Because sanity

My lazy dog lying on the grass in the sunshine

Be More Dog

Saturday was exciting, I had it all planned out.  Saturday Achivements:

1: Have shower
2: Get bus into town and meet up with IDAHOT (yeah, no B, as per always, don’t get me started) demo
3: Swish carefully across and join up with anti-austerity demo and march
4: Treat self and kids to nice cafe thing
5: Use opportunity of being in town to buy more school socks for Wonderboy
6: Shopping
7: Home, walk dog, make dinner, clear up, maybe watch a film. Etc.

Yeah.  I hate town even on a normal Saturday. I don’t like crowds, and I find having to juggle kids’ expectations/blood sugar levels/boredom thresholds/etc extremely stressful. But this was IDAHOT, dammit, and a country-wide anti-austerity protest; it was IMPORTANT.  Anyway, come the morning, both the smalls were telling me they were tired, and did they have to go into town, and how long would we be in town anyway, and blah blah blah. Yeah, you can see where this is going.

So I thought for a bit, and explained to my kids that what we were planning on doing today WAS important, but that nobody can help others if they do not first take care of themselves, and what I was hearing – from both them and my inner self (I call her Sophia; she’s one smart cookie and I should pay her more mind) – was that we could put our shoulder to the wheel of lefty liberalism (for want of a better term), and break in the process, or we could step back, recharge, and fight better for it. They both reckoned that was about right.

Anyway, I think I’ve posted before about doing-it-all parenting, and how I’m done beating myself up for not keeping up with it, so it is without regret that I can list my Actual Saturday Achievements as:

1: Had shower
2: Shopping (bought lots of junk food)
3: Had picnic (took dog with us)
4: Made dinner
5: Watched a film
And, overall and most importantly, 6: Didn’t lose my shit

So apart from the shopping, I actually had quite a relaxing day, how radical is that? Yeah.


Gender inequality in sci-fi/action films. By my nine year old.

Guest post by WonderBoy (age 9 3/4). Homework: Having learned about protest songs in class, write a protest rap on an issue of your choosing. So…

When I watch a movie
With a snack and a smoothie
I notice that all the stars are dudes
And the women look half nude

When a female character’s about to die
They just have to get rescued by a guy
They’re never stars, they’re just girlfriends
And when they’re kissed, the movie ends

So what I really want to ask
Is why half the people in my class
Are told they can’t be tough
‘Cause they just ain’t good enough

Yeah, you’re a good egg, son. Happy International Women’s Day everybody!


What has Art ever done for us?

[Disclaimer: this made a lot more sense in my head. If this post is coherent to you, please leave a comment with your thoughts, so I know I’m not just babbling!]

I was talking to a new acquaintance recently, and – as it ever does when people ask what I do – the question came up: “So what is Dark Mountain then?”. No matter how many times I attempt to answer that question, I can never really answer that question.  When I started to explain I said things like ‘Well, it’s a bunch of artists, musicians, writers, creative types…’ and about events, and books, and conversations, and music, and what happens if we can’t change the world, what if we have to change ourselves instead, and stuff like that.  And as I talked there was this little voice in my head saying ‘no matter how you paint this, it’s just a bunch of self-absorbed navel-gazers making pretty things – how on earth is “Art” changing *anything*?’. But I ploughed on, and when I started describing The Telling, something suddenly clicked. It can change *everything*.

Wide view of festival space with a marquee and a yurt. People standing, and sitting, but all in small groups talking to each other.

Uncivilisation (Dark Mountain festival) – it’s people, talking to each other. [Photo: Bridget McKenzie]

When we put on The Telling, we knew what was needed to run an event. We all had the rules inside us – we need budget, a venue, sound, lighting, funding, acts, ticketing…. We had none of these things, but instead of working our way around these problems (we can run a generator from X, we can hire out a hall from Y, we can book Z and price the tickets to cover their fee, etc) – we scrapped them. We ran a successful event, by doing it wrong.  Because guess what, maybe it isn’t “wrong” after all. And isn’t this the essence of Dark Mountain? The rules we live by, the ‘right’ way to get things done – they are not rules, they are stories.  And stories can be rewritten. Stories are always rewritten. Look at all the excitement (well, I’m excited anyway) around the new publishing of “Grimm’s” fairy tales, now that we find the Grimms cleaned them up and smoothed their harsh edges once they realised people were reading their books to their darling children. The stories were rewritten to ensure certain rules remained untouched. (Digression for background: the original tales had mothers doing horrendous things to their children, the Grimms were not about to have the sacred pedestal of motherhood sullied by such cruelty, so changed the wrongdoers into stepmothers.) Anyway, back to the point (I’m sure I had one somewhere).  Art doesn’t tell, it shows. If you tell people to change the rules, you’re just giving them another set of rules to follow, and perpetuating the myth, the story if you like, of ‘them and us’. They are the people who do things, we are the people who watch them being done. If something needs doing, we ask the people who do things to do it. Witness: petitions, writing to the council/the papers/your MP and so on. I’m not saying this doesn’t work, I’m saying it is not the only way of working.Promo flyer for The GIfting event in Doncaster We were a bunch of artists, writers, musicians, storytellers, dancers, and we put on an event that didn’t tell people ‘this is how to change things’, it showed them. We were told this wouldn’t work, that we were doing it the ‘wrong’ way. But it worked, so it wasn’t ‘wrong’. Through the skills we have as artists and creatives, we showed people a different way of doing, and we encouraged them to join in.  And hopefully, all those people – you – will be able to think huh, maybe I could do something too. Well, you’re not wrong.


