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January Shop and Craft Update

One of my resolutions for 2015 is to add two things to my Etsy shop each month, and to blog about it when I do, to spare my poor darling partners from at least some of my yarn based enthusiasm.

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Above is the last month’s work on the wheel. I know that to most people for whom spinning is a job, this isn’t much, but I’m really proud of it, and I think that I’ve got a sustainable work rate, given my current level of ability.

Now, on to the geeky stuff!

Recently, a friend and I visited Wingham Wool Work in Yorkshire. If you’re a spinner and you ever have the chance to go, take it! Here are some pics to show you some of the reasons why they have earned a reputation as one of the best fibre wholesalers in the UK.

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These photos show one of the back sheds in which there are more shades of merino/silk blend than I may ever be able to spin. (Although I am tempted to try.)

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This view shows the wall of samples in this shed. I’ve been trying them randomly, but I think I might need a more systematic approach. Alphabetical? Top to bottom? Colour wheel?

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The natural wool shed! There are so many different breeds in here! When I’m feeling brave, I’m going to start experimenting with putting this lot together with lots and lots of dye!

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And, last one of the shop, here is my fabulous partner in yarn, Sy.

Alas, I can’t show you what I’m working on at the moment as it’s a secret commission, although I will be putting up lots of pictures when I can as it’s a lovely project.

Please check out my shop over on FLK shop on Etsy. I’ve done a bit of a refresh today and added the skeins from the top of this post. Get them before they go!

Letter to @theGreenParty

Oh my gods the Green Party. You idiots! You blithering idiots, you shower of cunts! How dare you? How Very Fucking Dare You?!

It took me years to trust you enough to join. YEARS. Years and the fact that I personally knew people involved in the party who appeared to not be the blithering idiots you have shown yourselves to be over the last two weeks.

What were you thinking? This is shitty shitty politics, a politics of the past, and a politics I thought you were mature enough not to engage in.

Idiots!

So, about 6 months ago, I joined the Green Party as a member. I’d been talking to other members for a while, including Peter Garbutt, the Sheffield Hallam parliamentary candidate against Nick Clegg in May.

There were many reasons for me actually joining, but mostly it was because it had been about a year since I’d seen any press release of theirs that I hadn’t agreed with, because they were discussing dropping their opposition to nuclear power, and because they appeared to be making a big deal of the fact that they wanted a basic income.

Our current economic structures are fucked, let’s not kid ourselves about that. They do not work, and they especially do not work for those dependant on the state. They also perpetuate and enhance the problem of there being fewer and fewer jobs for the working class, and thus they also increase over time the number of people who are dependant on the state.

Universal basic income is not a fix for this. It will not dismantle those broken structures. They still need to be replaced, but in the meantime, basic income can plug the gaps, and keep people from dying.

And there is a growing recognition of the idea, and a growing political will for it.

Trying to grow that will and raise the visible number of people who support that idea was a huge part of my decision to join the Green Party.

And now they are dropping it as a part of their manifesto. They are hedging their bets and operating on the old assumptions that somehow compromise is the way to gain electoral and political success.

It will not. My politics are not the politics of compromise. I will not let myself be allied to spineless policy that changes at the whiff of broader electoral success. The whole reason for the Green Surge (TM) was that people were attracted to the principles. To something that wasn’t the same. To something that might perhaps be new. To a party that appeared to not only be genuinely left wing, but also willing to stay that way despite the temptation to seek the middle ground.

I am profoundly disappointed, and have cancelled my membership.

And that’s not even touching on the whole transphobic parliamentary candidate and donor to the party Rupert Read, who is apparently totally fine to stay a member, donor and candidate while defending people who LITERALLY WANT TRANS WOMEN TO DIE AND DISAPPEAR. Seriously, the Party’s response to his comments was derisible.

In summary:

PS: This post is written with sincere apologies to my Poly Means Many colleagues, for whom I should have written and didn’t. 

IAPT are shit

Content warning: violation of boundaries, medics being shit.

For the uninitiated, IAPT is supposed to mean Improving Access to Psychological Therapies.

There are so many reasons that IAPT are shit, it seems churlish to complain about only a few of them, but still.

IAPT have really outdone themselves with their latest letter to me.

Background: I have a condition called Non Epileptic Attack Disorder (NEAD), the primary treatment for which is psychotherapy. I have been referred to and had many sessions with a specialist psychotherapist, but the treatment has not yet stopped my seizures.

