Sunday, 11 December 2011

In Which I Ramble About Exams & Books;

That may be the most expositional title I've ever used.

Hi! So, I'm blogging from a place of no deadlines, no responsibilities, and no clutter on my desk, also known as the CHRISTMAS HOLIDAYS :D!!!!

Of course, to get here I had to traverse the nightmare landscape that is exams. Let's recap, shall we?

Well, Classics was cancelled on Thursday due to Death Winds, or Hurricane Bawbag if you're from this neck of the woods. Friday was double English, Language in the morning and Literature in the afternoon. Language was one of those 30 multiple-choice EDPAC sheets you have to fill in with an HB pencil. It started at 9.30, most people were done by 10, and they wouldn't let us leave until the exam ended at 11, so I got to sit for an hour contemplating the fact that this was theee worst piece of crap I've ever handed in. At one point I got so bored I started counting the fleur-de-lis on the columns.

Outside, where it continued to be frost-bitingly freezing, I checked my phone and amongst other things, there was a message from Meejin saying 'Good luck good luck we all wish you good luuuuuuuuuck' as Phoebe Buffay sings. Then I headed to the QMU to meet my friend who was just in the same exam but in a different Hogwarts hall, and we spent the next hour and a half wandering around Byers/Great Western Road trying to stay warm and appease her appearing and disappearing appetite. In the end we just sat upstairs in the QMU, which is charmingly rustic, with a heaped plate of gloopy macaroni cheese on one half and a mountain of chips on the other. Oh, and a can of Cream Soda for extra class. And so we counted down the minutes till it was time to fail miserably by alternately singing, whimpering and laughing. And I totally got caught in the Circle of Freak Out, whereby I started freaking out because I wasn't freaking out except I wasn't really freaking out about not freaking out, and that made me freak out, except not really. You can see where this is going, right?

The Kelvin Gallery was decked out like it was awaiting a wedding party and not two hundred English students in varying states of consciousness, and I managed to pick the only desk in my row (number 5) positioned just so behind a pillar so that I couldn't see the giant clock on the screen. My friend, sitting behind, started reading out the questions and I kind of died a little inside. There was the usual 'The exits are here, here and here' from the invigilators, the exam started and I spent the first ten minutes reading the questions over and over, knowing that I was going to have to answer 2 of them but having absolutely no idea which ones. Two hours later we emerged in a state of shock and I thought, No, actually, that was the worst piece of crap I've ever handed in.

So, yeah, I'm not getting into Honors. But that's okay. I don't need an English degree. I can always make a living at um... *thinks* ...ummm *thinks some more* ... Who am I kidding, I gotta marry rich.

Anyway, exams are over, and I now have four weeks of freedom ahead of me! I completely forgot what that feels like. You know when you have so many options that it's overwhelming and you can't pick? I reckon I'll mostly read and write and see my friends for more than a couple of hours on a Friday! And cook proper meals with real vegetables @_@. Mmm. I also promised myself that I'd get a headstart on the reading for semester two because there's a lot more of it, so don't let me forget that, okay? But right now I'm just having fun watching Friends DVDs and doing absolutely arse all and NOT FEELING GUILTY ABOUT IT :).

While I was off with the cold/studying, I somehow managed to read three novels in the space of three days. If only I could read for uni that fast @_@.

1. 13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher has the most awesome premise I've heard in a while. So simple, and yet so compelling! Clay Jensen (ignore the name for now, focus on the story) comes home from school one afternoon to find a shoebox full of cassette tapes (LOVE!) on his doorstep. Enter Hannah Baker, who over the course of 7 tapes, 13 sides, explains the reasons, and the people, who drove her to commit suicide two weeks earlier. Creepy, right? I loved this book enormously, but I'll spare you a review and cart myself over to Amazon instead.

2. An Abundance of Katherines by John Green was like the antidote to the previous book. I have a nice little story about it. A few weeks ago when I was yet again in that bookshop beginning with W and ending in an apostrophe S where I always am, Meejin and I ventured into the Young Adult section. Okay, it's less of a section and more of a corner, but whatever, it used to be merged with the kids' section to make one extended 9-15 area, and anyone over 15 was just kind of left out in the bookless cold :(. So, we go in to have a nostalgic looksie, and in amongst all the paranormal romance stuff, I spot a familiar name and begin squealing and jumping up and down. I love John Green because He Is Awesome, end of. An Abundance of Katherines was facing me, so I picked it up, flicked through the pages... and out fell some scrap lined paper. Intrigued, I opened the missives only to find they were notes for other John Green fans! Or, more specifically, Nerdfighters. You can go look that up for yourselves. Naturally, I took pictures, and then put the book back. Every time I went in to Waterstone's after that I went to see if the book was still there and if anyone had left any new notes. There's just something so romantic and exciting about it, don't you think? Complete strangers bonding over books like that, it's lovely. Then on the day I-was-v.-v.-sick-and-looked-like-I'd-been-crying-but-hadn't-been, I was once more in Waterstone's waiting for la friend, and to pass the time I went downstairs and got the book. And then proceeded to read and cough into it for the next hour and a half. After that I felt obligated to buy it, notes and all. I didn't want to because that meant I was ruining the note-leaving thing, but I also didn't want anyone else getting infected with my mega germs, so, you know. It was a selfless act, really. Anyway, I devoured that book in one sitting. It was laugh-out-loud funny, completely quirky and yet still completely grounded in reality, touching without being maudlin, and also rather politically brave! Spontaneous anagramming, footnotes, Dumpee/Dumper mathematical theorems, 19 Katherines and 1 washed-up child prodigy - what's not to love? I also now can't stop saying fug and fugging. Read the book, you'll understand.

3. Rosemary's Baby by Ira Levin. Weren't expecting that, were ya? Well, neither was I. I bought it on a whim a couple of months ago and banished it to my drawer, but when the storm came the other day and I didn't feel like cramming, I took my mother's lead and read instead. You know the way you only intend to read the first few pages of a book and end up reading the entire goddamn thing, forgoing food and drink and sleep? Yeah. I've never seen the film, and I thought of reading the book as research, as a prelude, but it was amazing, and oh-so-creepy! The storm helped, too.

Man, if only I could make a living from reading books and then talking about them. That would be great. Or talking a lot about nothing, I could do that too.

So, I've gleefully scrunched up all my notes and chucked them in the recycle bin (eco, baby) and can once more see the surface of my desk after two months of, well, not being able to see it. And, holy freak show, how I have missed it! I could write a ballad expressing the love I have for my desk, and perhaps I will at some point, but not tonight. Just know that I love it and its little pull-out extension <3. I also signed myself up for a creative writing workshop my uni is doing through next semester, so that'll be fun :). If scary. I also think I'm falling in love with the Beach Boys. And tomato-cucumber-and-cheese sandwiches on wholemeal bread. And my heater.

Anyway, since I have nothing else of consequence to report (which is probably a good thing) and four weeks worth of podcasts to catch up on, I'll be off now! Laterzzzzzzzzz




Monday, 5 December 2011

When In Doubt;

How would you finish that sentence? Everyone will have a variation. When I'm in doubt about something I kind of grind to a halt, so I like to do something active, even if it's not a direct solution to the problem. Sometimes I cook, or clean, or go out, because the physical exertion of it makes me feel as though I'm actively working through the problem, and a lot of the time the Tetris blocks just click into place without me even thinking about it. But if I'm being honest, I implement that trio because I want to be distracted and to escape for a little while. There's nothing wrong with that, as long as I fully intend to come back. But there are times, like now, when the problem is that I'm already distracted, so instead of doing something to take my mind off the problem, I need to confront it. Writing helps me do that. Sometimes the thoughts in my head are like a big knot of string, and I need to find the ends to gently untangle it into one long coherent piece again. It might not solve the problem, whatever it is, but it helps me get things straight so I can see exactly what I'm dealing with. And then I can say okay, and compartmentalise until I have time to come back to it. It's more the vagueness of the problem that is distracting, rather than the problem itself. If I'm not entirely sure what I'm dealing with, it gets bigger and bigger in my head, so this is a way of bringing it back down to a much more manageable size.


