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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.
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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

Today is the fourth day of my week-long alcohol-free stint, and I feel… kinda crap! My New Years resolution was to have two alcohol-free nights per week, which is the general go-to figure for the health authorities and good-intentioners. My mission sounds insane to most of my British friends, who find it weird that I drink every night. I don’t mean drinking myself into oblivion, or even feeling drunk…but I do have a glass of wine or a beer after work which sometimes turns into two… if I’m at home… on my own. The number creeps up to three, four or more if friends have invited me out. I don’t wake up in Zone 9 covered in spew with my stilettos in my handbag, so I never thought it was an issue! However,  my Doctor recently probed me uncomfortably (not in that way), about my intake. He was relentless, countering my vague, dismissive responses with questions like ‘how many nights exactly?’…’but what kind of beer… a half pint or a pint?’, and eventually whipping up a calculation that I feared wouldn’t be pretty. He leant back in his chair, stared at me with a face uncannily similar to Thom Yorke’s, and declared ‘You drink three times the amount that a woman your age should’. Damn. Despite my usual resistance against any type of authority figure telling me what to do, I listened to him partly because he followed this announcement that he understood I was probably self-medicating my pain.

Anyway you look at it, I’ve done a pretty rubbish (such an English term) job at sticking to my New Years resolution, which at the time of its creation seemed perfectly feasible. I’ve decided to buy some more ‘yummy drinks’ as I realised that the only options available to me were always tap water or some sort of booze. I don’t tend to buy juice, cordial or fizzy drinks as I have an illogical fear of sugar (illogical given the massive sugar content of most alcoholic drinks). On Monday I went out and bought some ginger beer (with no added sugar!), and have been drinking that instead. It’s great! Tasty, gingery and it even has ‘beer’ in its name. I’ve also decided not to drink when I’m by myself, because it seems sad and a bit pointless. Having a beer or glass of wine has become firmly associated with unwinding after work, and I’ve had to make a conscious effort to partake in other stress-reducing activities instead of cracking open a bottle. Oh the joys of borderline alcoholism! The longest I’ve gone without drinking since I moved out of home at 20 is two days. TWO DAYS. Until now.

Besides the first two days when I really craved a beer and could only banish my yearnings through neurotically googling liver disease, it has been slightly easier than I anticipated. Last night I was weirdly hyperactive at 8pm, and my nerve pain was hitting about an 8 out of 10 on the ouch-o-meter. By 8.30pm I was fast asleep on the couch, snoring away as Jim and his bemused  housemates lived their lives around me. Besides waking up briefly while Jim guided me to bed, I slept for a full 12 hours and felt like I had been hit by a truck this morning. I’m not sure if that was the result of some kind of alcohol withdrawl, but if sobriety can have that much of an affect on my body I’m tempted to stretch my booze free jaunt to two or even three weeks to make sure my poor abused liver has some hope in hell of recovery. Plus, who could argue with Thom Yorke?!

Anyways, here is my playlist for Jim, continued:

10. Belle & Sebastian: Piazza New York Catcher
‘Elope with me Miss Private and we’ll sail around the world. I will be your Ferdinand and you my wayward girl’. I’ve previously mentioned that my time in Doncaster was a mixed bag. On one hand I finally had time to myself after sleeping in shared dorms for around 3 and a half months. I could sit in peace and quiet at my B&B without anyone bothering me, pondering my life in Perth and all I had learnt. On the other hand, Doncaster’s depressing high street smelt faintly of sewerage and the junkies were scary. As well as dissecting the past, I looked to the future; as the bus to work wound its way through light industrial estates and small villages with boarded up pubs, I listened to this song and imagined more whimsical times. I started to think again about becoming someone’s wayward girl. How many nights of talking in hotel rooms can I take? As many as you got.

11. Killa Queenz: Sweaty Wet
The Killa Queenz are a female hip hop act from Australia whose live shows are usually amazeballs judging by the various YouTube clips I’ve seen. Unfortunately when they came to Perth they tried to fill something like 3 gigs in a few days, and on the night I saw them there was some major international hip hop guy playing elsewhere in town. It wasn’t quite the dance hall frenzy I imagined, but I still think they’re awesome. After being single and honestly disinterested in guys for so many months, at the Edinburgh Festival I suddenly turned and decided it was time to be in the Game again, to the amusement and finally the exasperation of my friends (both new and old). This song kind of reminds me of that time, feeling so cocky… yet at the same time really, crushingly insecure and unsure of myself. I also played it during the Camino to give me an extra burst of energy when I needed it… it’s so much easier to bust a move when you have some fiery Ugandan/Belizean Australians sassing in your ear. It conveniently annoyed the hell out of El when I sang it out loud… she has since labelled it ‘the worst song in the world’. Decide for yourself!

