The deep self

Last night I was speaking to a friend I hadn’t seen in a long time about break ups and the dynamics of relationships. It was heartening to be able to talk about things that happened a year ago now with a degree of detachment, and the conversation made me think about what kind of relationship I’d like to be in when the time comes. Then I remembered – I’ve already written all of that down! Last year, when my ex went overseas for a few weeks for his sister’s wedding, I was left in a sort of limbo in which I knew my partner was thinking about whether he wanted to be with me anymore. And I thought, I guess my only option is to think about whether I want to be with him too.

During that period another friend recommended a book to me – Women Who Run With The Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estés. I have to say that at the time, my self confidence was pretty much the lowest it had ever been, and this woman describing the power and the beauty of being a woman helped me find the strength to get in touch with the person inside, whom I thought I had lost. I forget exactly where in the book this paraphrase comes from, but essentially Estés said that a woman should take a lover who asks, and genuinely wants to know, what her deep self yearns for. So I decided to think about what my deep self yearns for. And when he came back, I showed him. And he said that seeing what I wrote broke his heart, but also finalised his decision, as he realised I would never be happy with him. And stupidly, I tried to take it all back and pretend I didn’t want those things. But I do, and I will never forget it again.

#MattandMatt2017

On April 15th 2017 I gave a speech at my brother from another mother’s wedding at Tower Bridge. By popular demand, and because love is lovely, here it is:

“For those of you who don’t know me, I am Jill and I have been Matt Spicer’s friend since we were born only a month apart. We grew up in Armadale, Western Australia, and we both had the undercuts to prove it! I am absolutely honoured to be able to speak to you today about the kind of man Matt Spicer is, and to describe the incredible bond he has with his husband Matthew Coltrona.

I feel it is a cosmic blessing that Matt and I have always just ‘got’ each other. When I think back to our childhoods, I see a confident boy with sandy blonde hair, freckles, a wide smile and blue, mischievous eyes. I also see a girl with uncontrollable hair, a mouth that was always quick to laugh when she was with her best friend, as well as eyes that were sometimes filled with uncertainty.

Where I was shy, Matt was outgoing. Where I was hesitant to take risks, Matt was fearless. Where I was clumsy and couldn’t run, swim or catch a ball, Matt was zipping around barefoot in the bush, doing it all. We spent days in the pool playing mermaids, me in the shallow end and Matthew in the deep. We made Jane Fonda workout home videos (sadly lost in the mists of time). We had sleepovers when we would giggle and whisper all night long. We tormented our little brothers and Matt’s older sister, and they tormented us back. Our families spent every Christmas together and we would laugh at our parents dancing to Neil Diamond and walking straight through fly-screen doors. And always, always, when we knew it was time for one of us to leave, we would run as far away from the grown-ups as we could and hide, treasuring our time together up to the last second.

Matt’s gentle, accepting and patient nature helped me come out of my shell. He built me up, and my trust in him was, and still is, unshakeable. He was the first person with whom I ever cried with laughter, and is still one of the few people who can reduce me to helpless giggles with only a sideward glance, a pregnant pause or a drawn out syllable. Let’s face it, if someone can stay friends with you when you look like this, they’re a keeper.

New Doc 2017-04-14_3
Ew.

All of this has continued as we’ve grown older. Matt has always been there – reliable, stoic and practical as a lighthouse in stormy seas. I remember panicking in Matt’s car about moving out of home. As I wailed “But I don’t even know how to make SPAGHETTI!”, he calmly gave me a step-by-step explanation of how to boil pasta and make a bolognese sauce. No wonder his cooking is so good nowadays!

Don’t get me wrong, I have had some opportunities to repay the favour. I recall Matt’s 21st birthday dinner, when it became apparent he had downed one too many red wines. He disappeared off to the bathroom, with Megan and I following around 10 minutes later. Matt had generously repainted the restaurant’s hallway, and had taken a little nap in the stalls. We got him back on his feet, and as we were apologising and paying the bill, Matt staggered over and still tried to get the restaurant to accept his Entertainment Card voucher.

You can understand then, that when this dashing, handsome Italian man came along and made it beyond the impossible 4-month mark with my Matt in July 2005, I was slightly concerned that Matt Spicer, and our friendship, would not stay the same.

