Tuesday, 29 December 2009

work babble

I am pumping the crappy pop tunes at work right now. The whole building is deserted. Somehow this feels all wrong. But when today is finally over, then I get to go out in the freezing rain, pack, get on a plane, and bounce this place. Whoohoo! Off to the town of my birth. Apparently the weather is crappy there too, but nothing can be as bad as this.

Can't wait to be back in the armpit of humanity, ole Durbs. I hold Durban dear to my heart, not so much because I was born there, or for all the happy things that happened there, but because of all the pain, the sadness, the fury, the heartbreak, and the confusion that happened to me on that soil. Durban has held my blood, my tears, my deepest fears and my ugliest thoughts. The place is bonded to me by the soul strings and I may never live there ever again, but I will always return to visit, always.

Hide your niknaks people, the human vacuum will be in town.

I just pray they are gonna let me in the country, since my passport is full except for a few lonely pages. Please let me in!

*update* ok is this some kind of sick joke? The rain is turning to snow. I have been praying for snow for weeks, but loik, not when I have to drive down south, try and get to an airport and fly away. Noooo. But yay! So pretty.


Thursday, 24 December 2009

No snow.

A giant snowball from a happier time.

I am heartbroken, as heartbroken as a South African can be.

The last two weeks I have been hearing snow stories all across the country. The usual stories of deadlocked traffic, stranded trains and planes, closed schools. The Facebook updates of sheer excitement or horror, depending on the nationality of the person. People everywhere have been snowed under. It has never snowed this close to Christmas since I have been here.

It sounds wonderful. I cannot tell you the pleasure snow gives me, and most other South Africans I know. I have known my mom to phone my aunt in South Africa at 1 am just to tell her it was snowing. Snow gives us so much joy.

Snow brings silence, peace. Snow is meditation. Snow makes even my ghetto look beautiful. I can watch snow falling for hours. Snow is like summer rain, it gives me a feeling of calm wonder and centeredness. Snow is zen. Snow brings out my inner child (or idiot). I do the angels and the snowballs and the snowmen and my best thing is just to hear the crunch under my feet.

I really like snow, yeah?

If I can just use a diagrammatic representation loosely based on nothing whatsoever relating to reality:

What I am showing you here is that the whole of the UK, more or less (because it all revolves around London, right? That's what I thought before I got here), has been experiencing wonderful winter wonderland snow these last few weeks, except for the two green patches above. The two green patches are where I live and work.

F@#*ing green patches. Well they are not actually green because we had some sleety snow that then froze so that now everything is covered in ice. I have never experienced this ice madness before, but it is so cold that the roads and the pavements are iced and walking and driving are a little more adventurous than normal. The puddles are solid, man, it's mental.

Ice and freezing temperatures without snow are just ...
unpleasant. <==== please note the strained understatement.

This is what I get for living in the middle of the country.

I hate you, snow fairy. No mince pie for you.

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Lonely post

Helloooooooooo hellooooooooo helllooooooooooo.

I can hear the echoes around the working world today. Is anyone else still out there (pretending) to work like me?

I am probably going to be in and out of work until I leave for SA; cute furry little plantlets wait for no man or seamonkey. But I am cool with that because I will have three weeks in a beautiful sunny place to make up for it.

I am trying to keep myself company until then by, erm, writing blog posts to myself.

*Waves at self*.

Okay, maybe I should stop doing sniff checks to see if my ethanol bottle is empty...

Peace out.

Monday, 21 December 2009

Two thousand and fine

Two thousand and nine was fine. It was not earth shatteringly amazing but considering 2008 was so bloody awful for me, anything was an improvement.

I did have intentions of turning over a new leaf and cultivating a whole new attitude after realising in 2008 that most of my misery was caused by my approach to life, but, erm, I got sucked into my job and routine and changed nothing really, just plodded along from day to day, letting work lead the way.

