marnanel: (Default)
FRIENDS

They will stand beside you
When all things are good.
And in the times when things are bad
Beside you they have stood.
They always tell the truth to you
As every good friend must
And they are reliable:
Friends you always trust.
They never will say nasty things
About the clothes you wear
They'll stand up for you against others
When you're not there.
You can always trust your friends
To hold your place in queues.
They'll always tell you "You played well",
Even if you lose.
Always keeping by your side:
Friendship never ends.
Yet, after all, we're only human:
Who has friends?

Toilets

Dec. 3rd, 2015 08:56 pm
marnanel: (Default)
It occurred to me that I've never told the story of the toilets at my secondary school.

The sewer that ran under the boys' toilets was cracked and leaking. But they didn't find that out for years. So they assumed the terrible smell was our fault.

To begin with, they told us to aim properly at the urinal. But the stench continued.

Then, one morning at assembly, they sent the girls out early. The boys remained, with some trepidation. The headmaster went up to the lectern and told us that perhaps we didn't know how to use a urinal, because it's not something your parents teach you in toilet training, so he was going to explain it to us. It was the most horrendous assembly I can remember. I can't tell you much about the explanation: I tuned out after "Because of the shape of your penis..."

The stench continued.

At another assembly, we were told of the latest hypothesis: we must have been standing to urinate in the stalls, rather than at the uriñal. This practice was banned forthwith.

The stench continued.

They decided we weren't paying attention to the new ban. So they stuck signs saying "THINK!!" on the cisterns-- these were the old-fashioned kind, so the cistern was about at head height. Someone public-spirited added "FUCK" in marker pen to all the signs. This caused another assembly.

Somewhere around this point, people began using toilet paper in protest-- flushing entire rolls and so on. The result was a ban on toilet paper. For the next few years, if you were planning to do anything that might involve toilet paper, you were supposed to go to the school office and ask for some, then carry the roll through three corridors to the toilets, and take it back afterwards. It was a kind of public humiliation. It was easy to forget beforehand, and at least once I had to use graph paper from a previous maths lesson.

None of this seemed odd at the time. I take it not all schools were like mine?
marnanel: (Default)
One summer, when I was a small child, I found a book on astronomy. I read it eagerly, and talked about the stars to everyone I met. But it was summer, and so my bedtime was before dusk, and stargazing was impossible.

So my father offered to let me stay up one night to see the stars. He took me to the tall window on the stairs, and drew back the curtain, and I saw the stars scattered across the dark blue of the sky, and the Milky Way shining.

And it was terrifying. It seemed I was looking not just into unimaginable distances, but at something that should not be seen, something almost indecent for human eyes to see-- like seeing the sky goddess all naked for one moment before looking upon her beauty strikes you dead.

I fled, screaming.

marnanel: (Default)

When I was at school, the county would often send psychologists to ask me things. Once, when I was about thirteen, I had to fill in a sort of questionnaire. It had statements with tickyboxes, like

I would like to be an astronaut ☐
I would like to be stronger ☐

The paper said at the top that it was the version of the test for boys, and the last question of all said:

I would like to be a girl ☐

And I had a panicky moment considering that if I told the truth there it would involve a lot more psychologists and probably further humiliation in front of my classmates, so with some level of guilt for lying I left the box unticked.

marnanel: (Default)
A few years ago, someone said to me that they thought life was a bit like playing chess-- you know the rules, and you have to think a few moves ahead. I replied that I'd often thought life was rather more like Mao. In case you don't know Mao, it's a card game where nobody's allowed to explain the rules, so the first few times you play you'll lose spectacularly; after you begin to work out the rules, you may discover that there's a standard way for people to create new rules, but because of the prohibition on explaining the rules, the other players will have not only to notice that a new rule has been introduced, but also to work out what it is by induction. This somewhat parallels my experience of life-- everyone seems to have seen the rulebook except me.

Well, the other night I had a dream. I was at a party where everyone else was playing a game a bit like Mao, but instead of using playing cards, everything was on index cards: when you introduced a new rule, you had to create new cards to go along with it. And I was confused and disorientated and disheartened, just as in my metaphor for life.

But then a card turned up in my hand which had clearly been circulating for a while. It was in a familiar handwriting, and after a moment I recognised it as the stumbling form of my own handwriting I'd used when I was about eight or nine.

And this was the most encouraging dream I've had in a long while. I used to know how to play this game. I knew once. I can learn again.

Memory

Mar. 7th, 2013 12:06 am
marnanel: (Default)
I can't sleep. But I was just remembering being six years old and made to sit in the hallway outside my classroom, the desk being put there specially so that everyone who passed by would see it and remark on it, and being told to write out "I am a baby" a hundred times. And I am remembering defiantly writing "I am not a baby" and being made to do it all again.

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