As it turns out, I was right. Neither of those things were ever the same. They have evolved, expanded, and experienced even more joy and boundless possibilities because of this wonderful person. Matthew Coltrona’s articulate wit combines with an intelligence matched only by his unquestionable moral fibre. He is something of a Renaissance man, enjoying a high-flying career whilst casually refurbishing pianos, writing and illustrating children’s books, churning out Michelin Star-quality meals, and all while laughing, feeling feelings and being a dream partner to my dearest friend.

I look towards their relationship as a model of what love should be. Honest, respectful, patient, accepting and supporting of each other’s endeavours, I have never heard them say a cruel word against the other, nor have I seen them turn away when there was an opportunity to turn towards. They have built countless memories and made innumerable commitments to each other. Their shared homes, their holidays, their ‘special’ dog Napoleon and their adventure to make a new life in London were all ways of saying “I love you.” The inclusion of their friends and family in many of these escapades were ways of saying “we love you.” Their strengths complement each other perfectly and I truly could not have imagined a better person for my dearest friend to spend his life with. I believe they have found their soulmate and I cannot imagine them apart.

What was my lighthouse has become a bridge. A bridge with two equal towers forged of concrete, steel and granite. Those towers are joined together with love, communication, integrity, lightheartedness and acceptance. The connection between them is strong enough to open sometimes and let the waters flow by, carrying away any resentments. Each tower is supported to stand upright from either side with the steady ties of their backgrounds, their families, the things that make them unique and the new, important and always delightful friendships they make along the way.

The bridge on which we celebrate tonight took 8 years to build and has stood for 122 years. As Matt and Matt enter their 12th year of building their future together, I have no doubt their bridge will stand steadfast for the rest of their lives, and will leave a lasting impression on all who behold it. I am utterly, utterly proud to be able to support that bridge, and I hope we are all able to admire its beauty as we do Tower Bridge’s beauty tonight.”

I love you guys xxx

 

Standing Still

I touched down in Perth almost two months ago. To be honest there is not a lot I remember about the 5 months preceding the 31st of December 2016. I have some crystal clear memories – frantically handing over my caseload to a fresh new Speech and Language Therapist, trying not to cry; power walking down the road in Seven Sisters to pick up some sleeping pills for my flight; staring up at the ceiling from the floor of my friend’s apartment on Christmas Eve; a vet tapping my dog’s eyeball to check if he is dead. The rest of it is hazy – nights wrapped up watching Now TV in my new room, staying on ‘my’ side despite there no longer being a claim on the other side of the bed. My friends’ loving and concerned faces on the opposite sides of pub tables…more nights spent on their couches or in their spare rooms, politely asking for permission to do simple things like boil the kettle or charge my phone, wishes that are of course granted but nonetheless would have warranted no such enquiry in my own nonexistent home. There are other memories too – the faces of the clients I took on in those months, the parents I met working as a nanny, the date I went on and the nice way I turned him down. The moments I could have been nasty but instead handed roses to a man while he lit me on fire. The warm faces of the family I lived with between my separation and my departure from London, making a gingerbread house with their 3 year old and watching their 1 year old son start to walk. Lying on their couch at midnight screaming into an empty house after being turned away from the couch I had previously owned; walking aimlessly around Brixton for I don’t know how many hours wearing a giant faux fur coat, holding a cardboard box with some soap and half a bottle of red wine and my dead dog’s collar and a ball he chewed before he died, crying and wishing that somebody, anybody would see me and ask me what’s wrong. Wondering why the crazy people aren’t trying to talk to me and realising that tonight, I am the crazy person, the invisible one, the one you shouldn’t make eye contact with. Someone comes up to look inside my box and walks away. It’s finally happened – I’m not going to be OK. Calling my parents at 4.50am and not forming words, crying, wailing like I have never wailed before, so much that my Mum who never cries starts crying. I take a strong sleeping pill on my flight and chase it down with a whiskey, waking up with an alarming pain in my leg and on the other side of the world.

