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Apparently there are mutant ninja Catholics in my family tree. Or, possibly, just Calvinists. Either way, there's a hell of a lot of guilt going on. Things about which I am currently guilty: my lack of communication with the house agent in France because I'm afraid if I email her she'll say she's no longer my agent; the blasted-heath state of the garden; my complete failure to do anything resembling exercise for the last couple of years; my lack of blogging; the way my poor little car billows smoke out from under her hood after driving for longer than five minutes; and my inability to replace her owing to a rooted reluctance to provoke the insurance gods by buying a new car while still driving illegally on a non-existent Zimbabwean driver's licence, an ancient and expired certificate of competency and a South African learners. Oh, and, of course, the driving illegally. I outrage my own Lawful Good on a daily basis. It's probably doing me untold damage on the astral plane.

In slightly mitigating pursuit of the driver's licence, I have attained the preliminary step of the aforementioned learner's licence, which was annoying but not too difficult to achieve, even given my grad student intellectual perfectionism which means I still haven't quite forgiven myself for getting three questions wrong out of a hundred. (They were multiple choice. There's no excuse.) I have also embarked on a series of lessons with a rather lovely driving instructor lady with a throaty contralto voice and a pleasing air of unflappable calm, neither of which are consoling me for the lessons, which I loathe and abhor with the fiery passion of a thousand suns.

Driving a car is a particularly strange and powerful psychological process. Apparently most people identify themselves as good drivers regardless of actual skill, which I think has something to do with the weird process of identification and body schema which causes a driver to extend their own body sense to encompass the car itself. (This is why even a minor rear-ending in slow traffic causes homicidal rage: it's a personal space invasion akin to a complete stranger slapping your butt unexpectedly). And having your self suddenly extend to a tonne or so of hyper-engineered metal and plastic with pleasing curves and superhuman speed capabilities is a massive power trip, a heady extension of agency no less effective for being routine. (This is why Iron Man is such a powerful archetype, and is probably at least partly why the movies make so much money).

I've always loved driving, not just the speed and independence but the interaction with the car, the sense of co-operation; I listen a lot to a car's engine note, I enjoy that mutual responsiveness of driver and machine. So it's a truly horrible and dispiriting experience to encounter the quite ridiculous demands of the K53 driving test, and to feel, after 25 years of driving, like a troglodytic and ham-fisted amateur. 25 years will allow you, apparently, to build up some really awful driving habits. I do things in the wrong order, I ride my clutch, I never use the handbrake, I appear to routinely roll back about an inch without noticing while taking off, and I am to date absolutely incapable of rewriting my hardwired routines to meld corrections to all of the above with the particularly bizarre and impossible set of observations the K53 requires of its hapless victims. I now have a permanent crick in the neck from blind-spot checking, and an abusive relationship with my rear-view mirror. Attempts to grok the K53 are not only making me temporarily into a truly terrible driver, they're also inculcating me with the belief that there's no actual way I'll ever pass the damn thing without heavily bribing the examiner, which is not an option owing to sheer bloody-mindedness as much as the Lawful Good.

In short, aargh. The guilt levels are not assisted by the fact that the hatred of these lessons is sufficient to cause severe avoidance, which means I've not got around to phoning for the next appointment since approximately Thursday. Any of you who see me in Real Life might do me the favour of prodding me gently and asking reproachfully about driving lessons. I may growl, but it's for my own good.
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I have a visa for my English trip, hooray. It arrives all neatly sealed into a silver plastic envelope, festooned with snippy interdictions about breaking the seal unless you're absolutely and positively the person it's intended for. It was an extremely efficient process, done in only a couple of weeks, and automated every step of the way. Collecting the passport must have taken all of a minute and a half. Inside the envelope, however, is not only the passport and the documentation I submitted, but a neat little A5 booklet in red, white and blue, with the title "PLAYING BY THE RULES IN THE UK."

This title is is causing me almost physical nausea, which is disproportionate because the contents of the booklet are fairly straightforward rules for visitors: don't misuse your visa or bring in banned foods and please tattle on human traffickers at these easy numbers. But the positioning of the title gets to me. It's sanctimonious, paternalistic, smug and self-satisfied: it says "We're all part of a police state, isn't it lovely, you will be too." It also has an air of unspecified and inherent menace: you will be good, won't you? or else. The tone is that of a particularly saccharine kindergarten teacher: we're all just do as we're told here, don't we? Or mummy will smack.

