Avoiding Lectures…


I was not, I will confess in all honesty, a particularly reliable student when it came to lectures! Basically, I went to the ones which interested me (Old English, Middle English Romances, Anglo-Welsh Literature and maybe a couple more) and gave the others a miss! Shakespeare, for example: Aberystwyth’s Great Hall, in the Old College, did not get one single visit from Ali Browning in TWO YEARS!

I do have some excuse for this: Having moved out to first Llanfarian and then, a bit later, Llancynfelyn, travel was a problem in the days before we got a car. The first bus from the latter village got into town at ten, which meant that nine o’ clock lectures were buggered; the last bus left at 3pm: No chance of attending 4pm and 5pm lectures, then!

But I think there is more to it than geographical inconvenience: I do not like, and never have, being lectured to by sanctimonious, or tedious, or long-winded ‘teachers’. What I am about to say might sound really mean-spirited to some, or disloyal, or just nasty – but I don’t care: There are an awful lot of boring and inadequate educators (at every level) in our educational system. There are those who get top degrees at Oxbridge, know their subject intimately – and have the communication skills of a brick and the ability to relate to young people of an Elective Mute.

I do not warm to those who swan on to the stage (be it in a school or a university), just behind their own bulging egos, all the books they have written on their subject piled perilously on the table – and then, adopting the timbre of Marvin, the Paranoid Android, maunder on, like a form of verbal Chinese Water Torture, for two hours, while even the most biddable students are drawing gallows in their notebooks and stringing the moaning droning wazzocks up.

I take exception to the hypocrisy which drives so many to lecture everyone around on moral values, behaviour, attitude and so forth, while clearly being crammed to the gunwales with hatred, prejudice and a vast sense of entitlement themselves!

I have a latent capacity for disruption when lectures, or meetings (aggghhhh!) go on longer than the Thirty Years War and have the Excitement Quotient of drying paint. I get restive when being preached at by garrulous gonks who wouldn’t be able to enliven a lecture if you passed eight trillion volts through them.

Lecturing, or teaching, needs, in my view, to be far more than the imparting of knowledge. It should be fecund, funny and feisty, not dry, drear and dull. Lectures need to inspire, enlighten, amuse, excite, wake up the bodies stuffed into seats. If lecturers can startle, shock, surprise their clientele; if they can vibrate with energy and passion and pass that on; if they can keep their minds open and the door to fossilized opinions closed; if they can relate to those who flock (whether willingly or not!) to see and listen to them; if they can exchange pedantry for pleasure, and genuinely engage both with the subject matter and their students, they will become those rare individuals who light a fire of academic passion within the bosoms of the younger generation, and who are remembered for the rest of many lives because of their brilliance and engagement.

I did not miss a single Middle English Romances lecture in two years – and can still hear, in my mind, Professor Maldwyn Mills reading to us from ‘Sir Gawain and the Green Knight’!

And that was nigh-on forty years ago!

I rest my case!

Blogging as myself and the need to insist upon firm boundaries!

Most of us need to insist upon firm boundaries in our lives eventually. I have reached that point now, both on here and behind the blogging scenes!

This is a controversial one – and a choice every single writer has to make eventually. Do we expose ourselves (to potential ridicule, bullying and vulnerability) by being who we actually are – or do we, as many writers have done and continue to do, adopt a writing alter ego?

There is no right answer to this. Writers have their reasons – for wishing to call themselves by a different name (or, in the case of the Bronte sisters, to publish, initially at least, as men), or, when blogging, to give the blog a name which does not name the writer.

I decided, early on, to be myself as a writer (in every sense) – and have not regretted that decision. Yes, it has attracted problems (bullies, inappropriate photos, mind games from disturbed persons) – but the majority of those who visit my site – and read/review my novels – are respectful, acknowledge (tacitly) boundaries and, if disagreeing with something I have said, do so in a civilised way.

Actual abuse has been rare, thank goodness – and attributable, I feel, to those who lack boundaries themselves and feel that it is acceptable to be over-familiar and then dodge responsibility for their actions. Frankly, as on line, so in life!

I do have to highlight one danger, however – and it was, and always will be, a calculated risk: Writing from a position of vulnerability, and coming clean about the reality and effects of long-term abuse, DOES, unfortunately, attract a very small coterie of unpleasant and/or manipulative people.

