So Bin Ich

Published Categorised as Life in General 4 Comments on So Bin Ich

I return to the UK for good next week (?!?) after a year spent mostly abroad. It will be back to service as normal round here, and I’ve got a whole load of photos of differ­ent places that I have yet to post.

I’ve got a fair few new read­ers lately (mostly from my photos of Japan), and the bio on here isn’t very forth­com­ing about myself. A lot of the time my approach to blog­ging is Look Here Is A Thing, but I think a lot of people prefer some­thing more person­al to keep read­ing. So here’s one of those 50 Things About Me things, (with one for luck).

1- I don’t do this blog for money- just for the fun of it, and to keep in touch with people. There’s no #spon­con and the like here. I also don’t use affil­i­ate links, as I think they’re shady. I think it’s sad what blog­ging has mostly become these days. Most of the “big” blogs are walk­ing adverts, rather than people really shar­ing their lives. (I wrote a big long post about this topic a while ago). I apolo­gise for my expres­sion in the photo. For some reas­on I always look like I’m about to punch someone in pictures.

2- My name is Emma. Some people shorten it to Em. Some people (wrongly) assume it’s short for Emily. I don’t really care, any of those will do. I draw the line at Gemma or Emmy. My parents had a prim­it­ive early 80s ultra­sound and were confid­ently told I was a boy. Then I popped out and surprised them, and they had to think of a girl’s name in a hurry. They acci­dent­ally picked my cousin’s first and middle name. It’s ok though, I have a lot of cous­ins. I went to her wedding as a kid. It was a surreal exper­i­ence. “Do you, Emma Jane, take blah blah blah as your lawfully wedded husband?” – “I’ve never met him, and also I’m 8 years old”. It’s strange how Emma is now the number one baby name in quite a few coun­tries at the moment. In the UK it’s a very 70s and 80s name.

3- I was born on the 12th of Janu­ary 1985. Nearly 3 weeks late and in the wrong year. My star sign is Capri­corn. My mum’s side of the family are big into astro­logy, but I don’t believe in it at all. They like to give gifts with images of your star sign. Unfor­tu­nately Capri­corn the goat and Aries the ram often have very simil­ar artwork, so I also got given a few Aries souven­irs by my aunt. I am quite fond of goats however. They always seem like they’re having a good time.

4- On the MBTI person­al­ity test, I normally come out as the INTP. I’m skep­tic­al about the test and the idea behind it though, partic­u­larly the fact that there are only sixteen differ­ent boxes to slot people into. However the person­al­ity profile the test gives me also says I’d be skep­tic­al about it, so perhaps they’ve got me. The profile from the test rings true in quite a few regards, however it also seems like the worst, most embar­rass­ing of the options, so it’s prob­ably right. It’s also right about me find­ing irra­tion­al or rigid people frus­trat­ing.

5- I grew up with no reli­gion what­so­ever, some­thing I am thank­ful for (I wrote some­thing about it here). I still follow no reli­gion, (which is common in the UK). However I’m not a fan of people like Richard Dawkins or their fans, who I feel are just as dogmat­ic and arrog­ant as any evan­gel­ist. I like to visit reli­gious sites for the archi­tec­ture and history as well. Which is prob­ably obvi­ous from the number of photos I take of things like cathed­rals and Shinto shrines.

6- I spent the major­ity of my time in the womb at Senate House at UCL (Univer­sity College London). My mum worked as a univer­sity admin­is­trat­or. I feel like I am due some­thing from UCL for that. Maybe some nice Doctor­al fund­ing, seeing as I’m a native born daugh­ter of the insti­tu­tion and all. I’ll call them up today in fact. When I get round to it.

It’s also the build­ing that inspired the Ministry of Truth in 1984- it’s an impress­ive 1930s skyscraper. I spent most of 1984 gest­at­ing there, so watch out.I’d love to do a Phd anywhere about some­thing like links between Lucre­tius’ De Rerum Natura (About the Nature of Things– a Roman guide to the universe and Epicur­ean Philo­sophy) and Borges/​Calvino, but I have zero hope of getting fund­ing, or to be honest even getting accep­ted to do a PhD. I’d prob­ably have to do a second MA first in Ancient History. I’m not that keen on that, as most of the MA courses around are aimed at a gener­al History grad audi­ence, and the modules are the same stuff I did as an under­grad.

