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Monday, April 27th, 2015 02:44 pm
 photo IMG_20150424_144240.jpg

Having told [personal profile] magister I'd rather do things than have things as presents, he arranged for us to go visit his sister and brother-in-law, who live in Hove, for a long weekend.

Yes, nowhere near my birthday. I knew it'd be in the new year. March was the first time everybody's schedules coincided and trains conspired against us then, so it got pushed back a month. Which seemed devastating at the time (my ambitions for this year having led me only to frustration and the conviction that nothing was ever going to get better and I wasn't capable of any of the tasks confronting me...in other words, I really really needed a break), but probably meant we had nicer weather for it than we would've otherwise. Which is good since our interests are mostly wandering around, looking for bookshops and nice pubs and parks to sit in and suchlike.

We arrived not long before James's sister and brother-in-law finished work on the Thursday. I'd seen their house extremely briefly when we were there for their wedding last summer, but this time it really left an impression on me. I loved almost everything about it: the black-and-white paving on the front walk which I said reminded me of dazzle ships, the wooden floor, even how white all the walls were painted.

Having helped and talked with my friends a lot about decorating lately I am compulsively noticing the color of everyone's walls, but I think this would've been striking anyway: everything was white. Which my fellow DIY friends have both described as "cold" or "clinical" lately, but to me this looked simple, clean and elegant and bright, especially with the ridiculous amounts of sunshine that greeted our arrival. I spent the whole weekend admiring this and wanting to make it work in my house, though I fear we, and our house, are too scruffy to pull it off.

I do want these shutters, though.

This isn't a great picture of them (oh look, there's my finger in the corner of the shot; I am so good at this) but hopefully you get the idea. They can be folded over the windows, and the slats on each section can easily be turned to whatever angle you want, too. It'd get rid of the horrible net curtains (which Andrew insists on but I hate), would keep us from slowly pulling the horrible curtains off the horrible curtain hooks, and just make me really happy, I think.

Our white room had (in addition to more of these shutters) a lush white duvet and white towels neatly laid out on it when we arrived. I could easily have believed I was staying in a B&B. Only it was, for me, way better than a B&B: it wasn't bed and breakfast, it was bed and dinner. I got my own cornflakes and tea for breakfast, but I couldn't help with dinner beyond the extent to which hanging out in the kitchen with a glass of wine and chatting was help. Of course there are few things I love more than someone else cooking for me, but even so I luxuriated in the food and drink I got this weekend.

[personal profile] magister and I even managed to find a great Italian restaurant that gave us simple food made from amazing ingredients at a price that didn't make our poor northern wallets cry. (Poor James was horrified at the price of the beer we got while waiting in London between trains, and at everything in Brighton. I knew Brighton was as bad as London but this kept coming as a shock to him.)

That was on the Friday, when we were on our own while normal people were working. We walked from Hove to Brighton. Having been given the directions "go to the seafront and turn left," we only realized when we left the house that no one had exactly told us what direction the sea was in. James said we could stop and ask anyone and I said I was not going to go up to a stranger and say "Where is the sea?" Anyway we struck out and found we were heading in more or less the right direction.

We walked along the seafront until I started recognizing stuff from the other time I've been in Brighton, Autumn Liberal Democrat Conference in 2012. I loved Brighton then: getting up at eight to be on the LGBT+ Lib Dems stall by nine, talking to people all day who thought we already had equal marriage or wondering what the acronym stood for, wanting all of Jen's badges (especially "Vince was right" and "coalicious," though), getting Jeremy Browne's photo taken in front of our banner holding a little teddy bear, forgetting to eat, arguing with people on one subject and agreeing vehemently with them on the next, shouting Awkward-Squad things in the debates, having someone (probably [livejournal.com profile] diffrentcolours remind me to eat, going back to [livejournal.com profile] plumsbitch's where I was staying, where he'd have likely made something amazing to eat and we'd stay up until four in the morning drinking wine, listening to music, chatting...and then I'd wake up at eight again the next morning and start the whole process over again. I was almost dead by the end of it, especially after Glee Club that last night, but I loved it.

So anyway, I knew by the time we walked past the cinema it was time to turn left again, off the seafront, because after that it was just tat and fish-and-chips shops, so we walked down what I now know is Queens Road and found a secondhand bookshop and two chocolate shops on the same road. I bought myself a book there on the history of women in the Middle Ages, and then I bought a bunch of chocolate -- I didn't know Montezuma was based in Sussex but having learned this I now think they're keeping all the best stuff for themselves. We bought white chocolate for [personal profile] miss_s_b and mint chocolate to share because that's my favorite, and oh man it was the best mint chocolate I've ever had in my life.

