"Your time is limited so don't waste it living someone else's life.
Don't be trapped by Dogma which is living with the results of other people's thinking.
Don't let the noise of other's opinions drown out your inner voice.
And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition, they somehow already know what you truly want to become."
- Steve Jobs

Monday, November 09, 2009

Strictly a load of X-Factor bollocks, the dumbing down of a nation with Mainstream Media co-operation

I am still trying to break my car-crash rubbernecking addiction to the Daily Mail website, although I *DO* surf other news websites too. One thing I've noticed over the past few years, particularly on the Mail website, is the rise and rise of "headlines" pertaining to the manufactured and staged "controversies" on TV "talent" shows. These "controversies" have grown alongside the headlines, and they now feed off eachother to the point that these TV shows are now grossly distorted parodies on the scale of WWF for fakeness. They also command FAR too much space in our newspapers at a time when we should be concerned with far more important events.

It's now a vicious circle that has to stop. If I see one more headline that is a play on "Strictly" I will scream. If I see those stupid-assed Jedward monsters once more with their stupid-assed hairstyles, I will scream louder. If people are still banging on about Arlene Phillips and Alesha Dixon I will plant a sparkly stiletto in their eyeball. I am refusing to read all the pontificating in the media today about how these two untalented twats have yet to be booted off Cowell's moneymaking machine that is the X-Factor. It should really be renamed "The £££ Factor". Viewing figures are at 14 million, which is nearly a quarter of the goddam population FFS. The TV producers are rubbing their hands at the ratings, Cowell is laughing all the way to the bank, people who can genuinely sing (but are still nothing spectacular) are going home in tears after being beaten by talentless twats who are being kept alive by a dumbed-down society who find it amusing to let the "underdog" win through. Or in the case of f*cking "Strictly", some overweight unco-ordinated fading TV star who couldn't dance for shit.

The SuBo fiasco really did explode the link between the media and these TV shows. Ridiculous amounts of column inches were devoted to the sheer amazement that, OH MY GOD, an UGLY woman has a talent! Ugly fat hairy people can sing! Have we been so brainwashed that our perception of talent is inextricably linked to beauty and physical perfection? Appearances on Oprah, bloody Demi tweeting about her, American fan frenzy - all because an ugly bint had a modicum of talent. Sooooo overrated. Gordon Brown trumpeted how he called Cowell up to ask how she was doing after her breakdown - a puerile PR stunt geared to try to make him appear trendier in the eyes of his dumbed-down country (who never even elected him in the first place). Parents of 19 year old young men blown to bits in Iraq spoke loudly of how Mr Brown had never phoned THEM to ask how they were coping with the loss of their sons. It seems a fat hairy bint who could sing was of more importance to our Glorious PM.

What they fail to realise is that on building up the untalented twats such as Jedward, they are setting them up for a nasty fall when they are discarded by those who promised them everything. How many have we already seen thrown into the gutter and reviled by those who once loved them and voted for them? Gareth Gates anyone? Michelle McManus? Jedward know they can't sing. Some say they are "enjoying it while they can". But they are young, naive, pumped up by the Yes Men around them and convinced of their own Star Immortality. Deep down they probably believe that they will become real bona fide stars, that Cowell will somehow transform them into Timberlake. That they can't POSSIBLY be dropped because the entire country seems to "love" them. But it's only a matter of time.

Anyways I digress, and I care very little for these idiots who thrust themselves into the spotlight and allow themselves to be royally butt-fucked by TV producers and Cowell. My main rant is that we as a country seem to be forgetting the more important issues, drowned are we by so many "headlines" about such insignificant and staged twaddle. Banks are still giving out massive bonuses, RBS is accepting yet another Govt handout. We pay more tax than the rest of Europe on our Diesel fuel. Our unelected Prime Minister is still wrecking the country. Feral Chav Breeding is on the rise, the family unit is breaking down irreversibly, Obama still hasn't closed Guantanamo (Yes We Can! Er it seems not....), and the Middle East Wars continue. The rich get richer, the poor get poorer and have more babies that my taxes keep paying for.

Do these Strictly X Factor Bollocks headlines help to keep the nation diverted, pacified, and hypnotised from reading and even caring about the utter shitpond the country - the world is floating in? Do our media and TV people care so little about lending a huge helping hand in the mass-dumbing down of an entire gullible nation? Newspapers all need a massive kick up the arse and they need to knock heads and collectively make decisions to ignore certain "headlines" and especially certain "celebrities". How much paper has been wasted printing shit about Britney, Lindsey, Paris, Peaches?? Insignificant specks of humanity on the global scale of things. But while our Nation of Stupids continue to be interested in these twats, the media will feed off them to make money. It truly sickens me. And yeah you'll all post on here saying "well you're just as bad as you're ranting about it".

It's just very worrying when more people vote for talentless twats than vote for their Country's leader. Maybe we should turn the General Election into a Talent Show, where all the party leaders have to slug it out in Jello while wearing bin liners and trying to sing Karaoke to Britney. It's about the only thing that will get the interest of our foetal-brained Public.

As from today I will endeavour to stick to REAL news websites such as truthout.org, which provides uncensored unbiased real news reporting from around the world. It just means there won't be as many amusing links posted on my Facebook :P I'm sure you'll all survive.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Forget Hollywood heroes, here's a real one......

Tom Cruise may be playing the Last Samurai on the big screen but in Taiji, Japan, American Nicholas Hensey is the Last Samurai on the present day reality stage.

Since September 29, Nik has been hunkered down in the southeastern coastal village of Taiji, Japan, home of some of the world's most vicious and cruel dolphin killers. Each day that he is there, the killers become angrier and more threatening. On October 3rd, some sixty Striped dolphins were rounded up and slaughtered with knives and spears.

Nik and his two crewmembers Brooke McDonald of Canada and Morgan Whorwood of Britain disrupted the hunt with their cameras. They were attacked by fishermen and then arrested by local police. There were no charges and the trio was released. Their continued presence discouraged further dolphin drives until October 23 when some thirty Mellon headed whales were seen being driven into the Bay.

Nik, Morgan and Brooke began to bang rocks together to distract some of the whales away and seventeen of them were able to escape the drive. The other thirteen were penned to await slaughter. On the evening of October 23, Brooke and Morgan departed from Taiji. On October 24, Nik found himself alone in Taiji when the slaughter began. He climbed the cliff to film the slaughter and this resulted in an attack by fishermen who began to hit him with sticks.

[b]He stood them down and at one point challenged any of the fishermen to a duel with kendo swords. These are bamboo swords used for training in the art of Japanese swordsmanship. Nik has been a student of Kendo for some time. "If you want me to leave, I will, if you beat me in a duel. Who's up for it? Which one of you dolphin killers wants to have a one on one with a man and not a defenseless dolphin. Bamboo swords and no armor?" There were no takers[/b] and later that evening Ric O'Berry arrived to reinforce Nik's efforts.

Ric O'Berry is a world famous dolphin defender who has spent nearly four decades working with dolphins and Nik was happy to see him arrive. Since October 1st, the Japanese fishermen have slain 60 Striped dolphins and 13 Mellon headed whales. Last year during this period they had slaughtered hundreds of dolphins so clearly Nik and his crew have had some impact. Nik Hensey has now spent nearly a month in this hostile and violent village of dolphin killers. He intends to stay. Sea Shepherd is working to recruit reinforcements to back him up in the field. It is our intention to carry this campaign throughout November to save as many dolphins and small whales as possible.

To learn more about what you can do, visit the Sea Shephard Conservation Society's website at

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Why DO babies turn so many brilliant women into slummy mummies?

By Helen Kirwan-taylor

slummy munmmy

The other week, an old friend arrived at our house for dinner.

She is a feisty Oxford graduate who was once beautiful, but she was wearing a skirt that was way too tight - because she had filled out - and she hadn't bothered to redo her highlights.

My heart sank when I saw her because I realised that here was yet another clever, pretty woman who had chosen to sacrifice herself and her marriage to motherhood.

Why is it that when so many women become mothers they turn into boring frumps with one-track conversational minds that rarely stray from the oh- so fascinating subjects of nurseries, nappies and (lactating) nipples.

These women infuriate me. They think they are doing what's best for their children when, really, they are committing the worst form of self-neglect, and insulting their marriage into the bargain.

Most of the women who think having a child entitles them to become unattractive, undesirable and uninteresting are, inevitably, British.

Somehow, women in the rest of the Western world manage to maintain their weight and minds while raising happy children.

And they are also more likely to keep their husbands.

When I had the first of my two sons 15 years ago, I could have abandoned the gym and hairdresser, opted for baggy clothes and ceased to have adult conversations, boring my husband rigid with baby talk.

But I was sensible enough to know this would be the road to disaster.

I instinctively knew it would be better to wait for him to come home for dinner than to succumb to the temptation to eat with the children at 6pm.

Yes, it is hard work to maintain your looks and interests when you have small children, but it is something women just have to do.

It might sound brutal, but this is a short, but crucial juncture in any relationship. Women have to see that their marriage matters as much as their children.

At a time when divorce is on the rise and families are breaking up, it seems even more important for women to --consider their other halves.

Men have a profound interest in their own children, but they also have adult sexual human urges - women ignore them at their peril. When a woman puts her child first, she is making a choice.

For every mother with greasy hair and a flabby bum (even though she can afford gym membership) who has lost interest in herself and the world, there is a husband ready to go on the prowl.

WHY DO men sleep with their secretaries? Because they really do want to talk about work.

Children are part of a family. But they are not the family. They are not an excuse to drop standards. Women who prefer the company of children need to ask : 'What am I avoiding?'

They are avoiding life and opting out of adulthood.

Yes, children need stimulating, but they are not entertainment. Nor are they an excuse to let yourself go.

Happy mothers groom! Show me a slob and I'll show you a depressed mother. Recently, a male writer suggested that something resembling a lobotomy happens to even the smartest of women when they reproduce.

He complained that his wife, who once performed in a competitive arena, dressed to kill and kept in shape - who even liked sex now and then - morphed into a frumpy, middle-aged, asexual, insanely dull woman after having their first baby.

These complaints were met with an avalanche of vitriol.

Criticise a mother and you might as well thwack a defenceless, sick animal with a baseball bat for the reaction you can expect.

Trouble is, you might just have a point.

I have many girlfriends who started life in the fast lane, got degrees, landed big jobs and great men, got pregnant - and then it all went pear-shaped.

Many never lost the baby fat (they didn't try). The slinky underwear and heels never came out of the wardrobe again.

And husbands who had to work twice as hard so their wives could pursue a full-time career in babies could not even look forward to having dinner with their wives.

The women had started eating with the children and then (to make the babies sleep), some even got into bed with them.

It came as a huge shock when their husbands started to stay away or, in some cases, found someone who would stay up past 8.30pm.

