Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Teach an old cat new tricks : Part 1

Seventeen in cat years is like ninety-something in human terms. And of course I was concerned about Her Imperial-but-Geriatric Fluffiness being locked in a cage in a dark cargo hold for 30 hours. But I couldn't leave her behind. 
She's been in the family longer than my daughter.

And I'd already had to give my dog away. 
(Still can't even type that without crying).

Clearly because I wasn't already angst-riddled enough, one of my caring and supportive friends heaped a few more heebies on my jeebies by casually querying, "Aren't you sort of worried that there'll be a dead cat in the carrier when you get to London?"
Well, I am now!

So all the way from Tullamarine to Heathrow I fretted. Every time we hit turbulence, I dissolved into champagne-enhanced tears in my fabulously comfortable company-paid-for-it business class seat.

But she made it.
We both did.

It's only recently that we've begun to have a near-terminal-velocity bumpy ride.
She's killing me.

Night yowling.
Apparently it's a thing.
She's not sick.
She's not hungry.
She's not cold.
She had a hysterectomy 17 years ago, so it's not about calling the boys.
She's not even lonely.

She's just losing her marbles.
At regular intervals between midnight and 5:00am the bitch-cat-from-hell
finds her way into our midst and begins summoning her demon buddies for the ritual slaughtering of all humans in residence. 
It's spine chilling.

I tried talking nicely to her.
I tried shouting at her.
I tried throwing everything from my bedside table at the wall.
No change.

So I switched to a more pro-active approach and left the radio on upstairs where she sleeps. BBC 2.  Surely that would either bore her to sleep or engage her with its interesting interviews in soothing voices.
And it worked for one night. 
Maybe two.

Next I amped up the love, and left a night light on for her as well. 
So far so good.
Some time between 2:00 and 3:00am, she does start to wind up the howlelujah, but then like a baby crying itself to sleep, she self-soothes.

I think she'd probably prefer that I left the TV on, but I fear the inevitable next step would be the expectation for me to stay up all night to explain the bits she missed while she was asleep.

It's a slippery slope.

Monday, 8 May 2017

A to Z ..End of challenge reflection

It was my friend Sheryl's fault that I did the A to Z challenge this year. Obviously, the theme was all my doing, but I don't think it would have even occurred to me to participate if not for Sheryl's random comment. 
So thanks and blame both go to Sheryl.

A great many of the bloggers who participate in the challenge are hardcore professional-type bloggers. They use the challenge as an opportunity to build their business profile, to sell something. Others use it as a way to develop or advertise their self-publishing projects. 
None of that interests me.
It probably should, but it doesn't.

When I write, I am better able to deal with my depression. 
And when I write regularly, I write better. 

My theme focussed on things weird, bizarre and off-centre, but participating in the challenge helped me feel more connected, less adrift in a sea of strange. 

Some of the people I care most about don't bother to read my blog. 
Some look at it occasionally and tell me they only like the funny ones. 
This month, I heard from a couple that they weren't interested in my posts because my theme was too gruesome and (despite my research) the posts were a bit boring.
Fair enough.

But some complete strangers stumbled upon Wendy Off The Rock and responded in kind to my humour and my sense of the absurd. 
They made me laugh. 
I looked forward to their witty and thoughtful responses. Thank you:

JZ          http://areluctantbitch.blogspot.com
Carmel   http://earlieryears.blogspot.com
D A        http://dacairns.blogspot.com
Deborah http://deborah-weber.com
Arti       https://artismoments.blogspot.com Leanne   www.crestingthehill.com.au

Mind you, a few of the comments others left made it pretty clear they hadn't read my post at all (too many words?). They just looked at the pictures and left a note with a link to their blog for me to reciprocate the visit. 
Which I did. 
I visited 5-10 other blogs most days during the challenge. 
I learned some new things. 
And was prompted to introspection by a great many self-help suggestions. 
But not much made me laugh. 

