This is what a feminist looks like

I was personally called a Stalinist by David Mellor once.

It happened when I was part of the delegation from the National Alliance of Women’s Organisations that lobbied David Mellor about the Broadcasting Act before the Broadcasting Act before this one, back in the days when Mellor was Minister of Fun and I was on the Fawcett Society’s Media Committee.  I mention this only to point out that I have history with the Fawcett Society.  I wasn’t just a pay-your-dues-and-read-the-emails member, I was an actual activist member.  It was the great and much missed Mary Stott who nominated me for the committee, in fact.

So why am I no longer a member?  It was this: this is what a feminist looks like.  She is no bigger than “X-large”, where “X-large” means a chest smaller than 44″

Now, don’t get me wrong, it’s a brilliant campaign!  Get some photos of people, all sizes and shapes of people, people you wouldn’t expect, and show them in t-shirts that say THIS is what a feminist looks like, and you make the point.  Feminists come in all shapes and sizes.  Feminism applies to everyone.  Even men.  Even celebrities.  Yay us!

Feminists come in all shapes and sizes.  They aren’t just middle-aged fat ladies with bad hair: that’s the subtext.  Put your stereotypes aside and see: feminism is just like you!

Which gives me a problem.  Because, you see, I AM a middle-aged fat lady with bad hair.  I exactly fulfil the stereotypical view of “feminist” – it would be criminally stupid of the Fawcett Society to undercut their campaign by making a “this is what a feminist looks like” t-shirt that would fit me.  (Hey, you think I’m making this up?)

I would love to work with the Fawcett Society again.  But I raised the issue with them when the campaign first came out and was brushed off, twice.  I raised it with them again on twitter this morning when I saw Elle advertising a new variant of the t shirt.

Could they BE any more patronising?

There IS no way to reconcile the “this is what a feminist looks like” campaign with the exclusion of larger feminists.  That’s the point.  However Fawcett could easily show they understand the issue and the hurtfulness of it and come up with a response which explains it’s a circle they just can’t square – or at least an answer that doesn’t reek of “and we don’t care, either!”  But they haven’t.  Still.  And that’s what pisses me off.

Interesting times

Well that was… interesting. I published a piece on the Guardian “Comment is Free” website yesterday and the readership on this blog and on tiintax, my tax blog, had a sudden spike. And the comments on the piece are up to 500+ at the time of writing.

And you know when they say “don’t read the comments”…???

However. One of the things I did in my past was to edit Quarterly Record, the journal of Her Majesty’s Inspectors of Taxes and Senior Revenue Officials, in the days before HMRC. I recalled writing something there about the difference between equality and diversity. I didn’t have space to go into it in the Guardian piece, but I have just found a copy of the July 2002 QR in my cupboard and so I thought I would reproduce below the relevant extract from my editorial. I think it still works. Although goodness me, didn’t I need a decent copy editor! No, the em-dash should NOT be the most frequently used punctuation mark.

…Which brings me on to my theme – hey, you knew I’d get to one eventually – which is Diversity. Now diversity is one of those words which, like culture, seems to make some people reach instantly for their guns, so let’s begin by defining what we mean. Diversity needs to be distinguished from equality. To me equality is what you get when you apply the same rules to everyone – what we might call the “GI Jane” method. You decide that anyone can be – say – a police officer – provided he or she is at least six feet tall, can carry a hundred and fifty pounds for a hundred yards and complete an assault course in ten minutes. And if that produces a self selected group with very few women in it, well, that’s just the way things are – anyone who wants to join can try, and any woman who has the right stuff can make the grade, just like any man. The method is fair, the outcome is nothing to do with inequality. Diversity, in contrast, means you look at the demographic of the population as a whole, and the demographic of – say – your police force, and compare them – and then look hard at why you are setting the qualifications you are setting. Does an officer regularly have to carry a hundred and fifty pounds of weight over a hundred yards? Every officer? What would it mean to have a force which more closely mirrored the demographic of the population as a whole? Are there police tasks which a four foot six woman could do as well – better? – than a six foot man? It’s about looking at what each person brings to the table and valuing it. So the soccer hooligan might quieten down faster when challenged by the dazzling blonde – and the six foot rugby playing stereotype might turn out to have skills for more diverse than thumping people in any event.