I remember the point ten years ago at which children became a cult.

Women started going to pre-natal, toddler, organic baking, yoga and parenting classes.

If you were in the sect, you had no shortage of friends, but anyone who suggested there might be a whole (normal) world outside (including me) got shot down.

Men just cowered and complained (to each other).

But when women give everything to their children, they lose part of themselves. The truth is - and no one will admit this - that men dread talking to these sorts of women, let alone be married to one. My husband is one of them.

Adults gather together in the evenings to discuss grown-up things.

Though our children are a huge part of our lives, they are an intimate and private part - and should remain that way. In my parents' day, women were expected to join in conversations about politics and literature (they could talk babies afterwards with the other women).

Mothers today consider children a topic that must be discussed at all times and in all places.

I call it narcissism. When a mother talks to me about her children beyond the polite five minutes - unless it is for important reasons - I consider it insulting.

Women bond through intimacy. The new school of sloppy mothers aren't sharing: they're bragging.

They're saying we have no time to brush our teeth or comb our hair because we have such an important job. We're better than you. Sorry, but how is it that European women manage to raise non-violent, happy, confident children and still look fantastic?

I recently went to a retreat called the Hoffman Process where no one was allowed to discuss their real identity. For seven days we didn't utter a word about our children.

We had to start conversations based on our life experiences, ideas and feelings. I left knowing these people better than some female acquaintances of 20 years.

Many women use children as a shield to keep other people from getting too close. It looks benign because the subject (babies) is cuddly, but it's almost a hostile act.

I also know women who only discuss children with their husbands to avoid dealing with the real relationship they have.

Children are not oblivious to being used as an excuse for not getting on with other things.

We live in a society where children are pushed to the brink in a host of ways.

Meanwhile, their mothers check out of normal adult society altogether.

Living through someone else is a psychological illness, not a badge of honour.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

It takes guts to say: 'I don't want children'

Cameron Diaz always struck me as sensible. Maybe because she never joined Scientology, or married anyone patently ridiculous, despite toiling for a decade and a half at the coalface of Hollywood A-listiness. Maybe because she gives a damn fine impression of not taking herself too seriously.

Last week, Diaz proved herself especially sensible. I'll go further. She was wise, insightful, right.

The actress told Cosmopolitan magazine that being a woman and admitting you didn't want children is taboo. "I think women are afraid to say that they don't want children because they're going to get shunned ... I have more girlfriends who don't have kids than those that do. And honestly? We don't need any more kids. We have plenty of people on this planet."

Diaz, who is 36, didn't go as far as to say that she definitely does not want children. But to be openly, loudly undecided on the issue - at the point when her biological clock should be ticking so loudly that she can hardly sleep, eat or think about anything else - is to be brave enough, frankly. It's an admission that invites suspicion and pity. To be a thirtysomething woman in 2009 and not want a child so desperately that you think you might die is simply not allowed.

In February, I wrote a column for Observer Woman about not wanting children. I am 37, nearly a year to the day older than Diaz and I just don't. I never have.

Unlike Diaz, I did not know that voluntary childlessness is an unacceptable crime to cop to. I thought I was merely expressing an opinion. I thought that people who want - or have - children, would accept that I do not, just as I accept their choice. After all, it's my (notional) babies I am rejecting, not theirs.

I was wrong.

I stated my case. I listed my reasons, even though it annoys me that the child-free have to justify their status. No one ever asks a parent why they have kids. But I explained that I like my life as it is, my lifestyle, my career. I explained that I had felt this way for 30 years - and that even though all the things that were supposed to change my mind (love, a long-term relationship, pressure from breeding contemporaries) had happened to me, I remain resolutely childless.

I explained that I like the potential of my childless existence: to travel, sleep, read, drink, watch HBO box sets, have feckless fun.

I talked about how difficult it is to be child-free, when popular culture fetishises parenthood in general and motherhood in particular. When the dramatic arc of all TV dramas, of all rom-coms, is dependent on someone becoming pregnant and finding true happiness as a consequence. Babies are the newest archetype on the happy ending, therefore not wanting them is tantamount to not wanting to be happy.

I talked about how weird it is to be disconnected from this baby-crazy culture. Like being sober while everyone else is drunk. I talked about how strange it is to not even care whether or not I'm infertile, when apparently it's all anyone else thinks about.

Was I antagonistic? Possibly. I tried not to be, but I am passionate about this. I was certainly a bit sensational, a bit flippant. The headline referred to the rise of the "dummy mummy" generation - an inflammatory turn of phrase.

The reaction to the piece was terrifying. Emails and letters arrived, condemning me, expressing disgust. I was denounced as bitter, selfish, un-sisterly, unnatural, evil. I'm now routinely referred to as "baby-hating journalist Polly Vernon".

So yes, Cameron Diaz, I can tell you from experience that you are right. Admit that you don't ache for children with every fibre of your being and you will be shunned. Shunning's the tip of the iceberg. I wish I'd been shunned. Shunning would have been blissful, relatively.

The furore's blown over; my childlessness endures. I've registered a gender split in the way people respond to it, if it comes up socially.

Women might think I'm in denial, but they let me get on with it now. Men, meanwhile, are astounded. Flummoxed. They become aggressive, sneering. They psychoanalyse me, they try to work out what's wrong with me. Who knows why? Perhaps they feel rejected. Perhaps the idea that there are women at large who are not actively pursuing their sperm is an out-and-out affront to a certain kind of man. The same men who have spent years believing that all women secretly want to trap them into commitment and fatherhood, probably.

For whatever reason, I've been pulled up on my wanton childless status, loudly and at length, by three different men, in three different pubs, over the course of the last fortnight alone.

Here's the thing: we need to stop pretending that childlessness isn't happening to us. It is. The birth rate in Europe is in steep decline. We know this. We know that, currently, 40% of UK university graduates aged 35 are childless and that at least 30% will stay that way permanently. We know that much of this childlessness is involuntary or, at least, unconsidered, the consequence of infertility, a lack of opportunity or leaving it too late.

But some of it will be like mine - cherished, rigorously maintained, valued. For everyone's sake, it's good to have that sort of a blueprint on a life without children. Childlessness is going to be a feature in many of our lives; we need to start seeing it as a choice, a valid option, rather than a failing. We certainly need it not to be taboo.

We need to stop making the voluntarily childless feel like they have a guilty secret. We need to stop shunning or vilifying the likes of me (in this instance, at least), and, much more importantly, Cameron Diaz and her mates.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Trouble with Single Childfree Women

Found this post here: http://unmarriedestate.wordpress.com/2009/07/22/the-trouble-with-single-childfree-women/

Great blog!


They must be stopped. They are dangerous. American society has a fear of single childfree women. Can you really blame them?

Most people are under the impression that once a woman reaches a certain age (usually before 30), she is supposed to “settle down.” That is, she is to get married and get on with the baby-making. However, those who follow the settle-down advice often find themselves in a quandary. They wonder why adjusting to this supposedly perfect family life is so difficult. They wonder why the marital bliss that everyone promised would naturally flow their way has been so elusive. So what is the reason for all of this? According to this author, when a woman gets married and has children her life as she knows it is over. This is a life she has spent 5, 10, sometimes 20 years building. She loves her family, of course, but she begins to resent her husband and children for the unhappy state of her life. Because traditional family life is so over hyped, women are led to believe that NOTHING, not friends, volunteer work or a great career, can make them happier than marriage and children. The part they never mention is that some women are already happy. They have wonderful lives, they are financially independent and socially active and perfectly content. Some women are beginning to realize that they do not want marriage or children. They like their lives as they are.

It is these women that are dangerous. Because unlike other women, they cannot be shamed, blamed or tamed.

The culture demands that we tame independent women, but since we can’t brand them as witches and drown them anymore, we must find some other way to diminish their power. So we shame women by calling them sluts for having the audacity to take control of their own sex lives, to ask for sex when they want it and tell their partner how they want it. We shame women for using contraceptives and abortion, which allows them to enjoy sex without the consequence of motherhood. We scare them with the image of the old hag that grows old alone and tell them that they will never attract a good man if they keep having all that enjoyable sex and working at that fulfilling job that will never love them back. After the shame comes the blame. “Unhappy, little girl? It’s your fault. If you would just do what we say, get married, have the kids, and go broke buying clothing, beauty and diet products, you would be happy!!!” Single mothers get the brunt of this. Single motherhood is blamed for every social ill you can possibly imagine: crime, drug abuse, high school drop out rates, and low college attendance among certain populations (black people and poor people – which many believe are the same thing). The solution for the federal government is to coerce poor mothers into get married, while the Wedding Industrial Complex sells happily every after to the middle and upper class women.

Once women are shamed and blamed, they can more easily be tamed. The shame leads them to stop having free and active sex lives and focusing on those great careers. The blame leads women to look for husbands and mortgage their house to pay for the perfect wedding. And once women have been shamed and blamed into submission, they are tamed and are no longer a threat.

The single childfree woman is immune to this. She has no interest in marriage, so she is not shamed into thinking she will never find a husband if she has sex before marriage. She has no desire to mother so she cannot be blamed for society’s ills and will never be guilt tripped into marrying her child’s father simply because the government believes marriage is better. She will not quit the job she loves because she is made to feel guilty for working and paying another to care for her children during the day. She is truly free. She cannot be tamed. And she is not alone. As of the 2000 census, there are about 5.3 million of her.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Terminator Salvation review

T4 started badly when they didn't use the original theme tune, which is sacrilige....Superman Returns managed it, why not T4?

They seriously need to get Cameron or Ridley on board with this franchise. I found the plot to be thin, two pointless characters in the Moon Bloodgood girl and the mute little kid. WTF was the point of those two? No real character plot around them at all, apart from her seemingly letting a Terminator go free because she fancied him. He was a Terminator yet she immediately trusted him. They are killers and they will decieve and do anything to achieve their ultimate goal. Yet she "listens to his strong heartbeat" and decides he's OK.

The swimming Terminator worm things were such a ripoff from Transformers it was unbelievable. All I could think of was the little evil Transformer when I saw them, they even made a similar noise. Bale's John Connor seemed to lack any sort of Gravitas or authority, which he commanded in Reign of Fire as the leader of the last dregs of humanity against the Dragons. And he randomly jumps out of a troop transporter into the sea (carrying his gun and with earpiece intact) at the EXACT location of a submerged submarine, to go chat to his superiors? Gimmie a break, why not just radio them?

Considering that humanity is supposed to be blown to shit, they had a surprisingly efficient little resistance going on. A fully manned airbase with power and seemingly unlimited aviation fuel to power all their jets and helicopters? And nothing was attacking this base that was lit up like a Christmas tree? That would have been wiped out by HKs long ago. They even had top of the range flat screens and technology too. Everyone seemed well fed, fit and healthy. Where was the starvation and desperation seen in T1 when you see Kyle coming back from duty into his underground bunker, and observing the misery and hoplessness of people on the brink?