So here is Po the seamonkey's year 2009 in stream of consciousness summary:

New job, new job fears, lots of commuting, spending lots of time by the train toilets inhaling the refreshing aroma of pee, gave some plants some hairdos, waged a war on flies,

retreated into my shell and forgot how to come out,

joined Twitter, Twitter brought out a narcissistic, self-important monster in me, nearly got swallowed up by Twitter, quit Twitter,

had a month of PCR issues at work where I felt scared and alone and was on my knees in front of the Biology Goddess,

travelled to Vietnam and Thailand, travelled to Spain, went to the Edinburgh Festival,

saw the Killers and was blown away,

wrote some weird shit on this blog about dassies and hamsters and samp, you know, the usual,

found out some stuff about my life, or rather other people in my life, that explained years and years of confusion and pain, and while understanding doesn't help them or lessen the pain, it does help me to reframe what happened and is happening in a way that finally makes some sense, was thrown into a state of nervous tension as a result of all these revelations, survived the nervous tension,

hung out with lots of Chinese people and got excited to go and visit my sister there,

had a confusing relationship moment that shall not be blogged about,

started learning to drive and am still suffering this torture weekly,

realised I have no friends any more in this country and yet this does not make me as sad as it should as I am a loner anyway, have made some aquaintances and that will have to do,

realised I am essentially a cranky bitch at heart, but that I try my best to keep her to myself,

was exposed to Lady Gaga a little more than is healthy and scarily started enjoying one of her songs,

ate, drank, climbed, swam, slept a LOT, cried? possibly not, oh yes, wait, cried, laughed,

read The Road (best book I read) watched I am a cyborg and I'm ok (best movie I watched), overdosed on Florence and the Machine and Dear Reader (best bands I found),

did not achieve anything remarkable, did not do anything worthy or admirable, remained as dazed and confused as ever, oh well, there is
always next

Wednesday, 16 December 2009


You may be wondering why I put a picture of a girl's tattooed torso on my blog. That is a very pertinent question. It happened to be the only picture that was saved on the computer I am using right now. So, er, enjoy.

Miss Shebee, who I think is the blogging world's best cataloguer of life, posted her resolutions from last year and if they actually worked out this year. I was interested to know what the hell I thought this year should be all about, and I love these self-absorbed posts, so here is what I wrote last year:

1) if my body allows it, try and do some form of exercise, hopefully climbing (Achieved! This year I have been in pain all year but thanks to my chiropractor, my back at least tries to stick to the correct position, most of the time. The capoeira career is over though. And we even bought the instruments. Sigh. Byegones).

2) eat fewer chocolate digestives. Eat more of the chocolate toffee ones. They are better. (Huge fail. I ate plenty of all kinds. Oops. I'm pretty sure I ate fewer than last year though, unemployment leads to cookie overdosage!)

3) do not study. Try and get a life instead. (Did not study for the first time since 2005. Did not get life instead. One out of two. Not sure I should be proud of this though, cos what it really means is that I became incredibly lazy.)

4) read more books and fewer blogs (achieved. I read more because I didn't study.)

5) keep blogging (achieved. As to the quality, well... perhaps my blog has become more a kwality blog than a quality one. Byegones.)

6) try and write stuff. What stuff is, is vague as yet. (achieved! I just wrote this sentence, innit? I did join a poetry class, but I didn't really write anything on my own initiative. Bad bad seamonkey. Byegones.)

7) Moan 2% less about English weather than I did last year. (Achieved! The weather was very mild these last two months, so words such as "it is surprisingly warm" and "my hands are not acheing" have slipped through my lips, as well as the usual "it's coldcooooold. Ooh it's cold. Hey, it's cold" every two minutes. Score!)

8) Do lots of handstands. (achieved but not nearly as many as I should have. Am still yet to do one in my current lab. This must be rectified asap.)

9) Try and be a nicer, kinder, better, more successful, more proactive, more confident, more positive person.
(In every way FAILED.)

10) When I fail miserably at achieving number 9 - do not beat myself up too much about it. At least I have a nice personality ( Achieved. Byegones).

11) and finally: try and unite some of my nice personalities into one. It is a bit crowded in here with all the voices talking at once. I aim for 3 personalities by the end of next year. Making decisions is too confusing with any more than that. (failed. It is still as noisy in this head as ever).

As to 2010, by the end of the year I shall:

1) learn to play the viola
2) try to figure out exactly what a viola is
3) learn to sing opera
4) compete in an iron man, all my friends are doing it
5) Read James Joyce's Ulysses and understand it
6) learn all of Shakespeare's sonnets by heart
7) run naked in Times Square

Ok ok seriously my aims for 2010 are:

1) keep climbing, ie not get so flipping injured that I cannot move any more. Try to run more.

2) stop being one of those people who goes through life in survival mode. What exactly is it that I am surviving? I am sure there is more to life than working, eating and sleeping.

3) On the subject of survival, survive the midlife crisis that will definitely hit when I turn 30. It will hit, I know it will. I hope nothing too dramatic happens. Eep.

