Friday, October 29, 2004

Rain triggering the flood

Today it rained heavily for about 20 seconds at 8.12 when I stepped, umbrella-less, out of the door to work. I went back for the umbrella. This took all of a minute. By the time I got back out it was drizzling. I barely raised an eyebrow.

I remember sitting in my room in the middle of the English 'summer' just past, rearranging my photos and postcards on the wall and trying not to look outside. I tended to overuse non-descript when describing the weather this summer, but I will use it again because the only better way to describe it is as an absence of weather and that is just silly.

One boring and grey day, as I sent my reluctant gaze outside like a child into the gloom of England's summer, my mind had itself an epiphany – I could write a book about eternal summer and beautiful gardens and adventures and ...! I suppose, then, that the sunny, balmy days of English children's literature were wishful and hopeful rather than factual. Given that I spent my genuinely sun-drenched childhood longing for the counties of England, it is a bizarre twist that once here, those amazing Famous Five-adventures would be acted out in black and white, not techni-colour.

When the outdoors is bright and warm and activity is a pleasure and an instinct, there is no need for the more intellectual pleasures of 'culture'. We made our own history, woven around shafts of sunlight, the sunbeams and hot air drawing our thoughts up and out, the fresh air aiding the first flights of our intellect. My childhood consisted of the four of us roaming the garden, the beach and the farm, building the narrative of our lives with the eternal drive of imagination and the chorus of 'just say that ...'

I am glad that I did not rush into the age of understanding the post-modern cultural references in Buffy but lingered long in the freezing summer mornings when the sand was like ice, balmy New Years Eves spent sleeping in bathers on the lawn with the rest of the party and the days when merely thinking raised a sweat.

In such a raw and beautiful place as Perth, I was too busy actually doing to spend hours retelling or reforming the doing into a telling. Over here I must gorge myself for an hour or so on the beauty of art and history to warm the cold fingers of my searching mind for a few days afterwards. The glow of a trip to Europe banishes the chilblains with the glorious heat of experience for a week only. My thoughts turn inwards, taking the wonders that I see into my heart to preserve them, for they stand before me in the grim grip of cold and rain.

But then I suppose I do not mind the weather so much. Once you have muddled your way through the drizzle to the tube, steamed gently with the rest of the jam-packed carriage for the journey and reached an office whose fluorescent brilliance is close to the only real light you see all day, a friend's face is just that much more precious and bed seems that much more appealing.

I think that is my weather-rant quota used up for this month!

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Launching One's Self from the Balcony : or : Goddamit Where is the Rose?

I find England literary and historically thrilling and Saturday was one of those days when the thrill reduced me to ecstatic silence. Three months ago I decided to see the last night of the Royal Shakespeare Company's Hamlet in Stratford Upon Avon and I was determined not to do it alone.


Half the shelf outside the Royal Shakespeare Theatre.

So I ruthlessly organised seven other people to come with me (I say ruthlessly because no matter how many emails I sent out about the minutiae of it's organisation no-one ever replied to them bar Sue because she is organised) and all was good for my scheduled three hour perve-fest on Toby Stephens as Hamlet.

It was a great pleasure to step off the train surrounded by a gaggle of friends instead of by myself, take possession of our own private inn instead of having to hang in the B&B lounge room by myself,


Half the shelf outside our inn, The Queens Head.

have dinner by the consensus of 'god we have 30 minutes and we can't decide' instead of 'which place has a corner booth I can hide in' and parade into our bank of seats like a shelf of sophisticated Shakespearian groupies instead of a single, sad Toby Stephens stalker.


The full shelf - Lizzie, Jen, Sue, Louella, Me, Matt, Monica and Jacinta.

We settled in - seven faces turned to me and variously asked if I was possessed of a rose or a bra to throw at my object of affection, or whether I would be launching myself from our balcony seats to the stage below. I don't think anyone realised that my pleasure in Mr Stephen's presence on the stage would take a more cerebral form.

The lights dimmed and one of the best experiences that can be bestowed on a bibliophile was nursed into being – the exhilarating thread of literary and historical continuity snapping into place between my heart, my mind and the players strutting and fretting their hours upon the stage. Hamlet is a particularly powerful play to illustrate the progression of a literary influence from birth to fruition. As each minute passes, as the iambic pentameter passes from gibberish to intelligible forms, and the familiar story unfolds before me, the mind starts ticking over.

