Saturday, 9 February 2019

Female scientists astronauts leaders

I have had a fair bit of exposure in the last year or two to pushes within work and without to get women further up the 'hierarchy' of power. These were personal pushes, face-to-face conversations, both formal and informal, encouraging/pressurising me to take on the mantle of female role model and climb up to where I perhaps personally do not want to be. It has had an effect on me, although with no material action or result as yet. I have other priorities that do not have to do with career promotion, leadership, prestige. And I have other concerns, intensified by what I have observed in others who have pushed up. I'd like to work for avoidance/diminution of ego and the misery that brings with it, protection of health, happiness, time, space. All these move against the pressures to climb up the career ladder. However, being sick in the last two days and indulging in films, particularly the ficto-documentary Mars (National Geographic), I have really noticed a sense of cheer and wonder as I gradually, totting them up and watching the (male) characters diminish as fatal space accidents/acts occur, realise that at first half the astronauts in the film - engineers, scientists, explorers - are women, and then, as fatalities begin, three fifths, with the male leader replaced by a female, and later, as other astronauts arrive, reaching a two thirds female proportion. The last scene in the last episode of the first series was unforgettable in its credibility: three female astronauts, kitted up in their space suits and yet somehow (not crassly but clearly) still female figures, stand in acceptably heroic postures on a ridge in their new planet overlooking a Martian plain. It was thrilling, and would have been impossible 40 years ago.

I may not want to be that role model in my work, but its value and power is evident!

.... I have had to come back in and add to this a few days later, having just started to read a sci fi book which details the adventures of a female (maths whizz) protagonist, published in the 1980s (Greg Bear's EON (1985), which then reminded me of the James Cameron's second Alien film, Aliens 1986, in which the main normally macho characters were taken by women/girls. So all this was happening back then already. So my question is why is it still 'thrilling' now? Perhaps what is thrilling is that all the other characters, and film, accept this status quo??

Thursday, 20 December 2018

uh oh last blog was July and it is now December - should this be a five-monthly blog? It's not that I forgot exactly - several times I thought hey what about that blog, or even - this would be good material for the blog, but between that thought and the actual typing in, the finding of time to do that, life interfered and interfered and interfered - often electronically.

will the gaps get longer and longer each time? I am only coming to this now after three days of almost downtime in prep for Xmas - teaching is over, most of my colleagues are away, and I am using the hours to do things that have been left undone since September, different piles of papers left abandoned on my library floor as I half-do something and then have to cut it short for one pressing reason or another, intending to go back 'soon' - three or four or more months later in actual fact.

i subscribed to Art Review in 2018 thinking it would expand my mind in areas not normally ventured by me, but of the 8 issues of 2018 have nearly 3 still to read. It is simply too much and too big for me to catch. there is no time anymore

i have so many plans and projects i would like to follow and so little time to do so. also, this week i have been submitting my haiku to competitions and editions and realise that i probably only manage to submit haiku to one out of three Presence issues a year, and I'm supposed to be its essays and reviews editor

it makes me thankful for the run-up to Christmas, when teaching subsides and my colleagues take leave, when decorations are done and the main stimulation is not the number of emails in my inbox but the cards falling through the door which stimulates me to set to the new hands-on task of making a yuletide response. I like the way I spend the weeks of late autumn thinking of others - the opportunity to give - over-exploited of course by the capitalist economy we live in, we all know that, but nevertheless an opportunity to consider what they'd like, how to surprise them - not a last minute rush but a slow accumulation, so slow in my case that I pre-empt the Christmas advertisements. My gifts usually all bought before that carousel begins. I also like the way I am often inspired to hold a feast of one kind or another for friends, or family, or both. And the Christmas week itself, in my line of work, provides a big gap because of the shutting down of computers and offices. I cannot go to work. I have to stay home, made all the more special this year by a rediscovery of Dickens - Dombey and Son - which I am reading in short bursts, unlearning my habit of skimming.

Sunday, 29 July 2018

on my way back... vipassana

29 July 2018
On my way back from a ten day vipassana meditation retreat in Herefordshire. Nine days of silence. Not for me as I was helping out on it, but nevertheless a much quieter place to be superficially at least, although of course as the exterior sound dies down a little – the emails, the conversations, the requests, the thousand and one things waiting to be done, the numerous projects it seems irresistible to take on constantly beckoning, the weeds in the garden meanwhile growing longer and longer – as all this dies down and falls away the internal busyness makes itself known. How tiring my life is both in and out – the constant chatter of my mind, my body, my emotions. But just as they swell up one after the other so too do they pass away. Riding on the current of them with an awareness of physical bodily sensations there is, in all this motion, a certain stillness that can be achieved, a stillness to take away and to continue to live and feel back in the hurly burly of the everyday. Tired and hot on the motionless train, what’s happening on the body? Waiting for the metro what’s happening on the body. Deciding where to buy a sandwich, what’s happening on the body? Pulling the suitcase down the platform, what’s happening on the body? Body and sensations taking me in. Body sensations taking into the now.

