Posted in Gender Issues, Political and Social Issues

Something Else I Meant to Blog About

A couple of recent memes asked who my real-life heroine was, and I was stuck for an answer… aside from obvious responses such as ‘family’. But today I have to say I have a new heroine, a celebrity heroine, without placing her on a pedestal or knowing anything else about her… and it’s Cameron Diaz!

In the interview about remaining childless, she says what I’ve always thought… and I was amused by the (presumably tongue-in-cheek) comment (following the article) that there are so many scoundrels around that there’s a need to refill the gene pool with intelligent people. At least, I hope it was tongue-in-cheek!

I don’t know about workplace attitudes (mentioned in the full article in the Daily Mail but not in the summary), but I have sometimes felt it’s hard to make (or remain) friends with married couples when you’re a single woman… couples of your own age, that is. Perhaps that will change when we get older.

Posted in Hearing Loss, Political and Social Issues, Teddy Bears

Backing Away from Kissing Spots and Bears

Today in the supermarket, we came inside the front entrance with our shopping trolley, and I was looking at the vegetables. Then I noticed a large bullseye stuck to the floor, with the words ‘Kissing Spot.’

Hur? I took another few paces, thinking about it, then turned round and looked up. Hanging above the kissing spot was a gigantic bunch of artificial mistletoe.

Well, it made me smile. I suppose some people do go to supermarkets to check out the talent… they do! I’ve been asked out of the blue about cooking instructions but I’m sure it was just a ploy.

Supermarkets are the arena where life is played out; they’re the modern market place. Some years ago I was passing our supermarket at a distance, and there was an ambulance with a woman on a stretcher being lifted into it. She had a lot of bandaging on her head. As it was Christmas Eve, I’ve often wondered if she got caught up in a fight over the last frozen turkey.

There was a teddy bear hanging on a hook in the supermarket, and it said on his label “ALFIE SAYS”… Well, I wanted to know what he said, so I looked inside his label, and it said “I want you to kiss me and hug me and love me, and take me to bed… I’ll be your bear!” Or something of the kind. “Uh oh,” I thought, “mistake.” And put him back hurriedly. I’ll let someone else kiss him and hug him and love him and take him to bed… I’ve got tons of bears already to do that with.

Was he a predatory bear, or just searching for love and companionship? I’ll never know.

There’s another thought I had just now, but this is not about supermarkets. I was browsing around, reading other blogs, and came across a site where someone said he wanted to read blogs which were not trying to fix deaf people, but placed them and their lives in a positive light.

That made me stop in my tracks. I don’t think this is that kind of a blog, but at the same time I’m not pushing for miracle cures or whatever. To me, being deaf is not a positive thing, but I’m probably supportive of it in a way that says “this is what I am, and I can’t be the one to do all the changing.”

Often I think that’s my main reason for being so opinionated on the subject of overpopulation, which is a situation that overrides everything else so much, making small problems big and big problems huge. Everything becomes much more impersonal, there’s less space (e.g. the microscopic women’s room I was squeezed into in a coffee shop a few days ago), fewer resources, less patience, less accountability, less time, more competition, more output, more dogs to eat other dogs, and more rats to race against each other….

Can’t say I’m a positive spinner! I didn’t put myself forward as a candidate.

Still, it made me think. Being positive is always good. Humour is good, as is acceptance. And not every bear is a predator.

Posted in Hearing Loss, Political and Social Issues

Making the World Understand

From the BBC News Magazine:

Making the World Understand My Face

Sometimes I think the problem is precisely that the population is so huge; there’s always someone new you have to explain yourself to, whether you’re dealing with disfigurement, deafness, blindness, poor health etc. I agree with what is said about beauty standards getting narrower; I think men (and women) imagine that if they keep looking, they will find someone perfect in every way — someone tall with white teeth, smoothly tanned skin and glossy hair, bouncing with confidence and charm. In fact, when I look around, most people are quite ordinary, including the better looking ones.

I saw a show with a couple of men who were sizing up the younger women in the group. They said one wasn’t bad but she was a bit small up top… I thought it was cheeky of them to look at all, never mind comment! They were a dead loss as men went, really, but I feel they have been brainwashed into believing that there is a perfect standard that all women should measure up to; they themselves expect nothing less in their partners and would blush to be caught out by their peers going around with a girl who was not some kind of supermodel. In such a large population, perhaps they feel they can afford to be picky.