I was referred to my local IAPT back in the summer because my relationship with my psychotherapist has reached a difficult point which we can’t get past together, in part because we see the world very differently on a small but crucial detail, but mostly because although I have made significant progress over the last few years, I am still essentially a bull in the china shop of my own emotions, and I have some significant work to do before I am ready to take the next step with the (expensive, resource-heavy, very emotionally draining) psychotherapy.

The first IAPT person I saw made me cry for an hour, ignored everything I said and treated me like an idiot. So the latest person I spoke to was already my second time around this block.

We had two phone calls. Each long. Each tiring. And by the end of the second one, it was clear that she couldn’t help me any more than the first one, even if she was nicer about it.

But, during the course of these phone calls, I disclosed quite a lot of stuff to her. A couple of these things are ones that a lot of people know, but that I’ve been working really hard over many years to keep out of my general notes, and to only disclose to people who keep separate notes, ie, psychological staff.

The fact that I’m kinky.

The fact that a member of my family sexually abused me when I was young. 

Last night, I discovered that both these facts are just right there in the letter the IAPT therapist has written to my GP. They’re in my notes. My general practice notes.

It took me 10 years to get rid of the mistake in my notes that said I’d had meningitis as a child when I didn’t. I’m never going to be able to get rid of this.

And after all that, they’ve not even got anything useful to offer me.

Fuck you, IAPT. Fuck you very much.

What does oxygen smell like?

I have terrible taste in music, and it’s honestly not much I think about on a day to day basis. Although making music has always been something I enjoy, I’ve never written my own, and it’s always been the mechanics of making a good noise and appropriately interpreting someone else’s work that has interested me.

So, generally, I don’t pay too much attention to listening to music in detail.

It helps (or not) that I have a terrible memory for lyrics (I forgot half the words to one of the songs in my grade 8 singing exam. I’d been practising it for 6 months at that point) and that I find it very difficult to remember song names, artists, composers, any of that. So, before I had Spotify that I could synchronise across all my devices and very easily discover and save music, I pretty much listened to the same stuff I got on mix CDs from pretty boys in 6th form. (Paul Kizintas, you have so much to answer for.)

All this means that, until recently, I didn’t really play around with what I was listening to, and didn’t really notice.

And then I figured out Spotify radio and how to actually find new music. And a whole world of awesome new artists opened up. I listened to FKA Twigs and loved it. And that led me to AlunaGeorge. Then I found Chvrches and understood why everyone had been going crazy about them. Tegan and Sara made me dance in the kitchen. London Grammar kept me company while I read on Christmas day. Lorde!

Then today, I just put on an album which I’ve always quite liked to have on in the background whilst I potter around,  American Slang by The Gaslight Anthem. And it hit me in the face. This is a MALE voice. It’s a MAN singing. I’d never noticed the gender of the singer before, except when listening to pieces in the western classical tradition that I either have or want to sing myself.

Looking at the rest of my music, how did I not notice what a sausage-fest it was?

What does oxygen smell like?

Poly Means Many: Resolutions

Poly Means Many: There are many aspects of polyamory. Each month, the PMM bloggers will write about their views on one of them. Links to all posts can be found at www.polymeansmany.com

This month, the PMM bloggers have decided to talk about resolutions. Those things that we have decided to do or try, in order to be better partners and to have better relationships.

I’m going to be a bit lazy with how I do this post I’m afraid, as I’m in the middle of dealing with a whole load of healthcare and benefits stuff that is sapping a lot of my energy, and in order to retain enough that I can do even half the things I mention in this post, I will have to retain the energy I would otherwise use to make it into good prose.

So, here are some of the things I resolve to do this year to be the best partner I can be to my darling boys.

Ask for help
This is probably the biggest thing for me. I have a real tendency to not ask for help when I need it, and end up falling apart when I get to my limits. The same individualist tendencies which helped me deal well with jealousy have, on the other hand, made me very bad at seeing when I have overstretched myself and need to call in some help. Ultimately, my not asking for help ends up putting a bigger burden on my partners as they are then forced to pick up the pieces when I run out of energy. It’s not always easy to judge how much energy you have left, especially with fluctuating health conditions, of which I have several, but I’m going to try my best.

My loves, I am sorry. It might not always look like it, but I really am working on this!