After the lovely Italian lunch, we went to the toy museum.

It was only little, and I was expecting a lot of stuff-I-didn't-recognize, but they had a bunch of trains too so that was all right.

But I got nearly as excited about the freight trains as the passenger ones; my sentimentality about trains knows no limits.

I took this picture thinking I don't know what the Great Dorset Steam Fair might be, but it sounds like I'd like it:

There were dolls and toy kitchen appliances and baby buggies there too, but we of course ignored all that stuff.

We got a bus back and spent a quiet afternoon with TMS on the internet-phone-radio. Helen came home from work, we all went to the pub and then had Lebanese takeaway, which was gorgeous. And an early night, because we're rock-and-roll that way.

Saturday morning we walked to Brighton again, going a different way so that we could look in on Sussex Country Cricket Ground, which we'd seen signs for the previous day and we'd even checked if they had cricket we could go see, but the last match had ended on Wednesday. Still we walked up to it and poked around a bit, took a peek at the grounds through a fence, found an open door and admired some action shots of cricketers and plaques with the names of all the chairmen and captains and England players for the county until someone heard us and told us in the most polite British way to go away, so we did.

On to Brighton, then.

We walked through some markets that seemed half-Camden and half-Longsight to me. There was a shop with a couple of t-shirts I liked, though; one James suggested I get for Andrew that said "Normal People Scare Me" (which would've been true but not at all in the sneering-goth way it was intended by the look of the rest of the shop) and one I wanted for me so much that I'm really sad they only had one in a tiny size.

"It's not about how you look, it's about how you see" seemed particularly apt with me using my still-novel white cane a lot and making tons of comments about how the numbers on buses were easier to see and James noting that I got a lot of double-takes when I walked down the street with my cane in one hand, looking down at my phone in the other. He said he really wanted to stage-whisper at me "You're supposed to be blind!" but didn't because he knows I don't have much of a sense of humor for these things. But we both agreed that's a shame, because it would've been really funny. I worry enough about being thought a scrounger or faker as it is anyway, though, because I use it some-but-not-all the time and because I do stuff (like stare daggers at people who sneak in front of me in queues thinking I won't notice) that "gives away" that I can see at least a little.

We did eventually walk down the pier, either because we hadn't before or because the amusement arcade in it featured toilets we could use; I can't remember which. I didn't take a picture of the almost-life-size plastic cows or the tables with legs that look like cow legs this time, because I was pretty sure I had done that last time, but I couldn't resist a photo of the tin-can-knocking-over game which was decorated with minions.

(For anyone who hasn't seen Despicable Me, this video will illustrate why I wouldn't think you'd want to remind carnival-game players of that movie:


Also, at the end of the pier, there was a wagon with steps leading up to it wherein, apparently, you could get a tarot reading.

Ivor. Ivor the tarot wagon.

I bought overpriced doughnuts because they smelled so good, and we ate them walking back up the pier and watching people in those bungee-jump chairs which I'm always tempted to try, but I didn't think they'd be very good on a day when I was wearing a dress.

I did enjoy Brighton, but I felt a bit out of place, too. It's very white and very middle-class, and I'm...not. I mean, I am white, of course, but I feel uneasy in such overwhelmingly white company. I know Brighton prides itself on its diversity but I also know people who find it frustrating or damaging because they're too far from the white, straight, cis, non-disabled norm: being gay is okay but being anything else seems less so, and heaven help you if you're more than one other thing. I had a nice visit and I'd happily return, especially to the generous and accommodating company of James's sister and her husband, but it did make me appreciate my scruffy, beloved Levenshulme all the more on my return.

Plus, the water doesn't taste like metal here.

Saturday night we had a barbecue: lamb koftas for the others and mushrooms and halloumi and corn on the cob for me. Well, I think they all had all those things too! Then we watched a movie from a set James had picked up in CEX that day. It was called Homecominmg and it was completely amazing. Very funny, in that way that horror movies sometimes are which may or may not be intentional. It's about a thinly-veiled version of the U.S.'s recent wars in Afghanistan/Iraq, full of cynical, bald-faced lying politicians who are shown up when soldiers start coming back from the dead as zombies who want nothing more than to...vote for someone else to be president. I thought I'd seen every possible take on zombies but zombies voting absolutely charmed me. I loved it. And considering how much my horror-loving friends overlap with my politically-involved friends, I think a lot of people I know would like it too.