Like, literally, a polar bear

Supergirl is thirteen, and pretty darned cool, and *very* precise. I wasn’t really paying attention the other night at dinner, but when I zoned in on a conversation about one of her friends at school, my Pedant-Baiting persona kicked in. She does it to me all the time, it’s fun to be able to get my own back occasionally ;)

So, something something something… friends call her Polar Bear, because, you know, she is like, exactly like a polar bear.

Dad: Really? How?

SG: Her hair is really pale. She’s just a polar bear.

Dad: Oh. OK.

SG: *draws breath to (presumably) change the subject* …
Me (previously quiet and minding own business): Does she have all over body hair?

Dad and SG: What?!

Me: You said she’s like a polar bear. Does she have a black tongue?

SG: *stony face*

Me: Does she eat seals? Does she catch them and rip off their skin with her teeth?

SG: *stony face*

Me: Does she have a wet nose and really like swimming?

SG: *really quite dangerous stony face*

Me: :D


Thank you, considerate man-shaped person!

I was walking the hound through the park this evening – wide path, but very dark (no lights here), and woods on both sides, nobody in sight. I wasn’t carrying a torch, because I like night, and there was enough ambient city-light for me to see where I was going. Suddenly a man-shape looms out of the darkness ahead of me, and a guy in running gear walks towards me, and as he passes me says “I’m going to be charging back up here in a minute. I just wanted to tell you so you didn’t think I was chasing you.”

My first response was ‘Oh, no worries’, but then it clicked just what he’d said so I turned and called ‘Thank you!’.  Seriously, thank you, man-shaped person, for considering my need to feel safe and unthreatened. For appreciating that what you are doing (sprinting along an unlit path through the woods), whysoever you are doing it, could, through no fault of your own, cause a lone female (admittedly with a large dog) to feel startled and unsafe. More of this consideration, please, men! And less of the ‘Well OBVIOUSLY I’m not a rapist/mugger so I should just be able to go running at night without explaining myself’ defensiveness.

About thirty seconds later I did hear pounding footsteps behind me, and he did charge past me at full sprint. And if he hadn’t warned me, it would certainly have alarmed me. But it was fine, and I shared a joke with him as he walked back past me to do it all over again. So again, thank you for making sure my evening walk was worry free.

You scared the shit out of the dog though ;)


Feeding the myth. Well, the tellers of the myths, anyway.

Once upon a time, I cooked a big old Homity Pie (a homity is a special beast, easily caught, and tasting of garlic, potatoes and parsley – if you put it in a pie with some cheese, it’s truly delicious). And as that pie was cooling on the stove top, a storyteller came to see me. And she saw the pie, and she smelled the pie (but she did not taste the pie, for she was on a no-pie diet), and she said “Hot damn girl, that’s good! Will you do the catering for my next course?” Or words to that effect.

Long table laid for lunch, with salads and a big Homity Pie

Homity Pie and salads for lunch

So I did, and have done most years since. I love cooking, and feeding people, and I made sure these storytellers under my care were well looked after. Vegetarian, vegan, dairy free, gluten free, sugar free, kosher – bring me your diets and I will feed you.  Since learning (on the fly) to cater for other people, I have learned a lot – about cooking (mashed kidney beans will thicken a stew without the need for flour), about food (most food labelled ‘Gluten free’ still has maize starch in, and this includes stock cubes), about myself (I either need to strengthen my arms or remember to take an electric whisk next year). I realised what I’ve always suspected, but never felt confident enough to say: I am a fucking good cook.

Shortcrust pastry mushroom pie ready for serving

I will even cook things I detest – like mushrooms. I was told this mushroom pie was pretty fine

I take hospitality very seriously. My motto, if I really ever have one, is ‘to heal with food and love’. I don’t subscribe to how ’emotional eating’ is such an evil – the right food can heal most hearts. I make all my food with love, even a Tuesday night cheese-toasties dinner, and every meal is a gift to those it feeds. How do you show love with food? Presentation. Which would make you feel more special, a bowl of soup, or a bowl of soup with a swirl of cream and a pinch of fresh herbs on top? It takes seconds, but it shows you care.  Even if you can’t cook, just presenting your burnt offering nicely makes all the difference to the recipient.

Long wooden table in large old kitchen, laid with a pile of plates, bowls of fruit, leftover dessert and a chocolate cake

Late night snacks, come and get some. Yes, that includes a fresh chocolate cake. Because I like to spoil people.

Through popular demand, there will be a cookbook from all this. If you really want to know about that chocolate cake though, it’s already here :)


The Dark Mountaineers

I find I have been included in a most wondrous collective, and so felt it my duty to share it with you.  Take a peek at this collection of the fascinating. I hope you meet some new friends, or at least follow a new stranger down their winding path.


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