Monthly Archives: October 2005

A resolution

I realised something today. I realised I’m too much of a blogging perfectionist, and I’m allowing that to spoil my blogging pleasure.

I take a fair bit of pride in my writing – it’s something that on a good day, when the planets align correctly and I put a lot of work into it, I can actually do pretty well. This was a large part of the reason why I started a blog. But, of course, once I’d started it, the pressure was on. If I’m writing for public consumption, I ought to get it Right. That means interesting, well-written posts only.

Unfortunately, I’ve realised that it’s come to mean a degree of perfectionism that just isn’t fun any more. Not only do I not make posts about the minutiae of my life because they don’t seem interesting to anyone who doesn’t happen to be me, I don’t even blog about deeper topics because there’s so much work involved in writing and rewriting to get them to be the perfect incisive critiques I want. I’ve stopped the kind of writing I used to do in my journal before I got this blog, the general rambles where I just wrote down whatever was happening in my life without caring all that much about how good the writing was. Any thoughts of doing that are submerged instantly in the mental image of people shaking their heads and tutting “Well, for a minute there I actually thought she was interesting and worth reading. Boy, was I ever wrong! Oh, well, one to cut from the blogroll.”

And I’ve realised I’m losing something enjoyable here. Not even just the writing, but the reading it back a month or a year later to remember what I was up to at the time and chuckle or nod over it. All that’s been sacrificed on the altar of perfectionism. I’m letting the best be the enemy of the good, or of the (heaven forfend) OK.

Which is ironic, really, given the title of this blog. I’m fine on the whole concept of good-enough mothering. I resist with most of the fibres of my being any notion that I should be perfectionist as a mother. Now it looks as though I need to concentrate on the concept of good-enough writing.

So, in future, I’m going to make a real effort just to write stuff down that I want to write down. If I really feel it’s too boring (or too personal) to inflict on the on-line world, then I’ll put it in my journal. But maybe I’ll make more of an effort to put the mundane day-to-day stuff on here as well. If anyone doesn’t like it – well, I might have to stop holding the gun to their head to make them read it. I guess they’ll deal with that.

In honour of this resolution, I shall report that this evening we tried Jamie with some of our rice at dinnertime, and let him have a go with a spoon. (He figured out how to feed himself finger foods when he was eight months old, so finger foods have been what he’s eaten from that point on. We’re all about the low-intensity parenting here.) He actually did surprisingly well at getting the spoon into his mouth and getting food off it. What he couldn’t figure out was the refilling bit of the procedure, and despite repeated attempts to demonstrate him, he just kept sucking on the empty spoon in an attempt to get the last molecules of flavour out of it. Until he got frustrated and started banging the plate on the high-chair tray and yelling.

All of which may not be of general interest, but was nevertheless exceedingly cute and impressive.

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Well, pull up a chair and call the cat a bastard

I just did one of those ‘What Character From Series Such-And-Such Are You’ quizzes, this one for Discworld characters. To my considerable pleasure, it appears I am my all-time favourite character, Nanny Ogg.

I shall now paste in the code that the webpage assures me will make my results appear. So this post will now be completed either by a rather nice picture of Nanny Ogg with some text of dubious accuracy explaining why I’m her, or by a ghastly load of gibberish (cue jokes about being unable to tell the difference).

You scored as Gytha (Nanny) Ogg. You are Nanny Ogg! A talented witch, able to make yourself at home wherever you are, and insist that Greebo is just a big softie. You enjoy drinking, a lot, and singing about a hedgehog. You have a huge family, and get your daughters-in-law to do most of the housework. You are kind and gentle, and help put people at ease.

Gytha (Nanny) Ogg

69%

Lord Havelock Vetinari

63%

Carrot Ironfounderson

63%

Esmerelda (Granny) Weatherwax

44%

The Librarian

44%

Greebo

44%

Commander Samuel Vimes

38%

Death

38%

Cohen The Barbarian

25%

Rincewind

13%

Which Discworld Character are you like (with pics)
created with QuizFarm.com

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Some more from Tunbridge Wells

After posting the last post, I rather belatedly got round to doing something I’d been meaning to do for several days, which is write a reply to the recent article ‘Lactose Intolerant‘ on public breastfeeding, by Christine Flowers.

(Edited even more belatedly, to a) get the title right and b) change the link, since the Philly Daily News seems to take you to a sign-in page rather than to the article itself, which is something I always find rather a pain. Instead, I’ve linked back to Hathor’s blog, where I found it in the first place. With apologies to anyone who’s been trying to read it in the past couple of weeks.)