Then we went to bed early and woke up early and spent most of yesterday traveling back. Getting the trains to and from London via Brighouse was ace -- the Grand Central trains there are cheaper and better than the Virgin trains from Manchester in every conceivable way, except it does mean it's a long day for me if I make the whole journey back at once. But we broke it up a bit with an hour in Brighouse, with a late lunch from the chippy and a nice pint of beer in our favorite pub there, basking in sunshine the likes of which we'd not seen in the last couple of days by the seaside, no doubt an indication again that Yorkshire is God's chosen county.
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Thursday, April 23rd, 2015 10:06 am
The next time anybody feels the need to inform me of the fact that they think American holidays are silly and Americans celebrate them in silly ways, I hope I remember to tell them that today I saw a bunch of guys walk into Wetherspoons dressed like knights out of Monty Python (the scruffy trainers under their red-and-white robes adding particularly to the Pythonesque effect).

Remember, kids: No country has a monopoly on being silly or looking for excuses to skip work, dress up, or start drinking lager at breakfast time.
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Saturday, April 18th, 2015 07:56 am
I had an extremely odd dream.

Andrew and I were on vacation, somewhere in Britain but there was a Target there. We went in and, seeing that they had a counter where you could change your name by deed poll, I spontaneously decided to.

I didn't have anything particular I wanted to change my name to, but I was suddenly very keen on having a name people could spell and understand when I said it ("Holly" sounds different in my accent than in the ones people around me use, and I have had to spell it a lot recently...And of course my last name continues to be a nightmare). To illustrate the difficulty of my name, in the dream I had to write out my current/old name a couple of times, and I kept making odd spelling mistakes and writing it illegibly.

Since I wanted to change my name but I didn't know what to, dream-Andrew suggested "Morag," which I wasn't sure about but couldn't think of any reason why not. The guy at the departmet-store deed-poll counter (this should so be a thing) was Scottish, so he thought that was a good idea. I thought I might keep my own middle name -- which is Michelle -- but then I saw he'd written "Lynsey" down on the forms (this is also how I learned I was apparently going to "Jones" as a surname) which I did not like, so the three of us had an argument about what my new middle name should be...It was nearly "Ginny" but then the Scottish man said something about "Kean" (and, in the way with dreams, I immediately knew it was that spelling) and I excitedly latched onto that.

So I happily walked away with a big envelope full of paperwork and a list of all the things I had to notify of the name change...all emblazoned with the name Morag Kean Jones.

I'd love to know what dream-world I was living in where a Scottish first name, an Irish middle name usually expected to belong to a gender different from mine were going to be easier to navigate the world with than the name I've already got!

It amused me when I woke up (which is good because I woke up way too early to the noise of the damn smoke alarm whose batteries need changing but which I hav never been able to take apart to get at the batteries, so I'd have otherwise been very grumpy).

Waking-me hasn't ever really thought about changing my name, beyond using that as a rhetorical device to whine about how sick I am of having a name people get wrong, and the whole milliseconds it took to make the decision not to change my surname when I got married.

But in the dream, I didn't feel much attachment at all to my name. As I signed the paperwork, I distinctly remember being a little sad I would no longer have the same name as [personal profile] miss_s_b's daughter, and thus the still-running joke of her being my mum (a real thing! which, months after the misunderstanding that spawned it, is still an idea that makes me laugh) might have to die. But on the other hand, dream-me mused, it'd take Andrew absolutely ages to get used to calling me anything other than "Holly," and I'd enjoy laughing at him when he did.

I was vaguely aware there'd be a lot of bureaucracy to deal with in changing my name, but I didn't dwell on that nearly as much as losing my affiliation with another awesome Holly and watching Andrew get something wrong.

Brains are such funny things, aren't they?
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Friday, April 17th, 2015 10:24 am
How do you eat an elephant?

One bite at a time.

My life seems full of half-eaten elephants all over the damn place right now. I try not to think about this too much because it diminishes anything I have accomplished. But some days the slog gets too much and I just long for anything to be easy or straightforward.
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Thursday, April 16th, 2015 06:54 pm
"Very nearly" because it won't technically be two years until Saturday, but on Saturday he'll be working and I'll be painting [livejournal.com profile] haggis's kitchen, so I consider today, with pizza and Doctor Who and beer, to be a much better celebration.