Posted in Agoraphobia, Lost in Thought

Sun, Sun, Sun, Here it Comes

It’s not quite the end of March and there are icy showers of hail aplenty, but my stress levels are already rising.

I have more problems in the warmer, brighter weather when people come out to enjoy the sun. I don’t look around and think “awk, look at all the people! I’m going home!” Usually what happens is that I set out to have the same kind of day that I had yesterday and the day before, and it’s only when I notice how troubled I feel that I realize there are more people around than usual. The increase would be marginal and I react to it before noticing on a more conscious level.

I felt quite bad today, and it’s only Friday – it felt more like a Saturday. I didn’t want to continue feeling that way, so I straightened up and looked around, thinking there must be something in the way I think that brings it on. It’s often what you can’t see that is so scary… if you are looking away and there are shadowy figures loping towards you, they could be anybody. But if you look directly at them, you see a harassed mother clutching her 6-year old; an elderly couple ambling around contentedly; a group of tall schoolchildren looking at nobody but themselves. They are no threat. But even as you glance at them, they move out of vision and other shadowy figures enter in.

I’m not afraid of them as people – not in any real sense. Sometimes I feel alien in their world as though not experiencing life the way they do, but as soon as I recognize them as fellow human beings with troubles of their own, my inadequacy dies away. It’s this initial lack of recognition that causes the problems. When I first start to stress out, I don’t shake, although a panic attack would be on the cards if I felt really trapped. I feel tight, tucked in, maybe a bit dizzy – and ill. I’m not sure I know what ‘sick building syndrome’ feels like, but if you put the word ‘people’ in there instead of ‘building,’ that’s what I imagine it would be like – though I’m probably way off course.

To get away from the bodies pressing round me, I withdraw more and more into myself. I’ve been accused of not seeing friends when they pass me on the road… “I waved and said hello and you didn’t see me”. That’s deliberate – that’s me trying to escape into myself. I have no intention of ignoring anybody, and if I do see you, I will smile back; relieved to see a face I know… but disassociation seems to be my way of keeping to what I’m doing or where I’m going without being thrown off course by the strangers around me.

The problem is, having withdrawn into yourself, you can’t withdraw any further; you’re still conscious of people, and would pull back even more if there was anywhere to go. That’s where the tight feeling of tension comes from, as though I’m leaning back into a wall and wishing it would let me through.

I decided there had to be a way of re-asserting my right to the spot I’m standing on. I’m too aware that others are challenging me for it – some humbly, others more aggressively. I’m constantly under the impression I have no right to standing room unless I’m alone. The only thing to do is to stand tall, take a deep breath, and look calmly but directly at the other people and at the area around me, and stop trying to escape when there’s nowhere to escape to.

It gives me a little breathing space, but I continue to feel ill – and I can never stop in one place for long because there’s always somebody trundling round a corner and bouncing off me.

Talking of what gives us balance – I’m a much steadier person when I have lots of time alone. It makes everything else seem like an adventure in comparison. If I experience too many such adventures, it becomes stressful… I’m usually much better after a few days at home, rather than going out day after day. It was like that when I was going to the skating rink… I was a fair and balanced skater for a few days after getting the hang of it, and then I lost my nerve, surrounded by other people wheeling crazily around. I stood at the side, gripping the handrail, and didn’t want to go back. I didn’t get better the more I tried… I got worse. I’m like that with lots of things. I don’t believe that ‘facing my fears’ and immersing myself in situations I dislike is to my benefit; it usually has the opposite effect.

I’m looking out at softly falling snow… it’s brighter weather, but not all that warm yet. The sun is coming, though. Oh yes, I can feel it, waiting with trembling anticipation behind its cloud. Nothing I can do will make it stay there.

Posted in Books, Fantasy and Science Fiction, Political and Social Issues, TV and Films

Make Room! Make Room!

At teatime today I finished Make Room! Make Room! by Harry Harrison. I bought it two days ago (see my last blog post Sunday Retail Therapy). The book’s tone is serious compared to others by this author, but he has a serious message about over-population, strained world resources and birth control.

The hero of the book seems to welcome rain as much as I do… it keeps people off the streets and even reduces the likelihood of riots (he’s a policeman and therefore has a particular interest in quelling trouble). At one point he says that he’s fighting to hold things together while all the other blackguards are intent on tearing them apart.