With the settling of the language I am no longer fighting for meaning, and the mind can reach beyond each word and race down new avenues of understanding. Shakespeare's words are so adaptable and porous that each performance brings a new combination of lines, a different actor to absorb and be absorbed by the role. As I experience each new Hamlet I find new feelings, thoughts and knowledge rising from the depths of my soul and mind to ride, like dolphins, beside the powerful machine that is the familiar dialogue.

This gradual expanding of the connections between ideas and feelings forms a kind of plateau on which lights start to flare into life. As the play progresses a line will make my head twitch with recognition – 'this mortal coil', 'each dog will have it's day', 'the quick and the dead' – and the shape of my internal knowledge landscape becomes illuminated by Shakespeare's presence in the most basic of my life tools, my ability to communicate.

I quote Shakespeare every day without fail, both consciously because 'methinks the lady doth protest too much' fits the occasion, because I am looking for Flat 2B and it follows that I must ask 'to be or not to be', or with one of the countless Shakespearian phrases that peppers everyday life.

As the play climaxes and Denmark's sweet prince gasps his last breath on the heap of Denmark's dead court and courtiers, I have ridden the wave that is the movement of the inspired written and spoken word, I have travelled from the heart of the artist's private ocean back to the shores of my own mind and knowledge. The marks of a beloved wave's passage will remain until the next tide of experience washes over it and rearranges the pebbles and grains of my accumulated knowledge.

And Toby really was as attractive on stage as he was on screen and I could barely hold myself back ...

Friday, October 15, 2004

Monkeys, dolls and bags

Woke up.

Groused about how much sleep I don't get in bed and how much I was going to get in front of the computer at work doing stuff a trained monkey could do.

Had lunch with Jacinta and laugh maniacally about stupid stuff. She is a treasure for what she puts up with.

Told Ozy she was weird. Spent the rest of the day assuring her that was meant in an endearing fashion.

Spent an hour nose-to-oil with portraits of the Tudors. Some of those 'favourites' of the first Lizzie were right lookers – especially the dandy with the long auburn hair.

Watched three vaguely silly art-house animations that reduced Kate and I to uncharacteristic silence due to amazed incomprehension. Left in the middle of the question and answer session with the directors when a paragraph-length luvvie question from the critic to the artist was answered with 'well, I don't know what I really mean by using dolls, I am just making the film, I am just the puppet for larger forces ...'

Kate's bag amuses me greatly by using her mobile, after being told a thousand times not to, to ring my mobile and leave an endearing message of Kate walking home. Those bags, such social creatures.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Rollin' wit da homies

Once upon a time there was a young woman (me) who lived with a lively couple called Matt and Monica. Sometimes this young woman had trouble sounding intelligent and this resulted in the embarrassing phenomenon of her referring to Mott and Manica so often it became the couple's nickname among the young woman's friends.

To curb this habit of hers, she started referring to them as M&M. Sometimes M&M really did remind her of the famous chocolate that melted in your mouth and not in your hand. You melted them by intelligent conversation, not posing and glad-handing. Then, prompted but an email in which I made a clumsy, yet appropriate rhyme, Monica decided to channel the OTHER M&M.

One of my friend's sent out an invite to a nightclub event to which she had been invited by a DJ. Another member of the list commented that the hostess was going 'street' on us. I admitted I would not be able to make it because I was going to a Terry Pratchett convention and managed to rhyme 'geek' and 'street'.

Then Eminem arrived in the shape of Monica ...

"Yo! Uh!

Claire's on a mission
Bet you're wishin'
That she'd told ya earlier
'bout her conditions

Friendship wid da Bearz oh-so-great
But you know ya gotta capitulate
To her oh-so-whimsical scheduling
Your Filofax to the table you'll bring

For any of your future dates
So her time you can appreciate (uh!)
And so that you can get yourself in
For her weekly book reading thing

One thing you have got to know
Is which Bear is running this show (yo!)
So put your hands up in the air
Then bow yourself down, chanting 'Whoz Da Bear?'

If you wanna have her at your partee
You've gotta organise it really earlee
Otherwise, you'll be up sh*t creek
When she fobs you off for some Pratchett geeks .. Uh!


