wildeabandon: photo of me with wavy hair and gold lipstick (Default)
2017-08-21 09:17 am

Amsterdam trip - day 3

I did not sleep especially well on Sunday night, and woke up with an explanation for why I’d been so sleepy during the day in the form of an unpleasantly sore throat. I threw painkillers at it until it subsided and decided that I would give up on any silly ideas about morning runs until I was feeling back to 100%.

By the time I woke up properly and we’d eaten breakfast, Ramesh realised that he was also feeling quite under the weather, and decided to treat it with spending a while longer in bed, so I set off into town alone to spend some time in the red light district. Naturally, I spent that time looking at churches. Why, what else did you expect? First I went round the Oude Kerk, which was originally a Catholic cathedral, but became protestant during the reformation. There was a very good audio guide, which managed to personalise the experience without being twee. It had been left very austere by the iconoclasm, but in recent years has been used as a space for new art, sacred and secular. Afterwards I went on to Our Lord in the Attic, a house church which has been reconstructed to be very similar to how it was in the seventeenth century. Catholicism at that point was not exactly tolerated, but the authorities would turn a blind eye if people weren’t too blatant about it, and despite looking like a normal house from the outside it was impressively spacious and opulent inside.

After an ecclesiastical morning I went and had lunch with [personal profile] ewan (because what foreign holiday would be complete without running into someone who lives down the road and just happens to be visiting the same city). We met at the Foodhallen, which had a good range of choices, including several for the vegan. After lunch I gave Ramesh a call to see if he was feeling up to coming out, but as he wasn’t I went for another attraction he was less interested in - the Zoo! I hadn’t been to the Zoo for about 25 years or so, and wasn’t expecting to enjoy it nearly as much as I did. There was a panther who was very stealthy, sea-lions who were very loud and playful, lions who were very sleepy, a gorilla and a capybara who were both completely uninterested and much smaller and much larger than I expected respectively.

By the time I got back to the hotel Ramesh had rested sufficiently and we went out looking for dinner. We had foolishly assumed that on a Monday evening we’d probably be able to just walk into somewhere, but after the first three places we tried were fully booked, didn’t have any veggie options, and fully booked we decided to go back to the sushi place we’d liked on Saturday, and make a couple of bookings in the places that were popular enough to be fully booked.
wildeabandon: A glass of wine with text "Moderation is a fatal thing.  Nothing succeeds like excess." (excess)
2017-08-16 09:15 am

Restaurant recommendation - Counter Culture

Last night [personal profile] borusa and I went for dinner at Counter Culture in Clapham. It was bloody brilliant. We sat outside, overlooking the common and enjoying the summer night air.

The restaurant has a short menu of small plates, and the waiter said that for two people they recommended one of everything, which was exactly what we'd just decided on. As it turned out, the combination of the quality of the food and the fact that we're both quite hearty eaters meant that we ordered seconds of some of them, and there wasn't a single dish that wasn't delicious. We were especially pleased by the plate of salami, which were lovely and piquante and aromatic, the parmasan and chive gnocchi, which somehow managed to be both rich and comforting and light and summery at the same time, and the pork cheeks with smoked aubergine and barbequed pickled onions, which was expertly conceived and balanced. We were also extremely taken with the cheese course, which was a soft goat's cheese, not too pungent, not too mild, served with slices of peach, firm but not so underripe as to be sharp.

Given the short menu, it probably wouldn't be the greatest dining experience for veg*ns, or people with other major dietary restrictions, but if you're mostly omnivorous, I can't recommend it enough. Dinner for two hungry people, including service and drinks (three beers and two soft drinks, but they also offer BYO at £10/bottle corkage) came in at a very reasonable £115. Also, unlike so many of these new small restaurants, they take bookings, so no annoying queuing.
wildeabandon: photo of me with wavy hair and gold lipstick (Default)
2017-07-29 08:07 pm

Amsterdam trip - day two

I got up nice and early and went for a short run around the park, then went to Mass at The Parish of the Blessed Trinity. Most of the hymns were unfamiliar, and the sermon was one of those ones where there was clearly an undercurrent of local church politics that I wasn’t party to, but the people were welcoming. After Mass I picked Ramesh up from the hotel, and we went into town.

