Thursday, 26 February 2009

Lest we forget...

Deep within a museum in Washington DC there is a room. Resting on the three-floor-high walls of this room are one thousand photographs. They do not make you smile, nor do they evoke joyful reminiscence. They make you angry. Bitter. Sad.

This room is called the Tower of Faces. Every picture that lines this room tells the story of a lost soul. A lost life. They tell us about the Holocaust.

The Holocaust was a defining moment that will live on in the walls of that room, that museum. It will exist in the pages of faded, yellowing textbooks. It will reach out to the farthest branches on family trees, through generations.

It will survive within hearts and minds.

And yet there are those who do not see those faded pages. Those who fail to recognise the cruel imagery that we now equate with such a shameful period of our history. Roman Catholic Bishop, Richard Williamson questioned the true extent of the Holocaust during an interview last month whereby he argued ‘there were no gas chambers and only 300,000 Jews died in the concentration camps.’

The sheer ignorance of this statement angers me to unimaginable heights of fury. Not only does it prove Williamson extremely uneducated but demonstrates a blatant disregard for Holocaust survivors and their families. Such distorted views comes three years after historian David Irving was imprisoned for Holocaust denial.

But I wonder how this is possible. How can one ignore a vast piece of our history? How can one deny the evidence? Memoirs. Photographs. Rows of mismatched shoes; sole less and scuffed. Piles of spectacles, twisted frames and fractured glass. Emaciated men, bones sharp, skin thin. How?

I’d like Williamson and Irving to stand amongst the tower of faces. I’d like them to look at every single one of those 1,000 photographs. Look into the eyes. Then I’d like them to tell me the Holocaust wasn’t real.

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

The day the sky fell

Time’s hands find no direction,
They hover at half past two.
Firewood charred, black ash;
Warm amber flame
cold blue.

Once joyful hum of birdsong,
Now an incessant dreary tune.
Shadows elude the sunlight
And darkness prevails
too soon.

Thoughts, they have no meaning,
To sleep is a waste of time.
Questions have no answers;
Reasons have no

Eyes vacant and unseeing,
Lungs empty but frozen breath.
Taste and touch, now numbness;
Pervades the scent of

The day the pulse stopped dancing,
Now marble cold, blue shell.
It was that day not long ago;
The day the sky

Saturday, 21 February 2009

I'm onto you, Thought Police. I'm onto you.

I have a problem and it's taking over my life. I. Love. Consipiracy. Theories. There, I said it. If there is a thread of doubt in a news story, I will pull at it until it unravels. Hell, I'll keep pulling that thread until there's nothing but a mess of yarn before me.

Google has become my faithful friend, my only friend. He brings me new theories during my sleepless nights, when the air is black and still and the only sound is the hush of my breath. I am a super sleuth in disguise. My ears prick at the mention of area 51 and the illuminati. Art Bell is my hero.

I have dreams where I am embroiled in a Paul Auster type mystery; I become Mr Black and Mr White on the hunt for Blue. Sometimes a security camera will follow me and I'll start imagining that I'm Winston Smith on the run from Big Brother. Say '2+2=5' and I'll break into a cold sweat.

I do hope there's a cure for my predicament. I'm getting tired of looking over my shoulder all the time. My neck hurts. I sometimes wonder if there is such a thing called 'Conspiracy Theories Anonymous.'

Perhaps I should google it...

Monday, 16 February 2009

We do not remember days; we remember moments

Memory. It never fails to amaze me. Deep within the recesses of our grey matter, amidst the firing synapses, there lies this vast cognitive ability that allows us to remember.

I find it incredible that I can be sitting at my desk and suddenly I’ll be transported to the time I cut my foot open on a crab shell at aged 8. Or I'll be watching rain fall from the grey sky and instantly, without force, I can feel the gust of heat and humidity as I stepped off the plane in Florida when I was nine. Memories are that powerful.

So I find myself wondering; why would anyone want to rid themselves of such power, such capacity? Astonishingly, there are some who do. Today the Daily Mail and The Guardian reported news of a memory-erasing pill, developed to treat post-traumatic stress disorder. The idea is that it will expunge the sufferer of any painful memories thus allowing them a happy and fulfilling life.