This afternoon we sat in the same pub in the same place (only me sitting where he had been and vice versa) where he first said he'd like to kiss me and my life changed for the better.
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Thursday, April 9th, 2015 05:07 pm
Some of my well-meaning friends say stuff like "hit them with your white cane!" as a response when I mention that some fine upstanding citizen has done, like run into the cane and then yell at me, or sneaking ahead of me in queues seems to be a popular one at the moment...).

I appreciate my friends mean well, they're trying to indicate that they think bad things should happen to people who behave in a disgracefully ableist way.

But from my perspective, "Hit them!" is not only impractical as a serious suggestion of course -- for reasons ranging from "it's only made of aluminum" to "I'd be the one who got in trouble" -- but also there are people who genuinely think disabled people who use canes for mobility will also use them as weapons.

No, really.

An eight-year-old had his cane taken from him at school because 'they thought he was getting violent' and the worst of it is, the school gave him a fucking "pool noodle," one of those foam tubes kids use to help them float when they're splashing around in the water, to use instead.

Claiming the kid "posed a danger to himself and others," the school not only took away what the kid's mother calls "his eyes" as punishment, but seemed to think a silly toy was a suitable replacement, clearly intending only to humiliate him (which, if my experience in elementary school is anything to go by, he probably didn't need the help with) and neither knowing or caring that a white cane is a tool and all its ability to convey information -- about where people and objects are, about what kind of surface is being traveled over, so many things -- is in the rigidity that made it seem so threatening in the hands of this eight-year-old.

Also, some blind people had a harrowing time trying to get into Six Flags because security thought their white canes were "sticks" that could start a fight if they ran into someone with one.
After about another half hour, we finally spoke to the man we were waiting for. He brought out paramedics to try to determine if we were blind.

He then asked us if he could give us a sighted guide so we could leave our canes at the gate. We told him no.

He then told us he didn’t want us to have the canes because we might hit people’s legs by accident with them, and it could start a fight. Zach then gave the gentleman his very first travel class. He instructed him and showed him how a blind person would only tap another person’s ankle.

After that, he made us give our solemn word that we would not use our canes as weapons. He then said that "after 9/11, you could never be too careful because terrorists are everywhere."

I replied, “We’re not terrorists.”
I know my friends mean well and I'm not upset at any single example of being told "hit them!" because I know my friends mean nothing more than cheerful solidarity. But I just wanted to say that such comments make me uneasy, and yes it's ridiculous that people do have these reactions -- when disabled people are much more likely to be victims than perpetrators of assault -- but since they do, forgive me for not having much of a sense of humor on the subject.
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Thursday, April 9th, 2015 03:25 pm
Andrew is, touchingly, sympathetic at me after I've RTed the results of my belovedTwins' games so far (after the 4-0 Opening Day loss I said "Starting as they mean to go on there, I see," and last night I said "It's going to be a long season" after they lost 11-0; yep they're still yet to even score a bloody run this season!).

I thanked him but clearly seemed resigned to my fate. And while I'm used to that, of course -- after all, I've been from Minnesota my whole life -- I also recognized something in my tone of voice as being like [personal profile] magister's when he talks about English cricket. And I've been teasing him so mercilessly that I'm sure I've stored up enough sports-fan karma to keep me subdued for a while!
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Tuesday, April 7th, 2015 11:59 pm
That princess in The Princess and the Pea is definitely autistic, isn't she.
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Tuesday, April 7th, 2015 07:40 pm
This morning my phone was telling me it's an hour earlier than it is because it updated and thought I'm in Reykjavik (things I didn't expect to learn today: Iceland apparently uses GMT and doesn't have daylight savings).

The wire in the bra I was wearing broke, which means a) it's trying to stab me and b) I have to start thinking about buying bras again and there's nothing about buying bras that I don't hate.

My phone also decided to remember [livejournal.com profile] diffrentcolours's old weird phone number and not the one actually useful for him.

Indeed the phone update, while probably an improvement overall, has deleted all my text messages, made it nearly impossible for me to figure out the noises it makes or how to change them, added a weird Siri-like thing, and made things more graphics-intensive in ways that make them more difficult for me to figure out. There's a pretty direct correlation between how much of a shadow gradient is on something and how much information it conveys to me. All of this has combined to make the world just that bit more disconcerting for me today.
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Monday, April 6th, 2015 12:11 am
After his latest blog post, explaining what's gone wrong with the Hugos this year for people who've seen the outrage but weren't previously clued-up and now want to know what their friends are talking about, Andrew's been invited onto some podcast so he's on Skype downstairs.