I also found that the way we posted this year (without a Linky List) meant that the different global time-zones of participants were way more obvious, and it was more difficult to pop back to other blogs for a second visit. I don't necessarily want to sign up to receive regular posts from ALL the other blogs I visited.
I'm a picky bitch.

Anyway, I achieved my aims for the April Challenge.
I wrote regularly, which stimulated my creative bits.
You rewarded me by stopping by and listening.
You kept me connected.
And grounded.
I sometimes felt a bit hamstrung by my choice of theme.
But I got over myself.
And I giggled a lot.
Thank you.

Friday, 5 May 2017

Tea and snozzcumber sandwiches

Take a sneaky peek at the bookshelves, or the dusty stack by their bed, or the dog-eared novels lying on the coffee table and you can tell a great deal about someone, can't you? 
It says even more if there are no bookcases to scope out.

And it's sort of stating the bleeding obvious about what makes me tick to reveal that the cafe in the spectacular British Library (pictured here) is one of my favourite places to have a cuppa and a play with words on my computer. Towering walls of leather-bound books.
Me dwarfed by the world in words.
The only down-side is that they're behind glass. 
I'm an unashamed book-sniffer. 
And I'm tipping a few of you are guilty of the same.

But anyway, for the past few months, a row of gorgeous pen and ink illustrations has been hanging, relatively unheralded, along one back wall on the second floor of the library. I'm not sure how many people visit them every day, but in my immaterial opinion, not enough, so I thought I'd bring a couple to you. 

Commissioned to celebrate what would have been Roald Dahl's 100th birthday are ten new visions of some of his most famous characters.

Sir Quentin Blake ( aged 84) said of the exhibition:
“The Roald Dahl Centenary Portraits ask you to imagine that a number of Dahl’s characters have been invited to come and sit for their portrait; they are depicted, not quite as they appear in the illustrations, but more formally... I hope visitors to the British Library will be happy to see this group of well-known characters treated as though they were real people – which, of course, to many of us they are.”

Here are three that took me back to many nights of reading aloud at bedtime:

I was even inspired to finally watch the latest movie of The BFG, which I'd been ignoring for two reasons: 
(1) critics gave it a total shit-canning, (2) I so adore Tim Minchin's Matilda that I doubted another recent re-imagining of Dahl could scratch up.
But I enjoyed it. I really did.

Granted, much of it would most certainly have given my daughter nightmares back in the day, but the final scene had us guffawing. 
A wind-driven comic scene to rival Blazing Saddles
It was the wizzpopping corgis that did me in.

As an almost completely irrelevant sidebar, here's something to further distract you when next you're watching TV. 
Remember how amazed you were when you first heard that 99% of phone numbers mentioned by American screen characters begin with 555? Well, prepare to be equally amazed.

If it's your turn to suggest the Friday-night drinking game but you're not in the mood, or you're having one of those non-alcohol nights that doctors recommend, suggest playing 'Spot the bookcase' in American-made TV shows and movies. 
Unless the room is an office, or the lead character is a professor-cum-educated- type like Frasier, a sober Friday night is a safe bet.

I wanted to finish with my favourite quote about books and reading, but I couldn't settle for just one, so you're getting two:

It's what you read when you don't have to that determines what you will be when you can't help it.   Oscar Wilde

Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside of a dog, it's too dark to read.    Groucho Marx

Sunday, 30 April 2017

Z = Zonked at the zenith

So here we are. 
April 30th.
The letter Z.
The conclusion of 25 mind-expanding visits to the Wellcome Collection and the
full-stop of 25 frightening peeks into the mind of Wendy of the Rock, who has been sucked up the wormhole that leads from Oz to Wonderland.

To salute having reached the zenith of the mountain, I thought I'd make this a sing-along post, and bring you a chirpy song of celebration. 
Do join in as you read.

