Charm / Offensive

Being a true (ish) account of my existence on this level of reality

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Local council cuts - map
So, this is an interesting map - it shows cuts to councils and the depth of those cuts.

Christmas and cuts
I could do a fairly standard bah-humbug post, but I rather like Christmas and as such will be rather disappointed to taint it with Scrooge-esque noises. However, the run up has been difficult. It's been a testing time for anyone working in the Arts, and we are seeing the first flurry of snowflakes that precede the avalanche of cuts. We'll know more post January when we find out if we've retained public funding. To move beyond a personal, parochial viewpoint, more important is that post January we will see where the other cuts fall. There have been the beginnings of noises from local councils, such as Somersets total cull and Birmingham's very elitist slices which include de-funding organisations that support those sectors of the community hardest to reach with arts works.

There's an echo of the (misguided, wrong-headed) idea that the private sector will provide the jobs cut from the public sector in how these cuts are falling, though we can't see the full picture yet. Somehow, Philanthropists will take up the mantle. Even if you think that the ancient system of patronage is a good idea and generates good art, it's not as if everyone has been leaping into the fray. Maybe they are feeling the cuts too? After all, we are all in it together.

The tedious argument that art isn't valuable should have been hung, drawn and quartered ages ago, but it still persists. As does the idea that any sort of art can be managed by any sort of people. It really can't. These are actual jobs that require actual experience, knowledge and skill. It's not about poncing around pretending to be a tree. Seriously. Yet, a hodge podge of make-do and mend is the order of the day. ACE found itself holding the baby for museums and libraries a week or so ago, after the MLA was executed mafia style.  This is an industry already squeezing a lot of value out of very little. The motto "do more with less" is one that the arts have been dedicating themselves to since before boards existed to tread.

Christmas carol
I write a Christmas "special"  of my almost acceptable detective noir series:

Bearing Gifts part one of four

Show down
The show came down on Saturday night, and it's all done and dusted for 2010. Just a couple more weeks of sweeping and tidying then a nice long break, really glad with how everything went, although a bit sad that the weather and suchlike meant that some people weren't able to come along who I'd hoped would be able to get all excited with me about my first "proper" London theatre show.

With any luck there will be more in the future, and with any luck it will snow less.

I'm in a bit of a funny mood (post-show is often like that) but also I'm at a bit of a hiatus in my life, I can't quite see where the next big thing is going to come from. I'm very blessed with a job I love, friends and family who support me and suchlike but there is a niggling in the back of my head that is a bit like itchy feet for the brain. To mix a few metaphors.

This time of year is a more thoughtful time, I suppose. Annual celebrations can get like that, and especially now I'm thirty and a Real Grown Up (albeit engaged in an ongoing campaign to do the least grown up things I can manage). Plus my sector is very unsettled at the moment, and we're all waiting to see what the outcome of the cuts will do to the industry as a whole. For the time being my job is secure (touch wood) however, over the past year or so I've seen prospects for advancement and roles in other organisations dry up which makes it hard to see where my next move will be workwise. And as for my lovelife, well, least said soonest mended.

Overall I'm happy(ish), but feeling like I'm missing something. Which is not the sort of place I want to be. Whilst I'm not exactly panicking about the future, I am uncertain and less confident than I might perhaps be. I've set myself this month to have a rest, and come January I'll be getting out the magic markers and drawing up the next Five Year Plan.

Just as well I've got the breathing room because right now, I haven't a clue. Outlook uncertain and all that.

I'm still doing that writing thing
Over at Bad Rep, a slice of Preston-based detective malarky.

KING - Losers Weepers or How To Write Serialised Fiction. (I think).
So, my attempts at World Domination via the method of gender-flip detective noir weeklies* continues!

Writing fiction like this - is a new venture for me. I'm very used to posting short bits of writing on a regular basis, so the word generation isn't an issue, but writing a coherent (hopefully) and interesting (again, hopefully) storyline that needs to keep the readers attention is quite different from my usual style of writing. I don't produce a lot of fiction, to be honest the most I do is letter writing for my various made-up-characters who I play in LARP.

The piece started of as a bit of an experiment. I have long held the rule of thumb that if you reverse gender roles in a narrative and it looks odd or silly then this is a useful tool for revealing and explaining sexism at work in the text. This is because a lot of the ways we present gender roles can look "normal" - and therefore invisible - to us. For example, the way that female characters are often described in terms of how they look wheras male characters are not. This can often pass under the radar and by switching pronouns the differences become more obvious. In some cases they are very striking. These stereotypes are generally more prevalent in genre specific peices, particularly mainstream detective / sci fi and fantasy novels.

What I wanted to do was to illustrate this thesis through a piece of writing, and also to try my hand at writing fiction over a sustained period. More so than my usual blogging, writing fiction was hard. I generally find it quite easy to churn out a lot of words quite quickly when I'm talking about my favourite subject - me and what I think about stuff - but here I found I needed to be in the right mood, and if I wasn't I just couldn't write anything. I spent a few evenings just staring at a blank screen feeling a little silly.

