Saturday, November 17, 2012

The bible = a help and a hindrance

Today, I was at a conference organised by Sarum Concern for Israel/Palestine in Salisbury. Very timely, given all that is going on in the Middle East right now.

The speakers were Rabbi Dan Cohn-Sherbok, Revd Stephen Sizer, Prof Mary Grey and Dr Mark Owen. To summarise HUGELY:
  • Dan spoke about the origins of Zionism (a secular movement to begin with) and argued that for change in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory (IOPT) to occur there needs to be a redistribution of attention amongst Jewish people from one 'theme' in their scriptures (the divine promise of land to Israel) towards all (God's care for all oppressed people, to name one)
  • Stephen showed how a systematic, literal approach to Christian scripture can be used to dismiss Zionism just as it can be used to support it - focusing on addressing Christian Zionists rather than any Jewish audience
  • Mary argued that Dan's case was weakened by the fact that many of the biblical texts he referred to have dubious historicity
  • Mark questioned the usefulness of Stephen's approach, given that scripture seems well-suited to manipulation by anyone.
It was fascinating. I'm glad I went and am now better informed. But I am dubious about the potential of theological discussion when it comes to peace and justice in IOPT. It is true that we need to stand up and argue when people spout biblical interpretations that are questionable or wrong - and as such are obliged to educate ourselves in any scriptures we claim to hold dear. (And that means to read them carefully ourselves, not simply read or listen to what others have said about them).

I have been studying a brilliant commentary on Genesis: in that case, I leave a chapter with interesting dinner table insights about being faithful to scripture (did you know there is absolutely no suggestion in the biblical account that the serpent is evil or has anything to do with Satan?) And no doubt we should do similar with passages about the divine claims of Israel. But does it get us anywhere?

I find it offensive - indeed blasphemous - that people use scriptures and therefore God to justify their own political position. It is strange to me that fewer Christians get angry about this kind of thing when so many are happy to be affronted by someone saying 'Jesus Christ' in frustration. Is this taking the name of God in vain? No - taking the name of God in vain is claiming to be one of his family and using that as license to act as if one were God.

But I fear the positions in the case of IOPT are so entrenched that becoming affronted by the abuse of relevant scripture merely reinforces prejudices.

The best approach I can come up with when facing IOPT is to do as much as I possible can to support the people there, on the ground, who are doing good stuff to fight injustice and promote reconciliation in the face of the evils taking place. Such as PHRI. And this is just one reason that I am so grateful I work for Christian Aid.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Driving mad

Here is another way in which I suspect I am abnormal.

The smallest of unfamiliar or pressing tasks relating to vehicles and driving REALLY stress me out.

When driving, the fear is accompanied with a kind of bull-at-a-gate, let's-get-this-over-with approach that I own is entirely destructive. Unknown rural road, looking out for a left turn to get me to a meeting for which I am late, with a car quite close behind me = DRIVE REALLY FAST!!! Dark night on roads of a strange city = DRIVE REALLY FAST!!! New car that I'm not yet confident in = DRIVE REALLY FAST!!!

The vehicle stuff is a different malfunction. The prospect of going for the first time to check air-pressure in the tyres = sleepless night. The knowledge one of my reverse lights is out and I need to sort it = sheer terror.

Not sure what to do about the driving issue. I mean, I haven't ever crashed the car or anything. I drive a lot for work - about 500 miles a month - so am not a novice. Why, therefore, can I not remain calm and just DO the driving, rather than leaping onto a "Quick, get it over with!" treadmill. Some tasks benefit from added gusto. But not this.

The vehicle maintenance issues I put down to some sort of inherent sexism in myself and society. Jon usually does car stuff. Just because. I am sure that if Jon can do it, I can. And yet, I am actually sweating at the prospect of trying to use that little air machine for the tyres, just in case I can't do it and look like an idiot woman in front of the next person. Does one fix one's own reverse light or get someone else to do it?

(Incidentally, I will work this out for myself via conversations or Google, so please don't get in touch telling me the answer! I am just sharing, you know?)

I once spoke to a policeman who had been on a course intended to tackle sexism and his force's failure to take domestic violence seriously. When I asked him how it had changed his attitude to women, he said he no longer assumed every accident involving a woman driver was her fault. I laughed, at the time. But now I wonder if getting over that hurdle is a huge step forward in becoming a more equal society?

