Thursday, 11 August 2016

Coming to Katsuma: A poetry post

What can I say? Nothing sensible. My beautiful, massive cat is sick, dangerously sick, and I am beside myself, but writing about it helps. Nothing fits into a poem like the ones I usually write though. I can't make this fit. I can't make the feelings fit. So I'm going a bit freestyle. I don't know if it's good. I don't know if it's worthwhile sharing. But I'd have liked to have read it while I was Googling this stuff recently, and it helps me to write. So this is it.

Coming to Katsuma

The sun was shining when I heard his voice.
I'd taken out the washing, 
filling up the line when I heard his call,
and then again.

I didn't think it was him.
He is not a chatty cat.
But how strange, there 
and again, and the sound does not move.

So, dropping pegs I went to see.
And I found him.
Hiding in a leafy hedge
beside a tall fence.
Perhaps he'd fallen?

He spoke to me,
distress evident on his face.
No blood.
"Come out." I said. "Come out."
He replied most insistently
but he did not move.

Away then.
Fetch a mat and a towel.
Even fetch the secateurs.
I'll get him out of there.
If I should move him?

But back again and he has moved.
A little.
But movement can be made.

"Come out." I said. "Come out."
And he steeled himself,
and out he came,
dragging his leg,
puffing his breath,
breaking my heart.
I called the vet.

"Come in." She said. "Come in."
and she asked of cars
and health and habits
and I do not know.
He was fine. He should be fine.
And she spoke of hearts
and blood and clotting,
and X-rays and bloods,
and goodness only knows,
and she asked if I was insured.

And she sent us up to Glasgow
to a hospital for cats
I didn't know existed.
To a French vet who smiled
and asked me all the questions.
To receptionists and forms and nice comments.
"What a lovely name."
"I do like your hair. 
It's like under-the-sea."

And maybe death might be kinder.

And oxygen and medicine and bloods.

And tears and stroking my stoned wee guy.

And maybe perhaps just slight improvements.

And I don't want him to die.

And I don't want him to suffer.

And one more day.

And one more day.

And one more day.

And stroking. 
Laying hands upon the miscreant leg.
I imagine white light.
"Come on." I say. "Come on."

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Pig-headed: a poetry post

I've been poetically absent for a while. I've been reeling in the wake of Brexit, which I did not see coming, and which has left me grieving for the Britain I thought I knew. I know that the leavers reckon we remainers should get over it and move on, but that blase attitude is what allowed them to vote leave in the first place. For me, being part of Europe is an important part of my identity and how I want to live my life. I'd much rather be part of Europe than Britain. Especially this Britain, this one that has shown itself to be racist and nasty and to have no compassion for the rest of humanity. For a while there I was anticipating a second anarchy, and I'm impressed that Theresa May was willing to pick up the poisoned chalice of leadership at this time. So far she's doing it with aplomb (apart from the whole keeping nuclear bombs thing, but that insanity is not only her doing). Still. I would rather leave Britain than leave Europe, and I haven't been able to be coherent about the whole situation up until now. Perhaps I'm still not. I've tried to fit some thoughts into Spenserian Stanza to straighten my head. The result is 'Pig-headed'.


Pig-headed I refuse to recognise
the new reality which now comes clear.
Pig-headedness was something I despised -
an obstinate refusal of the year.
I'd thought of foolish men with foolish fear;
of those you might believe would fuck a pig.
I thought of those that could not see that we're
intrinsically human. Love is big.
I pull my head out of the sand - the head of pig.

I wouldn't see that compassion was dead,
and still have tears to find that I was wrong.
And now I'm searching for a way ahead,
although I fear the journey may be long;
to find a place where I feel I belong:
a way out of this harsh reality
so we can join together, standing strong.
I fear we need to rip up our country
or leave the ship and find a place where we can be.

© Cara L McKee 26/7/16

Meanwhile, I'm admiring the work of Nicola Sturgeon, in trying to get we Scots out of this mess (not of our choosing), and I'm dropping 'subtle' hints about getting out of dodge. 

We have been enjoying a particularly soggy (again, and there's another reason to leave) summer holiday so far and cannot wait for our Barcelona house swap later this week. And on the work front I have been sending my stuff out into the world and collecting stacks of rejections. I keep reminding myself that everyone got lots of rejections (and ignoring the little voice telling me I'm rubbish). 

Apart from all that, and having lots of fun with the kids (so much crafting on these soggy days, and a lovely holiday in Yorkshire/Derbyshire/Nottinghamshire), I have been mainly playing Fallen London, attempting to learn Finnish and Spanish on language learning apps (I will be dropping Spanish after Barcelona, Finnish is way more fun), and watching Dark Matter, which is working on being nearly as good as Firefly.