Self-interest will be the downfall of civilization, but I love the thought that even in such times, there could still be those who fight to stop things degenerating into total chaos.

It was published in 1966 but the topics of overpopulation, street crime and birth control have not gone away. I was interested in the bibliography at the back of the book – it includes titles like Controlled Parenthood, Our Plundered Planet and Must You Conform? They were all published between 1948 and 1965.

I’m sorry I finished the book. It’s a lovely rainy day and it was wonderful not to have to go anywhere – just curl up and read. I was looking forward to it, and now I’ve read it and I don’t have it to look forward to any more! Still, there are billions of other books, written by billions of other people.

Last night I saw Saving Private Ryan for the first and last time. “Earn this,” rasps Tom Hanks as he dies. I thought, “The whole world and everything in it (especially war) is messed up and people die all the time for nothing – I don’t understand why you try to put a price on just one life saved from the ashes.”

Maybe the message is for all of us, not just for Private Ryan. If we cheat and lie and steal and kill, and take more than our fair share, living only for ourselves and our close family members, how are we going to be worth anything at all?

It got four stars in the Radio Times. It’s not the first time I’ve considered the ratings and reviews by the Radio Times to be thoroughly screwed up. It gives four stars to films that tell me nothing I didn’t know already, three stars to ‘relentless’ films that are a waste of my time, and two stars to films which I suspect might have been relatively pleasant – only I missed them this time round. The tone of many of the reviews irritate me, and I’ve stopped reading the ones for Lost because they give the plot away!

Give me books any time…

Edit Feb 2008: Comments to this post when it was hosted by Blogigo:

Pete wrote at Sep 5, 2006 at 19:32:
Not read that one. I enjoyed the early Rat books.

Did you read the Eden novels?

Diddums wrote at Sep 6, 2006 at 01:29:
Not yet, I’ve not read very many Harry Harrison books yet. I just read them as they turn up.

Pacian wrote at Sep 6, 2006 at 13:41:
What a contrast! The only reason I always get the Radio Times is because it’s the only TV guide whose film reviews don’t annoy the **** out of me.


Diddums wrote at Sep 6, 2006 at 14:24:
Maybe there are ones out there I would find even more annoying, then :-). Either that or they take the mickey out of things I like – that could well be it.

Diddums wrote at Sep 6, 2006 at 14:26:
PS Pete, I’ve just noticed a couple of ‘Eden’ hardbacks tottering on the top of my bookcase over there! If it’s a series I’m probably waiting till I have the full set.

Posted in Agoraphobia, Books, Fantasy and Science Fiction, Junk Shop Finds, Teddy Bears, Trolleys, TV and Films

Sunday Retail Therapy

Agoraphobic people hate sunlight. Well we don’t really, but you know what I mean! It encourages people to come out and trail around in large shambly groups; everything we do is lit up in a bright glare which makes us even more self-conscious; some agoraphobics have a sensitivity to light – maybe all of us do without realizing it? We have to take off our jackets and sweaters when we would rather huddle into them, and there’s no excuse to put up our hoods (unless we’re hoodies) or duck under an umbrella.Bright sunshine is overrated!

Too many folks!

At one point I couldn’t move. “They have nothing else to do on a Sunday,” said Mum, apologetically. But on the whole I was in a good mood and smiled at everybody and made room for them, and me and the wheelie bag went skipping about (yes I know that’s bad grammar) and nobody fell over us this time. Well, when you were feeling agoraphobic in town – dizzy and not even able to cross the road – it’s a huge relief when you can go where you want and buy things without hesitating and gallop blithely across roads which would have made you shudder only a fortnight ago. That would put anybody in a good mood because then it stops being something you take for granted.

Jolly’s tricks

I bet none of you realized wheelie bags can walk – I was trying to move it down off the kerb, and it put one wheel down then swung the other down to join it. Thus, instead of falling down with a bump, it stepped neatly off, and I wanted to cheer and tell it how clever it was. Yesterday it had a slight accident when it crashed rather hard over a rough bit of the pavement, and I came uncomfortably close to patting it and telling it “there there, it’s alright.” It took me ages to shake off the urge. Anyway it did good work for us today by taking some heavy and bulky items off our hands; it wasn’t just wheeling around in our wake. Mum collected some used coffee grounds from Starbucks for the garden, and when we gave it to the wheelie bag to carry, it lumbered around like an overfed bulldog.