Anyone for a lift?!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

No artificial additives?

We are reading a book called Evangelism without Additives at housegroup. (Housegroups are invaluable and much more important than Sunday services - but some of the stuff you end up reading together is kind of bizarre!) The book is commendable in that it makes a brave attempt to shave away some of the crud that has piled on top of the notion of 'sharing one's faith'.

But the fact that the author, Jim Henderson, finds it necessary to remind churches that talking about Jesus is not a case of 'sealing a deal' to get someone into heaven is really quite remarkably depressing. Depressing because he's right - we do need reminding! 

Our churches (at their worst) have bought into consumerist, PR / marketing stance when it comes to 'selling' their product to those outside. They fret about how to create the right evangelistic event, how to explain Christian faith in the way most likely to win someone over, how to engineer the maximum number of scenarios and relationships in which to 'witness'. In other words, how to optimise the brand and number of sales calls. We call this love for non-believers (how incredibly patronising) but really, let's face it, it's about making ourselves feel superior, believe that we're doing the job right. And it must be awfully off-putting.

Did Jesus 'evangelise' in the sense of trying to get someone from the outside, into the club? No. He spoke honestly about heavenly and earthly things, about his relationship with God. He spoke in this way to all those he came into contact with, some of them religious Jews, some of them not. He recommended a life of liberating action and relationship with God, not of following a particular doctrine. He told his followers to make disciples, not get people to 'say the magic prayer' that gets them into heaven. 'Hell' (as we talk about it) wasn't on his agenda at all.

He tells his follwers not to concern themselves with someone else's immortal status but to pick up their own cross and follow. Leave the spiritual status of others to them and to God - the only one qualified to judge.

Evangelism without additives? Evangelism is an additive. Please can we move on?!

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Damaging dogmas?

There is a thought-provoking and reassuring piece in Third Way this month.

Charles Foster writes about the Christian duty to abandon beliefs once they are proven to be wrong. He says that our failure to do this leads to disasters - a case in point, the way 'creationism has inoculated generations against Christianity'. As Christians, we should be searching for truth as yet unknown, not defending a belief or a cause already accepted.

He also argues that centuries of cultural debris layered on top of our idea of Jesus has left a stubborn crust over him. A crust we churchgoers cling to more firmly than the man himself because it is the stuff of our comfortable institutions and familiar habits. A crust that requires pain, time and discipline to pick away - but that must be picked away, nonetheless.

With Foster, I am unnerved by the Christians I meet who see certainty everywhere.

Recently, I made the decision to resign membership from the church I was attending. It seems unrelated to the above, and in many ways it is. There were lots of particular circumstances, accumulating over several years, that led me to my decision.

But part of the reason was a growing sense of unease about the way the church institution (in general, more than at mine specifically) has become so obsessed with its own survival that it allows itself to be blind to what is actually happening. It seeks to attract more people, not fully engaging with why they are all leaving in the first place. It tries to repackage and rebrand, without asking if there is something irrevocably 'rotten in the state of Denmark'. What if our church structures and Sunday services are, in fact, completely cluttered, wrong and in need of overhaul? Can we face that question head-on without falling apart? Well, we need to!

Christian community and faith in Christ are essential to my identity as a believer. I cannot live out my faith outside of relationship with others. So a housegroup and involvement in some church-connected activity will remain part of my life, even if I really don't feel like it!

As for paid ministers and meetings and doctrines and evangelistic schemes and routine ways of worshiping and resources poured into shrinking systems and methods of controlling how people 'do' faith and weighty clergy recruitment procedures? I'm really not sure. All these things strike me as overly complex and as little more than distraction from the radical ways of life to which Jesus calls me.

Is church as I have known it just a habit I cling to because it offers a safer net than the simple mystery of Jesus? Maybe. And right now, I feel as if letting it go is the bit of crust picking I need to do. It is painful. But I trust very deeply that the faith underneath, and the heavenly persons that faith revolves around, are tough enough to survive the process. And if they aren't, well, I guess Charles Foster would say that is reason enough to have let them go.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Having quite a year.

It's been an eventful summer.