Sunday, 24 July 2016

six sumptuous songs to sing on a sodden Sunday

I love to sing. I love filling a space with sound and the sound coming back and filling me.

I love songs with long notes, and songs that mean things, and songs that are complete and utter nonsense.

But these songs are some of my favourites for singing along to. What are yours?

Butterflies and Hurricanes by Muse is an amazing song, full of emotion and meaning, and it has long soaring notes to enjoy. It must be amazing to sing in a stadium, but I'm happy with the kitchen. My love for this song has inspired me to write several poems, which you'll find elsewhere on the blog (Kissing a Tall Man, Know by Now, and Magnus the Mighty). To be honest I'll happily sing along with most Muse songs, but I'll actually get the words right to this one!

I was a teenage cloggie, and a massive fan of my local band, New Model Army. I have many favourites, and have been known to break into song quite frequently (especially if people ask Stupid Questions, or I go on a bus ride). More recently they've brought out High, which is right up there with some of their greatest hits, and it's what I'm working on learning to sing at the moment.

Another band I loved in my youth were Sisters of Mercy. I saw them live last year, so I can attest that they are not departed or gone, although perhaps they should be. There is no excuse whatever for the song 'I'm a policecar' (which is a cover!). They were better back in the day...for maybe two albums. This song is gorgeous, and I suspect it's something to do with drugs. Andrew Eldritch was born in 1959 (so he's younger than Slade the Leveller, not that you'd know), and I have no idea who Isobel is, but it's rather lovely and has a nice sway to it. Also, this video is sumptuous gorgeousness (and fan art).

I love to sing anything from Joni Mitchell's album Blue. The album is one of my Mum's favourites, and when I first left home I bought a copy to remind me of her. When I was feeling blue I'd put it on and sing along with the whole album. I can't pick a favourite song, I'd happily sing the whole album, but this one keeps coming to mind at the moment.

The next one was one I happened across when flicking channels. I immediately bought the album and it's a favourite in the car (the kids are especially fond of Baby). This is Serj Tankian of System of a Down, doing his solo thing in marvellous style (and he can fit almost as many words in a line as Ms Mitchell).

last up (and only the last because I have to stop somewhere) is Criminal by Lower than Atlantis. Another song found through random flicking, I love the way this song is put together, how they go down for the word 'criminal', how the words soar in the chorus (it's a shame there's a 'shit' in there, I loudly replace it with 'this'), and the marvellous use of rhyme and rhythmn in the bridge:
Yeah son, we're gonna get some actionYou distract them and I will attack them

There are so many songs that I've not included on this list! What are yours?

Friday, 8 July 2016

love to exchange homes

Last year Home Exchange gave us free annual membership of their home swapping website. The idea is that you go stay in someone else's house, for free, while they stay in your house, for free.

Free holidays!

It can get more complicated than that... some people have second homes which you can stay in, but the basic idea is that you go and live like a local, while you're giving someone else the same chance.

Last year we started our membership around March, and to be honest with you that's a bit late in the year. We noticed this year that most of our enquiries about exchanges came in December/January, when people are starting to get their ducks in a row about where they're going. I guess if you lived somewhere really special, you could risk coming late to the party, but the only exchange we managed to arrange last year was a long weekend in Dunblane (which was awesome, and I wrote about it here).

This year we really wanted to go to Barcelona, and we learnt how difficult it can be to arrange for a specific destination (although - spoiler - we cracked it in the end).

We are also doing a swap with a family in Derbyshire. I'm sure there's plenty of fun stuff to do in Derbyshire, but we weren't planning on going there until we were asked to swap. Now we've got lots of fun in store.

So, how does it work?

You start off with the Home Exchange website - you put your own house on (a bit like getting ready to sell your house really), and have a look at what's available elsewhere. You then get in touch to see who would like to swap. I warn you, you may have to kiss a lot of frogs, but there is the occasional prince!

Once you've got a happy combination, you arrange your swap and then you stick to it. People book holiday and the like, so you've got to view it as you would any other reservation.

Then, when it comes to the swap, you have a good clean up (I recommend getting cleaners in if you can), change all the beds and towels and make some room for your guests' stuff. Generally it's reasonable to expect to eat some food, but replace things you use up. You do however leave it as a home. If they wanted to stay in a hotel they would.

It's useful to provide an information sheet, telling people where things are, what your wifi password is, doctors, dentists, and places to go. Everyone I've exchanged with has done these slightly differently. There will always be useless information, and there will always be something they need to know and don't, so it's good to keep in touch, either through messaging on the Home Exchange site, or through email or text.

The Home Exchange site offers a good quick idea of how to leave your house and what information to leave which you'll find here.