Now I am standing still. There are no longer three jobs to do across three counties. There are no pets to look after. There is no relationship to tend, no baby to keep trying for. No house savings to add to. There are friends and family who keep me alive. And there is me, slowly coming out of survival mode and wondering where to put all of this adrenalin, these memories and this anger.

Social Story

Your name is Jill. You have just been dumped.

Sometimes being dumped doesn’t seem like a dumping at first, it seems a bit mutual. At some points it even seems like you should do the dumping, because sometimes people who want to break up try to convince their partners to break up with them first so they don’t have to. This is generally called Being a Coward. Doing this can make the person who was convinced they wanted the breakup to feel like they have made The Right Decision. This is mostly about protecting their own pride and trying not to be hurt.

After a couple of weeks, you might decide that despite your pride, you do not want to break up. You do not want to Not Touch, Stop Trying, Give Up Your Dreams, Not Speak To Him, Lose Your Best Friend, Move House, Not Be A Team, Give Up Your Dog, Force Yourself Not To Worry About Him, Live Separate Lives, Not Follow Each Other’s Dreams, Not Know Him Anymore, Have Sex With Other People, Become Past Tense. It is OK to not want these things. These things are very sad.

When the person who was supposed to be convinced realises they don’t want to break up anymore, it forces the person who wants to break up to give lots of Reasons. These Reasons can be categorised into Environmental Reasons (geography, employment, support network, crazy dog). They can also be Communication Reasons (avoiding talking about problems, being too bossy, being too passive, not saying the right words in the right tone of voice, using hints instead of direct communication). These Reasons are all Fixable. Once people start talking about them openly, they can be addressed. Sometimes people want to address them, sometimes people don’t. When people say they don’t want to address them and you do, it can make you feel confused and frustrated and ask ‘Why?!’ a lot.

The person who wants to break up will sometimes tell you about their Life Reasons (confused about life, what they want from life, what they think you want from life, think you are probably a Bad Thing in their life causing lots of trouble, think they are ruining your life, want a totally different life). Life Reasons seem a lot harder to Fix, but you say you are ready to live a better, less boring life too, with them! They don’t want you to. Sometimes people want to Let You Down Gently (this can also be called Being Confused depending on who you ask and what mood you are in), and when you ask if they still love you, they say yes. When you ask if they are still in love with you, they say yes. This is confusing in the context of them not wanting you to run away with them. People don’t always tell the truth. Not telling the truth is what humans do a lot of the time, so it is normal and Expected.

To the person who wants to break up, all of the above Reasons and related discussions would seem Enough. Sometimes the person who has wanted to break up has been thinking about it and getting ready for it inside their head for a long time. This means they start seeming OK sooner, and not wanting to talk anymore. They can be a bit relieved and start acting friendly. This is normal and happens to a lot of people – you have done this thing before when you have been the person who wanted to break up. It can be hard to understand that this is very hurtful.

Usually the person who wants to break up is the one who Leaves. But, in this situation, you are the one who has to Leave. This takes time to arrange, and this means that you have to share the house for a while. This is not a Usual Breakup Thing. The person who wants to break up thinks you should be friendly and be able to be around them in the same house without crying too much or talking too much or asking ‘If you still love me, why?!’ too much. You have to keep Doing Things like working, closing down your business, looking for somewhere to live, packing up all your things, realising you don’t have a job anymore after September (because you quit it to Follow Him Around). At first you want to seem like A Rational Person and show that you still love him and that he could change his mind if he wanted to. This makes the person who wants to break up feel comfortable and pleased by your acceptance. But eventually, having to do things that make you very scared about your life makes you feel upset and angry and ask ‘Why?!’ more. It makes you ask them to get out of the house and sleep on sofas. This can make the person who wants to break up feel frustrated and fed up with you.

Sometimes the person who wants to break up doesn’t understand your feelings anymore, or understands but doesn’t care as much. Sometimes they can’t understand why you’re so upset and why you can’t accept it’s over. This is normal. This means things happen like when you’re standing in the kitchen with them and they’re looking at you with cold eyes and a face they have never looked at you with before and they’re saying “I DON’T WANT TO BE IN A RELATIONSHIP WITH YOU” and “I’M NOT IN LOVE WITH YOU ANYMORE.” These things can make you feel like you have been punched in the chest. These things can make you realise this was always The Real Reason. The person who wants to break up can feel angry you made them say The Real Reason. Some people can infer The Real Reason themselves. You are not one of those people. You don’t pick up on hints easily and need people to spell things out for you (this was even a Communication Reason). Now it has been spelt out, you know.

