In honour of my 666th post on this here blog (666! Wheeeeeee!), I asked you, my dear readers, to ask me anything. And I would answer everything. And I promise quite hard not to answer ‘none of your business!’ [Unless you ask for identifying information. Sorry. You never know who's reading. It could be my Mum, wondering why this strange internetty woman sounds uncannily familiar.]
If anyone reading this still wants to ask something, fret not, boat not missed. Pop your lovely question in the comments, and I’ll update, and not only will I update, but I’ll let you know when I update, because I have beautiful manners, no, really.
OK, Best Beloveds, we have some questions. Let’s get this show on the road!
Totally not in the infertility spirit, but what’s the dish you cook that you’re most proud of?
Lasagne! I make it from scratch, and I mean from scratch – I even make the pasta from scratch, with OO flour and fresh eggs and a complicated stainless steel mini-mangle. The ragù (the proper Italian name for the meat and tomato sauce) takes at least four hours to cook, and I make a mean bechamel. So, basically, if I have made you lasagne, it means I totally love you, because I have spent at least four hours in the kitchen, being sweaty and temperamental and trapping my fingers in the mangle attachment. And, the resultant lasagne is very, very good. I am a hot mess genius.
And what’s your favourite ice cream flavour?
Oh. Hard. I have a rather soft spot for Ben & Jerry’s Phish Food, and also for their Chocolate Macademia. And Häagen-Dazs Dulce de Leche. But the best I ever ate was cherry ice-cream from a little gelateria on the Piazza del Campo in Siena. *Swoons at the very thought*.
Hmmm…questions…what’s your favorite guilty pleasure? (i.e. bad movies, trashy novels, fancy coffee drinks, bad TV)
Star Trek (any of the series, any of the movies), gingerbread lattes, and chocolate. I haven’t had a gingerbread latte since November, but chocolate, alas, keeps sneaking up on me. And I certainly spend a leeetle too much money on books and knitting yarn. I have more yarn than I know what to do with. H thinks I am daft. I think he has more computers than he knows what to do with. I think we’re even.
When you’re getting ready to go out (every day to work or special occasion – you choose), what is the part of your routine that takes the longest?
Every day, I’d say my hair. I have a lot of it, and it is very woolly and wild, and takes a deal of washing and conditioning and combing and seruming, and I still look like a longwool sheep, but hey, at least I can get the comb through it. (Wide-toothed afro-comb, of course. Lesser combs have been known to get eaten). On a party day, I will wear make-up – I don’t usually – and that’ll take for-bloody-ever, as I’m inexperienced and clumsy, and all I’m doing is eyeliner and a smudge of lippy. I’m not a groomed or stylish individual. I tend to settle for clean, pleasantly scented, and wearing a colour I like.
Do you have a favorite author or book, or do you love them all? Or has your job given you a distaste for books?
I love books with an unholy and possibly adulterous passion. I have so very many favourite authors and books, and they all wander up and down the hierarchy depending on mood, time of year, sun-spot activity… Current book I am pushing on everyone with the unhealthy fervour of a drug-dealer with a loan-shark problem: The City and the City, by China Mieville. Book I was pushing madly last year: Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, by Susannah Clarke. A few years ago it was Possession, by A.S. Byatt. I adore Ursula K. LeGuin, Sarah Waters (oh! Oh! Oh! Read The Night Watch!), George Eliot, Terry Pratchett, Neil Gaiman, Diana Wynne Jones maysherestinpeace, Philip Pullman, John Donne, Shakespeare, Ngaio Marsh, Dorothy L. Sayers, Tolkien, Iain M. Banks, Alan Moore, Lindsey Davis, Umberto Eco, OK this is getting out of hand…
Valery Valentina asks:
Mhm, questions…. (please forgive me if I phrase this the wrong way, or if you think it is pure evil to even consider!) would an embryo of you and H possibly have a better chance in a Surrogate Ute than in Cute Ute? Is this allowed in your country? Is it financially impossible? Is it emotionally possible?