We celebrated the Jubilee in style, went on retreat in Northern Ireland, Jon had two weeks in Canada. We went to see Grandaddy and the Low Anthem, attended Green Man and Greenbelt festivals, Jon saw The Stone Roses in Manchester. We passed our 7th wedding anniversary, really enjoyed the Olympics and Paralympics. I went to New Wine for the first time. Jon got a second phd. We had two bikes stolen and bought another.

And fairly tumultuous 12 months. 

Last September, I went to Brazil and was held up at gunpoint in Rio. Since 2012 started, Jon accepted a job in Canada. We holidayed in Rome, got pregnant after trying for two-and-a-half years, went through a miscarriage and started fertility treatment. I have left a church and joined a house group. We are about to get rid of all our furniture and live in different continents for an indefinite amount of time.

Not sure if I've forgotten anything...... Life. You couldn't make it up.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Tax Justice Bus

Hurray - we are on the road with the Christian Aid tax justice bus!

Thursday, August 23, 2012


Tyrannosaur is my best film of the year so far.......though with a health warning. Jon didn't want to watch it with me for fear it would be too depressing. And true to form, within the first 5 minutes I was weeping.

People in this film do not have easy lives. At the poor end of town lives Joseph, a retired widower in the grip of a rage at life that he cannot control. His little friend, a child over the road, lives under the shadow of his mother's loathsome boyfriend who owns a vicious dog, taunts the child with his mates, and regularly kicks him out of the house to sit alone on the pavement. You feel it is only a matter of time until tragedy strikes.

The worst hand has been dealt to Hannah, a Christian charity shop worker. She brings Joseph to tears one day with a prayer, when he bursts into the shop in one of his rages. (It is the compassion, not the prayer, that moves him.) And they embark on what turns out to be a healing relationship - though without a jot of sentimentality or cliche.

Hannah lives in the nicer end of town. But her life is not what it seems and her horrible plight is gradually revealed.

I don't know if the names are significant. They could be, biblically. Hannah the childless one. Joseph the one called to protect a special woman. There is sorrowful redemption everywhere: in the way Joseph has the chance to move beyond his mistreatment of his dead wife by doing the right thing by Hannah; in the way the barren Hannah brings new life out of Joseph; in the deaths of two dogs - the first, at the start of the film, an act of thoughtless destruction, the other, at the end, an act of love and a desire to put things right.

My thoughts have returned to this time and time again. 100% recommended.

Sunday, August 05, 2012

Wine and pandas.

Just returned from New Wine, where I was working for a few days. Never been before and was quite interested. I caught up with a few old friends, which was great.

There was one thing I struggled with: a half-camouflaged prosperity gospel.

This wasn't a gospel of monetary gain as Kenneth Copeland might preach. But it was a message of personal or tribal gain, nonetheless. At 3 of the 4 sessions I went to, the proclamation was that a prayer done right will get results.

Luke 18: 1-8 was used as a description of how persistent prayer gets the world fixed. Mark 9:29 as an injunction to pray harder, while fasting, in order to cast out the demons of our secular society. At a plenary session, there was a stream of open mic testimonies telling how prayer at New Wine had achieved for the storyteller money / relationship / healing / child. Speakers were all leaders of Big Churches that had known Success. The foundational call to a beleaguered church was a call to war - let's pray really, really hard and so force God to show himself and give us victory against a hostile world!

But God is not to be manipulated. Happiness, health and success for self or tribe are not the likely outcome of discipleship. The glory of God is more likely to be seen in sacrifice, humiliation, unexpected outcomes, lost control, than in getting what we want. Let's hear of the glory of God experienced through sickness, solitude, poverty and childlessness, alongside the other stories. Let prayer be submission, not control. It will never be a tool we can use to make God respond!

In terms of our churches (as we know them) growing, surviving, winning back respect... perhaps even this is not to be sought. Perhaps they are the old wineskins. Perhaps not - but we cannot know and should not presume. We seek the glory of God, not the victory of any particular manifestation of the church.

My friend Mike articulated my struggle neatly when he said of certain Christian talks: "it's as if God is a panda: temperamental, near-extinct, only happy to show up when we, his captors, manage to recreate the right habitat and diet." Heaven forbid!

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Cool under the collar

So, anyway, I bought FSoG. (What? Holy Crap!)

Before I scoff about how dreadful it is, look, I bought the damn thing. And that's the single thing ELJames wanted me to do. So hats off, she and her clever marketing team have turned me into one of their gazillion Submissives. And I have no right to look down on them.