7- I wear glasses only for read­ing. My prescrip­tion isn’t very strong. The main issue is astig­mat­ism.

8- I have around 30 first cous­ins, however I rarely see them. I have an older half-broth­er and sister. My sister has three sons who are 21, 18 and 16. Both sides of my parent’s family come from South London. My mater­nal grandad was a bona fide Cock­ney. One of my cous­ins did some gene­a­logy research, and my paternal grandmother’s family lived in the same street in Batter­sea that my dad grew up on for nearly 100 years. They just moved to differ­ent house numbers every so often.

My dad’s child­hood home was oppos­ite Clapham Junc­tion station. A stand­ard Victori­an terraced house much like this. Really the only thing wrong with it was the lack of a bathroom.In the 60s the coun­cil knocked it down under the guise of “improve­ment” and built some flats there, where my grand­moth­er contin­ued to live. Those flats are being knocked down again now. My dad’s school­friend lived in an identic­al house two streets away, and his parents were able to buy the house in the mid 60s for around £500, and family members still live there. I just looked up the price, and the same house is now £800,000, which is just ridicu­lous.

I don’t think any people at the econom­ic level of my grand­par­ents (binman and worked in a pub) will be rent­ing there any more. Even as recently as 5 years ago, my mater­nal great-aunt was living in a hous­ing asso­ci­ation flat on Char­ing Cross Road right in the middle of Cent­ral London. That’s certainly not possible for any normal person now. I’ll talk a bit about London later, but coming from a family that has lived in London for hundreds of years, I now have no relat­ives there at all due to what’s happen­ing to the city.
9- I grew up in Medway in Kent. It’s a cluster of 6 small towns making up a larger area of ~250,00 people, about 30 miles south east of London. Some­times it feels like 30 years in the past as well. The big industry there was ship­build­ing, but the docks closed down in the 80s lead­ing to a lot of employ­ment and social problems.There are a lot of beau­ti­ful build­ings and land­scapes in the area, but some of the inhab­it­ants are pretty grim. It was one of the few places in the UK to actu­ally elect a far-right, super-nation­al­ist UKIP MP (even if he was later elec­ted out). Charles Dick­ens comes from my town, so I will never be the most famous resid­ent, no matter what I do. I don’t know if that’s comfort­ing or depress­ing. The local accent is pretty strong, but I don’t have it strong, espe­cially after being abroad a lot and teach­ing EFL. You can hear it though in things like when I say house, fought or down, and my total inab­il­ity to pronounce field and filled differ­ently. Here’s a somewhat well-known poem about my home town.

10- I went to an all-girls second­ary school until I was 16. When I compare school stor­ies with other people I feel I got off very lightly. Apart from the usual issues teen angst throws up, my school exper­i­ence was pretty easy-going. As it was a girl’s school, the idea of “girl’s” or “boy’s” classes or hobbies was refresh­ingly absent. As was the idea that you should lessen your­self to pander to boys, as they weren’t there to see. I only had to spend time with teen­age boys on a volun­tary basis. This changed when I went to sixth form and was confron­ted with the full fragil­ity of the teen­age male ego.

11- I stud­ied Ancient History and Modern Languages at Read­ing for my BA. All my classes were inter­est­ing, and I’m glad I did the course there- as well as being a great course I also met some lovely people. Unfor­tu­nately it turns out I’m extremely bad at Medi­ev­al Latin (details here), which harmed my over­all grade. I still wish I had dropped that class rather than persevere with it.

Classes I took:
1st Year: 5th Century Athens, Augus­t­an Rome, Itali­an for French/​Spanish speak­ers, 20th Century German History, German Language, Expres­sion­ism in German culture- ie Schiele, Kafka, Fritz Lang, all that great stuff
2nd Year: Greek Theatre, Clas­sic­al Sculp­ture, Ancient Epic, Roman Love Poetry, Latin
3rd Year: Clas­sic­al Latin, Medi­ev­al Latin, Modern Greek, Ancient Greek

12- When I finished uni, I did gener­ic office work for about a year and hated it. So I saved up some money and went to Budapest to do the CELTA to teach English as a Foreign Language, some­thing I’ve done on and off ever since. I miss Hungary a lot some­times, but couldn’t live there right now due to the extreme right-wing govern­ment they have.