Too much stuff was stolen from the first 2 films aswell. The scene where Connor comes back to his base and everyone stands up out of respect as he walks by - from T2. The crawling Terminator torso chasing Connor just like in T1 chasing Sarah. The frozen Terminator covered in molten steel, would have been totally melted - like when Arnie was lowered into the steel in T2....but no, this one survived and did a copycat routine of Robert Patrick trying to walk while frozen, only this time it was molten steel not ice. Connor backing up and trying to fire at an oncoming Terminator, just liek Sarah in T2. And I'll forgive the old line of "I'll be back" as that *has* to be thrown in ;)

As for the CGI Arnie - utterly gratuitous and pointless, although very cleverly done.

The only thing that impressed me was Anton Yelchin/Kyle Reese. I remember he was in Spielberg's "Taken" as the young Jacob Clarke, and he pulls off Reese perfectly in this film. He has the hunted look in his eyes, the wiry strength and the solid determination to survive. Shame he had to drag around the mute pointless kid in every action scene.

Lots of explosions, lots of noise, all helps mask a paper thin storyline. If they are going to do another instalment I hope to hell they get a better team on board. Bale usually impresses me but this time he faded into the background, eclipsed by Yelchin, who seemed more of a leader than John Connor ever would be.

Also, the radio controlled Terminator motorbikes rocked....

Sunday, May 03, 2009

My entire BH weekend RUINED by kids/bad parenting

I really think there should be designated "Child-free" days at a lot of attractions, paraticularly ones that aren't always "kid-friendly", ie stately homes and gardens. There was talk of CF days a London museums but I'm not sure if this has happened. I had a day out at Blenheim Palace yesterday - a place I've always wanted to see - and it was ruined by kiddies/bad parenting.

Admittedly I knew what I was in for - it was a special day of jousting and falconry which I wanted to see, as well as to finally tour the house and grounds. So I knew it would be full of kids. But OMG I seem to be growing more and more intolerant of their presence. The Jousting was sub-standard which was a shame as I LOVE watching it, and was more theatrical "for the kiddies" than any serious jousting. Before it even started we were subjected to 10 minutes of kids being invited into the arena, given pretend swords, then paraded around for a couple of laps while screaming "we are soldiers of the King!" while proud parents videotaped them to death. Anyway I'll not whinge about that cos that was totally expected to be kid-dominated TBH.

My beef was whn I was touring the actual house. The first hurdle wasn't even kiddie orientated! I drove thru the gates and paid for entry with my card, they gave me a receipt and a guide leaflet. I get to the entrance of the house and the woman asks for my ticket, I produced the card receipt, the leaflet and said I wasn't given a ticket. She looked at me like I was a bad smell, examined the receipt, and said snottily "well I shouldnt' really let you in". :shock: :shock: :evil: :evil: WTF?? "Er, but there is a debit card receipt dated 10 minutes ago to prove [b]I HAVE PAID!!!![/b]". She finally allowed me to go in and sternly told me to take my backpack off my shoulders when walking around. Nice. Welcome to Blenheim!

So I go into the first State room which has letters written by Churchill all over the walls. Having read his early autobiography I was keen to browse these. But oh, the room was full, and the first thing you hear is a grizzling bored child making that horrible crying/whiney noise that they do. After shuffling around in the crowd, trying to get to the letters to read them, and finally being unable to shut out the grizzling child so I could concentrate on the letters, I gave up and went to the next room.

The next room had kiddies in it, talking loudly, asking stupid questions (loudly), and one of them had covered the information panel with his colouring book so I couldn't read it. Daddy saw me leaning over the kid and peering at the panel but did he tell little Timmy to move? No. Onto the next room. Crying child. Parents looking at tapestries and half heartedly shusshing quiet child. Tranquility ruined by screeching. Onto the next room. More kids, more kiddie babble. Pleas for ice cream - REPEATEDLY. Parents ignoring the incessant noise disturbing the peace.

And so it went on. I was incapable of lingering for long in each room to drink in the history of the place, I simply coudln't STAND the kiddie babble. So I went upstairs where they have a new feature which is a remote control audio tour of 6 other rooms where the doors open and close themselves and voices, anamatronics and video talk you thru some Blenheim stories. It was excellently done but RUINED. Initially I was the only one waiting for the next tour to begin, but just as I stepped into the first room, along came mummy daddy and little Tabitha. :evil: :evil: :evil:

Sure enough, after a few minutes litening to the narrative in the first room, the kiddie-babble began. Loudly. Parents feeble efforts to shush her didn't work. The next room, kiddie was quiet. The third room, kiddie was bored and started crying - like the really LOUD clarion foghorn crying. By now I was past giving a *bleep* and I turned and glared fully at them. They then tried to shush little Tabitha to no avail, buy now her nose was running and she gurgled as if she was drowning in snot. The door to the next room wasn't due to open for another 2 minutes, and here I was trapped in a room with such noise as to make me want to remove my ovaries with a rusty spoon. After tolerating it for a little longer I cursed loudly under my breath and pushed the door thru onto the next room, thus missing part of the tour. After a few minues the door opened automatically and the screaming came thru so I had to push thru to the NEXT room, again missing that section of the tour.

In short, I ended up just walking thru the whole tour and pretty much missing it, because those selfish parents did NOT remove their child from the tour. :evil: :evil: :evil: :evil: :evil:

Down to the gardens and the river walk, and kiddies were rolling down the slopes and screaming as loudly as possible, while parents yelled at them or took video. Further down near the river where there was nothing to amuse kiddies, it was BLISS. I finally found a tranquil pocket after 2.5 hours of constant noise.


I walked along the river walk and noticed how most people just blandly followed the path, talking with eachother, never stopping to really LOOK and SEE the surroundings. Parents with kids rushed along, not seeing ANYTHING but what the kids were doing...."stay on the path, don't go near the water, don't throw sticks, wait for your sister, look at the ducks, put that down it's dirty". Meanwhile I ambled along and took in every detail.

I frequently strayed off the path and saw much more - different views, more flowers, and most of all - PEACE and quiet. It was almost a metaphor for how people live their life today. They blindly stick to the path and follow everyone else, while if they strayed from the path they could see some lovely things.

When I came to this Bluebell-coated ditch I had to stand there while daddy and mummy took photos of little Timmy and his brothers playing sword fights and shredding bluebells with their plastic swords. They saw me standing there, pointedly, with my camera, clearly waiting to take a photo but they didn't hurry along. No, they probably enjoyed the fact that someone was watching their precious unique stunning fascinating little brats destroy Bluebells.

Maybe it would have been better to get them to stand and look at the flowers and watch for insects and appreciate their surroundings, instead of encouraging them to run rampage and destroy it all. I still wince when I see kiddies charging at flocks of pigeons and scattering them all over whil mummy simpers and laughs. My parents made us stand still and watch while the pigeons came right up to us so we could see them close. You tell me which is the better behaviour to encourage?

I moved onto the Butterfly house, which was a new feature. Walked into the 80% humidity greenhouse and started hunting for butterflies. Cue mum, dad and pushchair. Loud voices MUM I CAN'T SEE ANY BUTTERFLIES....OOOH THERE'S ONE....WHY ARE ITS WINGS CRUMPLED.....CAN WE PICK THEM UP.

Now I'm not gonna moan about them being all loud and obnixous cos they are kids and that's just what kids are like but I *am* going to moan about how the PARENTS never told them to hush it down a bit and be mindful of other people in the area. Not everyone wants to listen to their kiddies opinions but parents don't seem to care. By all means encourage your kids to talk about butterflies but MUST THEY ALWAYS SHOUT and be stupidly LOUD!!!!!!!!!!!!! Same goes for when I was in the house itself......parents simply could not or did not instil in their children that this is a public place, an old stately home, and that they should have some respect for the surroundings and for the other people present who want to see and browse. And they should be a QUIET as possible, and not to shout.

Kids will always be boisterous and energetic but if they are never taught to have respect for others around them and taught the correct behaviour in public, then they will perpetuate this behaviour to THEIR kids.

I would have liked to spend more time butterfly hunting but trapped in a greenhouse with 80% humidity and noisy kids as akin to Guantanamo torture in my book, so I left. Went to the cafe for some food. £2.50 for a hot chocolate and £2.20 for a slice of cake, I don't think so!! Also as I walked in there were piercing screams coming from one corner, as another kid had a tantrum. I did an about face and all but fled the cafe. By now my nerves were in SHREDS.

All in all, my day at Blenheim was not 100% enjoyable. But would I be allowed to complain and get a refund? Probably not. I just wonder what parents would have said if I'd turned up with a group of girls, and proceeded to be all "loud, girly and hen night"-ish. I reckon parents would have tutted and moaned for England.

The only way I can enjoy these sort of venues is to go on a weekday during school term times. But my Thursdays are reserved for sewing stuff for Fuzzbutt so it's valuable time that I can't always give up for days out. Should places like these have kid-free days? Definitely - I just can't see it happening because as for so many of these places, they need as much money as they can get....and you can bet that attendance would plummet on non-kid days. Or would it??? Maybe they could have a non-kid-day that also welcomes more OAPS, or something.

I remember my parents taking us to some stately homes when we were kids but we were always told to be quiet, and if we weren't we got a sharp smack. I can't remember what sort of kid I was and whether I was a tearaway or not, but as youngsters we were never taken to places that mum thought would bore us, ie art galleries or "grown-up" attractions. We mostly went to steam engine rallies and beaches and coastlines as kids. Looking thru the family albums there are very few photos of us as grown-up venues. We loved beaches and exploring rock pools :mrgreen:

Would any venues in the future even dare to suggest child-free days, I wonder. For UK museums there'd not be an issue as they are state funded so don't rely on visitors to pay their bills. But other attractions need bodies thru the gates and would be afraid of isolating parents by pretty much saying "don't bring your brats". I also reckon that any designated CF day would be a weekday, so I'd still have to take time off work.

And [b]TODAY[/b] - well I'm just about to go downstairs and cook a whole stack of syrupy pancakes to try to de-stress me. Our local independent cinema was showing one of my fave musicals of all time "Singin in the Rain" so I went along. At a cost of over £13 including ticket and parking $19) Came in, sat down, then SEVEN KIDS and two adults trooped in and sat at the front. I nearly walked out then and there. Average age of the kids was probably about 5. I'm sorry but WHAT FIVE YEAR OLD wants to see a 1950s musical? Well quite simply, they didn't - the ADULTS did though. And the adults either a) refused to pay for a babysitter b) hubby was too busy c) hubby wasn't around. So they brought the kids with them, along with armfuls of bags of sweets to no doubt placate them, not realising a) the wrappers would make a noise and b) the sugar would make the kids restless.