Sometimes people stop loving each other. That’s OK, that’s normal. That happens a lot. In history, even your own personal history, this is not A Bad Breakup. Bad Breakups involve other people and smashing cars. Bad Breakups involve people’s life partners suddenly disappearing forever. Some people never get given any Reasons. If this was a movie you were watching, you might even be rooting for the person who wants to break up. You would find whimsical, life-affirming meaning in their Rumspringa (or Midlife Crisis, however you want to look at it). You might wish it were you who was strong enough to want to start their life again. But it isn’t a movie. In movies people sometimes come back, but this is real life and you know he will never come back. Even if he ended up thinking he was wrong, he would never, ever tell you. If he ever felt regret he would just cherish the pining, long stares, wounded eyes and heavy sighs it would elicit.

So now there is nothing you can do and you are Very Sad. Your eyes always seem heavy and you feel like a hollowed out shell-person. You’re not very hungry anymore. That’s normal – don’t panic. Some of your friends might say “He just needs some time alone and I’m sure it’s not over.” Some of your friends might say “You’ll look back on this and realise he did you a favour.” Some of your friends will say “You weren’t happy anyway, move on.”  Some friends will say “He didn’t mean what he said in the kitchen.” Most friends will say that what he said in the kitchen was final and unambiguous. You might never know which of these is true, and that’s OK. Some things you don’t need to know or can infer later. You should try not to think about this.

You will feel sad when you see pictures of him accidentally, or if you think of a nice memory. That’s normal. You might feel sad when other people have all the things you two had planned to have together. You should try not to for their sake. If you feel sad, you can make a funny joke, or remember you don’t want those things with someone who says they’re not in love with you anymore anyway.

Sometimes when people get dumped they think something is wrong with them. They might think they always do The Wrong Thing in relationships, or that they are Quite Ugly or Innately Unloveable. Or, they might think they don’t know how to pick people who are good for them, and they will always choose people who end up saying “I’m not in love with you anymore.” Some people say “You should be alone now” – this is probably true, even though it makes you feel angry because you did not expect to be alone all of a sudden. You’re not sure if you’re meant to change everything you do next time, or if there will be someone who you don’t have to change for or work very hard to be with, or if there are any men out there who have gone through the growing up bit already and could just love you. These are all normal things to think and feel and wonder about.

If you feel very bad, there are things you can do that are Good Ideas. These include: calling your family, calling a friend, hanging out with kids, doing some exercise, drawing a picture, writing something, going to an exhibition, going to see live music.

Things that are Bad Ideas are: drinking too much, asking him ‘why’ again, looking at pictures, asking your friends about what he’s doing, thinking about what his next girlfriend will be like (willshebeyoungerprettiersmartermoreleftwingskinnier?), thinking about what his next house will look like, letting yourself worry a lot about how he’s doing, going on dating apps (because men are all horrible).

Things that are Undecided Ideas are: coming back to the house sometimes to see your dog, trying to be friends one day, taking up smoking again, thinking about how much happier he will be from an objective point of view, having sex with strangers. These will probably become clearer with time, but for now it is best to file Undecided Ideas as a subcategory of Bad Ideas.

This weekend you will move out and that will be The End.

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Transition

Once again I come back to my humble blog after a long absence, like returning home to see a friend. I haven’t had the ‘voice’ for it for a while – for me it was always about being filled with wonder and excitement about the changes I was experiencing in my life, and for a long time things have been static. Sometimes good, sometimes bad, but plodding along with a settled in predictability. After going through a transformative time leaving Perth and settling in London 4 years ago (earning buttloads of cash as a locum Speech and Language Therapist and therefore travelling loads), last year I took two part-time jobs with normal salaries and began the same daily grind as most of the other people who live here.