Buying beary love

Primark Ted and Tigger

Here’s a picture of two of my ‘junk shop finds’ for today – a Primark bear and a Disney Tigger. I collect ‘name’ toys, which includes Russ Berrie, Boyds and Disney – emphasis is on cats and bears. Normally I wouldn’t pay attention to something like a Primark bear as it’s just a cheapie, but every so often there’s something about a cheapie bear that I can’t resist! This one is very soft to the touch and has nice features. I always look critically at bears in shops – trying to give the impression I’m buying them for a child and am just checking them over. I’m not sure how many of the volunteers are taken in, as most of them know us well by now. Anyway, I turned him upside down and round about, gave the ears a tug, parted the fur and smoothed it back from the eyes to check for scratches or cracks, then seized the chin to make sure his mouth wasn’t flapping loose. I suddenly felt as though I was checking the teeth of a nag in Tattersalls.

Tigger only made it because he’s so beautifully clean and has a nice face too – normally Disney is at the bottom of my collection scope.

I’m not a horror fan but I’m an Alien fan

My prime find for today was a clean boxed set of Alien videos for £10. I’ve had my eye on these for a while as they are close-captioned but expensive brand new. After buying this set, we went into the charity shop next door and found they had a set for £11. I’m glad it wasn’t the other way around! A while ago I passed over a set which was £12 – I seem to remember one of the videos in the set was ‘the making of the film’, and those aren’t normally subtitled.

The set I bought was in the shop window, and I had to ask the volunteer for it – he was a boy of about 20, I think, and when I said “the boxed set of Alien, please!” a look of respect came into his eyes. I got much the same look in a shop in York when I grabbed a bunch of videos which were largely science fiction – one was Judge Dredd, unfortunately not subtitled, but I knew I had to have it in my collection ‘just because’. Maybe I’ll find a subtitled DVD of it one day? I love Judge Dredd; it’s one of my favourite films and I could watch it forever without getting sick of it.

The magic of books

I know some of you are a little suspicious of ‘things’ as they just gather dust and take up room (unless you can sell them for a profit on eBay), but ‘things’ are not all I bought – I got six books, including Make Room! Make Room! by Harry Harrison – £1.75. I’ve liked his books ever since I borrowed The Stainless Steel Rat from the library. Today I had to buy Make Room! Make Room! after reading the blurb on the back:

1999 – automation, total welfare, and weekends on the moon…. or an overcrowded world that knows that the dawn of the new century is the edge of disaster – a world of starving billions living on lentils, soya beans and – if they’re lucky – the odd starving rat. In a city of thirty-five million people, Andy Rusch is engaged in a desperate and lonely hunt for a killer everyone has forgotten… for even in a world such as this a policeman can find himself utterly alone…

Totally my cup of tea. And bagsies the well-fed rat I spotted near the car dealership.

Spooky purchases

We had lunch in a café and ate silently. Upon finishing, Mum announced rather loudly “I’m going to buy a broomstick.”
“Ha ha,” I said politely… but then we went into the garden centre where she picked up a really witchy broomstick and bought it without any humming and hawing. I had no idea these were available and my eyes popped. “What are you going to do with that?” I demanded, as we toted it along to the car. Her only answer was to tap the side of her beaky nose.

I felt a Halloweeny tug of my own when we passed a mound of pumpkins, and stopped short and gazed with all my eyes. I really wanted to buy one but was already carrying books and videos and rubber mats and things. Even the wheelie bag took fright at the thought of adding a pumpkin to the load. I’ve never considered buying one before, which is a good reason why I should do it for once. And only this morning I was attracted by Timorous Beastie’s blog post, Orange Rock. I don’t know about chasing the thing around my house, but I want to make Pumpkin Soup too. Anyone got any good recipes?

Edit Feb 2008: Comments to this post when it was on Blogigo:

Pete wrote at Sep 3, 2006 at 22:43:
bear is cute !!

Diddums wrote at Sep 4, 2006 at 09:19:
Bear says thank you!

Pacian wrote at Sep 4, 2006 at 19:43:
“Maybe I’ll find a subtitled DVD of it one day?”

It’s rare to find a DVD that isn’t subtitled.

Love the bear, btw!

Posted in Agoraphobia, Blogging

I’m Blogging in German – Quite Impressed With Myself

Ooch – I was afraid of that. I got up this morning and discovered I was writing my blog posts in German. Fortunately I save my posts, so I can always replace the corrupted ones.