Communicate, communicate, communicate!
Over 2014, our polyfamily had more instances than I can remember where one or other of us didn’t tell the others something really important. In one case it was (well done me) that I had started taking a new medication that I really shouldn’t have done, that led to an overnight A&E visit. On another occasion, two of the four of us only learnt about another’s overnight date plans as they were going out of the door (it was on a google calendar, but not any of the ones they could see). None of these instances (except maybe my spectacular medication miscalculation) were truly a problem, but they caused little wrinkles.

So yeah. This year, I’m going to try my best to be better at communicating. Better at asking questions ahead of time. At checking not only my diary but all of theirs too.

And I’m never doing that trick with the meds ever again!

Daily affection

Our family started out at two couples, and despite having lived together for over two years now, we still in many daily ways behave and look like two couples, not a foursome. This is one of those things that will obviously change over time, but one of the things that I have been trying to do recently, and am going to continue into the new year, is to try and show my affection as much for my other two partners as I do to my husband. Things like checking how they are when they get in from work. Offering drinks. Sharing jokes and silly kitten pictures we find on the internet. And all those other little daily interactions that build to a shared life.

There are always the big things. The important talks. The life changing decisions. But life is not just the big things, and I’ve noticed a tendency for me to offer and ask for more daily interactions with my husband than with my other two partners. And that’s something I’d like to change. Because honestly, when are more snuggles a bad thing?!

Quick note: plans for 2015

Life comes in many phases. There are periods of creativity. Times for love. Mad bursts of energy. Intense weekends where you get more done than you thought possible.

And then there are the fallow periods.

I really didn’t publish that much on here over 2014. There’s been a lot going on in my head, but most of it has been personal stuff, work I’ve been doing on me. And a significant proportion of that work has been to accept that sometimes I don’t need to do it all myself.

It’s been good, this year. Well. Sort of. In some ways. It in no way compares to the horrors of 2011, or the dreadful slow breakdown of Nov ’12 to May ’13. The year has been hard, and I’ve learnt a lot, but not very much of it has really been bloggable.

In the coming year, I’m hoping to change that. To stop letting down my fellow Poly Means Many bloggers. To write about the crafting I’m doing and tell you about all the cool stuff I’m putting in my shop. And to write more about the stuff I’m reading and the news I see, and to get back into the practice of politics, not just reading about it.

I hope you’ll come along for the ride.

Public Interest and the engaged citizen

Nigel Slack, who I got to know through the Occupy Sheffield camp in 2011, has just launched a crowd-funder for a very interesting idea that my muse has apparently decided needs several hundred words writing about it in the early hours of the morning. My muse has the best timing. >_>

Anyway.

Slack is looking to do something which I’ve not heard about before, but which could be an interesting evolution of media and political engagement. He is asking for funds to spend the next year investigating and asking questions of local government. As far as I can tell, he is hoping to, on a local and direct basis, be sort of an investigative journalist, sort of a local advocate, and sort of a local advocate not affiliated to a party, ward or in hock to procedure.

If you go to his crowd-funding page, you can see that he has already made quite a name for himself in the local area through persistently asking questions and tracking down facts to find out what is being done in our name by our local representatives, and to bring to light things that they seem to want us not to know. He is particularly dogged with outsourcing, a growing feature of all levels of government, and one which both obscures what is happening, and to a large extent removes control of day to day operations from elected representatives to the machinations of lawyers and contracts. I don’t want to say that outsourcing is never a good idea (please Capita, don’t sue me!) but if you pay attention to the news, you don’t have to think very hard to call to mind an example of outsourcing going, let’s say, according to the letter rather than the spirit of the contract.

So yeah. My mate’s doing this thing. I think he’s awesome, and will be putting some cash in as soon as I’ve got some to spare. I think it will increase transparency in Sheffield, and that he will ask questions that should be asked.

But obviously I’ve got questions, and some thoughts as a result of both this idea, and some of the other stuff that’s been floating around both my head and online.

So yeah. Isn’t this what you would expect a local newspaper to be doing?

Well, I would. Except that the coverage in the local press is really not that good, and the online versions of all local papers are so awful that I actively avoid them. If either the paper or online offerings were better, I might give them pageviews / cash, but at the moment, that’s just not happening. And even if I did give them money, I’m only really interested in supporting the political coverage.

