Thursday, August 24, 2006

I Think I Might Have Been Revising...

It’s curious how we can create a fate map, know what cells will form what limbs, nerves, brain and gut, when the ball of cells is only a few days old – so young its age is still counted in hours post-fertilization. That you can go “these cells here, they’re going to form the skin, and these here are going to form the brain” when all you have is a disc just three cells thick. You spend hours reading of dissections, scientists removing first this bit and then that, to see how the cells change their development – “if we remove this bit here, then turn it around and stick it back in, does it make any difference?” – and yet the first time you do it yourself, cut into an egg to remove the chicken embryo, you’re surprised how human it looks. Birds and humans and dogs and crocodiles all look the same at that stage, until the skeleton develops beyond the faintest suggestion of differentiating cells, the brain is more than one end of a darker line that traces the length of the notochord, the cells that aren’t nerves or muscles or even a mix of the two but just cells, parasites off another body and incapable of feeling.

The first time you remove an embryo from its egg, it’s a little blob. The next, you can define a head, here, and eyes – horribly out of proportion – and the faintest suggestion of a limb, not much more than a bump in the rounded comma that exsanguinates under your scalpel. You tell yourself that it can’t feel – it’s dead anyway, if it were to develop any more it would have horrific deformities; indeed the embryo in the next egg is slightly more developed, and if you look closely you can see the start of encephaly. But a tiny part of you twinges with guilt – that in order to learn how to save lives, you must first learn to end lives that never began, study their development under a microscope, dissect limb – with the first growths of bones faintly visible – from body to grow on in artificial fluids. Connect what you see to the pictures in the textbook of the adult dog – connect it to the cadaver in front of you leaking formalin into a bucket. Connect it to the hands in front of you, the bones arranged in an almost identical pattern; carpals to metacarpals to phalanges, no longer humanized but merely another anatomical study. Flex your wrist as you read, already correcting yourself to call it the metacarpal joint, trying to observe the sliding of tendon and muscle under skin, naming deep digital flexor and interossus muscle, knowing that the arrangement of the forearm in front of you is not so different from the dissected forelimb of a few hours ago.

And people wonder why I have such a sick sense of humour.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

chez moi

I’ve lost the wire to my internet connection. I’m not even sure if I actually have internet connection, but as the little wire which runs from this laptop to the phone socket is essential to testing the fact, I’m rather stymied. So I’ll write this now, and post it up later, when I either find the connection, or get out the house and return to halls. Where I have internet, I’m playing for internet – so I will use internet.

I’ve moved house. After five – yes, five – car trips (admittedly, four of those in a fiesta barely large enough for the three of us, let alone my stuff) and two days, myself and the bunsters are in place. The bunsters are sitting in their cage, ignoring me. Their cage is open, but the excitement of exploring has been passed on in favour of nap time. They’ve explored; I’ve blocked off the sofa, and all the fun has gone out of it.

Another train rumbles along under the house. The underground runs directly – I have no idea how far – below the house. It’s the house’s only fault, really. No doubt I shall get used to it.

So far, the living room appears relatively complete. I need a desk – I’m sitting on the floor – and the sofa is hidden under a mountain of clothes. I have a few bits and pieces to sort out, but the books are on the shelves, the cds are beside them, and there is a pleasant sort of homeliness to that. I find a room without books is bare; eventually more books will find their way into my bedroom, probably more as the shelves get too full. They’re looking full now, really, or at least the lower ones are – the higher ones are too high for me to reach without a stepladder. Or a chair (I also need a chair). I don’t know who put the shelves up, but it seems silly to have put them up so high. Perhaps they were incredibly tall.

I can hear the taps running as the people upstairs run their water. I haven’t yet figured out how the hot water works (it’ll be fun showering in the morning). Nor have I met the people upstairs, except via a rather snitty note requesting me to not lock one of the locks on the door, as they only have one key for it between the three of them. Ignoring for a moment how three people can live in the flat upstairs (which is no bigger than mine, and possibly smaller) I wonder why they haven’t had copies made. It would make sense, really.

But anyway. I will go to bed, in my newly made bed with its new sheets, leaving the bunsters to nap as they choose. I have to find my nightclothes first, however.

I have yet to start unpacking the bedroom.