I guess the two central pillars of the problem are 1) I have exams at the end of this week, and 2) I can't seem to study. Or maybe that should read 1) I can't seem to study because 2) I have exams at the end of this week. See, I'm pretty sure I'm not going to do terribly well in these exams. First of all because the workload this semester has been insane to the point where I've had to abandon some of the reading because there is no possible way I could get through it all in time, and secondly because I've missed a week of uni due to being ill. Two of the exams I'm not overly fussed about, but if I want to get into English Honors (which I do, duh) I need to get at least a B first time around. No resits for Honors candidates. And, okay, I've never gotten below a B before in English, but I didn't enjoy the course as much this semester, the lecturers were totally hit and miss, the texts were difficult (I gave up on Redgauntlet and Troilus & Cressida) and I'm starting to doubt my whole theory about it being scientifically impossible to fail an English exam. Me and my friend were half-greeting about what would happen if we got a C, and I honestly couldn't imagine what would happen because getting an English degree is the way my life has to go, there is no other option, I cannot allow myself to fail this round. I'd have to resit the entire year, and that idea of time being written over again and yet not actually stopping, of me not advancing and wasting 365 days, that really scares me. Because I feel like it would just be one more nail on the coffin. So much of my life is spent waiting. Sometimes I feel so passive in my own life. When I look back at how deeply unhappy I was at this time last year, I know I'm not unhappy at the moment, or at least not in the same way. Maybe dissatisfied is a better word. This image keeps recurring to me over and over again: everyone is bobbing along in this current, the water's way too deep for our toes to touch the ground, and there's just enough space between the water and the underside of the ice sheet to breathe, and I'm banging on the ice trying to break through it because I know there's something up there beyond this, but it's a solid ceiling, and I'm thinking—is this as good as it gets?*


Faced with this kind of significant failure, I should be panicking. Panicking would at least motivate me to blast through my studying. But I just feel very listless. It's not that I don't care, of course I do. It's more like I've already given up on myself. And do you know what the really pathetic part is? Earlier today, when I was all preoccupied, I was thinking it'd be so great if, just for this one week, I could switch off every other need and desire in order to direct my full attention to studying. But in truth, I only really need to switch off one. All the others are symptomatic. I know that if I could fix that one glitch in my life, I would be much happier. My life would not be perfect, and I wouldn't want it to be, but it would be much fuller and less fraught with insecurity and this stultifying enervation. It would be much more complete, without sounding trite. There wouldn't be this niggling doubt always in my mind, or this shadow waiting for me when I go to bed and the whole world is silent, or this jagged piece missing from my side. I'm not ungrateful; I never forget what I have, and in my lowest moments, remembering my friends and family is what pulls me through. But still, I hate that this thing has the power to taint everything else. I hate that it forbids me from fully enjoying what I do have. I hate it, point blank.


See, I've realised that everything does come back to it. For a long time it represented all these huge issues that slammed into me from behind and sent me sprawling; I had to grab onto something, and so it became my floatation device. I pinned everything on it, reduced everything down to that one relationship, because I thought that would be easier to deal with, if everything was in one place. And then it started to drift away, so I clung on tighter, terrified of losing it and of drowning. Eventually, I realised it wasn't about that one relationship and so I worked through the other issues, but that one remained damaged, and so now, ironically, it is the actual root of the present problems. It always is. And I'm sick of it being that way. I'm sick of it always coming back to this point, of reliving it over and over like ground hog's day and never progressing, never getting any closer to a solution. I'm tired of feeling like a fourteen year old with no right to feel what I do feel and no right to say what I need to say. I'm tired of not being able to give into the moment, or give my full attention, because it is always haunting my mind. I'm tired of being pacified like a child and not being told the truth. I'm tired of being punished for finally learning how to care about someone. I'm tired of feeling like I'm walking around in a nightmare where things do not make sense, where anything could be an illusion, where everything is inside out and I'm just - lost. I'm tired of all the reminders and associations there to trip me up and bring me right back. I'm tired of thinking in the past tense, about how it used to be, and wondering what went wrong. I'm tired of doubting myself, of thinking Are you mad? Why are you mad? Do you hate me? Why do you hate me? Did I do something wrong? What did I do wrong? Because I know I did nothing wrong. I'm tired of blaming myself, of apologising, of second-guessing my anger. I'm tired of explaining myself, proving myself, defending myself. I'm tired of trying to guess what you're thinking—I shouldn't have to do that, I should know how you feel, I should know where I am. Isn't that the only thing I have ever asked of you? To tell me where I stand, and to be honest with me? I'm tired of you saying one thing and then doing another, or saying one thing and then doing nothing. I'm tired of you allowing me to be ashamed of who I am. I'm tired of being afraid that this time you're gone forever. I'd rather you used me than left me alone. And that right there is not good.


Basically, I'm tired of waiting for you to quit being a douchebag.


I keep wishing that things could go back to normal, but then I realise - we never really had a 'normal'. It's always unhealthy, this business between me and you. Unbalanced and unfair. We use each other. When you're done, you leave, and when you want more, you come back. I try to redeem myself through you. But it was different this time because I was so vividly aware of not getting attached, and then you trusted me and opened up and I couldn't be selfish, I had to care. I remember the exact moment it happened; I remember it felt like I'd just sealed myself to my fate, like I'd just chained myself to a rock that was falling ever downward. Except, you never wanted me to care, did you? You liked me better when I didn't. You liked me better when I didn't have a stake in your well-being, because you could be as selfish as you wanted. You were your own person, independent of any authority or influence. You were free. We both were.


If I had the chance to stop caring, would I take it?
No.


One small relief I have is that I regret nothing.


Here's a little story. The other day I went into Waterstone's. It's my safe place. It is a sanctuary rather than an escape. All morning I'd avoided looking at people because I was sick and I looked exactly like I'd been crying all night. But when I got to the counter to buy my hot chocolate, I glanced up at the barista. He recognised me because I'm always there, though we're not quite at the acknowledgement stage. But when he saw me he looked right into my face like he was silently asking Are you okay? And I thought, my God, can you just take me away from here and ask me what's wrong and why I've been crying and even though I haven't been I will tell you why I would like to cry and then you will say Shh, it's okay, and stroke my head and make it all better? Strangers have the power to do that. But then I thought: isn't seeking out strangers how I got into this mess in the first place?


*


Okay, I feel a little better having gotten that out :). And, *incidentally, As Good As It Gets is a great film.

Taylor Street, Australia, October 2009.
For December.




Monday, 28 November 2011

The Prime of Lime;

So the last week of the semester is off to a bad start since I am not actually in attendance. This is because I am sick. Again. Twice in two months is not a good record for someone who Does Not Get Sick. Once more around Christmas and I shall be forced to admit defeat. So since Thursday I've been experiencing all the usual symptoms: the coughing fits, the foghorn nose, the inability for your internal thermostat to remain at one temperature for more than five minutes, the constant sensation of trying to swallow a cactus/porcupine/pineapple/medieval torture device and listening to your brain cells die one by one with an audible (but very pathetic) 'pop' as you realise the myth about TV being the only good thing about being sick is a Big Fat Lie.

