Monday, December 31, 2012

Punctuation in a Lifetime: 2012

This time last year I was in Berlin, bewildered and bemused by the incessant fireworks lit in the streets, shooting into the side of buildings, falling and firing at pedestrians, people with handguns firing blank bullets at cars driving past. Although I've always travelled alone, at this point I was lonely, I was exhausted, and facing nothing but uncertainty in my future.

2012 played out as I knew it would, in that nothing turned out as I expected. I've lived in amazing places and shit places simultaneously. Ullapool is such a sanctuary and haven of beautiful wilderness, of birds and flowers and the Arctic wind, but the shared housing that came with the job was not...amazing. Glasgow has ridiculous amounts of cheek and character, but this flat in Calton is bloody horrid.

I've met extraordinary people who have surprised me in both their kindness and the fact that I genuinely desire their company. They're in distant places, in distant countries, and I miss them and prize their presence in my life, however fleeting.

I've worked a shit job - if you prize the use of your arms, don't be a cleaner. I've worked brilliant jobs - freelance editing is wonderful and ghastly, contracting for a publishing house is confidence boosting and I just love reading. I've worked no job at all - despite six years as a public servant in a secure environment no one wants to touch me, not even for filing. Sadly, this does not make my resumé any more impressive.

I've not seen nearly as much of Scotland as I would like. Failing to break into temp work means no travel, no weekend flights to Barcelona, no drives along the west coast. I have explored St Kilda, however, and sailed through the Hebrides on a beautiful tall ship. I have roamed the Faroe Islands, and returned to that most breath-taking country Iceland and enjoyed days and days of live music.

I started the 365 project, and have not taken a photo every day. I did not expect to, and am surprised at what I managed to produce. When this entry is finished I will walk into Glasgow with my camera, and the last photos of 2012 will be taken.

I started writing again. This is perhaps the only thing I wanted of this year.

It cannot be denied that the largest, the most meaningful and profound change to have occurred in my life in the past year has been the presence of J. Have I ever told you of my forecasting? When looking into the future, I have always pictured myself alone. Not sad or bitter, simply flying solo, as I have always done. When I was little and assumed that getting married and having children was inevitable, I would try to picture this future, and in all such imaginings the woman with the husband and children was not me (she was white and had a perm for starters). Even when I was engaged this vision did not change, which should have tipped me off sooner. I kidnapped J, and J kidnapped me, and suddenly we have become a two-headed monster. To find that when I look into the future I can see the two of us getting old and remaining young together is a shock, is still a shock, is something worth struggling and fighting to keep.

Right now, I'm full; of love, excitement and hope. The first quarter of 2013 will be full of adventures and explorations with my partner in crime in places neither of us have ever been before. Then we'll be home, and I know now that yes, Melbourne is my home, my family and friends are my home, gumtrees and magpies are my home. There are babies to meet, weddings to attend, people to hug, and oh yes, future travel plans to be made.

There is so much to look forward to, and there is so much to dance about right here and now.

The sun keeps rising, and I keep breathing, and these terrible, wonderful things drag us on.


Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Goodwill and Effulgence

I'm not quite in my right mind at the moment; a somewhat blinding headache and broken sleep. We're sitting in a cozy lounge room in Bristol. A rare morning of sunshine is making the mouth-breathing condensed on the window a lovely pattern of luminous elm forest, and gilding the Christmas tree (the Christmas tree!) with silver and faux-warmth. The shag carpet is attached to our socks. There was champagne and croissants, now there is tea and chocolate money. Of the rending of wrapping paper only a few festive scraps give evidence. In the oven a piece of pig is turning into something civilised and delicious.

This is the Post-Christian Melbourne Ex-pats' Christmas Thing. We're not religious, yet Christmas nevertheless has meaning for us. Our families are on the other side of the world and so we've come together and yes, it is Christmas here.

I'm feeling particularly full of love for all. Everyone. Everything! But especially the varied and fascinating people in my life. My skype sessions with my family leave me so happy that my tribe is who and what it is. There are email exchanges with friends back home, friends here in Scotland, friends everywhere! Twitter and FB conversations. Drinks in cities that neither of us live in or call home! Friends who have opened their homes to me across the hemispheres! The world at this moment seems to be full of people who are so much more than just people! I want to name you all, but I am always concerned that someone may not wish to be named on a public blog, but, if I've met you on my travels you are on this list, if I yell at you in my life you are on this list, if you've done me any kindness or laughter you are on this list.