Anyway, here is a copy of the e-mail I sent her:

Dear Ms Flowers,
I recently read your article on public breastfeeding in the Philadelphia Daily News, in which you expressed the view that breastfeeding women should either find places out of the public eye to do so, or else pump milk at home to take with them.

It’s not quite clear to me whether you genuinely don’t realise how much more difficult this would make breastfeeding, or whether you simply don’t care. (If the former, I’d recommend ‘Getting Off The Back Room Team‘ for a good account of the problems that caused one new mother, formerly of your way of thinking, to change her mind. And that’s even before we get to the issue of what mothers breastfeeding a second or third baby are meant to do with their small children while sequestered in the toilets for the time it takes them to feed their baby.)

However, the simple fact is that preventing women from breastfeeding whereever they happen to be with their babies does, indeed, make breastfeeding much more difficult. The result of this is a marked reduction both in the number of women who breastfeed at all and in the length of time for which they breastfeed. Thus, far more babies are denied the health benefits of breastfeeding.

Your policy on public breastfeeding is, therefore, harmful to the health of babies. And, yes, I’m afraid that does indeed trump your discomfort at the thought that an infant might be attached to a nipple somewhere in your immediate vicinity.

If public breastfeeding is to be banned because people feel that they have an inalienable right not to be discomfited, there’s also the small matter of where it stops. I have known people who, on identical grounds, feel that Bibles should be banned from hotel rooms, or even that shops selling religious items should be banned from public streets altogether. There are people who feel that couples of the same sex should not be allowed displays of affection, and there are people who feel this way about couples of the opposite sex. There are people who feel that women should never venture out in low-cut dresses or above-knee skirts, lest the eyes of others be offended by a glimpse of exposed flesh – there are, indeed, people who feel that women should appear in public only when veiled heavily from head to toe, or not appear in public at all.

And there are people who feel that it would be better if we all accepted that living in a free society means that people will sometimes do things that conflict with other people’s personal preferences, and if we wish to be able to continue doing things that other people might dislike, we may have to accept that others will sometimes do things we dislike.

In response to the hackneyed analogies with smoking, loud music and urination that you were about to trot out again, I would like to point out the simple and obvious difference that seems to have escaped you: It is not possible to avert one’s ears from sound waves or one’s nostrils from smells. The laws of physics prevent it.

It is, however, perfectly possible, and indeed astonishingly easy, to avert one’s eyes. Why not try it next time?

(I note that two weeks down the line, she still doesn’t seem to have replied. Lost for words, maybe?)

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Disgusted in Tunbridge Wells

(I don’t know whether they have that saying in other countries, so to avoid any confusion, I should probably explain that I’m not actually in Tunbridge Wells. Or, for that matter, all that disgusted. It’s an expression for people who write to newspapers.)

Some weeks back, I wrote a letter to the Guardian in response to this article by Carol ‘Oh, it’s only other people who aren’t allowed to be sanctimonious’ Sarler.

It didn’t get published, which is OK – other letters on the subject did, so at least her views weren’t allowed to pass unchallenged, which is what I really cared about. (Though it’s a shame that one of the letter-writers seemed to be out to prove Sarler right about the ‘sanctimonious’ tag. For the record, Ms Conway – my mother had a full-time paid job during my childhood, my sister and I were looked after by au pairs while she was at work, none of them would have been allowed to smoke in our house, and I don’t know or care whether any of them were spotty, given the utter irrelevance of their skin condition to their ability to take care of small children. Nor do I know or care who, if anyone, watched me take my first steps. I do, however, care about the fact that I had two wonderful parents who left me in no doubt about their love for me, who were fully involved in my life, and who did an excellent job of bringing me up, jobs outside the home and all. And, as a bonus, somewhere along the way it seems they taught me not to stereotype or be rude about people just because they happen to work in the childcare professions. Shame you aren’t teaching your children the same.)

Ahem. Sorry. Where was I?

Oh, yes – the letter I wrote. I wasn’t really expecting it to get published, so I wasn’t disappointed (sob, sniff). But, since I put a moderate amount of effort into it, I’d quite like it to be seen by someone other than me and whichever underling files ’em in the round file at the Guardian‘s offices (hmmm – that saying doesn’t really work as well with the advent of e-mail, does it?) So, for your entertainment or lack thereof, my comments on Sarler’s article.