You know the part in wedding vows where the groom/bride says 'I take thee in sickness and in health'? Yeah, my husband's not gonna want to agree to that part. I look disgusting, I feel disgusting, I sound disgusting, I am disgusting. I am a germ factory. Instead of a hug this morning, my mother gave me a packet of antibacterial wipes to 'clean all the things you touch, sweetie :).' Aww. Motherly love, eh? Nothing else like it. Anyway, I crave fruit, I'm weepy, I'm pretty sure I'm getting a six pack from all the coughing. I'm also sitting here typing this with a tampon jammed up my right nostril because I blew my nose a little too hard and it exploded in a fountain of blood. Classy. (Sidenote: I love that when I told Meejin this, she asked "Does it work?")

Onwards & upwards, I say. So,

Children, especially those of the boy variety that I'm related to, are of the devil horrid creatures. And I do mean creatures. Why do four year olds have DS's? Why do eight year olds own mobile phones? Why don't seven year olds believe in fairies and goblins and Santa Clause anymore? Are children of this new-fangled Millennium generation even aware they have eight other fingers besides their thumbs? Have they never heard the terms "please" and "thank you"? Look, call me old fashioned all you want, but it seems to me that generational flaws are becoming apparent at earlier and earlier stages. Like, come on, draw or paint or kick a ball around or make shadow puppets or play make believe. Do something active, not reactive. Use your imagination before it becomes an obscure concept confined to history textbooks. Actually, it's really unfair of me to take it out on the kids just because they are the ones showcasing the effects; it's their parents who deserve admonishment. And a right good kick up the arse. I just hope that when I have kids, they will get excited by a power-cut rather than throw hissy fits because they can't play a game about blowing up zombies.

This week I learned that pain comes in waves, and you can either surf that wave or just stand there and let it pull you down. Sure, sometimes when you surf it you lose your balance and fall, but you just get right back up again, and you know you're always heading towards the shore. Or you can opt for secret option number 3) vomiting at the cheesiness of this metaphor. Just remember to clean it up afterwards.

I'm getting that kind of itchy/restless feeling that I want to do something to my hair. See, I have this theory that we carry a lot around in our hair. Not just smells, or—oh God!—lice, but places and times and people. Memories, basically. The past. It makes sense when you think about it. Hair is dead. By the time it's coming out of your head it's already in the past. Between 2007 and 2010, I grew my hair out long (I think I was going for that whole vintage Avril Lavigne look to coincide with my attitude). Three years is a long time to be walking around without any external variation while there is so much internal going on. That period was the most significant of my life (so far), and my hair was soaking it all up like a sponge and I was carrying it everywhere I went. Even to Australia, the purpose of which trip being to get away from everything. And man, was it getting heavy. So before I started uni last year I decided to chop it all off. Well, not all, but a good 10 inches or so. What a relief. So I've got something like that feeling again, except it's different. (Don't you hate when people say something is the same, but different?! Lol.) If I lived in a warmer country and wouldn't look funny with no hair, I'd totally shave it all off, but I am not my cousin, so the next best thing is to change its colour. Again, nothing drastic, because it's not supposed to be a bio-luminescent SCREW YOU visible from space, just something with a little more edge and definition. Like a hint of mahogany, or mulberry or something. I'm totally not opting for that end of the colour spectrum because I've been watching My So-Called Life again and Angela dyes her hair 'crimson glow' in the first episode. Honestly. Last time I dyed my hair with any amount of red it went black, and then purple @_@. Apparently this is due to the fact my hair is technically dark blonde, not brown, since there's no warmth in it, aharharhar, oh the irony.

I'm also toying with the idea of getting a tattoo. I stress TOYING. Please put away your shocked faces. Experience has taught me not to jump on the back of an impulse before you've thoroughly thought it through, Rory Gilmore style. A trillion points if you guess what the tattoo is.

My new hero is Louise Sydes, the 102 year old woman who moved to New Zealand to start a new life after her old folks' home in Kent was closed. I love her doubly because the first thing she asked for when she touched down was a cup of tea! So British :').

Right, I'm off to spread joy germs s'more. If you have exams soon, like I do, good luck. Bye!

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Cum-Wot-Mei;

LIZ: Hey, let me tell you my big, exciting news!
LUKE: Uh-oh.
LIZ: It's not an uh-oh. It's good, unless you don't like babies, in which case it's not so good.
LUKE: You're pregnant?!
LIZ: Oh, it was supposed to be a surprise. Who told you?
LUKE: You just did.
LIZ: Wow, I blew my own surprise.
LUKE: That's great, Liz. It's great, right?
LIZ: Amazing. I am over the moon.
LUKE: Well, sit, sit. You're in a delicate state.
LIZ: I am gonna take care of myself this time, big brother. I'm gonna do all the healthy things for me I did not do last time I was pregnant--like not binge drink.
LUKE: Good plan. So, where's T.J.? I mean, he must be thrilled about this.
LIZ: Ah, he's gone.
LUKE: Gone? You mean gone out of town?
LIZ: He's gone, the big "gone out of my life." Do you have Matzo Brie?
LUKE: What? Liz, no.
LIZ: Okay. How 'bout a Denver omelet?
LUKE: I mean, no, T.J. can't be gone. He's your husband.
LIZ: Since when does that keep guys from leaving?
LUKE: He left you?
LIZ: He left.
LUKE: How can you be so calm about this? You're so calm about this.
LIZ: Because I got my new come-what-may philosophy.
LUKE: Your what?
LIZ: My philosophy. It's about accepting what comes your way, whatever it is. If a bus is heading right at you, let it come. If a piece of space junk comes hurtling down at you, let it come.
LUKE: Or you step out of the way.
LIZ: You know, that's probably better, and when I said what I said now, it felt wrong.



Okay, so I'm with Luke in that if anything which could potentially flatten you into human pâté is hurtling your way, best thing to do is take a couple steps in the opposite direction. But if you've studied philosophy at all, you'll probably know that no single philosophy is foolproof. There are always exceptions. But on the whole, I think Liz's Cum-Wot-Mei philosophy is a pretty darn good one as long as you don't end up becoming a total door mat. As pointed out by Luke, certain situations do not provide exemplary conditions for Cum-Wot-Mei thinking, and that's where you gotta be selective. Space junk? Not unless you are a dinosaur. Big red bus? Maybe stay on the pavement. Pack of hungry rhinoceroses (I'm having total James & the Giant Peach flashbacks)? Run for your fecking life. Certain people who say one thing and do another? YOU BETCHA.

I know you're all getting tired of this back-and-forth, up-and-down, yo-yo thing I've got going on, and believe me, I ain't exactly thrilled about being a spineless turd either. But for better or worse, this is my venting space, so I will defend myself to myself no longer. At least you guys have the option not to read—I have to deal with my own whining on a till-death-do-us-part basis. 

ANYWAY *clears throat*.