Personally I routinely look around any group and do what Sara Paretsky calls an “affirmative action headcount”. In other words, when I find myself in a gathering of twenty four people I automatically start to wonder why only four of them are women and none of them is from an ethnic minority. And, yes, I’m talking about the AIT Executive Committee to which I am newly elected and which I met on an awayday the week before sending this issue to the printers.

So why are there so many of the same old faces on Committee? Well obviously to a large degree it’s because the previous committee were good guys and did a good job and people were happy to re-elect them. D’oh, as Homer might say. But I am nevertheless concerned that the committee is so white and so male, and I wonder whether the answer might not lie in the tendency to think that “the way we do things here” is “the way things ought to be done”…

Rather belatedly, here is “What I did on my holidays”

Day One: travel four hours to get to Cumbria.  Go to Secret Housesitting Destination, where I shall have a fortnight’s peaceful rural writing retreat in exchange for feeding the resident cat and rabbits.

House smells wonderful.

Also the wonderful smell is scented candles.

Also scented candles trigger my hay fever like wouldn’t believe.  Spend the afternoon working out how the TV works, and where to plug in the computer.  And sniffing.

Day Two: cat has left a dead mouse on the living room carpet, presumably by way of a welcome gift.  Swear at cat but, heroically, do not throw up during clean up.

I am working the pomodoro system: 25 minutes of concentrated attention, followed by five minutes break, with a longer break after four pomodoros.  Tuesday’s score: 12.  Still not thrown up, but it was a close run thing.  Cannot fathom how to shut the living room window to prevent bloody cat getting out and doing it again tonight.

Day Three: no gifts from cat.  Phew.  But also productivity falling (pomodoros of work done on Wednesday: 9.)  Stopped in the evening to watch Commonwealth Games Opening Ceremony, and to have intense text message conversation with relatively sane friend about whether I was actually seeing John Barrowman sing the Ceebeebies History of Scotland amidst dancing Tunnocks tea cakes or whether I was on drugs.  Around the interpretive dance version of 500 miles I gave up.  Wine.  Lots of wine.  Interrupted by giant moth battering itself to death inside the living room lamp very loudly.  It may in fact be a small bat.

Day Four: is it Thursday?  Productivity continues to decline (pomodoro: 8).  But went to dinner with J and family, and managed to persuade her that emptying the cat litter was her job, not mine.  Mark the day as a positive.

Day Five: Friday.  (Pomodoro: 5.  It was that kind of day)  Having a pleasant post-prandial nap when suddenly AWAKE AWAKE! FEAR! FIRE! FOES! alarm starts going off.  Run into hall but there’s no smoke, no sign of fire.  Open all doors.  Go outside and check for burglars.  Why is the blasted alarm going off?  Ring the “call these people in an emergency” number – they’re out!  As are J and family.  OK then… fire brigade?  No: there really isn’t a fire.  But is it a carbon monoxide alarm?  I was, after all, asleep when it went off… text owner of house, await return of helpful neighbours, sit outside Sternly Ignoring the fact the house is still beeping FEAR! FIRE! FOES! loudly.  Look up local fire brigade non-emergency number (a nice fireman with a carbon monoxide detector sounds like a plan…) but helpful neighbours arrive first, disable alarm, and text from holidaying house owner provides reassurance that alarm *isn’t* the carbon monoxide alarm but a malfunctioning fire alarm, but there is both a backup fire alarm and a functional carbon monoxide alarm elsewhere.

Peace decends.

Giant butterfly is now flapping round living room.  Let it out the patio doors and risk never being able to shut them again?  Ah.  Turns out I don’t actually have a key to the patio doors.  Chase butterfly for a while with glass and cardboard, but it gives me a “bitch, please!” look and goes to hide somewhere.  Sigh.