Surrogacy is, I think, legal in Britain. It’s not even hugely expensive (you may not pay fees, only reasonable expenses), but expenses are not regulated in any way (as far as I know), so some people have found themselves in sticky situations with regards to paying the surrogate. We do have some savings, but I don’t know if they’d cover IVF plus surrogacy unless the surrogate was someone who knew and loved us and was doing it out of the goodness of her heart. Ultimately, though, the problem, for us, is not the quality of the Cute Ute – she’s a little shit-bitch to me, but none of her issues are wrecking her lining or ruining her interior, apparently – but the quality of the embryos. They seem to be uniformly fried, despite my stellar AMH results, because the PCOS makes me ovulate late. So one of our embryos wouldn’t be any luckier in anyone else. Donor eggs might be more useful to us, but I haven’t really looked into that yet, and I’m not sure how it works in this country. And for me, at least, the point is not necessarily the genetic connection to the child, but the experience of pregnancy and birth and breast-feeding and so on. I don’t know why they’re important to me (apart from the obvious ‘and then I might survive another few years before needing a hysterectomy, maybe’ health aspect), but they are. I am, however illogically, emotionally involved with the idea of carrying a child to term. If it came to surrogacy, I think I’d be inclined to go for adoption instead, as being easier and just as meaningful. I’m not sure how attached H is to his own DNA, though. It’s not a subject he talks about much.
How’s the poetry going? I’m going on another long walk in 2013, want to join me? Do you play any musical instruments? Or sing? Or dance? And how annoying am I?
If I send chocolate, will you forgive me?
Poetry is going… Argh. I’m writing a very long poem and it is kicking my arse. I’ve been writing it since Easter and mostly all I do is bitch that it’s not finished and there are bits missing and why I don’t go and write something else I don’t know.
I’d LOVE to join you. LOVE LOVE LOVE to. *Snoopy dance*
I had piano lessons for a couple of years, and was abysmal. I also play the guitar abysmally, or at least used to. I haven’t touched a guitar for years. I can sing in tune, but wouldn’t say I was any good at it, and anyway, I am shy and easily rendered flat and squeaky with nerves. H is very musical, plays piano and sings in choirs and everything. But I dance much better than he can (which isn’t saying much. Bless the man, he dances like a step-ladder).
You’re not annoying at all, dear heart, but send me chocolate anyway.
I’d love to know: Favorite (no, there is no “u” in that) book, and Celebrity Most Likely To Be #1 in May’s Little Book of Hate? Totally inane questions, but ones which I am sure will delight the masses.
I think I’ve answered your book one already, in my usual vague and irritatingly rambly way (sorry). As for Celebrity Cruising For A Bruising, oh, oy vey. Piers Morgan? (As Stephen Fry once said – new definition of ‘countryside’ – killing Piers Morgan). Jan Moir? Glenn Beck? Michael Winner? Mel Gibson? Ohhh, I should stop now. My slapping-hand is twitching.
Betty M asks:
North, South, East or West London – spiritually/emotionally obviously as opposed to physically.
Central London. Where they keep all the museums and galleries and theatres and libraries and stuff.
Which newspaper do you read. And Daily Mail showbiz pages online don’t count.
The Guardian. I am very right-on liberal-leftie sandal-wearing knit-your-own-yoghurt. Daily Mail makes me want to hurl with (anti)righteous indignation, I’m afraid.
Indian or Thai food?
Thai food. I love Thai food. Mmmm, Tom Kha Gai. Mmmmmmm.
Coke or Pepsi?
I prefer Coke, Pepsi being too sickly, but I actually drink things like Fentimans or Ubuntu on the rare occasions I let myself buy a fizzy pop. Because I am such a ghastly right-on liberal-leftie sandal-wearing knit-your-own-yoghurt caricature of a human being. If you were to offer me a Coke, I’d say yes very quickly indeed, before my conscience got a chance to interfere and spoil it.
If you are being driven to think ‘hysterectomy’ by the ludicrously painful periods is adoption a possibility for you?