12. The Shins: Young Pilgrims
This has been one of my favourite songs for years, I love most of the lyrics written by these guys. How could I pass up such a literal title when choosing a song to depict the Camino pilgrimage of last September? It’s quite an inspiring tune – ‘But I learnt fast how to keep my head up ’cause I know there is this side of me that wants to grab the yoke from the pilot and just fly the whole mess into the sea’. In my view, undertaking a Camino is an active choice that people make to search for something within themselves and to get that tiny bit closer to their concept of God/enlightenment/being a happy person. Which I think is totally cool. It’s of utmost importance that you learn to keep your head up, particularly if you’re prone to having it fall through the floor.

13. The Magnetic Fields: All My Little Words
 When you hear the opening lyrics of this song you think ‘Oh my god how cheesey’. You are a splendid butterfly? Gimme a fucking break. But then you totally get drawn in to this gorgeous song about a fleeting, confusing, hopeless romantic encounter. Which I was sort of trying to work out and come to terms with on the hike, amongst so many other things. I love how the Magnetic Fields tap into delicious, at times tongue-in-cheek misery, then tickle you with word-play that Stephen Fry would love for the sheer sound sex of it. Again, I think if El hears me warble suddenly about a certain winged insect ever again, she’ll punch me.

14. Gerry Rafferty: Baker Street
Enter Jim! We met outside Baker Street station. Jim was reading a paper, leaning against the rails and waiting for me to arrive. He looked up from his paper and we locked eyes for the first time… later that week, I told him he had spectacular eyeballs… awwww. So of course, Baker Street is now sort of one of our songs. Despite its uplifting wind instruments, Baker Street is actually quite a depressing song if you listen to the lyrics. ‘Just one more year and then you’ll be happy… but you’re crying, you’re crying now’. Jesus. London is a city that sometimes chews you up and spits you out. Stating the obvious there. I’ve seen people along the way that for whatever reason just didn’t have the timing or the financial/emotional resources to run at it and make it their bitch, which you have to do if you’re going to live here. At least they could go back to wherever their homes were… some people don’t have it so easy.

More next time!

Sober bam!

Choons

Next week I’m going to get a new phone. My faithful iPhone 3 has served me well and witnessed many eventful scenes over the past three years. Today I looked through its various apps, nooks and crannies and realised that I’ve had the same limited playlist saved on there for over a year… since I planned the music for my bar shifts at Zoo Venues. I listened to the same songs every day for a month… then took the same playlist with me to Portugal and listened to it every day for two weeks. Now I listen to it most days on the tube! I’m over it! I am known for playing songs to death, but this has gone too far.

Another wake up call to my lack of musical development of late was my construction of a Spotify playlist (today’s version of a mix tape, sadly) for Jim. Of course it’s great to showcase your faves… songs that have helped shape the person you are today. But I used to make playlists with songs that I had just heard, by bands I was just discovering! I blame this on my lack of driving nowadays, and thereby my disconnection from my beloved local radio station RTRfm 92.1. I really miss driving along and hearing new independent songs that aren’t gross, autotuned, mass marketed piles of poo (sorry UK). It’s exciting to hear something new and then go on a search to track down more by that artist. There’s nothing more awesome and surreal than driving around the abandoned streets of Perth city in the middle of the night to the sounds of Difficult Listening – RTR’s experimental music show. Oh well. I guess I need to find something that will fill the gap, or just suck it up and stream it online (it’s not the same!).

It was while I was sitting at the beautiful Public House in Islington having a roast with my friend Alex that I firmly decided to do something about my dire musical situation. Song after beautiful song played and I had no idea what they were or how to get them. Ones I almost recognised would come on and drive us crazy, even when we cornered the super friendly bar guy and demanded the names and artists, he helplessly told us he made his playlist ages ago, it was on shuffle, and there was no way to see what songs had played recently and in what order. Maybe he needs to take a good hard look at his approach to music too!

Anyways, I did manage to put together a mix tape for Jim, and I’m going to list the tracks here. And before you’re all like ‘ew, no one gives a fuck about your weird lovey dovey mix tape, and anyway, isn’t that meant to be private?’, let me reassure you that in typical narcissistic style, the mix tape was mostly about me. I was trying to tell a story about my life before Perth, how I felt just before I left, and some of the things that have happened since then. So whatever, here it is. Rah.

1. The Chemical Brothers: The Test
This is a bit of a celebration of my early twenties… hazy, crazy early twenties. There were moments that seemed a bit of a test, set to a backdrop of wobbly sounds and wobblier people. It was really really fun though.

2. Warpaint: Shadows
This band is famously hot. Shannyn Sossamon (indie princess and DJ extraordinnaire who named her kid Audioscience), co-founded it. A rather morose second track, but we’ve skipped forward to my Paused Period, just before I bit the bullet and fully decided to make the move from Perth. No other song captures the apathy, the anguish, the endless languish, oh!… that was my life when I tried to just sit on the couch and not make anything go wrong. Delightfully depressing.