My own view is that, as with anonymous and inappropriate phone calls, such behaviour is both unnecessary and intimidating. I am also very clear in my mind that writing openly and as me does not merit any kind of attack by another. The self-justifying arguments used by bullies hold as much water as the one that insists that all women who wear revealing clothes deserve to be raped.

I have always made it clear that I do not consider myself to be either perfect (who is?) or an authority on any particular subject. My opinions are precisely that: Opinions. I am not trying to claim that I am right, or have absolute authority or any high-faluting nonsense of that variety. I simply try to paint a picture of a particular mood, or event, or scene, or passion, in words.

I do not regret being open. Many people have, I know, felt great relief when reading some of my more distressing/distressed pieces – and have felt the comfort of knowing a) that they are not alone and b) that they are not imagining the abuse/bullying they are suffering.

I do feel a need to explain more clearly one of my comments the other day regarding anonymous responses to my work: Several of my readers use a non-identifying name for their blogs. I have come to know these people, recognise their writing styles and feel we have a bond even if I do not actually know their names: Their Blog name always comes up on the comment. Similarly, some personal friends, who do not have blogs, struggle to sign on (as do I on other people’s sites!) and have to adopt a temporary ‘Someone’ handle – but, they always show themselves in some way, usually signing their names at the end.

If a person writes using ‘Someone’, ‘Somebody’ ‘Anyone’ (or other such labels), does not have an obvious blog name and is unwilling to name him or herself, while also leaving comments of a hostile or nasty or overtly sexual nature on one of my pieces, I count this person as a troll and, as I said a couple of days ago, will send the comment to Akismet!

Let me say one more thing: There is an unspoken etiquette when it comes to telephone use, which I think can be applied readily to blog-related manners. Most of us start by saying who we are, and then go on with the conversation. We would not dream of unleashing a barrage of weirdness/hatred/sexually inappropriate imagery and then hanging up!

I take a very firm line on the rare occasions when I get a weird phone call. The same applies on here. As a teacher, I learned very quickly that, if I did not follow warnings up with some form of action, I was seen as weak and pathetic – and the poor behaviour continued and got worse.

If I, as a writer, allow behaviour I find unacceptable to go on and on, I have only myself to blame when the other ups the game and becomes ever-more egregious!

Ninety-nine percent of people reading my posts are here because they, like me, are writers and love working with words. The other one percent are, I fear, people who sneak on because they have multiple axes to grind, or desires unmet, and find, in my openness (and the openness of other writers), a target for their rage or their libido.

I shall continue to write as me, while maintaining firm and clear boundaries.

Fair enough, I feel!

No Inkling: Workshop? No: Influenza, Chest Infection and Bed…


I had no inkling, when a slight cough greeted my awakening on Friday January 19th, that ten days of influenza and general misery would follow…

I should be in Scotland right now, enjoying the company of friends and sharing the second day adventure of a Ritual Drama/Magic Workshop.

I am not. Having been in bed for most of the past ten days, getting out and about in Glastonbury is currently a bridge too far, never mind anything North of the Border. I am not going to pretend that I feel New Age acceptance, Fluffy Bunny bollocks or that I am floating serenely above it all. I do not, and am not. The bout of illness has coincided with a vast blow from another area – and I am not going to insult any of my readers by adopting a Holier Than Thou/All Part of Life’s Rich Tapestry/There’s a Higher Reason frame of mind.

Never do, do I? Ain’t going to start now!

I feel unwell, though nowhere near as bad as I did on January 19th when the little viral sods starting swarming and multiplying their nasty heads off, or on the 23rd when the shock came shattering and splintering its way in, or the 24th when a big opportunistic bugger grabbed hold of my lungs and decided that a chest infection would be a lovely present for me to receive too.

I have felt like death inadequately warmed up since – and looked pale and wan too: Most unlike me; I have always tended towards the roseate, the bucolic, the rural milkmaid in full bloom look and so the whiteness of cheek has been pretty bloody unusual. Mind you, lack of appetite does not exactly promote a healthy appearance!