I do not like your current Great Britain, it strikes me as neither great nor British. Whatever happened to the great British virtues of bloody-mindedness, eccentricity and up yours? Or is my preferred reading too firmly back in the early 20th century?

In other news, I have written two pages of densely-compacted notes for this vampire/fairy tale paper, only to discover that I'm really only making introductory motions. Hmmm. This topic may be larger than it appears in the rear-view mirror. Also, tonight I embark on STNG Season 3, suggesting I'm rocketing through them with becoming fangirly fervour. The scriptwriters, praise the cosmic wossnames, found a clue somewhere in the middle of Season 2. There is yet hope. And I still rather like Wesley Crusher, possibly on the same general principles as my growing fondness for peaty whisky: sheer bloody-mindedness. There's clearly a lot of early, classic British in my family tree.
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Good lord, this job has its weird moments. I've just spent 45 minutes digging through a university handbook from 1970, trying to work out whether the Anatomy class taken by Fine Arts diploma students in 1970 is the Med school one, or their own art-based version. The 1970 handbook is... quaint. And somehow far more Oxbridge than the current snappy, market-oriented one. Also, layout not so much. As an encore, I shall now go to a meeting in order to squabble about venues for orientation, since there aren't actually enough large ones to go round. Expanding the university with ever-larger hordes of students is all very well, but the infrastructure is straining at the seams.

By way of distraction from the oddities of university admin, I stumbled today across the delirious and unlikely existence of the planet Nibiru and its apocalyptic intentions for the Earth in December 2012 when it disengages its apparently extremely efficient cloaking devices as it bumbles portentously through our skies. I have every intention of going to see Roland Emmerich's 2012 as soon as it opens, secure in the knowledge that it will be an entirely loud, dreadful, pointless, anti-scientific and badly-scripted collection of nonsense which will nonetheless make me extremely happy with images of large-scale cataclysm. It is a revelation to me, however, as well as a solid dose of fuel for my beliefs about the fundamental stupidity of the human race, that there are apparently vast seething masses of people out there who actually believe this shit. It's not only their touching faith in the infallibility of the ancient Mayan calendar that floors me, it's their unmatched ability to create conspiracy theories about cover-ups as an antidote to all this inconvenient science debunking the myths. Oh, and their worrying tendency to accept viral marketing campaigns for clearly stupidly OTT Hollywood blockbusters as the gospel truth.

The paranoid delusion is at such levels that NASA has a FAQ page about Nibiru and 2010. The Bad Astronomy page is also interesting for its pithy deconstruction of kooky spiritualists and pervy alien-fanciers. Charm these voices of reason never so patiently and rationally, however, that particular deaf adder has its tail in its ears and its head buried under a significantly-carved Sumerian rock, and is moreover shouting "LA LA LA CAN'T HEAR YOU!" at the top of its voice. I think I like disaster movies so much because the general apocalyptic devastation seems to me to be no more than we deserve.
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I'm not entirely sure how I feel about the live-action film version of Where The Wild Things Are (trailer here, I'd be interest to know what you Sendak-fan witterers think). Possible pros: it's live-action rather than CGI, it's not being directed by Stephen Spielberg, the trailer features my favourite Arcade Fire song, it's Spike Jonze. Possible cons: they're making a film of a beloved book, which by all the rules is doomed; I'm not sure it'll survive independently of Maurice Sendak's incredible artwork; the Wild Things talk; it's Spike Jonze. I shall content myself with the mantra Alan Moore occasionally mouths (post James Cain) but never quite got behind: Even If The Film Turns Out Crap The Book's Still On My Shelf.

In other news, Elizabeth Bear's cat talks in alliterative skaldic verse. Apparently. And, appropos of nothing, tonight I initiate jo&stv into the mysteries of lasagne-construction. They have to swear an oath, and get the tattoo, and everything. Also, we're going to watch Wanted.

Last Night I Dreamed: a confused journey to Mars, which was unexpectedly terraformed and growing forests and vast fields of vegetables. I think Venus may have been as well, only the fields were all on raised platforms held up by giant pillars, so the excessive moisture could drain out of the soil. Much of the dream was taken up with preventing atmospheric sabotage, and with the whinging of the spaceships full of farm workers who didn't like the long commute.


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