Saturday, 28 March 2009

Earth Hour

It occurs to me that writing a blog presupposes that there is at least one other person 'out there' who is interested in what the author has to say, which is either egotistical or optimistic, I'm not sure which. A little while ago I cried out into the wilderness 'follow me!' or at least let me know you're listening, but as one of my listeners said (well, he sorta said it) as long as I've got something to write I should blog, regardless of how many might be listening. So in the end, blogging is less about entertaining others and more about catharsis for the author, at least it seems that way to me. Sometimes. It might be tonight anyway, we'll see how this post turns out! It is certainly true that I express my personal feelings better in print than I ever do verbally, so here goes.

Earth Hour, one hour from 2030 to 2130, local time in which you turn off all the lights, computers, televisions etc. in your household and, well, do something else for a change.

I had a bath. A lovely hot bath with lots of bubbles. I let my mind wander for a bit, then wander a bit further.

I thought about the time in the UAE I tried on an abaya. It freaked Catherine out because she couldn't see my face (she was only 4 at the time). I quite liked wearing a long piece of clothing that covered me all up, until the man in the shop put the niqab over my face. Suddenly I felt invisible, claustrophobic, suffocated. It didn't help it was a very hot day, the clothes were black and made of some sort of synthetic material. Catherine started to cry so I hurriedly took it off, but I wish I'd bought at least the abaya and hijab (not the niqab though). I wondered about it a bit, lying there in the bath. I've heard Muslim women describe it as liberating, because they don't have to worry about how other people perceive them. They can dress however they like underneath, but I wonder about the feeling of being invisible. I know that whenever I see a woman all covered up I find myself consciously trying not to stare at her. I think perhaps she's dressed that way out of modesty, so modesty would require me not to look, hence the invisibility thing. Yet me trying not to stare clearly means she is not invisible at all, so why do I think it? Perhaps being completely covered is liberating. I wondered what it would be like to walk down into Woking in an abaya and hijab with my face covered and thought about doing it for an experiment. Would that offend Muslims if I did? I hope not.

I have just found an article written by a Muslim woman who decided to wear the niqab for a day. It's fascinating, heartbreaking and unsurprising in a sad sort of way. I think if she had that much distress wearing it for one day, there's no way I could do it. No way at all.

So, back to my bath.

Thinking about wearing the niqab got me thinking about confidence and why on earth I want to colour my hair purple. I've made an appointment to get it done next week, I've told my sister I'm going to do it, so I guess I'm doing it but I can't help but wonder why. Yes, I love purple, I think it suits me, but on my hair? When I made the appointment I told the girl I was sick of having a hair colour that fits in. Maybe that's it. Maybe I'm tired of being conventional and it's only now, at 38 years of age, that I feel I have the self-confidence to do what the hell I want.

Yeah right. I wouldn't know what self-confidence was if it was 6 foot 4 inches and plastered to Hugh Jackman. I wouldn't notice it, that's for certain! I mean, what is self-confidence? Confidence in the self... does it mean not caring what other people think of you? I think that's just selfishness, not confidence and not possible for us social primates anyway. We all care what others think of us, because we all want to get what we want and be happy. Essentially. You can't do that on your own, so what others think of us matters whether we like it, or admit to it, or not. Does self-confidence mean you like yourself? If so, I fail on this definition too. Can't stand my body, I hate my clothes and my hair, don't get me started on my hair... I sometimes think I'm a fairly decent human being, but this is mostly after a few drinks and definitely not at 5pm after a long day and the kids are yelling at me. Does self-confidence mean you accept yourself? Fail on this one too, needless to say. Move on!

The question of the purple hair thing remains unanswered. I just like the look on others and think it might look okay on me, maybe that will have to do for now. And so my thoughts in the bath rolled on...

I closed my eyes for a little bit, thought about falling asleep but couldn't. It's difficult to relax with the prospect of drowning niggling at you. A little problem that doesn't seem to affect my son, I must say. One evening after putting Naomi down for the night I came down the stairs and was surprised to hear snoring. I smiled to myself and thought how tired Keiran must have been to be asleep already, so I went into his room to check on him. The bathroom light was still on, the fan whirring away, so I switched off the light and continued into Keiran's room. Upon seeing his empty bed I thought he must be on the floor somewhere - he's done that plenty of times and the room was dark. He wasn't there yet I could still hear the snoring. With mounting dread I turned towards the bathroom, which is right beside Keiran's room and sure enough, with the light off of course, there was my darling boy, fast asleep on his back in about 5cm of warm water. He looked so completely comfortable, half-floating there, that I almost didn't want to move him, but I scooped him out and cuddled him tightly as he woke up and started to complain. I took him into his room, dressed him and put him into bed then went downstairs. I asked Peter whether he'd forgotten anything upstairs... he was a bit surprised when I told him! He had forgotten, actually *sigh* Why is it always the clever ones that can be so spectacularly dense?

