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August 29, 2005

Celebrate good times come on!

We are off camping in Dorset tomorrow, will be back on Monday.
It will be my blogiversary while I am away, yes I have been blogging for (almost) a whole year. I want to write a post on 'how blogging changed my life' or something equally cringe worthy but I do not have time so I shall save it for a later date.
Instead I thought I'd chuck together list of memorable posts. They may not be particularly memorable to you but I only mean that they stick out in my mind. Come on I haven't got time to spend trawling through my own archives so laugh if you must.
I actually don't even think this was my idea, I'm sure I remember someone else doing something similar on their blogiversary but I can't for the life of me think who it was, so if it was you then do own up and I will credit you.
In no particular order,

1) New Year's Eve 2004.

2) Sometimes I wonder how I get through life. I'm endlessly posting evidence of what a klutz I am. Amongst many other things I forget to pay for cartons of OJ and as for remembering to take my house keys out with me...

3)If I'm a mess then my house is even worse.

4)This is arguably the best thing that has happened to me all year.

5) And what of the posts where I try and be all political and stuff. I have been known to take on domesticity, beauty, wind farms, both the UK and US elections. Blah blah blah

Oh and it is also my husband's birthday tomorrow.
So here's to another year in more ways than one...

Posted by purple elephant at 11:19 PM |

Just a bit of fun..

Because I'm busy today sorting stuff out and packing for our camping trip tomorrow I have two quizes for you one is via Geeky Mum (I know lots of people have done this too) and the other via Ally at Simply Living..
Click on the extended entry to find my results in the Harry Potter personality test and the coffee personality test..

You Are a Plain Ole Cup of Joe

But don't think plain - instead think, uncomplicated
You're a low maintenance kind of girl... who can hang with the guys
Down to earth, easy going, and fun! Yup, that's you: the friend everyone invites.
And your dependable too. Both for a laugh and a sympathetic ear.

What Kind Of Coffee Are You? Take This Quiz :-)

Find the Love of Your Life (and More Love Quizzes) at Your New Romance.


Pirate Monkey's Harry Potter Personality Quiz
Harry Potter Personality Quiz
by Pirate Monkeys Inc.

Posted by purple elephant at 03:42 PM |

August 28, 2005

You know you are skint when....

.. you go to Primark, (yes I said PRIMARK) and pull a rather attractive pair of trousers of the rack, only to discover that they have been reduced from 8 to 4 quid.
You think about it for a moment and then sigh and put them back on the rack.

Posted by purple elephant at 08:49 AM |

August 27, 2005

The Purple Elephant Report on the links between Gin and Dementia.

I was so proud of myself last night. Mr PE was out I had the whole evening to myself and I think I did more studying than I have ever done in my life. Not only that but I spent the whole evening reading theory. Heavy stuff. I didn’t actually catch up (but do we ever?) but I was proud of myself all the same.

When my brain closed its gates and stopped allowing any new information through, I decided to treat myself to a gin and tonic. Now I secretly quite like gin and tonic, naturally I don’t drink it in public because I’ve never seen anyone other than middle aged housewives drink the stuff (think ‘Earring’ Pat from Eastenders) and I have a reputation to uphold. Coming to think of it I don’t usually drink Gin in private either but the other day my Mum was clearing out her drinks cabinet and offered me this big bottle of Gin for free. Now we have tried to date this bottle accurately but neither of us are archaeologists, the best we can come up with is that Mum doesn’t go near the stuff and I think I recognise the bottle from when I was living at home eight years ago.

Anyway after my gin and tonic I got myself an early night.
An hour and a half later I woke up desperate for a pee. Nothing unusual here this always happens to me when I drink alcohol. On the way to the bathroom I thought I’d just check on Littleone, I know I’m not the only Mother who has to do that every time she stirs in the night. The thing is have you ever wondered what would happen if one night your child just WASN’T THERE?

I checked the other end of the bed, for she is a restless sleeper and sometimes turns upside down.
I shook the covers just to make sure.
I checked her wendy house for she has been known to take a daytime nap in there.
Then I ran downstairs, I had left the light on for Mr PE’s return. Perhaps she had wandered down thinking we were still up.
Not on the sofa. Not on the pile of floor cushions in the corner. Not in the kitchen.

It was then, my heart nearly leaping out of my mouth that it occurred to me to call her name. Several times.
Nothing but a deadly silence.

At that moment I was staring at the front door. We usually bolt and chain the front door before we go to bed but Mr. PE was not back yet so I had to leave them off. I know Littleone can open the door when it is just on its catch.
She must have escaped. My four year old was wandering the streets of Arbury at 12:30 on a Friday night.
I actually had the phone in my hand trying to decide who to call first, Mr PE or the police. The only rational part of my brain was at work trying to remember what pyjamas she was wearing so I could describe her accurately.
I couldn’t remember what pyjamas I had dressed her in.
Why couldn’t I remember?
And then it dawned on me, the reason I couldn’t remember what pyjamas she was wearing was because I hadn’t dressed her in them.
My Mum had.
She was spending the night at her Grandma’s house, so that I could get some work done.

Embarrassed I climbed back into bed feeling glad that no-one was around to witness the spectacle. It still took a good few minutes for my heart rate to get back to normal and it was only then that I remembered that I never did have that pee.

Gin - So that’s why they call it ‘Mother’s Ruin’

Posted by purple elephant at 09:45 AM |

August 26, 2005

'Thus conscience does make cowards of us all;'

To drive, or not to drive that is the question: Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer The slings and arrows of outrageous public transport system, Or to take arms against a journey of troubles, And by opposing end them?

To tell you the truth I have never enjoyed travelling by car I’d love to be able to say it was all to do with the environmental impact but really my aversion can be traced long before I understood the meaning of the word ’pollution.’