Well, I think about adoption very often. In the UK, it’s not particularly expensive to adopt from the Social Services system, which is something. However, there are very few children ‘available’, as it were, and absolutely 100% none of them are infants. Social Services will do their damndest to keep families together, so children are usually fostered, in the hope their birth parents can take them back. By the time a child comes up for forever adoption, they’ll have been in and out of the care system for at least a year, often a lot more, shunted from foster home to foster home. I am shit-scared of adopting an older child, one who unavoidably will have been ‘abandoned’ sometimes repeatedly. I think people who can and do are extraordinary, in their strength, their heart, their courage. I may have had the strength to take on all that six or seven years ago. I’m really not sure I could now. I’d be a crappy parent to an extra-needy child with abandonment issues. And this is why, I suppose, they really prefer you not to be pursuing fertility treatment when you adopt. You have to be whole-hearted about it. You have to mean, and know, and long, for it. It’s certainly not the second-best make-up prize for the barren. And it bugs the living crap out of me that the ‘burden’ (or honour. Both) of taking on these kids is ‘supposed’ to be ours. Fertile people are expected to parent genetically, and to prefer their genes above and beyond anyone else’s. But if we infertiles feel the same way, suddenly we’re selfish. Even though it’s much, much easier for a fertile to NOT have genetic children then it is for us to HAVE them. Anyway. Getting derailed. The other problem, in our area at least, is that most of the kids up for adoption are mixed-race, and they prefer mixed-race parents for them, or at least, parents of their non-white background. H and I are whiter than milk. Well, I’m technically mixed-race, but I’m very fair-skinned and Caucasian in looks and we’re not close to the more ethnically interesting part of the family and anyway, I sound posher than the Queen, which tends to put people off. So, if we were to go the adoption route, it would be long (long loooooooong waits, three or four or five years all quite normal. I’ve already waited six years), hard (difficulty in matching a child to us), and then, when achieved, REALLY hard, because we’d have an older, more troubled child who would need SUCH strength and love, yes, as all children do, but more so given their bloody hard start in life. And I am still emotionally invested in the whole idea of being pregnant and giving birth. Just like most fertile women get to be without being judged and found wanting.
First, are you okay? I hope you’re not caught up in the unrest!
We’re fine. Unrest has missed us so far.
And second, a totally frivolous question, but I’ve wondered this for a really long time. How do you end your alphabet song? Obviously I’m American, so for me it goes “…double-you, ecks, why, and zee. Now I know my ABCs; next time won’t you sing with me?”. And of course there are different versions of the song in different areas. What’s your rhyme for zed? Or do you not need a silly song to remember your alphabet?
We sing it to a different tune, and end, simply ‘Double-you ecks why ZED!’ No muss. No fuss. No need to rhyme.
My question is: If you could pick a super power, would you rather be able to fly or to be invisible? Would you use it to become a supervillain, or a superhero or neither?
Oh, I’d so love to fly. I have dreams of flying sometimes, and I always wake up happy. Colossal irony being, I’m scared of heights. Perhaps I wouldn’t be if I could fly… I’d like to say I’d become a superhero and Save The World! Daily! But I rather suspect I’d spend most of my time larking about going ‘wheeeeee! I can fly!’ and being harmless-if-annoying.
[there are more questions, I know. But it's midnight and this is very long. I'll do the rest tomorrow, I promise].
Hello again, petals! It’s Wednesday 10th of August, and I have more answers for you, as promised.
For my question – how do you meet H? I know you were you young but don’t recall if you’ve told us how you met
Ohh, it’s a story. It’s embarrassing, is what it is. OK. When I was seventeen, I had a summer job at a performing arts festival. And there I met a very nice if very (very. VERY) dim young man, and, you know, was spending my spare time snogging him etc. etc. Meanwhile my sister had met another very nice young man, and a few days in, he came over to our tent to meet her, and, oh, my poor heart started hammering in my chest. He was a beautiful nice young man. And he smiled at me, and my knees wobbled, and all I could think was ‘Damn damn damn shit bugger damn fuck‘, because he was my sister’s nice young man and alas my nice young man was looking dimmer than ever and not nearly so appealing. And that was the first time I laid eyes on H. We spent one long night innocently talking, while my sister and my nice young man were dancing, drinking, and mucking about.
Now, my sister actually had a boyfriend back home, so when the festival was over, she told me she’d said a rather final goodbye to H, who was, after all, just her holiday fling. So I, shamelessly, begged her for his address. She, amused and condescending (she had far more boyfriends and male attention generally than I ever did), gave it to me. And I, shamelessly, wrote H a friendly, hi-how-are-you innocent-as-daisies letter. And he wrote back, thereby dooming himself to a life-time of servitude as my bondsman and sex toy, bless him.
What piece of music is your anthem/the one desert island disc that you would rush to save?
What is your one luxury, if you could only have one?
Your first memory?
Desert Island Disc? Like with books, I am a promiscuous and dedicatedly eclectic music-lover. I have a particular thing about choral music, though, and one piece of music guaranteed to make me weep and set my mind on higher things and beautiful truths is Thomas Tallis’s Spem in Alium (this is not in any way a reference to Unnatural Acts With Onions. Ohhh, bathos).