We were intending to visit the Beigijnhof, but just as we arrived, the heavens opened, so we went looking for lunch instead. We found a little bistro which looked nice enough, and the food was indeed pleasant, but it looked as though lots of other people had had similar ideas about hiding from the rain, so they were suddenly very busy, which led to rather slow service. By the time we’d finished eating the rain had eased off a bit, so we headed back to the Begijinhof, which was a lovely space, although the tranquillity which seems to be its hallmark was rather marred by all the tourists (I know, I can hardly complain).

We then went on a canalboat tour which was fabulous. I was feeling a bit sleepy, so may have missed occasional bits of the history, but I got the general idea, and especially enjoyed seeing the huge variety of houseboats lining the waterways. We then spent a little while just wandering the streets and soaking in the atmosphere, before having a light (ha!) snack of pancakes, and then heading back to the hotel for a short rest.

Whoops - that short rest turned into quite a long nap, and by the time we woke up and got moving the hotel restaurant had stopped serving, so we almost had to go without dinner. Fortunately we found a nearby pub/restaurant which we got to just before the kitchen closed, so the day was saved.
wildeabandon: photo of me with wavy hair and gold lipstick (Default)
2017-07-22 10:58 pm

Amsterdam trip - day one

We had an early start, but not horrifically so. It was my first time travelling on the Eurostar, and it was lovely, with comfy seats and tasty food, but even more pleasant was the Thalys train from Brussels to Amsterdam. On arrival at the station we picked up an iamsterdam card which gets us travel and free/reduced entry into lots of museums and such, then took the tram to our hotel. The room is perhaps a little on the small side, but pleasant, and the bed is comfortable, which is the important thing.

We deliberately didn’t plan anything but unpacking and decompressing for this afternoon, which was the right call, as after all that travelling we were both feeling rather in need of a nap. We woke up around dinner time, and then went out for sushi (possibly an odd choice, but our first meal on our first holiday together in Prague was also sushi, so it seemed auspicious). It certainly wasn’t a bad choice - the sashimi was beautifully presented and very fresh, and the rice texture was spot on. My high point was either the scallop sashimi with tobiko, or the raw beef, avocado and cucumber roll, which was subtle and gorgeous.

After dinner [personal profile] obandsoller was feeling quite tired, so we came back to the hotel, and although my intention was to drop him off and then go for a stroll around the nearby Oosterpark, I ended up getting eaten by the inertia monster until it got dark, so that will have to wait until tomorrow.
wildeabandon: photo of me with wavy hair and gold lipstick (Default)
2017-07-22 10:55 pm

Amsterdam trip - day zero

I decided that since we’d be leaving quite early on Saturday morning and had guests for dinner on Friday that it would be sensible to take an extra day off work so I didn’t have to pack in a frantic hurry. Obviously I then proceeded to plan an unnecessarily ambitious meal and fill the day from start to finish with Events, so had to pack in a rush on Thursday night instead… I got up fairly early and went for a run which finished at church. Somewhat to my surprise I found that the gates were locked, but I wasn’t foiled and managed to scale the wall and get in anyway (once past the wall the rest of the break-in was facilitated by the clever trick of having keys). I dropped off the cheques I needed signatures on, and spent a while trying to get the ancient (running Vista!) laptop working, as I’m hoping to get the people who count the collection to enter the figures directly into a spreadsheet rather than writing them down, to save me some data entry. I didn’t quite manage to get it working, but I did get a bit of organ practice inbetween interminably slow reboots…

I took the bus rather than running home, and picked up a last couple of missing ingredients, then began prepping the beetroot three ways (boiled and diced, roasted with balsamic vinegar, and finely sliced then deep fried, then baked) for the starter, and the venison meatballs for the main course. Naturally that took a little longer than expected, and I was a few minutes late out the door to head to [personal profile] charlie’s for lunch. They’d gotten out of hospital a couple of days ago, and were still a little fragile, but seemed massively happier than the last couple of times I’ve seen them, which was very pleasing to see.