Perhaps it comes of belonging to a family (well OK a father) who worshipped the motor car as if it were a God and fretted if one accidentally got so much as a spec of mud on the back seat.
From a very young age I have always had this irrational premonition that my life will end rather abruptly in some nasty pile up, or that I will be maimed or disabled in the same way. Strangely though my Dad’s car was the only vehicle in which I ever felt mildly comfortable. If for whatever reason I had to travel with someone else I would freak out, big time. I still do to a certain extent, although now I know that screaming and crying and banging my fists on the back seat is not a rational behaviour for a 29 year old, so I keep it all inside.

Of all the drivers in the world I trust myself the least. Whenever I am behind the wheel I am not only convinced that I am about to die, but that I am about to take everyone who happens to be in the car with me and it’s all going to be MY FAULT.
Mentally balanced, moi?

So, I hear you ask, why in God’s name did you ever learn to drive? Well the fact is I grew up in a claustrophobic small sleepy commuter village in Hertfordshire. I learned as soon as I took on a paper round at the age of 13 that I had no desire to spend my free time amongst those who read the Daily Mail as if it were the bible. All my friends lived in the nearest town where I went to secondary school but horror of horror the last bus back rolled it’s creaky wheels past the end of my road at the ungodly hour of precisely 5:30pm. So any later sojourns had to be planned well in advance to ensure that my Dad would be able to come and pick me up and whenever this was the case, he’d be sitting outside the venue at precisely 10:29 tapping his fingers on the steering wheel because he always seemed to have an early start a 6am.
It kind of killed that feeling of freedom that I'm told is felt by most teenagers.

Passing my driving test certainly presented me with a liberty that I had long been yearning but unfortunately it never alleviated the fear.
Mr PE is an old road protester and so never learned to drive (he also grew up in London which kind of helped) so in our relationship the driving is always down to me. So you can imagine my glee when a couple of years ago we decided that we could no longer afford to run a car and exchanged our automobile for some much needed banknotes. It also meant I could rub my hands together and become all holier-than-thou about pollution.

But public transport sucks doesn’t it?! Particularly when you are going away and can only take as much stuff as you can carry. Waiting at some cruddy bus stop or train station, back groaning under the weight of the kitchen sink with a child who just wants to run about is not my idea of fun.
But compared to death I guess it wins hands down.

Ah but now I have been spoiled, much to my initial chagrin Mr PE arranged after a bad experience last year that we should borrow a car for this year’s Beautiful Days. Plus that we should attempt to murder offer a lift to some friends. Once the fear had subsided ever so slightly I began to get used to not having to carry everything up and down escalators on the underground, to not have to trek in the rain from the station the other end. to being able to listen to my own music, to being delivered door to door, to being able to take more blankets, more pillows and more nibbles.

And bugger me if I didn’t get us all to Exeter and back in ONE PIECE!
My Father-in-Law had to prise my fingers open to get those keys back from me I can tell you, goddammit.

We are off camping in Devon next week, we shall have to tackle two busses, two trains and the underground whilst carrying a week’s worth of stuff on our backs.

‘ay, there's the rub;’

Posted by purple elephant at 11:01 AM |

August 25, 2005

Surfin' the net dude..

Need an early night tonight. I think the school hoildays are killing me slowly but surely, especially as the Open University DON'T take a summer break.
I shall spare you my witterings today, have some links instead;

1)Interesting article listing the fruit and veg most likely to be infected with pesticides. It also lists the least likely to be contaminated. Useful if you can only afford organic occasionally, it might help you decide where to start.

2)Kit Marlowe Knocked Off by Patron Shocker. (Via Philobiblion)

3)Americans Most Likely to Go to Heaven, Study Shows; This had me on the floor with laughter.

4) The Story of an Hour; a great story by Kate Chopin. Go on read it, it's only short and it will have you saying 'Oh arse!' or something similar at the end.

To bed methinks.

Posted by purple elephant at 09:42 PM |

August 24, 2005

The one where she wonders if she is destined to write about guinea pigs for the rest of her life...

The whole animal experiment issue is a hell of a lot more complex than most of us from both sides of the debate could ever conceive. The closure of the Darley Oaks Farm in Newchurch has complicated matters further. Several times over the past couple of days I have thought about starting this post and then got bogged down and deleted the whole thing. But what the hell I’ve decided to give it a go and I promise I will not resort to empty pointless remarks. I hereby swear that you will not have to put up with either ‘If you had to chose between your kid’s life and that of an animal bet you’d choose the animal’ or ‘Those evil animal experimenters are horrible to animals so we should be horrible to them.’ These emotional retorts will not further the debate in any way.
First and foremost I must let it be known that I cannot and will not condone violence against another being, for whatever cause. I’m not sure where stealing a dead body comes into this, when I first heard what had happened I wondered about the state of mind of the person who first came up with the idea. It was all a bit - well - weird. It wouldn’t have occurred to most of us. Surely it was never going to work.
But if the objective was to close down the guinea pig farm then we have to face the fact that it DID work. The Hall family have announced the farm’s closure and appealed for the safe return of their relative at the same time. We’d be fools to pretend that there was no connection between the two events.
Call me an idealist but after an intelligent debate backed with proper research I wanted the vivisectionists to realise that cell culture, molecular methods, micro-organisms, computer models etc are the way forward I wanted all the research into alternatives done by Dr Hadwen Trust, Europeans for Medical Progress et al to have come to something. I wanted everyone to admit that sometimes animal experiments fail tragically because the anatomy of rats, dogs and guinea pigs are essentially very different from that of humans. (Vioxx is the latest example and Thalidomide is the most famous. Plenty more examples here) I wanted the public to realise that contrary to their claims drug companies do not do all this research out of the goodness of their hearts because they want our kids to be cured of cancer. They are businesses, out to make money, therefore animals are seen as commodities and are not treated as they should be. (See here for many undercover investigations) Yet when it comes down to it Newchurch closed down because some extremists raided the grave of the owner’s Mother in Law (who indecently had nothing to do with the farm.)
It could be argued that the result is that guinea pigs have been saved, the actual method of how this came about is irrelevant. Come on, what do we really think is going to happen to the surplus guinea pigs when the farm finally closes it’s gates at the end of the year? And besides this was a breeding farm, where are the laboratories going to get animals from now? Abroad maybe? Somewhere over which we have no control. The thought of small mammals being carted about all over Europe in small crates on the back of lorries is reminiscent of the live exports campaign in the mid nineties. Back to sqare one, animal cruelty.
So at the end of the day I’m ambivalent about this piece of news. Where does it leave someone like me who wants vivisection to end but for the right reasons? Should I be raising a glass with the animal rights activists or drowning my sorrows with the other side?
Either way perhaps you should just get me a pint.