There were so many other wonderful things I photographed but couldn't wangle into any of my pieces. 
Like these:

Inuit snow goggles
Scold's bridle

Acupuncture model

My mate Sir Henry collected other such disparate and bizarre things as Napoleon's toothbrush and Florence Nightingale's moccasins. 
No matter how tenuous the link between the object and the world of medicine, or science, or to art that intersects and overlaps with those worlds, Sir Henry had both the desire and the wealth to add it to his collection. And today, the good people his amassed fortune continues to employ at the museum that bears his name keep his habits and dreams very much alive.

I can't leave without sharing these last fabulous objects displayed in the Reading Room.

There's a whole case full of these little rockstars, each about the height of a matchstick.

Shota Katsube, of the Souzou: Japanese Outsider Art school of thought, creates these way cool anime soldiers from twist-ties. 
You know, those things you use to stop your garbage from spilling out of the bag.

Yep, with the aid of a tiny pair of scissors and nail clippers, he whips up a new member for his army in around five minutes. 
Each one unique.
None copied from cartoons.

I have no idea how they connect to medicine, but I'm totally sure Sir Henry would have approved of them being on display at his place. 
He loved weird shit. 

So whether you've been with me for the whole oxygen-depleting scramble to the summit or merely called in at base camp to say hi, I thank you for your company. I would never have made it on my own.
Because, to use Dorothy Parker's immortal words: 
You can lead a horticulture, but you can't make her think.

Me on the stairs at Wellcome. (Thanks for the pic, Jo)
I took the photo at the start of this post from the top of this staircase, and edited it in Snapseed.

During the month of April, I am participating in the Blogging from A–Z Challenge.

Y = Yank

I wish this image was a bit clearer, but despite being an enthusiastic user of the camera, I still fall short of being a gifted amateur. But anyway, it looks like a beaded curtain, doesn't it? One of those clickety 60s-Asian-inspired jobs that send legions of Pinterest users into paroxysms of delight. 
Well, allow me to turn those ripples of glee to shudders of horror.
Those are not beads. 
They're teeth. Human teeth. 
It's a Chinese sign that apparently advertises a Doctor for treating miscellaneous diseases

What is it about dentists that makes so many of us avoid them? Not socially, just professionally. I know two mouth experts who are delightful young women. I'm fond of them both. Mind you, when I'm in their company, my tongue does spend much of the time guiltily poking about my pegs. 
And although I don't exactly fear a visit to the tooth doctor, I do recall the day that resulted in my reticence. I'm guessing I was about ten the day Dr Skinner yanked out that molar. 
I have large teeth. 
With long roots.
His face still looms clearly in my memory. Leaning close through the smell of disinfectant and his smoker's breath, he was grimacing. 
His eyes squinched to almost closed with the effort.
'It's a tough one,' he muttered in the direction of Mum, sitting supportively in the corner. ' Going to need a bit extra oomph.'

He braced his foot against the pedestal of the hydraulic chair for extra leverage. 
And yanked.
My right ear filled with an echoing grind and crack as my mouth filled with warm sweet blood.

Here for your viewing discomfort is a selection of images that help keep that memory alive for me. 

And I'm sadistically hoping they just might trigger something for you, too.


Are you there?


How about now?
Still with me?


Has your stomach done a Fosbury flop?

Can you feel that squishy wound where your tooth used to be?

Does the ghost of an ache haunt your jaw?  


Do tell....

During the month of April, I am participating in the Blogging from A–Z Challenge.

Friday, 28 April 2017

X = Xerosis to the X-treme

You're going to have to allow me a bit of latitude with these last few letters of the alphabet. Shortage of material is not the problem, it's shortage of material starting with X,Y and Z that's giving me a right royal pain in the rear end. 
So, I'm hoping that if you've stuck with me this far, you'll cut me a bit of slack. And if you've only just stumbled into this carnival of words...well...

(1) Pathological dryness of a body part or tissue, especially the skin, eyes and mucous membranes  
(2) The normal hardening of the tissue that occurs with aging 
From the Greek xero, meaning dry

In my opinion, definition (2) is just plain rude. OK, yes, it might be true, but  I see no need to call the loss of a little bit of elasticity by the same ugly name as anything pathological. And while I admit to having developed a near-chronic case of lizard legs in my rapidly approaching dotage, it's nothing that a vat of industrial strength moisturiser can't fix.