4) Try to go to China! My sister is there, the BFG's parents are moving there.

5) start studying again? Not sure if I can muster the discipline to go back, but I cannot stand the thought of having half a degree hanging over my head. Or maybe study a language instead. I am thinking Zulu, cos it is already in my brain from school and my Dad can speak it and help me a bit. A half learned language is like a plague in my head, bits of it leak out all the time but I cannot complete sentences. I have a similar problem with French.

6) go for therapy? Will I have the time, the money, the courage? We shall see.

7) Hopefully get a driver's license. Despite the fact that this breaks several laws of physics.

8) Keep writing. My poetry course found something in me that I should be able to access on my own, without a teacher whipping my ass. Self motivation can be done. I just have to activate it.

9) Have more fun. I am too serious and too lazy. Fun is hard work, but it is worth it.

10) try to plan for the future. This is usually impossible for me but considering I will be coming to the end of a work contract and a visa, it needs to be done.

11) run naked in Times Square.

And finally:

12) adopt the attitude of "Byegones". Who knew Ally Mcbeal could be the source of all wisdom? What is done is done and boring. I don't believe in having no regrets, but I do believe in saving those regrets for the really shitty things I have done. No point in getting upset over the minor shit. Move along please!

Monday, 14 December 2009

Random acts of kindness

I may have mentioned once or twice on this blog that I am a T.S. Eliot fan, yes? Well just to recap, I am a T.S. Eliot fan.

A few weeks ago I had some time off so I made my way to London for the day, and like all cool people I chose to hang out in the British Library. What an awesome place. Until I got kicked out because of an accidental attack of phone ringing, which is just typical, because no one on this earth phones me, ever, so I forgot I even have a phone, and the day I hang out in the freaking British Library that houses the Gutenberg bible and Shakespeare's folios, someone finds it imperative to phone me. Oh well. Byegones.

But before I got moved along I happened upon an exhibition of T.S Eliot's publishing life. He worked for Faber and Faber publishing house and was responsible for discovering and publishing most of the great poets of that time. There were also recordings of the actual poets reading their own poems which was just too awesome. They were all soooo posh; poetry doesn't exactly bring home the bacon so I am assuming they came from wealthy families and had other means of survival.

So I heard T.S. Eliot reading his poem "Preludes", you know the one with "the burnt out ends of smoky days" from the Memory song in Cats? It was wonderful. He had that ridiculously posh old Englishy-Germanish accent with the potato in the mouth, how the Queen speaks. Even though he was American. Whatever.

That poem has some of my favouritest lines ever, like these:

...You dozed, and watched the night revealing
The thousand sordid images
Of which your soul was constituted;
They flickered against the ceiling.

Yeah it was pretty close on orgasmic.

Anyway, my poetry class ended last week and I am still in mourning. My teacher is such a kind, wonderful man. It was the last class he was ever teaching because he was quitting to concentrate on his PhD. So to say goodbye he bought us each a poetry book, based on our writing and who he thought we would like. And for me he chose a T.S. Eliot book!

Ironically he had asked us to bring our favourite poems along and of course I took a few Eliot poems with me, but I was too shy to read them out loud, I just could not do them justice.

How he guessed my thing about T.S. Eliot I do not know. But that random act of human kindness really bowled me over. Who buys each of their students a book based on their personal style? And knows us well enough to get it so right?

I feel like crying just thinking about it. People that kind break my heart.

Friday, 11 December 2009


Hmmmm. I have the potential to be an alcoholic for sure.
Champagne at work in the morning is the shit.
Just saying.

Gonna go pretend I can wield a pippette now.

Thursday, 10 December 2009

10 things I think you should know...

Tamara Doodler gave me an award and did a very cool post where instead of listing 6 things about herself, she listed 6 little known facts about HIV/AIDS.

I wanted to do a similar thing about something that in some ways only entered my life this year, but in some ways has been a part of my life almost since I can remember. I guess that many people have never even heard of it, but here are:

10 things you may or may not know about Borderline Personality Disorder (known as BPD):

(Please know that I write only from my personal experience and from books that I have read. None of this is certifiably accurate and I am open to correction. For the best information, read the books I recommend at the end of this or see a professional).

1) Borderline Personality Disorder is best understood as an emotional disorder. People who develop BPD have no emotional "skin", they feel everything far more intensely than normal people. As a result they are in a lot of emotional pain for most of their lives.