3. The DO: Travel Light
These guys are a French/Finnish two-piece band. I said that the previous song captured my apathy. Well I guess this one captures the process of detachment from everything and the realisation that I had been, and would be alone, and that was OK. ‘I don’t care about the scratches, no one followed me this far. Oh broken bones but empty head’.

4. KYU: Pixiphony
KYU are two girls from Melbourne. You have to listen to this loud, with lots of bass. Also fill your heart with girl power, or just the realisation that everyone is powerful (cheeeeesey). Seriously though, this song meant to lot to me and was in my head a lot as I left home.

5. Architecture in Helsinki: Hold Music
Yay fun! I had such a light hearted and amazing time in New Zealand for 6 weeks, where I started remembering who I really was and the fact that I love meeting new people. I learnt a lot and hung out with a whole lot of English under-25s on their gap years. Woohoo! This song is just silly.

6. The Mint Chicks: Fuck the Golden Youth
These guys are from New Zealand, my brother introduced them to me (by that I mean I stole his CDs for ages). I love most of their songs, they’re geat to jump around to. This song is also dedicated to the one bum-hole on the Kiwi Experience who ate my banana and then constructed the skin in the fridge to make it look like there was still a banana in it. You hilarious asshole.

7. Jay-Z and Alicia Keys: Empire State of Mind
I had to put this in, I had quite a few moments to this song in NYC! Singing along to it with an entire bar in Hell’s Kitchen, alongside hardened New Yorkers as well as travellers. My friend Jo and I danced on the red steps in Times Square Alicia-styles, which was awesome, particularly as I was wearing ridiculously high heels. Also, I remember walking out of my dingey (but cool movie dingey) hostel off Times Square and walking around thinking ‘bah, it’s just like any other big city’. Within half an hour, I was almost euphoric. The streets really do make you feel brand new!

8. Gill Scott-Heron: New York is Killing Me
This is exactly how I didn’t feel about New York. Gill S-H is a really influential/important poet though, and I think this song is really cool. Remembering how tough people can have it in big, enveloping cities makes me grateful that things have worked out for me not only in New York, but in London too.

9. The Fall: Edinburgh Man
It’s sort of distant now, but before my festival experience in 2011 I held this really idealistic view of Edinburgh. After NYC I spent a week in London lazing around and annoying my friends, before living in Edinburgh for a few weeks. It was in May-June, so it rained heavily and steadily. I moved in with a Scotsman, a Spanish girl and a Scotswoman and loved my time there. Then I got a job in Doncaster and had to go because I was broke. Hang on, anyway, this song is about how much I love Edinburgh and how, despite all my subsequent fallings to Earth and intense experiences there, it will always have a kind of fairytale status in my heart.

I’m sleepy now. One more day of work til the weekend!

Playlist to be continued…

Spornwall

It’s probably once in a lifetime that your holiday in Spain ends with your Spanish neighbour joining you on the street to help your friend contain a drunk, elderly Russian man on crutches who has pulled up outside your villa in his car. I’d say it happens once in TWO lifetimes that the neighbour is wearing only a bath towel, and once in three lifetimes that there is a handgun tucked into the back of it. Frightening enough, but what happens when your Russian friend kindly ups the ante by starting to rant about Spanish fascists? My knowledge of the Spanish civil war is limited to what I learnt from watching Pan’s Labyrinth and reading Hemingway’s For Whom The Bell Tolls, but it doesn’t take a war fact enthusiast to know that a Spanish man with a gun might get a bit pissed off at a Russian man calling him a fascist outside his own house at 2am. Our randomness rating reaches the lofty heights of once in four lifetimes when the neighbour, once satisfied with your friend’s ability to manage the Russian man, tells him he’s heard us all making noise and hands him a huge amount of weed so we can ‘keep quiet’. Jim says I happen to run into weird situations, but I never really thought he had a point until looking back on that holiday gem.

To put this into context I should tell you that at the end of July, immediately after my contract finished for the school year, I joined in on a plan hatched by my friend to hire out a villa on the Costa Blanca in Spain. Seven people originally from Perth ended up going, with people arriving and leaving at different times throughout the week. We hired a villa set into a steep and rocky hillside, with an amazing view over Pueblo Mascarat. It took around 6 hours for me to get from the airport to the villa via buses and taxis, but the long journey was worth it and I did some light exercise to help with the nerve pain caused by sitting down for hours on end. The setting was idyllic and it felt like we were starring in some holiday special of Bold and the Beautiful. The seven of us settled easily into each others’ company, despite some of us not having seen each other for  years. Some of our group still lived in Perth and were on short holidays, one of us had been living overseas for years and was quite used to catching up with transient groups of Australians passing through the UK and Europe. The rest of us were in various stages of being or becoming emigrants. After being on the move for so long and meeting lots of new people, it felt really good to be around familiar folk who you don’t have to ‘try’ with. I think because most of us seemed to be at a transitory stage of our lives, we managed to bring enough prior knowledge of each other to feel comfortable without including presumptions or rigid expectations that sometimes come with long-term friendships. We swam, drank, played games, explored, ate good food and enjoyed the sunshine; the stark landscape with its tough scrub and bright reflections reminding me of home. At the end of my four days there I was feeling more optimistic than ever about returning to Perth and seeing everyone.