I then had another session with the physio I saw a couple of weeks ago. After the first session I was absolutely amazed by how much difference he made to my back - I’d had a couple of days completely tension-free for the first time in months, and even after it started to creep back in, it was definitely less intrusive than it has been. This time he suggested trying acupuncture, which I’m quite sceptical of, but given his previous results I figured I’d give it a go. I’m still feeling kind of sceptical afterwards, but I’ll give it another couple of days to see how it feels then, and probably ask him to stick with the kinds of treatment he did from my first session in future.

Then home again, and more cooking until Stephani (winodw) and her newish partner Matthew arrived. I started with a failure, as she asked for a repeat of a cocktail I’d made her once before, but although we had all the relevant booze we were lacking apple juice. Oops. Still, we managed to find them something to drink, and I was pretty pleased with how the food came out. The new fella was quiet but charming, and they were adorkably coupley, which brought back fond memories of what Ramesh & I were like when we first got back together.
wildeabandon: Champage bottle and flutes (champagne)
2017-07-20 09:34 am

Lovely team!

Today is my last day at work before my holiday, and rather unexpectedly my team just came in and gave me an early birthday present (and sang at me). They got me a very goth card, a bread & cakes recipe book, and theatre tokens. Considering that I'm a temp and I've only been here for three months, I'm awfully pleased and surprised that they bothered at all, but especially that they seem to have got the measure of me quite so spot on. Lovely team :)
wildeabandon: A London skyline (London)
2017-07-18 09:56 pm

Recruiting soup kitchen volunteers

My church runs a soup kitchen every Tuesday evening to support the homeless and those in food poverty in the area. We're looking for volunteers to oversee the project about once every six weeks. The church is about 5 minutes walk from Finsbury Park station, so easy to get to from anywhere on the Victoria or Piccadilly lines. More details are here if you're at all interested, and if not but you know people who might be then I'd appreciate you pointing them there or here.
wildeabandon: sushi (sushi)
2017-07-18 11:17 am

Busy, busy, busy

It's all gone a bit hectic. Definitely in a fun way, but at some point I should probably schedule some quiet nights in...

I mentioned last month ago that I was trying climbing again, and since then I've been going most weeks. So far I'm making fairly measurable progress in terms of each time getting up a route, or at least further up a route, that I got stuck on the previous week. I was particularly pleased because one of those routes hadn't been graded the first time I tried it, and when I came back to it the following week it turned out to be three grades higher than anything I'd successfully climbed before (I still didn't quite make it to the top, but I got past the move I was stuck on, and I'm fairly confident that I'm going to make it to the top tomorrow).

I've been swimming a bit as well, both on my own and with [personal profile] sfred. The funny thing about swimming compared to most other forms of exercise that I do is that whilst I'm doing it it feels as though I'm going fairly gently and not working very hard, and then I get out of the pool and all my muscles go "gosh, that was bracing!". I think it's a combination of the water softening the impact of the motion, and feeling as though the only reason ones breathing is constricted is because of being underwater half the time, rather than from the exertion, and as Fred pointed out, not noticing that you're sweating, because it gets washed straight off.

I had my first singing lesson in ages last week, to get in a bit of improvement before choir starts in September. I'd forgotten how physical singing is when you're doing it right - I think my core muscles were getting more of a workout then than from the climbing!

I've also been enjoying various dinners. Last month I went to Morito with [personal profile] borusa and a couple of weeks ago I went with my sister to the Barbary to celebrate her birthday. They both do Middle Eastern/North African small plates on barstools overlooking the kitchen. Both were very good, and in both cases the aubergine thing was the high point of the meal. On that comparison Morito comes out on top, because their deep fried aubergine with date molasses and goat's curd was so delicious that I ordered a second plate of it instead of pudding. The crisp batter/melty soft aubergine texture contrast was heavenly, and the curd was light and fluffy but with a warm richness just made to be cut through by the sweet/sharp molasses.