Quite frankly, I’m astounded. Do the decades worth of research count for nothing? What about all those patients, people who lost their ability to remember? Take H.M for example. Henry Molaison was a 27 year old man who underwent brain surgery to correct epilepsy and developed amnesia. For over fifty years, until his death, he could not form new memories. He spent those five decades in an institution assisting scientists’ research on memory.

This case study doesn't bear thinking about. It's heartbreaking to know that one person can live such a life, so unfulfilled, simply because he cannot remember. I’m pretty certain that H.M would have given anything to lead a vastly different life than the one he lived. The chance to form new memories and remember old ones is a like a basic human right. No one should live without it.

And yet there are people willing to do so!

Memories are there for a reason. Yes, some are bad. But the bad ones are like mistakes; they help us grow. We learn from them. We become better people because of them. I don't understand why anyone would want to throw such potential away.

Saturday, 14 February 2009

I'm just not that into you. In layman's terms, this means you suck

NB: Contains Spoilers

I lost two hours of my life last night. Two whole hours I will never get back. On top of that travesty I had to spend it cooped up in a freezing cold cinema with a load of high-pitched squealing women. This is not fun. And never will be.

Have you guessed yet? I went to see He’s Just Not That Into You. I should have known, especially with a title I struggle to speak. They should have called it ‘You’re Ugly and Boring.’ Or ‘Leave Me Alone.’ It may not be as nice but it’s easier to pronounce.

He’s Just Not That Into You is a tricky little film disguised as a chick flick. Using the same format as Love Actually, it weaves a twisted web of stories all interlinked because, you know, it’s such a small world. At the core of this sorry mess are women. Women’s issues with men. Women’s insecurities over men. Women’s embarrassing behaviour because of men.

Chick flicks usually cheer me up. That’s what they’re supposed to do. They’re not made to make an impression or to win Oscars. They’re there to champion the belief that a happy ever after is possible. They should put a smile on your face. The only look on mine was one of sheer embarrassment. With all that women-bashing, I felt ashamed I was one. It made me want to strap down my breasts, cut off my hair and book myself in for a sex change.

The film’s narrator Gigi (Ginnifer Goodwin) was likeable to start. But eventually, her escapades made me cringe. Do women seriously sit by the phone, waiting for it to call? Do we stalk a guy whose date we didn’t enjoy on the off chance that he’s the one? The whole thing was so unrealistic I wanted to slap her. Or possibly the writers. I’m still undecided on that one.

Gigi’s colleague Janine (Jennifer Connelly) was so frigid and uptight, I felt no sympathy when her husband Ben (Bradley Cooper) cheated on her with Anna (Scarlett Johansson). Anna’s friend Mary (Drew Barrymore) had all the good lines, well, all three of them. That probably matched the amount of screen-time she was given too.

Ben’s best friend Neil (Ben Affleck) consistently resisted marrying his live-in girlfriend of seven years, Beth (Jennifer Anniston). This was plausible; some people don’t believe in marriage. But with a few helpful plot devices everything is solved pretty quickly. Just like that. In the past I would have been one of the women ooh-ing and ahh-ing at this point, but the whole mess was too contrived to accept. Is a happy, believable cliché too much to ask?

On that note, I'm going to utter the words I never thought I would say: they don't make 'em like they used to!

Okay it's official: I'm past it.

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Dream, Hallucination or Prediction...?

Last night I had trouble sleeping. This is nothing new. I fear I haven’t slept properly in seven years. Some days pass and I’ve barely slept at all. There comes a point when I am so tired I can’t function. Words. Backwards. Become. Spots appear around me and I reach out to grab them, thinking they’re weird alien beings come to eat me alive. Then come the tears. I start weeping, moaning and wallowing in self pity, crying and praying to a God I don’t believe in. ‘Why, God, Why? Why won’t you let me sleep? I hate you.’ This is usually the point where I pass out face down into my pillow. Maybe He really does exist. Or a She. Possibly an It. I fear I’m going off point here…

I think I had a dream. This may be impossible considering I wasn’t asleep long enough. I’d barely shut my eyes at 7 o’clock this morning when noisy bastard’s alarm went off next door. I made a note to move to a house with thicker walls. Or less noisy neighbours.

