Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Pig-headed: a poetry post

I've been poetically absent for a while. I've been reeling in the wake of Brexit, which I did not see coming, and which has left me grieving for the Britain I thought I knew. I know that the leavers reckon we remainers should get over it and move on, but that blase attitude is what allowed them to vote leave in the first place. For me, being part of Europe is an important part of my identity and how I want to live my life. I'd much rather be part of Europe than Britain. Especially this Britain, this one that has shown itself to be racist and nasty and to have no compassion for the rest of humanity. For a while there I was anticipating a second anarchy, and I'm impressed that Theresa May was willing to pick up the poisoned chalice of leadership at this time. So far she's doing it with aplomb (apart from the whole keeping nuclear bombs thing, but that insanity is not only her doing). Still. I would rather leave Britain than leave Europe, and I haven't been able to be coherent about the whole situation up until now. Perhaps I'm still not. I've tried to fit some thoughts into Spenserian Stanza to straighten my head. The result is 'Pig-headed'.


Pig-headed I refuse to recognise
the new reality which now comes clear.
Pig-headedness was something I despised -
an obstinate refusal of the year.
I'd thought of foolish men with foolish fear;
of those you might believe would fuck a pig.
I thought of those that could not see that we're
intrinsically human. Love is big.
I pull my head out of the sand - the head of pig.

I wouldn't see that compassion was dead,
and still have tears to find that I was wrong.
And now I'm searching for a way ahead,
although I fear the journey may be long;
to find a place where I feel I belong:
a way out of this harsh reality
so we can join together, standing strong.
I fear we need to rip up our country
or leave the ship and find a place where we can be.

© Cara L McKee 26/7/16

Meanwhile, I'm admiring the work of Nicola Sturgeon, in trying to get we Scots out of this mess (not of our choosing), and I'm dropping 'subtle' hints about getting out of dodge. 

We have been enjoying a particularly soggy (again, and there's another reason to leave) summer holiday so far and cannot wait for our Barcelona house swap later this week. And on the work front I have been sending my stuff out into the world and collecting stacks of rejections. I keep reminding myself that everyone got lots of rejections (and ignoring the little voice telling me I'm rubbish). 

Apart from all that, and having lots of fun with the kids (so much crafting on these soggy days, and a lovely holiday in Yorkshire/Derbyshire/Nottinghamshire), I have been mainly playing Fallen London, attempting to learn Finnish and Spanish on language learning apps (I will be dropping Spanish after Barcelona, Finnish is way more fun), and watching Dark Matter, which is working on being nearly as good as Firefly.

Sunday, 24 July 2016

six sumptuous songs to sing on a sodden Sunday

I love to sing. I love filling a space with sound and the sound coming back and filling me.

I love songs with long notes, and songs that mean things, and songs that are complete and utter nonsense.

But these songs are some of my favourites for singing along to. What are yours?

Butterflies and Hurricanes by Muse is an amazing song, full of emotion and meaning, and it has long soaring notes to enjoy. It must be amazing to sing in a stadium, but I'm happy with the kitchen. My love for this song has inspired me to write several poems, which you'll find elsewhere on the blog (Kissing a Tall Man, Know by Now, and Magnus the Mighty). To be honest I'll happily sing along with most Muse songs, but I'll actually get the words right to this one!

I was a teenage cloggie, and a massive fan of my local band, New Model Army. I have many favourites, and have been known to break into song quite frequently (especially if people ask Stupid Questions, or I go on a bus ride). More recently they've brought out High, which is right up there with some of their greatest hits, and it's what I'm working on learning to sing at the moment.

Another band I loved in my youth were Sisters of Mercy. I saw them live last year, so I can attest that they are not departed or gone, although perhaps they should be. There is no excuse whatever for the song 'I'm a policecar' (which is a cover!). They were better back in the day...for maybe two albums. This song is gorgeous, and I suspect it's something to do with drugs. Andrew Eldritch was born in 1959 (so he's younger than Slade the Leveller, not that you'd know), and I have no idea who Isobel is, but it's rather lovely and has a nice sway to it. Also, this video is sumptuous gorgeousness (and fan art).

I love to sing anything from Joni Mitchell's album Blue. The album is one of my Mum's favourites, and when I first left home I bought a copy to remind me of her. When I was feeling blue I'd put it on and sing along with the whole album. I can't pick a favourite song, I'd happily sing the whole album, but this one keeps coming to mind at the moment.

The next one was one I happened across when flicking channels. I immediately bought the album and it's a favourite in the car (the kids are especially fond of Baby). This is Serj Tankian of System of a Down, doing his solo thing in marvellous style (and he can fit almost as many words in a line as Ms Mitchell).

last up (and only the last because I have to stop somewhere) is Criminal by Lower than Atlantis. Another song found through random flicking, I love the way this song is put together, how they go down for the word 'criminal', how the words soar in the chorus (it's a shame there's a 'shit' in there, I loudly replace it with 'this'), and the marvellous use of rhyme and rhythmn in the bridge:
Yeah son, we're gonna get some actionYou distract them and I will attack them

There are so many songs that I've not included on this list! What are yours?

