I Summon Thee, Bullshitticus

I’ve been feeling a little bit short on inspiration lately, but I’m trying not to just shut off the page when I can’t think of the next sentence, so this is version three of today’s blog and I will fucking make a statement: I am considering rescinding my atheism. Don’t worry, I haven’t found God. I was approached by a couple of very polite Mormon recruiters in Southend the other day and equally-ish politely rebuffed their advances; I’m not fussed about my soul’s final resting place. In fact, I’m considering offering that up to the fates as well. It’s not capital-G God I’m looking, it’s the gods. Well, the nine Muses. Well, any of the Muses. Maybe not Euterpe, who was apparently muse of flutes and lyric poetry, but I’ll take the rest. Thalia, muse of comedy, will do. Or Melpomene, muse of tragedy. I’ll work with what I can get at this point. I will even pray to this guy:

Bullshiticus God of term papers by the sous chef on Tumblr
from thesouschef.tumblr.com

The artist accompanied their illustration with extra theology:

In this time of term papers I wanted to draw my patron deity, Bullshitticus, god of students and general last minute fudgery, sitting upon his Golden Futon, attended by the muses Caffeina and Thesaurae, whose powers of artificial energy and pretentious vocabulary can be invoked in case of the all-nighter.

I like to think he’s Dionysus’s second cousin or something.

I do not have a term paper due, but I do have two articles to finish, three or four postcards to design, some stories to complete and a week of social media posts to compose. I have lost my information book on the original Nine Muses and sources about Bullshitticus are scarce (I feel he is a last resort anyway, although I could do with a blessing from Thesaurae) but I will consult my mythology books for worship tips. Should I make a burnt offering? Construct a shrine? Do I need to find honeyed wine and sprinkle it on a brazier alongside words of thanks?

Muses, I am considering going back to fan fiction. I have wondered about trying poetry. I’m willing to forgo my daily surf of the popular page on Instagram. I will make you a shrine in my bedroom next to my MCR posters. I will buy scented candles and burn them while I read from classical texts. Please send help.

On the off chance the muses aren’t listening, do you guys have any ideas for rekindling inspiration?

‘Romeo, Romeo, where are you Romeo?’

I read the other day that the average deposit for a home in the UK is currently £80,000 and as my reactions were limited to either throwing myself into work or jumping off the QEII bridge, I’ve been writing a lot. I don’t want to show it to any of you yet (for a staunch non-spiritualist I am ridiculously superstitious about sharing work before it’s done) but I’m quite quietly pleased with myself for having picked up a pen.

It got me thinking about that other great writer great pieces of literature, and I wondered if any of you have been watching Upstart Crow? It’s on BBC2 on Monday nights should probably be required viewing for every student studying Shakespeare. It was written by the same guy who co-wrote Blackadder, so maybe we should just appoint him head of schools and be done with it.

Imagine the exam papers.

 

Review: ‘When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit’, Judith Kerr

Polite notice/potential spoiler alert: this one might make you sniffle. And, um, it’s about a Jewish family in the 1930s. But not quite like how you’d think.

In 2013 I was lucky enough to go to the Hay Festival and attend an interview – which was more of a conversation – between two of the most prominent writers my childhood, Judith Kerr and Michael Morpurgo. I learnt that Michael Morpurgo failed his 11+, that Prince Philip read Mog and that Judith Kerr is not, as I’d assumed, born-and-bred English. She was born in Berlin, where her father, Alfred Kerr, was a big deal in literary circles. He saw the writing on the wall and spoke out against Hitler before a lot of people did… He was also Jewish, so his name was on the top of a list the Nazi party published stating who they would shoot should they come to power. He moved his family to Switzerland in 1933, just before the Nazis were elected.

I wouldn’t normally add so much background to a fiction novel – and you certainly don’t need to know it to read When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit because the novel is, technically, a children’s book. It’s funny, it’s easy to read and its main character, Anna, is a little bit like every seven-year-old who lives with her brother and their parents. The whole story takes place before 1939 – war isn’t really mentioned – and the plot concentrates on Anna’s experience leaving Berlin for Switzerland. Then her experience leaving Switzerland for Paris, then Paris for London. First and foremost it’s a children’s book, about children and aimed at them. But it’s also an autobiography; Judith Kerr writes in the notes that she wrote it to help her own children learn about her childhood.

Course, reading When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit as an adult, in the same week Syrian children were drowning in the Mediterranean, it was surreal to realise that Anna and her family were some of the first refugees of the Second World War. It also made me want to cry my eyes out, because Anna is almost completely unaware of what’s going on outside of her little world; anti-Semitism, the probability of war and the realities of seeking refuge in a foreign country aren’t such bold themes as they would be in an ‘adult’ novel. That’s what makes it so poignant (and a little bit ironic). Finishing the book made me want to find anyone who opposes helping the current refugee crisis and throw them into a dingy off the coast of Greece. This novel is historical, but it also couldn’t be more current.