Anyways. I discovered the secret to time travel. In my dream, that is. Or was it a dream? Maybe I hallucinated. Maybe my brain was so fed up of being awake for 24 hours a day, it created this weird and wonderful story to keep itself occupied. You know, to pass the time. Or perhaps I unlocked the psychic inside of me. Perhaps I can only make predictions about the future during an insomnia-ridden daze. It’s a bit like those psychics who can only predict things with a twenty pound note in their hands.

In my dream there was a chart about time continuums, followed by a very long algebraic equation that made me want to vomit. On a table there was a box that looked like a modified version of the Flux Capacitor. After all, that is what makes time travel possible.

Doc Brown wasn’t there. Neither was Marty McFly. But Steven Spielberg was. I got the feeling that Back to the Future is masquerading as a piece of fiction when really, it’s truth. I think Spielberg did find the secret to time travel and it really does involve a 1981 DeLorean. It is much more plausible than a phone box as Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure suggests.

Now that’s just stupid.

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

For Sale: Baby Shoes, never worn

Last year was one of the happiest of my life. Nothing major happened. I didn't get married. Didn't have a baby. Didn't buy my own house or get a new car. No. I spent the entire year writing for my MA in Creative Writing. Every day, every week was filled with a different task in which I had to write. Since I finished my degree, I find myself writing less and less. Consequently, I don't feel as happy. It's quite sad really. But it just shows how I equate happiness with writing. I somehow feel at home with a pen in my hand or a keyboard beneath my fingertips.

It was this reason that I decided to start a blog. It gives me the opportunity to write about things that most people don't really want to talk about. It gives me the chance to sharpen those skills and make certain that I write something, anything, at least once a day. Maybe that will put a smile on my face?

I've decided to incorporate some of the weekly tasks from my degree into my blog. This first post is writing flash fiction, that is, fiction of the teeny-tiny variety. When I was first introduced to this concept I didn't think it was possible to convey an entire story in 200 words, let alone ten. But then my tutor told us about Hemmingway. He was challenged to write the shortest story in history:

'For Sale: Baby shoes, never worn.'

Six words. Six teeny-tiny words choregraphed to perfection. The result: a moving tale of loss. Ambiguous? Yes. Marvelous? Absolutely. In the vein of Hemmingway, I have posted my own pieces of flash fiction. They are not recent, in fact, they were written during my degree. I will be posting newer material, once I've put my thinking cap on. I just have to find it first! Anyway, I'd be interested to learn what people think, particularly the second piece, as no one in my class understood just whose perspective I was writing from! Here goes:

10 words

Hiding his shock, John shook hands with his younger self.

200 words
She lives across the street. Long red hair, well almost, it’s auburn, the colour of autumn leaves. Her skin is porcelain fresh, rosy at times. I don’t know her name. I like to think it’s something traditional or plain like Kate. I peer through my white net curtain and stare at her. I can’t have the light on of course, or else she’ll see me. It has to be dark. I watch her in the front garden, sitting in the sun. Every night I pray for sunshine the next day, just to catch a glimpse of her. If I’m feeling rather good, some days I pray I’ll go blind. Lately it’s been raining and I can’t help but think he’s punishing me, mocking me. I wish I could smell her, talk to her, touch her but I can’t. Or I shouldn’t. I’m not sure which at times. She passes by my fence. I will my shoes to turn to lead or stone, whichever will stop me. It must not happen again.


I feel a certain amount of shame announcing that I am jobless. The word 'unemployed' that really gets to me. It makes my cheeks burn. Eye contact goes out the window. I'm ashamed, I admit it.

Considering today's economic climate, I shouldn't feel this way. According to National Statistics Online, the unemployment rate has risen to 6.1%, the highest rate since September 1997. Trust me to graduate at one of the worst economic time periods in over ten years!

It is assumed, unfairly, that finding a job and securing it is easy. Let me tell you something. It. Is. Not. For two months I have spent twelve plus hours a day online, printing CVs, writing cover letters, visiting jobsite after jobsite. When I finally finished my MA degree those four months ago, I felt empowered. I thought I had possibilities. Prospects. I felt like my life was finally about to begin. I am not one of those graduates who expected a job to fall easily into my hands. I expected hard work. I expected rejections. I prepared myself for that eventuality.