Life is no longer a holiday; short-term hedonism has been replaced with long-term goals and sacrifices in order to land the end result – higher up the ladder, spread across more rooms and up the duff. I may not be able to go out to nice places for dinner as often as I used to, but I have jobs where people actually know who I am and where I have the same ‘rights’ (locums aren’t allowed to access training, work in the holidays or get any leave entitlements), as everyone else. I have cred, I have gravitas. I commit to things and I can wish my colleagues a happy holiday and know I will be there to see them when they get back. I have been off my anxiety and nerve pain medication for 6 months and I am managing it well because I do grown up things like exercise and meditate and do therapy and eat healthily and buy milled flaxseed.

In a way embracing long-term goals has in itself been exciting. Never before in my life have I looked further than, well…. 0 years ahead. Money was for spending on things that you wanted right then. You could just get more if you ran out. I’d never had a boyfriend where marriage and children were more than just abstract, millions-of-years-away things that happened to other people. My disdain for authority and work politics meant that I never wanted to be involved and competitive. Settling down and being earnest was for losers. Swoop in, shoot out the lights and leave. Hurricane Jill.
Now though…what’s changed now? I want children and a big fuck off house and an awesome job that gives me enough money to be able to live like a grown up. I guess this just happens naturally. I’ve lived in London for three and a half years and in the last year I have halved my income and doubled my rent to live just with my boyfriend in a flat in Zone 1 so he can commute up to Bedford and even though we are both professionals we have no money and no space and WHY DID I LEAVE AUSTRALIA WHERE I COULD BE RICH AND HAVE A 5 BEDROOM HOUSE IN THE MIDDLE OF THE DESERT?! What have I done? I’ve delayed growing up and now suddenly here I am in the middle of what was supposed to be a huge adventure, grown up and in the words of Snap!, as serious as cancer. Is this a good place to be grown up? If it weren’t for my fizzling out ovaries would I be growing up? Why didn’t I save some money to freeze my eggs? Why didn’t I save any money for anything? Where are those anxiety meds again?!
So fine, if I have to be a grown up, then I will plan out our new grown up life. You want long-term plans? I will give you the most comprehensive grown up plan you’ve ever fucking seen. I will get my coil taken out in February, then we will be pregnant by April. I will finish my 3-day a week fixed term contract in June and then in July we will move to Bedford. I will keep my 2 day a week Highly Specialist job in inner-city London and get some locum work in Bedford and because the rent is 50% of the price for 400% more room we will live like a King and Queen and we’ll have enough money saved for a house in no time! Growing up is easy, I will own it like I’ve owned everything else. As soon as I want things, they happen. That’s how it’s always been.
But the thing I’ve learnt about plans is that they don’t go the way you want them to, even (especially?) if you are sticking to them with laser-like focus and an all-encompassing, scary-to-other-people rigidity. You realise that doing locum work again means that you will be the expendable person at work who is far more experienced than most people but who is as distant and invisible to the team as a satellite circling the Earth. Even though you now want responsibility, you won’t get it. Anyway, ignore that feeling. You didn’t save any money and now this is what you have to do. Suck it up. You still have that two day a week job in London.
But then you find out that you and your partner are going to have some trouble conceiving naturally. This was not in The Plan. I bought a baby shirt on sale and it’s past April. Oh well, we’ll take some vitamins and change the way we eat and make sure we exercise properly and look I’ve bought an ovulation app and there’s this fertility gel and did you know X, Y and Z had trouble and now they’re fine and if we just try enough it will be fine…then your boyfriend breaks up with you.
Oh. The Plan. The Plan has taken over everything and snuffed out the spontaneity and light. You’ve been ignoring the fact your boyfriend has feelings and you’ve been so focused on The Plan that you haven’t been listening or acknowledging anything he has to say that doesn’t support your version of the next few years. You’re still together but all of a sudden you’re in couples counselling so you can actually see each other as people. Blergh. This is why I never tried to look ahead.
So, that’s where things are at now. Trying to find a balance – a moderate path that lies somewhere between floating aimlessly through life and squandering my eggs and my place on the property ladder, and being so preoccupied with these things that I can’t enjoy my life and I secretly resent my friends for having these things when I do not. When does the easy bit of life happen?
I’ve realised that immediately before I came to London, I spent a month in Edinburgh then went on a two week Camino de Santiago through Portugal with my friend El. As I come to my final months in London, I have unconsciously and serendipitously planned the same ritual – going to Edinburgh for a couple of nights for the Fringe then going and doing a shortened version of the Camino in August with El again. I think it will be good to compare how I feel about myself and my life to last time I did these trips – my body and mind are stronger and in a lot of ways I feel I’m a much better person than I was back then. Although I have a new set of challenges and a new unknown facing me, I am once again in a state of flux and am wondering which of those figs I can actually have. This way of being is scary and uncertain with no guarantees, but somehow, I feel as though I have woken up and am relieved that life refuses to be predicted and controlled.
“I saw my life branching out before me like the green fig-tree in the story. From the tip of every branch, like a fat purple fig, a wonderful future beckoned and winked. One fig was a husband and a happy home and children, and another fig was a famous poet and another fig was a brilliant professor, and another fig was Ee Gee, the amazing editor, and another fig was Europe and Africa and South America, and another fig was Constantin and Socrates and Attila and a pack of other lovers with queer names and offbeat professions… and beyond and above these figs were many more figs I couldn’t quite make out. I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig-tree, starving to death, just because I couldn’t make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest,and, as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet.”
– Sylvia Plath (The Bell Jar)