Film begins - kids are curious and therefore quiet. Give them their dues, the majority of them were quiet and well behaved. But two of them (the youngest) were certainly not. 15 minutes and the little girl was standing up and talking to mummy. Mummy sits little girl on lap. sweet packages crunching. Little boy starts yawning loudly. Old woman next to me simpers and laughs. I nearly asked her WTF was so funny about a bored kid disrupting the film?????

25 minutes in - girl starts with the whiny voice, mum shushes her, girl keeps whing and mummy sits her on lap along with yawning boy. 1 hour in - girl is walking up and down the cinema aisle while mum ignores her. I go out and speak to the usher, tell him that two very young kids who are clearly bored, are disrupting the movie for me. Usher comes in and speaks to mum.

1 hr 15 mins and little girl is still wandering up and down the aisle. Little boy is still yawning loudly and thinking he's funny. Little girl comes back to mummy but stand ups, wanders around, sits on mummy's knee, wanders around again, kiddie-babble begins. By now I want to scream out loud and hit them all with my bag. I decide it's pointless to tell the usher again. Mummy simply didn't CARE that her kids were bored because *she* wanted to see the film. And yet *WE* get called the "selfish" ones for NOT having kids???

I'm sorry but when your kids are that young, if you want to see a movie like that, GET A DVD and watch it at home. Then your precious angels can scream and run around as much as they want.

I'm so angry at the [b]sheer selfishness [/b]of it all. She eventually took them out on the very last scene, and she slammed the autitorium door nicely after her too. Then as we all filed out, one of the kiddies could be heard in the courtyard screaming like hell itself.

So my BH so far has been ruined. Tomorrow I'm at home all day sewing for Fuzzbutt, no doubt if I open my windows I'll hear the screaming neighbours kids all day. I *so* need to move out to the middle of nowhere :(

Right, time fo pancakes :evil: :evil: :evil: :evil:

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The family who are "too fat to work"


"They haven’t worked in 11 years, claiming their weight is due to a hereditary condition. Instead, the family spend their days in front of a television borrowed from a friend. Mr Chawner said: ‘We love TV. It’s on from the moment we get up. Often I’m so tired from watching TV I have to have a nap.’ "

Asked why they don’t simply go on a diet, the jobless Chawner family who are so obese their neighbours call them ‘the telly tubbies’ insist: ‘We don’t have the time.’



Their daily diet consists of nothing but fattening food with no proper nutrition. They lead sedentary lives, spend their days watching telly yet are "TOO BUSY TO DIET"??

And our Nanny State says "That's fine, we'll just pay you benefits". Why the fuck aren't they assigning this family a nutritionist and giving them food preparation and nutrition classes, under the threat of "if you don't attend we stop your benefits".

All their ailments are caused by their obesity, which will get worse if they are allowed to continue eating such an unhealthy diet. Then the NHS will foot the bill of all their problems in later life.

It seems to be easier to chuck benefits at them and forget about them, than to actually take some fucking action. With the amount of tubby kids up and coming in the new generations, how many more fatty families are we going to end up paying for, on top of the Chav Generation and the "I want a council house" teen parent generation?

It seems in the Government's drive to "halt the obesity epedemic", there is NOT ENOUGH preventative action being taken at all. Supermarkets need to halve the amount of rubbish food they stock, they need to remove the sweets from the checkout racks where they tempt kiddies to pester their parents. They need to put taxes on junk food and takeaways, and start a better campaign to promote fruit and vegetables.

Forget the "5 a day" bollocks, it's simply too confusing to most people. "2 pieces of brocolli is one portion of your 5-a-day!!" Sod off, the average witless chav won't understand a word of that, it's easier for them to dial Domino's.

Why aren't more celebrities coming on board to promote fruit and veg as "cool" and to make today's easily-led kids and gullible adults a bit more malleable to try fresher foods and to stop using the microwave? DUring the AIDS epedemic there were Govt sponsored ads about condoms, and also during the peak of the Heroin crisis. So if we really ARE in an "Obesity epedemic" then where the fuck are the "Eat fruit and veg" Govt sponsored adverts????????

They used shock tactics for the Heroin adverts, showing emaciated junkies looking half dead. So why don't we line up a group of severely obese kids, in front of a table full of their weeks' worth of crap food, then cut to their parents and a voice saying "why are you killing your children?" Cut then to a shot of the family from the Mail article above, sitting in front of their tellies wheezing and rasping and moaning they are "too fat to work but too busy to diet".

The PC Brigade would howl that we are hurting the kids' feelings by showing them as an example of fat kids. ER WELL THEY ARE FAT, perhaps shock tactics are what is needed here!!! And if we don't want to upset the kids then IMO there is NOTHING wrong with upsetting and shaming the parents who sit by and happily watch their kids eat McDonalds, Pizza, fizzy drinks, and anything BUT food that is good for them. "I don't know how to cook" is not an excuse. Buy a book, look on the web, go to classes, ask your friends. "We don't have time to prepare meals". Well try quitting watching endless soaps and Strictly Come Dancing, and spend some more time in your goddam kitchen.

And if you still simpkly can't be arsed to make the effort, then don't come crying to us when your 30 stone teen needs his stomach stapled and you want the NHS toi pay for it. Fuckwits.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Where the fuck have manners gone?

Just got back from the cinema from seeing Young Victoria....I assumed I would have an undisturbed performance as it wasn't the sort of film that young kids or Chavs would go to see. But I didn't figure for the bunch of fat housewives who had also come along and were sitting on the back row.

I guess I should have seen the warning signs when they didn't shut the fuck up during the trailers....or during the opening credits of the film.....or during the first scene. Despite turning round and glaring at them, did they shut up? No. Every scene they were talkinga bout, when Vic and Albert finally kissed they clapped and cheered, and their murmurings continued throughout the entire film. had there been any staff in the building who were over 16 and qualified to deal with disrutive clients, I would have gone and reported them. But the army of teens staffing the cinema clearly had no customer service training so it was pointless.

I don't fucking pay over £7 to watch a film that has incessant commentary by a bunch of overweight saggy fucking housewive witches.

If I wanted to know your opinion on the costumes and hairstyles in the film I'd FUCKING AS FOR IT. NOW FUCK OFF BACK HOME TO YOUR SHITTY FAMILY, UNGRATEFUL BRATS, DEADBEAT HUSBAND AND DEAD LIFE AND LEARN SOME FUCKING RESPECT FOR OTHER PEOPLE AROUND YOU WHEN YOU ARE IN A PUBLIC PLACE. Or next time I'll have some words for you that will be so fucking vicious you'll shit down the legs of your M&S fucking trousers. BITCHES.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Close Encounters - soooo retro!

So I finally bought the Collectors Edition DVD of Close Encounters (not the version with the "inside the spaceship" rubbish bit). I've not watched it for at least 7 years and last night while sewing a pile of Fuzzbutt gear, I totally enjoyed every minute of it. It's soooo utterly Retro now that it's almost in fashion again. How fab was it to watch a UFO film that didn't involve cellphones, internet, virtual-reality "minority report" sort of computer wizardry, and tons of OTT CGI effects. How cool was it to see all those chunky clunky computers using tapes and making clicking noises!!

The houses were blissfully Playstation-free and internet-free , the kids played with toys not XBoxes, kids ACTED like kids - not mini adults with bad attitudes who were spoiled and demanding, the telephones had dials on them, the music was played on record players not MP3s players or CD players. I felt totally old when I realised this was the childhood I grew up with. We read books and didn't spend hours staring at a computer screen, we weren't bombarded with constant TV images of raunchy pop stars, Z-list celebs, and sex sex sex. We were ALLOWED to be kids back then. Part of me yearns for the good old days of childhood innocence. But I digress!

What I found most remarkable though, in comparison with all other subsequent UFO films, is Spielberg's vision of another race coming to our planet, and we The Humans, receiving them in absolute peace, trust, and a dangerous sense of innocence. When the big Mother Ship finally appears over Devils Tower, there isn't a tank, gun, Army Major or camo-clad soldier in site. Just a bunch of scientists in white coats and Ray-Bans. Nobody is there to shoot or capture the aliens, nobody feels threatened or scared. Back then, America wasn't nearly as publicly paranoid and "Terrorist-fearing" as it is now, and I think this film reflects that. This film was before the PNAC was written, before the Reagans, Clintons and Bush's realised that by terrifying their people with fear propaganda, they could control them. Nowadays EVERYTHING is a threat to America, and just like the remake of Day the Earth Stood Still, you can bet that if these aliens came back to earth today they'd be met with suspicion, aggression, fear, and a fuck-off HUGE arsenal.

What I found amusing is they way the scientists in the film happily offered up a dozen red-silk clad people as Alien Donations.....not knowing what would happen to them if they were taken. It could be a fantastic step for human-alien relations, or these people could have the skin peeled off their flesh while still alive, and their reproductive organs melted or something. And why offer them more humans when the first thing the ship does, is release all the military personnel it abducted back in WW2?

I laughed out loud when I saw the preacher doing a final blessing on the "volunteers". Laughed because he was blathering on about how "God's Angels have come for you and will protect you". For even in the face of a REAL LIVE ALIEN SPACESHIP, these brainwashed bloody preachers STILL insist that they are "the work of God". Er I don't think so.

Then finally we see Richard Dreyfuss' character going into the spaceship. And apparently not giving two shits that he's leaving behind a wife and three brattish kids. To be honest that's probably why he went with the aliens, to get away from his screeching brood :D But in today's PC climate, woudl a father willingly go off with aliens for a potentially fantastic adventure? Or would he shed a tear, straighten his back and sob "I can't leave my children, they need their farther", before going back to living a humdrum life getting fat, worrying about money, screeching at his kids who grow more ungrateful with each passing year, and finally dying in an alcohol-induced stupor brought on by the tormented thoughts of "what id I'd gone with them"?

There's an alternative ending for you Spielberg!!! :D

PS was also nice to see lots of "minor parts" in the cast that were played by actors who later became big - Josef Sommer for one, and OMG LANCE HENRIKSEN how young does he look!!!!!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Ballet and kids DO NOT MIX

I should have learned my lesson when I went to a teatime showing of WALL-E last year. The cinema was like a fucking nursery. Kids wriggling around, kids running up and down the stairs, kids babbling, kids crying. And their parents doing nothing to stop them. And the cinema staff doing nothing to stop them (they were all teenagers and I'm betting, utterly untrained in how to deal with such situations).