As the SBS man says, "The world is an amazing place." You're a part of the world so you must be amazing too. 

Monday, December 03, 2012

Sunday, December 02, 2012

I have not the vocabulary to talk about ice. 

Snow seems a gift. We seek a 'higher' power, we look up for hope, to the sky, the heavens, which hold that which gives us life, be it deity or the sun. That above gives snow as a gift. It comes quiet and soft, and for a little while brings with it the greater gift of newness. Of cleanliness. For a little while, all the traces of your passing are hidden. You can pretend that you, too, are fresh and original. For the soul that has not lived with snow, snow is the closest we will ever come to magic.

Ice is not magic. Ice is not kind. It hides nothing. The frost grows imperceptibly slow. You cannot watch it advance. Frost defines the liminal, highlighting the borders of all things and in doing so reminding you of the presence of the garbage littering the streets that you had long ago stopped seeing. Gum long bonded with the pavement is made a doily, the eternal pothole puddle a post-modern resin work examining the strata of urban filth. The streets themselves now capture and exhibit all evidence of your wake; the roads hold tyre marks, the footpaths keep your footprints. Still the air is full of water, and what you breathe is razors. All those puddles that never cleared congeal into sharp clots, then films and sheafs crystal papers. You step on each puddle cautiously. Most are solid now, and give you nothing, not even friction. Some yet remain with a belly of water, or air, and those you stomp on with glee. Something about that crackle and crunch of ice underfoot. Something so satisfying in that crisp sound, that crisp give. 

I cannot talk about ice. I cannot talk about myself.

Sunday, November 25, 2012


I discovered this half-edited and incomplete sitting open in iMovie. That's the hostel room in Nuremberg, which makes this about a year old.


Well past its use by date, I give you my adventures in the Tiergarten in Nuremberg, Germany.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Postcode G40

You open the door and an empty syringe wrapper lies by the frame, half a footstep flattening the end.

You open the door and discarded beer bottle sits neatly on the jamb.

You open the door and a spray of blood still young enough to not yet be brown draws a line across your path, significant enough that you cannot not see it, when ever you open the door.

You open the door and upon the second storey landing stands a young man already an old man smoking a cigarette. The ash is short. The door before him shows no sign of opening, and he is wholly indifferent to it. A gaunt face made harder by dirty light and suspicion. Your own. He stares.  You look away. You fasten both locks. You put distance and doors between you and him..

You open the door and the hallway light globe flickers with a fear that keeps time with your heart.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

The Best of Gingers

Glasgow has imported the continental tradition of the Christmas Market. It started in St Enoch Square tonight. Small, but surprising in the quality and diversity of stalls on offer. Our particular discovery of hither unknown treasure is some amazingly incredible delicious non-alcoholic ginger wine, served piping hot and perfect. Two bottles of Papa's Mineral Company also make a variety of cordials, and I'll definitely be going back to pick up a bottle of the Winterberry Cordial, which sounds incredible. Glaswegians can pick up one bottle for £6 or two for £10. Very much recommended.
We also stumbled across "real fake snow!" which "feels cold! TOUCH ME!" which we did touch. And it felt wrong. So wrong. Rubbery and yet slimy without being viscous or sticky. Cold because it had sat on a shelf outside for hours. The sales rep offered to demonstrate the snow - how does one demonstrate snow? it just sits there being snowy, which it was already doing quite well - and pour a little from a vial into J's hand, slightly different consistency. He then added water, at which point the 'snow' IF IT REALLY IS SNOW got its hulk on and promptly tripled in volume, overflowing through J's fingers. The chemical reaction was enough to produce marked heat. "Non-toxic," they assured us. "Perfectly safe. It's some sort of polymer."
Look, to me it looked like exactly the sort of mysterious innocuous substance that turns up in an episode of Doctor Who and is ultimately some sinister mind-control body-morphing world-enslavement goop enabler. That's all I'm saying.