I’m sorry to learn that Carol Sarler regrets her decision to work outside the home. (I’m presuming that that’s the reason for the sheer level of vitriol in ‘The mother of all excuses’, September 3rd. That level of anger at a harmless personal choice made by others is usually an indicator of deep-rooted insecurity about ones own life choices.)

Of course, it’s a shame that this has led her into the kind of ridiculous stereotyping she indulged in in the article. I suspect she already knows perfectly well how inaccurate her picture is of stay-home mothers spending their time in nail parlours while the children obligingly get on with their own pursuits. It bears no more resemblance to the average stay-home parent’s real life than the old image of the selfish, heartless corporate woman, abandoning her children to daycare while she climbs the career ladder, bears to the life of the average employed mother. Really, Sarler should have known better than to write such rubbish.

But, for her own sake as well as the sake of parents everywhere, I hope she finds a more constructive way of dealing with her insecurities in future. This sort of petty bitching about other people’s lifestyles helps nobody, harms many, and distracts all our attentions from the genuinely important issues that parents have to deal with.

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Oh, and…

…my appraisal went fine. As much as I dislike the idea of having to document the ways in which I go about keeping up to date (using all the appropriate jargon and buzz words) just so that someone can pat me on the head for it and tell me what a good little doctor I am, the appraisal itself is a rather nice chance just to sit and chat about stuff.

There was one moment that I will reiterate here, as it so encapsulates what I hate about appraisal. (That and having to faff around getting the paperwork ready, but at least the latter is just something I hate as a time-consuming nuisance, rather than something I hate on principle.) I’d mentioned to the appraiser that one of the things I really liked about this practice was that there were other GPs here of about my own age and experience level. At the place I previously worked for three years, both the partners were men of around 50, and we didn’t have a lot in common beyond all being doctors at the same practice. I got on perfectly well with them, there were no problems, but we didn’t exactly sit around and chat about things. Although it wasn’t something I’d dwelt on, I did miss the kind of cameraderie that I remembered from my hospital days – just having other juniors around doing the same job that you could chat to, have lunch with, get together for an evening out with. (We haven’t managed the last one yet, but we’re working on it.)

So, when we got to the end of the appraisal and started filling out the form on which I was supposed to list my objectives for accomplishment before next year’s appraisal, she suggested that in view of what I’d said, I could put down ‘building a social support network’ as one of my goals for next year.

The hell I will, sunshine. Making friends and getting a bit of a social life is something I’m doing for fun, not because I feel I ought to. I’m buggered if I’m going to put it on the to-do list of things I have to tick off to keep government bureaucrats happy that I’m giving full attention to my Personal And Professional Development. Let’s keep that as Professional Development, thank you, and let’s keep my personal development as my own business.

I found a polite way of saying this that didn’t involve obscenities or predictions of sodomy (in fact, I think I said something dreadfully middle class and twee about how I ‘rather loathed’ the idea), and we left it at that.

Oh, well. That’s that over with for another year, then.

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House glee

We are (about to be) homeowners.

Having never actually bought a house before (I did the girly thing and moved into Barry’s), I’d forgotten that exchange of contracts isn’t the point at which we actually own the house. It is, however, the point at which everything becomes legally binding. No backing out, no demands for a few thousand extra, no changing the terms, no swoppies back. As of the 20th October, this house will become ours.

After all the general messing around, worries, bad feeling and last-minute panics, I’m not sure if ‘glee’ is entirely the right word for what I’m feeling, but there didn’t seem to be a musical term for ‘worn down to numbness by it all and just distantly relieved that nothing else went wrong’, so ‘glee’ will have to do. At least it didn’t end up being ‘House deceptive cadence‘.

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House progression

Let us consign to the trashpits of memory the adrenalin build-up of this morning as I fought my way out of the traffic I was trapped in within a mile of work (major crash on the ring road up ahead, judging from the amount of time I was sitting there and the ambulance that dashed past us), arrived late at work, and discovered that I’d had two extra appointments booked for the slot of time that was supposed to be left free so that I’d be on time for my appraisal even if I overran, and, oh, by the way, dear old Mrs Jones is here to see you again wanting an emergency appointment, so when the hell am I going to find time to make this phone call and get the money transferred?