Friday, 8 July 2016

love to exchange homes

Last year Home Exchange gave us free annual membership of their home swapping website. The idea is that you go stay in someone else's house, for free, while they stay in your house, for free.

Free holidays!

It can get more complicated than that... some people have second homes which you can stay in, but the basic idea is that you go and live like a local, while you're giving someone else the same chance.

Last year we started our membership around March, and to be honest with you that's a bit late in the year. We noticed this year that most of our enquiries about exchanges came in December/January, when people are starting to get their ducks in a row about where they're going. I guess if you lived somewhere really special, you could risk coming late to the party, but the only exchange we managed to arrange last year was a long weekend in Dunblane (which was awesome, and I wrote about it here).

This year we really wanted to go to Barcelona, and we learnt how difficult it can be to arrange for a specific destination (although - spoiler - we cracked it in the end).

We are also doing a swap with a family in Derbyshire. I'm sure there's plenty of fun stuff to do in Derbyshire, but we weren't planning on going there until we were asked to swap. Now we've got lots of fun in store.

So, how does it work?

You start off with the Home Exchange website - you put your own house on (a bit like getting ready to sell your house really), and have a look at what's available elsewhere. You then get in touch to see who would like to swap. I warn you, you may have to kiss a lot of frogs, but there is the occasional prince!

Once you've got a happy combination, you arrange your swap and then you stick to it. People book holiday and the like, so you've got to view it as you would any other reservation.

Then, when it comes to the swap, you have a good clean up (I recommend getting cleaners in if you can), change all the beds and towels and make some room for your guests' stuff. Generally it's reasonable to expect to eat some food, but replace things you use up. You do however leave it as a home. If they wanted to stay in a hotel they would.

It's useful to provide an information sheet, telling people where things are, what your wifi password is, doctors, dentists, and places to go. Everyone I've exchanged with has done these slightly differently. There will always be useless information, and there will always be something they need to know and don't, so it's good to keep in touch, either through messaging on the Home Exchange site, or through email or text.

The Home Exchange site offers a good quick idea of how to leave your house and what information to leave which you'll find here.

It's good to get to know the people you're exchanging with. Ideally, this would involve meeting up with them, but sometimes that's not possible. We've had long chats via email, and have Skyped people too.

Other things can go along with your home. Our cat is going to be hanging out with our exchangees (I hope he doesn't get too grumpy with them), and for the Barcelona swap we're swapping our cars as well. It's flexible and easily negotiated.

Several people have said to me that they'd be worried about strangers being in their home. To be honest, that's never crossed my mind, because I'm in their home too! However, it is starting to bother my son. He's 10, and having his own space is becoming important to him, so I think we might find other ways to holiday next year. 

One last thing that I must mention. I love that with a home exchange our house isn't just sitting empty - I do worry about people breaking in, and this way we have house sitters, watering the plants and feeding the cats, and (hopefully) having a good holiday.

Would you fancy home exchanging?

Monday, 4 July 2016

believe in magic

Lucky us got to go to the Magic Fair kicking off Edinburgh's Magic Festival, which is in its seventh year, with lots of things to do all this week. Check out their webpage for more info

There was lots to do, and, being tired after camping at a truly dreadful campsite (no more on that save to say we shall never go again), we didn't manage to do it all. We did however, go to three shows:

  • Elliot Bibby was funny and inclusive, as well as inventive, and was a great way to kick things off. 
  • We went to the 20 minute taster session for the Magic School which is running all week. Gary James was great with the kids and managed to keep everyone's interest. Even Miss 5, who is known to walk off in the middle of cake, such is her attention span. He involved everybody and managed to teach them all some pretty impressive (if deceptively simple) tricks. There's even one with loom bands!

  • The last show we saw was Gary Dunn, who was funny (although a little sexist), and did some smashing tricks. One of the kids we were with was disappointed that although he did use helpers from the audience, he kept the same ones for AGES. Miss 8 found his humour chuffing HILARIOUS, and was rocking all the seats with her laughter!
There was a shop somewhere, I missed it, but friends we were with bought funky magic wands and some simple guides to doing tricks. We got sucked in by the truly awesome ribbon maze, in which I lost Mr 10 in just shy of three seconds. I could have spent hours in there, if only it was seemly not to give everyone else a turn!

Between me telling my phone to take this picture and it taking, my boy had vanished into the ribbon maze and an unknown woman had appeared (in a different place). Truly, freakily, awesome.
Today we're home, and the kids are still in their jammies, so we've been scrapbooking about what we've done on our holidays so far. We're up to four pages and it's not even been a week yet!

And because I didn't manage to get a photo of the boy in the ribbon maze, I've drawn him instead (there's a reason why I'm a writer, not a drawer).

So we all had a good time, and there's even talk of going back next year. 

Thanks Magic Fest! And thanks too to Scotland4Kids for getting us in.