So today I went to see Swan Lake. And I mistakenly bought a 2.30pm matinee ticket (all the best seats were gone for the PM performance). There were kids aplenty in the autitorium as it filled up. Uhoh, I thought.....a 3 hour ballet.....kids sitting still and being quiet for 3 hours inc intervals? Hmmmmm

Amazingly, every single child was quiet and well behaved. Except one. The minute the music started, kiddie-babble started. LOUD kiddie-babble. It was right across the theatre from my seat and I could hear it every time the music died or went to a quiet part, so Lord knows what the people sitting near said Kiddie thought. Luckily the music did drown it out a lot, but each time there was a dramatic pause, or the end of the music, there is was. Fucking inane kiddie babble. I thought to myself "OK, the parent will take it outside soon", but nothing happened. Nobody "shusshed", nobody did anything. End of Act 1 and it's interval time. Right, hopefully kiddie will be told to behave in Act 2.

Bullshit! Same thing all thru Act 2. Sadly I was stuck in the middle of a row so I couldn't get up and complain to the ushers. The ushers who were present during the performance but were doing NOTHING to silence this disruption. Isn't that meant to be their job?

Anyways, I was thoroughly enjoying the ballet. The lead dancer with his fabulous head of hair, even more fabulous thighs, and a rather dubious outline on his codpiece ;o) The lead ballerina was stunning in her grace and poise, my God these people have some muscles! And a chorus dancer guy who had legs longer and more slender almost than the lead ballerina :O

The "bad guy", Von Rothbart, was awesome in his head to toe skintight black ensemble, and feathery headdress - bloody hell that guy could leap across the stage! And I couldn't help but snigger to myself during the famous and much-ripped off Cygnet dance :D The costumes and sets were a marvel - sparkling headdresses and sequined bodices, and stunning scenery that was masterfully lit and accentuated with smoke machines.

All this was tinged with the background constant of Kiddie Babble. When the interval came for Act 2 I actually went and spoke to the Usher, pointing out that there IS, in fact, a child in the autitorium who is totally disrupting the show. Apparently I was the only person who complained, and I think the Usher just thought I was being a whinger (yea yeah Ok you lot, shut up :D ) She said they would try to find the child when the performance started again. Did she fuck. Act 3 and the kid must have been either bored or tired, so yep - the crying started. AND STILL THE FUCKING PARENT DIDN'T TAKE THE CHILD OUTSIDE. I watched as the usher just stood there, doing nothing. Then I just tried to block the noise out as the crying turned back into kiddie babble. Thankfully Act 3 had lots of loud music, and was a fab finale to the show.

I was aghast at the ignorance of the parent in not taking this babbling monster out of the show. I was even more amazed at the typical Polite Response of the British Audience - ie, not saying or doing fuck all, just sitting there probably muttering under their breaths. A few people were turning their heads and tutting, but it was only me who vocally complained. Maybe if more of them had said something to the Usher, then something would have been done. ie, a bitch-slap to the selfish parent who clearly loved her child being the centre of attention and didn't give a shit that it was ruining the performance.

Matinees - never again!

Monday, January 12, 2009

The joys of being single by Charlie Brooker

Sigh. Yeah, that's right. Sigh. Two years ago, almost to the day, I wrote a piece about the world's bizarre insistence on marrying me off, prompted by three separate incidents in which strangers chuckled at my shambling incompetence and suggested that what I needed was a proper sorting out, which could only arrive in the form of a wife. Cue much indignant spluttering on my part. For one thing, how did these strangers instinctively know I wasn't already married? Even gargoyles get hitched, sometimes. And for another, I didn't actually want a wife, thanks for asking.

Nothing beats living alone. Why shackle yourself to a fellow human being for the rest of your days? Because you're in love? Don't be a wuss. That'll fade after a few years and all you'll be left with is a walking catalogue of tiny, grating quirks gleefully pointing out your shortcomings. To avoid murdering each other, you'll have to keep yourselves anaesthetised with DVD boxsets and the occasional holiday. Life partner? Joy thief, more like.

But maybe that's a lie, the kind of lie you live by in the face of mounting evidence to the contrary. There are a billion valid reasons to avoid settling down, but the root cause of most commitment-phobia is something else entirely. Namely terror. Raw terror. The terrifying prospect of falling in love in the first place.

Love can be genuinely awful. Worse than the norovirus on a coach trip. When it goes wrong - and it usually does - it kicks a hole in your ribcage and voids its bowels in your soul. Get burned badly and from that point on, falling in love is like inviting a werewolf into your home: you sit there fascinated, watching it eat at the table and admiring your curtains. You make conversation and share private jokes. But try as you might, you're not quite relaxed and you're not quite yourself; you're on tenterhooks, aware that any moment now it's going to turn round and bite your throat out.

In the face of love's potential destructive fury, you're left with three options. 1) Pull down the emotional shutters and try to avoid it. 2) Find someone you admire or like, rather than love, and try to make do, rendering both of you miserable in the process. Or 3) Throw caution to the wind and gingerly place your fragile, beating heart in the hands of another human being and hope they don't crush it in their fist for giggles. On paper, the first option seems like the only sensible choice.

But gah and damn and blast and argh: it isn't. Not really. To carry it off with any degree of success involves suppressing all vestige of romance, which ultimately atrophies your insides and turns you into either a loner or a bastard, or some maddening, alternating combination of the two. And you can't entirely kill off the romantic impulse. When you're queuing in the supermarket on your lonesome, clutching a basket full of meat and veg, all of which has been carefully weighed and packaged into portions big enough for two apparently just to underline the folly of your isolationist policy, it's hard not to gaze enviously at the couples in front of you, even if they're bickering over a cheap jar of pasta sauce. They might be unhappy, but at least they're united by misery. The rest of us have to pick holes in ourselves. They get to share.

So maybe a wife isn't such a bad idea, I figured, as 2009 started to dawn. The problem is finding one. I've fantasised before about a society in which single people are assigned partners arbitrarily by the government.

But that's not going to work, because my checklist of desired attributes is impossibly lofty: I refuse to be satisfied with anything less than a clever, funny, misanthropic supermodel who spends 98% of her time ignoring my existence (because basic psychology dictates that nothing's going to maintain your interest quite like being dangled on a string for eternity), and the remaining 2% offering sickening reassurance. Thus far the universe has stubbornly refused to offer this up, and since no one on earth can possibly match up to this deluded ideal, which I don't deserve anyway, perhaps it's time to widen the net by aiming low. By which I mean below the realms of the human. Animals are out: they don't live long enough to make the social revulsion your union would provoke worth bearing. Unless you count tortoises, but they're too hard and aloof and ultimately unknowable to seriously consider settling down with.

No. A robot wife will do just fine. It wouldn't have to be terribly advanced: a crudely animated face on a stick offering relentless criticism and the occasional rude limerick would probably keep me sufficiently entertained to the grave. I'm aware even that might be aiming a bit too high. I'm not getting any younger, so give it a few years and I'll be content with a bag of gravel in a hat. Although just to keep things spicy, it'd be an open relationship: I'd let other men have sex with my gravel-bag wife, provided I could point and laugh as they did so.

Pour all your romance into a bagful of gravel? Yeah, I can see that. And it is, I suspect, the only conceivable future in which true and lasting happiness lies.

• This week Charlie bled all the radiators in his flat: "Which is as close as I'm ever going to get to a starring role in a Victorian steampunk thriller." He saw Che: Part One at the cinema "as part of an ongoing attempt to have some semblance of an outdoor life this year, even if doing that ultimately involves sitting indoors, albeit in a different location to the norm".

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Burning Man Blog Part 4

Where was I? Ah yes.....awesome evenings and dubious men. Need to get this blog finished before all memories fade!

Dubious men.. Met another one the following day as I was wandering back to camp from Centre Camp. He caught up with me on his bike and asked the usual "where are you from" etc questions. His name was Chris and he seemed a LOT younger than me. We chatted and he came back to the camp to meet the guys and he sat himself down then noticed my mirror I'd left outside my tent. Well that was it. He surreptitiously angled it towards himand checked his reflection......like, about 10 times during the next 10 minutes of conversation. I didn't think I was that boring! Anyways I resisted the urge to call him "Narcissus" and fling him out of the camp,but he eventually left. Yawn.

Then a guy camping nearby came to ask if he could nick a bit of our water, he was a Brit and worked for Google in San Francisco...he'd left his girlfriend in the UK to do his overseas 6 month stint and was loving it. He said his bird was fine with being apart for 6 months, which made a refreshing change from the usual "paranoid clingy girlfriends" that seem to exist today. Either that or she was happily off shagging other men while the cat was away.....

He said that the two Google founders were Burners, and that they allowed all their employees to allocate a percentage of their time to "their own projects that would benefit the world". This is a great ethos and I'm sure it keeps staff morale high. Not only to Google have the coolest offices on the planet, they also allow their employees a bit of freedom. If I ever am lucky enough to turn Fuzzbutt into a business then this is the sort of thing I would encourage for sure, as well as having a dead funky working area. It's good to see the next generation of CEOs bringing stuff like this to the workplace, and having a fresh new attitude.

During the remainder of the week I cycled round the Playa, took more photos, and sat and people watched. On Thursday I went out to pay my first visit to the Temple of Basura Sagrada.

The website for this Temple sums it up:

"We build art out of trash for many reasons. Our goal is to make something amazing and exotic out of materials deemed unworthy, the stuff we throw away everyday. And while it is obvious that making something beautiful out of refuse is a political act, the question we hope to answer with this project is whether it can also be a spiritual act. We believe that it can.

Basura Sagrada is a temple constructed entirely from burnable trash, recycled materials, and the tossed-off detritus of American society. Meticulously detailed, the temple will be a precious space created from non-precious materials. By replacing the gold and marble surfaces of traditional temples with aluminum can adornments and cardboard spires, we hope to inspire others to see everyday trash as beautiful, to save everyday trash and use it—not because it is responsible or right or necessary to recycle (although that is certainly important), but because people are excited about the materials and medium.

We believe that the material itself has an inherent value that can be unlocked in the right hands. We will attempt to unlock unprecedented levels of beauty, and do it on a scale that will blow people’s minds and function as a sufficient vessel for the hopes, dreams, memories, and losses of our community. We welcome intrepid visitors to this space to be a part of this grand experiment in trash alchemy."

And they totally achieved it. Basura Sagrada blew my mind. It was definitely the "Heart" of Burning Man. I visited it on Tuesday and on Sunday, the day of it's Burn. I walked around it, climbed its stairs, read every surface and saw what people wrote on it. Memories, tributes, goodbyes, pleas, angry rants, loving notes......even a hard-assed bitch like me had tears in my eyes as I read some of the things written there. People who had died tragically, people who were cancer victims, people who had gone missing without a trace, people who had been murdered or abducted. But alongside these upsetting stories were also tributes to parents, grandparents, friends who had lived long and happy lives and then had passed away naturally.