Full Monty, it was: The aches and the shakes; the shivering and burning; the incessant coughing; the sweating so profuse that my nightmares propelled me out onto a kind of latter-day Ali’s Ark, afrift in my own sputum and glandular extrusions, desperately searching for dry land! Deeply unpleasant!

Did I have a Flu Jab? Do Popes crap in the woods?! Of course I did. I always do. Made bog-all difference this time round, though I gather that the strain of flu boinging its way over from Climes Antipodean is a particularly vicious one: The metaphorical Plague Rat of the species, ready to bite armpits and groins and spread its buboes far and wide.

So, how did I feel at my worst? Having sped past the relative shallows of ‘rough as a badger’s arse’, sneered mightily at the trifling inconvenience implied by ‘coarse as a porcupine’s nutsack’, I have arrived at a land beyond that covered by animals and similes relating to their privy parts and just feel, or have felt, fucking dire, whilst also (in the infection sense) ducking fire…

That my dry sense of humour is surging back strikes me as a bloody good thing. Tears have been shed at the same rate as the rest of the liquid outpouring in recent days and my bed, more and more reminiscent of a swamp, may well need to be wrung dry by the hydraulic equivalent of a lemon squeezer.

Begone, Flu Virus! You have made your point – and some! Bugger off and annoy someone else, or slink into the Midden of Infectious Diseases which is all you and your egregious type deserve!

Yes, I should be in Scotland –  and feel sick as a toucan that I am immured in durance repellent instead.

Being liked/loved – and being respected…


Do not do as I have all too often done: Allow the need to be liked to become the loophole through which a rightful demand for respect slips…

The crucial lesson which I learned very quickly as a secondary school English teacher has taken me many decades to learn in the sphere of friend-and-relation-ship: That being respected should come before being liked, and its sad but true corollary: A liking without respect is little more that endless patronising and, in some cases though not all, outright abuse.

All my life, I have striven – by whatever means worked – to be liked, and this has too often meant burying important parts of my personality in order to gratify, soothe, flatter and cosy up to others. I have agreed with points of view I actually found repugnant; I have accepted insult and fury and nastiness from others; I have seldom retaliated to nastiness, snideness and brutality in the emotional sphere.

But what I had to face very speedily as a teacher, if I wanted any kind of order in my classroom, was this: The kids’ liking was irrelevant. Completely. What mattered was that I imposed discipline upon them, even if this meant being unpleasant and scary from time to time. They were there to learn and that could only happen in a controlled environment with the teacher (me) holding the reins.

Unfortunately, I have, in the past, allowed the classroom of my friendships to become filled with rowdy and disrespectful children: Children who, like their counterparts in schools up and down the land, sense and home in on the Achilles’ Heels most of us have. Because I have been unwilling to set up the room of my social life the way I did as a teacher – with rules, expectations and a large banner declaring, ‘We are equal: Respect goes two ways!’ – I have reaped, for much of my life, the chaotic, and disrespectful, ‘reward’ which came my way when first attempting to disseminate knowledge to truculent teens! Metaphorically, some of my ‘classes’ have arrived late, continued to talk over me, refused to do (let alone give in) their homework, applied their make-up (both sexes!) during the lesson and treated me as a somewhat pathetic inferior who has had the gall to try and make them abide by the rules of emotional education!

I was scared of making boundaries clear lest people stopped liking me, no longer wanted to be my friend. I let people metaphorically be rude to me in class for that very reason.

It has taken me far too long to realise that turning up to my ‘lesson’ precisely because it is chaotic and they can get away with murder implies deep lack of respect rather than any kind of liking; that establishing ground rules is not the act of a dictator, but absolutely integral to any kind of true friendship; that being seen as worthy of respect is far more important than being ‘loved’ for fluffy weakness and perennially giving way.

I had to get this important distinction very quickly as a teacher because the riots were serious and, in one case, potentially dangerous – when a year eleven boy, over whom I had no control, whipped my chair out from under me and laughed when I fell, hard, onto the floor. The fact that I became, in the end, a byword for effective discipline is ironic given my inability (or unwillingness) to apply some of its strategies in my private life!

The fact that knuckle-dragging sixteen year old youths would stand silently in line waiting to be allowed into my classroom was remarked upon by many (and in fact my Head of Department actually used this image when he gave the speech at my farewell do nearly six years ago!); the fact that I was known to be the strictest female teacher is bloody ironic given my lax disciplining in the personal arena!