Self Portrait April 2015 – put through the How Old Robot website. London has aged me 56 years.

Homecoming Bean

Some of you may remember back in May last year when Jim and I woke up on a (sunny?) Saturday morning and decided to zip down to STA Travel to buy our tickets to NZ and Australia. We bought them so far in advance that we managed to steal a good deal. We also bought them so far in advance that I could shove ‘going home’ to the back of my mind and not have to think about it for the best part of a year.

London is good for that… you’re so busy rushing around making money, running maniacally for public transport, meeting up with people and schlepping to Europe on easyjet flights that you may very easily avoid huge, significant, life-defining, identity-shaking returns to places where everyone knows the ‘real’ you (aaaaahhhhhhhh)! That is, until you’re on the plane from Sydney to Perth by yourself and you suddenly feel like opening the emergency escape hatch whilst vomiting on everyone in the extra-leg room row. Thought you’d got the good seats? Think again.

Jump back a couple of weeks and Jim and I were leaving London very early on a chilly winter’s morning, even earlier than necessary due to Jim’s Woody Allen-like neuroses about being late – “I’d rather get there an hour early than be 5 minutes late!” It was only when we arrived at the airport that his nervousness re: missing our flight morphed into excitement. In fact, I’d never seen him so excited! I thought it was very cute so I giddily joined in. I had big-upped Singapore Airways A380 so much that I was anxious for Jim to like it, he hasn’t had the best experiences on long-haul flights so we had invested a bit extra to ensure satisfaction. By the way he was bouncing around, demonstrating all the different ways he could fold his legs and saying “This is amazeballs!”, I needn’t have worried. I always feel that sleeping on Singapore Airways flights is a waste of precious time; there are too many films to watch, crisps to request and camparis to drink! I stayed awake for the entirety of our 15 hour leg to Singapore, the best film I watched being Beasts of The Southern Wild. A combination of pent-up emotion, beer, tiredness and terrific film-making resulted in me quietly sobbing in my seat. Too embarrassed to keep wiping my face, I decided to just let the tears flow freely down my chin and onto my chest. When I turned to face Jim in the closing credits, the look he gave me was a mixture of bewilderment, disgust and genuine concern. After 3 days spent hot and jetlagged in Singapore (apart from an amazing meal at Fat Cow and our awesome hotel it all seems like a blur), and a gruelling 12 hour layover in Sydney, we finally arrived in Christchurch on the South island of New Zealand. I knew I’d be back! We landed just after midnight and Jim’s sister whom he hadn’t seen for 4 years drove us back to her house, where we passed out for a solid night’s sleep before driving down to Timaru the next afternoon.