The book has taught me a fair bit about BDSM. Which is probably no bad thing. You know, intellectually speaking.

But it is dreadful. Ana is a whimpering airhead. Christian is a depository for various 'hot' ingredients (copper hair, faded Levis, skills at a piano, ability to cope with periods (!), a private jet, a tortured childhood, a riding crop.) But he is not drawn sufficiently well for them to cohere into any actual personality. And nonetheless you wonder why on earth he fancies her......

Characters above the age of 40 all have eyes that crinkle into a warm smile every 5 seconds. Everyone of every age is super hot. Life consists of nothing but the most mundane stuff (having an alcoholic drink - hold on to your hats!; engaging in let's-all-gouge-our-eyes-out-with-spoons dull conversations, etc.)

The sex is interesting ('ooooh, I hadn't thought of doing that') but the present tense, first person, flimsy narrative reads like a staccato recital of a shopping list. So not exactly erotic.

James has very odd ideas about what the subconscious is: the one she's created is conspicuously conscious and never shuts up. Hyphenated phrases (just like the one at the end of my fifth paragraph) abound, relied upon because, presumably, Ana lacks the vocabulary to be more concise. I could go on......

.....but I won't. I need to finish the last chapter.

Saturday, July 07, 2012


Let's say things have been a bit rubbish since last I posted.

A month ago, I miscarried at 11 weeks pregnant. It was an uncomfortable and traumatic experience: painful, messy, out of control. And with only loss to show for it at the end.

Getting to the point of conception had been a struggle in itself (more of that story here if you are interested).

The lasting impression is one of colossal waste. Wasted flesh, wasted love, wasted hopes, wasted future, wasted opportunity. And also a feeling of being totally lost in my own life: what does the future hold and why does it matter? Well, I really don't know.

It's very interesting how people respond theologically. I haven't felt angry with God, or tempted to doubt him any more than normal, or that this is unjust. I feel confused about how prayer affects reality, but I have always felt that. I never believed the pregnancy was an answer to prayer - and I don't believe the miscarriage was imposed on us by God.

My big question, really, is why human beings get given life in the first place. Because I do believe this comes from God. But I wonder whether it's something I can be grateful for.

That said, there are blessings here. A new-found ability to take each day as it comes. The sense of responsibility about planning ahead has lifted. Maybe not permanently, but for this moment. The future might be good or bad and I can't control that. But I'm sure we will get through it, either way.

Secondly, other people. Be that the catholic priest who led our retreat on a holiday booked, by chance, for the week after the miscarriage. Or the local friends who have suddenly crowded round to cry for us, offer company and practical help.

What matters, ultimately, in the hard times is that the people who are by your side do not leave. They do not leave.

Friday, June 01, 2012

Booby trap

Am really thoroughly perplexed by the whole breastfeeding debate. Why on earth do we women allow ourselves to beat one another up so avidly?

Having never had a baby, I suppose my perspective on the issue would be more detached. But please God may I remain level headed about it if I ever do pop a sprog.

I don't really have an opinion on whether Breast is Best. It seems there are clear advantages in the early weeks. And then there are guidelines from the NHS that encourage you to carry on for as long as possible, feeding exclusively breast milk for 6 months. The World Health Organisation suggests breast milk as all or part of the diet until age 2.

On the other hand, I have seen several good friends lose their grip on their own needs and identity due to a desperation to breastfeed right. And this tends to go hand in hand with an uber-condescending attitude to mothers who aren't so dogmatic about it and give up early.

Let's face it, you are as important as your child. And breastfeeding can be a degrading, painful experience wherein you are stuck at home, capable of being little more than a feeding machine. I read an article in the Guardian Magazine last weekend that referenced various recent studies that discredit the science behind Breast is Best. (One of the main points - breastfeeding does go hand in hand with benefits for the child, but nobody has ruled out the fact that maybe because breastfeeding mothers tend to be middle class, healthier, more affluent etc so the child is actually being helped by other factors.)

The article's suggestion that one should breastfeed for longer if one enjoys it but not strive to, if not (surely a happy, content mother is of utmost importance to a small child?) appealed to me.