2) Most of the symptoms of BPD manifest as a result of the ways they attempt to deal with this intense pain. The symptoms of BPD are destructive and maladaptive ways of dealing with pain. There are 9 criteria for being diagnosed with BPD, but you only need to fulfill 6 to be diagnosed with BPD. Many people will experience some of the 9 in their lives, but people with BPD exhibit at least 6 pervasively, ie much of the time throughout their lives, starting in early adulthood.

3) The biggest problem for a person with BPD is that they perceive or read rejection, abandonment or invalidation into every situation. People with BPD have felt so much emotional pain their whole lives that they start to anticipate it at all times in order to protect themselves. The problem is that they perceive rejection when it is not there. They can percieve rejection in a tone of voice, or in a comment about the weather. This can appear to someone who does not have BPD as jealousy, as paranoia, or as just incomprehensible. This perceived rejection causes the person with BPD agony, even if the rejection was not there at all. As you can imagine, this leads to problems in relationships.

It is a tragic situation because people with BPD are desperate for someone to love them, and yet they push those who love them away because they are so afraid of rejection.

4) A defining characteristic of BPD is rage. One of the ways in which people who suffer from BPD deal with their pain is by projecting that pain onto someone else in the form of an intense and terrifying rage. The rage can be verbal or physical, often both. Because of these rages and their results, this disorder carries a heavy stigma.

Some people have likened a BPD rage to demonic possession. This analogy has crossed my mind in the past. However this is not helpful at all. There are many stories of people with BPD being subjected to exorcisms. That is disgraceful. People with BPD are in pain. They are suffering from mental illness and need sympathy and understanding, and most importantly psychological help. They do not need to be treated like demons.

5) People often confuse BPD with psychopathy. This is incorrect. A defining characteristic of psychopathy is lack of guilt. People with BPD suffer from guilt. Guilt and shame are definitions of how they see themselves. They see themselves as only worthy of rejection.

6) Other destructive methods of dealing with their emotional pain include self harming in the form of cutting or other methods, eating disorders, staying in abusive relationships, substance abuse, impulsive spending or driving. As you can see it is quite a bitch of a disease. Not everyone who suffers from any of the above has BPD as well. But it is really hard to see the BPD if it is there underneath all the other stuff that has to be treated first.

7) BPD is also often comorbid with other mental illnesses such as bipolar, major depression, anxiety, avoidant personality disorder, OCD, OCPD, to name a few. So people often have to be treated not only for the nightmarish BPD but other nightmarish diseases as well.

8) As far as I know and have been told, self harming in the form of cutting is not usually about a desire to die for people with BPD. The desire to die is strong in people with BPD, make no mistake. About 10% of people with BPD commit suicide. Most will try. But apparently self harming is all about making the emotional pain less by turning it into physical pain. Actualising the pain makes it slightly easier to deal with. I have also heard that it helps to calm people with BPD down when they are in the midst of a raging episode.

9) There are treatments that help BPD. Nothing can "cure" BPD. You cannot teach someone to no longer feel emotional pain. Some people are made with more sensitive nervous systems than others. What you can teach is how to recognise real rejection vs imagined rejection, and constructive methods of dealing with pain rather than destructive ones. There are also drugs that can level the intensity of emotions somewhat.

10) the problem lies in diagnosis. Getting someone with BPD to get help is one problem. Getting the correct help, when there is so much misinformation about BPD that many shrinks cannot even recognise it or believe it exists, is another problem.


I am sure many people have absolutely no idea what I am talking about or why I would bother to write this. I don't blame you. Why would you know about BPD or think about it unless you have it or know someone who has it?

In my experience, current public knowledge about mental illness is on a par with attitudes in medieval times. People don't speak about it, and do not understand it at all. The exorcisms are a good measure of how we demonise mental illness.

There are no celebrities officially diagnosed with BPD. I can tell you many that stand out to me as likely candidates. Amy Winehouse for one. People have speculated about Van Gogh all the way through to Marilyn Monroe and Lady Di.

But because of the huge stigma attached to BPD, because of the fear and misunderstanding, no one bears the name of the disorder, no one comes forward.

No one makes the millions of sufferers feel relieved to know that they are not alone in this hell. Perhaps these celebrities and others could have been helped, been given the treatment they needed if it wasn't for the misinformation, the silence, the secretiveness. Perhaps some lives could have been saved.

