Statues – thoughts, what d’you think?

tall statue of white man against a blue sky

This morning my colleague was accused by an irate French woman of staging a protest against one of our statues. This lady must have had a very low opinion of London protests, since the event consisted of my colleague attaching a laminated sign to the railings next to the statue. (The sign announced some renovations about to take place.)

At a few of the gardens I work at, there are lots of statues. Some are, like I showed the other day, mythical white women. Others are historically famous white men in blackened  bronze, often on horses. Most of them are generals. One is a president of an allied country from the war. They are just like the statues that have annoyed so many over the last few months, and they’ve always annoyed me too. They are dull and completely removed from what matters to most of the people who walk past and most of the people who have ever walked past.

There are so many interesting and inspiring things we could celebrate: inventions, individual acts of heroism, creativity (I know statues to these things to exist, but they are rare.) Instead we celebrate the men who led others into battle, to their deaths. Men who were already celebrated in their lifetimes. And women who have never existed – these at least have interesting myths behind them, but still don’t mean much to people now.

I’ve seen a few arguments against changing statues. Here are two:

‘Ah, but it’s history! You can’t destroy history!’ people say. And of course I, and almost everyone else, agree. But statues aren’t about history, because nobody learns anything from a statue, except maybe the name and how the person died (it’s all in how the horse is standing, apparently). If you want history, then put the statues in a museum, where people can see them properly and read about them.

‘Ah, but we should keep them because these were often bad people. We should have statues up to remind people of the bad things that happened.’ Ok, so would you put up a statue of Hitler then? Or would that be disturbing? Of course it would be, because a statue is a celebration. These people are so important that they are looking down on us from their pedestals. Which is why it matters that these people did bad things and why it matters that they’re all rich, white men looking down on all of us, who mostly aren’t those things. (And to be clear, there is nothing inherently wrong with being rich or white or a man, just a problem if those are the only celebrated characteristics.)

When people get upset about statues being changed, I don’t think it’s about history. In fact, I think the huge BLM protests that happened around the world were historic, and in the UK they led to a statue being thrown into the sea, which will probably go down in history. So if you like history, then you should be excited by these events. I think the upset is partly about change, which tends to freak people out. But without change we wouldn’t have cures and inventions and events. And secondly it’s about dominance, it is Why do THESE people get to take down OUR statues? Which doesn’t make sense either, because why don’t they?

Personally, I would like to see something in Postman’s Park style. Statues of ordinary people being heroic. Or maybe some of the nurses who’ve died during Covid – who gave their lives fighting the virus for us. (here’s a list with info about them, and unsurprisingly, they are a number of different races and lots of women. They look more like the London I know than the statues do. Picture below.)

heroes

Or Aztec statues! How fantastic would they be?

So what do you think? What statues would you like to see?

 

This is who she is!

statue with a weary unimpressed expression

So I posted a picture of this statue a few days ago. She was looking down on me with a withering gaze while I was squirting toxic plant juice in my eye. I was trying to work out what she was holding (it’s a kitten, definitely) and Calmgrove wondered who she actually was and if she was holding an owl (clearly not, because it’s a kitten). And now I know, she’s one of the three Graces (you can see part of the face of another one on the left.)

The number of Graces varied in different legends, but usually there were three: Aglaia (Brightness), Euphrosyne (Joyfulness), and Thalia (Bloom). They are said to be daughters of Zeus and Hera (or Eurynome, daughter of Oceanus) or of Helios and Aegle, a daughter of Zeus.

From www.Britannica.com

To try and work out which particular Grace this is and whether she is, in fact, holding a kitten, (I mean, she is, I’m simply being polite). I’ve had a look at a few other pictures and statues. It’s actually pretty rare for them to wear clothes, although they often have a bit of draped material.

Here’s what the Louvre museum thinks:

Eternally young and lovely, they represented charm, beauty, and human creativity, and were depicted naked, originally holding attributes such as apples, roses, and sprigs of myrtle.

From other statues they only seem interested in draping over each other and gazing into each other eyes – which is all very romantic, but not very productive for people who represent creativity. However, the Grace in my picture has defied all their expectations: she’s got dressed, clearly has bigger and more tragic things on her mind than looking pretty and she’s holding a kitten. I think this statue must represent the three Graces once they’ve grown out their frolicking about naked stage. These days Aglaia (Brightness) works in a food bank and plays the drums, Euphrosyne (Joyfulness) volunteers at Samaritans and does chainsaw sculptures, and Thalia (Bloom) is, of course, a gardener who takes in homeless kittens. Which answers all my questions.

Fight! Punched the wall! Woke up.

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Today was one of those days when I wonder if I’m out to get me.

First I dreamed about a fight. I’m not sure why I was having it, but definitely it was something heroic and Matrix-like in its cool. There were (probably) spinning kicks and majestic dodges against my huge male foe who was almost certainly evil. And then I punched him, and woke just as my fist hit the wall next to my bed. It hurt, but apparently even majestic fights are quite puny when they leave the dream world, so no damage. A definite sense of Oh you fucking idiot, though.