I’m still giving town a miss because that’s what made me ill in the first place. Boys sitting on the pavement with their backs against the walls (too young at the age of 15 to know how copiously dogs pee around – this pet minder could have told them) and older boys bouncing balls up and down the main street. People eating ice cream in cars and outside cafés, and other people sitting on benches, eating fish and chips. And then there are the people carriers on the prowl for non-existent parking spaces… cars get bigger and bigger every year, and there is less and less room for them. Mum said the folk with Glaswegian accents have disappeared now, and it’s mostly English accents left. The rain is coming down today and maybe it would have been quiet in town, but I’m taking my time. Better than pushing too fast and ending up in the soup again.

I found the following very short snippet in the Scotsman (Edit Feb 2008: their article has gone now):

Scream helps to beat stress

WORK-RELATED stress can be cut by up to a quarter by letting out a loud scream, according to new research revealed today.

A study of 1,000 people showed stress levels have increased this month, partly because of the heatwave and travel delays.

Half of those questioned said travelling to work was a major cause of stress, while most complained that being in an office all day made them bad tempered.

Many of those questioned said they were too inhibited to scream.

Last updated: 18-Aug-06 01:53 BST

Well – how is that mostly work-related stress? There’s an awful lot more going on than that. I bet most of them said it was heat and work and traffic jams rather than admit they were fazed by the crowds.

I said to Mum I can see what’s going to happen – I will get back to normal and then the psychiatrist will come knocking at my door… “can we help? How about a little trip to the bottom of your garden? The flowers won’t eat you, you know.”

I suppose I can discuss this thing’s tendency to resurface, particularly in dense crowds. It would be interesting to know if the psychiatrists receive any feedback from recovered sufferers. Do any of them say they are completely clear of it?

Edit Feb 2008: Comments to this post when it was hosted by Blogigo:

Pacian wrote at Aug 18, 2006 at 15:09:
Ich bin ein Blogger! That article in the Scotsman is a great example of bad science journalism. I don’t quite see how the study it actually mentioned supports screaming. Some vital piece of information has obviously not made it into the article, and given that even BBC journalists are quite happy to give huge clinical meta-studies and small opinion polls equal weight, I’m not exactly going to take them at their word.

Diddums wrote at Aug 18, 2006 at 17:29:
Bin ich das einzige, wer nicht Deutsches sprechen kann? According to Babelfish, that’s German for ‘Am I the only one who can’t speak German?’ Maybe you are too inhibited to scream – LOL. Now that you mention it, I wonder just what sort of research they are referring to. Maybe it will be in the other papers. Does it have to be a scream, so long as it’s some kind of self-expression, like a blog? One thing you learn after a bout of agoraphobia is that we have to deal with things, not simply bear them because we are told to. Agoraphobia (and similar) is the system’s protest at not being listened to.

Posted in Agoraphobia, Life and Family

Crowds and Crystals

The small town I live in is full to bursting. Not just with residents but with tourists. Struggling with the issues I mentioned in the last couple of posts, it’s not paradise for me.

Today we were in a tiny shop selling things like whale music, healing bracelets, animals carved out of agate, dreamcatchers, yoga books, tarot cards – you get the picture! Normally it has two or three people drifting round it, but today it did not drop below 15, including us.

The shop keeper must have been ecstatic – she had sold two enormous crystal rocks (cut in half to show their sparkly crystal cavities) – one was about my height. I immediately thought “an American has bought them both and is going to ship them back to the States.”

I couldn’t imagine that level of … knowing how one might do that? Just saying “I’ll have those please – post them to my house in Beverley Hills.” The mere thought of it caused me to break out in a sweat. It’s not so much the money I’m remarking on – imagine having that much bounce and confidence.

Mum said “I overheard one of the other people in the shop asking the shop owner about them, and she said they were £2,000 each.”

I told her my daydream about it being a rich American who bought them both and was going to ship them back to the States (that sounds wonderful so I can’t help repeating it) – and she nodded and said that’s the conclusion she jumped to as well. It’s a little sad, I suppose, that we weren’t assuming some local entrepreneur had bought them. Perhaps we felt if someone local had wanted them that much, they wouldn’t have waited till now.

Though, for all we know, those crystals are the latest fashion and sell like hot cakes. I wonder where in my house I could put mine… I’ll go for a tour of my rooms.

Back in two. Seconds, that is.