So, last week I'm out having ho-cho (say it like Lorelai Gilmore or not at all) with Markus, and we're watching a guy having sex with his own nostril catching up on life, and he's all "Check out my chocolate powder star. I got it cause I paid extra worked my charm on the barista." Yeah. Anyway. Towards the end of the day the conversation turns to me and Markus asks how the ol' love life is ticking along. After much face-making and coaxing I explain to the best of my ability what is going on in that strange Venn diagram area through a scattering of disjointed phrases and mumbles and sighs, and Markus, nice gentleman that he is, and not at all for his own amusement, tells me to text the stupid bastard, to which I'm all "Dude, NO, because if I do then he will not reply and I will cry and you will have to sit here with me crying and you will feel very, very awkward because you are made of stone and that will just totally ruin our nice ho-cho outing." Markus then points out that girls cry all the time anyway. And I spot the cumulus nimbus hovering above my head and I SWEAR it is darker in here than it was five minutes ago, and I'm all "URGH FML. He makes me feel SICK." "Sick in a good way?" "Yes Markus, I love feeling like my oesophagus is going to yank itself inside out at any given bloody moment." Etc, etc. Then Markus, who can be quite a wise old bird sometimes, says, "If he's a good guy, you should hold onto him." Now, I don't know whether it's because this was the first male perspective I had on the subject and directly conflicted with all other advice, (which has been along the general lines of replying to my immature explosions of "Stupid bastard" and "Assmunch" with supportive sequiturs about my not deserving it anymore and concern over my future well-being etc.), or because Markus is one of those Man of Few Word types, so that anything succinct that comes out of his mouth invariably sounds like the wisest thing you've ever heard in your life and you pay it more attention than you might otherwise. Funny thing is, my reaction to his words o' wisdom was not in any way influenced by the fact it was what I wanted to hear, because, honestly? It wasn't.

Fast-forward to later that evening. A text is sent. No nausea. (And by nausea, I do not mean the nice butterfly kind that you get when you're like fourteen. I mean omg, get me a bucket.) Instead there is a kind of subdued meh. A shrugging of the shoulders. An almost boredom. This is usually a sign that I KNOW I'm going to get nothing back. I'm psychic, you see. And, hey presto! Nada. Niente. And, I don't know, something in me was like, HOKAY-COKEY, TIME TO MOVE ON.ORG, BABE. Like, for real this time. I'd said it many times before, but I just wasn't ready, you know? This time it seemed to flow naturally. It's a funny old situation, moving on from something you've never really allowed yourself to be on in the first place, mixed with letting a really great friendship go. But whatever. I'm a fan of the whole "things happen when they're supposed to" philosophy, and that goes both ways, not just for stuff that you gain and which progresses you forward, but also for stuff like this, where you might appear to lose, but you gain in the long-run. So the night wore on, and I examined how I felt about the whole situation, cause that's what I do. It's my thing, let it go. And at the same time as it was difficult to feel the emotions, it was also a relief because it meant I hadn't gone numb, the way I did before, and the way I told him I didn't want to again. I, like, MOURNED, right there and then, like A Big Girl, like an adult. I was kind of proud, if I do say so myself, because I'm usually such a mess with these things. (I'm usually all FINE THEN, F U WORLD, I'LL WEAR MORE EYELINER AND LOOK ANGRY ALL THE TIME AND NOT GIVE A FLYING FUCK AND I'LL DELIGHT IN PEOPLE'S FAILED ATTEMPTS AT BEING CIVIL HUMAN BEINGS & LAUGH WHEN THEY STAND IN PUDDLES cause I'm nice and dramatic like that. It never lasts long, don't worry. It's just like my way of giving the two-fingered salute to the universe without looking like a total eejit. Or, if I'm more on the self-pitying end of the spectrum I'll be like FINE THEN, F U WORLD, I'LL JUST GO LIVE IN A FUCKING CAVE AND NEVER CUT MY HAIR, ALRIIIIIIIGHT? AND NEVER GET MARRIED AND ALWAYS BE ALONE, OKAAAAY? SINCE THAT'S SO OBVIOUSLY WHAT YOU WANT, I'LL JUST TAKE THE FUCKING HINT, SHALL I? DON'T NEED TO TELL ME TWICE, ASSHOLE. And then there's some greeting. Uhuh. Catharsis and whatnot.) Anywho, back at the ranch, I'm laying in bed and I'm letting all the stuff I've been fighting against losing for a wee while kind of settle on top of me like this really fine layer of snow. And I'm totally breathing through it. And, okay, yeah, I'm crying a bit, okay? I fess up. I'm not PERFECT. Nor am I an insensate boulder, so, yeah, there's a few tears. But they're different from the usual kind where I either a) scream the place down and sound like a cross between a yowling coyote and someone giving birth to a cactus, or b) bite my knuckles under the covers and sound like I'm laughing (and we all know quiet crying is not satisfying in the slightest, so option b always sucks). These are like tears that are just let go of. They literally are letting go tears. They're totally great once you get used to them. (Yes, yes, I am talking about varieties of tears, do not judge me too harshly.) And I'm thinking of all the things we ever shared together, big and small, silly and significant, and all the things I wanted to show him and experience with him and take your filthy minds out of the gutter! Look, I'll give you an example: I wanted to show him the Fairy Field my dad used to take me to as a kid where I always found silver coins left by fairies. I wanted to climb Ben Lomond with him. I wanted to show him my stupid amateur photographs from Australia. I wanted to see the Northern Lights with him because that is something we always talked about. I wanted him to see me without makeup, the poor bastard. I wanted to watch The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants with him. And as each thing floated into my mind--they were like petals of tissue paper or something, it was all very lovely--whether it was past, present, or future, I would watch it breezing in and I would feel its full power gracing me, and I wouldn't try to hold onto it when it got lapped up by the tide. Like little scraps of paper I let them all go into the wind. Like autumn leaves flying away and exposing the bare branches underneath. It was sad, but good. I would be happy again. And there was no hate, or anger, only gratitude. I was grateful for all that he'd taught me, whether inadvertently or not. He taught me how to be more open, how to feel again. He woke me up from a very deep sleep. He taught me how to love people again, and how to lose them.

And as I was thinking all this, words began to form in my mind, words that encapsulated how I felt. That kind of formulation usually only comes to me when I'm ready to move on from something. My dad once paraphrased one of those famous philosophers (I don't know which one, and Google was of no help), saying that as soon as you are able to express something in words, the feeling is dead inside you. I thought that was pretty apt. I totally wanted to get up and write it down but a) I was waaaay too tired to move, b) things you think of to write when you're between asleep and awake never appear quite so nice on the page, and c) I prefer typing emotional stuff like that because I can detach myself and be objective, whereas carving it out with a pen onto paper is like reliving it all, and when you're trying to move on.org, that ain't always a good thing. So I went to sleep.

Next day I blitzed through my uni work, went to my bookcase where I keep my DVDs, and was unequivocally drawn to Into the Wild. This is a Special Movie, guys. You can't just have it on in the background. I've owned my copy for three years now and have watched it as many times. Yes, I sometimes do treat my DVDs like people, but whatever, if you've seen this movie and/or read the book (WHICH YOU TOTALLY SHOULD BTW), you'll hopefully know what I'm on about. Look, I'm not trying to draw symbolic comparisons between the events of that movie and my own life, believe me. All I'm saying is, I think it is somewhat significant that I felt free enough to watch the movie on this particular day. Let it be shown on the record that I was not wallowing. OKAY? That's the whole point. I didn't HAVE to wallow. There was noooo negativity floating around my head. I just felt very "ahhhh", like when you're at the ocean and it's freezing fucking cold but completely brilliant and you just don't want to be anywhere else, ever. Not that I've ever wandered into the Alaskan wilderness with fifteen pounds of rice and lived in an abandoned bus, or kayaked into Mexico, but I can identify with Chris McCandless. I'm not condoning everything he did, or everything he was about, but I definitely admire him. He is a constant inspiration to me, so after watching that (and spending the last half hour wailing "CHRIIIIIIIIIIS, CHRIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIS" in true Streetcar style) I felt like I'd come home, almost? As though I'd forgotten myself for a while and now I remembered what I was all about and what matters in life. SO THAT WAS GOOD.

But, of course, it was not The End. Cause The End in life is called Death, right, so you don't want to get there too soon. But still, COME ON COSMOS.