I do not want, or need, to revert to frightening teacher mode with friends and relatives – but I bloody well will ask for, and expect, respect from those I deal with. I will not continue to confuse being liked with being seen as someone who has obvious boundaries.

Let’s face it: Liking without respect is both shallow and unconvincing. It implies a basic imbalance in the bond – and, as happened to me so often in the early eighties, can end in disaster, pain and shattered relationships.

If someone doesn’t like me, that’s fine. I am no longer going to try and elicit liking for the sake of it!


My renewed determination, and strength, in this area may well lose me one or two friends – but what true value is there in a friendship lacking mutual respect anyway?


Proclivity for Rebellion: On Embracing Sixty


I think many of us assume, when we are young, that we will be chilled and sorted beings by a certain age; that this tremulous and gauzy curtain of adulthood will rise upon a world of perfection and that the mirror image will reveal a flawless character shining through an angelic visage.

I am now in the process of planning my sixtieth birthday party (and, yes, I am going to have one and raise merry hell!) – and, as I do so, I am blitzed by whirling images of the earlier Ali and her unrealistic expectations! You know the kind of thing: ‘By 20/30/40/50, I will be sensible/mature/sober/free from all neurosis/impervious to pain and insult/above it all…’

It staggers me to think about this human tendency, this unassailable urge so many of us feel to try and airbrush out (or hope that we can) all that actually makes us human!

How bloody stupid and what a sodding waste of time and precious energy.

So, and in no particular order, I have always been a worrier – and can remember vividly waking up from terror dreams, in which feathers featured prominently, aged three, and fretting about wetting the bed when I was not much older. Anxiety kicked in early, as did social shyness and psychosomatic illness. An excellent ear for music and a love of words also showed themselves before I was five.

Two weeks before my sixtieth birthday, I can safely say that my tendency to worry remains (and that anxiety is never very far away). Although I make a good fist of being socially adept and can, these days, throw a party without having a nervous breakdown or throwing up, my need to hide from the world when overwhelmed by noise and people is as strong as ever. Music and words are as essential to the nearly-sixty year old Ali as they were to the socially-awkward little Bambi.

I have not ironed out all my problems (and sorry, guys, I refuse to use the word ‘issues’ here) – and, in all probability, never will – but I have managed to control some of the worst of them. My temper, for example: I no longer throw things through windows or hit siblings’ friends on their noses with maracas when in a rit of fealous jage – and I am far less passive-aggressive than I used to be (though this is still a known weakness of mine!).

I am not an angel. I am not a cuddly archetypal granny. I am not smooth and forgiving and calm and passion-free. I have not, as yet, experienced any diminution of my essential life force, nor do I discount an eventual return to the glories of sex and love on the basis of age alone! Why should I?

I am every bit as curious, querulous, difficult, blunt, rude, bawdy and, at times, offensive, as I ever was – and any sliding towards an age-appropriate way of behaving (according to societal mores) is checked immediately with a surly and thoroughly unmannerly, ‘Fuck off!’

It is not that I am afraid of getting older, because I am not; it is more this: I have been a rebel for most of my life and am buggered if I am going to stop just because the Bus Pass is on its way! Sod that! If I were Booby, I daresay I would use the old free charabanc ticket to travel far and wide in search of toothsome young men!

I think niceness and traditional virtues are often both boring and vastly over-rated. Women, in particular, are still controlled by expectations of gentleness and kindness and patience and putting others first. I am capable of all of those – but I can also be a selfish and demanding bitch, a raucous old moo, a gossiping hag and a real ‘Me! Me! Me!’ merchant!

I know plenty of women my age who have given in to grey hair gracefully – and I respect them for it! But, for me, there is still intense joy and delight in being foxy-haired – and, though I would not go as far as dyeing the pelt in the hold to match that on the deck (not with my allergic reactions, my dears!), I will continue to be an unnatural red head for the foreseeable future!

Why do we so often beat ourselves up for not being better? For not conforming to stereotypes dictated by a Patriarchal Society? For believing all this bollocks about how to be a particular age? For still being ‘imperfect’ once we reach, and pass, our notional majority?

