Friday, 31 August 2007

Sleep Deprivation Sucks

It's a push to finish two papers due for university. One is an editing job, the other is my own writing. 8,000 and 2,500 words respectively. I've been staring at my laptop screen for the past hour and a half and it's all beginning to resemble a great big stupid whirlwind of text and b.s. and speculation. I'm whining today because I need a nap and I cannot function on three hours of sleep. I am a big old baby. Have a lovely weekend-I'm going to sign off now and go make z's.

Thursday, 30 August 2007

Paris, please.

One return ticket, Waterloo to Gare du Nord. November. I'm really hopeful about scrounging an invitation. I think I deserve to hang out with a few of my tres cool bloggernacle-y friends. Yea! Cameron Diaz hasn't been invited but SML has asked if I'm in. I'm in!

Wednesday, 29 August 2007

Charlie has left the building...

Six years ago, when I first moved to the UK, I had a lot of time on my hands before I got a proper job. I used to potter about the estate looking for something to do, someone to talk to, some semblance of something interesting - usually to no avail. Living in London without money or purpose is depressing and bleak. There are only so many times a visit to a museum will do, throughout the week.
Next door to me lived a man who was a bit old and crotchety. If I saw him out collecting his post from his entryway I would say 'hello' and he would invariably ask me if I had seen so-and-so lately, or whether I knew when the trash bins were going to be collected, or who I was and why was I living in London. It didn't seem that he was ever interested in my answers and he'd just totter back inside his flat, wave his walking stick good-bye and resume doing whatever it was that he did. Sometimes I would think that maybe he was lonely but he never accepted invitations for cups of tea, neither did he offer one. Eccentric, I thought. Anti-social, perhaps.

We moved to the seacoast a few years after that but kept the house next to Charlie, renting it out to two different couples. Moving back meant reacquainting ourselves with the neighbours. Charlie, it seemed, had suffered a stroke and been moved into a retirement home to recuperate. His brother, a dentist in a red Merc, always stopped by and we'd ask after Charlie (or 'Chaaaarles' as he referred to himself over the phone when he rang Jay for something). Charlie was hanging in there and hoped to be back in the flat soon, but his brother was a bit more realistic, we thought.
Charlie died not long after that, still in the retirement home, still in Twickenham. I found his obituary online. His agent came by to see whether he could put some of Charlie's stuff in the extra bins on the estate. I took out a sack of rubbish later that night and noticed that there were Christmas decorations stuffed to the top of one of them. I came back inside and told Jay and we both had a moment for Charlie.

Postscript: Jay just came in with a small boxing trophy, circa 1940, found in one of the rubbish bins. We're keeping it even though we were only offered his barbeque.

Monday, 27 August 2007

Lemon Yellow, Forest Green, Sky Blue, Red-Violet, Burnt Sienna

I'm sitting in a hard chair, at a keyboard, typing away on subjects that I know too little about-metanarratives, identity, tribalism and visual language. The weather is warm outside but autumn is definitely on its way, there is the smell of cooler wind and the rustle of leathery dried leaves on branches. The sunlight is quickly moving south on the horizon. These are, perhaps, the Northern Hemisphere's sure signs of seasonal change. In England, autumn means the spiders are out spinning webs and windows and doorways and gardens are full of gauzy silk, threaded taut or sprung from their moorings, waiting for lazy flies and dying wasps to stumble in. The sloe berries on the blackthorn bushes up the street have the beginnings of a dusky bloom - I'll pick them in a few weeks when it's a bit colder - there's nothing like a glass of sloe gin on ice, during the winter holiday season. Autumn here means apples and cider from Kent and Somerset. Autumn here means inexplicable rituals like Bonfire Night in Lewes. Autumn means the last Bank Holiday Monday for a long, long time, and rich, brown and smooth conkers. Autumn for me, personally, means an unidentifiable melancholy that lasts until the end of October. Autumn in the UK means wet washing indoors and woolen sweaters and leather jackets. Autumn is an open gate to the new year and a closed gate to feeling young.

Five months ago I wished away the summer. My wish is coming true.

Tuesday, 21 August 2007

Things I've Seen

1. Three car crashes, each of which happened in front of me.

2. Stonehenge.

3. A box of photographs taken by the grandfather of a friend of mine who happened to be drafted as a soldier, in the Nazi army, during WWII. He was captured in Russia, held in gulag, allowed to keep his photos and camera, and marched back home to Germany after the war with them. Looking at them left me awestruck - I was looking at a piece of his country's, and Russia's, history that (probably) nobody outside his family had ever seen.