Oh god, I'm going to get SO hit for that one tonight. I'm sorry people,
Claire threw up the rhyming challenge and I took it :)"

Ah, chocolate (w)rappers!

I actually inspired Monica to create quite a bit of poetry and prose in our time ...

Pleasures of the Day

I got out of work today and the sky was clear. For me, this equates roughly to a lotto win. Very soon it will be pitch black when I get to work and pitch black when I get out of work. The pleasure of walking on sunshine is going to be curtailed cruelly very soon.

So me, the Wookie (my classy but vast vintage fur coat)


The Wookie, bought in Camden and named for a large imaginary animal because no-one could come up with a Russian name that I liked.

and the clear sky strode off down Regent Street. I made a quick side trip to Liberty (very swanky department store) to buy pot plants for my hosts for dinner this evening. Since I got here I have started collecting bags from all the expensive shops. The trick is to buy something cheap that needs a big bag so it looks like you bought something expensive. So unfortunately the two dinky pot plants needed this vast purple Liberty bag to be transported on the tube. Shame.

I walked through Carnaby Street and into the back streets of Soho, curiously quiet around me and contrasting with the teeming sidewalks of Regent Street parallel to me and glimpsed at crossroads and Piccadilly in front of me through the arches of Piccadilly Circus. In such a teeming city the greatest adventure is finding that wilfully quiet street peopled only by that solitary striding man in trench coat and trilby and sporting that luxury vintage car amongst the SmartCars. I think spring and autumn are the best seasons to view the buildings of London, today the cream and gold facades were warm, friendly and gave off a smug glow that complimented the silvery sky.

My dinner date was in Chiswick, next to Acton and nick named Action Town because of the vast numbers of Antipodeans hell bent on a good time living and playing in the area. Jac and Warren were in a lovely neck of the woods, lots of vine covered walls and lush green gardens. They have a psycho cat and three houses of Italians next door who have a rowdy 'gathering' on Wednesday nights. It sounded like a great party from where I was sitting.

Where I was sitting, in fact, was in front of Jacinta, Alicia's sister, and her husband Warren. I have two sister's of best friends over here and while Sue is completely different to Jen, Jacinta is startlingly similar to Alicia. Sometimes I feel like I jump when she uses an Alicia-expression or an Alicia-phrase. In those moments it is almost painful to remember how long it has been since I saw Alicia, and indeed all my friends, in the flesh.

Seeing the two of them again brings back memories of the halcyon times of being held in a headlock by Warren and having my hair forcefully rearranged by Alicia's ex-boyfriend Sunny in the middle of the Hay Street Mall.

And then home, roaring through the dark in a tube carriage of tipsy business men and a family of angelic blonde children home from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, hardly able to hold their eyes open, yet balefully staring at me and my Wookie, for all the world looking as if their imaginations had been over stimulated and they thought the coat was going to eat me, and then them.

It's all one big ego trip really

Welcome to my blog.

*mutter* scrap that! something more exciting is needed ...

It is a truth, universally acknowledged, that a girl in possession of insane sociability must be in want of a blog.

*grimace* something ORIGINAL please ...

This is the blog that will launch a thousand thoughts.

*wail* you are plagarising again!

I like to write, I love to share, I adore the idea of banging on about whatever I wish on the internet. Thus my experiences will live here in this little corner of blogger.com.

It is rather rudimentary at the moment - I have been lazy in filling it up. This happens, I find, when you have too much fun doing the interesting stuff and not the discipline to write it all down!

Over the next two weeks I will be back dating many posts, so when you get on be sure to check the August and September archives for new tales. For all those coming from Travelling with Clairebear, everything before June is old material from that board.

I must explain that the launch of this blog has been delayed but the severe emotional and social turmoil that has flooded my usually placid life with sleepless nights since the last week of September.

For weeks now each and every day has being lived in abject misery enveloped by great happiness. Each day my eyes have burned from trying not to cry while my mouth was curving in joy. My heart feels like it been beaten black and blue from the bombardment of disparate and violent emotions it receives each day.

I suppose what I am trying to say is that there may be a few emotionally loaded stories to read.

Tonight I was at a discussion group made up of evangelical leaning Anglicans hosted by Richard. It was a sedate discussion on the ordination of women bishops and I felt incredibly at home in the midst of these Christians. I have a great fondness for theology and religious discussion, stemming from the bible study groups and devotedly attended masses of my deeply religious youth and continued in my lapsed Catholic adulthood with my expanding knowledge of history and literature encouraging an appreciation of my Catholic heritage.