So, not falling asleep in the lovely hot water, I got up and had a cold shower. As you do. You should try it, it's lovely. I washed my hair and got back into the bath, but it wasn't long before I started to drift off in the direction of Nod so I had another cool shower, dressed and slid into my bed. I closed my eyes and I could hear the sound of Peter and Catherine talking downstairs. Catherine started to read from her novel and I listened, not really understanding everything she said through the filter of distance and sleepiness, but I enjoyed listening to her nonetheless. It doesn't seem that long ago that her confidence with reading was non-exisitent. She didn't want to read 'chapter books' because her Year 3 teacher had told her she couldn't. Wretched woman. Catherine was so put down by that it made me furious, but she's worked so hard over the last few years that now she is reading so beautifully she's been made the narrator in the senior play this year. They're doing Alice in Wonderland and from what I can tell from the script, her role is even more substantial than that of Alice. For one thing, two girls will share the role of Alice but Catherine has to do the narration on her own. She has to know what all the players will be doing, so she will know when to say her lines. I think she has two solo songs to sing, and is first up on stage. I am so immensely proud of her, everyone will be completely sick of me raving about it. It's just as well tickets are limited otherwise I'd be insisting everyone I know should come to the play. As it is, I will buy the DVD and insist visitors watch at least a little bit *lol* When she came upstairs to say goodnight, I told her this and I hope she was a little bit proud. I'm certainly very proud of her.

So that's pretty much it for how I spent this year's Earth Hour. I did have one final thought before I went downstairs to switch on the computer and resume my contribution to global warming. Many people, when asked what they would do for an hour in the dark, think of doing what comes naturally when there's a blackout. The thought that occured to me though, was this. Earth Hour was about bringing the state of the planet to the forefront of people's minds. No-one really thinks switching off your lights for an hour is going to make a huge difference to global warming in the long run but it does make you think, and maybe action will follow thought. However, consequences frequently follow action, as anyone with children knows and if anyone has any consequences of the child-shaped variety after this evening, they will have contributed more to global warming in the long run than their lights will ever do...

'Night all!


  1. Hm.

    Well, you had a more substantive Earth Hour than I did. You know, I actually brought up your Catherine to mine hosts during my Earth Hour (candlelight works better shared), to illustrate how Young Kids Today grok technology in ways we never will. I'd forgotten that not everyone I went to high school with (like mine host) actually went to uni with me too ("PeternVanessa Who?").

    Your audience? Well, some people will make a point of following your every word—including people you really didn't expect (as I've found); and people you hope would, don't. These are the surprises you plant when you talk into the dark. You'll notice I haven't reciprocated the favour yet of putting your blog (or any of my friends') on my blogroll. Don't give on me quite yet, though.

    The abaya: intellectually, the tuning out of the Male Gaze is a liberating action in isolation; but these things don't happen in isolation, and of course being a mobile black blot in the West attracts different kinds of unwelcome attention. I hadn't realised there's an absolute threshold between hood and veil; but of course there would be. Which means there's a huge difference in turn between the cultures within Islam which insist on veiling, and those who stop short of it. Iran is not Saudi, and Iran certainly has a place for women in public life.

    There's also reports that Muslim women in England take up the burqa, despite it being alien to Pakistan where most of them are from, as a deliberate act of dissidence. That's actually the seeking out of visibility instead of invisibility...

    Purple hair and self-confidence? That's a messy issue too, and it actually does relate to the veil after all. Refusing to conform is an assertion of confidence, but it's more an assertion of rebellion (ooh, look at me, I have a safety pin through my nose); and that rebellion often comes from a shallow place. (You're enmeshed in society, you don't sunder your bonds with it by shock tactics.)

    That's not where you're coming at purple hair from, from what you're saying; but what is it about other people's purple hair that you like? I'm not sure it's just an isolated aesthetic judgement. Then again, that's hardly any of my business. :-) Will the kiddies at school bat an eyelid d'you think? Society having turned out as it has, they may well not...

    Eek, better stop before I reveal myself as even more of a cultural reactionary than I already have. (Peter will remember Karen from our studies. I used to take her hair colour as a personal affront!) But: you were, are, and will remain a babe (how on earth would you think otherwise?); Kieran is not drowning and neither is the dishwasher :-) ; Catherine will do Great Things yet, and good to know she's getting her stage debut early; and I hope some people used their hour by candlelight to revive the art of conversation, inasmuch as the art of babymaking is not yet lost...

    And to all a goodnight!

  2. *sob, in a good way* Thank you so much! I seemed to have a lot of words last night, they've all evaporated this afternoon it seems, so simply and deeply Thank You.