A few hours later, I am minding my own business, and my phone starts ringing. I'm thinking it'll just be the mother. BUT OH NO. That would be muuuuuch too easy. It's you know who. First thought: he's evidently dialled the wrong number/it's his workmate/it's just accidentally dialled in his pocket. Second thought: he is calling to say FUCK OFF, I HATE YOU, GET OUT MY LIFE BITCH, I HOPE YOU CHOKE ON A SPIDER ON YOUR WAY OUT. Third thought: Rosie, if you don't answer the phone in the next two seconds you may never find out which of these two fabulous possibilities are true. Note: no nausea and/or fluttering insects. GOOD-O. So I answer. The gist: "Heyyy, I'm just calling you cause I forgot to text you back yesterday. I've gotten into the habit of looking at my phone and then not replying. Oh that's funny, Meejin does that too does she? Har har har. Fuck uni. Fuck SAAS. I'm so behind. Want to die. YES I'D LIKE LUNCH PLZ. You free tomorrow? I finish at 11. You finish at 12? You're busy? Okay. OH HAVE YOU SEEN THE MOON? IT'S FUCKING BRIGHT AS FUCK. Go find it. It's ehhh, in the north-east of the sky? I think? Fuck second year. I have two grand. Yass. Business meeting. I'll text ye later, okay?"

AND JUST LIKE THAT, all my nice move on.org business gets blown to smoke and ribbons. Like, poof, gone. And to make matters a little more spooktastic, he happened to phone on the same day we went to see Ludovico last year in our little bubble of loveliness. Cause life likes to keep you on your toes. Look, Cosmos, I know I'm kicking up a fuss about this whole business, but please don't interpret that as me being an ingrate. I'd obviously much rather have him in my life than not. I would just prefer it if I could trust a damn word he said, okay? Think you can work on that for me? I don't think I'm asking for much. Failing that, an opportunity to punch/defenestrate him would suffice. Cheers.

So, yeah, getting back to the title and point of this post: for the time being, I have decided to just let it be. Come what may, indeed. This is how I was last year, at the beginning of the whole rollercoaster, when I was all "Okay, you know what he's like, so don't get attached, just go with the flowwwww", except this time it is "Okay, you really know what he's like, so don't get attached, DO NOT TRUST HIM, and just go with the flowwwww. And possibly deck him next time you see him. Like, on the twelfth of Never. KIDDING. Not."

On the upside, Bonfire Night was faaaaaaaaaaantabulous. My friends and their burds are lovely. We did not stick to our original plan because for once we actually had common sense and the rest of the world did not. But this was like a thousand-billion times better with cherries on top. I was the Official Photographer, so here are the better shots from the evening. Also, I recorded the entire twenty minute display of fireworks, so it's obviously way too big a file to upload here, but besides the fireworks it's mostly me laughing, me and Madleen trying to explain to Stewart exactly which type of crisp a particular set of fireworks resembles, palm trees, hash leaves, and the occasional Dalmurian "SHIIIIIIIIIITE". Also, a chick wearing white pants, black tights, AND NOUT ELSE. Lovely.



Sparklers, duh. Me and Madleen totally didn't scream
for our lives or anything. Nah, not us.


Pyromania and whatnot.


Madleen, Stuart, Meejin, K-Dawg + Aimee doing some great product placement.

Meejin, Aimee, Rosaline, Madleen & Stuart.

Aimee, K-Dawg, Rosaline, Stooah + Meejin.

Look, I don't know why my lips resemble a hotdog, or why my fringe is being a lesbinem.
Let's just not talk about it okay? LOOK AT THE PRETTY, PRETTY HATS INSTEAD!

Natural banter (Y). Also, mega Stop The Bus-related stress.

K-dawg does straight lines COZ HE CAN. Me and Madleen cannot.

Stop The Bus is theeee most stressful game in the known universe.
Stuart had never heard of or played it before.
Like, what the hell did he do during free periods?


For November, you know.
Some beach in Australia, October 2009.
This was my last day! 

Word of the Day: epitoming; verb; the act of sawing off one's feet and replacing them with porcelain vases. Don't ask.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Where You Are Is Nowhere;

"Midlife crisis, noun: a period of emotional turmoil in middle age caused by the realization that one is no longer young and characterized especially by a strong desire for change."

Okay, so substitute ‘midlife’ with ‘on the cusp of adulthood’ and you’ll locate the You Are Here sign on the tourist map of my life. Don’t ask me where to go from here, cause I have no idea. You might want to check out the glitter-drenched disco in Old Town where I’m constantly dancing in a pink thong with James Foster to Sorry You’re Not A Winner and rum and coke is the house drink. Just don’t allow the 2006 calendar pinned to the back of the ladies’ bathroom door to deceive you into thinking you’ve gone back in time. Or if you’re more in the mood for a thrill, how about the old haunted high school where you might catch the lingering scent of Cool Waters on the air and hear the words When you’re sixteen, I promise whispered down the corridors by people who are no longer there? If a little culture is what you’re after, why not head on over to the museum where you’ll spend hours poring over the collections of photographs, paintings and recovered artefacts? Popular pieces include the tattered pair of black jeans given as a memento, the penny coin with the inscription I love you branded into the copper, and the colourful print of a black haired boy with his arm around a girl in a scarf which is the crocheted incarnate of autumn. Don’t forget to visit the gift shop on your way out, where you can pick up a copy of the bestselling memoir A Diary Full of Christopher. (The original manuscript can be found on the attic level beside the box of bees, to the right of the moth & butterfly display case.) Alternatively you can watch a triple bill of Alpe D’huez ’07, American Beauty and Ludovico Einaudi live in concert at the nearby cinema for a lot of skiing caper, minimalist music and floating rose petals. The bookshop is always a favourite, carrying titles from Wuthering Heights to Into the Wild to Prozac Nation, and specializing in the Collected Letters of Freak-Out & Self-Deprecation. Feel like a shopping spree? The boutique offers an eclectic variety of clothing, from the black hoody I snuggled against in the rain after school when I needed to feel safe and he needed to protect me, to the slinky floral dress I wore on November 10th 2010 and haven’t worn since, caressed by another him and smelling of cigarette smoke, silent moments only for us, the first snowfall, inhibition, the magic of being in an unknown city at night, strangers to one another, the universe to one another. Why not explore the surrounding terrain? The topography ranges from majestic snow-capped mountains perfect for skiing, to the staggering cliffs of the Carpathians on one side of the road and the azure blue of the Caspian Sea on the other, to the cityscape of Sydney, the intense palette of antipodean mangroves, puffin-clustered sea-stacks and crashing waves, the picturesque seams and lawns of North Berwick. Drive in and leave your car on the top floor of the municipal car park, and note the dingy western vestibule that reeks of piss and stale smoke where I had my first kiss with a boy who saw right into me, and persevered even when I laughed at the tickling sensation of his proximity, and our rapt audience watching through the glass pane in the door, and the patchwork tarmac where I roasted in the sun and felt so very safe at that height, and the railing where I photographed someone who didn’t really understand why he was there while I realised neither did I.

Feeling lost? Don’t know where to begin? The Tourist Information Centre can help you out there! And here’s a free raffle entry. The winning ticket will be drawn from a lottery of memories in the still-extant ski hat, with the prize being Enlightenment, when the horizon is reached. Meanwhile, here’s your orienteering equipment and survival kit. Good luck with navigating your way through the maze—watch out, it’s a little overgrown!—and hopefully we’ll see you on the other side. The time will run out when the big hand hits the S and the little hand hits the OON. Get going.