Posted by purple elephant at 11:30 PM |

August 23, 2005

Who needs Glastonbury?

It’s official, you should all be the first to know, Purple Elephant is no longer bitter about missing Glastonbury 2005. I can almost hear that collective sigh of relief as you are all safe in the knowledge that I shall no longer be boring you with that subject anymore.
Don’t relax too much for I have a new obsession with which to bore you.
We camped with some very good friends of ours, who unfortunately due to the distance between us we only get to see about once a year. This would have been great in itself, if something had gone horribly wrong and all the stages had sunk into the mud and there had been no music, I think I would have barely noticed. But this didn’t happen at all and in fact the weather held out until just as the Levellers finished at 11pm Sunday night. So if it sank after that I guess it really didn’t matter.
I probably should be providing a review of the Levellers set and some of the other music that was going on but it was all pale in comparison to the live performance of Rev Hammer’s concept album Freeborn John. Yes I want to go on and on for days and days about the real Levellers.
Now for those who don’t know, a good few years ago Rev Hammer recorded a concept album of the life of John Lilburne, the radical reformer of the 17th century and ‘leader’ of the Levellers. It has a great line up with Rev himself playing the part of Lilburne and the great Maddy Prior playing his wife Elizabeth, oh and OK the imitation Levellers playing the Leveller Mutineers (Ha!) This has been one of my favourite albums for a long time, don’t get me wrong I usually shudder at the thought of a ‘concept’ album, it makes me think of Pink Floyd and The Who and all that pretentious nonsense. Maybe I like this one because it concerns real people and a subject I’m interested in personally.
Anyway this weekend was the first time the whole album has been performed live from start to finish and much to my total contentment, it was performed a grand total of three times. It even had it’s own stage (the ‘Freeborn John Stage‘) so as you can imagine at 8.30 every evening my backside was parked on that hill, my eyes gaped wide with wonderment and nothing, absolutely nothing (not even the Oysterband or Billy Bragg) stood a hope in hell of moving me from the spot.
Predictably my favourite tune is Bonny Besses sung by Mary Overton (wife of Richard) played by Eddie Reader on the album, who obliviously had other commitments as at the weekend as the part was played by a Canadian singer with a great voice called Romney Getty.

‘We are the Bonny Besses in the sea-green dresses, And we spit on your abuse of this power. And we say Free Honest John from the tower.’

To steal a cliche I don’t think there was a dry eye on the hill when Maddy Prior ripped our already weakened heart stings with ‘Seventeen Years of Sorrow Pierce my Heart’ Oh and any woman who has ever been chatted up by a drunken slobbering moron in some dive of a pub, will appreciate ‘Elizabeth’s Great Gallop’ where she gets the better of a drunken Cavalier. We must all recognise the lines ’Come sit awhile with a Cavalier / we’ll take it nice and slow.’ and ‘only a man in prison chains / Could let such beauty pass.’ Needless to say after several polite refusals he gets rather nasty (The 17th Century equivalent of the ‘You must be a fucking dyke then’ point) To which she has the perfect comeback

‘Ah! Sir I will return, Back along this road And lay you down in clovergrass My tenderness I’ll show. For it’s been awhile, it’s been awhile It’s been awhile and oh! Since I cut the throat of a Cavalier We’ll take it nice and slow.’

Note to self; remember this one in future.*
The whole thing went down marvellously with the festival goers, the hill was packed most nights and it received an enthusiastic standing ovation every time. I can’t make up my mind if I was disappointed or encouraged by the number of people coming out with such lines as ‘I had no idea who this John Lilburne bloke was but I must go and find out more.’ I feel rather dumbfounded that people who listen to the Levellers had until now not even bothered to investigate where the name came from (and let’s face it the band make no secret of their origins) but encouraged that people are at least now inspired to find out more.
As for me I must read Pauline Gregg’s Free-Born John, which I got months ago and was planning to save until I finished my exam because it’s something I really want to concentrate on, I’m not sure if I can wait now though. I also want to find out more about Elizabeth Lilburne, Mary Overton and Katherine Chidley or any of the so called ‘Bonny Besses.’ I’ve found a tantalising amount dipping into here, any pointers in the right direction would be much appreciated.

*I realise I have made it sound as if this happens to me all the time but really it has been many years since I have been chatted up by a drunken fool, except of course my husband when he gets in on a Friday night, but even that doesn’t happen anymore.

Posted by purple elephant at 09:58 AM |

August 19, 2005

Mo Mowlam's Life Support Switched Off

I wish I had time to write more on the above news story but we are leaving in an hour and have just discovered that Littleone left her wellies at school.

I feel I should be going on about the Northern Ireland peace process but really I just like the following quote.