As far as dried up old body parts go, they don't come much drier than a mummy — who was possibly a daddy. Some 700 years ago, this desiccated bundle was a bloke living on the north coast of Peru. 
And even though his community obviously hoped for him to have life eternal, I suspect they didn't envisage it being on display in a museum in London.

I was totally mistaken when I chose a Tsantsa (which is the formal way to address a shrunken head) for inclusion under the heading of Xerosis
When I did my homework, I discovered that a shrunken head is not made by drying out a full-sized head at all. 

Apparently, you shrink a head the same way you'd shrink a woollen jumper. In really hot water. 
Should you ever hanker to possess the soul of another human being, just follow these ten easy steps to create your very own Tsantsa:
1: Chop head from enemy making sure head and neck remain connected
2: Slit flesh at back of neck and pull in upwards motion to remove skin and hair from skull
3: Discard skull (feed to dog?)
4: Sew eyelids shut and secure lips with wooden skewers (or strong toothpicks)
5: Drop into large pot of boiling water (a pasta or soup pot would be perfect)
6: Simmer for up to 2 hours (remove before hair falls out and skin goes mushy)
7: Turn inside-out and scrape off any remaining fleshy bits clinging to the skin
8: Carefully fill skin-bag with hot sand and stones ( don't scald your fingers)
9: Rub outside with warm charcoal and hang over fire to dry, being careful not to singe the hair (because that smells awful and adding extensions to a Tsantsa is really fiddly)
10: Remove skewers from lips, sew shut.
Once complete, you can decorate as desired, but remember this is your enemy. Don't be too generous.

So, as you can see, although it's not technically Xerosis, there is a bit of drying out involved. 
Latitude taken.

During the month of April, I am participating in the Blogging from A–Z Challenge.

Thursday, 27 April 2017

W = Walking

After a veritable lifetime of practice, I thought I had this walking thing under control. 
Four months of living in London has put paid to that little bit of hubris. 

To be fair, it's not all my fault. I'm more than willing to lay a large part of the blame squarely at the feet of the City of Westminster. 
And the generations of brown-brogue-wearing British engineers before them.
With no car, walking is now my main mode of transport. So, with near-GPS precision, I am locating every wobbly bit of paving, each uniquely uneven cobblestone and any crumbling piece of street gutter in greater London.
And stepping on it. 
Almost certainly with my left foot.

I am perfecting the art of what I call the half-faint-stumble. You know, that ever so elegant move where your foot (in my case the left but some of you may lead with your right) your foot spontaneously flips from horizontal to vertical, and you find that your ankle is now located where your heel should be. Indeed, where your heel was just a millisecond ago. With your centre of gravity momentarily in shock, you lurch gracefully into albatross-about-to-take-flight position in a bid to avoid the complete faint-fall-stumble face-plant.
At least, I do.
Every. Damned. Day.              

Two of Charles Darwin's walking sticks.
Medicine Man Gallery, Wellcome Collection

Perhaps I should take my lead from the eminently sensible Charles Darwin, renowned scientist and exponent of the walking stick.

Apparently, Mr Darwin did his best thinking on foot. Such a strong believer in the power of the walking stick was he that a distinctive tappy-tappy was, reputedly, how others knew he was in the vicinity. But I'm afraid that, today, the approach of the great Grand Pooh-Bah of natural history would also be accompanied by a great deal of tut-tut and tsk-tsking. 
His favoured aids-de-walking are made of whale bone, ivory and animal horn.

I have nothing but admiration for all those gorgeous young things teetering about the streets of London on their spike heels, playing peak-hour footpath chicken in stiff-soled wedges and dashing down to the Tube in their prodigious platforms. 
My days in high heels are long gone. On those rare occasions when I break them out, I invariably find my night's sleep pierced by my own screams as cramp to rival the Hulk trying not to let Betty Ross slip through his grasp grips my calves.

