us ever do.

Friday, 16 March 2007

Nietzsche's way to Holiday Heaven

I find myself in the middle of a research project and a campaign to save the university campus and having to go away on holiday. Just when things are getting interesting re: the campaign and things are getting stressful re: the project.

On Tuesday the Principal of Glasgow University is coming to Dumfries to give a talk on the value of education. Just as he has announced that they have made the decision to pull out of our campus, on economic grounds, and we must get used to it. As you can imagine we are going to turn up to this talk with the firm intention of making him squirm. I say we: I won't be here, I will be in Cornwall, about as far away as I can get without leaving Britain. The timing couldn't be worse!

With regard to my project: I have seven weeks to go and have yet to write a word. It's taken longer than anticipated to read Nietzsche, and just when I feel I am getting to grips with him and may be ready to write some of those fifteen thousand words, I have to leave my computer behind and go to Cornwall: The timing couldn't be worse!

What would Nietzsche say to me? He would say 'take ownership of your decisions, foolish woman, there is no point in blaming anyone, or anything, else. You don't actually have to go to Cornwall, so think about why, in the face of such overwhelming evidence that you should not go, you are still planning to go.' And he's right, my values are conflicting here: I want to stay and fight and I want to get on with my work and I want to go on holiday: I want it all! I booked this holiday because my husband who also works very hard needs a break. And I want to give him that break. I have to decide which of these values takes precedence and then take responsibility for that decision. But it's so hard. And here Nietzsche would tell me: 'of course it's hard, there is no pleasure without pain, life is tough but if you want to live a satisfying life you have to examine yourself and your motives and be flexible.'

So what am I going to do? I am going to give my husband priority and go to Cornwall and have a lovely time. I will take some books and a notepad and plan two or three hours work time a day, and the rest of the time not think about work at all. The campaign will go on without me for a week, I am not crucial to it. And when I come back, hopefully, I'll be refreshed and invigorated and ready to get on with actually writing up my project. Thanks Nietzsche!

Wednesday, 14 March 2007

greengalloway: Truth only known by guttersnipes

greengalloway: Truth only known by guttersnipes

Here is something from a chap I know called Alistair, he is a very interesting man. I hope he doesn't mind that I've posted this but I just clicked on create a link on his blog and it happened: Amazing!

Tuesday, 13 March 2007

Slowly getting to grips with this blog thing

Well, I do feel smug: I have just managed to insert a hits counter to my blog. I realize that the majority of bloggers will find this an easy and therefore probably rather insignificant step, but for me it's major. As a middle aged technophobe I feel I have made a step in the right direction. Now I can see if I am making contact with anyone at all and this is surely the point of blogging. Why do I want to do this? Well that's yet another question to be pondered: I guess we are, at least on one level, social animals. And as I spend most of my time holed up in my study reading for my disssertation project blogging for me is the equivalent of going to a nightclub. It would be nice to know that there are other people at the club too, even if they never speak to me.

Have just popped over to my friend Kim Ayres' blog, he is philosopher and I do love reading his stuff. His latest post is about constructing one's own narrative and as I'm currently reading Nietzsche it is right on trend for me. It's so nice to hear someone is making the effort to rewrite his story. I've been trying to rewrite mine but have currently been knocked off track by an unfathomable desire for a ridiculously expensive brown leather bag. I'm trying to fight it but I think it's winning: I imagine myself carrying books and notepads and pens in it. That I will use it til the day I die and that it will grow more beautiful with age.

Thursday, 8 March 2007

Still Fighting for Education

The Crichton campaign is still in full swing and we do seem to be making progress. I should have posted this days ago but hey ho... that's what happens when you spend too much time pondering.

Hi Everyone,

If you can please phone, fax and email on Thursday 8th to Friday 9th of March, details are below.

Save Crichton Campus, the campaign continues, SOLIDARITY REQUEST

Fellow workers, Glasgow University IWW Job Branch and the Save Crichton Campus campaign in Glasgow are calling another phone lobby on the success of last week's event, which saw the University implement a telephone protocol for complaints about Crichton and lay on extra staff to deal with the volume of calls.