Last weekend had more delicious food. On the Friday [personal profile] hjdoom was in town, so I had the fun challenge of finding somewhere good for a coeliac vegan to eat. We went for Itadaki Zen, the vegan Japanese place near Kings Cross, which is always fantastic. We had a mixture of small dishes to start, with lots of crunchy textures and umamish seasonings and sauces, then six pieces of sushi, all exquisite. My main was decent, but Oliver's tempura really won the day. I was especially excited by the vine leaf and the seaweed. On Saturday Ramesh & I went out for a very (very!) belated celebration of our anniversary to St Moritz. We ate all the cheese. And then we ate all the chocolate as well, because why not. I didn't think the fondue was quite as good as the late lamented L'art du fromage, but it was still basically giant pile of cheese, so hard to complain too much. On Sunday I'd invited Beryl, one of the St John's grandames, over for lunch, and then delegated the cooking to [personal profile] robert_jones, who did us proud with a lovely summery pea and basil soup, roast lamb that was just perfectly tender, and strawberries in balsamic syrup.

Tonight I'm dining with [personal profile] borusa again at Rok, and planning a dinner on Friday, when I've got the day off work so can pull the stops out a little bit. Then next week Ramesh & I are off to Amsterdam, where cultural and culinary delights various await us.
wildeabandon: photo of me with wavy hair and gold lipstick (Default)
2017-07-09 09:34 am

Squeee!

So I guess the high point of my weekend was being on stage with this charming gentleman...



Read more... )
wildeabandon: (books)
2017-06-23 09:22 am

Reading notes

Gosh, I've not done one of these for a while...

The Good Immigrant edited by Nikesh Shukla
This is a series of essays about the experience of being an ethnic minority in the UK. A lot of the ideas were things I'd encountered before, but all presented thoughtfully and engagingly, so it would be a really good starting point for someone who hadn't thought much about race relations to introduce themselves to some of the common ideas and experiences. But there was also a lot that was new to me. Thoughts about representation and tokenism in popular media, about the relationships between generations with different levels of integration, about colourism and casteism, and about the impact on ethnic minority children of growing up learning that stories are about white people.

Seed to Harvest (Wild Seed, Mind of my Mind, Clay's Ark & Patternmaster) by Octavia Butler
This is a collection of four of the five Patternist novels (the fifth is set in the same universe, but I understand doesn't include any of the same characters, and is disliked by the author). These are all exciting and easy to read novels, but other than that and the plot thread that runs between them, they have surprisingly little in common. Wild Seed is alt-history, Mind of my Mind is a near future story about psychic mutants, Clay's Ark is gritty apocalyptic stuff, and Patternmaster is in a distant future that feels more like fantasy than sf. They're all great though - lighter than Kindred, but still packed with ideas about society and hierarchy.

Starting Strength by Mark Rippetoe
This book has a phenomenal amount of detail about the anatomy involved in five major lifts - the squat, deadlift, overhead press, bench press, and power clean. A fairly tedious read, but one which I hope will make me less likely to injure myself.

Building a Bridge: How the Catholic Church and the LGBT Community Can Enter into a Relationship of Respect, Compassion, and Sensitivity by Fr James Martin SJ
I really like Fr James Martin, and his "The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything" is one of the best books about life and religion that I've ever read. This is a short book in two parts; first an essay based on a talk about how the Church hierarchy and LGBT Catholics can heal the divide between the two groups, and secondly a series of suggestions of bible passages and questions that LGBT Catholics and their allies might find useful in prayer and reflection. I liked the essay, although more because it echoed a lot of my own thoughts back at me than because I learned much from it. I think that the more traditionalist members of the church could benefit a lot from reading it and taking it to heart. I think that most LGBT people, especially those who aren't Catholic, would find the suggestion that they too need to show respect, compassion and sensitivity towards those in the hierarchy who have hurt and oppressed them quite frustrating. I have a lot of sympathy with that, but ultimately I think that Fr Martin is correct, both because we are called to love all our neighbours, not just those whom it's easy to love, and because I don't think we will see change any other way.
wildeabandon: musical notes on a stave (music)
2017-06-22 08:51 am

Hobbyish revival

Apparently it's the time of year for reviving old hobbies. I recently got to the top of the waiting list to join the London Gay Men's Chorus, so I'm going to be starting rehearsals with them in September. I'm a bit nervous about this, because singing in public is scary, but also really excited. I'm switching my piano lessons to singing ones for the time being, which should help with the nerves, and having external things to practice for will hopefully mean that I'm a more assiduous student than the last time.