4. Four live rattlesnakes in the wild. Two were under rocks and two were coiled at the base of some sagebrush, back in NM.

5. The loveliest Christmas tree in the middle of an outdoor ice rink in Bruges, Belgium. The light was fading, we had stumbled onto a Christmas market with gorgeous handmade toys and crafts. Stalls were selling Gluwein and hot pastries around the square and this tree must have been about 12 meters tall! Gorgeous rosy-cheeked children were skating around the base and afterward we went and sat for hours in a stone, cavernous pub in the basement of a tavern and ordered drinks. It was picturebook perfect!

6. The Voladores, whose performance was breathtaking. They were the last act of the evening at the Gallup Intertribal Indian Ceremonial - and still are, I think. They went on after dark and a huge fire was lit in the middle of the arena. The sandstone cliffs acted as a backdrop and the firelight danced off the rocks. I could see why people believe they were messengers for the gods when they leaped off their platform, flying in lazy circles, like eagles, with their ankles tethered by ropes wound round the pole. The only noise in the arena was the tinny sound of the flutist, perched at the top of the platform, high above the ground.

What are some amazing things you've seen? Have they changed who you are or how you look at life?

Sunday, 19 August 2007

A More Optimistic Al Gore

Hello Everyone,

Just thought you might want to see a great little movie on youtube. Oft times, we are so inundated with doom and gloom scenarios that tell us our planet is going to hell in a handbasket. This little short is a bit different. It's been made for a Friends of the Earth film competition. If it touches you to think that we can make a difference and we do have the power to turn around the mess we've helped create, then maybe you'll leave a general/anonymous comment on youtube saying that you've enjoyed the film. Also, you can see the films that others have made for this same competition and see their input to this important topic.

It's important that as many people from around the world get involved in this project, so if you know of someone who might enjoy seeing the films, direct them to the youtube site. Also, iif you would like to make a general comment on any of the films, you will need to have a 'free' youtube account, however, you are welcome to view the films without requiring an account. I think Al Gore would be suitably impressed.


Friday, 17 August 2007

An Arse Full of Needles

Two days ago I hoisted a 12 kilo bag of squirming-toddler-boy onto my shoulders, picked up his trike and headed to Kennington Park. We crossed the streets and he pointed out all the cars, buses, bicycles and taxis on the way. He's the only one of his playmates that gets this worked up over traffic and it causes the majority of our delays because he insists on showing me this 'car' and that 'bus'. I will have to tell him at some stage that there are other objects in this world that he'd do well to learn the names of, too.

Lifting him down off my shoulders in the park, I felt a burning in my side and cursed in as many other languages as I could remember - I would like to publicly apologise to all the Spanish-speaking people in Kennington Park who thought I might have been indecently proposing their mother. Obviously, I don't want to be the one who teaches him the word 'f*ck', that just might jeopardise my Christmas bonus. Anyway, the pain didn't go away and, in fact, it threw me to the garden decking last night in front of his grandparents when I bent down to pick up some of his toys. At the SO's insistence I phoned up a friend of ours who also happens to be a massage therapist and acupuncturist and she agreed to see me, this morning, before her first appointment.

By the end of our one hour session, my back was putty, I had needles sticking out of various bits of my body (it's amazing how one's inhibitions fall when lying face down on a massage table) and I haven't had a twinge of jarring pain for the past three hours. I've signed up for another session - it's the best £35 I've spent this month.

Wednesday, 15 August 2007

A Pasty Full of Memories

Thank you Cornwall for giving us such a delightful week of rest! For the next month I will be trawling the property pages looking for Cornish cottages to buy, once I've won on the premium bonds. The weather was perfect - most days were about 75-80F with a slight breeze and by the end of our week we were acquainted with the woman from next door, who helped us sort out what we could and couldn't recycle, the people from the tiny local shop, who stocked one of 'everything' in the world! I kid you not, if I had gone in and asked for a steel-belted radial tire they would have shuffled about and found one under the guinea pig food. We walked along the footpaths across fields and farms until we hit the coastline and, then, when we lost our way off the footpaths we trudged back up to our 17th century stone cottage inSt. Buryan via a muddy bog that was supposed to be a road. We went to Lands End and I was as close to the US as I could have been without getting on a plane bound for the States. I took one of the SO's nieces (they were staying in another cottage in another town) with me to St Ives - and SML, you're right there is something amazing about the light. St Ives wins its reputation for being an artists' haven for good reason. We visited Tate St Ives and saw the show pulled together to celebrate all things Brian Wilson...