But today, employers want more than degrees. They want experience. This makes me angry. I don't have work experience in the field I want to start my career in. But I am more than willing to get it! Unfortunately, no one will hire you without it. Just how am I expected to learn? This is what baffles me the most.

I feel disheartened. I feel like a little lost soul, simply trying to find my niche in the world and am getting nowhere for trying. But I won't ever stop. I will continue my daily efforts. I will write more cover letters and CVs. But what I'd really like is an opportunity to show that I am capable of doing a job, that I can give 110% in my career. All I need is someone to take that chance. Until then, I'll be keeping my fingers crossed!

Monday, 9 February 2009

Let's eat cake!

155. That is not my age. Sadly, it's not even my IQ. That is the number of weight-loss articles a woman in my gym has read this year. Given that we are only 40 days into 2009, it does not bode well for the rest of the year. I am sensing a pattern.

I get it. Really I do. It’s a whole new phase on the cosmic chart. Earth has finally made its orbit around the sun. We all feel like we’ve eaten our body weight in Cadbury’s celebrations (particularly when there was a buy two boxes for the price of one in Morrison’s). The start of a new year is fresh, exciting. As Big Ben chimes twelve and a brand spanking New Year is celebrated around the world, we mentally free ourselves from stale thoughts. Endless possibilities are, well, possible. Our minds somehow equate a new year to a new you. Inevitably, this new you is about 2 or 3 stone lighter, with a slightly perkier bottom.

The media knows this. Businesses do too. They’ve cottoned on to our weird solar calendar way of thinking and are using it against us. I joined my gym back in September and for four months I exercised in perfect bliss. Then something happened. January. From the 2nd day of 2009, I had to battle my way into the gym’s car park, fight (not swim) my way along the lengths of the pool and queue twenty minutes for a treadmill. Besides perfecting my road rage, I doubt I’ve improved my health at all.

Then there are the magazines, tricky little things. Oh, they masquerade as helpful tools in your pledge to get fit with headlines such as, ‘I lost 6st and you can too!’ or ‘Eat chocolate and still lose weight!’ But turn those pages and all you see are already slender sized 12 celebrities slimming to a size 8. (Mmm...tongue tied much?) Behind those hunger-crazed smiles are teams of personal trainers, dieticians and stylists at their beck and call. The headlines ‘I only lost 7lbs because I pay a trainer £300 an hour and a chef cooks all my meals’ doesn’t really grab you as much. Truth isn’t reader friendly.

I fear I am on sensory-overload. Weight loss pictures flitter on TVs and rush past me on the sides of buses. Images of men and women over-doing the lunges on the Powerplate are burned on my retinas. I see them squat and lunge with every blink of my eye. Women at the checkout in Sainsbury's randomly start moaning to me about how hungry they are; their eyes twitch in tune to the rumblings of their stomachs. I am haunted. Hunted. Hovering at breaking point.

Besides wearing a blindfold in the gym and every time I walk past the magazine aisle, what can I do? What can we do? I have an idea. Let the media continue their assault on our body image. Let the women in Sainsbury's moan about being hungry. Let the New Year get fit-get healthy phase fizzle out by mid-march. But while that happens, let's just eat cake! It might not do anything for my hips but it sure tastes good.

Random Facts about Me

I signed into my Facebook account the other day to find I had been tagged. It doesn't happen very often but when it does, fear rises within my throat and my heart pounds wildly in my chest. The reason? Photographs. Of. Me. And bad one's at that. But this time I relaxed. I didn't cover my eyes in horror. Someone just wanted to know more about me. Phew!

Here are the rules: Once you've been tagged, you are supposed to write a note with 25 random things, facts, habits, or goals about you. At the end, choose 25 people to be tagged. You have to tag the person who tagged you. If I tagged you, it's because I want to know more about you.

I read with interest the new found information of an old friend. It made me realise that, perhaps, there are some basic details about ourselves that seem so inconsequential, we never reveal them. It got me thinking; what don't people know about me? Mmm...well that list is endless and, come to think of it, completely impossible to cram into just 25 points. But I thought it wouldn't hurt to try. So here goes:

1. When I was little, I used to bite glass. Seriously. There are loads of glasses in my house with tiny chunks missing from them (illustrating that I was a freakish child who bit glass and that my mum keeps random crap for many, many years).