Let us, instead, skip forwards and focus on the fact that it was indeed transferred. Or so the very nice man on the other end of the bank’s helpline assured me, before reading me some sort of Standard Disclaimer about their total lack of responsibility if ‘system failures’ then meant that the money mysteriously failed to show up in our solicitor’s account before close of day. If it does go through and everything else goes according to plan (believe me, I am vividly aware of the size of that ‘if’), then exchange of contracts will take place today. So I will get home tonight to find that either we’re once again homeowners, or my husband has been reduced to a gibbering wreck and collapsed in a heap sobbing “The contracts! The terrible contracts!” I can hardly wait.

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House accelerando

Well, after finding out that some of the necessary work on the house was less necessary than we thought, due to a misunderstanding about the age of the boiler, and deciding that in view of that we’d agree to the vendor’s asking price, and then getting into further disputes about indemnities for the road access and mains water supply and, by the way, just where was that document that the people doing the official searches were supposed to have come up with weeks ago… we were finally informed that, yes, the vendors would sign the indemnities their solicitor had been making a fuss about signing, and now that that was sorted out could we do exchange of contracts tomorrow.

You bet we could. Of course, it would mean coming up with ten per cent of the house price by tomorrow morning in order to make the downpayment, but that wasn’t a problem thanks to that nice man at the BMA who talked to me all those years ago – ten, in fact – about investing some of my money, and actually overcame my phobia of all things financial for long enough to get me to sign on the dotted line of a ten-year investment plan. Which had duly matured last month. Payment had shown up in my account on Monday. We were all set to go.

I logged on to our bank’s website for the formality of the few keystrokes and mouse clicks which would be needed to transfer the money from my account to Barry’s so that he could pay the solicitor tomorrow, already planning the relaxing evening with my e-mails that would follow the sorting out of this detail.

The ‘insufficient funds’ screen came up.

Repeated attempts at transfer were made, with the same result.

A call to the bank’s helpline yielded the information that, actually, transfers took seven working days to go through, and so we could expect the money by Wednesday. And, no, they couldn’t arrange an overdraft in the meantime.

Increasingly panicked discussion with the nice lady on the helpline, who had probably been treasuring hopes of a quiet evening before we phoned, eventually clarified that this information was not entirely accurate. The seven days in question had actually started three working days before the payment showed up on the website. So, the funds should be available for transfer by tomorrow morning. In which case, one phone call from me should get it sorted out tomorrow (since I’m not sure how secure the work computers are as far as financial information goes).

If not – oh, well. Sufficient unto the day, and all that. Meanwhile, tomorrow I also have to deal with my appraisal, which is now nearly a year late (good going on an annual appraisal) and without the correct documents, since the ones I’m supposed to have are currently somewhere in storage hundreds of miles from here. And with a PDP that consists of a few words scribbled in biro on a scraggy piece of paper. Think my appraiser will get the message that I’m really not too bothered about appraisals?

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But what about the maaaarriage phoooobic?

The general Crud Quotient of Tuesday a couple of weeks back was reduced yet further by finding, on checking my comments, that I had a new reader. I love knowing that people are actually reading this.

Trista, the reader in question, is someone that I previously encountered when she commented on the Leery Polyp about her partner’s labour. I was interested enough in her comment to track her back to her blog, where I was pleased to see that she not only has a lovely new daughter, but she is also a Harry Potter fan. So I left a comment about Book 6 on her blog. I’m presuming that it’s from there that she found this blog. Either that, or she found it via some other route by total coincidence, which would mean the Internet is smaller and scarier than I thought.

I’ve had more comments since then, from new readers and old, and I’m delighted about those as well. However, the reason Trista is getting special mention (apart from the fact that I actually started this darned post two weeks ago when she was the only person who’d commented) is because, when I went back to her blog to see what was going on in her life, she’d just mentioned a theory that I thought was rather interesting. Namely, the idea that all homophobic rhetoric resides in a “But what about the children? We must protect the chiiiiiiildreeeeeeen!” mentality. (Mocking tone mine, BTW, original thought hers.)

Which, of course, got me thinking about to what extent this was true and whether I could think of any examples of incidences that didn’t fit that pattern. Whereupon I promptly realised that this tied in beautifully with something I’d read the previous day in the Sun (one of our lower-level tabloids, for the non-UKian readers) and had vaguely wanted to rant about but hadn’t quite figured out how to lead into. How’s that for good timing? (Well, admittedly it would have been even better timing if I’d actually managed to finish writing this darned post at the time. But better late than never, and all that.)