Lure cat indoors.  Shut cat out of bedroom.  Go to bed.  There is a giant spider on the ceiling directly above the bed.  But if I close my eyes, there isn’t.

Day… I don’t know.  Bloody cat brings me a LIVE mouse this time.  I scream at cat, cat drops mouse, mouse runs under piano.  I am clearly living in a Tom and Jerry cartoon.  Lock cat in.  Lock cat OUT of bedroom.  Go to bed, after warning J that I shall be calling her in the morning to deal with any gruesomeness which might ensue.

Rabbits look at me contemptuously when I let them out of their hutch to run around their enclosure.  They are clearly humouring me by not rampaging out through the gate, which is held together by string and a clothes peg.  Also, they don’t eat spring onions.  Who knew?  But I’m rapidly running out of the curly kale the house owner left me, so they’re either going to have to eat the avocado I found in the bottom of the fridge or I’m going to have to have another Tesco delivery.  On the other hand, Tescos mean… newspapers!  Chocolate!

J arrives and takes me out for afternoon tea at Brantwood, John Ruskin’s house, where there is a fantastic tea shop where you can sit out on a terrace overlooking the lake.  Which we do.  At my urging, she takes photos.  Look at photos.  Who is that fat lady??????   Never, never eating chocolate ever again.  Go back to house.  Get sci fi story rejection.  Who am I kidding?  Eat chocolate.  Get email accepting academic paper with hardly any amendments.  Rejoice!  Eat chocolate AND drink wine.

It’s raining.  Cat comes in to inform me its raining by drying itself off by rolling on my lap.  Sigh.  I hate the countryside.

Next day.  It might be Tuesday?  Rain.  Feed the rabbits (Tiny amounts of curly kale, cucumber, cauliflower and pea pods.  They sneer at me.  Rabbits are very judgemental)  Get lots of work done, for nearly half an hour.  Cat comes in to inform me it’s raining again by drying itself off by rolling on my lap, and then demands to be let out the other door, presumably in case it’s not raining there.

Get lots of work done for nearly five minutes.  Cat returns, wet again.  I explain to it that I’m not on board with the “being used as a cat towel” scenario, and stroke it dry with kitchen roll.  It gives me a “bitch, please” look and demands to go out the other door again.  Cats are nearly as judgemental as rabbits.  Still no sign of the mouse.

Late at night, decide to go to bed.  No sign of cat returning from latest foray through the Door Into Summer.  Decide to set the cat door on “can come in, but not go out” and just go to bed.

Day… what day IS it anyway?  Anticipate being discovered by taxi driver collecting me for return journey, unrecognisably entirely covered in cat hair, so decide to take shower and launder clothes.  And to check what day it, actually, is.

Go to feed rabbits.  There is only one rabbit.  Holy fuck, WHERE IS THE OTHER RABBIT?????  Run round enclosure for a while having a nice soothing panic attack.  Other rabbit is hiding under the shelf.  Both rabbits regard me contemptuously.  Rabbits are very judgemental.

Come to that, where is the cat?  There are no dead animals in evidence, but last night’s cat food hasn’t been eaten and the rattle of the cat’s bowl produces no imperious mewing.

WHERE IS THE CAT???  Send text messages to various bastions of sanity, wondering how soon should I start to panic?  Three pm is the consensus: it’s probably sheltering from the rain and will stroll in when the rain stops.

The rain doesn’t stop.  But the cat materialises, dry, on the hall carpet.  Where the hell have you been, I demand to know?  “Bitch, please” the cat’s look clearly says.  Cats are very judgemental.

Day… Thursday.  It must be Thursday.  J is kindly taking me out to lunch, out into the World Without Cat Hair again.  Get up joyfully.  Come down to find what appear to be the viscera of a small animal on the hall rug.  Presumably the owner of the house would notice if I just threw the entire rug away?  Contemplate carefully staged “accident” involving scented candles and, possibly, cute firemen?  Sigh.  Rubber gloves and kitchen roll, and We Will Not Speak Of This Again.