I bought a watercolour painting in Sennen Cove. The woman makes the same mistakes I make in my painting - it was overworked, too tight and lacking in emotion. I loved it! Just to piss the SO off, I'm going to hang it in our bathroom in Brighton. It has an appropriate marine theme and what's a bathroom without fish, dolphins or shells? Don't answer that, it was a rhetorical question...though this painting is some boat rigging and rusting equipment

We ate far too many pasties (not the burlesque accessories) and drank a few pints of Tribute Ale, which was the locally brewed stuff - yum!

All in all it was a brilliant holiday. The very best part of it was that I managed to avoid a nasty visit from Sam & Ella. Last year's holiday in Kefalonia was marred by a bout of Montezuma's Revenge that we suspect was transmitted by one of the feral cats on the island - I'm (mostly) vegetarian and ate the same food as my veggie SO. The temptation to pet a tiny, scruffy feline, which lived poolside at the hotel where we were staying, was too much for me and little did I know that my compassion for skinny strays was going to cost me 10 days (out of a 7 day holiday) of recuperation, plus a visit to the Argostoli hospital, two courses of antibiotics and some very undignified days spent in the hotel toilet. Beware of Greek kitties!

I can't wait for the next holiday and knowing how quickly time is passing these days, October will be upon us and we'll be packing our bags for a week in Krakow, Poland...

The Girl who Flew Away

Yesterday was such a weird day. We got a phone call from a friend who told us that one of our acquaintances had died. I think life had been too much for her lately.

We hadn't seen her in a few years and the last time was just a quick passing in the street when we exchanged a few polite words and a suggestion of getting together sometime for a drink. That was it, really, and I hadn't thought of her much since.

There was a point in time this past week when I was washing my hands, taking a drink of water, eating some food or snuggling up to the SO and watching a movie, and at that same moment V was jumping or falling over a cliff. I feel weird even though I am sure that I factor so insignificantly into this event. As my SO said, the anguish she must have felt is over. I still feel weird...

Saturday, 4 August 2007

One Week Off

The SO and I are going to take wonder pup (see photo at right) to the coast for a week in the Cornish sun...I won't have online access until my return. Here's wishing you all a fabulous week.

Au revoir!


Friday, 3 August 2007

Gotta Getta Meme Results

1. If you could empower one woman in one way, who would it be, and what way would you empower her?

I am going to be quite selfish and say: ME. I would like to have the power to fly. Actually, I'd like to empower a few of my women friends with money - money buys time, options and security...oh, and plane tickets.

2. Which celebrity would you like to see dress in drag?

Can I just rephrase your question and ask which celebrity I'd most like to see half-dressed in a nun's habit? I suppose the serious answer to your question is: Fiddy Cent. I think he'd secretly like it.

3. If you could catapult yourself to any place and time, where would you go, and why?

To the Year 3000, just to see if everybody bought Busted's seventh album. Or, maybe just 1000 years into the future, just to see what we've made of ourselves or whether we're a footnote in history and the chimps have taken over.

4. Paper or plastic?

Paper's pretty but plastic's fantastic! Yeah, I don't know why I said that really...

5. Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings?

Neither. Logan's Run is my choice for sci-fi/fantasy because it's camp and has a quite creepy ending, or at least it seemed that way back in the 1970s.

6. Chocolate or vanilla?

Both, in every way, shape and form.

7. You've had a good life. What are the three moments/accomplishments in your life you're proudest of?

Hmm. I'm proud that I truly try to think for myself these days. I really dig evidence-based knowledge.

I'm proud to have been part of a que*r youth movement, in Boston, in the early 90s - it was an exciting (but still quite tricky) time to be out.

I'm proud that I've seemingly cracked having meaningful relationships in my life - I think there were points where I could have gone down more destructive paths and I've managed to rein it in before folly took over and destroyed my universe.

8. What do you miss most about New Mexico? And why?

I miss Hatch green chile. Nothing is more quintessential to New Mexican cuisine than this ingredient - it's in everything savoury, for good reason!! It brings back all the tastes of childhood for me whenever I managed to lay my hands on some. By the by, green chiles do taste lovely on pepperoni pizza.

9. If you had a motto, what would it be?

Nihil curo de ista tua stulta superstitione

10. What would be your final message to a loved one?

I'm tempted to use Spike Milligan's epitaph as my final message, just for a laugh, but I have to say that it would probably just be, 'Ta, it's been great.'

11. Which way is up?

Every which way...

Up is not down, unless you live in the southern hemisphere. Out is not in unless you're in Brighton. New is not old unless you live in the States. One is not two unless you're a Virgo.

12. How would you like to be remembered?

I'd like for people to remember me as a lucky bastard...

The Winner Is...