Previously I mentioned that Jim was going to show me where he spent every summer as a child, and that we had already bought a car hire voucher from STA when we bought our tickets to Australia. About a week after I returned to London, we put aside 9 days to brave the wilds of Cornwall. We had a rocky start, both of us traipsing to Kings Cross from our respective homes via public transport, me laden with the camping gear not already transferred to Jim’s flat. We arrived at the car rental place only to be told that our insurance policy was a bit dodgy and that we should cancel it. Terse phonecalls ensued, my anxiety rising due to memories of paying 800 pounds excess thanks to a dented wheel arch the last time I hired a car in the UK . After all of that was sorted and I was certain that I wouldn’t pay a single pound even if I somehow managed to completely demolish the car due to my own stupidity, I stood waiting to be handed the keys. Then the man behind the counter asked for my passport. Which was in a drawer. At home. Around an hour and several tube rides later, we finally hit the road. We cleverly avoided the congestion zone and slowly and terrifyingly made our way to Jim’s house in Queens Park. We threw armfuls of CDS and the rest of the gear in the car (sans bedclothes thanks to someone!), and set off again towards the motorways. We suffered the same communication issues as any couple would when one person doesn’t drive, one person hasn’t driven in over a year and all they’re armed with is an incomplete google maps printout and an iPhone3 that is rapidly going flat. However, we managed to talk about why we were both a tad snappy using excellent ‘I feel…because…’ phrases and finally ended up barrelling down the M5, blood returning to our knuckles and jaws gradually unclenching.

Driving in central London was already a tense reintroduction to the joys of driving, but as the weather grew worse and we drove deeper into Cornwall, I was challenged anew by the narrow, winding lanes, impatient local drivers and eventually the thick fog that descended upon the claustrophobic landscape, decreasing my vision to zilch. Somehow we made it to Wadebridge alive, where Jim’s Uncle and his wife had left a home-made shepard’s pie and a bottle of french red for us on their dining room table, over which we finally unwound and realised that we were far from London. Due to the weather and the welcome insistence of Jim’s family, we extended our stay with them from two to three nights. Jim and I went on day-trips to Lanhydrock and Padstow after long breakfasts with Chris and Anne, returning in the evening after they had left for their night shifts. One of my favourite nights involved wandering down to The Swan pub after our early dinner, once again kindly provided by our hosts. We drank a bottle of Chilean Sauv Blanc and played rounds of rummy, and I FINALLY beat Jim at something, ha! On day four of our trip we bid Chris, Anne and their (literally) braindamaged cat Gandalf goodbye. Gandalf had fallen off a balcony as a kitten and as a result, moves like an unpredictable, malfunctioning rubber robot with seven legs. I am the least cat-friendly person (mostly due to being allergic), and had avoided him all the more after finding out he’s a biter. Anne loaded us up with food and wine and we set off for the southerly village of Coverack.

Jim was facing the particular problem that I’ll be facing in December – how do you recreate the nostalgic experiences that you hold so dear for someone you love? To show them the way things are done, to let them inside your past and hope that they accept it at the very least, or at best love it too? Do you try to stick to the formula and make the new fit the old, or create your own new memories on an old stomping ground? In the end I think our conclusion was to have a mix of both. It was so much fun camping again, and we had some sweet gear thanks to my friends Bi and Nick. Amazingly, another family who Jim saw every year as a child were continuing to camp there every summer, so we spent some lovely time with them as well as doing our own thing. Cornwall is such a unique and awesome place, and it was a really special trip for both of us. There’s so much to say about what we did (I literally have a whole noteboook full of things and this is long enough already), so I’ll just list my highlights:

– BBQ on the beach at sunset with Jim’s family friends and walking back to town with headtorches in the dark
– Huddling in our tent as it poured down with rain, eating freshly cooked whole crab from Cadgwith Cove
– Walking to the pub in the evening as bats swooped for insects overhead
– Feeding some horses mandarins (if horses could say WTF, these totally would have)
– Eating Roskilly’s icecream
– Watching everyone in the village have fun at the Coverack Regatta, even though we didn’t win the raffle
– Seeing Jim so happy about showing me this special place