Jim’s family live in a gorgeous country-style house with Molly the dog and their two cats Kanga and Roo. Ten glorious days were spent in serene relaxation –  pottering around in the sun amidst the flowers, walking Molly in the rocky rivers that are quintessentially Kiwi and just spending time getting to know each other. In the lead-up to Christmas more lovely family members arrived from around the islands, meaning there was always an air of festivity and somebody new to meet. A highlight of our first few days was watching the end of year school production at the boys’ boarding school that Jim’s mum works at. It was a musical take on Robin Hood, mysteriously opening with a performance of Footloose then unfolding as a 3-hour panto. The boys did an amazing job and were all so sweet, especially Maid Marian (played by a tall slender 12 year old boy with fantastic cheekbones). He completely outshone Robin whose only memorable moment was emitting a Napoleon Dynamite-esque ‘YES’ with fist-pump action upon receiving Marian’s hand in marriage. I totally get excited about kids achieving things, so I had a great time.

There were trips to quaint towns, fresh pasta making sessions, delicious lunches at The Shearer’s Quarters and Verde Cafe, drunken blister-inducing totem tennis matches, as well as a viewing of The Hobbit at a tiny independent cinema built in the 1920s. But the most exciting thing of all was Jim and I getting our Christmas present from his Mum and Dad early…the Air Safari Grand Traverse flight over Aoraki Mount Cook! We got it early because a) I was leaving for Perth before Christmas and b) we needed time to choose a perfectly clear day to fly. On our fifth day there, Jim and I got the all clear and jumped into the family car, reaching Lake Tekapo at 10am. We arrived just in time for me to use the loo (where I sneakily put on some mascara despite Jim hopping around in a rage brought on by nearly being late), board the light plane and take off into the amazingly blue sky. We were in the air for just over an hour, soaring over glaciers and rivers carving their way through mountains, finishing their journies in lakes tinged turqoise by glacial ‘flour’. We flew so close to the highest peaks in New Zealand we felt like we could just reach out and touch them. It was all so magical, I can’t put into words how awe-inspiring it was to see such massive mechanisms of nature at work. We heeded our pilot’s warning not to spend too much time looking through our viewfinders…making sure we were soaking in the experience firsthand. I was keeping a close eye-out for the huge mountain goats who apparently live up there, but instead caught glimpses of tiny huts on the barren, frozen mountainsides. Our pilot informed us that a few people live ‘off-the-grid’ in the Alps, far away from the bothersome presence of others. For someone now residing in one of the biggest metropolises on Earth, it was reassuring to see the wilderness in all its humbling power, as well as to know there are people still committed to stillness and solitude. On our way back we flew near a sheet of cloud cover where the coast meets the Alps, resulting in a dazzling strip of whiteness stretching as far as we could see. Aotearoa indeed.

 

 

My time in New Zealand was over far too quickly. As Jim’s Mum put it “I feel like I’ve been waiting so long for you to get here, and now that you’re here you’re leaving again!” I was sad to leave, but excited to get to Perth. I left Timaru with a bag of presents from Jim’s family, in a mini-van full of octogenerians bound for Christchurch airport. Something about NZ just makes the soul feel good.

Next time: the Perth leg (Gah!)

The last remaining songs on my mix tape for Jim enter into the seriously nauseating intricacies of our relationship and how it’s developed over the last 11 months. So of course I’m going to include them! I’ll make a token effort to spare you by not going into as much detail as I did for the previous tunes… sort of.

15. The Magnetic Fields: You And Me And The Moon
I know I know, breaking the mix tape rules, but it’s not my fault The Magnetic Fields have a song to fit every idiosyncratic romantic situation that any of us have ever had! ‘In a cool gay bar where the people are entertaining…’ Jim and I had our first kiss in a gay friendly pub in Shoreditch called George and Dragon (I know this is from 2010 but read the last line of the review… spooky!). We were on the opposite side of a booth we were sharing with two  guys who were also making out. A picture of diversity.

16. Cut Chemist: What’s The Altitude?
This is one of my favourite tracks from Cut Chemist’s album The Audience is Listening. It’s about a boy and a girl whose relationship flies so high that it reaches outrageous altitudes.