Sit down to work.  Two pomodoro later get up to make coffee and notice the second half of last night’s cat food still sitting in its pouch on the kitchen counter.  And the dry cat food bowl is empty.  And I kicked the cat out this morning without feeding it (because, viscera).  Ah.  Feed cat.  Remember I also haven’t fed rabbits.  Feed rabbits.  The are unimpressed, but then rabbits are very judgemental.

Weekend.  Don’t ask me what day it is.  Cat and I have worked out a modus operandi which involves my luring it into the kitchen around tea time because, food, and then sneakily closing the cat flap.  Cat then spends the evening strolling round the house wailing and butting its head against the cat flap, but brings no more gift offerings, live OR dead.

The rabbits continue to judge me.  It was pouring with rain yesterday so I didn’t go out to feed them till it stopped.  They regard me balefully.  It was only the one in Monty Python that was carnivorous, right?  Check handbag for Holy Hand-grenade of Antioch or similar, just in case.

In the afternoon, the weather suddenly dries up.  I go out and feed rabbits again, and let them out of the hutch to run around on the grass.  I stand waiting for them to come out of the hutch.  They do not come out of the hutch.  I go and fetch a glass of wine and sit on the back step waiting for them to come out of the hutch.  They do not come out of the hutch.  I finish the wine, go back to the hutch, where rabbits are continuing to sit on the shelf where the food is.  “You don’t want to come and have a run around while the weather is clear?” I ask them.  They give me a look, the one which says “bitch, please.”

Last day.  Finally!  Feed cat, which thankfully does not include dealing with any final thank you gifts.  Feed rabbits, giving them slightly more than their usual ration because they won’t be fed again till the householder returns, late tonight.  They look at the food.  They look at me.  Their looks clearly say “bitch, please.”  But then rabbits are very judgemental.

On Hiatus

I’m off to house-, rabbit- and cat-sit for a fortnight, hoping to break the back of a couple of writing projects while I’m out of my routine.  The wifi and mobile access will, apparently, be “spotty”, so I’m also taking the opportunity to have a digital detox.  I shall be beyond the reach of pizza delivery, as well as newspaper delivery too – come find me if the world ends while i’m not looking!!!!

See you in August

Richard III

I went to see Martin Freeman’s Richard III at the Trafalgar Studios on Monday night.  I suppose I ought to write my review before I read anyone else’s (it was the press night last night) so here we go.  I should begin by explaining that I was sitting on the stage, in one of the rows of seats behind the performance area so I was both extraordinarily close to the actors but also looking at the backs of their heads for much of the time. 

Freeman gave a good performance: he comes with baggage, of course (Tim from the office, Arthur Dent, Bilbo, John Watson… ) but the performance I saw was relatively calm on the daffy-fan-behaviour spectrum and his trademark “can you believe this?” sideways look at the audience actually works well for Richard.

The conceit of the production is that the “Winter of Discontent” refers to the 1970s and that there was some kind of coup.  Broadly, imagine the unions (or at least the working class, or at least people with thick Yorkshire accents) were the defeated Lancastrians, and the ruling classes were the sons of York.  Which is neat; and the set – two face to face conference tables and some desks with 1970s typewriters, faxes and phones – looked as if it might be fun too.  And the opening scene worked with the concept, Richard holding a microphone and making “now is the winter…” as a formal speech, and then putting down the mike and making it clear we were hearing his private thoughts about his villainous intent.

But that was the extent of the cleverness: after that the seventies were wasted and what we had was just a bunch of guys in oddly cut suits and improbable sideboards, looking like your mad uncle from way back when…

There were some shocking moments.  Clarence, in particular, was drowned by dunking in a fish tank not six feet away from where I was sitting and I couldn’t see how the actor survived it except by holding his breath, so kudos for that effect (assuming it WAS an effect and not awesome lung power!) There was a truly horrific scene of domestic violence with Richard murdering Anne in a one armed strangling that turned into an epic fight for life and had me covering my eyes.  And I walked off backstage to find the floor literally spotted with stage blood from the gore-covered exits.