*

I’m trapped in that maze, you see. My options are pretty much obscured by fog and I neglected to bring a compass. They don’t make maps for mazes; that would be cheating. I’m so fucking sick of the place. It’s always my fault in the end, it’s always in my head, you always have an excuse, I’m always wrong. I’m always the one apologising—but what am I apologising for? For your mistakes. For your treatment. Like I somehow bring it upon myself, like I somehow deserve it. So then I get to thinking that maybe if I do all of this good stuff, get through all my reading for today, go to all my lectures, sacrifice something, suffer some more, the dispenser of fate up there will reward me. Because I’ve earned it, right? It’s like a dog trained to obey commands for a treat, and scolded when it fails to comply. Except you withhold the reward. Because you have the power to do that. Even when you promise you won’t, you still do. And I’m just fucking sitting, and the whole damn world is going by. Why can’t I let you go? Why can’t you let me go? Why do you have to keep me in this nowhere place?

I’m obsessed by the gender politics in Things Fall Apart and The Dispossessed, particularly fixated by the objectification of women. But I’m wondering if maybe my total resentment and indignation regarding the bride-price is actually envy. Maybe I am envious of these women because, whatever else happens, they know their worth in gold. I have no fucking clue what I’m worth. I’ve often wondered why I find guys easier to get on with, knowing there must be a more complex reason other than the bullshit one that they are more straightforward than girls. In high school there were three girls and six guys and we were their property. They weren’t friends, not really. I’ve had many more friendships with guys than girls, but the female relationships are a thousand times stronger and more precious to me. In my mind, because of the guys in high school, a girl around a guy is a commodity. I get on with guys better because I’m pushed to inhibition because I want to know how much I’m worth. Truth is I don’t know how to be proper friends with a guy. I thought I did, but I don’t. Because of that introduction in high school, because of many unintended experiences, I don’t trust them. I don’t trust them to allow me to be vulnerable and a total girl about things, or be serious or jealous or afraid or like reading. It’s the same with new people; the constant expectancy to be a firework, completely radiant and dazzling and funny. It’s like bribery, trying to keep them interested.

And then there are the people who completely enervate you, who bleed you dry of all sense of self, and you sit around wondering what the fuck it is you do to pass the days and where the fuck you’re going and what you’re going home to. And the ones who make you want to let go because you feel safe enough and unknown enough to do so, and because you feel the need to impress them. And the ones closest to you who are hesitant to share because they know they’ve left you far, far behind and this might widen that gap insurmountably. And you hardly touch anyone anymore because you’re too afraid to make yourself known, and then to be rejected. And what exactly is expected of you anyway? You can’t be fucked going back to them, to their endless, empty, identical stories and their soulless conversation—that’s everything you gave up—but what else is there? Who else is there?

It’s that place between Halloween and Guy Fawkes Night. I’m thinking about what I’m afraid of. Of having made the decision to scrape off all the detritus and then discovering that’s the only place I belong, and having to sentence myself to it again. Of very deep water, of drowning, of falling on the ice, of falling in general. I never wanted to care. I didn’t ask to care. Of only writing of things and never having them, of watching other people have them and of being left farther and farther behind like in that recurring nightmare I had as a kid where my parents left me on the pavement and drove away and never looked back no matter how hard I screamed or how fast I ran. Of always being so fucking scared. Of someone never reassuring me I don’t have to be scared. Of fucking it up and being alone. Of making my children suffer for it, of them ending up afraid. Of never getting over it, and also of getting over it. And then it’s Guy Fawkes Night and he’ll be there and I will be the fifth and I could pretend to see the symbolism, that he tried to capsize me and now I’m letting it all be consumed in the conflagration, but who am I kidding. That’s the trouble with growing up around movies and books; you become conditioned to the concept of a beginning, middle and end. But life is the middle. In all likelihood I will be so deeply unhappy I will verge into recklessly happy, and then come home and be in silence and curl up in a ball until all the badness is squashed up and I can’t hardly feel it, and console myself with the oblivion of sleep.

Right now I feel like taking off and tearing through some place and not caring about anything. But if I do that I will officially be the girl who doesn’t finish things; not high school, not Australia, not this. I would like to run, but I am very tired and the fog is hiding the escape route from me.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Nineteen;

I’m just about at the halfway point of this semester, so it seems like a good point to check in. Not least because next week is Reading & Writing week and that’s usually when I get a little “All work and no play make Rosie go crazy.” It might be nice to have one more relatively sane post. Also, it’s kind of a nice feeling that I have nothing of consequence to post about. (Feel free to wander away at this point, I’m not above talking to myself.) I don’t know about you, but I like reading about people’s lives, the significant and the mundane both. People are pretty fascinating. Small things are just as intriguing as huge things. They’re just as character-defining, if not more so.

Now, to set the scene: Well, my formerly tidy room looks like a bomb site. I need Nick Knowles to come and build an extension for me. There’s some pretty sunlight canting through the blinds and illuminating the door—it’s pale and sharp like dawn, but that was quite a while ago. I have a can of Irn Bru with a green straw craning out of it because of the carbonation. I’m wearing a jumper which is, if I’m being honest, blackcurrant. But I like it because I never usually wear anything on the ‘feminine’ end of the colour spectrum. I’m listening to Jon Hopkins’ Contact Note. I’m thinking about having that MilkyWay right by my left elbow.

So, remember the friendship I thought was over? I’m happy to report I was entirely wrong. For a few days I was fine with having lost them; it seemed that with the end of my book came the end of his role in my life. I guess maybe I had to look at it like that because it was the only way it made sense and the only way I could deal with it. But inevitably the high wore off and something so trivial I can’t even recall what it was sparked off this deluge of emotion. All I kept thinking was He’s never going to make me laugh again. It all seemed to come down to that one point. For a few days the world didn’t really make sense; it looked different, it felt different. I’ve heard the expression ‘it was like being in a nightmare’ so many times but never truly understood what it meant until then. Everything was distorted. I couldn’t really get my head around the fact that everything had possibly been a lie, or that it could so quickly and unforeseeably capsize on me, or that it would never be the same again. And then it began to feel like he had died. The person he was now was someone else, someone I didn’t want to know. That was how I grieved. Let me tell you, I am a horrible griever. I don’t know how to go about doing it, so I just don’t. But grieving is good, it’s part of the process etc etc. However, I suppose like with any loss there are things left unsaid, and so I said them to someone else. I got my thoughts straight. I got the cold and my head went all fuzzy and I felt like if I did something crazy, I couldn’t really be held responsible for it. So the night before my birthday, in my fuzzyheaded state, I thought, fuck it, I have nothing else to lose, and I said everything I had ever wanted to say, and even after I was fully convinced I’d been furtively evicted from his life (no, really, it was like coming home from a challenging backpacking trip in South America and finding an unsigned eviction notice tacked to my crappy apartment door), I sent it away into the cosmos. Why? Because when I talked it over with my friend on a bus ride home, I realised that in spite of everything, the anger and the hurt and the confusion and all those lovely cliché things, I still cared. And when I care about something, I am stubborn. I chase it right to the ends of the earth. I don’t give up. Maybe that’s really selfish, but whatever. I’d rather be selfish than be a pushover. I’d rather know what could happen than wonder about it the rest of my life. To me, regret = paralysis. And that was exactly what I’d told him I wanted to avoid three months before. If there were any walls, I bulldozed through them. When you give everything you have, you can have no regrets. Ball was in his court, so to speak. Except, I wasn’t waiting anymore, and I wasn’t hiding, and I didn’t have to pretend. I thought I’d been at that point so many times before—that pivotal point, balanced on the edge of a cliff—but until I was completely honest and until everything was out there, how could I be? I could never have conceived the feeling of liberation that came with that.