13- I also worked at Oxford Univer­sity and hated it even more than the boring data entry jobs. There were a lot of arrog­ant snobby people there, and some very racist ones who were allowed to contin­ue with or were actively suppor­ted in their bigotry by the insti­tu­tion­al culture. When you are at the bottom of a very strict hier­archy at a place like that, your efforts to not go along with objec­tion­able things feel pretty futile, for instance receiv­ing a stern telling off when you refuse to agree with some­thing extremely racist a seni­or colleague has said. Appar­ently it’s not “your place” to disagree. So I left and was glad. I guess it looks good on my CV.

14- Between 2008 and 2010 I lived in Brighton, which I loved, but found unre­li­able for work. I then spent the next year split­ting my time between Brighton and London as there was more work avail­able in London, and ended up moving to London full-time. Although I feel at home in London in many ways, seeing as I grew up close by with most of my relat­ives there, I also feel like the current edition of the city doesn’t want people like me. London just isn’t fun any more, it’s a slog for surviv­al with constantly rising rent but no change in wages, and it didn’t seem worth it any more, so I left last summer, and have worked abroad on and off since. A lot of my friends have recently left London for the same reas­ons ands scattered to other places. I’m return­ing to the UK this month and house-hunt­ing in Margate. A pretty and artist­ic seaside town in the region I come from, with reas­on­able prices.

15- In 2010 I signed up to do a two year Art MA at Brighton. It was wonder­ful, and I’d happily sign up and do the whole thing over again. Maybe it was my great class­mates who made it special though. I stud­ied illus­tra­tion, print­mak­ing, anim­a­tion and book­bind­ing. When I was 18 I was waver­ing between univer­sity and art school, so I got to do both in the end (and I recom­mend doing them in the order I did).

16- While study­ing on, and when I gradu­ated from the MA I tried to get into museum educa­tion roles, to little success. I came to the conclu­sion after under­paid jobs that required post-grad educa­tion and multiple languages, that it’s a bit of a fool’s errand. The museum and culture industry is extremely elit­ist and classist, and is essen­tially a closed shop which is hostile to outsiders. Being ex-board­ing school and having rich parents who can subsid­ise you to do endless unpaid intern­ships is a better route in than any kind of educa­tion and work sadly. Equally sadly, I’m not alone in this conclu­sion amongst my friends who have also worked in the industry.

17- I have also worked at the less glam­or­ous end of graph­ic design/​production, doing design and produc­tion control on cata­logues and in-house magazines. I did learn a lot about the chem­istry of oil paint from doing one of those cata­logues, mind.

18- Since 2010 I have also been going to Austria and Germany sever­al times a year to teach work­shops in schools- what we teach varies depend­ing on the school, but always includes creat­ive writ­ing, drama and public speak­ing, and often cook­ing or sport. This year I have already visited every Bundes­land of Austria.

19- I have spent very little of this year in the UK. This was a conscious decision after the crap­pi­ness of 2016. I have taken teach­ing work abroad and gone on a few budget trips of my own (strongly aided by winning some plane tick­ets to Japan). So far this year I have been to the Czech Repub­lic, Austria (every region), Switzer­land, The Neth­er­lands (albeit Schiphol Airport), France, Croa­tia, Slov­e­nia, Japan and Germany. I also got to see Lake Baikal at dawn through the plane window, which was pretty special.

20- On holi­day I like to walk a lot, and poke around find­ing things and taking photo­graphs. I’m sure a lot of people would find me very aggrav­at­ing to travel with. I also very much enjoy flying or taking long train jour­neys alone. Just me, my thoughts, and snacks, music or books of my choice.

Actu­ally aimlessly wander­ing around is pretty much my favour­ite thing to do. That’s how you find the good stuff and get a chance to think about things outside the heat of the moment. I like authors like Raymond Queneau and John Berger’s thoughts about creat­ive wander­ing. Let’s dress it up and get me busi­ness cards as a flaneûse or some­thing. Situ­ation­ist at not so large.