I'm going to come back to this topic every now and then, but for now I'll leave you with the amazing summary that creative writing can be difficult...

* The cuts mean that there is no longer budget for my volcano lair and sexy cowboy robot minions. I'm still sulking.

Don't keep calm. Don't carry on.
So, this happened yesterday and the media response has been relatively predictable - photos of fires and police with riot shields, silly comments about "typical students" and sniffily superior pat comments about how "violence solves nothing"* - neither of which are especially helpful. What galled me most were these comments - from people who in the most part had already had their education, some of those people had received full grants** and earning nice salaries in jobs that will be unavailable to those marching in Whitehall - I pity anyone graduating now and looking for work, it's a nightmare. Worse yet to come with the systematic unpicking of anything resembling "art" or "humanity" in higher education and in the public realm. But that's a rant for later.

For now, the students.

Frankly, I applaud them. As the rest of the country is weighed down under the lies that cuts must be made and accepting any old garbage as a solution, the students, much maligned, much underestimated, have actually made the biggest and most direct challenge to the coalition. I want to support this action, not because I want violent protest on every street corner (from either the students or the police)  but because I am sick of the tired, frustrated and above all ineffectual responses to these unreasonable and un-needed policy decisions.

I've had enough.
I am angry.
Angry enough to kick a window in Tory HQ certainly, but I'm at my desk right now so I need other options.

Below are some of the things that I will be doing:

Join a Union
, or other group body and work with other like-minded people in direct action, where possible.
False Economy - keep track of the cuts, find out about the ones that affect you and challenge them
Write to your MP - old fashioned, but they have to read your letters (or emails) and they do have to respond

Let me know if there are other things that you have found out about and are working on.

* Actually it does. That's why we have an army. It's not always the best solution, nor is it often big, hard and clever, but sometimes a kick up the arse is in order.
** The stuff of legend.

I had an awesome birthday on Saturday. There was a particularly lovely moment where, stood in the middle of  a packed-out curry house (mental apologies to the one other set of people eating there that night) looking at my amazing friends (old, new and inbetween) and I felt very loved and cared for.

It was exactly what I needed, good company and silliness. And a reminder of just how lucky I am in those people foolish enough to call me their friend. Particularly appropriate when I think back to this time last year and all that had happened.

Also, I got some brilliant presents* including shiny patent black DMs, an Alexander McQueen bracelet, books, DVDs and a quantity of gin, chocolate and champagne**. There were also a number of cards with a 3 and a 0 on them, but they must have been for someone else.

Thanks guys, you make me happy.

No virgins blood though, which was a disappointment. I guess I'll have to source my own.
** My friends know me, survey finds

Trying to put things together again
I am a woman on a mission. The mission is to get my life back the way that it was over Summer only better. Many things have improved and many things have fallen out of cupboards since then, including moving house (stressful and there are still umpteen little jobs that neither kangeiko  nor I actually have the time to do), being ill, getting a new chap, dealing with more workload / new working schedule at the theatre, making space for "personal time" (recovering vital sanity points), Doing Pagan Stuff, plus too many additional projects going live at once: making Theatre Happen, making LARP happen, actually doing LARP and trying to come up with witty and well written pieces of text for a fabulous new website* Most of this stuff has been really good, and I'm very happy to have done / be doing it, but I do feel like I am running very hard to keep up and bits of my immune system are now telling me to sit down in a very serious, finger wagging way.

Things that have fallen by the wayside in order to manage all of this without becoming more insane than is acceptable in my day-to-day** or replacing all of my internal fluids with caffeine and petrol I have Not Seen Enough of My Friends or Family and Not Looked After Self Enough. This then resulted in the blindingly obvious outcome that I turned into a sickly hermit. I am now thinking that not being a sickly hermit would be a good plan.

Being orginisationally inclined, I've come up with a list (I love lists) and to try and work out what I need to do to get from here to there. I've also come to the end of my Glorious Five Year plan, what with turning 30 this Saturday and all, so I do need to come up with a bit more of a longer term set of aspirations. But that can wait until January, especially as I hear it's traditional to do such things. For the moment here is what I shall be doing, it's not rocket science
  • Get back to the gym. Three times a week. This involves a two pronged tactic of getting up earlier and joining a gym closer to the new place. I have realised that whilst my old gym is a mere 1 tube stop away that is all it takes in order to make me Fail at working out.
  • Eat better. It's gotten cold. I have a cold. That means I've been going "sod it! I need the energy" everytime I even think about Krispy Kreme donuts***
  • See people. I'm very good at seeing people for regular, pre-arranged meetups like Changeling or other roleplay related things. I'm also kind of good at making time to see the chap (I hear that when one is seeing someone one should actually, you know, see them) What I'm very poor at is last minute adhoc things or anything whereby the other person can't block and confirm a date months into the future. This isn't helped by the fact that two evenings a week I work late so can't meet up after work.
* Why yes, this is a plug. Plug, plug, pluggity plug
** Fortunately this is a reasonably high level anyway
*** Kryptonite.


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