 To cap off a cold and wet stroll through the markets we returned to a small booth selling liquor-enhanced hot chocolates, and did I ever buy a massive thick goopy hot chocolate laced with Baileys, by golly.

 It threw me back to Prague where I spent the beginning of the year walking around without any particular goal other than to turn down as many curious little alleys as possible. There, the selling of hot alcoholic beverages in take-away cups was standard, and I loved it. It's no doubt a mark of my legal imprinting in Australia but walking around with a delicious hot drink that was deliciously spiked with delicious felt deliciously naughty. It also gave a lovely glow to the bitter cold, and kept my hands warm.

Monday, October 29, 2012


I've loved Iceland from afar my whole, fell in love with Reykjavík and the tiny bit of the wilderness I managed to see last year, and can confirm that the love remains just as strong. This is being typed in Café Babalu, my favourite little nook for a chai latte, amazing carrot cake and stable wifi, and I'm nearly squirming with contentment.

It began before we'd even left Scotland.

Seats 4F and 4D. Are you sure? Are you...wait, let me see the boarding slip. Yeah. Those are our seat numbers...are you sure?

We were bumped up to first class without anyone telling us until we were forced to conclude that there wasn't anywhere else on the plane that we could sit. The headrests had hygiene cloths named after various gods and their titles. J swapped his from Freya to Thor at the suggestion of a fellow passenger. Free food! Massive seats! USB Power! Pillows! Blankets! Leg room! It was weird and bizarre and we never really relaxed as we were waiting for the stewards to tell us they'd found our real seats.

It's a completely different world without the blanket snow. The supermarket was just as perplexing as last time.

PYLSUSINNEP. Sounds like an Egyptian riff on a Lovecraft monster. The Egyptian Sausage Demon. Not sure if it's mayo, mustard or tomato-based. It looks like a bottle of glue, to be honest.

As far as we can tell, this is just chocolate. Not even with a fancy filling. Just chocolate. Except there's a faux Michael Jackson endorsing this chocolate. Draw your own conclusions.

....BUT WHY?!?!??!?!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Arbitrary Periods of Time

Today marks one year exactly since leaving Australia.
Since leaving home.

(Well, it's past midnight in both countries now, so technically yesterday is the anniversary but I haven't slept yet so it's still today, dammit.)

It snuck up on me, amid all the other passages of time that I mark. Two days til Iceland. One month til rent is due. Two months without a job. Two months as a freelance editor. Two months til next year. Minutes until winter arrives. One year and one month until my visa expires. One year since I left.

Birthdays and calendar years are opportunity enough to reflect on the recent past, are they not? Yet I have never had a year like this. I have never been so long without my family and tribe, and that is a strain so deep and subtle our lives are too short a lesson and we will never understand it. At the beginning I was fraught with my own daring, at once empowered and paralysed by the question what have I done? Now I can state exactly what I've done, yet I still don't know the answer.

It is to go a layer deeper. The difference between knowing you are cursed with a ravenous insatiable heart and that the search will dictate your every decision and deny you lasting contentment, and understanding it. I understand now that cities are not enough. That villages are not enough. That perhaps even mountains are not enough.

Somewhen along the way I tangled myself in a fine knot of threads, held by so many kind hands, hands driven by hearts that stay in time with my passing time, despite, perhaps because, of my restlessness. They have forgiven me my constant absence even has I am continually surprised and blessed by their persistent presence.

The world is endless.

The sun keeps rising, and I keep breathing, and these terrible and wonderful things carry me on.

Thank you.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

On a double-decker bus between Glasgow and Manchester

A crisp autumnal morning with frost still bright in the early  morning sun, she blinks once, twice, before turning away from the window. It will be their first night apart. She is thinking of warm knot of his limbs and the wool blankets before the sun had risen, and wondering if now that she is used to sleeping in sanctuary she will be afraid of the dark. This seems a legitimate worry, and so she closes her eyes.

When she wakes she is in another country. The paddocks are smaller and the fences meticulously maintained. Turning to look at a sign for the way back as it whizzes past - SCOTLAND - and the signs ahead warning her that the bus is taking her to the SOUTH, the SOUTH shouted as though the traveller did not understand the foolishness of choosing such a destination. Farmland has given way to something that can only be described as 'countryside': a land without urban sprawl but so utterly domesticated there is not even the ghost of rural to be sniffed. The spaniard in the seat in front takes photo after photo of the motorway. Impressions of Preston are endless scenes from The Bill, now years forgotten and the hairdressers and bathroom shops boarded up with greyed wood the sprayed tags of delinquents now long married and mortgaged unseen almost lost in the grain.