Far too often, this drive for improvement flattens the personality, crushes the spirit and turns us all into grey tubes of meat, faceless and characterless.

Human nature is cracked! A splintered and patched mirror! But, as many of us know, the light really does shine through the cracks – and the clarity and rainbow colours produced by shattered prisms of ‘perfection’ are, in their way, far more beautiful and arresting!

Plenty of time to be the epitome of angelic virtues when one is dead!

Embrace sixty? You bet I will! Why not? It’s a new land to explore and I haven’t been there yet! It could be really exciting! Who knows?!

A woman after my own heart, this one! Vulgar old besom – and all the better for being so!

DP:Glastonbury: One year on… (My final blog post for 2017)


Glastonbury: One Year On…

After this post, I shall be Blog-SILENT until the start of 2018.

On December 20th 2016, I finally moved to Glastonbury!

Next Tuesday marks the one year anniversary of this move – and, since I am going to take a couple of weeks off the blog (starting tomorrow), I am going to celebrate and acknowledge now.

I was both excited and anxious when I arrived: Excited because finally I was free and about to put the key in the lock of my very own house; worried that I would not make friends; that I would not be able to cope with house and garden; that I would struggle financially; that the continuous panic attacks and pain would continue forever…

The reality has been incredibly, magically, different.

Morgana West (whom I have known for a few years) very kindly alerted key friends that I was arriving – and, though this act of generosity, I have met, and become close to, the lovely women I refer to as The Witches of Widdershins Hill  – J, J, A and A!

Through each of them, I have been introduced to a host of other delightful people, both men and women.

In January, I got back in touch with two friends first met in 2012, Sally and James North – and, through them, I was introduced to Shadow of the Tor. I still vividly recall my first visit to the King Arthur pub, on March 5th of this year, and the initial sight of these two long-haired young men, Brad and Francis, (both of whom have become friends since then) and the plethora of other interesting people (most of whom I also now count among my friends).

One of them recognised me! This was the lovely Aelph Edgewood, who lives down my road and has become such a close friend in the intervening months. Well met, indeed!

I did have a moment of severe financial insecurity (unnecessary, as it turned out) and, in a fit of panic, applied to join a Supply Teaching Agency. I think, in retrospect, I wanted to prove that I could still do it (though I knew, in my heart of hearts, that the events of September 2011 had shown very clearly that I was burned out as a classroom teacher) – and the following four months showed me, with painful clarity, that I was no longer up to the job.

The coming of spring allowed to me flex previously untried gardening muscles and I discovered a real affinity with the earth and flowers and herbs. As an Earth sign, this should not, perhaps, have been the surprise it was!

April saw my first performance on stage with Shadow of the Tor – and great fun it was too – as well as my first public ritual (I was a Quarter Officer) for the Beltane Celebrations on the Fairfield, just below the Tor.

It also marked a return to my status as Community Reviewer, though I did not realise this at the time.

Early April marked the departure of my son, and his girlfriend, on their five month Gap Year adventure abroad: China, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Australia, Canada and Iceland – all were experienced by the intrepid pair!

May and June marked the start of a clear deterioration in my elderly dog, Jumble – and, for a while, I was scared that he would not live long enough to see the return of the Young Things at the beginning of September. In the event, he survived not just for that, but also for the Lad’s birthday in mid-November.

May saw the start of festival celebrations in my garden and house, something I am keen to continue.

In May, I finally gave up the supply teaching (with vast relief) – though, through it, I met another lovely friend, David Greenway (Glastonbury’s esteemed Town Crier).

July was busy and exciting: I was cast as the Vicar in ‘The Amortal’ and Witch 1 in ‘Macbeth’.  The filming days were hilarious and huge fun. Many ‘Macbeth’ rehearsals took place in my garden, which was bonding – and, through both ventures, I got to know five more delightful Shadow members.

August also saw the arrival of my first private pupil. I hope to teach more young things in time.

August was full of intense rehearsals and, at the start of September, I travelled up to Heathrow Airport, with Lass’s dad, to pick up our beloved children: Such an emotional day, and so lovely to hear the details of their many adventures.

October saw an intensification of the rehearsals and, sadly, a fracturing of a bond.