Yesterday I also went climbing for the first time in years. I used to climb quite a bit when I was a teenager, and then about five years ago I tried going with [personal profile] emperor as a day trip from Ardgour, and found it depressingly difficult. Since then my strength to weight ratio has improved significantly, so last night I had a much easier time hauling myself off the ground. I was still distinctly conscious that the kind of strength you need in order to lift a heavy thing and then lower it five times before putting it down and having a break to recover is quite different from the kind of sustained effort you need to put in climbing a wall. I started with what was probably the easiest route on the wall, and then gradually increased in difficulty until I found a couple of routes that I made it up but just barely, and a couple more that I couldn't manage, but which are now on my target list for next time.
wildeabandon: "If God had intended for people to be bisexual he would have created two sexes.... Oh." (bi)
2017-06-15 09:32 am

Faith & Sexuality

I have said from time to time that although I have very little time for the idea that Christians in the West are somehow oppressed, I personally, in the circles I move in, am far more likely to be attacked for my faith than for my queerness. On reflection, I’m not sure whether that’s entirely true, or if it’s just that I’m more likely to feel attacked for my faith than for my queerness. (Please don't read this as being sure that it is false)

In the immediate aftermath of Tim’s resignation I started to feel defensive even before I saw any reactions, guessing what would be coming. And when I saw those reactions I got more so, and started poring over his letter, desperately looking for an interpretation that would mean that in his heartfelt prayers he didn’t believe my relationships were inherently sinful. I could have found it, could still find it, but somewhere along the line it became clear to me that although it was there, it was far from the most natural reading of the text, and why was I so desperate to find it?

I feel more attacked for my Christianity than for my queerness, but I think that might be a function of my expectations. When I get half-hearted support of my right to love those I love, to marry my partner, to be who I am, I compare it to the outright denial and bigotry that still exists in so much of the world outside my little bubble. When I see Pope Francis continuing to support the idea that gay men are unsuitable for the priesthood, I compare him to Pope Benedict, and make excuses for him.

Being a queer Christian is hard. I have very little time for the idea that Christians in the West are somehow oppressed, and acknowledge that the fact that I still can't get married is the fault of the church and not atheist queers. But I still can't get married, and it is an injustice that I suffer as much because I'm a Christian as because I'm queer.

There are readings of the bible in which loving sexual relationships between men are not sinful, but they are not the most natural reading of the text. There's an interpretation of Tim's resignation letter where in his heartfelt prayers he doesn't believe my relationships are inherently sinful. Why do you think I was so desperate to find it?

On a political level I entirely agree with the argument that what matters is how a politician votes, and what they campaign on, and on that measure Tim's record has been excellent. On a personal level though, I care very much about whether my relationships are actually sinful. I don't believe they are, but I am not as confident in that belief as I would perhaps like to be.

I am uncomfortable sitting with this uncertainty, and that discomfort is relieved when I allow myself to believe that my view is (or is becoming) the dominant one, and that views of same-sex relationships as inherently sinful are fading away. But I don't want to allow myself to believe comfortable falsehoods. I want to be able to hold in my mind the belief that Pope Francis can be less homophobic than his predecessor, and still think that my relationships are sinful, and be wrong. All three at the same time. I want to be able to hold that Tim Farron can be admirable for separating his private beliefs and political actions, and still think that my relationships are sinful, and be wrong.

I am uncomfortable sitting with this uncertainty, but I am going to try to stop making myself more comfortable by pretending that there is more support for my relationships from other Christians than there actually is, and maybe if I do that, I will find it easier not to feel personally attacked when other Christians are critiqued for their homophobia.
wildeabandon: photo of me with wavy hair and gold lipstick (Default)
2017-06-09 09:12 am

Good things/bad things

+ UKIP vote absolutely through the floor, and they have no MPs again.
- That pillock who used to lead them is still getting screentime.
+ Diane Abbott (another person with whom I disagree politically but have a lot of respect for as a person) was re-elected with a significantly increased majority, despite the media attacking her disproportionately for reasons which totally have nothing to do with misogynoir
- Zac sodding Goldsmith winning Richmond
+ Mhairi Black and Caroline Lucas both retained their seats (the latter with a considerably improved majority)
- A depressing amount of my twitter feed is Labour & Lib Dems snipping at one another for not voting tactically, and both parties claiming that they did so and the others didn't.
+ More female Lib Dems, including a woman of Palestinian descent. More female MPs in general. New BAME MPs and openly disabled MPs (although I'm not sure about numbers, I would guess they've probably gone up as well)
wildeabandon: photo of me with wavy hair and gold lipstick (Default)
2017-06-09 06:27 am

Well that was an election night and a half...

