Sunday, 29 April 2007

Female Genital Mutilation aka FGM

One of the novels I teach on my lit course is called Possessing the Secret of Joy by Alice Walker. It raises awareness about FGM, or female genital mutilation, a practice which involves the cutting away of the external genitalia to varying degrees. The most serious is infibulation which involves the removal of the labia (inner and outer), the clitoris (including internal tissues which are scraped out), and the sewing up of the wound to leave a hole the size of a match head. It is a practice that serves only to control women by eradicating their sexuality. In the best cases there is life long discomfort, but in the worst, life long agonising pain, infection and even death. The World Health Organisation has information here.

Convinced already? Please sign the petition sponsored by CARE. It takes a few seconds and the more voices are heard the more people might listen. It's better than ignoring it and doing nothing.

Not convinced yet? Want more information?

There are two sides to every argument, so here are some of the reasons given by practitioners of FGM, and those who seek to preserve the practice. Read the article at Women Aid. And see how change is coming, how women are beginning to see the damage the practice causes here.

Here are some videos, found by my students who did an excellent presentation on Walker's novel. They give both sides of the argument so now, you can decide for yourself. The material is suitable for viewing though is upsetting.

Thank you for reading. In case you missed it - please sign the petition sponsored by CARE. It takes a few seconds and the more voices are heard the more people might listen. It's better than ignoring it and doing nothing.

Saturday, 28 April 2007

Writing? What Writing?!

It is nearly the end of the semester for the undergrads. I'm looking at my frozen word count in despair. The novel limps along a sentence at a time in long hand. On one side of my desk - hell, what am I talking about - I can't see my desk anymore, having piled all the marking up, and the admin tasks from the research department etc., etc.

Here's my To Do List for the coming weeks:

1. Marking - lots of this - essays, dissertations, short stories, exams.
2. Interviewing students for summer courses.
3. End of module admin - collate feedback, attendance, evaluations etc.
4. Prepare final week's teaching - mostly essay/exam surgeries but also revision for grammar and phonetics.
5. Attend a writing workshop with Toby Litt - looking forward to this one!
6. Attend a 2 day teaching conference.
7. Prepare teaching for summer access courses.
8. Squeeze in riding lessons!
9. Housework.
10. Arrange childcare for when I'm working - school pick ups etc.
11. Squeeze in gymnastics coaching - thankfully only once a week.
12. Complete PhD 'what I've done this year' admin stuff for research dept.
13. Attempt to remain calm.
14. And sane.
15. Second marking and deliberations.
16. Prepare mission statement for new journal with colleague who has a to do list similar to mine, minus the riding.
17. Prepare am abstract and write a conference paper for June - not sure this will actually get done though...
18. Write the novel first draft.
19. Keep reading for PhD, fiction as well as the heavy stuff.
20. Make sure everyone has clean clothes, healthy diet, and that homework (7 year old) and revision (14 year old) is done on time.

There's more I'm sure. Better get started!

Tuesday, 24 April 2007

Scary Clowns and the Stuff of Urban Myth

Just had to share this with you! Last week my daughter's friend was babysitting for her baby brother and couldn't get the baby to sleep. She rang her mum, who said take all the stuffed toys out of the room. The daughter said she had done, except for the big clown in the corner of the room - to which her mother replied, we haven't got a big clown! Take the baby and get out of the house, and go next door.

It turns out that the clown was a man, who had dressed himself up as a clown and parked himself in the corner of the baby's room, pretending to be a toy! Mum rang the police and the clown was arrested.

Unbelievable but true. Apparently. And a bit scary! Close those windows.

Sunday, 22 April 2007

Learning to Ride Horses - at any age

Master the Correct Sitting Position

It seems once you start doing something, everyone's either done it and got the proverbial t-shirt, or are learning too. One of the student assistant folks told me he took up riding in his 50s, so feeling quite young and inspired again.

The funniest thing I've heard is Russell Brand's account of how his riding lessons are going in Hawaii, on the Radio 2 show. He said walk was okay, and trot was where you get jiggled around a lot, and then canter... what could possibly come after canter, says Russell, when the horse goes like a runaway train (or something - can't remember word for word), and (I quote this bit) "your knackers get smashed to bits". I haven't got knackers, but have got equally sensitive bits in the same place, and can testify that if you haven't got the rhythm spot on, they do indeed get smashed to bits! And blistered. Mustn't forget the blisters - I certainly won't.

Am most jealous of Russell being able to learn on a beach in Hawaii, but he can keep the surfing lessons, thank you.

p.s. Brand is a bit like Marmite... you either love him or hate him, and I fink eez wanderfu' innit! Even mentioned Chomsky today - there's ejecayshun for ya!