A display of hundreds of matchbooks stodd next to some photos and a story about somebody's parents, who had come to America long ago as immigrants, made their fortune, stuck together thru thick and thin, and had collected matchbooks. HUNDREDS of them. The story invited people to help themselves to a matchbook and remember the story of the two immigrants who came for a slice of the "American Dream" and achieved it, leaving a legacy of children and grandchildren behind. Mementoes were everywhere. Watches, toys, photos, clothing, things that had been placed there to be burned with the Temple, to be set free into the sky along with the memory of the person it belonged to. People achieving closure, people trying to get closure, people saying a final goodbye.

To see the full spectrum of what humans are capable of all in one place was very moving. I went from horrific stories of abduction and abuse, to beautiful writings of love and longing, gentle tributes to angry political rants. And all the while the sun shone, the various decorations of the Temple made out of tin cans and bottle tops swayed in the warm breeze, clinking together gently, as people wandered around and talked in low and respectful tones. A huge white kite with a long tail was being flown overhead, to me it represented all the spirits currently residing in the Temple that would be set free that evening when it was burned.

I sat on a lovely driftwood bench back on the Playa and watched people. A lovely lady with a glorious set of feathered wings and a feathered headdress, was dancing to the chilled-out music that was being played from a nearby art car. I took video of her which will be uploaded soon, she was amazing to watch. She moved her arms like wings and her smile was so radiant and full of joy, and people stopped to dance with her or just to give her a hug and be enveloped in those soft gentle wings. She was like a free Spirit of the Temple. A slim Chinese girl put her bag down and joined in dancing with her, mirroring her arm movements and smiling with her - that's what I captured on video. I cursed my shitty camera for only taking 20 second clips at a time. I'm sure "The Bird Lady" knew I was watching her from behind my sunglasses and I was partly terrified that she would come over, urge me to dance, or interact in any way with me. I was terrified because I thinkthat had she done this I would have just burst into tears, I was so totally taken with the whole atmosphere of the Temple. Even now, writing about it makes the tears prick my eyes, and I really don't know why. Guess I'm not such a hard arse after all ;o)

I wished that everyone could experience this and see the full spectrum of what humans are capable of. And learn from it. And fucking change their ways and stop destroying this world and eachother.

Burning Man Blog Part 3

Where was I? Ah yes, we'd just got into Black Rock City and the sun was coming up, it was 5.30am, and we'd gone all night without sleep. We decided to stay awake and just get the tents and camp pitched.

Drix was knackered so he had forty winks in the car and me and Jim set about building the camp (time-lapse movie of this is forthcoming!). Jim had devised a great scaffold shade structure so we bolted it together then fought with the canvas covers and fastened them into place. This took a good few hours, and meanwhile the City was filling up as more and more people arrived. They came over to say hi and have a quick chat, everyone was still so friendly :o)

Unpacking all the other camp gear took hours too - the table, the stove, the food boxes, hammering in the rebar to double-secure the shade structure....it was now about 11am and the heat was starting to filter thru as the sun got higher. But then suddenly the sun was blocked out by an oncoming dust storm....."oh it'll pass" I thought to myself - YEAH RIGHT :D

The storm settled in and stayed - like, for the rest of the day and through the night. Visibility plummeted, we donned goggles and dust masks, secured the shade structure even more, then attempted to pitch our tents. We took a quick break and went for a wander round the city.....it was very surreal, like a Nuclear Winter. Total whiteout, shadowy figures of other Burners wandering around, people on bikes, art cars coming and going into the dust, glimpses of neon or EL wire, and just the howling buffeting wind. It was exhilarating but by now I was so tired that I couldn't see straight. It was well over 24 hours since I'd slept!!

Drix walked right out to the Man and climbed up it - in the whiteout! Go Drix :D He said it was awesome and I wish I'd had the energy to go out there too and experience it. he saw a stretch Limo pull up at the Man and someone got out, climbed up and had a look around at the view, then got back into the Limo and it disappeared into the dust clouds.....I wonder who it was.....someone wealthy no doubt, trying to experience Burning Man without TRULY experiencing it by camping here, getting covered in dust, and leaving the Comfort Zone of their aircon Limo. IMO if you're not gonna embrace the dust then you're wasting your time coming along!!

Now it was getting dark, I was so tired and ready to drop where I stood. I started to get scratchy and irritable, and when the tent pitching proved to be a total windy nightmare, I snapped and barked at Drix as he tried to help....oops! He went off and left me to it. All three of us were very tired and Jim had started to hallucinate out of pure fatigue. We finally got the tents up and I just piled all my stuff inside (suitcases covered in dust but I was past caring), crawled in my sleeping bag, and tried to sleep. I was so tired I thought I'd drop off in no time but in true "first day" style, everyone was up and about with loud sound systems.

Earplugs were useless....and the wind was blowing so bad that the tent bashed and battered and flapped around me, it was so noisy. I just lay in a stupor and waited for sleep to take over, which it only did when the music abated at about 4am. So I had 3 hours sleep in total I reckon.....

I still had jetlag too and it wasn't until Wednesday that I had straightened out and started to feel a bit healthier. My body adapted to having bugger all sleep most nights, but crikey it took some adapting to the full force of the Nevada sun!!! Without my cowboy had and Factor 50 I'd have not made it thru the days for sure.

Now the constant desert dust started to work it's "magic" on my feet. By "magic" I mean it gets into every nook and crevice of your feet, and starts sucking the moisture out from them. All the sandals and shoes I'd brought that were comfy in the UK, started chafing and blistering my feet due to the heat and the dust. I'd already bought a new pair of slip ons because my normal sandals had started chafing in Vegas. Now these new ones, cos they were rubber (doh!), just made my feeet sweat and then chafe even more. Thank GOD I'd brought with me a big bottle of moisturiser - it really did save my feet from some serious crackage!

If you went barefoot then your feet would eventually crack and get very painful due to the moisture-sucking alkaline dust. I tried the hideous combo of socks and sandals which worked OK but after a few hours, still chafed and blistered. My hiking boots with thick socks were great but my feet literally boiled while wearing them, making my feet swell then they'd start blistering cos they were crushed into the boots. To sum it up, I couldn't win!! many an evening was cut short by my feet literally screaming in agony, which really pissed me off cos the night times were so awesome I wanted to just wander round Black Rock until dawn, but I had to limp back to camp and rest my feet, then rest them the next day so I could try to walk around more later on.

Thankfully I could cycle around the Playa during the day, but I had to strap some fleece onto the saddle cos that started to give me a right sore bum!! By the end of the week the streets were so pitted and bumpy I was riding standing up in the saddle anyhow, so the bum-pain became irrelevant :D

One thing a lot of people told me about Burning Man is "don't try to plan anything". And they were totally right! I had a list in my head of things I was going to do:

* I was gonna get up early to see the sun rise (I never did, it was too darn cold and I was always knackered in the mornings due to crap nights sleep)
* I was gonna record a video diary of as much as I could (nope, my camera battery wouldn't charge up so the only thing I could have used was my mobile which takes crap video)
* I carried a small book with me that I wanted people who I met to sign (chickened out due to being shy, and also CBA!!!!)
* I was going to drop into random theme camps and say hi (fannied out again!)

When you're at Burning Man you just go with the flow....depending on the amount of alcohol/sleep/painkillers you've had, the things you PLAN to do don't always happen!!! It wasn't until about Thursday that I started dragging myself out of bed early (but still not early enough to see the sun rise), cos I realised that the magic time of 7am till about 10am was great for a level of warmth that wasn't skin-blistering, plus you had the golden morning light, and the Playa and City were relatively tranquil and quiet.

Oh it was such bliss....cycling out into the desert, stopping off to look at the giant Playa art, taking photos, just sitting and enjoying the silence and the gorgeous cloudless blue sky....the only sounds were the crunching of my bike tyres on the surface, the rattling of the bike, the occasional swear word from me as I got beached in yet another dune..... :D One morning there was a hot air balloon just landed, I got some lovely pics of it - will get them on here soon I promise! Groups of Burners lounged around near the various artwork, chatting and smiling and saying hello as you cycled by. They'd probably not even slept yet but had partied thru the night (OK for them with no painful feet!) Black Rock has it's own airstrip and throughout the week, people parachuted into the Playa - what a way to arrive! Apparently the pilots would give free flights over the City to people if you went in the morning and asked them, but I fannied out again (BUGGER - next time!!!!!)

I spent my days cycling systematically down each street in Black Rock, checking out the theme camps, the art cars, the sights, the people. Lots of people - lots of semi naked people and some totally buck naked. OMG! At first I was a model of British prudeness, getting a shock each time a naked guy wandered by, but a couple of days into it I was like "yep, another naked man, another willy.....move along nothing to see here!" I was so desensitized to body parts that even a naked and rather buff guy with a pink mohican offering me toilet roll at the portaloos didn't faze me ;o)

I had to laugh when I reached the kid-friendly part of the City "Kidsville". Families were encouraged to camp near this area and there was lots going on to keep the kiddies amused. But about 3 camps down from Kidsville there were about 5 naked guys crowded round a BBQ having a jolly good fry-up. Hilarious. Wonder what mummy and daddy would tell little Timmy when he asked about the "naked men and their sausages"?? :D

One afternoon when the sun was at its worst and I was almost melting, I came across The Deep End....a dawn to dusk club with a bar, and a wooden scaffold platform for dancers, and THE most awesome dance music and vibe I've ever witnessed. How I cursed my bloody camera and its flat battery! The dancefloor was heaving with people, the sun beat down like a furnace and I was dying to get in there and dance but I knew I'd probably pass out. I found a spot in the shade and stood with my bike watching, utterly entranced....people walked by and encouraged me to have a dance - oh I wish I could have done!! But I could feel my ginger fair skin starting to really screech for some shade and cooling down - despite the factor 50. After 30 minutes of watching I had to go back to camp and refill my camelback, and jusst seek some shade to let my body temperature drop a bit.....I didn't want to risk any form of heatstroke and dehydration.

I tried to go back there later in the day when the sun was cooler but my typically shit sense of direction meant I kept bloody missing it....and cos it finishes at sundown, by the time I did find it, it was deserted.

Night time. OMG night times were utter mind-overload. I wanted them to last forever, I wanted to cut my complaining blistered whingeing feet off and replace them with prosthetics, so the pain would stop and I could walk around all night. I wanted to mug someone and take their Segway, I wanted to cycle but at night time it'd be lethal with all the dunes and bad visibility and the hassle of trying to find your bike in the dark or lock it up if you went for a wander.

Night times were a vision of EL wire - on clothing, on art cars, on theme camps. Propane flames blasted from some of the art cars, there was a fire stage devoted to fire dancers, with 6 huge propane burners that threw out huge blasts of flames at random intervals. Music pumped while the fire dancers took turns to take the stage with fiery hoops or poi or huge batons or 5-spoked flaming torches......fucking awesome to behold. Glowsticks, coloured neon, music of every genre could be heard....Playa art was lit up to spectacular affect, the Man in the distance blazed neon, the lack of light pollution meant that the stars in the sky were an umbrella of light. Roars and cheers were heard from the very popular Thunderdome (more of that later!)