'Her informality was legendary - as Northern Ireland secretary, she would see no shame in dispatching police protection officers to buy her tampons - and her language was often colourful.'

You go girl.

According to The Guardian her life support was withdrawn days ago and still she is hanging on in there.

Now there's a strong woman.

Posted by purple elephant at 07:49 AM |

August 18, 2005

Some links

We're off to the Beautiful Days Festival this weekend, be back on Monday, so keep the spammers away for me.
I leave you with some links to be getting on with;
I have followed the crowd and got myself a Flickr account. I've put up some Grantchester photos but not a lot else really, stay tuned.
This is my favourite website of all time. It rocks my world!

Posted by purple elephant at 10:16 PM |

August 17, 2005

Oh I do like to be beside the seaside..

Today we took ourselves off to Hunstanton on the North Norfolk coast. The weather was just right, warm without being blazing hot, clear blue skies for miles and a gentle but refreshing breeze. For my sake we had to pause and eat our sandwiches (and yes they did have sand in them. Oh the cliche) on the beach alongside the town as much to Mr PE’s disdain and embarrassment, I am a sucker for all the tacky seaside-ness. Ah the aroma of donuts, candy floss, chips swimming in grease, seriously dodgy looking seafood stalls ... No I wouldn’t actually allow any of that stuff to pass my lips, I just like the smell OK.
Then there’s the people watching, the inevitable old couple with the flip up sunglasses one of which is always wearing socks pulled half way up his calves. We even saw a biker family, the Dad had the word ‘Bollocks’ tattooed right across his back. Who am I to comment on whether I thought this was the most stunning tattoo I’d ever seen. He was bigger than me after all.
After ten minutes or so I let Mr PE take us a little further along the beach. It was I admit much quieter and altogether better for the soul. We studied some rock pools and found a rather large crab who promptly scuttled under a rock and sat there exercising his pincers and glaring at us, just in case we were so much as considering picking the beast up. (Well I wasn’t)
Littleone did the sandcastle thing and collected a whole sunhat full of shells, rocks and other stuff that is no doubt about to litter my carpet. I lazed around on the beach towel, occasionally reading but mostly staring out to sea, or resting my eyes and listening to the waves gently crash into shore. Mainly I spent the time pondering what it is that is so comforting about the sea. Is it the memories of those halcyon summer holidays spent with my grandparents on the south coast? Or maybe it goes far deeper than that, I always feel slightly claustrophobic inland, by the sea I tend to feel like I can breathe more easily both physically and mentally. I decided that perhaps Kate Chopin got it right when she wrote,

‘The voice of the sea is seductive; never ceasing, whispering, clamouring‘ murmuring, inviting the soul to wander for a spell in abysses of solitude; to loose itself in mazes of inward contemplation. The voice of the sea speaks to the soul. The touch of the sea is sensuous, enfolding the body in its soft, close embrace.’
After that brief interlude of navel gazing I was undoubtedly in need of some gaiety, so I donned my two-piece (nope you certainly don’t get to see that every day and no I shall not post the photos) and swam out to sea. I mean proper swimming, with my feet leaving the sea bed and everything, none of this wussy paddling rubbish. If you are going to do it then let the waves crash against your back and carry you, there’s nothing like it. Even now, hours later I can still feel the salt tingling and bringing my skin to life. Oh and of course I’m finding sand in places I didn’t know existed and no doubt will continue to do so days from now. But even that is part of the fun, what better than to still be finding souvenirs even when you thought the memorable day was long gone.

Posted by purple elephant at 09:59 PM |

August 16, 2005

People like you..

I’m usually quiet and introverted, until I think that an injustice is being done and then ... I wouldn’t say I get mouthy but what happens is that words slip out before I’ve had a chance to really think about what I’m saying and whether I should be getting involved.
Today Littleone and I were sitting outside Sainsburys waiting for Mr. PE when CRASH this elderly woman falls down in front of us, whacking her head rather hard on the pavement.
A passer-by grabs her and asks if she is OK. To which she replies rather rudely
‘No I’m not actually.’ (another one of my pet hates, when ‘actually’ is spoken with that particular emphasis) and starts laying into a cyclist who had apparently knocked her down.
And so the passer by is supporting the woman’s head with one hand and with the other he is waving his finger at the cyclist and it seems like all of a sudden the whole of Cambridge (well OK perhaps one or two other people) are abusing this poor cyclist who incidentally fell off his bike in the scuffle and looks just as shaken as the woman . The whole time he is standing there repeating the words,
‘I’m so sorry. Are you OK? I put my brakes on as soon as I saw you but I just couldn’t stop in time.’
Then I hear the words.
‘People like you shouldn’t be allowed to ride bikes.’
People like you? Another term that gets my back up right away. Perhaps I should explain that the woman and her cronies were all ‘well’ spoken and ‘well’ dressed and the cyclist was dressed in ripped jeans, leather jacket, with piercings and a mohawk. Oh and an Irish accent to top it all off. In other words he shouted OUTSIDER from the rooftops.
It is at this moment I hear a commandeering voice almost bellow.
‘OK OK That’s enough. It was an accident. Can’t you see?’
Suddenly everyone is staring at me. Did I say that? I certainly thought it.
The head supporter is now looking a me like he has just scrapped me off the pavement.
‘Yes. It was an accident but he shouldn’t have been riding on the pavement’
‘True but we all make mistakes, he said he was sorry. I think we should be concentrating on the injured don’t you?’
‘But did you hear her head crack on the pavement?’
This argument didn’t really get him very far as by now half the Sainsburys staff and a first-aider had turned up and the woman had started off again about how ‘these people’ shouldn’t be allowed on the streets.
Not a lot wrong with her really.
By which time Mr. PE came out and ushered me away from the trouble. I feel a bit bad for walking off but by now it was out of my hands.
If it had been the other way round and the well spoken lady had been on the bike and the punk had got knocked over, I wonder if there would have been as much noise about it?
Of course not.
I’m still trying to work out if opening my mouth was the right thing to do or not. Because even me and with what I believe in I can’t help looking back thinking that there was a little old lady flat on the floor (and yes I did hear her head crack, in fact it’s still going through my head now) and I didn’t stick up for her.