Wednesday, 20 June 2018

June Reunion

Already June... I am zinging this month because of daring to go to a School Reunion, meeting old classmates after half a lifetime. I know I wasn't the only one who was slightly nervous but it was a really joyous and confirming occasion. Very nourishing. I found myself smiling and smiling in celebration of all these wonderful women (it used to be an all girls' school), who had weathered all sorts of interesting and varied life experiences to meet up again in our now almost unrecognizable school grounds.

It is of course an exercise in confronting the aging process but that wasn't as awful one might think - because what really struck me was how attractive and appealing all these women were. Some were regal, others vivacious. They were kind, compassionate, interested, engaged. All people I would like to spend time with. All people with rich and interesting life experiences. And all people with whom I shared some of my most formative years. Some I had forgotten but as I spent time with them the memories came flooding back and it was really such a joy.

Also not to be overlooked was a precious conversation with my old geography teacher who must now be in her 80s at least, and yet who remembered every single one of my family who attended that school. I suddenly realized with a flood of warmth that all through my life there were these invisible people who touched me, as she did in my teens, and who were sporadically, occasionally, remembering me and wishing me well. And of course I too was doing and can do that service for others.

I went home, lay on the bed, and, without planning to, thought and thought and sent good wishes to all these women, going through each at once and all together. May they all be really happy. How glad I am to have found them again.

Friday, 13 April 2018

‘so familiar it is invisible’



sinking into that old dark state where gloom sticks a little to every bit of news. It can become almost a game, finding what’s wrong, certainly a compulsion, an exercise for the intellect – the reward a little dampening of the spirit: not too much not to function but enough to keep that gloom sticking to the edges. The slight shade of cumudgeonliness that becomes so familiar it devisibilizes, defaults, active acts of perception rendered unnecessary. The slightly sinking increasing downward

nine days quiet withdrawn from speech from catching eyes from gestures from books from words from external acts of imagination, even from the flowers try not to look at the flowers the way they have been planted. And the deepening spiral corkscrews upward in this case violent tearing burning from the leg, wrapping the trunk in continuous purgatory flow fluid scald no aloe no gentling no barrier no blind to soften now a purge that on on on the upsurge spills. 

and I become very proficient at plodding 

the outcome is the same the normal me the I am I always thought I was the tendencies to cheer to joke to lighten given room just because feel like it just because the act occurs to just because the way it’s meant to all flows more

easily surreptitiously painlessly 
painlessly
well yes completely painlessly

Wednesday, 28 February 2018

braggadocio musings

Extra time at the moment, because of university conditions though I dont know how long they'll last - the response is curious - sleeping and doing nothing for several days - apparent laziness and lack of motivation one might think but on consultation many colleagues also experiencing this punctuated by intermittent pangs of guilt - should be doing something, timetable, grid of work, the drive that is always there, the constant tug of emails - once you step off that conveyor belt there is perhaps time for the exhaustion to set in and almost horrifyingly a feeling that you do not want to go back on it. Is this what retirement is like? But I have decided today having reached and passed a low induced by high sugar intake to make use of the time in a more structured way that will allow still for plenty of freedom but a little sense of progress. One of these ways forward is a project I have had tinkering away at the back of my mind for a while - a little collection of poems in braggadocio. I already have one, commissioned for an anthology of women adventurers, and coming across it again after a few weeks absence realize how strong and expressive and attractive I find it so am going to work on producing several. they may not be great they may not all work but by approaching the same typeface in as different ways as i might like who knows what will come out
id have written this too in braggadocio if I could...

(just tried with copy and paste but word wont transport it to the blog - rats - hmm could use this text though           )

Sunday, 10 December 2017

a toast to sharing, to generosity

A record of two communal festive moments.

Today is the day after our annual supra - a Georgian feast celebrating Georgian music - passed down through generations in the mountain villages of Georgia and still so powerful today even though the languages have changed so much that the meanings of the words have often been lost. Incredible polyphonic singing in which the voices stay close together - a social singing where the solo voice is no more important or superior to for example the resounding and never ending drone of a bass part - sung in such unison that the snatches of breath taken to maintain that sound cannot be heard.

The warmth of the supra, and the remembered aftertaste and after sound of the delicious foods - layered Georgian honey cream cake, spinach, pomegranate, beans, cheese bread, a quince concoction, the Georgian toasting call and punctuations of Georgian song  - is combined in my case with the warmth of an earlier meeting on the same day of a small group of haiku writers - sharing our own and others' haiku. In this small group, gentle and uninterruptive, the theme is the senses, the topic of discussion moves to quite deep philosophical territory as we consider the place of the senses in an experience of residing in the now, the here, the immediate, untrammeled by thoughts of past or future.
The haiku are superb as is the willingness to discuss comment and alter to get the words and feeling exactly where we would like them to be. Topped off by a small delicious repast which includes both Christmas cake and homemade butter bean hummus...

There is something about the bringing and sharing of food in an atmosphere of artistic openness, generosity and yes again sharing that warms and warms so deeply

To friendship! To generosity! To sharing!