August 2007


Some more footage of my ickle Golden Zebra Danios (also featuring the Cherry Barbs) who are well settled in their new home. They seem very happy and healthy and confident. In this video, they even play with me!

(On the downside, they are a challenge to photograph because they move so fast! And they have encouraged my cherry barbs to whizz about too, so it isn’t easy to take good pictures of them any more either. Ho hum)

There’s no denying it.
It’s become increasingly clear over the last few weeks, the last couple of months even.

My anger levels have eased down to manageable levels, to levels that I can get through whole days at a time without feeling the need to cry, weep, scream, rant, shout, and rage into the ether. Not that I am all sweetness, but I am at least not all rage. I swear a lot at the office. But there is no malice in it, you know?

On the downside, it makes it hard to bring quite the same passion to blogging about the evils of the world. On the upside, I’m not constantly in a state of indignation. This is good. And, even – my soul is, you know, kicking.

Maybe it’s that we’ve at last had a few decently sunny days. Maybe it’s that I’ve been getting out and about with the Earth – camping, walks in the country, stuff like that. Maybe just having had lots of time off work in the recent past has something to do with it. Maybe I’m even, finally, healed. Maybe it’s a yellow goddess at work. Whatever it is, I like it.

You know, I think I want to…

Lift my feet up and -
Throw my head back and -
Kick my heels up and -
Come on now -

Take it easy … Take it easy … Take it easy …
Come on now –

Jump up and shout now -
Everybody shout now -
Everybody shout-shout -
shout-shout-shout-shout-

Shout…shout…shout-shout-shout…

SHOUT

Matisse Dance

Us

Why should I stop?
She’s happy, I’m happy, it’s good for both of us. Why stop?
It isn’t a question of deciding not to wean.
It is a question of not deciding to wean.

In this I am lucky.

Basically, because I’ve got no family near to know better than we do.
Because I’ve got no partner near to know better than we do.
Because I’ve got no health professional to know better than we do.

What would make us stop?

Nobody asks a healed woman why she still drinks chamomile tea.
Nobody asks an old married couple why they still have sex.
Nobody asks a grownup why he still eats fishfingers.

The assumption is – because they like it, that’s why, and anyway they’re doing no harm to anyone so why is it anyone else’s business why they do it?

Well, we like it. That’s why. So there.

Knickers!Today marks a great achievement: Ariel went all day with “just knickers like mummy” and for the first time since we started this thing last week, we had absolutely no accidents. This is partly as a result of my getting the hang of roughly when to suggest or insist on a trip to the toilet, and partly because she is getting better both at knowing when she needs to go and at going on command and/or hanging on for a little while when necessary. She’s done really amazingly well, especially given that we were out for much of the day.

**And also** – we were having to use “big toilets” (i.e. without her special toddler seat insert thingy) but although previously I have had to hold onto her in case she fell in, she decided she was brave enough today that I didn’t actually have to hold onto her and she could manage not to fall in all by herself. Which she did. Manage, I mean. Yay!

What a girl! She makes me proud.

In other news, we had a lovely time in the Porridge of Steam. The weather was hot. I got slightly sunburnt. We did some foresty walking, picking up sticks, poking things with them, throwing them into streams, looking at bark and leaves, picking blackberries, jumping on and off tree-stumps, looking at the rings in the wood, drawing with some “charcoal” we found, putting our fingers in some sticky sap – and, of course, having lots of “country wees”!

Normal blogging may resume shortly.

Robert Högfeldt, painting of trolls and some porridgeWe’re taking our tent to the “Porridge of Steam“* for the bank holiday weekend. Wish us luck on the weather front!

(*For the uninitiated, this is a large wooded area, just the other side of the River Severn.)

In other news, Ariel has decided that right now, this very week is just the absolutely right time to stop wearing nappies and start wearing knickers like mummy. She’s doing really well – we started yesterday at home, and although she wore nappies at nursery today she used the toilet for all but one wee (just after a nap, you can hardly blame her!) so after a few more days practice with mummy at the weekend I think we will be putting the day nappies away altogether. How amazing is she?