WHSPR

I got to meet Judith Kerr at Hay, and at the time I didn’t realise how lucky I was to meet her and to see her interviewed. Mog the Forgetful Cat and The Tiger Who Came to Tea are classic children’s stories, but it’s When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit that you should make your children read as soon as they’re old enough to get through a prose novel. Then you should borrow it off them. (If you buy it, try to get hold of the Essential Modern Classics edition; there are notes from Morpurgo and Kerr plus a bit of historical background.)

I’m off to read the next book in the series. There are two more, obviously… there’s the war to get to yet. I’m just glad I know Anna has a happy ending.

You can support my work every time I review a book using Patreon.

A Magna Carta Retrospective

Do you think any of the onlookers at the Magna Carta signing actually thought it would be celebrated eight centuries later? Like did any watching peasants have a debate?

Steve the Peasant

Dude they’re signing that peace treaty so we won’t have to pay stupid taxes and the barons can’t get away with everything.

Jimmy the Peasant

Yeah we can’t even read that, it’s in Latin. And it only applies to free men. Which we aren’t. And it says women can’t accuse men of murder and I, personally, see that as sexist.

Steve the Peasant

Dude it’s a start. Maybe future generations will polish it up, take out the stupid bits and use it as a foundation for declarations of independence or bills for human rights!

Jimmy the Peasant

Whatever, man, we still have to pay our fucking taxes.

They head off to herd cattle and fight dysentery. 

Should’ve placed our bets with Steve, huh. Although it really didn’t let women accuse men of murder… it wasn’t much of a peace treaty either.

Still, I like to think they had no clue at all that a cramped, slightly ugly, almost completely incomprehensible peace-treaty-that-wasn’t would be remembered as the start of something wonderful… or as something less shit than a megalomaniac king and war-funding taxes, anyway.

Happy Monday!

PS check out that link and the video about half way down. It reminded me why history is brilliant if you let filmmakers get hold of it.

Forgetting Weekends…

It’s been a strange few days… I drafted most of a post about everything going on with Charlie Hebdo, but I felt like I was going round in angry, bitter circles with very little productive or useful content, so it’ll stay a draft for now.

Let’s just keep on doing what we do, yeah?

My research for the Saving Face topics is well underway, and I’m also working on new stories, which makes me feel superduper productive.

From chrisprattings.tumblr.com
From chrisprattings.tumblr.com

In fact, last Saturday I forgot it was Saturday and tried to get up to work as normal. I couldn’t work out why the dogs were snoozing. I felt like I was in the groove, work ethic wise.

Also from chrisprattings.tumblr.com
Also from chrisprattings.tumblr.com. Someone’s a fan.

It’s almost a week later and I still am even though it’s January and traditionally I should be completely miserable and drowning in a winter cold. I probably will end up with some sort of lurgie, actually, but for now I’m smug and that’s what’s important. Plus, since seeing that film Unbroken on new year’s day (should that be capitalised?) I don’t feel like I can complain about a self-imposed work load.

I mean, have you guys seen Unbroken? It was like watching Die Hard or Rocky or any other macho action movie except for two important differences: a) there were no swooning maidens to sleep with the hero in a hotel part way through and b) the reason there were no swooning maidens was that the film was 100% true. All of it.

Every scene.

Well, maybe every scene, but there were no plot embellishments for dramatic effect. I don’t even want to tell you what happens, because I want you to see it and think “holy shit how did this guy live to be 97?” But he did.

So it’s not a big deal to forget it’s Saturday.

If any of you have any contributions to the Saving Face project, let me know!

Oxi Day

Today is Oxi Day in Greece, which literally means ‘no’. It’s the day in 1940 that the Greek prime minister told Mussolini ‘no you cannot invade this country’. It’s celebrated by closing up shop and firing some canons; I think it’s become a general independence day. This is a good article if you want to learn more and read a good story about WWII.

The British don’t have an independence day, mostly because Britain was usually the country other countries wanted independence from, and it’s interesting to wonder what we’d be like as people had we a different history. I mean, we’ve got the thing about annoying the French and we were Roman at one point, but as far as I can remember, the closest we’ve come to being properly taken over in recent years was WWII (I sense a theme) so I suppose the nearest we have is VE Day?

Then again, a lot of people would probably like to say that we’re now being taken over by immigrants. But I’m in a good mood, so I’m not going to get all caps lock-y about that (I mean come on. How ignorant do you have to be to blame all your troubles on asylum seekers? Okay, okay, I’m relaxing).

I’m going to get a coffee in a minute – short walk down a hill! Past some chickens! Borrow wi fi to check Facebook! This is a very metropolitan area. It’s nice to be somewhere quiet though; at home you can nearly always hear traffic and there’s light pollution everywhere so you’re never quite sure if you’re looking at the sunset or smog. There might be another Five Ways to Celebrate post tomorrow, keep an eyeball out!