My one luxury? Stationary. Nice pens and notebooks. I go into fancy paper shops just to soothe my nerves by touching the laid paper. I have notebooks that are Too Lovely To Write In. I have five fountain pens. Yes, I’d give up the knitting yarn to keep the pens and paper. I’d cry, but I’d do it.
My first memory? My grandmother’s house (the one she sold when I was seven or eight). Specifically, the crab-apple tree on the back lawn, in flower. And from the same time – I don’t remember which came first – with my next-cousin-in-age, poking our heads round the study door to say goodnight to my grandfather. He was wearing a blue dressing-gown that my Dad inherited. I know my sister was too small to run around with us, so I must’ve been four or younger. And I know my grandfather died very shortly after this. I’m glad I remember him at all.
Korechronicles pops back to ask
And, will you come and visit us one day?
YES PLEASE WOULD LOVE TO THANK YOU!
i know i shouldn’t blow my big chance on this, but i’m tired and now i’m fixated: you use the same ABC tune, yes? (twinkle, twinkle, little black sheep?) so you just do verse, bridge? no return to verse? and that doesn’t DRIVE YOU MAD?
um. lesse. explain your family a bit, maybe? i remember minx but get everyone else mixed up.
No, we use a different ABC tune. Well, I do know the twinkle twinkle black sheep mash-up version, but the version I was taught in school had a jolly bouncing tune that I can’t bloody find on YouTube argh gah. So ‘return to bridge’ was never an issue. But this may well be a reason why I don’t care for ‘your’ ABC song (as well as persnicketty arsiness about the Zee/Zed thing. For the love of mike, Americans, it’s not wrong to say Zed. It’s just different. Different is allowed).
As for my family, well, it’s Complicated. My parents each married several times, and I am therefore in the middle of a large set of siblings, few of which share both parents. However, I didn’t grow up with most of these siblings, so I have cordial, rather distant relationships with them and they are not good blog-fodder. The siblings I grew up with, Trouble (nearly my age) and Diva (early twenties), are my younger sisters by my mother (Trouble is my full sister, Diva has a different Dad). Trouble has recently divorced one of the more annoying men I’ve ever met, and has a small daughter nicknamed Minx, about whom I worry. Both Diva and Trouble are still living with my mother and her very generous and patient current husband. Both my parents were from HUGE families, so there is a vast and complicated skein of aunts and uncles and cousins out there. Dozens of each. Dozens. My father’s side of the family is Jewish, in a very secular, ham-eating way (see Woody Allen in Annie Hall), and my mother’s side is Catholic in a rather more devout way. My Dad lives several hundred miles away and specialises in guilt, anxst and emotional blackmail. My mother lives about 40 miles away and specialises in spectacular generosity and a bracing lack of empathy. H’s family is more ‘nuclear’, in that his lot stay married, and tend not to buy into the ‘cheaper by the dozen’ policy of reproduction. I should really do a ‘cast list’ in the about pages, shouldn’t I?
a returns to ask:
What did you like about Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell? I read it, but I had to force myself through – it didn’t grab me, and I don’t remember much of it at all. Please explain why it was so good, and maybe I’ll give it another try!
Oh. Ah. That’s me put on the spot. Hmm. I just loved the humour of it, both arch and gentle, and the inventiveness, and the real historical characters wandering in and out, and the way the darkness and sorrow creep in and build, and the extremely clever foreshadowing devices, both the actual prophecies and the magicians’ fool habit of flippantly saying or noticing things that they then dismiss. I loved that it was so very long and rambling (I love long books. I read very fast. Your average 300-pager will only last me a couple of hours when I get going. I’ve been clocked at over 1000 words a minute without losing comprehension or clarity. Freakish, I know). I loved the footnotes and the created corpus of reference books and the in-jokes (if you know a lot of Jane Austen and her contemporaries, or George Eliot, or Dickens, the jokes are funnier). Some of the writing was absolutely beautiful in its poetry and strangeness. I loved watching Jonathan Strange grow as a character. I adored Stephen Black so much I think I still want to marry him. And I also loved Childermass. His story is fascinating. The ending was so elegant, so clever. Umm.
Given that you write poetry, knit, make a mean lasagne and are generally all round awesome (in that wholesome, guardian reading, knit your own muesli and yogurt way) is there anything with you can’t do with you hands and brain that you wish you could?