...I'm trying to read and I keep hearing him yelling things like "the Futurians were Trotskyists!"

It's slightly distracting, but I so very approve of this. If nothing else, it means he's explaining things that bother him in great detail to Americans who aren't me!
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Friday, April 3rd, 2015 06:35 pm

Lady and small child carefully examining this train which has just pulled into the station.
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Thursday, March 26th, 2015 08:56 am
This isn't a perfect list for me (no single attempt is going to work for everyone), but it's a pretty good start.
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Tuesday, March 24th, 2015 07:56 pm
I made not-perfect but perfectly-serviceable hollandaise sauce and had it with spinach and toast and more eggs. I am well impressed with myself for how it turned out, considering I'd never even (as far as I can remember...) separated an egg before. This is something I remember my mom always hating on the rare occasions she has to do it, which had put me off bothering to try, but I got my three egg yolks with no problem at all. Perhaps just beginner's luck, or maybe it's just another of the differences between U.S. and UK eggs. But even if so, the recipe made more sauce than I need so it'll be a little while before I need to worry about this again.
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Friday, March 20th, 2015 01:41 pm
This week, what with its aurora and its solar eclipse, has been awesome for me because at times like this everyone else gets as excited about space as I am all the time.
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Thursday, March 19th, 2015 07:07 pm
The weather has been so nice this afternoon that I'm wearing a sleeveless dress and sandals.

With a hoodie. But I wear hoodies all summer anyway.
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Wednesday, March 18th, 2015 09:20 pm
My sore throat (sinusitis again, argh) wanted me to eat mashed potatoes tonight. But I don't really like potatoes (as the fact that I have more piling up from my veg box than I thought I did!), so to make them more enticing I added garlic, cheese and apples.

Yum. So good. I will do this again.
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Tuesday, March 17th, 2015 06:16 pm
Mom's tried to call a couple of times when I was asleep or out, so I haven't talked to her yet but I've got an e-mail. Here's what she says about the glories of Hawaii:
It was great over there.  We kept saying it was hard to believe we were there.  The flight is long and you only get water,pop, pretzels or peanuts once.  So we did have crackers and I tried to buy water before we got on the plane.
From that description, I find it hard to believe they were there, too!

I'm gonna call her in a minute, but I just don't know if I can yet handle the deluge of information about the ghastly-sounding Pearl Harbor Experience, the bound-to-be-racist luau they'll have gone to, and a detailed report on the clothes Mom wore while she was there, which she will call "outfits."
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Saturday, March 14th, 2015 01:43 pm
I crawled into bed and woke Andrew up, which is just as well as I didn't want him to wake up to see me upset -- I'd been crying, out of sheer overwhelm and pain that words weren't adequate to express.

He spent a long time giving me cuddles and trying to make me feel better...and, in the process, make himself feel better because he so hates to see me weepy and miserable that it's almost impossible for him to overcome that. So desperate to fix what can't be fixed, he can get distraught

Eventually he, face buried in my pillow next to me and arms tight around me, said "I just want to envelope* you in loves until you shine with lovedness."

It was heart-meltingly sweet and I loved the image but I told him I wasn't sure what that meant. (In emotional situations, his vocabulary can get a little surreal in the endearing way of people just learning a language.) He said he didn't know either but we agreed it clearly meant a good thing.

* Not envelop. Envelope.
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Friday, March 13th, 2015 08:50 pm
The good news is, maybe the anti-depressants are finally working on me after all?

The bad news is, the only evidence I have for this is that I've accidentally stopped taking them and I have felt unusually shitty all week.

I can only hope these two facts are related. It'd be the easiest fix for this problem, and I really want to fix it.
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Friday, March 13th, 2015 06:59 am
1. People stare at you in a way that screams, even to me who isn't great at reading facial expressions, "No need to pretend politely not to stare if it's a blind person you're staring at!"

A little part of me wants to yell "I can see you!" But it's more fun when they all think that I can't. It's like overhearing conversations people think I can't hear because I've got headphones on, apparently never guessing that it's not some young persons' hippity-hoppity music but only ever an audiobook or a Radio 4 podcast playing into them.

2. People really stare at you if they see you suddenly stop walking, take your phone out of your bag, and let the cane dangle from its cord on your wrist as you reply to the text you just got. As if blind people, what, can't use mobile phones? Don't have friends to text them?

That happened to me a couple of times yesterday; funniest thing I'd seen in a long time.