It's good to get to know the people you're exchanging with. Ideally, this would involve meeting up with them, but sometimes that's not possible. We've had long chats via email, and have Skyped people too.

Other things can go along with your home. Our cat is going to be hanging out with our exchangees (I hope he doesn't get too grumpy with them), and for the Barcelona swap we're swapping our cars as well. It's flexible and easily negotiated.

Several people have said to me that they'd be worried about strangers being in their home. To be honest, that's never crossed my mind, because I'm in their home too! However, it is starting to bother my son. He's 10, and having his own space is becoming important to him, so I think we might find other ways to holiday next year. 

One last thing that I must mention. I love that with a home exchange our house isn't just sitting empty - I do worry about people breaking in, and this way we have house sitters, watering the plants and feeding the cats, and (hopefully) having a good holiday.

Would you fancy home exchanging?

Monday, 4 July 2016

believe in magic

Lucky us got to go to the Magic Fair kicking off Edinburgh's Magic Festival, which is in its seventh year, with lots of things to do all this week. Check out their webpage for more info

There was lots to do, and, being tired after camping at a truly dreadful campsite (no more on that save to say we shall never go again), we didn't manage to do it all. We did however, go to three shows:

  • Elliot Bibby was funny and inclusive, as well as inventive, and was a great way to kick things off. 
  • We went to the 20 minute taster session for the Magic School which is running all week. Gary James was great with the kids and managed to keep everyone's interest. Even Miss 5, who is known to walk off in the middle of cake, such is her attention span. He involved everybody and managed to teach them all some pretty impressive (if deceptively simple) tricks. There's even one with loom bands!

  • The last show we saw was Gary Dunn, who was funny (although a little sexist), and did some smashing tricks. One of the kids we were with was disappointed that although he did use helpers from the audience, he kept the same ones for AGES. Miss 8 found his humour chuffing HILARIOUS, and was rocking all the seats with her laughter!
There was a shop somewhere, I missed it, but friends we were with bought funky magic wands and some simple guides to doing tricks. We got sucked in by the truly awesome ribbon maze, in which I lost Mr 10 in just shy of three seconds. I could have spent hours in there, if only it was seemly not to give everyone else a turn!

Between me telling my phone to take this picture and it taking, my boy had vanished into the ribbon maze and an unknown woman had appeared (in a different place). Truly, freakily, awesome.
Today we're home, and the kids are still in their jammies, so we've been scrapbooking about what we've done on our holidays so far. We're up to four pages and it's not even been a week yet!

And because I didn't manage to get a photo of the boy in the ribbon maze, I've drawn him instead (there's a reason why I'm a writer, not a drawer).

So we all had a good time, and there's even talk of going back next year. 

Thanks Magic Fest! And thanks too to Scotland4Kids for getting us in.

Wednesday, 29 June 2016

love our style*

I was listening to a Thinking Allowed podcast the other day, and they were talking about  a recent paper entitled 'Shop With Mother' by Katherine Appleford of Kingston university, all about how mothers transmit their attitudes to clothes to their daughters.  There's lots of stuff in there about class (apparently working class people are more 'on trend' than middle class people... and more willing to be seen in sportswear when not actually doing sport).

Not sure what I love most - the Burns
quote or the stompy boots...
It made me think about my Mum, a chiropodist from a Happy Family of chiropodists - her brother, and her mum had both tended to feet for a living (her dad was a nurse). She had a horror of my damaging my feet with high heels and pointy shoes. 

I rebelled once. 

She looked at the offending shoes and said, witheringly, "and you, the chiropodist's daughter", which had a distinct whiff of 'no better than she ought to be'. 

I didn't wear them again.

I don't like high heels now. Now, when I'm old enough to make my own decisions. I think they look silly, and sore. 

My girls are just little, but they have been given play clip-clop shoes (not from me), and loved parading about in them. 

I hated the fact that they were hobbling themselves. I want my girls to be running around and having fun (this may be why the shoes have mysteriously disappeared).
When my children are older, I want them to be out there, grabbing life by the scruff of its neck.  Not crippled wallflowers, waiting to be asked to dance. The shoe thing seems to be transmitting down, with the kids commenting on how Barbie needs some better shoes so she can run about, although I suspect Miss 8 will have a collection of heels (to go with her awesome dresses and swishy hair) when she's older. Perhaps she's taking after my gorgous little sister, who loves a high heel.

My Mum was also of the opinion, when I was a teen, that while it was OK to make a scarf into an incredibly short skirt, and wear it, said skirt should be worn with an underskirt if see-through.  

Clearly, I didn't let that worry me. I thought an underskirt would look silly, so I just tried to ensure my tights didn't have holes in... If only leggings had been invented back then! 