Indian fakir sandals, Wellcome Collection
iPhone pic edited in Snapseed

But do you think maybe I could cultivate better balance by giving the world's least flexible sandals a go?

During the month of April, I am participating in the Blogging from A–Z Challenge.

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

V = Votives... not the glowing kind

Admittedly, I wasn't raised in a religious household, but I had no idea that a votive isn't just a little candle in a schmancy holder of some type. 
I did not know that the word votive is derived from vow, and so is used to describe an object or an act offered up to honour or thank a god. Now I think about it, that makes perfect sense — all those candles on altars are lit as vows, votives. 
Back 2500 years ago, the Etruscans were more hardcore about their conversations with the gods. Not prepared to risk their vows being snuffed out or lost in the afterglow, they made thousands of votives from long-lasting terracotta and apparently left so many of them lying and hanging about temples and holy places that pits full of them have been uncovered. 
And the most common of those votives are body parts. The academic jury is out about how these clay bits and pieces worked. Or didn't.

Perhaps they were a request for help, with a statue of the bit needing the most attention in case the deity got confused and answered the wrong prayer: "Please help me overcome these splitting headaches. And here's a replica of my head to help you find your way to me through the white-noise of the clamouring throng. Please, don't worry about my cleft chin. I can live with that."

Or, votives may have been a way of saying something less seriously medical in nature: 'Thanks for my awesome dandruff-free curly hair. I gave it a run at the Full Moon Feast last night and was the envy of every flaky-skulled centurion in Rome".

Or, they may even have been a sort of pre-emptory strike, a symbol associated with a completely non-health related request: 
" Oh great gods, it has been decreed that I must sit beside Dullius Volumnius at the Forum next month. Please help me to ignore the boring droning old fart, and give me the strength to speak up against his daffy old-fangled notions."

A tray of Etruscan penis votives.
 Image credit: Wellcome Library
Here's a museum tray of what, at first glance, appears to be fossilised lumps of doggy-doo. 
But of course it's not. 
In fact, this carefully labelled storage drawer leads me to speculate that, perchance, many votives may have been little more than bad Etruscan selfies. 
Well, not selfies so much as pecker pics. 

Fashioning an effigy of a boy's bit out of clay is not a quick process, I'll grant you that, but... like...well... you know... graffitiing on the side of a chariot with ... you know ...like mosaics takes... like literally a lifetime. 
An Etruscan lad's gotta do something for a giggle.

During the month of April, I am participating in the Blogging from A–Z Challenge.

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

U = Uncomfortable underwear

"Could you pass the water, please?"
How would you feel if the person on the other side of the dinner table responded to your polite request by handing you this antique hand-decorated jug?
Look closely.
It's a picture of a guy giving another guy an enema with what looks to be one of those vintage pump-action fly-spray thingamyjigs, or perhaps only marginally less distressingly, one of those whatsits you use to blow up balloons.
Almost as uncomfortable as the poor bloke on the receiving end of the implement, who appears to be attempting to hang onto the tiniest thread of dignity by not baring his butt cheeks.
But it'd be hard to know where to put your fingers, wouldn't it? On the jug I mean. 
And let's not think even think about drinking the contents.

While we're at the dinner table, ladies, have you ever succumbed to the devil that is the wearing of Spanx to flatter and smooth your shape for that special function? You will no doubt have found yourself standing pretty much all night
French  illustration of the non-benefits of corset-wearing
because the moment you bend, the many squooshy bits being confined into a space that's way too small for them become unflatteringly unsmooth and either bulge out over the top or press uncomfortably on your wee-bag. 
Am I right? 
Plus, you have to pretend that you're not really hungry or have allergies that prevent you doing anything other than nibble on a single hors d'oeuvre because there just isn't enough space for anything else.

Well, spare a thought for oh-so-many of your sisters from yesteryear. 
How comfortable do you reckon a brass corset would have been?
Talk about pinch-in the waist!