But I don't really want to make a call on the science. My main source of confusion is why people get so irate about this. Why do women brand each other overbearing or irresponsible as a result of how this very intimate matter is handled?

Come on girls. Stand up for the sisterhood! (As somebody once said.......)

Saturday, May 12, 2012

I have finished living below the line!

I am £5 poorer and Christian Aid is £822 richer (you can still sponsor me!)

I am 4lb lighter and 6,500 calories further on.

Today, I was able to spend £11 on lunch at a nice pub. 1.4 billion people still live on the equivalent of £1 per day, for everything. It's liberating to do something about that........we don't have to sit back and accept the fact the world is in such a mess.

Go, go go!

Live Below the Line Day 5

Post-pub toast, day 5. Had to leave said venue quite early due to not coping with lots of lovely ale being drunk all around me....

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Live Below the Line Day 4

Afraid I really don't have anything more to say right now. Bran flakes, all is forgiven.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Live Below the Line Day 2

Here is dinner on the second day. Have worked out we are living on 1,300 calories a day, which I reckon is about 2/3 what I'm used to. I can now understand how, when you're even a bit hungry, it's not possible to focus on anything but food. (Did manage Pilates this eve though. Check me out!)

Monday, May 07, 2012

Live Below the Line Day 1

We spread our £10 between Tesco and Lidl in Chepstow and Morrisons in Todmorden, near Rochdale.

Stomach heaved like a badboy when trying to swallow porridge made with water and value jam first thing this morning. But I really enjoyed my beans on toast, especially as I had the crust today (almost double thickness.)

Officially, you can use a portion of something during the week (eg, oil) and take the cost of that portion out of your £5. But, as people living in poverty are much more likely to have a limited amount of money each day, rather than enjoying the luxury of buying in bulk and spreading it over a longer period of time, we have bought what we'll use this week within the £10.

But we did manage to afford salt, instant coffee (gross but I'm addicted to caffeine) and something even more to find out more!

Thursday, May 03, 2012

Sunday, April 15, 2012

The Cabin in the Woods

What to say? This film is a self-aware teen horror, mocking its genre, setting and characters. It references various other horror films. It works on three connected levels: a large international corporation; a weekend away by five teens; an ancient underworld whose evil gods threaten humanity's existence. The action occurs in various distinct chapters (eg. 1. Pre-Cabin) and none of them prepare you for what's coming next.

It makes political comment on consumerist society, America's foreign policy etc. It makes you consider morality.

Joss Whedon is one of the minds behind it, so I kind of knew it would be awesome.

I have been analysing it over and over for about 24 hours. And while actually in the cinema, I was a nervous wreck - the Cabin's self-consciousness doesn't enable its audience to escape the very compelling fear. But every so often, you guffaw as well.

See it, please. (Though possibly not if of a nervous disposition. If I'd watched this at 15 I'd have pooed my pants. Just saying.)

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Live Below the Line

Have bitten the bullet and signed up with a £150 target for Live Below The Line.

In order to raise awareness about extreme poverty around the world (1.4 billion people live in that state), LBTL challenges participants to live on £1 a day for all food and drink, for 5 days. Sponsors donate money to them and it goes to one of a number of participating charities fighting global poverty. I've signed up on behalf of Christian Aid. Follow the link in this post title for more info.

People in extreme poverty survive on the equivalent of 80p per day or less, for everything (basic services, housing, food, the lot.) So really the challenge is luxury in comparison. But I expect I'll find it tough. Getting enough to eat will be ok. But all caffeine and flavour will be out. As will anything fairly traded or organic. And I expect I'll be relying on Tesco Value quite a bit.

Please sponsor me or do the challenge yourself. It's easy to give or sign up, again via the site linked above. When the time comes, on May 7th to 11th, I'll blog about the experience on here.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Redeem the time. But not too much.

Yesterday was one of those days....

Found myself sitting on the sofa at 7pm trying to think of what was the best way to redeem a couple of hours after a day of frustration. Something productive, energy-inducing, guaranteed to make me feel life is worthwhile and I have much to offer. Considered praying; making a family or long lost friend phone call; practising a musical instrument; reading one of the theology books I have waiting; exercising ferociously; looking into some sort of phd I might do in future.