I walked out into the middle of the Playa so the City was far off from me. I stood enveloped in the darkness just looking and listening. The night air was warm, at least 20oC. I watched the colours of the City flickering and blinking in the distance, listening to the cheers from the open air club with it's huge screens, as the DJ let rip with another awesome track.....a burst of propane flames lit up the surrounding area with a bright orange, then died away.....across the distance, another propane art car answered it with a replying burst. The gentle evening breeze blew the strains of Frank Sinatra past my ears, then it was gone.....then more heavy pumping bass......then a snippet of Martin Luther King's famous speech......"I have a dream". If you've not yet listened to his full 20 minute speech then do it (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PbUtL_0vAJk) - it's mesmerizing....the way he speaks, the powerful words he speaks so beautifully.....his words drifted towards me across the dark Playa:

"Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado!
Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California!
But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia!
Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee!
Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring."

Such relevant words to all at Burning Man, we all just want to be free, to live in a free world that is uncluttered by all the crap and corruption that is crippling it and us today. I sat in the desert under the stars with the biggest grin on this earth on my face, totally overwhelmed by the visual and mental overload going on in my brain. Photos and film just cannot capture what was before me.

Whilst wandering one night, an impromptu fireworks display kicked off near the Man. I stood and watched, and got chatting to a random young guy who was standing near me and watching too. We started to chat and walk together, and after a whie I grew a bit suspicious. he seemed to have lots of stories .....first he said he was here cos his brother had died earlier in the year, and he had been a Burner, so he wanted to experience what his brother had. Then he said he was a woodworker by trade....then later he said he'd just completed Police Academy.....then he said he worked as a plain clothes shop detective.

WTF? Make your mind up? When I challenged him about exactly what job he DID do, he said that the store detective was a kind of fill-in between Police Academy, and the woodworking thing had been "earlier on". His next tale was about how he'd inherited a load of land. As yet I'd not even bothered to ask his name and I was rapidly discovering he had the personality of a garden gnome. He didn't ask me much about myself - I considered telling him I was a genetic engineer/dolphin trainer/polar ice cap researcher, just to see if it made a dent......

One of the biggest art cars came near us so we sprinted to get onto it. It was a huge bus that was hinged in the middle and had a platform on top that pretty much was a nightclub! It heaved with people, the bus below was full of people, UV lights, and oh joys - TV screens showing hardocre triple dildo porn action :O We headedupstairs and enjoyed a ride out to the Playa, people watching and chatting. A drunken girl clapped her eyes on him and they started talking, and I realised that we were being taken WAY out into the depths of the desert - argh! I was stuck on a nightclub bus screening porn, with a personality-less guy who was more interested in chatting to a drunk girl (I think he'd realised he'd not got a chance in hell with me, cos I was sober!)

I started chatting to another guy then thought "screw this I'm outta here". I told my nameless Garden Gnome I was going downstairs to warm up a bit, waited till the next stop then did a runner :D

Of course this meant that I had to walk my cripped feet for about 40 minutes, to get back to the city. I stopped off at the fire stage again to warm up and have a sit down, then limped back to camp and fell into bed.

Burning Man Blog Part 2

I stumbled out of bed bleary-eyed at 6am to grab some more brekkie at the Coffee Shop (got lost again, fecking mirrors!), then caught the hotel shuttle to the airport for my Vegas flight. I was meeting two guys from the Neon City Garrison who were going to give me "the tour"...I didn't want to wander around alone, not knowing where I was going, looking like a saddo lost tourist, and potentially missing out on lots of the cool stuff to see. So it was great of the guys to offer their services.

As we approached Vegas on the flight, I was glued to the window for my first glance - and there it was - Luxor - imposing black pyramid blinking at me in the sunlight....I couldn't stop grinning! I was in VEGAS BABY!!!!

Arriving at the airport and Phil and Scott were there waiting for me. We headed to the car park where - surprise surprise - Phil had a HUGE SUV awaiting. As it was only 7.30am we headed to a diner for some brekkie.....typical HUGE pile of pancakes for Scott, a fry-up for Phil and a massive blueberry waffle for me *burp*. Then out into Vegas and a trip to the famous Vegas sign, for some pics. Touristy yeah but I didn't care - it's an iconic classic retro design that I *LOVE* :D

The heat was searing, it must have been 40oC MINIMUM....the concrete everywhere probably didn't help, I swear it reflected it all back at us tenfold. It was like walking around in a furnace......coming from "sunny" England it was a big shock.

The whole "concrete jungle and fake Eiffel Tower" etc etc of Vegas was a great contrast to start my week with, considering I was heading out to the desert to live in a dusty tent with no home comforts for a week :D

We walked the main strip and used the underground tunnels or monorail that connected the main casinos as much as possible, to try and avoid the heat. Heading over to Mandalay Bay we met up with Mike, another trooper, who worked at the Shark Reef aquarium so got us in at a dirt cheap rate. It was an OK aquarium but IMO some of the tanks were too small and uninteresting. However, the large tanks that you could walk under in the tunnels and all around the sides of a massive room, were impressive - but still bereft of any sort of decent "underwater" decor or plant life for the fish. Sharks and sea turtles drifted around and I wondered if they realised they were sort of trapped in the same space.....and whether or not it frustrated the hell out of them? Having watched on BBCi 2 weeks earlier a documentary about how sea turtles migrate THOUSANDS of miles on instinct to lay their eggs, I wondered if the call of instinct was being blocked by this enclosed tank, and causing distress?

Being a scuba diver I still knew that NOTHING could compare with seeing marine life in the wild, and also free, with the beauty of the blue sea and the corals beneath them.

After Mandalay Bay we pretty much walked the rest of the strip and stopped off at the Bellagio fountains, Luxor, New York New York, little Paris, then up to the Stratosphere Tower for a view of the whole city. How I wished I could stay a night there and I kicked myself again for messing up the time differences and denying myself this. THe view was awesome but for eyes used to "green and pleasant" England, the lack of GREEN in Vegas was very apparent. The heat was just as intense right up there in the sky, and they also had a couple of rides on the top of the tower - one that shot you skywards at God knows what G-Force, and another that literally dangled you over the edge of the tower - OMG no *WAY* was I going on those rides! Phil and Scott went on one though, and I chickened out :D

Next stop was the best Barbeque House in Vegas where I had a huge plate of Baby back ribs with BBQ sauce - DIVINE.....and they served drinks in MASSIVE jam jars!!!??? Good Lord!

Sadly then I had to rush off to catch my plane back to Reno, so it was goodbye to the guys and off I went - just as the sun went down and all the fab Vegas lights came on. Arse!

Back in Reno I headed to the hotel again, collected my luggage, and awaited Drix and Jim to come and collect me. It was near 2 hours until they arrived so I sat in the lobby and watched the Olympics closing ceremony, thinking "bugger I could have had some more time in Vegas!"

We decided to head for Burning Man/Black Rock City that night, so we'd get in early and get a good camping spot near to the centre of the City. It was only about a 1.5/2 hour journey from Reno so not too bad.

The guys turned up and Jim was towing a trailer jammed with water, supplies, scaffold and tent-type stuff. Drix's car was weighed down with all his stuff plus a bike rack on the back. This was it, woooo!

We stopped off at WalMart to pick up some supplies, then an all night supermarket for final grub-buying. There were other Burners in the car park who were also stocking up - you could tell them a mile off: RVs, lots of bike racks, and shopping trolleys full of water :D

By the time we were sorted and headed off it was now 1am. As we left Reno and the light pollution faded away, the inky black sky and stars were upon us. My cellphone lost it's signal and then I knew that I was isolated from the modern world...no TV, no texts, no internet, nothing - FANTASTIC!

We stopped briefly at the turnoff for Pyramid Lake, which was reflected in a lovely moon....it's a tradition that Drix and Jim do each year they drive to BM....stop at the lake, jump about and get excited, then carry on driving!

We drove and drove and then in the distance we saw the lights....the lights of a queue of traffic. It was just like that scene in Field of Dreams at the end where you see the lights snaking off into the distance. Burners!! If you BUILD IT THEY WILL COME!!!!

We kept driving and thankfully the queue of lights ahead seemed to keep moving too Now they were coming from both directions! I started wondering how long we'd be be waiting to get in. Pretty soon we joined a slow-moving queue and we kept going, which was good....we trundled on until we could see the junction where you turn into Black Rock City - not bad at all!

Jim had a spare ticket so I decided to stretch my legs and jog up and down the queues of cars trying to flog it. Everyone said no, then this divine looking guy in his big van offered me a lift on his door siding, as I was jogging along and being left behind. I hopped on and he introduced himself (unpronounceable Playa name that I've forgotten already), I said it was my first burn then hopped off again and continued up the queue a bit more. After getting no interest I headed back to the car, grinning at Mr Sexy en route and wondering absently if I should give him one of my business cards.

We trundled on a bit longer then out of the blue there was a girl standing at the roadside with $200 in her hand and a sign saying "spare ticket needed". Bingo, one ticket sold!

We turned into Black Rock City and joined three parrallel queues of traffic waiting to go in. RVs and cars loaded dwon with stuff, some painted up with BM slogans or typical "hippie style flower power" painted vehicles. Mutant vehicles on trailers went past, one of which was the head off "Alien" which was FAB. I got my camera out and started filming snippets.

Eventually I got out the car again and went to find Will Call to collect my ticket. I saw a little further up Mr Sexy's van, but carried on to the ticket office. Upon collecting it I walked past Mr Sexy who smiled at me again, but still I didn't go and fetch a business card to give him. Argh! Then he was thru the gates and gone....who he was I'll never know, but I learned soon enough that at Bm you meet people and have convos and it's all fab then the next minute they're gone for ever.....

Next stop for me was the Greeter's Station, where volunteers welcome all Burners and also "induct" the Burning Virgins - like me.

Out of the car I had to get and kneel in the Playa dust, play with it, make a pile of it, while the volunteer stood over me (and probably resisted the urge to say "while you're down there love...." :D Then I had to ring a HUGE bell twice and shout out "I'm not a Burning Man Virgin anymore!!" All this is on film and you'll see it at some point, honest :D

So that was my first taste of "the Dust" - something that I'd be living with for the next 7 days and something that would permeate ever crevice of my tent, my clothes and my body during those 7 days too!

Part 3 coming soon..............

Burning Man Blog Part I

The day had finally come, after 7 months of build up and anticipation, Burning Man (BM) was about to happen. My alarm went off at 0245am on 22nd and I was out the door bleary eyed in the taxi for 0345am. My bathroom was being refitted while I was away so I was happy that I'd have a presence in the house during my holiday - plus to come back to a spiffy new bathroom!