So it was good.  There were some good performances, particularly Martin Freeman’s Richard and Gina McKee’s queen.  But… but… but…

But it wasn’t clever.

It was set in the 1970s.  To me, the absurdity of the scene where Richard confronts Anne over her dead husband’s bleeding body and says, in effect, yes, I know I killed your father and your husband but it was *all your fault* for being so hot, so how about it babe? COULD actually be made to work.  How?  Sedation and roofies.  Hysterical female crying at a death?  Bring in a compliant doctor, stuff her full of drugs, and you have your obedient zombie bride.  If the director had read A Woman On The Edge Of Time at an impressionable age as I did, well, it might have worked.

And, slightly earlier than the actual Winter of Discontent, what about Nixon?  What more perfect way could there be to encapsulate the vainglory of someone keen to be understood by history and yet in no way to modify his behaviour than to have Richard “record” his soliloquies like the Nixon tapes?  

Where were the cameras?  Yes, there was an ancient TV camera wheeled on at the end for the triumphant Henry to make his final speech, but some seventies tech would have worked brilliantly with the concept – what was the scene with the citizens asking him to take the crown but a TV interview with a bunch of paps standing by?  When – I kept asking myself – were they going to use the bloody typewriters?  Employ half a dozen actresses who could type, to sit on the sidelines and type all these despatches, and faxes, and ticker tape messages going out to the various troops?  (And then they could have put on balaclavas and made the final battle scene a bit less one-on-one!)

So, yes, I enjoyed it, enormously.  But I enjoyed the production I was directing in my head a lot more.  Sorry and all that.




Middle Aged Blues

You know it’s not going to be a good day when it starts by bashing your head on the shower door, getting shampoo in your eye, and then having to stand and rinse your hair for ages because the new conditioner the hotel provides smells like drain cleaner.

But I ventured out of my hotel nevertheless, bright and early, and walked across Westminster Bridge for my first ever visit to the Houses of Parliament. I’ve been in Portcullis House before, but not the actual iconic building itself.

The invitation said allow “up to” half an hour to get through security. I thought that didn’t sound right – I thought I’d heard somewhere that you have to allow at least an hour? But anyway I was a prudent ten minutes earlier than the half hour mark, and joined the long, long, looooooong queue to get through security and go in.

I stood in the queue. I tweeted humorously about the “trial by ordeal” of queueing for a hundred yards on a walkway suspended over a lawn that was in the process of being cut – hay fever city! I took, and tweeted, a picture of the statue of Cromwell (caption: “for god’s sake, go!”) I waited, and waited, and the clock got nearer and nearer to ten o’clock when the debate was due to start…

I was heartened to see former colleagues from ARC a mere ten or twelve yards in front of me. I mean, they were hosting the event, so I couldn’t be THAT late, right?

They got through the security door and vanished. I shuffled the last, slow, few feet, and then found myself inside…

… where there was a whole OTHER queue, to go through airport security-style metal detector security.

So I put my handbag and my jacket in one tray and my mobile in another, and passed through the arch…

…which went off. So the man waved his wand over my arms and legs and wasn’t happy. I was racking my brains to think what was I wearing or carrying that might make the machines go beep. The attendant called a female attendant, who patted me down. Baffled but apparently reassured by this bit of theatre, they let me through….

… where, unsupervised, I wandered around to the ACTUAL visitor’s entrance, as opposed to the security theatre entrance which was a mere out building.

Which is fine of course, but at this point it was 10am and I was officially in danger of being Late, and I still had no idea where Committee Room 14 might be found. So I stood in the vast marbled hall and panicked, and then found a person with a photo id who indicated the vast staircase at the end of the hall.