A Touritst’s Guide to Being a Tourist: Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red Display, Tower of London

I realised that I’d better get a move on with this since the poppies are coming down after Armistice Day (you can also purchase them for £25. Christmas present, anyone?). So I Googled the project and it turns out it’s called Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red, which is slightly more intense although harder to promote on Twitter than ‘Poppy Display at the Tower’.

I’m assuming you’ve all seen the HD news coverage of the installation, which was first, er, installed, in August. I’ve seen it twice, once each when we schlupped up to London for the Bond exhibition and Bernadette’s show. When we first got there, I came over very 21st century HD news watcher and couldn’t really see what was so special about it in real life. Plus it was raining. But I took some pictures and then turned a corner and it dawned on me that there was a poppy for every solider who died in World War I.

Poppies August Bank Holiday 2014

Remind me to practise my photography skills while I’m away… it will be hard to gloat about how lovely my workspace is if I’ve cut out half of it and used a bad flash. In my defence, the best angles are probably either above like the news channels do or right in the moat bit itself, because they’ve got railings to lean over and whoever designed that building gave very little thought to the possibilities of future technology. On the plus side, the Shard looks nice half-hidden!

Anyway, we went back at night the second time, less than a fortnight later, and there were more poppies. Way more. I have no idea how commuters come out of Tower Hill station every day and don’t break down in noisy tears over the unfairness of the world.

Poppies September 2014

The Shard is definitely at it’s best when you can only partially see it, huh.

Event and Place Blood Swept Lands  and Seas of Red Display, Tower of London (go to Tower Hill station and follow your nose)

Cost Only the serious bumming-out experienced by all viewers. Plus £25 if you’d like to buy one.

Food I don’t recommend eating right there because you may be in the way of a budding photographer.

Other people Lots of them wandering about. Exchange a ‘how pretty/heartbreaking’ comment if you want. Don’t fight over the best photo places – apparently the poppies will eventually (or might already) fill the entire moat and circle the Tower, so maybe just walk around a bit. When it’s Armistice Day and the news channels are streaming the finished piece, be sure to say ‘I’ve been there!’ just not too smugly because, you know, it’s an installation that really shouldn’t have even been needed.

A Quick Question About Racism

This time in a week, my office won’t be my bedroom but will be my balcony, or a local restaurant, or… my bedroom (I’m staying in a studio flat and would put money on having exactly the same set-up as I do now, except with a closer bathroom). I was going to write a post just gloating about that, but then I went on Tumblr…

I’ve been treating the site gingerly since Uncle Rick posted about Blood of Olympus spoilers, so I glanced down the page as edgy as Hermione when she realised the Basilisk was in the pipes and saw this:

Racism on Tumblr

It might have been just me and a couple of inspirational billboard writers who thought this, but I was aware from a pretty young age that racism is learnt. One is not born as racist any more than one is born believing in God or born thinking Saturday night TV is occasionally contrived. When we first spill out into the world, we have no concept of anything. Then we are taught things that the people raising us think. We learn theism or racism or TV opinions as we grow, either by believing other people or thinking about things then coming to our own conclusions. Then we say what we think to our sprogs or students or blog readers.

That’s probably how most ideals have survived. You know, Mr Caveman Sr. realised that fire is useful but hurts if touched, and he taught Mr Caveman Jr., who taught Miss Cavewoman. Over the street, Mr and Mrs Cave were learning the same thing and told Baby Cave Kid as well.

Haha, baby cavepeople. (Alternatively, as Jacki pointed out, Ms or Mrs or even Miss Cavewoman may have discovered fire. I bet it was Village Idiot Caveperson who twigged that it hurt. Unfortunately – or luckily for this analogy – we may never know.)

My point is, lots of us are taught racism. I was. Most of us are taught sexism as well (hey, I wrote about this last week!). My parents were raised disliking Germans because their parents sat through the Blitz. Back when slavery and colonialism was a thing, most white people were raised to consider all non-white people to be inferior. Most non-white people were then raised to think that all white people were racists, and back then they were almost definitely right.

But it’s 2014, snowflakes. We’ve all been raised in part by racist, sexist, homophobic people – and we’ve also been taught by intelligent people that racism, sexism and homophobia (plus all the other -isms) is fucking stupid. Some of us have weighed up the evidence and concluded, independently, that racism, sexism and homophobia (plus all the other -isms) is fucking stupid.

So is the above Tumblr post actually just as racist, narrow-minded and indifferently ignorant towards white people as some white people are towards non-white people? Does anyone else get really upset by any mention of new book spoilers? Should I just stop using social media completely if it continues to find new ways to piss me off?

Well, I know the answer to one of those questions at least!