October 2007

We dressed up and went to the woods at sunset, walked around in the gathering darkness (offering treats to dog-owners, and not being scared of the dogs at all) and then had a chocolate and cake Halloween picnic.

We talked about how at this liminal time* – on the boundaries between summer and winter, light and dark, warmth and cold, growth and rest – strange things can happen: reality can melt; stuff from other places can leak in; witches can ride; real ghosts who don’t just have a blanket on their head can make an appearance; and magic can transform the things we know and touch each day.

[* In fact I don’t think I said “liminal” to her – she might not have known what I meant – but it’s a cute word, right?]

It was actually quite spooky being in the woods as night was falling, and hoping we would be able to find our way out again before it got unreasonably dark.

Here is our Halloween video:

And here is Ariel’s Halloween drawing. You can just see faintly at the bottom where she decided to practise her new skill of “scissoring” the edges.
Halloween drawing


Crochet pumpkin 1

Crochet pumpkin 2

Crochet ghost 1I am torn between hating the fact that I am still excited by trivial make-and-share projects – even right now when I have just been so forcefully reminded that there is real feminist work to be done – and just plain being excited.

(I could excuse myself on the somewhat tenuous basis that my whole life, living in my own power, blah, blah, is inherently a powerful feminist statement, blah, blah, but nobody would be fooled by that old nonsense – least of all me. Ho hum. Don’t feel too sorry for me: I know very well that it’s a middle class dilemma I’m privileged to have.)

Meanwhile, I have the bittersweet pleasure of presenting the fruits of today’s pre-Halloween activities.

For one thing, my crochet spider now has a ghostly playmate. And while I’m on this subject, I would like it to be noted that, while you may think my creations are a complete and utter pile, Ariel has been thoroughly delighted with each and every one. She is currently fast asleep clutching the spider, dreaming perhaps about the ghost she is going to have when she wakes up tomorrow.

We have also carved the pumpkin. Since Ariel was not allowed to do any carving, too incompetent to draw much in the way of a design (see below!), and too puny to manage much even in the way of scooping out seeds and gunk, it was actually quite a frustrating process. However, she did seem to enjoy it when I wasn’t yelling at her to get her fingers out of the way of the knife, and to stop trying to put the lid back on while I was scooping stuff out, and so on and so forth.

Carved pumpkin

And for dinner we had Veggie Eyeball Halloween Pie.

The veggie eyeballs were vegetarian meatballs, by the way, in a sauce full of peppers and sweetcorn and tomatoes and onions and things. (NB There is exactly as much eye in a veggie eyeball as there is meat in a veggie meatball so I didn’t feel I was stretching things even slightly on this front.) I am particularly proud of the festive orange topping which consists of sweet potatoes mashed up with orange lentils and turmeric, thickened with porridge oats, with Double Gloucester cheese melted on top.

Veggie eyeball pie

And finally, just so you didn’t think I would leave my fish out of the festivities, here they are being completely disinterested in the white-lady ghost. How rude.

Crochet ghost 2

PS While you’re in the mood, this is strangely addictive, I found.

The latest story to raise a Touchingly Naive eyebrow is this one (Guardian, BBC).

Apparently up to 20% of US soldiers who have served in Iraq (if the worst figures are accurate, and there is certainly some debate about whether they are from what I can make out) have incurred a newly identified condition “mTBI” – or “minor traumatic brain injury” – which can lead to anxiety, depression and memory loss.

OMG! 20%! Brain injury! We must do something.
These people are getting brain injuries while fighting for us!

But wait. Let’s slow down.

80% of these mTBI are entirely asymptomatic after 72 hours. That is, 80% of these cases are about a soldier in a war zone who gets a bang on the head, or is in the vicinity of an explosion, and feels a bit squiffy for a few days afterwards. So would I.

Over 90% of cases are entirely asymptomatic after about 3 months, clearing up without any particular mTBI diagnosis or mTBI-specific treatment. That is, a further 10% plus of cases are about a soldier in a war zone who gets a bang on the head, endures explosions, and feels out of kilter for a few months. So would I.

Which means that actually only about 2% (worst case scenario, using the most pessimistic figures) of soldiers are exposed to brain injuries that have lasting effects. Which they are at liberty to discuss with their doctor.

So why is half the world suddenly flapping about as if this was the most serious health crisis since bird flu almost nearly scared the pants off everyone? Putting together universal screening programmes, dedicated treatment units, special MoD project teams; hooting questions in Parliament. You name it, they’re doing it. For a couple of thousand soldiers who MIGHT have moderately serious long term anxiety, depression or memory loss.

Why? Oh yeah. Because it’s the soldiers. Brave heroes, putting their lives on the line to protect the rest of us.

All this, while an estimated 1.2 million children are trafficked around the world every year (pdf, see p9). All this, while the UK government figures suggest that at any given time there are 4,000 women who have been trafficked to the UK to work as sex slaves. And what are we doing about that? Can we even be bothered to seriously explore even proven, practically no-cost solutions for them, such as criminalising johns?

It would be genuine revolution if women would suddenly stop loving the victors in violent encounters. Why do they admire the image of the brutal man? … Why can they not understand the deification of the strongman, either as soldier, wrestler, footballer or male model, seeing that his fate so closely approximates their own? If women would only offer a genuine alternative to the treadmill of violence, the world might breathe a little longer with less pain. If women were to withdraw from the spectatorship of wrestling matches, the industry would collapse; if soldiers were certainly faced with the withdrawal of all female favours, as Lysistrata observed so long ago, there would suddenly be less glamour in fighting. We are not houris; we will not be the warrior’s reward. And yet we read in men’s magazines how the whores of American cities give their favours for free to the boys about to embark for Vietnam…

Women must humanise the penis, take the steel out of it and make it flesh again… The question of female attitude to violence is inseparable from this problem. Perhaps to begin with women should labour to be genuinely disgusted by violence, and at least to refuse to reward any victor in a violent confrontation.

[Germaine Greer, The Female Eunuch, 1970]

Men who live by the sword, die by the sword. Let them get on with it, I say. Isn’t it time that we stopped treating soldiers as god-like heroes, and started treating women and children as real human beings. Is that so very much to ask?

No words. Just this.
I wonder how many women have been on the streets while I crocheted my spider.


Crochet spider

I promise I’ll get bored of this line of posting soon. But – look! I made a spider!

Crochet flower

I think I’m getting the hang of this. A bit. Possibly.

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