Flatterer, she said blushingly. Ooh, good question. Yes. I wish I could draw. I can’t draw for nuts. My family is very artistic – not being able to draw always made me feel freakishly incapable, as everyone else could do it easy peasy. As if I can’t spell or tell the time or tie my own shoe-laces. And I am often Afflicted With Ideas that would make splendid comics (or graphic novels, if you prefer) and I can’t frikken’ draw. Damn it.
Something I’ve wondered about is if you and H ever reached an agreement about what you will be called by any future offspring? Also I see we have covered books, but what was your favourite book as a child?
No, we never did reach an agreement. I’m not hugely bothered about it at the moment. I seem to have gone zen, and will accept anything except ‘oy, you!’ and ‘fartface’.
Favourite book as a child? As a very small child I was much taken with Noggin the Nog books – we had several. Later, my absolute favourites, read over and over and over again, were Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, and Ursula LeGuin’s Earthsea Trilogy (of course, it’s expanded a lot since my childhood, but it was still the trilogy when I was growing up). This will tell you a great deal about my character to this very day. Pass the flagons.
Hairy Farmer Family asks:
If you could ask one person, alive or dead, one question… ?
If you could metamorph into a literary character… BE that character, exactly as they were written, experience their loves, hates, woes, life… whom?
I would ask William Shakespeare ‘look, did you write all those plays and poems? Because I think you did [insert long boring rant about internal stylistic evidence and dates and consistency as proof] but I know quite a few people who think Marlowe wrote them, or Francis Bacon, or someone else equally ridiculous [I mean, have you read Marlowe? NOTHING LIKE Shakespeare. At all. It's like claiming Quentin Tarantino made The Wizard of Oz]. And I would very much like to be proved right, for once and for all, and take my rightful place as Queen of Subjects Literary at the family dinner table. Thank you.’
As for the literary character, this gave me a seriously hard time. In the end, possibly weedily, I plumped for Harriet Vane in Dorothy L. Sayers’ Lord Peter Wimsey books. For one, I fancy the living crikey out of Lord Peter. For two, Harriet is a successful novelist. For three, she gets to have children despite marrying ‘late’. And for four, she values, and is valued because of her own, intelligence, wit, and learning.
Ben Warsop asks:
Who, in fiction, do you have the hottest hots for?
How cunning of me to have just mentioned Lord Peter Wimsey. I have also felt deeply charmed by Benedict, in Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing. He was probably my first literary crush ever. I currently have a crush on Kay Langrish from The Night Watch by Sarah Waters. I want to take her home and feed her broken heart lasagne.
[There. That's the lot, I think. Please scold me if I've missed you out! And if I get more questions, why then, this post will get even longer. It's already bloody enormous. I am congenitally incapable of being brief].
One more from Womb for Improvement:
What are you most proud of having achieved?
Trust you to ask a tricky one. Well now. I am proud of my degrees, I must admit. I have several, and they tend to be achieved in the teeth of personal disaster and inhumane quantities of anxst (I think I may be jinxed). If I didn’t want to make people feel faintly nauseous, I’d stick with that. And I hope by the end of this here span on earth I’ll have achieved something publishable – that would be overwhelmingly excellent, but I haven’t done it yet (aigh). The truth is, as we stand right now this minute, my greatest achievement to date is my marriage. You may all stop pulling faces and mock-puking now. I’m serious. In my family, serial adultery, divorce, plate-slinging and serious vicious emotional cruelty are the norm. My role-models and training, as it were, have prepped me to fling a pan at H’s head and go shag someone else the minute anything goes iffy. My role-models have trained me to expect that H should’ve run screaming for the hills when I was unemployed for a while a few years ago, and run screaming faster and louder when I was diagnosed infertile, when I lost my babies, when I fall down every month in incapacitating pain. Instead, H thought that my troubles required compassion and support rather than blame and avoidence. And when he didn’t quite know how to provide that support, or when he had employment trouble of his own that made him, bless the man, difficult to live with for a while there, I didn’t give up on him and dump him. I lost my temper an awful lot, I admit (and I do have such a temper. Ohhh, dear), but through it all I was always struggling to get close to him, understand and support and if possible help him get back out of his funk. That was what we did. We overcame a great deal. We survived a great deal. We love each other. We still fancy each other (and, yes, that took work – it takes work in the long term). We still like each other. We still enjoy each other’s company. We first kissed 18 years ago.