November was a very mixed month: ‘Macbeth’ was performed on the 1st and 2nd, and the Variety Evening and film premiere followed on the 17th, Lad’s birthday falling between the two.  I was ill for most of the month, and hurt my back on the 27th. The emotional fracture turned into a break – and, although the vast majority of my friendships remain intact, I had to let this one go.

The worst moment in that difficult month, however, came on the evening of the 24th when I had to make the heartbreaking decision to end my beloved dog’s long life.

Now, approaching that important one year, just before the Winter Solstice, mark, I look back at my fears and realise how cribbed and confined by previous events I had become. The anxiety and pain have diminished hugely (though they still pop up when I am under extremes of stress); I have coped with house, garden and finances; I have met some truly wonderful and special people, and now have lots of friends; I have joined a thespian team and tried my hand at Morris Dancing; I have been so lucky with my neighbours (who have been incredibly kind and helpful) and Jumble lasted far longer than I had privately feared.

Old friendships and bonds have stood firm – and I have seen my pals from the Silent Eye, Scotland,Wrington and other places at least once. My increased happiness and fulfillment shows, I think.

A huge thank you to everyone who has helped, supported, befriended and included me this year. I know that I made the right choice coming here – and the generosity of so many people has been a vast part of that.

Happy Solstice/Christmas/Yule!

I’ll be back in the New Year!

Legend…at getting lost/taking dire photos! HUMOUR!


I am a legend in my own lifetime – when it comes to my total inability to read a map, navigate, avoid getting lost, and my equally embarrassing absence of artistic (or, indeed, ANY!) ability at taking photos and videos!

It all started in Geography lessons when I was at secondary school. I confess I found the subject tedious, not helped by the teacher whose voice was droningly boring even on a good day. Result? I switched off; my map skills are non-existent, and I have to ask for directions every time I point Pep (my car) at an unfamiliar route( as opposed to pointing Percy at the Porcelain). I am the only person I know who can get lost DESPITE owning a Sat Nav.

I did buck up my ideas when I went into the third year (now called year nine) – and took copious notes, wrote excruciatingly neat homework pieces and prided myself upon an exercise book which would have soothed the most extreme Anal Retentive or OCD sufferer! But mappage was, and remains, a closed book to me!

Photography is another of my anti-legend ‘talents’ – though I suppose you could claim a kind of perverted genius in my stunning lack of ability and my inevitable cock-ups when it comes to photographic images. Not for nothing was I booted out of Art classes at the tender age of fourteen, my parents basically being told, ‘We advise Alienora NOT to do this subject at O’level!’ (with, ‘…because she’s an artistic cretin…’ trembling, unspoken, on middle-aged lips!)

When I was in Ghost Weed, I used to take photos of the lads up at Redhill Open Mic – and also attempted to video them playing and singing when I left the band. Struth! Painful doesn’t begin to describe my efforts, though ‘cack-handed’ and ‘fucking useless’ both do!

Bless them, the boys were very diplomatic on the whole – though Neil, who is a professional photographer, must have winced every time a new Ali email dropped its badly-taken load on his laptop!

Part of the problem is that I do not possess a Smart Phone (mine being decidedly remedial/Special Needs), let alone a camera – and my philosophy of point and shoot does not go down well in darkened pubs, clubs and so forth!

Cutting to the current chase: This morning, I had my hair re-oranged and re-sparkled in time for the Solstice Celebrations – and then thought it would be a great idea to take a selfie! Ye gods, you’d have thought I’d have learned by now!

Frankly, all this bollocks about holding the phone in front of one but backwards makes what little technological brain I DO possess pack its bags and bugger off in utter confused despair – and that’s before I even attempt to work out an angle which might, just might, capture my Pre-Raphaelite locks in all their glory (ha bloody ha!). But, you see, Maths is yet another of my Negative Legend Statuses – and the chances of my being able to work out the angle of anything is NIL!

I am sharing these latest failures because laughter is so therapeutic, isn’t it? And, once I had stopped throwing up in disgust at my resemblance to a ginger-wired blobfish, I let out a mighty guffaw (causing Pippa to leap three feet in the air) and thought, ‘Yup! These could easily go down in tale and legend as examples of the very worst of the genre: Yippee!’

Oops! Seem to have beheaded myself!