Then I went to work, and I had to cut back some large Euphorbia. Euphorbia can be nasty because it has poisonous sap that oozes out all over you when you cut it, but I’m lucky and don’t react to it, it’s just sticky and annoying.  What I was more bothered about was the insects living in the bed that didn’t like my invasion of their space. They started biting me, not unreasonably. But I noticed that they bit less the more sap I got on me. Aha! I thought. Nature’s insect repellent. Because of course that is why Euphorbia has toxic sap – to keep away biting insects. So I smeared some on my arms and legs and the insects left me alone. I felt so clever.

Then in the afternoon I got quite dusty and wiped my arm over my face, then carried on chopping – Mahonia this time. My eye started to sting, but I assumed it was the dust and blinked it away. But the pain wouldn’t go and was getting quite nasty. I staggered out of the bed and poured some water on my eye. A friendly builder working nearby asked I was ok. ‘I think so, I just got something in my eye,’ I said. ‘It’s not Euphorbia sap is it? Because that’s really dangerous if you get it in your eyes.’

And I realised that of course it fucking was, so I went back to base and spent the next ten minutes trying to wash the toxic sap out of my damn eye. And for anyone following this blog, yes it was the same eye that landed me in Urgent Care a few weeks ago.

That afternoon I was working in the same bed, trying to not be a self-sabotaging fool, and I looked up and saw this face looking down at me from a nearby statue. Pitying, exasperated, unimpressed, I have a feeling this statue has seen many idiots before.

But more importantly, is she holding a kitten?

statue with a weary unimpressed expression

 

 

 

 

 

Found someone hiding…

model penguin hiding behind a shrub

My boss asked me to clear out a corner of the garden under some shrubs. Hidden away behind a wall, under a load of Fatsia leaves, I found this penguin. He was about knee height.

I asked my boss and she said that he was out in front of someone’s house a few years ago and she hid him. Apparently penguins are not appropriate for our gardens. I think he’s great, I shall be saying hello next time I’m there.

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Supernice came true!

train sign saying wear a face covering

So I wrote this book Supernice about an alien invasion. The aliens create a dystopia of oppressive new rules and terrible consequences for breaking them. In response, the government replace advertising hoardings with posters that politely (and then not so politely) tell the public how to behave to avoid trouble. Following are some quotes from the book. (And the book can be acquired for a dollar, to your right, if you fancy)

Advert hoarding for a charity. Says Be more us. Let's talk more.
There aren’t many adverts for products left in London stations. Instead there are adverts for charities.

At first the messages seemed friendly:

Advertising hoardings stretched along the seafront. Usually they were filled with adverts for phones or cars, but now the adverts were in pastel shades of purple and pink, with butterflies and smiling faces. In large letters the messages were simple:

SHOW LOVE, NOT HATE

PSST, YOU’RE BEAUTIFUL, PASS IT ON

But even then, Natasha was suspicious and happy to see signs of rebellion:

As she headed back home, Natasha passed a hundred more pink posters in bus stops and stuck to lampposts. Some had already been defaced.

KINDNESS SPREADS was graffitied with DESTROY!

And LOVE UNITES US in purple, with FUK DA ALIENS in angular black writing over the top. Natasha had never liked graffiti – she always thought it made a place look messy – but this was righteous.

And finally as the oppression became more extreme and the pretense ended:

The main road had changed again. Instead of advertising hoardings with hippy messages, now there were screens, each showing an order.

POLITENESS IS NECESSITY and SHOW RESPECT and DON’T BECOME ONE OF THE TAKEN.

I wanted to create an atmosphere of tension and uncertainty, but one in which people needed to find a way to not only survive, but to still laugh, still connect, still keep going. And of course they wanted to dupe the aliens and escape too.

Well now I’m back at work, I’ve discovered that is exactly what London has become. Lots of instructions with cute pictures, saying Cover your face, Keep your distance, Don’t travel unless you have to. It’s all considerate messages for our own safety, but the atmosphere is still intense. With half our faces covered, people are more suspicious of each other, and anyone could be a virus carrier. But we still need to laugh, connect and keep going. Luckily we don’t need to worry about the alien bit. Yet.

Sign in London station says Please keep your distance

Covidworld

So, I’m back at work and it’s great to see everyone again and be outside tackling some plants.

It’s all quite odd though, everything is not quite the same, little details have shifted. I’ll get some pictures tomorrow. It’s as if someone gave all of London a makeover. And then almost all Londoners have changed too. We hide our faces. We aren’t rushing, instead we keep our distance. No more stand on the right, walk on the left on escalators, now everybody stands. And there are police everywhere.

At work, my colleagues are just like they always were – cheery, lovable oddballs. But with longer hair. The guys have either slicked back styles or new wavy locks.

I feel like this is a puny blog, so here is a fella I read about this morning, the monkey slug caterpillar, Phobetron. They aren’t anything to do with monkeys or slugs, but they are caterpillars. Aren’t they incredible?

Click on this to go to the site I nicked it from
Definitely click on this photo to see more photos from the Maryland Biodiversity Project

The world holds its breath

No relevance, just a calming photo

I haven’t written for a few days. With everything going on in the US with BLM protests and then protests in UK, it feels rude to chatter about 3-legged cats.