(There is going to be a post up soon on the difference between being a Dan Brown reader and a Dan Brown believer which will touch more fully on this topic!)

Tonight I found myself getting a little teary while earnestly arguing that personal witness is God made manifest whether that is housed in the body of a man or a woman, a homosexual or a heterosexual, a celibate or a committed partner. I am slightly surprised that I still have such strong religious views. But then, you know what they say about Catholic schoolgirls ...

I enjoyed the religious talk of witness and outreach because I am in the midst of having to encourage friends going through hard times and, in some instances, ruthlessly bear witness to my deep regard and care for those I hold close to my heart. Whether it is standing between a courting couple and being privy to both parties' thoughts, or ripping the band aid off festering wounds in a friendship, friends are close to being my religion and sometimes I wish they would just take a break and let me have a quiet night at home.

So, welcome to my blog. It will be peopled by interesting friends, shaped by random adventures and bloated with reflections, half-baked theories and general ramblings.

A toast, then, to me.

That is why you are here isn't it ...?

Monday, October 04, 2004

A sea of tears

Today was the kind of day you are glad you lived through, but hope you only have once in a while.

I had my first big party in London on Friday and I got immense pleasure from seeing all the many and varied friends I have acquired here chat and mix, promising that the winter will be warmed by good conversations and easy companionship.


Monica, Ely, Ozy and Lizzie at my party.

Last night I saw Kristen off at the airport after spending our first week together for a year. We had five days on my first ever trip to Paris and then five days in London culminating in the party so she could meet all the people I had talked to her about in her weekly phone calls.


Kristen and I in Paris.

I finally have a regular paycheck and was able to shop for the first time in almost six months. We had had friends to stay the whole weekend, cooked good food and had great running conversations that had filled the weekend with laughter.

To remind me just how much a heart can hold in both happiness and sadness, it was the second anniversary of my Grandfather’s sudden death on the road home from the family farm and today my adored little sister’s beloved horse broke his neck in a freak accident.


Louise on Red.

Louise's SMS sent me into shock and I stood in stall in Camden Markets sobbing into the phone to her because she was crying in pain on the other side of the world and I could not hug her. The moment she sent the message I had been talking about her to Jacinta. Jacinta had been home to Perth a month ago and had visited Mum and Louise and she was asking me if Louise had been to the B&S Ball she had mentioned. I am so glad Jacinta had got to hug Louise this year, even if I hadn’t.

At the party on Friday I had got the photos out of the family for Taryn, a third cousin of mine who I had only met because a long-running family feud had ended last year.


Taryn and I at my party.

She was over here when it ended and while we had finally met in London, she had not met Jerome, Tim and Louise. So we were standing in my room sharing photos of family members never met and I was able to talk lovingly of my fabulous siblings.

It is so hard not being able to look into their eyes, to see them walk the path of their lives – a privilege I never appreciated when Louise climbed through my windows on hot Sunday mornings after I moved out of home, when Tim stopped at my front door during his pizza delivery shift to say hi, when Jerome and his friends were the life of my parties. Hours spent on the beach, in each others rooms, around the dinner table, in the car, at the farm. Times I recall now with a heart that swears they are the still the greatest three people I know.


My siblings - Tim, Myself, Jerome and Louise.

Last Sunday I stood, bright-eyed with happiness at the foot of the Sacre Coeur looking out across Paris and when I had managed to get myself under control, I turned to walk inside. In one of the side aisles of the beautiful church I lit a candle for my Grandfather. Papa has had a candle lit for him in the ancient basilica in Aquiliea, in Westminster Cathedral, in Notre Dame and the Sacre Coeur. Papa will get candles lit for him around the world, a flickering trail of his granddaughter’s travels I hope he will be proud of.


The Sacre Coeur.


The basilica in Aquiliea.

When I travel I am at my happiest, yet the heart gets torn in half, one half yearning to stay and enjoy the new wonders, and one straining to be back with family and friends in the crisp air and sunlight of home.

As I write the tears are threatening to drain the life out of me, wash away the eyes usually crinkled in delight and drown my life.

I wish I was there.

Nan and Louise, you know my thoughts are with you.