So the next morning I wake up and I am nineteen. My birthday was magical. Simple, but magical. The whole concept of birthdays is just lovely—a whole day when people celebrate your singular existence?! And give you presents?! Great! It was a quintessential autumn day too. Dark, foreboding skies? Check. Trees that look on fire? Check. A puckish wind that changes direction every two seconds? Check. Seriously, sitting on the bus into uni I imagined the world was saying happy birthday! when all the leaves gusted along beside me. Fast forward four hours and I’m finished up for the day. I have an email. Reluctantly, wishing I had an elephant to squash down that trickster joule of hope I can feel rising up somewhere in my ribcage, I check the sender. And I kind of explode. And then run to the bus stop, because I need to be moving. This email contains within it words that have power I don’t even want to comprehend, and I have to be near something that will propel me away if I need to. It’s good news, guys. I’m shaking all over from the relief. I wasn’t evicted from his life—his phone was broken and several other complications have so far prevented him from getting it fixed. (This is completely typical of him. So typical I start to doubt its veracity, but it’s later corroborated by unequivocal evidence.) He sincerely wants to remain friends, he actually knows what I mean about not being reassured enough, he tries his hardest but still finds it difficult, he is so fucking proud of me for finishing my novel, and he will pick me up something for my birthday. I tell him don’t bother, that was a pretty good birthday present. I don’t care now if nothing comes of it. The only thing that matters is we didn’t part on bad terms. And that pretty much sets the tone for the rest of the day. People I hardly speak to remember it’s my birthday, there are scary clowns in lab coats and officious charity workers laid out like landmines all over Buchanan Street, Kirk sends me birthday greetings via a Mail Boxes Etc and the Rocky theme tune, Jurassic Park is more amazing than I ever thought it could be in the cinema on the highest floor in the most isolated theatre, I receive wonderful, thoughtful presents from people I care about. And the other night a potential horror movie scene turned out to be an intimate surprise party with jumbo straws because I love them and a scone with two candles because I detest cake.

It was during said surprise party that I was persuaded to have some cornflakes coffee. I don’t know about you, but to me coffee is like wine, in that it is a means to an end rather than a means of pleasure. Plus, if I were to habitually drink coffee I would have to periodically punch myself for being such a big fucking stereotype. Glasgow Uni? Check. English Lit student? Check. Dabbled in Philosophy? Check. As well as becoming a masochist, I’d also have to rent a room in TopShop, stop brushing my hair (or at the very least let a raccoon sleep in it), make sure I have a perpetual pity-me cold, take up bar crawling as a hobby and still tumble into class looking like a Neutrogena ad, vomit (black) on a regular basis and in front of witnesses, start listening to generic indie pop, and kill my tongue with The Accent. Basically, I’d have to turn into a Yah. Okay, that was a total exaggeration, and I know many, many exceptions to my completely horrible judgment, but if you were around The Accent as much as I am, you’d forgive me. On the other hand, I hate those people who say they hate something when they’ve never actually tried it or done it or read it or seen it or—you get the drift. The brief encounters I’ve had with coffee before have all been heavily diluted with milk or so buried beneath foam you never actually get to the coffee. And since then my tastebuds have begun to tolerate wine, so I thought I’d give it a whirl. Plus I needed a zap of energy and everyone in my life keeps telling me to start drinking coffee, so in order to shut them up, I did. Meh. I’m not completely closed to the idea; I may strive to find a type I can tolerate, and in time maybe actually like. But every time I drink coffee I can’t escape the horrid sensation that what I’m drinking is out of date hot chocolate. Next thing people will be trying to coax me into eating a hamburger. IT’S NOT GOING TO HAPPEN.

You know, I never thought I’d get to the point where I would think of leisure time as a chore. Doing two reading subjects means I have barely enough time to sleep. I don’t have leisure time. I don’t even make it. It just defaults to leisure time when the whirring of my brain’s engine stops and I am too exhausted to think intellectually, but it’s still way too early to go to bed. So the whole time I am doing something leisurely, I know there is something more productive that I should be doing. I am too tired even to feel guilty about that last point. However, I have other obligations besides coursework. Like all the DVDs I have to watch (Shirley Valentine, The King’s Speech, 127 Hours, Misery, 500 Days of Summer, Thelma & Louise, Buried. So far I’ve scored off The Magdalene Sisters, 28 Days Later, Monsters and Educating Rita) and all the books I have to read (this list is like the population of China walking in a line past your window—it will never end). Also, when I do have time, I have to restrain myself from writing, because I know if I start something I will either not be able to give it my full attention, or I will and the rest of the world will fall away. But time away is time to think. And what I’ve been thinking is I’d like to split The Novel up into two or three or four, meaning each section would be more digestible and I could explore some of the issues more deeply. I’m also thinking I know exactly what I want to write next, so I’m going to use this time between now and next summer to lay the blueprint. Ah, possibilities! As an aside, in classics we were asked to give anonymous feedback on two of our peers' essays on who their favourite Greek hero was (I picked Athena, because she is awesome). This meant I got to exercise my pedant side without any casualties and at least I now know that if this whole writing thing goes to shit, I can make a career out of resentfully polishing up the grammar and word choice in other people's prize-winning novels. That sounded much more appealing in my head. Hm. 

Before I go, I just want to make one recommendation: Ever Fallen in Love by Zoe Strachan, and I’m not just saying that because she’s the writer in residence at my uni. No, really, I’m not. Before you judge it on the title, it’s not chick-lit, it’s borrowed from the Buzzcock’s song and it’s meant in the same slightly cynical, ironic way. It’s beautiful and bleak and it tore me apart. Maybe that isn’t much of a selling point. Well here’s one: it’s unflinchingly honest.

(Okay, two recommendations. Buy or rent Monsters. It's amazing. The acting, the soundtrack, the budget, the special effects, the concept, everything! It's stunning.)


Snaps for everyone! 

Monday, 10 October 2011

The Dispossessed;

I've made it two days and I can make it no longer; I HAVE to explode about this book.



The Dispossessed by Ursula Le Guin is indubitably one of the most beautiful pieces of literature I have ever had the privilege of reading. And I do mean 'privilege' because I never, in a million years, would have gone into a bookstore and bought this myself. I wouldn't even have picked it up. In fact, I think it's fair to say that myself and this book would never consciously come into one another's orbit. You see:
  • Literature and I share a torrid love/hate relationship.
  • I generally don't read science fiction. This book is science fiction.
  • I think my philosophical ineptitude has been rigorously and humiliatingly established.
  • This book deals with philosophy.
  • Politics to me is like abstract art; it goes right over my head. I know the basics, and I desperately want to learn more, but with all the spin-doctors and rhetoric and jargon, I think I'd sooner find a way through a stampeding herd of elephants alive than understand politics.
  • This book is political.
  • Did I mention it's science fiction?
  • On the whole I'd say I'm fairly open-minded and adventurous with my reading, but my one preference is that the narrative be character-driven as opposed to plot-driven. If I don't care about the characters, why should I care what happens to them?
  • In my experience, polemic literature has a tendency to use its characters as pawns to further its argument or illustrate its point. It works, but at the expense of a flat cast.
  • I have a bad habit of mocking literature by putting on a plum voice and describing it as being concerned with The Human Condition.
  • This book is about the human condition.
  • It's still science fiction, and has been since 1974.
This book is part of the required reading for English Literature: Writing & Ideology, so either way I was going to have to read it. This semester we have to do an eight-minute presentation to our tutorial groups on a book chosen from the list of set texts. Out of all the set texts, this was possibly the one I was dreading most. You know that old proverb that says you shouldn't judge a book by its cover? Well, I think the word 'cover' can be pretty much substituted by any quality related to a book. Do not judge a book by its genre/author/blurb/target audience/length/title/time of publication etc etc. In an ideal world, we wouldn't, but the fact is we don't have time to be endlessly open-minded or unbiased. We need discrimination, distinction, guidelines to help us select--now. We develop a taste for what we like and what we don't based on the standards of a particular division, and there ignorance and missed opportunities for self-expansion abound. Sad, but inevitable. So I'm sitting in the first tutorial and the tutor is going through the list of texts asking who wants to do which, and when she says The Dispossessed, I think Fuck it and my hand shoots up. Because, despite all my preconceptions (and misconceptions), I love a challenge, and if reading a 400 page novel on something completely alien to me (excuse the pun) and then doing an eight-minute presentation on it in front of total strangers is not a challenge, I don't know what is. (I am aware it is a relatively small challenge.)