21- When I was a little kid I wanted to be either Indi­ana Jones or David Atten­bor­ough when I grew up. I guess current me would sort of look like a success to seven year old me if she squin­ted. I have worked at the Natur­al History Museum and trav­elled a lot. Sadly I have not discovered any dino­saurs, treas­ure or rare beasts.

22- I am a femin­ist 100%. You either believe women are fully equal human beings worthy of respect or you don’t. If you don’t, I have no time for you. Why both­er with anyone who thinks you are natur­ally inferi­or.

23- Polit­ic­ally I guess I tend towards the syndic­al­ist sort of anarch­ism (ie the kind based on build­ing non-hier­arch­ic­al soci­ety on co-ops and unions), but I’m short on patience with many of the “anarch­ists” I come across. The type I’m think­ing of are actu­ally some of the most hier­arch­ic­al and snobby people I have ever met (and hang out in very white, very upper-middle class groups) — using minute signi­fi­ers in fash­ion, music taste and slang to decide wheth­er people are “real” or not or can be snob­bily dismissed as a dispos­able “normie”.

You can’t change people’s minds about how soci­ety could work and get them to listen to you if you make it clear you think they are some kind of inferi­or peas­ant from the outset. Strike! magazine published a great article on the male of this species, but it’s not limited to men unfor­tu­nately. Radic­al­ism is based on ideas, not dress-codes. The “smash the state first, and we’ll sort out the details later” atti­tude also annoys me, as it’s a really priv­ileged way of look­ing at things- it can only be borne by someone who essen­tially deep down assumes that everything will work out ok for them, because it always has, and well, people like them don’t bear the brunt of these things.

There are a lot of people who are forced to rely on the inad­equate safety nets the current crappy system has and it’s not radic­al to essen­tially ignore those people and say they aren’t import­ant. (Or even worse, are the cannon fodder for your glor­i­ous revolu­tion). It’s true though that I really do hate hier­arch­ies and power games, and enjoy collab­or­at­ive work­ing. The collect­ive/non-hier­arch­ic­al projects and collect­ives I’ve been involved with have run the gamut from wonder­ful to making me lose my faith in human­ity.

What the bad exper­i­ences have had in common is that people who didn’t genu­inely want to work collab­or­at­ively were involved. There were unspoken hier­arch­ies that you were supposed to deny, while always defer­ring to the people at the top of it, or people who wanted to feel power­ful by deny­ing the group the consensus needed to agree on an action (even if really they did actu­ally agree with it). These things only work with genu­inely open and honest commu­nic­a­tion.

All this said, I am also a member of the Labour Party. I can’t really subscribe to the polit­ic­al purity motiv­ated idea that you should refrain from voting because you are wait­ing for the revolu­tion and don’t want to encour­age the liber­als or the system. Not while the Tory party is still in power and target­ing the most vulner­able people in soci­ety with sadist­ic glee. If the Tories of the 1940s were lower than vermin, I don’t even know what tier of unter-cock­roach the current lineup is at.

Abstain­ing from voting when you have the power to collect­ively remove a govern­ment that is actively oppress­ing people strikes me again as the height of self-indul­gent priv­e­lige. Again, everything has been ok for you, and you’re essen­tially assum­ing it always will be.

24- My blog is not a place for the socially conser­vat­ive. If you don’t think people are funda­ment­ally equal, then I have no time for you and make no apolo­gies.

25- I speak French and German. I learnt French as a kid, and have no form­al qual­i­fic­a­tions in it. My writ­ing looks like a dyslex­ic French person’s- I get stuff like the subjunct­ive right, but make stupid basic spelling mistakes with silent letters (but never with things like é vs è, because they actu­ally sound differ­ent).

I learnt German the conven­tion­al way, via school and univer­sity.  Due to a Vien­nese teach­er and work­ing in Austria for the last seven years, I now sound pretty Austri­an. This goes down well in South­ern Germany and Austria, but confuses and annoys people in the North of Germany. I’d like to take the TestDAF, the main C1 level German exam, at some point. It gives you access to post-grad level study in German speak­ing coun­tries. No way is that going to happen this year though.

I also did a year of Itali­an classes for Span­ish or French speak­ers at univer­sity, which was pretty straight­for­ward. It just felt like more straight­for­ward French.