Saturday, 21 April 2007

Tree Felling

My hubby just loves heights, and any excuse to get his ropes out and he's away! Today he's been tree felling - Sycamores - so in between marking and lesson prep I've been sending lunches and drinks up to him in a carrier bag attached to a karabiner. To add to my interrupted work schedule, our friend Paul came over to chat to him in the tree - Nigel took some dangerous trees down for him last year, and then my father popped in. Kettle on yet again! I was secretly pleased for the break to be honest. Anyway, I'm off to cook dinner now - I can hardly stand all the excitement!

Whilst I do feel sorry for the poor old trees, I will look forward to weeding next year, when hopefully, there won't be the usual onslaught of sycamore seedlings... not to mention the extra light the garden will get this year!

Thursday, 19 April 2007

shopping and recycling

Well and truly back into the swing of things (reluctantly) with a phone call on Sunday morning from fellow tutor wanting to know if second marking could wait a day or so due to 'lambing'. It was lovely of her to even ask me, but a toss up between little baby lambs being born or second marking - no choice to be made really! And there it was - contact with work again. No more pretending I'm still out of the country!

Finally made it to the horsey shop and spent Christmas vouchers on;
a top (can double for skiing)
a raincoat with flaps (so I can ride that horse I haven't got yet in the rain)
a dressage whip ;)
a hat bag (okay - but it's black velvet and gets full of crap in the car)
a pair of mesh gloves that fit (so they don't get stuck in the girth when I try to clumsily tighten it up)

So now all I need is a horse, and a field, and, and, and... a job that pays a lot more!

Haven't done an awful lot of writing but I can blame that quite happily on my return to teaching, re-applying for a teaching job I've been doing for three years, and er... gardening. It hadn't been touched since winter (whenever that was) so slight mess really. Found lots of snails and slugs, and spider nests, and cleared 9 bin bags of green waste. Now that it looks tidy and the table and parasol are up, the weather has gone all cool again :( Maybe I should buy an umbrella so that the sun will come back. So much for global warming.

Which leads me to ask, do you recycle? I've just sorted out a load of clothes for charity, and kids stuff to pass on, but someone told me they threw out 8 bags of old clothes - to the tip. Eek. Clothes in landfill make methane don't they?? Then I overheard a conversation in the school yard this week. One woman was saying, "All this global stuff is bollocks." "Yeah, it was in The Sun, they're just making it up to get more money out of us." The first said, "And all this recycling crap. I can't be arsed. Can you?" To which she duly replied, "No. It's dangerous having a box full of broken glass and metal in the kitchen, not to mention it reeks." Right. Okay. If I were a proper bolshy activist type I would've explained that it takes a second to rinse things out, and another second to pop it in the box. And if you do paper, plastic (although our council can't do plastic yet for some reason), metal, and compost what you can, you end up with one bag of rubbish a week instead of the seven she told her friend her family produced. I bet they also leave all the lights on (not to mention the iron and the hair-straighteners), have a patio heater, and think the standby button means it's off.

We're all doomed! I saw some more people on the news this morning talking about new refuse collection laws. It seems some folks are having difficulty working out the difference between metal, paper, and food waste. "It's just too complicated," said one bloke.

Right - that's my moan!

Saturday, 14 April 2007

Home Again :(

The Lachat

Well, I'm back in Blighty again, after ten glorious days of sunshine and snow in the French Alps. It is difficult to get back into the swing of things, but then you probably already know that! It was lovely to spend time away from the computer - I was forbidden to log on in the local tourist office - and be outside all day...

Arrrrrgh! J'ai peur! You want me to go down that?!

On the first day, the eldest boarded off into the distance at the rate of a small avalanche, following hubby who looked equally cool dressed in sleek black and trendy sunglasses. I weaved my way down at a more leisurely pace looking most elegant with backside stuck out, poles gripped for dear life, and snow plough even on the green runs! But by the end of the week, I finally cracked the skiing thing, hurtling down the slope with parallel turns, no poles, and not a hint of a snow plough anywhere! The little one earned her Premier Etoile (first star) in ski-school, so we were both feeling most proud of ourselves! We even went over a jump or two (very small ones!).

Ski School

Mid-week we went out and met the locals, drank far too much Genepi and regretted it the next morning - as you do.

Oh Yay! These things are the best!

On the last day I went riding and learned how to say "walk on" (marche), "trot" (trot), and "canter" (petit de galop). We went cantering through a snowy forest, crossed small rushing rivers, and crossed bridges I wouldn't have crossed on foot! Fantastic. Oh to play! I needed so much to play!

Simply Gorgeous

I have much more to say - about language and culture, being in a different environment, but do you know what? The sun is shining and I want to sort my garden out before the demands of study and academia chain me to my desk again. So I'll write about all that stuff later!

Chaine D'Aravis

Hope everyone else had a cracking Easter (gettit?!) - What did you get up to, and more importantly, have you been writing?! I certainly have not done a tap and proud of it... back to the grindstone on Monday eh!