Posted by purple elephant at 06:12 PM |

August 15, 2005

In the Dog House..

We spent the whole of yesterday afternoon searching for some important forms that should have been completed by the end of July, the end of July 1974 or something. By ‘we’ I mean that Mr PE rushed round the house like a madman and I sat on my throne at the PC giving helpful advice.
‘It’s probably in the letter rack under the mirror in the hall.’
‘Nope. That was the first place I checked.’
‘In that case it must be in the pile of crap on the dining table.’
‘That was the second place I checked.’
‘Oh. I know! I bet it’s in the pile of crap on the coffee table.’
‘That was the third place I checked.’
‘OK. So let me think about this one.....’
I read some more blogs while Mr PE flitted about again. It was a couple of minutes before I exclaimed.
‘I’ve got it!’
Looking back now I don’t think he looked overly hopeful. In fact I think he simply grunted.
‘It’s in the pile of crap in the bedroom!’
‘That was the fourth place I checked.’
‘In that case it can only be in one place. The kitchen drawer!’
(The kitchen drawer is where all the piles of crap go when we can’t face stepping over them anymore. I guess you could call it Crap Heaven.)
‘That was...’
‘OK OK.’ I snapped. ‘Well how the hell am I supposed to know where it is then?’

Mr PE finally found them at 8:30, long after he’d given them up as ‘accidentally recycled’ and had resigned himself to the fact that he was going to have to deal with the tedium and embarrassment of phoning up for a new set.
It was my fault. In one of my mad moments I’d only gone and put them in our newly acquired filing cabinet, in a folder named ‘forms.’

Well at least FlyLady would be proud of me .

Posted by purple elephant at 11:09 AM |

August 14, 2005

“Per ardua ad astra”

The Guinea Pig Club 7.35 pm BBC2
I kind of watched the above documentary on BBC2 last night. I say ‘kind of’ because really I was subjected to half an hour of Littleone shouting in my ear, ‘but when are the guinea pigs going to come on?’ So I had to spend another half hour trying to explain the history of our beautiful language (with a bit of war thrown in for good measure) to a four year old, by which time the credits were rolling and still she proclaimed that she didn’t much like the programme that was supposed to be about guinea pigs.

Oh well, one more to cross off my list of possible future professions, perhaps Purple Elephant should not be a primary school teacher, not unless we want a generation of school kids wandering around more confused than they already are but where was I? Guinea pigs but not THAT sort of guinea pig...

One thing you don’t know about me is that I’m fascinated by surgery, particularly reconstructive surgery. I think because I don’t fully understand from a biological perspective I am in awe of what can be done from a social and historical point of view. That probably explains why I couldn’t help giggle when one of the ex servicemen humorously explained that his nose was made from a patch of skin from his stomach, which means that occasionally he has to shave his nose. OK so perhaps it’s just the two of us sharing that particular sense of humour.

The plastic surgeon Archibald McIndoe (later Sir) (1900-1960) was a pioneer not only because he experimented with fairly new techniques in reconstructing, hands, jaws and eye lids (amongst many other things) but also as a result of his holistic approach to rehabilitation and reintegration back into society. The Guinea Pig club was started by McIndoe’s burns patients at the Queen Victoria Hospital in East Grinstead mainly as a drinking club where the patients could socialise between the many operations needed to ease the pain and rebuild their faces. He encouraged his patients to journey into East Grinstead town and persuaded the locals to accept and welcome the men who had the kind of disfigurements these people were not likely to have seen before. As a result East Grinstead became known as "the town that did not stare".

The men were not forced to wear convalescent blues and were welcome to wear their own clothes or uniforms if they so wished, so that they could retain their dignity and individuality. To top it all off barrels of beer were kept on the wards (can you imagine that today?!) the whole concept seems to revolve around beer and merriment which from where I’m standing, is not a bad thing.

We particularly love the Guinea Pig Anthem, with the line quoted in the title of this post which apparantly means ‘We’d rather drink than fight’ Here are all the words for your entertainment and because it sums up the spirit of the inspiring men and their club;

The Guinea Pig Anthem

We are McIndoe’s army,

We are his Guinea Pigs.

With dermatomes and pedicles,

Glass eyes, false teeth and wigs.

And when we get our discharge

We’ll shout with all our might:

“Per ardua ad astra”

We’d rather drink than fight

John Hunter runs the gas works,

Ross Tilley wields the knife.

And if they are not careful

They’ll have your flaming life.

So, Guinea Pigs, stand steady

For all your surgeon’s calls:

And if their hands aren’t steady

They’ll whip off both your ears

We’ve had some mad Australians,

Some French, some Czechs, some Poles.

We’ve even had some Yankees,

God bless their precious souls.

While as for the Canadians -

Ah! That’s a different thing.

They couldn’t stand our accent

And built a separate Wing

We are McIndoe’s army,

(As first verse)

Even when the patients were finally able to leave Queen Victoria’s, McIndoe’s interest did not end there. Often he would aid their further reintegration, using his art of persuasion to ensue they were able to work in fields that interested them.

There are over 200 surviving members of The Guinea Pig Club and they still meet at least once a year, usually in the pub in East Grinstead which has been named after them.

Some more to add to the list of books I must read before I die,

Richard Hillary - The Last Enemy, (Some moving extracts here)

Emile Mayhew - The Reconstruction of Warriors: Archibald McIndoe, The Royal Air Force and the Guinea Pig Club

Peter Williams, McIndoe's Army: The Story of the Guinea Pig Club and Its Indomitable Members.