I've been up all night, which could make for an interesting day at work, but at least I've been drinking coke rather than wine. I'm not quite sure how I feel right now. Obviously I'm pleased about the LD gains (especially Jo Swinson and Vince Cable), and the Tory losses. And although I disagree with a lot of Corbyn's political stances, I admire him as a person, and the generally positive style of his campaigning. And I'm really pleased that, along with the French Presidential election, it seems like we might be seeing an end to the lurch to the right that we've been seeing across the West in the last few years.

On the other hand, I'm sad to see such a bit swing away from us in Cambridge, especially as I rate Julian Huppert highly as an individual, and I'll be very disappointed if Zac Goldsmith sneaks back in to Richmond Park (ETA. Arse. 43 votes ffs.) But most of all, I'm deeply nervous about what a minority Tory government backed by the DUP will be like, both in terms of the Brexit that it will deliver, and the sort of social and austerity policies it might pursue.

On the third hand, there was another vote in Scotland yesterday that I'm unequivocally pleased about, as that's a much shorter distance to go for a sacramental marriage than Canada.
wildeabandon: A gin bottle and martini glass (gin)
2017-06-08 01:12 pm

Further adventures in non-alcoholic beverages

One of the things I miss most about drinking is discovering delicious cocktails. Of course, non-alcoholic cocktails exist, and some of them are very nice, but a lot of them have the failure mode of basically tasting like a mixture of fruit juices, maybe with a hint of ginger or mint if you’re lucky. Don’t get me wrong, I like interesting fruit juice mixes, but they don’t feel like a cocktail.

Recently however, I acquired a couple of bottles of Seedlip, alcohol-free copper pot distilled “spirits”. There are two varieties with different selections of botanical. The first, Spice, has notes of allspice, cardamom, citrus fruits, and is quite similar to Opihr. The second, Garden, has notes of herbs, grass, and pea, and whilst I’m not aware of anything as similar as the Spice/Opihr comparison, there’s something a little Hendricks-like about it. Both of them make a pretty decent G&T. Spice goes well with a standard tonic and a dash of bitters, and Garden is lovely with Double Dutch Pomegranate and Basil.

In addition, the Seedlip website has a couple of downloadable booklets of cocktail recipes (Spice, Garden) which I’ve been working my way through. A lot of them call for ‘shrubs’ - a mixture of sugar, vinegar, and fruit. This may sound a little odd, but I find that it adds quite an interesting note, and really helps steer well clear of any “this just tastes like fruit juice” potential.

I really liked the Garden Sour (Seedlip Garden, apple juice, lemon juice, cider vinegar, sugar, and egg white) although did reduce the vinegar from 5ml to 2. I wasn’t entirely sold on the Peas and Quiet (Seedlip Garden, mange tout and fennel shrub). The Watermelon & Basil Sour was alright, but a little bit watery, so I think I might need a better shrub recipe. Of the spice cocktails, the Pennsylvania Dutch and the Persica (Seedlip Spice with raspberry or peach shrub respectively) were amazing. The Seedlip Switchel (Seedlip Spice, pineapple & ginger shrub & soda) and the Eliza Cholmondeley (Seedlip Spice, marmalade, & soda) were both pleasant and refreshing, but I think would be improved by substituting ginger beer or lemonade for the soda. The Spice Sour was pretty good, but not as good as the Garden, and sadly the “Martini” didn’t really work at all. I think that short drinks with these bases need something fairly powerful to stand up to the intensity of the spirit, and the brine/verjus combination wasn’t doing it. I also tried making a conventional dry martini using vermouth, but it had the same problem. Possibly a sweet one might work, but by that point you’d be stretching the idea of a non-alcoholic cocktail rather past breaking point.
wildeabandon: waffle with summer berries (mmmfood)
2017-06-02 08:41 am

Persiana

Yesterday we had Fr Daniel and Fr Justin and their respective spouses over for dinner and a house blessing. I was jolly pleased with the food. Other than the pudding, which was a reprisal of the rhubarb posset from Easter, everything was from Persiana which was a gift from [personal profile] borusa and [personal profile] cm a couple of Christmases ago, and is really rather good.