Image credit: Wellcome Library
So now, what's this pinchy-looking thing, all neatly tied with a bow? 
A napkin ring perhaps? Or a ponytail keeper?
Think again.
This, my friend, is a 'Four-pointed urethral ring'.
Say what?
That's right, this device was designed to encircle a penis.
A human penis.
With the aim of discouraging the nasty undesirable habit of masturbation.
Are you fully uncomfortable now?

And here is a close-up of just such a device on display. Clearly a technological advance on the one in the illustration, this beastie is a clip-on version, with an expanding ring in the middle, which seems to allow a slightly more realistic space for... shall we say... swelling... before the organ makes contact with the spiky metal bits. (I can't bring myself to call them teeth.)
I imagine this model was readily adjustable, rather than one size fits all.
It's not as pretty as the one with the bow, though, is it?

During the month of April, I am participating in the Blogging from A–Z Challenge.

My posts will all feature images of and by the Wellcome Collection, Euston, London: the free destination for the incurably curious.

Monday, 24 April 2017

T = Tattoos

You may need a magnifying glass to read the print on this screenshot,
or you could just take my word for it. But the Wellcome Image website
home page actually has a link to take you directly to 'Tattoo designs".
It's the one with the image on the right.
Awesome, yes? Told you this was not your average museum.
I once read a really cool article about tattoos  prepared for Smithsonian.com by an archaeologist, so it totally has street cred. 
It suggests that tattoos pretty much began as a female thing in ancient Egypt. Women had constellation-like tattoos on their stomachs as protection from evil. The pattern would expand with their bellies during pregnancy, encircling the unborn child, keeping it safe. I love that idea. That article created an image that has stayed with me. 
Not so much that I would ever let anyone imprint a constellation on my person with a needle and ink though. 

Historical tattoos can be seen in the Wellcome Collection. Yes, actual pieces of human skin that bear drawings. Not photos of the tattoos, the tattoos. Diembodied. 
The museum entry about them explains: 
The tattooed skin was purchased by one of Henry Wellcome’s collecting agents, Captain Johnston-Saint, in June 1929 from Dr Villette, a Parisian surgeon. Villette worked in military hospitals and collected and preserved hundreds of samples from the autopsies of French soldiers. In the late 1800s, tattoos were often seen as markers of criminal tendencies, or ‘primitiveness’. Medical men tried to interpret common images and symbols. Tattoos were also used as a tool for identification, a practice that continues today.

What do you think we can surmise about a soldier who chose
to have a sailor and a flower tattooed on his bicep?
That bothers me. 
What Dr Villette did bothers me. 
Surely, these soldiers chose tattoos that represented something of significance to them, something that formed part of their sense of self, something that became integral to their identity. Didn't they?
Then, after they died, Dr Villette saw fit to cut those images from their bodies and send his patients off to the afterlife with patches of exposed flesh where their tattoos should have been. Stripped of identity.
Or am I being over-sensitive? 
Are tattoos just permanent jewellery?

Back at letter S, I mentioned that Michael C Hall (the actor who plays Dexter) has a tattoo. Long story short, I was sitting in the front row at a recent performance of Lazarus (in which he stars as the aged Man Who Fell To Earth) and Michael C had bare feet for much of the production. 
The play is suitably mind-bendingly-David-Bowie-esque. With fab songs. But I found myself fixated on Michael C's foot. More specifically, on the tattoo on Michael C's instep. It's sort of like an Egyptian eye and a pyramid. 
I even did a crappy drawing of it in the notebook I carry everywhere in case I run into a celebrity with a tattoo I need to draw.
What is that thing?

At the time, unravelling the mystery of the symbolism of Michael C's Egyptian-looking sun and pyramid tattoo didn't detract from the enigmatic show, it seemed a sort of bonus conundrum. 
But now it's bugging the shit out of me.
What IS that thing?
And why would Michael C Hall have it tattooed on his foot?

During the month of April, I am participating in the Blogging from A–Z Challenge.