Edward Bishop The Guinea Pig Club

I should add that as I write this, just to confuse matters, Littleone is crawling about my feet pretending to be a guinea pig. Nope still not that sort of guinea pig..

Posted by purple elephant at 12:22 PM |

August 13, 2005

Heathrow Strikes...

I’m always amazed at how hard work is rarely defined by the sweat and toil involved in the task but how much money the worker earns. Therefore British Airways chief executive Sir Rod Eddington (the ‘Sir’ says it all) cannot see the utter insensitivity in his comment that;

‘It is a matter of huge disappointment that we have become embroiled in an issue which is not a dispute with British Airways and disrupted thousands of people who were about to take their hard-earned summer holidays.’

So those few who earn enough to be able to jet off to the Greek Islands (or wherever) whenever they can, deserve our sympathy because they have worked so goddamn hard for this privilege. Yet those low paid, mainly Asian workers who spend god knows how many hours a day in a sweaty putrid smelling kitchen just so the well-off can stuff their faces on the above trip, are apparently not even working hard enough to maintain their insulting wage of twelve grand a year.
It seems that now they are not even getting that as they have been sacked for refusing to sign a contract which would slash their pittance even further..On that wage in London they probably struggle to put a roof over their heads and dinner on the table
No summer holiday for their kids I guess.

Posted by purple elephant at 10:49 PM |

August 12, 2005

Whoah! There went my sense of humour...

Two things that have NOT made me laugh today.

1) Tucker Carlson's repeated comments that the blowing up of the Rainbow Warrior by French agents, which left a father of two dead, was 'was a bold and good thing to do.'
Great coverage here. You know my opinion on this, I don’t need to go there.

2) The Most Bangable Blog Babe List.
Via Rockstar Mommy.

Perhaps it was all supposed to be tongue in cheek but I wouldn’t know as the bitter taste burned a hole right through my mouth.

Posted by purple elephant at 08:15 PM |

August 11, 2005

Would I were in Grantchester - In Grantchester!

Yesterday we took a leisurely walk along the river to Grantchester. We stopped half way to munch upon a Mediterranean feast of falafel and hummous pitta bread, olives and stuffed vine leaves, oh and crisps, plenty of crisps. It wasn’t until after Littleone had fed most of her packet to the swans and ducks that I began to wonder if birds can be affected by an excessive salt intake. (Can anyone put my mind to rest on this one?) I even made friends with a bull but unlike Sylvia Plath on a similar walk I didn’t feel the urge to recite Chaucer to him.

‘We began mooing at a pasture of cows, and they all looked up, and as if hypnotised, began to follow us in a crowd of about twenty across the pasture to a wooden stile, staring fascinated. I stood on the stile and, in a resonant voice, recited all I know of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales for about twenty minutes. I never had such an intelligent fascinated audience.’

Mr PE spent the day test driving his new (in the secondhand sense of the word) camera, so depending on how they turn out I may or may not be posting some photos of our outing.
When we reached Grantchester Mr PE played with the child in the garden of the Green Man while I explored the Rupert Brooke Museum. It is just one small room but there is practically an abridged biography to read on the walls along with plenty of photos and artefacts. I particularly enjoyed seeing the programmes from some of the plays he performed at university and (of course) the letter from Virginia Woolf. For all you sport enthusiasts there was even a cup he won at something or another, perhaps cricket or something equally dull like rugby.
We didn’t have time to take tea in the Orchard this time, although we have done before. The booklet I picked up claims

‘a genteel setting where more famous people have taken tea than anywhere else in the world’

The page-long list printed in the booklet boasts of everyone from Ludwig Wittgenstein to Mike Read.
Walking down to the meadows again and then back along the river (in the rain!) I could relate as to why after so many travels abroad Brooke still kept retuning to Grantchester and what must have been going through his mind when he wrote;

would I were

In Grantchester, in Grantchester!--

Some, it may be, can get in touch

With Nature there, or Earth, or such.

And clever modern men have seen

A Faun a-peeping through the green,

And felt the Classics were not dead,

To glimpse a Naiad's reedy head,

Or hear the Goat-foot piping low: . . .

But these are things I do not know.

I only know that you may lie

Day long and watch the Cambridge sky,

And, flower-lulled in sleepy grass,

Hear the cool lapse of hours pass,

Until the centuries blend and blur

In Grantchester, in Grantchester. . . .

from The Old Vicarage, Grantchester(Café des Westens, Berlin, May 1912)

All quotes taken from a leaflet The History of The Orchard Grantchester. There is a website but it seems to be down at the moment.

Posted by purple elephant at 10:27 AM |

August 10, 2005

You’re so vain you probably think this post is about you,

There once was a man who took it upon himself to search his wife’s blog. He didn’t read any of the deep philosophical posts such as the one where she discovers that she is in fact Susan Kennedy from Neighbours, he only read the posts which held a reference to some variation of his own name.
When he finished he slumped in front of Newsnight, lit a cigarette and with a despondency that almost melted his wife’s heart, he proclaimed, ‘You paint me as someone who sits in front of the TV, smoking, drinking and moaning about everything.’
They both sat and pondered for a moment and then to break the silence, his wife rose and announced that she was going to the kitchen to make herself a cup of cocoa. Would he like anything?
To which he finished exhaling and replied with another question.
‘There isn’t any beer left in the fridge is there?’

Clouds in my coffee indeed.

Posted by purple elephant at 08:28 AM |

August 09, 2005

The Burden of an Overactive Subconscious and Unhealthy Bedtime Habits*

Mo Mowlam came to visit me in the night.
Or at least her head did.
It appeared above my bedroom door, floated towards me and slowly dematerialised above my own head.
I think that perhaps I wasn’t awake, although I certainly thought I was at the time.