She wants to say this is not Scotland, does not feel like Scotland, but she doesn't know Scotland. She wants to say Manchester is the windy-street version of Glasgow but she knows neither city.

Dinner is three boys, the parents, and her. Her second appearance in this household and the boys are no longer locked boxes in her presence. The dialogue that frolics between them is not loud nor boisterous, but full of energy and attention. There is no competition between them, which she marvels at. She thinks of her own brother as distant from her as is physically possible, and the lack of antagonism between them that had been and always would be. She thinks of these three boys who will grow up to be their own people, and thinks of distance, and how irrelevant it can be.

Standing on the floor of the Manchester Arena she puts her hand to her chest where the bass trembles in her lungs and ribs, and beneath her palm she can feel her body shudder as the music moves through it. Here there is no identity. She is no longer an autonomous body but part of the organism that is the audience, the crowd, the consumer of sound. A single cell at the beck and call of invisible energy; she sings, howls, stomps and pumps. Sweat that is not hers. Eyes aching in the strobing lights. Neck craned over shoulders. All these miles and years and this cleanses her still, again, ultimately. It is to cede her boundaries, those intangible ways in which she holds herself apart from how she absorbs the world, and in doing so ceases to be. This happens in Melbourne, Buenos Aires, Berlin, Reykjavík, here. The ideal of her falls back into place with every step from the floor.

Just in time she looks up to see 'Welcome to Scotland' flash by the window. It is a nondescript standard highway sign, more than a little anti-climactic. None around her appear to notice nor care. She strives to identify any difference in the world out the window, but there is none.

It has been 33 hours and when she arrives in Glasgow she is starving, dehydrated and in dire need of a toilet. Priority of wellbeing, her feet take her straight into the pub, to the back, to his arms.

She is thinking of adventures and the exhilaration of solitary jaunts into the world. She is thinking of the home she finds in him. She is thinking of all the things she never expects, including herself.

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

"-and it will be alright," he said.

The blank page doesn't frighten me, has not done so for some time. It still doesn't. A blank pages is an invitation to make a mistake, a mess, a miracle. The blank page that breathless pause before the Big Bang and the universe begins.

What gives me pause it what comes after, when there are already words on the page and you have found something that may possibly be a flow, or a ghost, but it is enough of something for you to follow, and your thoughts have brought you this far, to a point at which you realise there is no point and you do not know what you are trying to say.

Blogging used to be such an effective weapon against myself, or the world, or myself. The act of structuring a post in my mind imposed a structure upon a struggle that in its very nature is without definition. An artificial and arbitary imprisonment, but one that gave me some measure of peace regardless. The composition of that post was a natural extension, requiring a further narrowing of focus and definition. The precision of a word was like the puncture of a pin through the hull of a moth, the 'preeeee-' that first prick and pressure before the point breaks the surface and the 'cish' the spearing and parting of organs and secrets as the shaft slides down, and finally the 'on' of the point thrust down into the board. That moth will not fly again.

You can only find such precision when you know your own voice. Second person to speak of the first. I. I do not entirely know this I. I, you, she, this entity, stopped blogging, stopped writing. She begin finding stories in photography, although even these she did not share with abandon. I spoke more, out loud I mean. More for me. People who encountered me still found me recalcitrant, but I knew the difference. Maybe I had nothing to say. Perhaps I didn't want to say anything. What I consider my true voice was left unused. It starved, warped, and eventually became nothing.

There have been, are still, so many hurtles between myself and the act of writing. The physical ones are lesser than they were, although this is due to a change of life circumstances and employment, not any radical healing on my part. I must still be careful with the time I spend both typing and writing by hand. This will be lifelong I imagine. It is not a bad thing. The flat tends to get cleaned when I need to stop. Everyone wins?