The article in question was about the Army’s latest decision concerning gays. In a refreshing deviation from expected tradition, that line is not going to be followed by a story of cringe-making homophobia. No – it seems the Army’s latest plan is to allow ‘married’ gay couples to live in Army accommodation for married people.

(I put ‘married’ in quotes there because, although the Sun kept referring to married gay couples throughout the article, my understanding was that what’s being legalised in the UK is not actual gay marriage but civil contracts, or something of the dull and official-sounding sort. Exactly what the difference is in practice, or whether there even is a difference in practice, I don’t know. If anyone actually has a clue on this subject, by all means enlighten me.)

Anyway, regardless of whether or not it’s the same as straight marriage in the eyes of the law, it seems it’ll be the same in the eyes of the Army’s accommodation offices. Gay couples who marry will be able to claim married accommodation in the same way as straight people can, it appears. Which had, of course, got the Sun‘s knickers in a bunch, because, well, can’t go giving gay people the same rights as straight people, can we? But they hadn’t – and I didn’t think about this until now – taken the “But what about the chiiiiiiildreeeeeen?” line. Their line was that it Wasn’t Fair.

It was unfair, they claimed, to committed but unmarried heterosexual couples. For example – what about a couple who want to marry but can’t because one or the other is still encumbered by a previous marriage and the divorce is taking a long time to come through? As well as all the other disadvantages of this situation, they’d be unable to claim the same marital accommodation that a married gay couple can now claim. And this, say the Sun, is unfair.

And, yes, it is. But it’s unfair in the general life-is-unfair sense. It’s unfair that some couples are stuck in a situation where, however much they want to seal their lifelong commitment to each other with an official ceremony, they simply aren’t allowed to do so, and it adds an extra dash of unfairness to the pot when they run into practical disadvantages as a result of being unmarried, such as losing out on the option to move into decent accommodation with most expenses paid. You know, it’s really terribly obliging of the Sun to provide such a good illustration of why gay marriage should be allowed. (Oh. Wait.)

But the thing is – a straight couple who are already unable to get married and hence to claim married accommodation aren’t any less able to do either of those things just because a gay couple now can. There isn’t a finite amount of marriedness in the world that is being unfairly stolen from the straight couple by all those upstart gay couples who weren’t really entitled to it. There is, admittedly, a finite amount of married Army accommodation in the world, but that doesn’t mean an automatic cause-and-effect between the ban on straight unmarried couples and the new permission for gay couples. The ban on unmarried straight couples claiming married accommodation existed already, and allowing gay couples to claim that accommodation doesn’t make unmarried straight couples less able to claim it than they already were.

There is absolutely no benefit involved to anyone in considering this to be a zero-sum game where, if one person isn’t entitled to something they want, everyone else ought to be prevented from getting it as well because It’s Not Fair otherwise. It’s very natural to feel resentment on seeing someone else able to get what you desperately want but can’t have. But assuming that other people ought to be prevented from getting something just because you can’t have it – that’s just childish.

I did at least feel some sympathy for people in that position, though, unlike those in the other example the Sun came out with. Plunging further into sheer silliness, the journalist asked rhetorically: what about couples who were simply living together, committed to each other lifelong, but who didn’t see a need to make the position official by getting married?

Well, what about them? When they discover they can’t get the accommodation they want without getting married they will, by definition, be transformed into couples who do see a need to get married, that’s what about them. And it’s then up to them to do the necessary. Considering that the necessary, in this case, is two visits to the local registry office (one to get the licence, one for the marriage ceremony) and a smallish fee, I think they’ll find that this is perfectly feasible.

I was all set to rant about people who “don’t see a need to get married” but expect to get the same privileges as married people anyway, before it occurred to me that there isn’t really much point in ranting about figments of the Sun‘s imagination. I suspect that couples who plan to spend the rest of their lives together but refuse to make it official even if that’s all it would take to get them a decent house don’t actually exist outside these sorts of ill-thought-out articles. However, since the concept of people acting this way did at least provide me with a decent title to this post which I can’t be bothered to change, I will say: just in case there’s anyone out there who really is being that silly, get over it. And if you can’t, then at least stop blaming gay couples for it.

(Come to think of it, maybe Trista was right after all. Maybe the link between her “But what about the chiiiiildreeeeen?” theory and the Sun‘s article is that the Sun‘s line was actually “But what about the people who just want to act like chiiiiiiildreeeeeen?”)

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