See: http://iwwscotland.wordpress.com/crichton-struggle/

The campaign is starting to score victories against the decision. The Scottish Executive, previously immovable in claiming Crichton's closure had nothing to do with them (an article in a Dumfries paper alleges they knew about the decision 8 months ago and gave the University the OK) is now pressurising Sir Muir Russell, principal of the university to meet with them to discuss the issue. The campaign is building momentum on campus with flyposting and creative publicity stunts and resistance is planned, however time is very short as the University has accelerated its attempts to shut the facility down in light of the media exposure. Pressure however is starting to tell.

We believe that with a further phone, fax and email lobby we can increase the pressure on the University Administration and the principal in particular. Last time round we caused a major nuisance - this time we want to cause further discomfort and we are advertizing this lobby on every medium available to us. This is going to be big, especially with your participation! The IWW and the campaign believe that we can win this fight with your help. On Thursday and Friday we are asking people to ring (and ring and ring again if you can!) the university swtichboard, and the principal's office. Send a fax, write an email, but above all phone the principal's office and ask to speak to Sir Muir Russell.

If you're looking for things to say mention that you want to register a complaint about the closure of the Crichton Campus, with the loss of the jobs of staff, the damage done to the Dumfries area at large, the vital role that the campus plays in the education and culture of the area, and that fact that all this damage is being justified on the basis of figures for sums of money which prominent Labour Party MSPs have dismissed as fantasy; this university administration, you might want to remind them, is a university administration which saw fit to award Sir Muir Russell, the Principal, a 15% pay rise a few weeks ago, while attempting to cut Janitors pay by 5 grand a year, and laying off staff at Crichton, on the back of last years job losses. It has pointedly ignored a 2800 signature petition from the people of Dumfries. There is widespread popular anger in the region, and staff and students have been involved in winning the support of the entire community, collecting signatures and donations and talking to people late into the night at local supermarkets. The local council is against the decision. The local paper is publicly backing the campaign. There could not be more support in the area for the campaign against the decision. Ask them how they feel about behaving with such arrogance in the face of such widespread popular opinion. Of course you could also just say what you want to keep the phones tied up. ;o)

This is going to be big - help stick the boot in. Workers jobs and an entire community are resting on us winning this campaign.

Phone, fax or email the following on Thursday 8th March and Friday 9th March during GMT office hours 9AM - 5PM. Let us know how it's going!

Sir Muir Russell
Principal of Glasgow University
Email: principal@gla.ac.uk
Tel: 0141 330 5995
Fax: 0141 330 4947

Mr Alexander J Scrimgeour
Executive Assistant to the Principal

Prof K C Calman
Principal's Office University Chancellor
telephone: 0141 330 5995
email: Chancellor@gla.ac.uk

Also those with more time to contribute can contact the University via the switchboard and try and

tie lines up there too:-

0141-330 2000

Friday, 2 March 2007

What makes us us?

A friend of mine has just had a baby, her second child. This one, Edith, is quite different from the first, Oscar. Apart from the obvious physical differences due to sex there are definite personality differences too. She is quite happy to lie and gurgle all day whereas Oscar seemed to be trying to stand, walk, run from day one. Will this difference define them throughout their lives? What makes us us, is there some intrinsic self? Or are we born with a semi-formed character due to our experiences in the womb which will then change or evolve depending on further experience?

We do seem to have a notion of a self that somehow trancends experience. The essential, unchanging self that then interacts with the world and reacts to experience and forms one's character. Why am I always late? Am I intrinsically a late person and no matter what strategies I set up to deal with this, will always be a late person? Or am I always late because my mother always was and I just learned this behaviour? And what of the night thing? I am definitely better at night. I work best from about 10pm to about 4am, I never get the best out of myself if I try to work during the day to conform with current convention. So is this part of my intrinsic self or just a product of experience? And talent, where does that come from? Could it be possible that Mozart's apparent 'gift' for music was really just a product of the contingencies of his life?

What implications might the answer(s) to such questions have for how to live? Should we embrace what we are and then get over it or act to change?