Before she grows up entirely, let’s capture some gems. She still says the most cutest little things. Like “Dipple ghostless” – a double whammy – her mispronunciation of Mummy’s own favourite mispronunciation (Diploducus – not even the OED, which I discover has a “word of the day” feed, can persuade me to pronounce this the correct-but-ugly way).

Also socks are still “sgoks“, an ambulance is still an “ambulant” and you don’t want to know what trains do. Meanwhile, she seems to have no trouble with “Triceratops” or “Tyrannosaurus” or even “Pterodactyl”. What a girl.

Her favourite expression at the moment is “Great Big Huuuuuge ‘Normous One” as in “I want a GBHN ice-cream” or, more commonly alas, “I done a GBHN poo mummy, like a brown sausage”. (Oh, and I said I’d never publicly shame her.)

I’ve been thinking lately in various contexts of the insecurities we may betray regarding our relationships with or feelings towards our own mothers (or ourselves as mothers, come to think of it), when we express our ideas on motherhood and on reproductive freedom, and all that stuff.

I know this is true of me. How I feel about motherhood – about my role as a mother, about my own mother, and about mothering in general – are all highly coloured by one another, interconnected.

When I honour mothering in other women, it is not just an act of sisterhood. It is about honouring myself as a mother; and it is about honouring my own mother. It is about celebrating what mothers do.

When I recognise and confront the darker, painful aspects of motherhood, it is not just an act of confession or truth-speaking. It is about sisterhood with all mothers, including my own, about acknowledging what it is like, how hard it is, and the sheer bloody strength of mind and will and body that it takes to keep soldiering on.

And when someone obliterates the mother, erases her importance or her experience, silences her voice – it is as though it is myself that is obliterated, erased and silenced.

Someone advances the argument against abortion that “Hey, your mother might have aborted you! Then where would you be?

Someone else shames a mother for speaking out about the unpleasant realities of modern motherhood – the drudgery, the guilt, the self-doubt, the loss of self, the poverty, the loss of status, all that – with the refrain “Hey, I pity your kids! Having a mother like you must be terrible! I hope they never find out how little you enjoy / cherish / love them!”

Won’t somebody please think of the children!
Save them from the selfishness of Woman!

It is pretty clear that these people find it easier to empathise with the child – even one unborn – than with the mother. Some of the people I am talking about are mothers themselves, and yet still they identify more with the child than the mother. (One wonders what has happened to their sense of self. Oh, yeah. Motherhood happened.)

So what is it all about? Why this difficulty with identifying with the mother as human, when it is so easy to identify even a zygote as human? Why this assumption that some unrelated third party cares more about the child in question than its own mother? Why this assumption that someone else knows what is best? This unwillingness to trust the woman/mother to do what is right?

I think it is fear. Not in all cases, obviously. But if you do sense your mother’s unspoken resentment or regret or disappointment or anger, her sadness or shame or grief – if you sense these things and are afraid of their power, then there are only two possible reactions.

The easy path

To deny all knowledge and to ask no questions.
To pretend that such things cannot be.
To silence all doubts and silence all doubters.

To ridicule the very idea that a child might bring sadness rather than joy -
To deny the possibility of joy and sadness co-existing,
of pleasure and love sharing a home with anger and resentment.

To never face the question – what if?

What if my mother resents me?
What if she always did?
What if she wishes I had never been born?
What if she wishes me out of existence?
What if she had aborted me before I was born?
Does she wish she had?

What if,
when all is said and done,
when all is weighed in the balance,
when everything is counted,
what if my very existence is found wanting?

What if I was not good enough,
did not bring enough joy,
did not bring enough light -
does that negate my value?

What if
she never loved me
at all?

Am I worth what I cost her?

Better to avoid these questions.
To pretend that none of these questions need to be asked
because they are academic.
To pretend that the premise never arises,

because a child is always worth it.
Whatever it costs.
Whatever the price for the mother,
it is a price always worth paying,
right?