No forehead and fifteen chins! Christ on a bike!

Cat hair ball?! Fuck knows!

Oh yeah, very clever: The face chopped in half look; I can see that being a winner (NOT!).

Lopped off the chin this time: Genius!

Aha! The old Straight up the Nostrils ploy, most fetching!

Left eye’s gone this time – and I also look as if I have received enthusiastic overtures from a vampire!

See what I mean?

Photographic anti-legend!


Writing a Diary/Journal: 7.1-1972 onwards…DP


You do not need a degree in Creative Writing to become a writer. Now, don’t get me wrong: I have a B.A in English Literature, from Aberystwyth University – but my ability with words has come from two things: Being an avid reader since I was small – and writing, writing, writing, most days, every month, every year since I was thirteen.

I am a writer…because I write! It is not, for me, an academic exercise; it is passion and respiration mixed!

Little did I know, when I opened the small green exercise book, on January 7th 1972, and penned the first sentence, that this diary habit would last me for decades rather than days – and is, in fact, with me still!

I had written my first play when I was eleven, and many stories when aged eight, nine and ten – but personal writing was very different!

I had gone, with other members of my year group at school, on an activities fortnight to Glasbury in Wales – and we were all required to write a diary of our experiences while we were there.

The day we arrived was the antepenultimate one before my fourteenth birthday (which, for the first time ever, I spent away from home!) – and it felt very grown-up to be writing my thoughts in a real diary: Like Anne Frank, I can remember thinking, for she, too, had been thirteen when she started writing.

I took to this kind of writing immediately – and, in this, was unlike the vast majority of my friends and other members of the third year cohort. I can recall vividly writing someone else’s daily entry for her – and, while most girls struggled to fill half of one book, I ended up writing two!

As previously intimated in other posts, I now have well over a hundred volumes of the thing lurking in a chest and the top of my wardrobe – and the reason I am mentioning this today is two-fold: I have just finished one volume (which, amazingly, has lasted since April 12th of this year) and am starting a new one exactly one month before my birthday rolls round again!

The diary habit has seen me through adolescence, university, teaching days, loves and deaths, sex (why, my deflowering alone takes up twelve pages!), friends and enemies, holidays, illnesses, marriage, childbirth (yes, I wrote a page whilst in the early stages of labour – as you do!), divorce, moves, terrors and delights.

Now coming up to its forty-sixth year, this is a strong continuum in my life and will, I hope, last me until I shuffle off this mortal coil or lose my capacity for coherent thought (whichever happens first!).

It is akin to breathing for me: I could not do without it!

If you know me, the chances are that you are in at least one volume!

Little did I know, when I opened that first volume, that this writing habit would, in time, spawn Booby Fellatio and, eventually, the video (which can be seen on YouTube or via Facebook).

Booby’s Debut: Aelph Edgewood creates a YouTube Video of Ali reading aloud…

Gorge, my dears, on this succulent dish, the one and only Booby Fellatio – a fine figure of several women!


This has been a real labour of love and friendship – and I feel very warmed, supported and encouraged as I write these words.

A while back, my lovely friend, Aelph Edgewood, filmed me reading three extracts from my humorously naughty book, ‘Come Laughing!’ Usually, I am very self-conscious about anything which involves cameras – but, because I trust Aelph implicitly – and know how talented she is – I was able to relax and just be me…or should that be: Just come out as Booby Fellatio?!

Aelph also managed, as I have mentioned before, to capture a snippet of Booby’s debut at the recent Shadow of the Tor Variety Evening and ‘The Amortal’ premiere, and this she has very cleverly added to the end of the video.

With a combination of visionary magic and the technical brilliance she uses in Edgewood Studios, Aelph spliced it all together, pruning and cutting and so forthing (says Ali, running very speedily out of appropriate words!) until she had the three sections smoothly gliding into one whole – and all the other bits and bobs in place.

Bless her, she spent hours and days on this – and the combination of meticulous attention to detail, wonderful artistic vision, humour and knowledge has left me gob-smacked and breath-taken. Watching, as she tweaked our three favourite Booby photos and put them together, had me reaching for my brain as it leaked out of my ears (my having completely failed to ascend the ladder of understanding by this time and having, instead, slid ignominiously down the snake of technological ineptness!) – and yet also vastly impressed by the apparent ease (misleading, I know!) of it all!