2. I really want two dogs- one called Harold, the other called Maude. And I did not know there was a movie called Harold and Maude when I thought of their names.

3. I love New York (most people know this) to the point of obsession. Can one have too many black and white photographs of the same NY skyline? The ‘official’ answer is yes. My answer is no.

4. If I could invite five guests to dinner (dead or alive) they would have to be: Marilyn Monroe, because she fascinates me (and I really want to know all about her and the Kennedy’s); Nat King Cole, so he can entertain us with music; Maya Angelou, so she can tell us all her life story in her amazing storyteller’s voice; Arnold Schwarzenegger because seriously, it’s Arnie and finally, my Nan because I never knew her and she sounds like one amazing lady.

5. Due to the unfortunate connotations of my name (Lou as in Loo, as in toilet) my sister called me ‘Bogroll’ for years. Tis sad but true.

6. I have been known to talk to myself. I am not ashamed to admit this.

7. When I was little I was able to see people’s auras.

8. If I happen upon a cute animal (cats, dogs, monkeys, chimps, penguins etc) I have been known to squeal to a pitch that only dogs and dolphins can hear. I can’t help it; it’s some weird involuntary spasm beyond my control.

9. I am a music buff/freak. I have over 300 CDs (all scratched and in their wrong cases) and am now on my 2nd iPod in three years after excessive use. Consequently, I MUST listen to music for at least two hours a day or I will develop a weird twitch and go insane.

10. I LOVE quotations. But they can’t be a quote of just anything. You can’t put quote marks around ‘this list sucks’ for me to like it. It has to be funny or meaningful. Inspirational works too.

11. I was very fortunate to get my own back on someone who made my life hell in school. Said bully approached me on a train and asked how I was and if I remembered them. My reply was that I had a brain condition which meant I couldn’t remember arseholes. Said bully was stunned into silence. This puts a smile on my face whenever I think about it. YAY for revenge.

12. I was in a choir at school and even had to sing a solo about Jonah and the whale. Fun!

13. I am double jointed and can freak people out with a twist of the elbow and the pulling of my thumb from its socket. As you can see, I know how to have a good time.

14. I have a fear of foxes. When I was about five, I had nightmares that foxes would climb through my bedroom window and claw my face. Even to this day whenever we see a fox in our garden, while everyone says ‘aww how cute’ inside I’m thinking: ‘die evil fox die.’

15. I am one of these people who need things to look forward to or else I lose the will to live.

16. Carrying on my mum’s tradition, I keep random crap. Movie stubs. Post-it notes. Cards. Letters. Stuff torn from newspapers and magazines. Flight stubs. When I went travelling at 19, I even stole the plastic room cards from various hotels across the USA and Australia.

17. My favourite word is ‘bollocks.’ It’s just so expressive. If I could use it in every sentence, I would.

18. I am the most accident prone person ever. If there is something to hit, fall over, fall on, I will do it. Even if there isn’t, I’d fall over myself. I’ve even caught my foot in my own trouser leg.

19. I have the same career goal now as I did when I was eight: to be a writer. Success never came into it so if I can finish my novel and write something every day, I’ll believe I’ve achieved my goal. Even if no one ever gets to read it.

20. I bungee jumped when I was 19 years old.

21. I secretly fancy Billy Idol and David Bowie. Well, I used to secretly fancy them. Now I just fancy them.

22. I silently mock the women in the gym who try to work-out in a full face of make-up. Ladies. Get. A. Fucking. Clue.

23. I get so angry at books and movies with sad endings. They lead you on with their happy beginnings and happy middles and then the ending appears where the lead character dies and I’m left feeling like I’ve been stabbed in the chest. If I wanted to feel that way, I’d go out and get stabbed. And don’t give me all that ‘well, real life is like that…real life is tough' bullshit. Books and films are about escapism. I don’t read books and watch movies for reality bollocks. I leave that to Big Brother.

24. I think Shakespeare was a genius. Yes, we moaned about reading his plays at school but hundreds of years after he died, we’re still reading. There’s only one word for him. GENIUS.

25. Obviously I cannot count to 25...