I’m not gone though. And I hope that any of you bloggers in the US, (I know Darnell Cureton, Boo and Shameful Narcissist are, so I hope they’re all ok) are safe. And I really hope that all this leads to change. The UK definitely has it’s problems with institutional racism in our police force, but the violence is so much less and there is usually some accountability. I’m a long way away and only get to see videos and pictures, but the shameless misuse of power by cops in the US looks terrifying.

Also, I got a call from my boss today. I’m back to work in a week and a half. I can’t pretend I’ve hated being off, laziness and isolation suit me fine, but I can’t wait to see my colleagues and to be outside with the plants all day. And it means I can stop doing proper exercises, like aerobics and all that bastardry. I’ve learned to tolerate it, but I would always rather be digging up something than leaping around to a perky presenter.

Stay safe everyone, love to all of you.

Unsinew  –  to take strength from

Ultrageous   –  violently extreme

News! I’ve published Supernice!

My book is out there! And it’s free on Smashwords! Supercheap on Amazon! For any of you I sent a copy to who liked it, do you know anyone else who’d enjoy it? Please spread the word and I’ll be forever thankful. I’m not looking to make money, I just really like it when people read my stories.

Links!

Smashwords, where the book is for free:

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/1025479

The Amazon.com link (99c):

This is the universal Amazon link for wherever you are: mybook.to/Supernice

And this is the UK Amazon link (80p): https://amazon.co.uk/Supernice-Smile-else-Petra-Jacob-ebook/dp/B089G6RZD8/

And then a cat happened…

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Feeling much more sprightly, I had plans to do stuff today. Do some writing, go to the garden centre and buy pots, but the title should give you a clue as to why I didn’t.

I always say, if you’ve got a cat, then your day is sorted. You don’t even need entertainment.

This cat walked in when I opened the front door and without introduction she had a wander around. She kept acting surprised to see me there. Almost as if I’d invaded her space.

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We got to know each other. She’s a fan of friendly biting, which I’m not. And her tail shakes as if she’s having a fit. Oh and she likes lying on the floor, which I also don’t, but obviously I did for most of today so I could hang out with cat. I tried to tempt her onto the sofa, and she did jump up quite happily and snuggled up against me. Then she got up, moved along a bit and fell over, and then got up and moved further away and fell over, then walked back and bit me. Which was much more active than I was hoping for.

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Cats and Sundays go together well. I hope she comes back tomorrow.

Anyway, TLDR? cat.

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PS: My eye is much better now!

Quick update on my mutant status

set-smile-emoji-coronavirus-infection-face-with-medical-mask-cartoon-virus-emoticons-social-media-chat-comment-illustration_87543-3223After another trip to Urgent Care, more panic that the infection was spreading to my brain and then it turned out it wasn’t, things calmed down. I have new antibiotics that seem to be working, I still look weird, but that may  just be me. I’m now mostly too tired and tetchy to do anything but watch Community and sleep, but I wanted to share a story of a man at the hosiptal.

He was sitting just the other side of a curtain, talking to a nurse. I couldn’t hear everything, I guessed he was a patient because I heard him mention dizzy spells. But there was something un-patient-like about how he spoke. He was too talkative and his voice too strong, most patients are weak and scared. This man did not shut up, just a monologue. I thought he had a mental illness, but his voice was clear and confident and a bit patronising.

So I listened closely. Here is some of what I heard:

‘I mean, I don’t know if you’ve ever experienced anxiety or a panic attack, but it’s just the worst’ (goes on to explain a panic attack to a doctor.)

Doctor: And you can’t go back to work, is that right?

‘No! Because every time I go there and I switch the phone on and there’s like this surge of energy. I know some people will say this sounds weird, but this technology has never been tested. 5G isn’t like 4G. And even the wireless is causing changes in our brains.’

‘I’ve done a lot of research on this, they brought this technology in without doing the proper testing…’ (he starts to talk about brain chemistry in fairly technical terms that managed to still not sound convincing at all.)

‘It’s like a tendril that’s going to burst in my head. Sometimes it’s hot and sometimes cold. You can’t possibly imagine what’s that’s like. The most intense and terrifying experience.’

Doctor: Well your ECG and blood tests are normal, but you’ve spoken about anxiety, so I’m going to get you to speak to a psychiatrist.

‘Yes, but anxiety isn’t the problem, it’s caused by the 5G. Now this is what a lot of people don’t understand…’

I’ve seen a lot of rumours about 5G on the Internet. I can’t see well enough to go looking up now, but I know some think it caused the virus. Not sure how this fitted in with this guy’s panic attacks and tendrils. Or why he sounded more like a pub bore than a seriously ill person who goes to the hospital during a plague. Maybe he thinks the plague isn’t real. Maybe you clever readers can figure this one out – I’m always throwing these little mysteries out to you, I know!

Anyway when I saw him finally, he looked totally normal, he was wearing a clean shirt, khaki trousers, smartly cut grey hair. He could have been a bank manager on his day off. He could have been David Icke.