Tales from the Hidden Grove

Tales from the Hidden Grove
"Amongst the finest short story writers in the UK right now" ~ Black Pear Press

Sunday, 27 May 2018

Thoughts on The Repeal of the 8th

These are my thoughts on the Repeal of the 8th. I don't normally do this sort of thing on the blog, but I felt so helpless in the face of angry, hurtful comments that I had to put something into writing. And as I've written a lot about asexuality and so-called "monstrous births" on here, it didn't seem altogether inappropriate.  

I have no desire to condemn women to illegal abortions. In fact, I have no desire to condemn anyone, full stop. I understand that abortion may be necessary in certain, extreme, circumstances, but there are several things that deeply trouble me. 

1. The unborn have no human rights. In these days when we know more about the life and development of the embryo/foetus than ever before, and when mothers of miscaried babies are asking for death certificates, this seems both hypocritical and backward. I truly think the UN should convene to discuss what rights the unborn ought to have. I don't believe the unborn are the property of the mother any more than the wife is the property of the husband or the children the property of the parents. 

2.  This is of particular concern as regards disability and so-called deformity. In the recent documentary with Sally Philips, it was worrying to discover how many parents would abort in the case of Down's Syndrome. This comes at a time when the visibility and rights of the disabled and those with physical differences are higher than ever. Yes, there may be extreme cases where termination is the kinder option, but this ought to be the rare exception. There should be a consultation with the Disabled community on this topic. 

3.  We ought to be doing everything within our power to eliminate the root causes that can lead to abortion, particularly in the case of rape and "unwanted" pregnancies. The sexual culture, particularly in Britain where I live, is deeply unhealthy. As an asexual, I believe people like me have something to teach the rest of society: it's not a "given" that sex is a rite of passage or essential to a loving relationship. And it's certainly not a right or something to be taken, owed or forced.  I also think there should be more support for mothers and babies, and that this should take place in community. No one should be expected to go through pregnancy, childbirth or child-rearing alone. We need to rediscover community and our mutual responsibility for one another. Basically, we need to love. 

These are my thoughts. I will not read or reply to any comments, as I find that too distressing. I just needed to say what I felt.

Monday, 12 March 2018

In Praise of Hairy Women

Who doesn't love Lettie Lutz, the Bearded Lady character in The Greatest Showman, who sings the iconic anthem, This is Me? Yesterday, my daughter took me to a singalong version of the film for a Mother's Day treat, and we both belted out This is Me at the tops of our voices. Both Lettie and the song have become symbols for anyone who feels marginalised or different.

It so happens that last week I watched another film about a hairy woman, the very beautiful Norwegian coming-of-age film, Løvekvinnen, or The Lion Woman, based on a book by Erik Fosnes Hanson. It tells the story of Eva Arctander, who is born in a small town in the early 20th century and struggles to find her place in the world. Especially, it concerns her relationship with her stationmaster father, widowed at her birth. I loved this film - which I watched on Netflix - and I definitely want to see it again.

One of my best reads of last year was Orphans of the Carnival by Carol Birch, based on the real-life story of Julia Pastrana (pictured) a Mexican-born "human oddity", who sang and danced on tour across the USA and the world. It's a fascinating and moving story about what it is to be human, and has a wonderful timeslip sub-plot. If you haven't read it, run to the library now!

And finally, for a contemporary, own-voices take on female body hair, please watch BBC3's video Things Not To Say To Hairy Women. This is part of a brilliant series that takes you into the lives of others - and the stupid cliches they encounter. Let's all be more understanding! And let's celebrate human life in all its variety!


Monday, 19 February 2018

Hairy Worms Revisited

On this blog, I have written a number of pieces about parthenogenesis and asexual reproduction. The first was this one: Giving Birth to Hairy Worms, which was inspired by a book called The Manly Masquerade. In it, I noted the Renaissance belief that reproduction could happen spontaneously, that things could be born of putrefaction, and that:

  • Women's wombs could spontaneously produce all sorts of things, from monsters and harpies, to wood, glass or combs, to serpents, toads and hairy worms.  (I particularly like the hairy worms.  Why hairy??)
 It seems this idea is less far-fetched than it seems, as today I was reading about homunculi. Rather than attempt to explain it myself, I direct you to this article: The Homunculus Inside. (Trigger warning: the photos are not for the squeamish!)

It seems this would also be a good time to tell you that my articles on parthenogenesis (as well as my own experience of both asexuality and gynaecological problems) have inspired a couple of short stories, both of which are currently submitted to magazines. One is called Pandora's Pithos, in which the protagonist finds herself the mother of:
Tiny winged people, russet-green as rose thorns.  A hare in a nun's habit.  A bird with cat's ears and the face of a woman.  Weasels with wings made of cogs and pistons.  A comb with eyes, running sideways on its many teeth.  A serpent with braided hair.  A glass toad.
And the other story A Wingless Wedding - which I read at the Brick Box Rooms' "Talking in Tongues" during LGBT history month - was directly influenced by the discoveries about gall wasps, noted in Amazing Asexuality:
Wingless don't reproduce sexually.  That's the task of their children, the Winged, who in turn have Wingless children.  We're the only planet in our star system where this happens, and it's the same in every country.  Customs and traditions vary, but one thing has stayed the same the world over.  There has never been a Wingless wedding.
I do hope you find all this as fascinating as I do!

Monday, 12 February 2018

Puzzles in the Alice Books

Recently, I listened to a radio documentary called Two Thousand Years of Puzzling, tracing the history of the puzzle, from mazes to crosswords and everything in between. It mentioned Charles Lutwidge Dodgson - aka Lewis Carroll - author of the Alice books. Dodgson was a lecturer in mathematics at Christ Church College, Oxford, and loved a good mathematical puzzle. In fact, he seemed to love puzzles of every kind. Just thinking about Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, I was struck by how many different types of puzzle feature in them. Here are some I noticed:

  • Chess and Playing Cards. The main settings of the two books. Obviously, these are games, but there can be a lot of mathematics involved, and plenty of chess and playing card puzzles have been set and solved over the centuries.
  • Riddles. The infamous, "Why is a raven like a writing desk?" Frustratingly, this one has no answer (although Jasper Fforde - that great Aliceophile - comes up with a few in his Thursday Next books).
  • Spacial puzzles. How can Alice fit through the little door? She has to experiment with making herself bigger and smaller until she finds the answer.
  • Word play. The Alice books are practically swimming in this. (See what I did there?) One example I like is towards the end of Looking Glass:
    • "You look a little shy; let me introduce you to that leg of mutton," said the Red Queen. "Alice - Mutton; Mutton - Alice."
    • "May I give you a slice?"
    • "Certainly not. It isn't etiquette to cut any one you've been introduced to."
    • (In this example, cut means both "to slice with a knife" and "to deliberately blank someone.")
  • Games with complicated rules. The Caucus Race. (Another pun). The Queen's croquet game, played with hedgehogs and flamingos. The Rules of Battle between the Red and White Knights.
  • The puzzle of Who Stole the Tarts?
  • Mathematical calculations. Often simple ones made ridiculously complicated, as when Alice has to write down 365-1=364 as a sum for Humpty Dumpty, and even then he isn't convinced of the answer.

Those are just some that I have spotted. Can you think of any more?