Monday, November 24, 2014

The Porcupine Dilemma

This is Sigmund Freud's porcupine, a bronze figurine the size of a hand, currently on loan to the Wellcome Collection as part of their Sexology exhibition. I visited over the weekend as part of one of my quarterly London trips, which always coincide with a need to get out of Manchester for a long weekend, gallery-binge and catching up with friends; more and more of whom are now living in the Big Smoke. Probably one of my favourite parts of the exhibition, this little porcupine usually sits on the desk in the Freud Museum, alongside the other statues and antiquities, and represents the 'Porcupine dilemma':

"This bronze porcupine was kept on Sigmund Freud’s desk. He thought it represented the prickliness of human relationships. Porcupines crowd together when cold; however their sharp quills cause them to move away from each other when they get too close. This forces them to shift closer and then further apart until a balance of proximity is found. Freud used this to illustrate how people can both benefit from and be harmed by those they are most intimate with." 

Some of the other wonderful materials on show include Marie Stopes' 'Tabulations of Symptoms of Sexual Excitement in Solitude', a very neat hand-drawn graph chronicling her own sexual pleasure over the course of a month. At one point she notes a 'desire to be held closely around the waist til corsets become tempting, tho normally they are abhorrent', and then there's the fortnight when she's 'fearfully tired and overworked' and her libido noticeably flatlines. Throw in beautifully graphic illustrations of ladyparts on the inside of clam shells (perfect) which were given to newlywed brides, a very funny scene from Woody Allen's Sleeper which sees Diane Keaton trying to seduce him while he cleans his clarinet and a fascinating interview with a bunch of students from Mount Holyoke College (where I actually studied for a bit) about sexual identity and Women's Colleges and it was just about the nicest way to spend a rainy Sunday afternoon in London. Standing in a big crowd of people, shoulder to shoulder, all chin-stroking whilst peering at penis-shaped water jugs; there's something about that which is nice and cheeky and good for the soul.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

The Weekend List: No. 11

It's been almost two months since I last posted. Things have been plodding along nicely and I'd barely realised it's been so long. There have been lots of nice goings on, like seeing Philip Glass play earlier in the month, a trip over to Liverpool to see Le Gateau Chocolat's Black as part of Homotopia Festival (seriously recommend you seek Le Gateau Chocolat out if you can; the most honest, witty, wonderful piece of theatre I've seen recently). There was a big, exciting reunion with university friends which saw 40 of us crowded around a friend's table in East Finchley, smashing at kilos of crabs with rolling pins, catching up with those back from months of travelling around the world and generally falling back in love with each other. Back in Manchester, and now that it's growing colder, I've been nesting at home, writing, exploring new podcasts and getting my head around my prehistoric storage heating system. 

At work, we were involved with an exciting project involving an artistic takeover at the beautiful Central Library with lots of free and unusual interventions, something I was so proud to see happening in our city. I often find myself disheartened by the fact that truly public spaces in cities seem increasingly few and far between; with many of them privately owned and councils quick to sell a scrap of land off to another developer rather than reserving it as a place for citizens to just sit and be. I'm always on the lookout for more public spaces to enjoy without having to justify my presence by consuming coffee, and libraries and churches are the last bastions. For this reason, it was refreshing to see lots of talented people use the library space to share their work for free, with people who might not otherwise ever get a chance to see it.

Alongside all of this, I've been popping down to Bristol on the train to spend time with my Granny who is feeling increasingly unwell, but as fabulous as ever. Last month we sat on a bench in the local park, all wrapped up against the Autumn chill and laughed that our relationship with each other will probably be the most successful, loving and understanding that either of us will have. Last weekend we stayed indoors curled up on a giant floral sofa each and talked about how long it's taken either of us to get to grips with female anatomy, how bizarrely detached we were from understanding how our bodies function. "We must have learned about all of this in biology?" "We were fifteen, I suppose we felt we had more pressing things on our minds..?" 

Without further ado, then, is a new edition of the Weekend List. Do what you need to do. Pop the kettle on, wrap a blanket over your shoulders and read, play and listen. 

Illustration by Phoebe Wahl, "Mama of Dada" Beatrice Wood and Nick Drake. 


“I have issues with the idea that if someone does or says something wrong that there is no coming back, and that is the kind of person they are now and always. That’s never been true for anybody that wants to learn and wants to grow.” Ashley Ford being interviewed as part of Women on women writing online, a new series from cool Guardian intern Sarah Galo.

"When I am creating, I love my body." Phoebe Wahl's brilliant body-positive illustrations. (Thanks to Kate for the tip.)

"The second kind of freedom to me that is important in the media if the idea of giving freely. When you feel or sense that someone is giving you something not out of profit, but out of self-respect, Christian charity, whatever it is. That has a very powerful energy. The Guardian, in my understanding, was founded by an endowment by a successful man with a social conscience who wanted to help create a voice for what I call the little guy. So they have a kind of moral mission or imperative. This has given them the latitude to try to be interesting, thoughtful, helpful. And they bring Edward Snowden to the world stage. Something that is not pleasant for a lot of people to hear about, but we need to know." If you haven't listened to Iggy Pop's John Peel Lecture for BBC 6 Music yet, save it for Sunday night when you're pottering about and getting yourself mentally prepared for Monday. It's a good sentiment to absorb before the start of a new week. (Alternatively read the transcript here)

Sustainability and sex, or the very cool Father-Daughter team behind natural condom company Sustain.


I've passed the honeymoon period with Call Your Girlfriend; we're plodding along just fine but I'm looking for new podcasts that make me guffaw or feel as thoughtful as CYG did in the early days. This week I listened to Savage Lovecast while I cooked dinner. I downloaded, heard Dan Savage talking about reclaiming the word pussy, and dispensing advice to somebody trying to recover their sexuality after sexual assault I thought this is it. Thoughtful, pragmatic, intelligent and funny (if you can overlook the comedic level of adverts). Here's Dan on the P-word:

"Remember, pussies are strong, they chew up semen and spit out humans! It's scrotums that are weak and vulnerable... you give them a tap and the guy is on the ground. So we should use the word 'scrote' instead of pussy."

Paul Smith and Peter Brewis- Barcelona (at Eye Level);

Make Our Garden Grow 

99 Percent Invisible: Three Records From Sundown. Nick Drake special. 


Alan Turing's Love Letter Generator is true romance.

10 Female Dada artists you should know

Gabriella Boyd.