On only my second day in town I joined the Glasgow Science Fiction Writers Group. It has been good not just to surround myself with writers once again, but to engage actively in writerly activities. I've dipped my toes into the water of freelance editing, but writing up a report differs vastly from engaging in a face to face discussion on the strength, weaknesses and possible progressions of a story. There are so many ways in which a tale can be read, and it is wonderful and refreshing to be reminded of that. The shared excitement. The giddiness that comes from being with people who care about narrative mechanics as much as you do. These are fine things.

And then there is gentle insistance of loved ones who recognise that this small thing is such an important thing, and although I am not afraid they will hold my hand without asking and believe in me when I am indifferent.

Writing is no longer something to be shied away from, neither the thought of it nor the action. Be proud of me? Tessa, these shifts may be slight but they take such time and exertion, like the push of continental plates. There will always be destruction with change. You cannot see the time lost and strings severed without acknowledging the shift. One does not happen without the other.

Start small and long. A flash fiction competition with months in which to contemplate your inability to produce neat short ideas. Which is actually really fucking frustrating.

I've been gnawing tentatively at the idea of doing another 7wishes type project, which would additionally force me to write some joy into Glasgow. The city and I have had a rocky start, not helped by the fact that I think we just have conflicting personalities. I don't know Glasgow as well as Melbourne, not nearly. Nor do I know myself as well as I did.

I was thinking about that, and this voice, and what has changed. For example; my lover. My normal policy regarding blogging about other people is not to make them identifiable or overly specific in interaction unless that other person had an online presence of their own, somewhere they could return fire, so to speak. He does not. I also want to respect the privacy of others. What ever I share here I am okay with sharing, but I would not make that assumption for anyone else.

These are incidental however, solved by merely talking with him, and I do love talking with him. No, what gives me pause is the line between personal and precious. I cannot blog about my life and excise him from it. To do so would be to lie by omission and deny the incredible and integral part of my life he plays. I am no longer an identity in isolation, not to myself. Yet, because he is so precious I do not wish to share him. These times and glances and moments are treasures immeasurable. Perhaps you have been in love and been loved. Perhaps you do understand. But then, you must understand the greediness and selfishness that comes with delight.

These are lines I have not yet encountered in the sand, lines I suspect I will have to learn to walk as I learn what this different voice has to say.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Bread the Third

The overly-talented Neil Williamson has been trying his hand at making bread. Without the aid of a break maker. Proper mixing and kneading with his hands, the mere thought of which makes my knuckles and wrists wail. He was kind enough to allow us to act as guinea pigs for his third attempt. I admit, when I took possession of the foil-wrapped bread it was the perfect size, shape and heft, my first instinct was to drop kick it. Some bread is just right for a good punt, you know? Anyway, I didn't do that. It smelt glorious, as only freshly baked bread can. We decided to get some proper butter for the eating, and some brie, and some good soup. Barely waited to get in the door before rending its attire asunder.
Look at this bread! Look at it!
Fluffy and soft and moist and oooooh smells soooooo goooooooood-
Yeah, to be honest? It didn't last long enough for soup. Props to Neil. If you're giving consideration upon who to include in your party of survivors when the world ends, Neil's post-apocalyptic survival skills in baking are not to be overlooked. All you'll need to do is domesticate some wild yeast and you will be set for baked goods for the duration of your horrible ghastly gruelling survival period, however long that will be.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Without Melody

Sometimes the need to sing rises so strong it is no wonder I did not know it was coming; it is the rise of continents, or the movement of stars.

The Hallmark, overly romantacised philosophies that wend through our daily lives as over-processed stock photos with heartfelt yet simplistic captions to do with life love happiness would chastise me for suppressing this urge.

This is not a Hallmark card, and no idealised quote will protect you from the world. Joy, be it carefully constructed or the beast the blindsides you, is precious, yes, and fragile. Indulge it where you will, but be aware that some environs nurture and others will wither it.

An Irish pub on a Monday night, the footy broadcast by Sky on three screens, low lights and glottal Glaswegian accents to my right. I'll keep the song in my ribs, not even let it near my throat. Hold it gentle but firm, like a bird, and, like a bird, it will calm, quiet, and stay with you.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Circles or Spirals

The last time I was unemployed I had moved back to Melbourne from Canberra after breaking up with my fiancée of five years, I had just finished an arts degree, was living with my parents and had only retail work experience to my name.  It took a year and half of applying for jobs and smiling at interviews before I finally landed a full-time position.