I made a pistachio and feta dip, then walnut, barberry and herb frittata as a starter, and pomegranate, split pea and meatball stew with a pearl barley, zatar and chargrilled vegetable salad. It was quite time-consuming, but everything except assembling the salad could be done in advance, so I wasn't too frantic on the day.

I did slightly regret not having replaced our broken food processor though, as there were an awful lot of herbs to chop. We'll be hitting up Which! shortly, but any personal recommendations gratefully received.
wildeabandon: photo of me with wavy hair and gold lipstick (Default)
2017-05-30 12:01 pm

Weekend

I had a quiet and pleasant bank holiday weekend. I woke early on Saturday and did a bit more clearing of the garden shed, resulting in enough free space to set up my gym in there, and did my first set of heavy squats for nearly a year. I was pleasantly surprised by how much strength I’d retained* although I predictably left myself rather achey for the rest of the weekend. I then went over to church at a gentle jog and met up with Fr Daniel for an organ lesson. We’ve recently lost a long term tenant and therefore taken a bit of an income hit, and were considering only having a paid organist some of the time as a cost-saving measure, so so I was going to see if I could reach a standard where I could usefully fill in. Things are looking fairly hopeful on the “finding a new tenant” front, so with a bit of luck I won’t have to inflict my playing on an unsuspecting congregation in the immediate future, but it seems like it could still be a useful skill to acquire.

On Sunday I had another early start, and then watched a couple of episodes of “Dear White People...” There’s a slight weirdness in that there’s an awful lot of continuity with the film (which I saw last week), to the extent of fairly lengthy flashbacks of verbatim dialogue, but there are also a few significant plot points where it diverges, and I’m finding that a little bit jarring. I really like that it explores the complexity of race relations from a variety of black perspectives, and for once the internality of the white folk is given limited attention. There is a slightly frustrating departure from this in the first episode, where Gabe, the lead character’s white boyfriend, acts like an arse and then gets all fragile about having his privilege pointed out, and the show seemed less critical of this than I might have expected, but despite these minor flaws, I’m enjoying it a lot.

That afternoon we had planned to investigate Sunday lunch at our new local, the Salisbury, but it turned out the kitchen was closed, so we went to one of our old haunts, The Old Dairy which lived up to my expectations of decent gastro-pub fare. Feeling quite replete I went for a late afternoon nap, and apparently the early mornings, or just getting old, had been catching up with me, as I ended up sleeping right through to Monday morning!

On Monday the soreness from the weightlifting kicked in a bit more vigorously, so I had a very gentle day, mostly soaking in the bath and playing piano, plus a little bit of productivity on the church accounts, and making a start on the scripts for the next installment of our readthrough of Game of Thrones.

*Work set at 72.5 kg, compared to a pb of 93.5, but I deliberately stopped a bit light of what I probably could lift, because it seemed safer to ease back into it.
wildeabandon: crucifix necklace on a purple background (religion)
2017-05-19 02:06 pm
Entry tags:

Understanding St Paul

I recently read “Paul: The Misunderstood Apostle” by Karen Armstrong on [personal profile] angelofthenorth’s recommendation, followed by a reread of Meeting God in Paul by Rowan Williams for comparison. Both were good, and left me with a deeper understanding of Paul’s writings, as well as of the context which surrounded it. I felt as though I got more out of the Williams, but that was more because the thing that it was doing was of more interest to me personally, than because it was a better book in general. To me the most marked difference between the two books is that the Armstrong felt like a history book with theological implications, whereas the Williams (based, as it was, on three sermons) was a theology book with historical underpinnings.