I then went to sleep and had a dream that my Mother took my daughter out on a night on the tiles and then drove her back in the car.** I then noticed that Littleone had lumps of vomit in her hair and asked how this had happened. Mum laughed and then slurred that her and some mates had got so drunk that they had thrown up on the kid’s head. To which both I and Mr PE rather uncalmly reminded her of her irresponsibility and threw her out of the house.
When I took the child to bed, to my horror she was already there fast asleep. So I was all of a sudden presented with two daughters who looked exactly the same, except one was clean and the other had vomit in her hair. I tucked the dirty one into bed beside her doppelganger and then I woke up.

Sadly no part of Mo Mowlam had returned.

* I fear that Dracula should be reserved for morning reading. Perhaps The Dorset Bedside Book is more suited to this time of day. Note to self - The clue is in the title. Just a thought.
**Of course I shouldn’t need to add here that in real life my Mum is one of the very few people with whom I’d entrust my Daughter.

Posted by purple elephant at 10:35 AM |

August 08, 2005


I used to be a bit of an E-bay addict. In theory it seems ideal for someone like me who hates crowded shopping centres, dislikes chain stores just as much but is still partial to a good bargain. There was a time that whenever I decided we needed something I would fire up the PC and type it into the E-bay search engine. Oh yes I’m evil too, I cannot deny that a couple of times I have even muttered ‘gotcha!’ out loud when I’ve got in there at the very last minute and kicked someone else off the post.
However it takes its toll and the novelty after a while begins to wear off and I find I haven’t got the patience any more. Mainly because there are too many E-bay habits that really piss me off and force me to refuse to buy the item in protest.
So here it is; Eight E-bay habits that annoy Purple Elephant

1) Convoluted descriptions letting me know what you are going to do to me if I bid on your item and then refuse to pay. I find these as irritating as ‘Shoplifters will be prosecuted’ signs. We all know it’s wrong but if we really want to do it then are you really going to stop us? What are you going to do about it? Give me a negative feedback? Now I’m scared! And besides isn’t it the buyer who is taking the real risk? You never get a buyer sending a rude message with their payment saying that they are going to string you up by the balls if you don’t send the item.

2) Sellers who say that they prefer Paypal payment but if you wish to pay by this method then you must add an extra 50p to cover their charges. Well then you don’t prefer it then do you. We all know that Paypal charge for their services, if you then slap on an extra charge then that makes you just as bad as them. If you don’t like it then don’t offer Paypal simple as that.

3) Feedback obsessives. These take many forms the most irritating of which are
i) The Chaser; The endless emails ‘I sent your item two days ago and you haven’t yet given me feedback.’ I once got three of these from the same person in the space of two days. I think these people must get very little praise in their everyday lives if my prompt standard ‘Great seller. Thank you,’ means so much to them.
ii) The Playground Feedbacker; ‘I will give you feedback as soon as you give me mine.’ How old are we? Whenever I see this in a listing I wonder what E-bay would be like if everybody did this. Nobody would ever get feedback now would they? Get a grip.

4) Rip off postage charges; I know it doesn’t cost 3.50 to send a child’s t-shirt. Even if I didn’t I would soon find out if it came through my door sporting a 60p stamp. Except it’s not going to fall on my door mat because I’m not buying from you. So there. Lumped in with this one are sellers who don’t list postage charges. I’m not falling for that one and unless it’s something really special I can’t be bothered to email you either.

5) The rushed description; Let’s put some effort into this shall we. Think about what information the potential buyer might need to know, size perhaps? Could we please run the description through the spell and grammar check? (Combat’s? Who is Combat?) Also it is not difficult to copy the title and author correctly from the front of the book. (Virginia Wolfe? I think not!) And finally I don’t want to see text language in the description, it’s bad enough having to put up with it in text messages themselves but we are allowed God knows how many characters in an E-bay listing. C’mon ppl.

6) Having said that I don’t like elaborate descriptions. What is it with those silly graphics of cute little girls sucking their thumbs and things that flash and move across the screen? I can’t be bothered to wait for it to load.

7) ‘From a smoke and pet free home.’ I’ve never yet come across a smell or cat hair that can’t be removed with a run through the washing machine and why do people feel the need to impart this information when they are selling DVDs for example? Unless you have been wiping out the litter tray with it. I really don’t care.

8) I make it my policy to never buy anything with the word ‘WOW!!!!!’ in the title. I can’t explain why I hate this. I just do.

Needless to say I rarely buy anything from E-bay these days.

Feel free to add to this list if you so wish...

Posted by purple elephant at 10:42 AM |

August 07, 2005

Robin Cook; 'Labour to his fingertips'.*

Here in the Purple Elephant house we are deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Robin Cook, who collapsed walking near the summit of Ben Stack in Scotland. We will always remember him for his resignation speech when stepping down from his position as Leader of the House of Commons over his opposition to the Iraq war.
Many tributes have already been made, (here is a good one with link to his more recent words over the London bombings) it seems that for once Tony Blair had something other to say than the usual empty ‘thoughts are with the family at this sad time...’
What is it with half decent Labour MPs this week? I’ve heard nothing more about Mo Mowlam.

*Spoken by George Galloway.

Posted by purple elephant at 11:57 AM |

August 06, 2005

Recommend a blog...

I've been thinking lately about sorting out my blogoll. I feel like discovering some new blogs I've never read before, problem is if I haven't read them I don't know they are there. I've been exploring Femmes Fatales over at Philobiblon and checking out other blogrolls but in the end I found that with my crappy connection I was spending longer waiting for pages to load than I was actually reading the blogs.
This is where you come in. If you are reading this then what I really want you to do is come forward (even if you haven't commented before)and post a link to a blog (that isn't already on my blogroll already)that you feel might enrich me in some way.
Go on you know you want to.