I hear about all my local plays through social networks. Charity events in the city are publicised to me by friends taking part. I don’t follow football, and I get the Sheffield Steelers news sent directly to my inbox. I have Gumtree, MySheffieldJobs, Freecycle, SpareRoom.com, Yell.com, Zoopla, eBay, JustEat and all those other classified websites. I don’t really need a local newspaper.

Local newspapers have been dwindling around the country, and print media in general is in a total flap on how to deal with the disruptive force of the internet. Many of the functions of a local newspaper are filled by social media, online classifieds websites and by organisations that send out their own news by email and blog post. In the age of the search engine, when you can find out anything by asking your phone (nd with Siri, you don’t even have to type it) what is left as the unique selling point of the local paper?

You could argue that one of the few things that they have which you can’t get elsewhere, is someone not tied to party politics who has the time and the inclination to dig through the evidence, ask the questions, and get the Council to ‘fess up to the stuff it doesn’t want to talk about.

Freedom of information legislation is no good if there is no one with the time and expertise to ask the right questions and make sense of the answers. Data on it’s own doesn’t really mean anything. As any information manager will tell you, data needs processing into information before it can be acted upon.

I suppose you could argue that there are other ways to access this information. But are there? I can’t find any really. There are the Council web pages, but that’s by it’s very nature selective reporting in the best interests of the Council.

I suppose there are other people asking the Council questions, but most people tend to be motivated by a single issue or set of issues that affect them, rather than being committed to uncovering things full time, and doing so across the board, regardless of their personal stake in the matter. There are also, of course, those who are seeking to advance themselves within political parties, who will of course have motives and views that are at least partly in line with at least some of the Councillors.

There is the Sheffield Politics site, who don’t really seem to be that clear on their purpose. Also, to save you the trouble of looking, they last tweeted 2 months ago, their last news story was in August, and the last blog post was mid-September. The tumbleweed. It blows.

The chance to have a regular update on the position of local politics in Sheffield, from someone without a stake other than to keep receiving public contributions, would be really interesting. Maybe he might consider moving to a structure more like Patreon if things go well.

Which brings up the sticky question of funding. All funding has to come from somewhere and it all comes with strings, whether explicit or implied. Will this mean he is influenced by the source of his funding?

Well, yes, but so is pretty much everyone. We live under capitalism. It sucks and this is one of the ways it sucks. This kind of relates to my last post on a citizen’s income, actually. Currently we are none of us free. Almost all of us are tethered to whatever pays the bills and puts food on the table. For most people that is waged labour. Those who aren’t employed are dependent on a shrinking welfare state, a fickle market or supported by savings which are dependent on the vagaries of the international banking system.

We do not live in a perfect world. This is as good a work around as any to get this kind of oversight for local government, if that’s a thing you want.

It does raise the issue of class and privilege though. The sort of people who most need the Council to be held to account for their decisions are those who have the most to lose, and by definition, the least to spare on crowd-funding for someone to ask questions. How can one individual ensure that they are asking the most pressing questions? How can one ensure one doesn’t end up just pursuing one issue to the exclusion of all other issues, regardless of their urgency?

I don’t have an answer for this, and I’ll be interested to see if this is an issue Slack has to confront, and if it’s possible for him to continue to ask the questions on behalf of the most vulnerable, whilst necessarily receiving funding from people who are better off.

One of the interesting things that might happen is that the coverage of Sheffield politics in the national press may improve due to essentially having a full time freelance journalist attached directly to the Council. I hope that Slack continues to find newsworthy material that, with the oxygen of publicity, changes things for the better in Sheffield. But I hope, and would suggest if he hasn’t already, that Slack work out some sort of financial template for allowing journalists to access his research and re-print his stories.

There you go Nigel. There’s an idea for you. For free. Also, if anyone else wants to set something like this up elsewhere, srsly, get a Patreon and blog at least once a week, ask people to subscribe for access to a well-curated online filing system for background documents and have rates for publications wanting to re-post your stories. The whole media environment is evolving fast at the moment. This idea may be one whose time has come.

I did have a whole bit here about representation and the way society and institutions are structured and blah blah blah, but then it was 3am and it was making less and less sense with every draft, so it’ll have to wait for another time. Suffice it to say that there’s nothing truly revolutionary about what Slack is trying to do, but within the limitations of the current system, it can’t hurt, and may well do some good.

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