One thread that was common to both books was the emphasis on how radical Paul’s teachings were. He often gets characterised as a fuddy duddy conservative, misogynist and homophobic, corrupting Jesus’ message and making it more acceptable to the traditionalists at the time, but actually, in the context of the hierarchical worlds of the Roman Empire and the Jewish religious authorities, his proclamation in Galatians that “There can be neither Jew nor Greek, there can be neither slave nor freeman, there can be neither male nor female -- for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” would have been ground-breaking. Similarly, in Corinthians, where he says “The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does”, this was just common wisdom at the time, but to follow it as he does with “and in the same way, the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does.” would have been shockingly egalitarian. The whole letter to Philemon, in which he exhorts his friend to take his disgraced runaway slave back into his household, but as an equal, was turning the established order of things on its head. The question of how we square this with some other verses where he seems more sexist or pro-slavery is a difficult one, and Williams notes but doesn’t address it. Armstrong makes an argument that some of the other verses were later additions by another writer, and I don’t have sufficient knowledge to assess its robustness.

Both books are short and engagingly written, and both were improved by reading the other at a similar time.
wildeabandon: photo of me with wavy hair and gold lipstick (Default)
2017-05-15 10:25 am

Queer Art

On Saturday I feel as though I managed to get a good couple of months worth of queer art into one day. I met up with [personal profile] hjdoom, and first we went to the Jo Brocklehurst exhibition which was showing at the House of Illustration near Kings Cross. I'd never heard of her until [personal profile] ghoti_mhic_uait mentioned the exhibition last week, but a quick look at the website suggested it would be very much my sort of thing, and indeed it was. I particularly enjoyed the thread of genderfuckery which ran through so much of her work, as well as the vivid intensity of the colours, and the evocation of a world that I was just a bit too young to be part of, but always felt I should have inhabited. This was its last weekend, but if it goes on tour then I wholeheartedly recommend it.

We then headed south to the Tate Britain to see Queer British Art, 1861-1967. As you'd expect from a hundred years of different artists, this was more variable in both theme and quality than the Brocklehurst. I found it really interesting seeing how what could be made explicit and what had to be coded changed throughout the years (although unsurprisingly given the times, there was always more of the latter). In particular, I liked that a lot of the 19th century art were very obviously homoerotic to a modern audience, but weren't seen as such at the time. [personal profile] hjdoom made the remark that it was nice to see how much of the art had a quietly domestic focus - this particularly stood out in the work of the Bloomsbury set, and made a pleasing contrast to the stereotypes of their wildly bohemian lifestyles.
wildeabandon: photo of me with wavy hair and gold lipstick (Default)
2017-05-10 10:14 am

Life snippets and reading notes

Oogh. Somewhere in the last year or so I seem to have completely lost my erstwhile ability to drink truckloads of diet coke and fall asleep anyway, so I'm now functioning on very little sleep. I think I'm going to have to institute a "no caffiene after six pm" rule.

The new job continues to go well. I'm out of the honeymoon period, and people are still generally helpful and lovely, but I'm now confident that they're not just putting on their best behaviour for the new guy. I'm now firmly past the stage where I'm just learning new things, and feel like I'm making substantial and concrete contributions (although I'm definitely still asking questions at a formidable rate, which I hope isn't annoying my team too much!)

I recently finished reading a couple of books by Samuel Delany. The first one, Hogg, can only be described as violent hardcore pornography. It was disgusting and vicious and visceral and vile, even by my generally open-minded standards. It was also fascinating and compelling at the same time as being deeply uncomfortable reading. It invites comparisons to Lolita and 120 Days of Sodom, and also reminds me, in its exquistitely written journey into a pit of depravity and unpleasantness, to [personal profile] hjdoom's novel "This is not a Love Song".

I followed that with one of his earlier and shorter SF offerings, Babel-17, and whilst the deftness with the English language is a common feature, they couldn't be more different in terms of content and ambience, and reading this was an unalloyed pleasure. On one level it's classic science fiction with a fast-paced plot and spaceship battles and intrigue and betrayal, but on another it's a work of poetry and an exploration of the psychology of trauma, and a love song to language.