I am thrilled and delighted with the final product – and so touched by all the care and commitment that went into it.

On a serious note now – and something many may not realise – I start from a baseline of NO CONFIDENCE in myself as a woman. I am aware that I cover this up fairly well – and that the persona I adopted as a teacher can see me through most situations, at least on the surface – but the last few years have taken a massive toll upon my sense of any kind of attractiveness, let alone desirability, and, therefore, this has all been very confronting – though also liberating and enjoyable.

This video-making project has been healing on all sorts of levels – as was the chance to strut Booby’s stuff on stage three weeks ago.

Booby Fellatio, as a fully-formed alter ego, came to me three years ago when, lonely, scared and trapped, I felt utterly powerless. She seemed to have a strength and certainty I lacked – and her utter indifference to what anyone else thought was refreshingly different to my own terror of annoying or hurting or disagreeing with ANYONE.

She made me laugh, which was even better in a way – and reassured me that, somewhere deep inside, there was a version of her, no matter how watered down. But, and I’ll be honest here, I was too frightened – and, oddly, inhibited – to bring her out by myself; I needed to be sure, I suppose, that she was ridiculous in a controlled, deliberate and self-mocking way – and that it wasn’t just a case of me, Ali, making a complete and unaware fool of myself.

She is my creation – and her words are mine, as, indeed, are the phrases and descriptions, funny moments and lyrical ones, in the other two stories – but she is not me. She is, perhaps, a phase I never went through -or maybe one yet to come: Who knows?

But to bring her out in this way is a major step forward.

Thank you, dear Aelph!

Saintly: St Joan of Arc


So the witch-like instructions whispered in her adolescent shell-like ear, her unmaidenly dressing up in the shiny steel – soon battered and blooded – of war, (instead of simpering inanely as she sampled a comfit and tinkled on the virginals)…and, worst of all, her deep rebellion – a mere girl winning; all of these crimes against the church no doubt meant she was a barbecue just waiting to happen, and any old sieve of a charge (leaking corruption and misogynistic glee all over the raven-fat bloated meat hectares of sodden battleground) would have carried the righteous through the Sea of Superstition.

Martyr: What other species could have come up with so cunning a conceit, so barbarous a blighted blessing? For Joan (born, as I was, under Capricorn, and dead before she had left her teens) is one of a martyred multitude: Men and women, girls and boys slaughtered in repulsively inventive ways (which were then celebrated in book form and given, as presents, to good Catholic children) because of the cut of their spiritual jibs – which did not accord with the strict letter of the opposing religion’s law, and so merited the ripping out of maidenheads, eyes, breasts, the forcing of multiple arrows into young men’s flesh; the mass burning, in Oxford City Centre, of the infamous trio for whom the Martyrs’ Memorial was hewn, constructed and named.

But have you noticed? How loose and sick the definition of ‘martyr’ actually is? How degenerate its adherents? For it is the dominant religion which gets to play in the pen of slaying and raping and burning and bone-breaking and still has the moral upper-hand, claiming that its victims in some way deserved such treatment – and it is a belief in this Top God that oils the martyr’s way up the canonical slope to Sainthood: Cauterisation followed by Canonisation.

Would it not be far better to have a world in which no martyrs were needed? In which holding on to one’s beliefs were seen as a sign of strength rather than treachery? Where the Elders in religious tribes were not encouraged to abuse their power (under the spurious sanction of some long-bearded smiting Deity up in the Heavens) by murdering those who believed differently?

Back to Joan: I feel fairly sure that, as the heat of flames became unbearable and the smell of her own flesh roasting would have brought vomiting had she still had a working stomach or gullet, no kindly God-figure was waiting to scoop her up from the agonising moments prior to bodily release, and that no subsequent elevation to sainthood could justify treating a human being like a hog-roast.


And what, I ask, about the millions massacred for their beliefs who, through belonging to so-called Heathen sects, do not deserve the Martyr’s Tabard, the footnote in a book of all saints, the appellation of ‘St’ to their names, the showing of their miraculously-preserved bodies in ancient crypts?

Unmarked graves. Unmarked lives. Unmartyred. But horribly dead all the same.