A vast staircase without a handrail is… interesting. I wouldn’t have minded, but I then had to turn left and limp down a long corridor… to another staircase. And another. And another. I was so miffed I actually counted them on the way out. I’m sorry, but 88 steps requires advanced notice, or a lift. (I gather there was a lift. But no-one to point you toward it. And I was late anyway)

I was late. I wasn’t the last (the esteemed editor of Taxation magazine and various other luminaries arrived later). But I got a good old attack of “side eye” from A Certain Former Official Of My Former Union Who Were Organising The Event, Who Had Been Ahead Of Me In The Queue. Reader, if looks could kill he’d be a teeny tiny pile of ashes on the carpet!

And then they began. The chairwoman had a lovely audible voice. And a microphone. Directly in front of her.

The other speakers… had a mike between each pair. Now, this CAN work… if the speakers USE the mike. Either move the mike in front of you when you speak, or else simply move yourself TO the mike. But if you sit and politely do nothing, hoping the mike might pick up your voice through sympathetic magic, then the middle aged fat lady at the back of the room will be tweeting furiously that she can’t hear you and USE the mike and other people will be tweeting back to her that they don’t think the mikes are actually ON.

It’s a good thing it was an interesting debate, because I had the kind of day where you start by bashing your head on the shower door handle, and end it by picking a sandwich off the vegetarian platter and finding you’ve bitten into… a chicken wrap.

Still, at least I didn’t actually throw up on anyone’s shoes.

A sky full of stars

Uncle Vic and Auntie Rita were close friends of my mum and dad. So Uncle Vic was one of those uncles who get the courtesy title because what else are you going to call an adult when you’re a small child – Vic? Unthinkable. “Mr Spencer”? Too formal for someone you play cards and have tea and watch the Morecambe and Wise Christmas Special with every Boxing Day, one year at their house, the next at ours.

But Uncle Vic was a teacher too, and had that unshakeable aura of command that all teachers had, in those days, so you had to mind your Ps and Qs a bit with him, too. He taught, and was either Deputy Head or Head, at Upperthorpe School, and a choirmaster, and organiser of a school football league. Talking to children and being obeyed was what he did.

It broke him, in the end, as it does to so many teachers: the job gets harder and the burden gets greater and the respect reduces, so I don’t think he exactly had a Goodbye Mr Chips retirement and some of the joy of the work was taken from him – but along the way he changed lives.

He changed mine. When I was a child I knew I wanted to be something (in the days when there was a real question whether a girl would want to have “a career” at all or would simply get married, as if that was an answer). And I was the first person in my family to go to grammar school (and, later, to university) so I didn’t have much idea of WHAT I wanted “to be”, so like generations of working class kids I said I wanted to be a teacher, because that was the only class of professional with whom I ever came into contact (except vicars, and that wasn’t an aspiration for a girl then, remember).

Before I went to university, Uncle Vic arranged for me to do some work experience at his school, at some kind of summer school. And yes, I went in all shiny-eyed and full of myself, and yes, I came out knowing that, whatever else I wanted to be, a teacher wasn’t it. Aunty Rita and Uncle Vic were the adults who treated me seriously when I was a child; spoke to me as you would speak to another adult and not in that “talking to children” voice people adopt, taught me that I could aspire, if I could think what I was aspiring to; taught me I could think, but I had to think about the process involved.

There are other family memories of him, of course. The one I remember most vividly is when his mother, Lily Spencer, who had been a stalwart at St Bartholomew’s all my life, died. Uncle Vic turned up on the doorstep, and even a child could see that he scarcely knew what to do with himself. And dad invited him in, and they stood in the lounge talking about the chimney breast dad was taking down and talking about the brickwork and plastering and anything but the reason he was there; the first time I saw that sometimes language isn’t all about the words at all.

Dad was best man at Vic and Rita’s wedding on St Bartholomew’s Day at St Bartholomew’s church 56 years ago. Mum remembers him as organist and choirmaster at St Barts – before my time – and one day when the choir was being particularly tentative a loud voice from the organ calling out “SING!!” Kim, my sister, remembers the Christmas card games and how Uncle Vic always reminded us of Eric Morecambe – something about his appearance, and of course the same wicked sense of humour.