I’m always doubt­ing that I speak any language however, barely even English, as I start hold­ing myself to impossible stand­ards of perfec­tion – that “speak­ing” means “completely indis­tin­guish­able from a native speak­er at all times, never makes a single gram­mar mistake, and expresses myself at all times like a profes­sion­al broad­caster or phd candid­ate”. Which is impossible.

I also find it hard to code-switch between languages fast. I espe­cially find it hard to switch into French as the sounds and pronun­ci­ation are so differ­ent to the other languages I know. Right now I’m work­ing in Germany, living with two other English teach­ers in the house of a very chatty old French lady. After spend­ing half the last month in Germany, the other half in France, and speak­ing Itali­an every lunch­time for one of those German weeks with a friendly café owner, I think my brain might explode. I keep acci­dent­ally reply­ing to French in German, or think­ing in German when I’m actu­ally trying to write some­thing in English. Hope­fully my brain will re-wire itself, or I’ll just forget how to speak English to make room for the rest.

26- My aim over the winter is to actu­ally read more qual­ity liter­at­ure in my languages. I can, I’m just lazy and don’t. I would also like to learn more Russi­an beyond the very basic level I’ve stud­ied.

27- I don’t have much patience for other Brit­ish people who move to a coun­try and then don’t both­er to learn the language, arrog­antly assum­ing that every­one will speak English to conveni­ence them and claim­ing it’s “too hard” for them to learn. Other coun­tries aren’t full of child geni­uses, you know.

28- I like to read a lot in gener­al. I was that kid who would read all the cereal boxes and sham­poo bottles. Every year I do the Goodreads Chal­lenge. I usually set it at one book per week- so fifty two per year. I was ambi­tious one year – too ambi­tious – and set it to one hundred. I didn’t make it in the end, I only got to seventy five. (Only). “One book a week” doesn’t sound like much, but it adds up to a lot at fifty two.

Right now I read­ing the Lathe of Heav­en. Unfor­tu­nately my unread book pile is seventy plus high. I can resist all tempta­tions except new books (or even more danger­ously, cheap second hand ones). It’s outright peril­ous for me to go into the Char­ing Cross branch of Foyles.

Some favour­ite authors, alpha­bet­ic­ally: Margaret Atwood, Paul Auster, Gaston Bachelard, Elif Batuman, John Berger, Jorge Luis Borges, Mikhail Bulgakov, Italo Calvino, Angela Carter, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Colette, Charles Dick­ens, Dostoyevsky, Gerald Durrell, Umberto Eco, TS Eliot, Michel Faber, Esth­er Freud, Graham Greene, Zora Neale Hurston, Tove Jans­son, BS John­son, Diana Wynne Jones, Kafka, Ursula Le Guin, Primo Levi, Martin Millar, George Orwell, Mervyn Peake, Raymond Queneau, Sei Shon­agon, Rebecca Solnit, Dylan Thomas, Robert Tressel, Evelyn Waugh, Virgin­ia Woolf, Stefan Zweig

I’ve prob­ably forgot­ten someone really import­ant there as always. I don’t have a partic­u­lar genre I favour- just well-writ­ten books with some depth and psycho­logy to them. If you see a load of Agatha Christie whodun­nits on the read­ing list, you know I’ve been stuck in bed with the flu. Agatha Christie is the perfect well-plot­ted yet essen­tially mind­less read­ing for when you’re ill.

29- My biggest hobby is photo­graphy. Unless other­wise specified, all the photos on this blog were taken with a pretty basic Canon EOS 100D (or even my phone). I’ve got two pancake prime lenses- the 28mm and 40mm, and a chunki­er 50mm that’s usually at home. That’s it. Noth­ing fancy.

30- I also like to draw and do art in gener­al. Even though I have an MA in it, I often have to push myself to feel “allowed” to draw. If you don’t leave art school with a sense of crush­ing doubt, what do you leave with?