But plumped for:
  • watching The Devil Wears Prada for the third time, some of Four Lions, two X files episodes
  • eating an alarming amount of plain and white chocolate and lots of Pringles
  • drinking a glass of wine and two whiskies.
 Felt better. There's a lesson in there somewhere.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Lent this year

Lent again - possibly my favourite season of the year! New stuff growing, days getting longer, frogs appearing in the pond and birds in the trees. Hurrah.

My efforts at enlightenment for 2012 include: no alcohol at home on week nights (now an annual fixture); no snacking unless actually hungry; half an hour to meditate / pray per day; vague attempts to exercise daily, stop picking at my nails and skin; read Love Unknown (Rowan's recommended Lent book). All the above intended to make life more enjoyable, rather than deny myself.

Last year you may remember I gave up Sunday church. This has also become a fixture: I mean, I am at churches many Sundays for work, to lead or preach (Christian Aid). And I help put on our monthly Encounter event at Chepstow Methodist church hall. And I meet up with Christian friends to chat regularly. But 2011's Lent exercise helped me free myself from the compulsion of attending services on a Sunday morning. Nobody from the community has indicated to me that they've noticed I've stopped attending ..... which in my newly enlightened state matters to me not one jot. Hmmmm........

But seriously, life is much lighter without. And, I think, faith deeper.

Thursday, February 09, 2012

The Otherness of others.

I love those moments when you talk to someone and discover their way of seeing the world is fundamentally different to yours.

My usual tendency is to assume everyone is basically like me, so would feel the same way I would in the same situation. This means I don't tend to look down on people, which is good. And, as I'm strongly empathetic, it is an assumption that rarely leads me into too much trouble.

But every now and then I get a wake up call: someone says something to me and I think, 'my goodness, I would never think about that in that way'. I find this fascinating. Sometimes it leads me to despair entirely of the person in question. But usually it's wonderfully entertaining. How diminished we are if only take our own opinions into account!

Unfortunately my most recent encounter with this phenomenon was a little embarrassing. The thing is, I tend to worry a lot about things and fantasise about worst-case scenarios. I know this is a particular problem I have but - in keeping with what I've said above - tend to assume everyone does the same, a little bit at least.

I often decide Jon has died in some horrific way if he's not (back) in the house when I expect him to be. I confessed recently to fantasising about what I would end up doing if he died while out on a run, as he never takes a phone or any ID so the police wouldn't be able to identify him or contact anyone he knows. There I was, planning at what time and in what order I would start ringing hospitals.

As I was explaining this to him, I looked at his expression and realised. He was thinking, "This woman is a total and utter loon and a total and utter mystery to me".

Fundamentally different, you see.

Friday, February 03, 2012

The magic of the movies

I love the cinema!

Jon and I have Cineworld Unlimited passes - £15 per month to see as many films as you want - so we go at least once a week. It's great. I am a child before the big screen - readily tipped into giddiness, tears, cackling, absorption, terror or whatever else is required.

Our two most recent viewings have been The Descendants and The Grey. Which, combined, tipped me into existential angst. The former made me depressed as I contemplated Jon dying. Nobody knows me except Jon. Who would I be without him?

The latter is part gripping adventure, part allegory. A man fights to remain alive in adverse circumstances, despite the fact his life means little to him. It reminded me of Beckett's "You must go on, I can't go on, I'll go on."

But honestly, I love the cinema. Recommend it to anyone......

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Grey matter

One of the purposes of a blog is surely to bring oneself back down to earth and force oneself to get a grip?

So herewith the confession: most days now, I spend some minutes in the downstairs loo, where the light is good, with the top of my head stuck towards the mirror, manipulating my hair into different parting positions in order to facilitate the optimum hunt for grey hairs. Which I then pluck out.

At a certain stage in the proceedings, I invariably realise that I have lapsed into furrowing my brow as I scour my hairline. I am aware that this, in turn, might cause wrinkles e'en more unsightly than the grey. So, for a while, I try to reposition my head so I can look at the top of it with a ripple free brow, which is quite difficult. I have a fairly rubbery forehead which breaks into furrows very easily.

After a while, this manipulation of head, neck and face hurts so much that I have to stop.

Here is how you can help: if you come to our house and find tweezers by the sink in the downstairs loo, you must feel free to notify me that you have seen them and that you know why they are there. This might, possibly, shame me into less absurd, and thoroughly un-feminist, habits.

Thank you.