But I didn't only wear inappropriate short skirts. I also raided my mother's wardrobe. She made her own fabulous clothes (see below) and I'd have been mad not to. My Dad tells me that she made herself a more psychedlic skirt, and him a matching jacket in 1967, and when he was DJing at UMIST it flouresced under the UV lights. 

So I adopted my Mum's hippy look (as well as Goth/Cloggy/Grebo/Rocker looks - why stick with one?).

My Mum, in Salt Lake City in 1967. Picture from my Dad. Mum had also made a matching jacket.

Me, and my friend, Nathan, at Glastonbury in 1994.
I'm wearing a jumper my Mum knitted (for herself) from a Kaffe Fassett pattern in 1982, a charity shop hippy skirt, and purple docs (flat heels).
So now I'm a Mum, what ideas am I passing on/inflicting on my girls (apart from the heels thing)?  

Well, I don't like pink, or Disney princesses (the old ones anyway), or leggings worn as trousers.  

I have been over-ruled on all of the above and have given up moaning about it. Besides which, the kids rock pink.

I don't like too-short skirts, or things that say 'princess' or 'cute'.  

Neither do they.

I also don't believe in buying uneccesary things, and my girls are lucky enough to have a big cousin who passes clothes down to them, so the pool they are choosing from (and their clothes are their choice at the end beginning of the day) is not entirely of my own making. That said there's some  beautiful things they won't wear, and so very many pairs of leggings worn as trousers. 

Miss 8 loves classic styles, and a bit of tailoring, and has a little bit of Goth in her from time to time.  The girl can put together an outfit.  She also REALLY loves her boots.

Miss 5 loves a bit of quirky style, she's the one who insisted on mismatched wellies for about a year.

And the boy? He's getting his own sense of style, and it's becoming more important to him. He likes a lot of black, dislikes shorts, and loves a hat. The boy is incredibly cool. 

I like it that the kids won't just wear what I want them to wear. That they can sometimes choose to be my little darklings, but also be bright and glorious. They like it when I'm quirky too, because everyone needs to have something about them, right?

Soon my tall daughter will overtake her cousin and she'll need to get more things first hand (or from charity shops, which we love). Whatever she chooses, it won't be what her little sister wants handed down!

What about you?  Did your Mum offer any sartorial advice?  Can you see your Mum's influence in what you wear?  How are you influencing your children? 

*this is a reworking of a post originally published in June 2013

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

love green hair

Me with particularly good green hair. I can't remember the
hair dye, although given its smooth shinyness I'm guessing
my fabulous hairdresser was involved, so Elumen hair dye.
I don't just love writing. I love my green hair too, although keeping it that way is a problem. So I've gone on a massive research campaign and come up with loads of green hair dye options to try at home (sorry Grace (my hairdresser), I just can't afford to see you as much as I'd need to).

My plan is to get the dye and track how it goes so I can work out the best combination for me, and if you are thinking of going green it could help you too!

Here's what I've found out so far. I've tried some before, but not in an organised fashion. That's why I'm planning on mixing up Directions colours. Once I've tried a few others I might try mixing them too.

Most of the colours shown when you look up the dyes are for if you use them on bleached hair, same for the time until they wash out, but I'm not going to bleach my hair, so I'm going to find out for myself!

Colours to try (prices on Amazon 19/6/16)

Please note, I've put the best price that initially came up when I searched on Amazon beside the colour, and if I ended up paying a different price I've crossed out that initial price and put the final price, including postage. I didn't order any on Prime (although I will if that's cheaper in future).

Crazy Colour - Emerald Green £4.08
                  - Pine Green £3.89 £3.24
Special Effects - Iguana Green - ridiculously expensive £40+ in UK so not trying
                       - Sonic Green
Manic Panic - Venus Envy £7.89
                  - Enchanted Forest £7.90
                  - Green Envy £9.90
Manic Panic Amplified - Green Envy £9.78
                                 - Enchanted Forest £12.12
Pravana - Green - ridiculously expensive in UK, not trying
Directions - Alpine Green £1.74 £2.75
                - mixture of Alpine and Apple Green (£1.74+£2.06 £2.74+£3.05)  £3.80 £5.79
Arctic Fox - Phantom Green £13.35

Do let me know if there's anything I've missed off the list!

Given the ridiculously cheap pricing, I'm going to start off with Directions dye, and then try Crazy Colour. Let's face it, if I can find something that works and is cheap, why look further? 

I'll show you how it looks when it's first done and then do weekly updates to see how it fades. I will also share how much it rubs off on my pillow, and what it does to my shower. I'll keep you updated here, and also on Instagram on the hashtag #howgreenmyhair.

Here we go!