31- If people ask me “what music do you like” I often clam up, or try to evade the ques­tion like it’s the most diffi­cult ques­tion in the world. I guess the best answer is I like the sort of stuff ATP used to put on (before Barry star­ted scam­ming people). Post and math rock like Slint, Mogwai, My Bloody Valentine and Tortoise. The kind of elec­tron­ic stuff Warp puts out like Boards of Canada, Broad­cast and Aute­chre. Ambi­ent stuff like Brian Eno and Fennesz. Heav­ier drone/​metal stuff like Sunn O))) and Earth (I also have a big soft spot for the only good nu metal band- Deftones and total cheese like Ghost). 80s punk like Hüsker Dü and Fugazi. 70s punk like X-Ray Spex and the Slits. Post-hard­core like Cap’n Jazz and At the Drive In. Krautrock like Kraft­werk and Can. Pleas­ingly gloomy spoken word stuff like Arab Strap and Leonard Cohen. Folk like Shir­ley Collins, Nick Drake and the Wick­er Man soundtrack. Motown girl groups like the Shangri-Las and the Ronettes. 70s AOR stuff like Fleet­wood Mac and King Crim­son. Indie pop/alt-rock stuff like Grandaddy and Pave­ment. The stark­er end of clas­sic­al music, like Philip Glass and Strav­in­sky. There’s prob­ably lots of things that have totally slipped my mind in that list. I’m inter­ested in lots of differ­ent kinds of music. The thing I hate is bland stuff like Cold­play and Ed Sheer­an. I find it infuri­at­ing.

32- Speak­ing of the Rite of Spring, my mum’s other­wise sunny and bold little cat is terri­fied of the intro music. I was watch­ing a film about the riots at the open­ing night in 1913, and when the music star­ted up she sat bolt upright on my lap, with a look of horror on her face. Like “this cannot be!”. She then ran and hid in the kitchen until it was over. She isn’t bothered by gunshots or dogs on tele­vi­sion, only Strav­in­sky it seems. She must have a pre-modern mind.

Later on, the Fest­iv­al Hall in London (one of my all-time favour­ite places) had a piece of sound art in the (elab­or­ately panelled mid-century modern) toilets of a record­ing of a man whist­ling the intro to the ballet. I would always have to stop myself burst­ing out laugh­ing. Imagine if someone had asked me why- I would have had to reply “the look on the cat’s face”. I was sad when they stopped having the eerie whist­ling in the toilets.

Speak­ing of Kraft­werk, I’ve got used to listen­ing to them in German, and the English version sounds weird to me now. When I was about nine­teen and study­ing German at univer­sity, I found a set of the German versions of the albums cheap in a local second hand shop, and bought them. This was much to the delight of my house­mate, who DJed at a local place (RIP the After Dark), and liked play­ing them to throw drunk people off-guard. As well as help­ing my German, I think the major­ity of the songs sound better in German, the origin­al language they were writ­ten in. The words flow better and there’s a sly sense of humour there.

Ralf Hütter also has a pronounced Rhein­land accent- he says “isch” instead of “ich”. It’s an accent asso­ci­ated with being cosy and chatty, and possessed by lots of of daytime tv presenters in Germany. I like that contrast with the clean, cold, futur­ist­ic sound of the music.

Kraft­werk can also teach you German gram­mar rules pain­lessly. Die Auto­bahn is a femin­ine word, so why do they sing “Wir fahr’n auf der Auto­bahn”?

It’s a fiddly rule of German gram­mar with verbs of move­ment:

Wir fahren auf die Auto­bahn (femin­ine accus­at­ive case)- We star­ted on anoth­er road, and have now joined the Auto­bahn

Wir fahren auf der Auto­bahn (femin­ine dative case- just looks mascu­line)- We are driv­ing around with­in the Auto­bahn, and haven’t changed to anoth­er loca­tion at all

Thank you Kraft­werk.

33- I can play the guitar and vari­ous other instru­ments, but mostly only for myself. I just freeze up if other people are there, and can barely bring myself to hold the thing, let alone play it. When I was grow­ing up there was a strong idea that music was a “boy’s thing” – I never saw any women on stage at local gigs. The few occa­sions I did, they had to suffer sexu­al harass­ment or a barrage of criti­cism. Things have improved a bit since then, but my female musi­cian friends have to put up with loads of sexist shit still, and the assump­tion that they’re auto­mat­ic­ally crap, and it makes me wonder if it’s even worth it.