So on September 26th I sit down at my desk, open up a blank word document to take notes in an unprecedented move of preparation, and begin reading. I'm all Okay book, I don't like you and you don't like me, but goddamnit, we're stuck with each other now, so let's make the most of it.

Two things the book's got going for it at this point:
  1. It has an element of physics, a subject by which I am geekily fascinated and completely daunted.
  2. The guy on the front cover, who I'm assuming is supposed to be the protagonist, is extremely handsome in a rugged, windswept kind of way. YUM.

The first paragraph has me grudgingly enraptured, moved and intrigued. The story starts right in the middle of things, and being new to the genre, I am totally discombobulated, so that throws me a little, but I persevere, and holy freakshow, am I glad I did.

I think about books and the business a lot, and I've come across this notion that a piece of writing, whatever it is, whatever genre, whatever, should always both be enjoyable and challenging. Maybe the enjoyable thing is the style, the plot, the characters, the language, the ideas, the execution. Maybe the challenges are the vocabulary, the motives, the subtext, the ideologies, the ethics, the questions asked. Maybe the enjoyable and the challenging are synonymous. But both should be present.

Both are definitely present here. The characters, specifically Shevek, the protagonist, are beautifully developed and expanded. They are the driving force of the novel. Without them, there is nothing but some fancy maths equations and a couple of spaceships floating around. The language is succinct and seductive--I learned like five new words! The idealogies, philosophies and theories woven throughout are thought-provoking and have no obvious solutions. The politics and anthropological issues raised are as relevant now as they were forty years ago. There were moments when I felt genuine elation or dread or despair or hope. Nothing short of me squealing/jumping around/talking with my hands/gushing is going to do this book justice. There's some truly moving reviews over on Amazon, and I bet there's loads of insightful critiques out there on the world wide web, but the best thing you can do is just go read the book for yourself! Even if you don't care for the characters or the setting or the plot or any of the superficial stuff, the central issues and themes are too fundamental to our existence to be passed over.


Whew, okay, I have officially done my good deed for the day.

Happy reading!

Saturday, 1 October 2011

October;

I totally can't believe it's October already! In my very biased opinion, I think it's the best month of the year. It is kind of the epitome of autumn--September's still got that faint murmur of summer, and November is melodramatic and gloomy and filled with dim smudges of light on gleaming pavements.

But October? To me it's like a lullaby, like gentle fingers trickling down my face to soothe insomnia when I was five years old, like diaphanous curtains billowing softly in a breeze as though the wind is whispering to you--like that place between awake and asleep. When October rolls around, I feel like I'm home again. I feel like I'm being hugged by the cosmos, and it's saying, This is your time. This is your month.

I always wonder if I'd have stuck to the schedule and been born on September 27th, whether I'd be as devoted to that month as this one. Being late is in my genes and I'm dubious about astrology, so I guess I'll never know the answer to that question. But regardless, I'm glad to belong to October. I've always felt an affinity for autumn, I've always loved watching the leaves slowly turn to gold and crimson and a thousand other shades, and twirling around in the spiralling sycamore seeds, and splashing in puddles, and listening to the wind and rain outside, and Halloween, and pumpkin soup. Cinnamon, hot chocolate, candy apples, Canadian geese, tealights burning in green lanterns. Autumn is one of those fleeting, elusive seasons, where you might blink and miss it. All around things are dying, yet it's somehow excruciatingly beautiful. You only have to watch The Lord of the Rings or Hocus Pocus to know what I'm talking about.



Autumn leaves in a cobweb @ Kylie & Brian's house,
Phegans Bay, Australia, October 2009.
I should probably mention that I've caught the cold thanks to some cow in English who coughed with such precision at the exact moment I heaved a sigh and breathed in that I'm beginning to wonder if she didn't do it on purpose to spite my immune system. I am never sick. I can't even remember the last time I had a cold. And while I absolutely detest the besmirching of this record, it's been such a long time since I was sick, I'm actually kind of enjoying it in a horrible way. Like, I woke up this morning and put my face right in a hankie and thought Cool, my snot's green. And I keep imagining I am Meg Ryan in You've Got Mail when Tom Hanks comes over with a bouquet of daisies, because they are her favourite flower and he's just put her out of business, and she's totally dying of the cold, and she says in her sweet little voice "My head's starting to get fuzzy." The fuzziness in my head is fun, like I'm constantly drifting between the layers of sleep and awake. And being hot and cold all the time. And staying in my pyjamas and giant red dressing gown all day. And feeling like an innocent little kid all over again. And how fantastic tea and showers suddenly are, even better than usual. And the trippy, fevered dreams. And how the only thing I want to eat are Sesame Snaps. And the achy feeling in my limbs, like I'm made out of shadows and colourful tissue paper. And feeling generally loopy.

Also-also, yesterday I'm pretty sure I met Tibby Tomko-Rollins which kind of made my life complete, and Meejin & I believe if you look hard enough you will find Ollivander's and be able to purchase a wand in Ashton Lane which coincides nicely with the Platform 9 & 3/4s entrance to English, and I didn't have any cocktails because firstly nothing that is pink should be drinkable and secondly because all I wanted to do was put my head in a bowl of soup, and there are only so many stories you can hear about black being the trump colour in inebriated vomit before wanting to drill a hole in your own skull and empty the contents through a straw just for something else to do. Still, it was nice. My favourite part was when Meejin & I went into Waitrose because I needed liquid in my system immediately, and it was just beginning to get dark and the streetlights were coming on and it was warm and pouring and almost October and we got the 118 home like we used to in the snow blizzards and it was purple and had seatbelts like when you go on school trips and we talked about everything and nothing. 

At home I had to bring the bins back round. The brown one is my arch nemesis because it provides a paradise for the tiny flies that make me look like I have Tourettes through summer, and of late it has been found guilty of a new transgression; a spider web. I've watched it grow larger and larger the past few weeks, and last night I finally met the elusive spinner. He was a big guy. Naturally, I ran back into the house for my camera and proceeded to stand in the pouring rain for several minutes trying to get a decent picture. Just as I put my hand around the handle to begin the long, arduous journey back around the house, I heard the distant squawking of Canadian geese flying home, and I grinned because those geese are like the antithesis of spiders to me, and with equal parts moxy and girlish screaming, I made it back to the house unscathed (though the spider melted into the darkness at one point and I have no idea where it is now).  

Yep, ever since my dad recorded Fly Away Home for me as a small child, I've been infused with a sense of giddiness and tranquility whenever I see or hear Canadian geese. As a result, I'm also in love with Jeff Daniels, who happens to star in Arachnophobia, ironically.

Alright, I think my loopiness has come full circle (I just hahaha'd at my own accidental pun, I seriously need to go lie down). I'm off to get this synopsis done and then watch Thelma & Louise. Happy October!


P.S., Is it just me or is Stargazing by Wang Chung a great song for autumn?