I asked my nephew, wondering if the “speaker to children” role had impinged on his childhood, too, but he said he remembered “a positive aura but that’s it, I’m afraid”. But that’s it, I think. Just think how many lives a teacher touches. And a good teacher (and I have no doubt he was a good teacher) touches multitudes: Upperthorpe, the choir, the football. Like John Watson to Sherlock Holmes, a good teacher is a conductor of light. If that’s the case, Uncle Vic was a sky full of stars.


Nope, haven’t written any words since… since I last posted that I had.  I would say that it was because I was working on Serious Academic Stuff but you and I both know that would be a big fat lie.  I’ve been miserable because of academic stuff, I have been happy because, sunshine, summer, room of one’s own and enough money to eat without having to work, and I’ve been watching Ascot on the telly.

These are neither excuses nor reasons.  But they’re true.  I wish I could say #amwriting but Am Not.  I don’t know why.  Feel free to slap me upside the head (metaphorically, please) and kickstart me.  Damned if I can.  

The 2014 Royal Academy Summer Exhibition

I had a day out in London on Friday and went to the Summer Exhibition.  Now, you should understand that this is a long-standing tradition with me: I love being a Friend of the Royal Academy, and I love going to the Summer Exhibition, and I particularly love going to the preview of the Summer Exhibition, because you can swan around looking at the paintings with a glass of Pimms in your hand feeling like it’s the first day of summer.

(And it was, by the way – I had a perfectly glorious day for a quick trip down to London.  Went for a meeting at the OTS in the morning and then strolled through St James and Green Parks and nearly got sunburned!  Then had a bit of a twitter spat with the RA because there wasn’t a catering outlet in the building that had anything vegetarian that wasn’t an egg sandwich or required an hour of queueing grrr!  I wouldn’t mind, but the LAST time I was in the RA building was to try out the new restaurant in the Keeper’s House which – allegedly – has a vegetarian tasting menu on Tuesdays.  It was a Tuesday, but the staff reaction was all a bit “we do a tasting menu?  For vegetarians??  Seriously???”)

Anyway, the notes I made on my phone at the time tell me that Hughie O’Donoghue’s main room is a delight, the print rooms are stuffed with covetable things (two Michael Craig-Martin screenprints, “Violin (Chatsworth)” and “Spotlight: NT at 50″, were particularly covetable – £1440 and £1140 respectively, if you’re shopping for my birthday present) but that I loathed everything (and the hanging) of the large AND small Weston rooms.  I drifted fairly quickly through the architecture rooms and was briefly fascinated by the table sculptures.  There’s something about wandering around with your programme and imagining you had money – what would you buy?  We agreed that, if it turned out either of us had won the £80+m on the eurolottery, we could probably come back and spend a quarter of a million or so quite easily.  On the other hand there were large numbers of works that I wouldn’t have had if they were given away free with a packet of tea (the portrait of the woman with the vile three dimensional neon green breasts, for example).  I still can’t believe, however, that I missed Una Stubbs’ portraits of Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman – I’m *definitely* going to have to go again now!

The best part, I think, was the black and white room which was full of an angry energy, mostly directed at Michael Gove.  There was one work outside the room which consisted of a placard which read “all schools should be art schools” which is so true you wish someone would pick it up and whack Gove round the head with it.

The one that will linger with me, though, is the black and white placard (also by Bob and Roberta Smith) which simply reads “IN 2013 14% LESS CHILDREN CHOSE ART AT GCSE THAN DID IN 2010″.  Do you think they’d arrest me if I went back with a red marker pen and replaced “less” with “fewer“?

Back to it

I had a fortnight where various things happened – some good and some bad – but my focus was lost and I haven’t made the “morning thousand words” into enough of a habit to drive through some distractions as yet.  That’s my ultimate aim.  However, one of the things I have learned over the years is not to go back and say “oh no, I’m [X number] of words behind, I’ll never catch up!” because then you just never go back to it.  You just say “today I’ll write another thousand words” and, eventually, you’ll have a hundred thousand.

So I followed my own advice and, here I am.

Today’s words:       1024

Total words:         17,737