The short taxi ride to the UEA cost me £8, FFS.....creepy taxi driver too. There was one other student waiting for the airport bus to Heathrow so we exchanged the usual polite conversation. When I tried to explain about Burning Man he looked at me as if I was a weird cult member or something. It's become the usual reaction when I try to explain this amazing event to people!

Heathrow was the usual jam-packed mess, with people blocking the walkways as per usual and not giving two shits that I was trying to get past with two bulky suitcases. One women saw me trying to get past, ignored my "excuse me" and didn't move an inch...so I wheeled my suitcase over her heel and kept walking as I heard her loud "OUCH" thrown in my way. Should have moved then, daft bint. God I was glad to leave Britain behind!

I didn't realise now but airlines have a "self check-in" service, where you pretty much check yourself in using a touch screen. Great, another avoidance of human contact. Typically the machine took about 3 attempts to check me in, the instructions for scanning the passport were unclear so I had to ask for help, but I was glad to switch to another seat that was not only a window seat but was on the emergency exit so had tons of legroom. Result!

My smaller suitcase was too big for hand luggage and had to be checked in along with my massive case that came in just under the weight limit. I was carrying my Predator bio on my back all bubble wrapped up (got some funny looks about that). Originally it was going in the small suitcase but I decided there was no way I was leaving it to the mercy of the "not paid enough to give a shit" baggage handlers.

I'd been sad enough to make myself a top that said "UK Burners" on it, with the BM logo on. A couple of people spotted it and asked if that's where I was going (well duh) but I didn't see any other Burners in the airport.

I flew with Continental Airlines and the flight out was top class. We had pop-up TV screens as we were front row, and there was over 300 movies to choose from, all genres and all years. I watched Iron Man twice, a bit of Prince Caspian, and Ghost. I was sitting next to a nice South African couple who were going to a conference in Alaska all about sustainability and green energy. They seemed quite intrigued by my tales of BM and also when I tried to explain to them about Fuzzbutt and my Fuzzy Business.

The flight was over an hour late taking off, which reduced my long wait in Houston airport to only about 3 hours. I parked myself in front of a huge window and set my camera up to take a time-lapse movie of the airport activity. This was ruined by the arrival of a woman with two toddlers, who immediately started running around in front of me. The typical heavy-footed toddler "bang bang bang of the feet" run started to grate immediately, and mummy did nothing to keep her kids quiet despite a visible presence of other sleeping or resting travellers. Then the kiddies spotted my camera and tripod and started deliberately running in front of the camera and staring at it. I moved seats before I drop kicked them down the hallway, but thankfully they went off for their flight 20 minutes later so I resumed my window seat but didn't bother taking another movie.

A couple of Burners got on the Houston to Reno flight, one dreadlocked young guy saw my tshirt and said the traditional "Welcome Home" (all Burners call BM "Home"), and another older guy from Amsterdam sat in front of me and we chatted. There were some others too, you could spot them a mile off because they all dress differently and alternatively, not cloned sheep like the rest of society. I started to totally get even more excited :D

I was sitting next to a female MD who tapped away on her laptop for half of the flight, then covered herself with a blanket, put her knees on the seat in front, and proceeded to wriggle continuously, try to sleep, and bump the front seat with her knees, seemingly not caring that she may be seriously pissing off the lady sitting in front of her.

In Reno I stood and waited for my baggage to appear on the carousels, and then suddenly Jim was beside me saying hello. This was the first time I'd met him and we'd only exchanged a couple of emails, but he was dead nice. We grabbed my luggage and went outside, the warm night Reno air hit me like a glorious wave of summertime. In the car park I was amazed that nearly every car was in fact a bloody tank - well, an American 4x4 - which make our 4x4s look like Minis.

Jim had a HUGE Toyota that for a moment I thought was a Hummer. It had a compass and a pitch/roll gauge on the dash and everything. We sat in it and it totally dwarfed us both.

We'd had a bit of a mixup with my flight schedule and the guys weren't expecting me until Sunday night, not the Friday. Jim had booked me into the Peppermill Hotel in Reno (http://www.peppermillreno.com/) as a surprise so he dropped me off there and I went up to my room, which was gorgeous and modern with a bed that could have slept 10 people :O

I was starving so went downstairs to the 24 hour Coffee Shop to get some grub. The Coffee Shop was situated right at the back of the Casino and OMG I got so bloody lost trying to find it - every wall was mirrored, and the ceilings too. Coloured neon lights were everywhere and just added to the confusion. It looked stunning but I was too hungry to care!!

I had read about how Casinos are designed like mazes to trap you and make sure you can't get out - and it was so true! My sense of direction is shit at the best of times but here I was totally baffled. I tried to follow the signs, I wandered around and tried to NOT look like a lost tourist. Guys sitting at the slot machines pumping them full of coins stared as I walked past (have they never seen a girl in a hippy boho long skirt and vest top???) and one remarked loudly "Girls just love The Man", referring to my Burner logo on the top.

I resisted the urge to yell "Can someone point me to the fucking Diner before I start eating the carpet!!" when suddenly there it was. I could either wait for a table, or go sit at the counter in true American Styleeee. I found a chair at the counter and was immediately brought a glass of iced water. This is customary in all American eateries and was bril compared to the miserly UK where they won't even serve you tap water now, forcing you to pay £3 for some mineral water. I watched the staff work away so efficiently - the short order cooks and the waitresses, the fridge door that never closed properly, I felt like I was in the middle of a movie as I'd seen scenes like this so often on my TV screen.

I ordered an Omlette with a meaty sort of mix/sauce on it and OMG it was DIVINE - I've never seen such a huge puffy omelette in my life, I swear it had helium in it. I stuffed my face to bursting with it, paid the princely sum of $7 for it (bargain) and crept away without leaving a tip cos I didn't know the customary amount to leave!

After a quick shower I went to bed for 5 hours of fitful jet-lagged sleep. I had the whole of Saturday to amuse myself as I wasn't due in Vegas until the Sunday morning. I kicked myself for not realising the time differences, as I could have had 2 days and one night in Vegas, instead of just the one day and flying back to Reno at night. Arse bugger arse!

In the morning after a GORGEOUS huge bowl of strawberry yoghurt topped with granola and bananas/strawbs in the Diner, I thought "sod it" and I hired a car and planned to drive to Lake Tahoe and Virginia City. I wasn't going to sit in my room for a whole day doing nothing but torturing myself about not getting to Vegas early. I knew that if I got a car with Sat Nav I'd be fine. I'd just have to get over the terror of driving on the wrong side of the road in the wrong side of the CAR, but I told myself that if I was going to start travelling alone more, I had to grow a bigger set of balls :D

I got the free shuttle from the hotel to the airport where my car had been booked for pickup. The car hire with SatNav was about $100 and bloody hell I got a HOOJ Toyota car - and that was the smallest in their range! I could have had a new Mustang which would have been ACE but they didn't come with SatNav. I knew I'd not be able to drive and look down at maps, it was just asking for a crash, so I had to kiss goodbye my Mustang dreams :o(

As I left the airport I was grinning like an idiot, thinking "Holy Shit I'm about to go driving in a strange country in a strange car all by myself - WOOOOOO!" Thankfully it was an automatic so I didn't have to worry about right-hand gear shifting. The SatNav was easy to use and off I went to Virginia City.


Virginia City is one of the oldest established cities in Nevada. Like many cities and towns in the state, Virginia City was a mining boomtown; in fact it is one of the most famous boomtowns in the Old West as it virtually appeared overnight as a result of the Comstock Lode silver strike of 1859. During its peak, Virginia City had a population of nearly 30,000 residents. When the Comstock Lode ended in 1898, the city's population declined sharply.

A lot of the original buildings still stand, with a wooden uneven walkway typical of the American Westerns I'd grown up with. It looked lovely from a distance but as I strolled the walkway I saw that every shop was peddling tacky tourist tat, and some of the original bars had got slot machines in them, instead of being left in their traditional state. The huge oak bars at the end of the rooms were still there and I was dying to go up to one of them and say "Make miiiine sarsparilla" in true Calamity Jane stylee :D

The town was also a haven for bikers and their Huge American Harleys. Everywher I walked there were bandana-bedecked bikers in shades, lounging on the seats and checking me out as I passed them. The heat was intense and I was glad of the shade of the old walkway. I walked the full length of the street then walked back down the other side. By the time I got to the end of the street the traffic had been halted and some sort of weird dog show/parade was going on, and a crowd had gathered. People walked their dogs by one of the buildings to a commentary on who they were and who their dog was, and the funniest sight was of a big hairy ape of a biker walking a Paris Hilton style dog AND carrying a fluffy cat. By the time I'd whipped my camera out he was too far past me.

I went to see Pipers Opera House (http://www.pipersoperahouse.com/) which was built in 1880 and still had that gorgeous unrestored original look and smell to it. It was undergoing restoration but I feared for the end result as I saw how "restoration" involved stapling the wall covering to the walls - WTF! Not authentic! It was a working theatre and still held productions, and I read about how all the miners crammed in here to see the famous faces of the day (including Al Jolson) perform.

After that I went round the city museum which had some interesting old photos, maps, currency and stories of the people who lived there - and a lot of unrecognisable mining machinery and tools that no doubt my dad woul have enjoyed.

By now it was getting on 1pm and I realised I was dawdling too much, so I got back to the car and headed for Lake Tahoe.

It was GORGEOUS - made our Lake District look like a muddy puddle! I drove all the way around it, stopping to take pics whenever I could. Miles and miles of stunning blue water, flanked by tree-encrusted hills and rock formations. I stopped off to buy a universal plug socket adaptor as I'd brought the wrong one with me and my phone and cameras needed charging. Had a nice salad at a diner and again was stunned by the friendliness and excellent customer service. later in the day when I stopped at Tahoe City to buy some cookies, the guy behind the counter was friendly and flirty and laughed when I asked if he sold "anything as sweet as me". In my day and a half in Nevada I'd seen more cute guys than in the last year or so of living in Britain. Was a nice change!!!!!! And they chatted and teased and were friendly, unlike Brit men who grunt at you, avoid eye contact, and go back to developing their beer bellies and Candidia overloads.

I also went to buy "2 scoops" of ice cream and a small shop and was amazed that for $4 I got like a pint-beaker full of gorgeous ice cream - two VERY big scoops!! Again, compared to the UK where you can get 2 miserly dessert spoon scoops of Ben & Jerrys at the cinema for about £4, it was real value for money. I scoffed so much that I didn't need tea that night!

By the time I'd dropped the car off and got the shuttle back to the hotel (met some more Burners in the shuttle) it was 9pm so I took my camera and SD card reader to the internet cafe to bung my Tahoe pics on Facebook. The computer was locked down tightly to avoid meddling but I managed to rig it so I could view my files on the card, and get them uploaded. After a few quick emails and messages to people I went for another bath then bed. Next day was VEGAS BABY!!!