I often feel like I have to strongly defend my right to listen to music and know anything about it and that’s just pass­ive listen­ing. You get quizzed with trivia to prove you’re a “real” fan or have any tiny slip aggress­ively jumped on to make you feel stupid and small, and that’s just talk­ing about music, not play­ing it. Having to fight to even to get star­ted seems exhaust­ing. I guess my brain has got the message that I’m laying myself in for intense scru­tiny and nitpick­ing in an attempt to dimin­ish and humi­li­ate me, and freez­ing up seems way safer. This is the point where it’s tempt­ing to dig a big pit and throw those patron­ising, bully­ing, insec­ure little men down into it.

34- I also like to sew, knit, and make things in gener­al. My nan was a dress­maker, so I learnt at an early age. I some­times teach textiles too. I’m pretty skep­tic­al of the whole craft industry and its attempt to make craft anoth­er kind of capit­al­ism though. See here for more details.

35- I have joined up hand­writ­ing that makes people go “wow that’s neat and tidy” until they look at it closer and real­ise that’s it’s actu­ally quite hard to read. I think I prob­ably join up some of the letters in the wrong place too.

Being a time-wast­ing idiot, I often hand­write out longer pieces of text like this, or at least plan them by hand as bullet points, and then type it up on the computer later. I think it’s good for me to have to put everything down into one rough draft without the abil­ity to skip around or get distrac­ted on a computer. When I write straight onto the computer it’s too easy to faff around making small changes to a para­graph or writ­ing bits here and there piece­meal. I have a big stack of filled note­books, and (far too many) empty ones for future endeav­ours. Future histor­i­ans will either be grate­ful or infuri­ated at the chaot­ic way I use the pages for notes and inter­sperse differ­ent pages of drafts. It makes sense to me at least, and I guess that’s all that matters.

36- I also like to collect bits of ephem­era like tick­ets, inter­est­ing pack­aging etc, and stick them in a scrap­book. You can see examples from previ­ous years here. I already did it anyway, but then we were encour­aged to do it at art college. I also like to make sketch/​text notes like this of exhib­i­tions, anoth­er legacy from my MA and the Visu­al Diary we were required to keep.

37- I have been making zines since 2002 or so, and star­ted putting some effort into it in 2007. I have lots still in print, and the best bits of the old ones as a collec­tion. They can’t stop me making more. There’s noth­ing they can do. Noth­ing. If you want to read about why I make them, you can go here, or get prac­tic­al tips here.

38- I have a very good memory. Treach­er­ously good. Remem­ber that thing that happened fifteen years ago? I do. (I’m nice enough to not black­mail you). I remem­ber names and faces easily. Inform­a­tion goes in and sticks too. I also have a good visu­al memory for things like where some­thing was, or retra­cing my steps. Prob­ably the fact I do all these sketch­books and collage diar­ies and so on, and memor­ise seat­ing plans of students for work helps a lot.

39- At this point I’m essen­tially ambi­dex­trous. I write with my right hand, as that’s how I learnt (albeit with the pen held completely wrong and half the letters formed back­wards or upside down), but a lot of other things I do left-handed by instinct. I had a lot of trouble learn­ing to write well, so prob­ably I was actu­ally just left-handed and was just strug­gling to do it with my right hand. I got there in the end.

40- I love to cook and bake. I also frequently teach chil­dren cook­ing.

41- I haven’t eaten meat in twenty years. However I’m not a vegan. although I do mostly eat vegan at home. I feel that if you’re going to eat meat you should be will­ing to kill your own anim­al, and I know that I’m not. However, I’d much rather spend time with open-minded meat eaters than the worst kind of vegan.

42- I’m horribly aller­gic to sulph­ites, which means I can’t drink wine or cider. I also have to check labels care­fully as sulph­ites can turn up in all kinds of unex­pec­ted foods. My default drink order is a Jack Daniels and coke. Reli­able and tastes nice. I like beer too, but I find it very filling in a way spir­its are not.

43- I love going on boats. If there’s a chance to travel by ferry and sit on deck, sign me up.

44- I love to look at maps. Give me an atlas and I’m happy for ages. Lots of other people like maps too, let’s form a club where we just sit and peer at maps togeth­er.

45- I love panor­amic views, but get terrible vertigo very easily due to some kind of sinus/​inner ear issue. The views pretty much always win out, but I’m usually cling­ing on for dear life to a rail­ing some­where. Even when I’ve been up there for a few hours or so admir­ing the view the vertigo never goes. For some reas­on planes give me no such trouble, possibly because the air is pres­sur­ised.

