Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Michael's Awesome Mum episode 1

It may come to the surprise of few who follow my ramblings on a regular basis that my mum is, frankly, awesome. As you might expect from the first woman in her family to go to university, who scored top marks in the wrong exam she once took by accident, and whose Double First came easily, relatively speaking. Not to add her long standing SF geekdom - she wrote her school book project on Wyndham's The Crysalids. Or her wonderful cooking, adored on...about three continents.

Or the fact that, due to her expertise, she can smell someone at the back of a bus smoking some illicit drugs, and tell not only the quality of the drugs, but where they come from.

She's an academic historian, you see, who currently specialises in the adulteration of quinine and like medications in the 19th and 20th Century. This means she gets to go around the world giving conference papers and research for books which she is, to date, the only qualified person in the world to write.

And for perspective, she does all this, despite having been diagnosed with polyneuritis when I was about six. Think arthritis, but of the nerves. When I was six, there was very little known about the illness, so Mum had to take early retirement. She kept going though, and by the late 90s, acupuncture relief was available. This was designed to get sufferers to enjoy a normal life best they could.

Mum's response was to go back to work. And then take on more days. And more classes. And do more research. And wind up back fall time, taking on higher importances jobs by the year.

And she does this all with this stupid illness, having the highest work ethic of anyone I know bar none. My response to a migraine is to curl up in bed! Mums response to losing all feeling in her hand is to travel to Chicago to look at their university records!

Coupling the travails of world class travelling academic, and top class SF geek, Mum has met many famous people, and remains brutally honest about all of them. One trip down South wound up with her hearing the call "Stop that kid" only for a child to dart past her as she was talking to another, swiftly followed by an older woman and an old man struggling to catch the child before it ran out into a vast shopping mall. Between the three, they just about caught the runaway toddler.

Mum was my Mum. The older (than mum) woman was Lis Sladden. The old man was Nick Courtney. And the kid? Sophie Aldred's.

All lovely, charming folk I'm assured.

Oh, and the one mum was talking to at that moment? Someone in full Dalek regalia, who tried to help but was overcome by both his outfit and laughter.

This sort of thing only happens to mum.

So, on a recent trip to the US, she may have topped even that. I can't mind where on her trip it was, but a studio were filming on the campus and as a result,  the library she was working in was closing early. So mum was on her way to the library that morning, when who should she see in a car outside the library, but Samuel L Jackson!

A bit surprised, she said "Goodness, its Samuel L Jackson!"

A passerby woman turned and told her "Nah, it can't be!"

At which point Jackson leaned out of his car window and announced in his unmistakable booming tones  "Fuck right, I'm Samuel L Jackson!" He then gave both of them a big smile.

An American friend has pointed out the unfairness of this, as they live in the US and have never bumped into Jackson.

But that's just what Mum does.

Sunday, 18 November 2012

2012 In Memoriam (part 2)

Here I find a passage quoted from one Loveman(2) who says "In Poe one finds (it*) a tour de force, in Maupassant a nervous engagement of the flagellated climax. To Bierce, simply & sincerely, diabolism held in its tormented depths a legitimate and reliant means to the end". This appears to me to have no meaning.M.R. James, in a letter to Nicholas Llewellyn Davies, a student.

I believe the warning in it to be one worthy of taking on board (as well as being noted for being one of the finest put downs recorded). Let's hope there is no slipping into ostentatious warbling within the tributes now.

So war heroes, personal heroes, writers, actors, politicians, song-writers: all equal in the final parting.

Friday, 9 November 2012

For Francis, Armistice

"When the war ended, I don't know if I was more relieved that we'd won or that I didn't have to go back. Passchendaele was a disastrous battle – thousands and thousands of young lives were lost. It makes me angry. Earlier this year, I went back to Ypres to shake the hand of Herr Kuentz, Germany's only surviving veteran from the war. It was emotional. He is 107. We've had 87 years to think what war is. To me, it's a licence to go out and murder. Why should the British government call me up and take me out to a battlefield to shoot a man I never knew, whose language I couldn't speak? All those lives lost for a war finished over a table. Now what is the sense in that?"Harry Patch

So, Armistice Day approaches again. Before long, we'll pass the century of what it marks. The ubiquitous poppy is out on sale everywhere, and worn with pride by many.

The war to end wars hurt every family in the UK. And many other countries worldwide, we were not alone in that grief, but I can only speak on such a personal topic on a personal level.

Saturday, 3 November 2012

Semi-Defending Liverpool FC

(previously written in various forms on the Gallifrey Base "Liverpool in Crisis" thread, where I am one of their long running non-fans...)

When done properly, club and fan are a symbiotic relationship, both helping the other.

I feel the same about Thistle - they may drive me up the bloody wall, but when my granddad died, they provided emotional support for my family, when I had my first breakdown, several of their fans got me out of the house and into a friendly environment to improve my health a lot quicker than it would have. And when they were in trouble, on the pitch I cheered as loud as my rubbish lungs would let me, and gave as much money to the club's funds as I could. Symbiotic help.


Friday, 2 November 2012

The Football Blether pilot

(This is, as you might guess, a pilot of a thing I might do more often if people like. Instead of long rambles about football, just a few snippets here and there, with links to news stories and articles you might like.


Thistle's start. Not the League cup exit, or losing to Raith parts. But being 2nd in the table in November keeps a wee bit away from relegation for now, and some of our wins were achieved with such swagger and attacking brilliance that it is nice to see other teams and the media pretend we are promotion contenders for a little while longer before Dunfermline run away with the league. Enjoy every Indian Summer if you don't get many, I say!

Dortmund beating Real Madrid 2-1. In fact, Real's league performance, seeing them so many points behind Barcelona!