I just want it to be out in the open, for people to learn about and understand mental illness a bit better. There is no need to live in the dark ages any more. We need to learn how not to be afraid of it, because our fear is holding back the potential for people who suffer from mental illness to access the help and information they need.


If you want to know more about BPD, I have read the following books and found them helpful. Please read them rather than taking what I say as fact, because I speculate and guess and they speak from fact.

1) Get Me Out of Here: My Recovery from Borderline Personality Disorder by Rachel Reiland.
2) The Borderline Personality Disorder Survival Guide: Everything You Need to Know About Living with BPD by Alex Chapman, Kim Gratz
3) Stop Walking on Eggshells: Taking Your Life Back When Someone You Care About Has Borderline Personality Disorder. by Paul T. Mason (Author), Randi Kreger (Author)

Tuesday, 8 December 2009


I need help! One times somewhat fruit loopy seamonkey has gone missing! Please help me find her.

Seriously, I think I have gone missing. Well, the interesting part of me anyway, the part that is full of life and whackiness, the part that I like to think of as the real me. I think I have been putting on my professional, serious, "I don't swear or make facetious remarks or imitate cartoon characters or do handstands in the lab because I am surrounded by world class scientists who are on a different planet to me" face for so long now that I have buried my "me" face somewhere too deep to retrieve. Somewhere behind my left kidney perhaps?

Nooooooo. I used to use my blog as the place where I could let the real me out for a walk, but now she is gone! I want her back.

I will give a reward of a secret nature to anyone who finds her, or at least a clue to where she is hiding.

A clue: wherever she is she is probably doing handspins and Cartman imitations.

Friday, 4 December 2009

Truth, subterfuge, hamsters.

We were getting all philosophical the other day in my poetry class, discussing truth and whether a poem should be "true", and the difference between experiential truth and factual truth, and of course things get slippery from there, in any discussion about truth you start to wonder if such a thing even exists...

So someone made a point that it is very difficult for a poet to write about truth if truth is all subjective anyway. Then this oldish man came up with something that really made my day.

Basically he said "There should be no problem because our whole every day lives are based upon untruths, we have to live untruths in order to survive social interactions. When we see someone we barely know and say "how are you?" we do not actually want to know. We DON'T CARE. WE don't want to hear if they are having a shit time. We want to hear "Fineanyou?" We are just saying it because we are required to. It's all fake and lies."

This old man made me so happy. What he says is pretty obvious, but we don't exactly go around admitting it on a regular basis to eachother. We are all full of shit. I just loved his ability to cut through all the crap and say it. It is good to know I am not alone in these thoughts.

Everyone in the room started smiling and nodding after he said it. It feels so good to just acknowledge the complex games we are forced to play in life. It felt especially refreshing coming from an Englishman, because from my experience here tradition, decorum and social games rule.

I think it resonates with me so strongly because of my whole "pretending to be a scientist" thing. It does get tiring trying to play that role well every day. But if my life is full of pretense and subterfuge, then I should have no problems writing poems in which the truth is purely within the poem and nowhere in real life, right?

A poem is a truth in itself. Ooooooh I just made that up, sounds good doesn't it?

Ok ok, I will stop with the dodgy ponderations and say to everyone in the world who is seeing the Killers this weekend (I assume this applies only to South Africans unless they have access to some kind of beam me up Scotty facility), just remember:


Let its spirit move you to remember the correct words to all the songs.

  • I've got ham but I'm not a hamster

  • Are we human or are we hamster?

And it goes on.

(Just a note: Mr Brightside: "I'm coming out of my cage....." Need I say more?)

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Passage to freedom.

We have a corridor! At work we have our corridor back. We have been corridor-less since, what, August? Tis a rare species in these parts, the passagus corridorus. It was highjacked by dudes with hard hats and butt cracks for a long long time, but they surrendered it back to us in the end.

You have no idea what this means to me. I no longer have to go downstairs under the building or upstairs and over just to get to the other side of the building. We have access to a lift. We can use trolleys to move things instead of carrying things in a million shifts up and down stairs.

I was walking downstairs after coffee to go the tunnel route when someone said "but Po, you can just walk across now. You don't need to go via the basement any more". The awesomeness. The shiny new-paved corridor glistening before me, the road less travelled.

We still lack many things that a normal lab takes for granted, ie. pure water, an autoclave, a cold room, and the builders are still around leaving a trail of turps everywhere. But the drilling has abated somewhat which is a flippin' relief.

The little known pleasures of walking the corridor. You should try it some time.