46- At home I drink large amounts of Earl Grey tea (no milk or sugar). Some­times cafetière coffee too (also no milk, some­times a little sugar). In a café though, I tend to get a simple espresso. I’m not really into the big fancy milky drinks like frap­pés etc. I do like Red Bull though, which a lot of people think is disgust­ing. I’m just not that sens­it­ive to caffeine.

47- I’m also not very sens­it­ive to local anaes­thet­ic. I always have to get sever­al injec­tions at the dent­ist for it to take. I would like to trade this one in for the sulph­ite sens­it­iv­ity, but I’m not sure where to report.

48- I like to grow things, but don’t have a garden, so have a lot of house plants. In the past I have had whole selec­tions of things such as orch­ids, lilies, herbs and produce, but currently I only have cacti and succu­lents, as they can be left to be neglected at relative’s houses while I’m abroad. I grew some good chil­is last year, which had to be hand pollin­ated with a cotton bud due to the lack of bees in my kitchen.

That said I have currently depos­ited twenty differ­ent cacti at my dad’s so maybe “only” is too under­stated there. I mostly get the succu­lents half-dead from Wilko for 50p (they don’t look after their plants) and perk them up with good condi­tions, and then propag­ate their offshoots. If you want a guide to repot­ting succu­lents, here is one. My mater­nal grandad was a keen garden­er and used to breed cacti as a side busi­ness, so maybe I get it from him. I guess the next step of follow­ing in his foot­steps is enter­ing veget­able compet­i­tions and steal­ing cuttings from any plant I see in other people’s gardens. If I had a garden, I would love to have hydrangeas, sunflowers, marigolds and veget­ables.

49- I also used to be keen on aquar­i­um keep­ing. I had one cold tank with fancy gold­fish with long tails (and one fast poin­ted one called Roger), and anoth­er warm tank with betta splendens (aka Siamese Fight­ing Fish). It’s not that I lost interest, it’s just that aquar­i­ums don’t mix with having to move a lot as you are forced to in London. Moving and refilling the tanks destroys the ecosys­tem and stresses the fish. A lot of the clean­ing of the water is done by friendly bacteria rather than the actu­al filter, and drain­ing the tank out kills them. Which then stresses and kills the fish because it affects the water qual­ity.

If I had the space and stabil­ity, I’d love to have some axolotls. When I was a kid I used to catch and grow newts from spawn, and then release them back into the water when they were start­ing to get legs. Axolotls seem like the next step (and they’re fascin­at­ing anim­als).

50- I grew up with lots of pets- two cats, a rabbit, a guinea pig, and fish (outdoors and indoors). In the past I’ve also had rats and gerbils. I like all anim­als really, and find them fascin­at­ing, and don’t really mind things like being bitten or getting covered in hairs. I don’t have any pets right now, again caused by living in London. I’d like to get a cat. I love big fluffy dogs like huskies, but would never get one as they are so much respons­ib­il­ity, and I think in gener­al I’m more of a cat person. I like their inde­pend­ence.

51- Let’s face it, when it comes down to it, I’m pretty boring at heart.

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  1. Boring? No I don’t think so. I really enjoyed read­ing. Teach­ing ESL or EFL opens a lot of doors in the word to you. My daugh­ter has taught in China and Korea and now works with mostly Saudi students at a US univer­sity However with our hate encour­aging Pres­id­ent in the US she may not have students in the Spring semester.

    1. I also used to teach Saudi students who were brush­ing up on their English before start­ing univer­sity in the UK.

      However our govern­ment over here has got ridicu­lously strict/​kafkaesque about visas in the last few years, to try to look like they’re tough and strict and in control. But in an incom­pet­ent way- send­ing people erro­neous deport­a­tion letters, refus­ing visas for nonsensic­al reas­ons and the like. So it’s massively put prospect­ive students off, and they go to other coun­tries. Or they can get a visa for the degree, but can’t get one for any time before to do prepar­a­tion classes. So there’s my work out the window.

      1. Also, like the US, deport­ing completely harm­less people for no real reas­on, or even worse deport­ing people back to war zones like Afgh­anistan.

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