Is it making sense now? Anyone who ponders even the questions, anyone who muses about the price, is threatening precisely because they are asking – how much? how much does it cost? is it a price worth paying? They are questioning the value of a child, weighing up the value of a child and asking – is it worth this?

And this is sacrilege, of a very personal kind. It is about us. It is about each and every one of us. It is about how much we are worth.

So yes, avoiding those questions is the easy path.

But still hang on to that sneaky little doubt, because that sneaky little doubt – that lack of trust in mother – could be all that saves you from death at her hands.

Never question.
But never trust.

The hard path

Ask the questions. Know that whatever the answers may be, we are still here, which is worth something because it is all we have.

Accept one’s mother as human, and troubled.
Love her anyway.

That’s the hard part: Love her anyway.

Mata hari

The very name Mata Hari evokes a thrill – siren, seductress, oriental beauty, famous spy, dangerous woman. But sometimes the truth may be a little bit different.

Mata Hari was born a Dutchwoman, named Margaretha Zelle, in 1876, to a prosperous family. Her father went bankrupt and left his four children with their mother who died shortly afterwards. Unwanted by any other relative, Zelle tried to train as a kindergarten teacher, but was not strict enough and had to leave the training school in disgrace anyway – when an older man became infatuated with her. Now of marriageable age, but too poor, too tall and too small-breasted to be considered especially marketable, she ended up with an army officer twice her age. She gave him two children, which did not stop him from raping and beating her, and openly taking a concubine whilst they were posted to Java. On the family’s return to Holland, he deserted her, taking their one surviving child, a daughter, and leaving her to her own resources. Which were few.

Eventually, not yet 30 years of age and desperate now, Zelle made her way to Paris and reinvented herself as “Mata Hari”, a temple dancer from South Asia who would perform an (invented) “sacred” dance for European audiences, stripping down to her skin-toned body stocking – but never showing her still inadequate breasts to anyone*.

[* She claimed that her brutal husband bit off her nipples. This has not been verified one way or the other as far as I know.]

She was a massive hit, if a controversial one, and people flocked to see her. Even as her career as a dancer began to wane, Mata Hari was successful as a “courtesan” and survived by cultivating relationships of patronage with wealthy and influential men.

At the start of the First World War, Mata Hari – who had had, among others, a German lover and had been in Germany immediately before war broke out – was suspected of spying for the Germans and may indeed have taken money from German officers just as she did from any man who offered it. In any event, the French asked her to spy for them, seducing key enemy figures and pumping them for information. In need of money, she agreed to do it. She tried, but – whether she really was working for the Germans, which seems unlikely to me, or whether she just wasn’t very good at it and got rumbled and duped by her first mark – she soon ended up in trouble with her already suspicious French spymasters. She was arrested, given what was pretty much a show trial (not much of a show, actually – it was held in secret), convicted and shot. She was 41.

Sources:
Crime Library
Reviews of a new biography, ‘Femme Fatale’, by Pat Shipman – here and here.

I managed to get a few decent pictures eventually :) Here is one:

Golden zebra danio, with cherry barb

And if you can see through the grubby glass (must clean the outside of the tank!) here is a pretty decent close-up as well:

Golden zebra danio

Look – new fish! Today we welcomed six new Golden Zebra Danios into our home.

They are a colour variant on normal Zebra Danios, but the same species. They are a pale golden yellow with highlights striped down each side. They swim too fast for non-blurry pictures, but I am in the middle of making a welcome video (to be posted soon) which will give you more of an idea.

Meanwhile, here is how they looked earlier, huddled together and fidgeting nervously at the surface of their new tank, just after having found their way out of the bag:

New golden zebra danios

(That bright light, by the way, is just my overhead light in the room where the tank is. There was no way to take this picture without having it in the way.)

I am slightly worried about dumping six new fish into my tank all at once, but they are pretty small and very hardy so hopefully the bio-filtration will be able to cope.

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