17. Aphex Twin: Window Licker
It’s the moment every new couple has (I think). The moment you seriously discuss music and show each other your favourite music clips. In my nervousness and preoccupation with appearing ‘cool’ all I could remember were the intensely disturbing videos by Aphex Twin. So the first impressions Jim got of my music taste were Window Licker and Come to Daddy. Way to make a guy think you’re really weird. This track is actually better enjoyed via purely aural means – it’s amazing. If you do watch it on Youtube, be warned, the introduction goes for about 7 minutes and as my Year 8s would say, ‘has a lot of swears’.
By the way, I forgot to mention that track number 1 (The Chemical Brothers – The Test), is one of the coolest videoclips out there (controversial statement I know).

18. Radiohead: Thinking About You
Usually I find it insanely annoying when people join in with my singing. I sing away all day like a child with a social skills disorder, which understandably annoys friends, housemates and partners alike. I guess they assume I want them to join in with me. Not so! Nothing’s worse than having your own personal boogie interrupted by someone else. Even worse, when it’s interrupted by someone who can actually sing. So although Jim subtly removes himself from the room when I’m belting them out, I appreciate that he a) doesn’t whinge too much about it (I have made a huge effort to decrease the volume when he’s around at his request) and b) doesn’t intrude on my moments as he never sings anything! Or so I thought… until this song came on iTunes shuffle one Saturday morning spent pottering around his room, and we quietly began singing along at the same time. Jim broke through his singing barrier and I loved it rather than being annoyed. I didn’t look at him for fear of breaking the spell. Ahh Radiohead… bringing people together since Pablo Honey. ‘I bled and I bleed to please you…’

19. Nina Simone, Horace Ott: Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood
This plaintive plea from one lover to another speaks for itself really. My old housemate and I used to joke about waiting for the right amount of time to pass with a new boy before ‘showing him the crazy’. To say I have… issues… with relating to men would be an understatement, but I really am just a soul whose intentions are good. Really.

20. Missy Higgins: Stuff and Nonsense
One big thing that’s changed for me over the past couple of years is being able to name my anxieties and, in fact, to acknowledge that I have an ongoing problem with anxiety. One of the triggers for which is being in a serious relationship. It’s bubbled underneath the surface in lots of past situations, often with negative consequences. A nice lady called Roxy who I saw once a week for a few months this year gave me the ability to identify and acknowledge the reasons that that kept happening. While that process was happening, I needed things to be ‘just about the now’ as Miggy Higgins explains in her great Split Enz cover. Live for the moment, don’t worry about what might happen in the future and get caught up in catastrophising. I couldn’t let things go forward before I felt ready, and being honest about that in a calm, reasonable way was something new… scary but ultimately amazing. To get closer, I had to step away a bit. I knew the issue was with me, and for the first time I really decided to do something about it.

21. Joanna Newsom: Good Intentions Paving Company
A lovely song about complicated patriotism, exploration of identity and love. Also very fun to sing in the shower! A couple of years ago my friend James and I had the opportunity to see Joanna Newsom play at the Beck’s Music Box as part of the Perth International Arts Festival. I was hoping all night that she would play this, and hurray… she did!

22. The Panics: Don’t Fight It
The Panics are a local Perth band who Jim now loves thanks to being introduced through this song! It contains one of my favourite lyrics at the moment: ‘I left my heart in places, forgot every one of their faces, and tried to navigate a broken path of which I may have helped create. In any incident, this is never no accident, to stand alone… and let the silence make itself at home. Oh give it up, those dirty tricks, no quick fix could undo it. Oh give it up, I won’t resist.’

23. Crowded House: It’s Only Natural 
This song completely speaks for itself in regards to how I feel after almost a year together. It also makes me think of sitting in a pub somewhere in Perth on a hot afternoon, and all of a sudden a Crowded House song starts playing. A few enthusiastic drunkards from each table join in with New Zealand’s finest and my happiness levels go through the roof. Not long now! It’s just 6 weeks until Jim and I are with his family in New Zealand, and after that, drinking beers in Perth pubs. I just hope we don’t take the weather with us *nudge nudge*

 

So Jim, that’s it… the meaning behind all of your songs. If, by chance, you’re considering breaking up with me, could you at least wait a couple of months so this isn’t so embarrassing? Thanks.

xx