Firstly, thanks to everyone who participated. As you can see, I've managed to answer them all. It was great fun and I learned a lot about myself in the process. I hope to be able to use these answers in an upcoming job interview or if I have to chat up a pretty girl, in the future.

The winner is: Sister Mary Lisa! Her meme question about the catapulting through time and place was my boss's favourite question. My boss said that not only would it cause me to think about where I was at this moment in time, but it was an example of my snarkiness to initially respond with the 'Busted' comment.

Thank you SML, I will forward your prize of a LAMY Scribble Pencil to you, as soon as possible. Happy drawing and thanks for playing!

Thursday, 2 August 2007

Dreaming of Who?

Yesterday my SO and I were sitting in our living room discussing an upcoming concert for which we have managed to purchase four tickets. Obviously, we only need two tickets and so we were going through our list of friends and acquaintances we thought might enjoy chumming along to watch the "Great Purple One Who Used To Be A &*%£ But Now Has Reclaimed His Former Name". We managed to phone up one dear friend of ours who happily agreed to join us, however, we were still left with a solitary ticket. It won't be a problem to find another to be a fourth for our posse. The ticket, though, figures nicely into the dream I had last night.

Scene 1

(Scene opens in Aitch's living room. Aitch and Jay are sitting on the couch discussing the fourth ticket)

J: I don't know who we'll get to take this fourth ticket off of our hands.

H: I know. I'll ask Cameron Diaz, (*yes, I know what a brilliant idea!) she'll be at work tomorrow and I'm sure she'd love to go see Prince with us.

J: Okay, that sounds great!

(Both Aitch and Jay are clapping their hands together and bouncing up and down on the sofa gleefully.)

Scene 2

(Scene opens in a jewellery store where Aitch and Cameron Diaz are working. Aitch turns to Cameron Diaz behind the counter pensively)

H: Hey Cameron, would you like to come see Prince with me and Jay and Em on the first of September?

C: (thinks for a moment) Um, I can't really. I could get really good seats and backstage passes, but thanks for reminding me that I need to get out of the house more!

H: Okay.

(Aitch turns to a woman who has come up to the counter to look at some rather delicate tumbled stone earrings (*I know, what an oxymoron!) and the woman decides that she will take an assorted pack filled with malachite, quartz and lapis. Aitch turns to ring up the customer. Dream ends.

*Cameron, if you're out there and you feel like going to a Prince concert on the 1st of September, we've got an extra ticket (for now...).

Wednesday, 1 August 2007

A Story for the Day

Last night I watched the beginning of the news at 10 o'clock. The lead story was Gordon Brown's press statement with his support for the UN to send 19,000 troops to Sudan. The pictures accompanying the story were harrowing and I have no doubt that the situation in and around the Darfur region is horrific. It's painful to watch people reduced to skeletal ghosts, feeling quite helpless to do anything for them...I can only cross my fingers that 19,000 troops will begin to restore the region to some semblance of order and humanity.

I used to work in mental health on the southeast coast of England. One of the psychiatrists in the office was originally from Sudan. I never got his full story but I do know that he said he could never go back, and not because he didn't want to. He kept his story out of my office, so I had to rely upon hearsay. I imagine that most of the world's diaspora would like to visit home, at least occasionally, and that he was kept from doing this must have been painful.

One day this psychiatrist came into my office to ask me to prepare a report. I had had an argument with my SO that morning and I was feeling menstrual moodiness, to top it all off. I started to get a bit teary after he asked me to type up the report - it was nothing in the delivery of his request that set me off, I was just feeling uncharacteristically blue. He noticed that I began to cry and I could see he was clearly uncomfortable. It wasn't that he wasn't used to tears or sadness, after all he was a psychiatrist! It was all he ever dealt with: tears, depression, paranoia, anxiety and trauma. He left my office and I took a few deep breaths, regained my composure and started typing. Moments later, this psychiatrist from Sudan returned with a stress pencil and a smile.

"Aitch," he said, "whistle. You cannot cry if you whistle." He plopped the fuzzy stress pencil down on my desk and I smiled at him. It was a smile that was returned with a sweet and gracious smile of his own. His words got me through the day and, indeed, they keep me going if I'm feeling a bit sorry for myself.

Africa has a lot to teach the world, but the world mainly focuses on its pain. The Sudanese psychiatrist may not ever get back to Sudan. His pain was private and the pictures on my television set inform me of how bad things are in Darfur in an oh-so-public way. I am privy to the spectacle that is created out of someone else's tragedy, all in the journalistic pursuit to draw attention to this crisis. How do I feel about this? I cannot say. It's a toss-up between wanting to cry and wanting to whistle.