This post was partly inspired by Pewari's post yesterday which provided this great link.

Posted by purple elephant at 09:45 PM |

Bring on the real women..

Once again I am a little late sticking my oar in a debate that has been bouncing around blogland for a while. As always there are more eloquent posts on Dove's (so called) Campaign For Real Beauty as well as some seriously disturbing views. (Detailed here.)Even so there are some points that need highlighting.
Firstly let us not forget that this is product promotion first and foremost. Do not be fooled by the word ‘campaign’, it is an advertising gimmick to create an aura of morality around the whole seedy business.
Secondly my admiration would be greater if the product in question was something altogether more necessary (deodorant, bubble bath even a straightforward skin moisturiser) but no, what we are dealing with is a backside firming cream. So girls you can be happy with the ‘real you’ only if your arse could be a little less wobbly.
Thirdly these are not real women at all, take a look at them, smooth tanned skin, clear eyes, perfect teeth, the list could go on. They are all model material, the only difference being that they are a couple of sizes bigger than your usual emaciated victim. This is why I always end up slightly infuriated by the whole ‘outsize’ model industry. If I study the Dove Campaign women closely I cannot pick out anyone larger than myself, my BMI is just within the healthy range, in theory I’m not even overweight. If 60% of women in the UK are like me, a size 14 or above then that means that over half our female population must be looking at these women and thinking ‘If they are considered ‘curvy’ (or enter any other patronising euphemism here) then what the hell does that make me?’ If Dove really is trying to help us feel better about our bodies (which I doubt) then it has failed miserably. Bring on the size 22-24 models and then we might start talking.
Which brings me rather smoothly onto something I saw on ITV news the other day (I know, I’m sorry. It wasn’t in my home, I had no choice in the matter) At last! The perfect female has been designed! She has Jennifer Aniston’s hair, Catherine Zeta Jone’s face and so on ad nauseam. (Something similar in this article.) Weren’t our foresisters campaigning about this sort of thing way back in the Sixties? But wait it’s OK because this is the 21st century now and so they made sure they also blurted out a quick sentence about the perfect male. Get this unlike our fair sex the perfect male already exists, his name is Brad Pitt (I kid you not) Since when did progress mean that we had to lower the whole of society right down to the lowest possible denominator? Come on guys, if we must judge humans then let us do so on their grander achievements, the mark they have left on the world, their benefits to society, rather than some visual aspect we can do very little about.
I’m thinking of designing my very own perfect female. Jane Austen’s wit, Mary Wollstonecraft’s vision for the future..... something like that
Or perhaps she could be completely fictional, Shug Avery’s survival instincts with Dorothea Brooke’s pure heart and so on...
Anyone going to help me out here?

Posted by purple elephant at 11:30 AM |

August 04, 2005

Haunted by the Ashes..

I have got a husband who is sitting around all day ooing and arring at the cricket. I wish I understood the appeal I really do. I might just understand how *playing* cricket could be fun if you are that way inclined but watching it on TV is akin to watching paint dry. In fact I don’t understand the point of watching sport at all. If you like it then get out of your living room and play it, free the afternoon viewing for more intellectually challenging programmes like a Homes Under the Hammer double bill or Neighbours re-runs.
You see I like reading but I don’t expect Channel Four to grace our screens with shots of the Literary Federation’s Harry Potter and the Half blood Prince read-off with a droning voice over saying;
‘Look Austailia are just coming in to the end of Chapter 36. England are running on behind having only just started the chapter.’
Even I have to admit that sounds pretty dull.
At least cricket isn’t as bad as some sports, I can’t even write the word ‘Golf’ without falling asleep on the keyboard. Also the incessant sanity-destroying buzz of Motor Racing can turn me from Pacifist Hippy to Axe Wielding Murderer in seconds.
I guess all you sport loving people who have been reading my blog for some time are about to tell me that my rant is just a cover up for the deep psychological trauma inflicted on me during school sports lessons.
You’d probably be right.

Posted by purple elephant at 02:58 PM |

August 03, 2005

Two Articles

1)I couldn't help having a little giggle when I read this article even though I knew I probably shouldn't.

Woman accused of starting a bomb scare hoax so that she didn't miss her flight.

(UPDATE; I do feel obliged to point out that Angela Sceats was cleared of any crime yesterday but it was a great story anyway.')

2)This one isn't funny at all. I have a great deal of respect for Mo Mowlam. I hope all is well.

Mo Mowlam; 'Critical but stable'

Posted by purple elephant at 07:22 PM |

August 02, 2005

Back again!

I finished my essay in the seat of comfort, a room of my own (albeit a borrowed one) and would you believe it a computer keyboard that works! I should also mention that the PC in question DIDN’T HAVE THE INTERNET! Words flowed from me like a stream of consciousness I can tell you. It was so good I almost didn’t mind that I had to give the day out a miss on Sunday, whole house to myself *sigh* Thing is I’ve got used to luxury now dammit.
Talking of rooms of one's own and streams of consciousness, whilst researching said essay I found this interesting article. I have to say despite being a fan, I did chuckle at the following quote, even if it is a little below the belt;

There is no reason to suppose Mrs Woolf would know which end of the cradle to stir. (Queenie Leavis)

If I mentioned that I was supposed to be researching Wilkie Collins and Henry James then perhaps you can see how I always end up with a weekend of panic trying to get the bloody thing written. It’s not that I keep putting it off I just end up following the ‘wrong’ leads (how I got back to Viginia Woolf I’ll never know) I guess you could say I love my subject too much, which is sometimes a bad thing.

Posted by purple elephant at 06:13 PM |