Being unemployed when you don't want to be is awful. Quite a number of the blog posts in the archives are dedicated to the subject of just how awful it is. Very awful. Extremely awful. Awful to the point of staying in that full-time job despite it also being awful because I never wanted to go through that again.

There's been oceans of water under the bridge since then. I've exercised pure financial independence, collected some mean skills to toss on my resumé and climbed the organisational ladder (mostly to find a less crap job). It's one thing to know you're a fantastic worker; quite another to have the track record to prove it.

We've been in Glasgow a month and a half with not so much as a sniff of possibility. I had assumed, not unreasonably I think, that this time around the job hunt would not be as demoralising or as hard. Look! This piece of paper shows how awesome I am! I have references and everything!

Not a bite. Nowhere. On nothing. I've widened my net and started applying for jobs well below my ability and still nothing. No response when applying for a data entry position? I don't even warrant that?

Demoralising. Internal erosion. Cracking security. Despair.

It is different this time though. We've paid several months of rent up front on this place, and have savings to keeps us going those months as well as take us to Iceland. I do have a platform of proven amazingness from which to launch myself from. There are two of us. He's picked up shifts at a pub and I'm doing freelance editing. My worry and despair keeps his optimism grounded, and his optimism keeps my despair in check.

I sleep around 12 hours out of 24, and I feel good. Whole and rested. Even when I have full control over how many hours I spend working on the computer my body gets cranky much swifter than I plan for. It aches and I fight on in frustration, pushing myself into a stupid cycle of forced down time.

These things make me look at my future and wonder how I am ever to fund the dreams I wish to pursue. If I do require that much sleep to be sane, how am I to work a full time job and do any sort of writing or have a social life at the same time? If computers are the devil to my arms, what work can I do? Not housekeeping, that was just as damaging, if not worse. Customer service positions would result in mental stress, and to be honest I'd prefer the physical pain and psychological strain of a desk job than the mental stress of a face-to-face job.

I'm awesome. Really. I'm the most disgustingly great employee ever. And I am a completely spent monkey.

It's different now.
I do not know what dreams I have, let alone which I wish to pursue.
Perhaps here and now is enough.

Friday, September 21, 2012

You open the front door and find an empty syringe wrapper not a foot down the tenement hallway.

You sit on the couch and the rattle and hum of the corner store's metal shutters shuddering down is your soundtrack in this moment.

You pull your blanket around you, kiss feathers and sit a bird on your head, and get back to work.

Sunday, September 09, 2012

And then there were 3.

You wake and there is one dead bird.

You wake. Every day. Without fail. The mattress a thin briar of coils and your pillow never quit right for your neck. No alarm wakes you. There is no pressing need for your wakefulness. You wake, and sometimes you stay awake. Sometimes you even get right out of bed, shower, dress, prepare yourself for the day as though the day might contain anything to prepare yourself for. That is not the norm, for more often than not you wake and, finding nothing has miraculously changed in your environment, you force yourself back to sleep.

So much sleep and yet never enough. You could blame the weather - Glasgow is hardly known for its bright and sunny disposition - or you could blame the stress of finding yourself once again unemployed and, despite your excellent track record and qualifications, seemingly unemployable. You could blame the belligerence of a city soundscape on your too sensitive introvert ears. You could blame a change in medication, even though there has been no change except for branding, but maybe, possibly, who knows.

You could blame higher powers, even though you believe in no such thing. That incident and that incident and that incident and that incident; this long run of significantly bad and usually pointless bad luck. You whisper in quiet moments, barely heard over a washing machine that devours the power so fast you can watch the credit on the meter tick down, that you're not supposed to be here, that Glasgow doesn't want you.

You could even blame yourself.

You don't want to be that cliché story of a deluded young couple running off to the big city and that big city being cruel, hard and chewing them up to spit them out broken and grey, but perhaps you no longer require any chewing to be broken.

You go to sleep, eventually.

You wake, inevitably.

Every day. Without fail. Opportunities and chances to change the tuning of your heart strings. Get out of bed even if there is nothing requiring you to. You know you won't get them but apply for those jobs because you would love to be wrong, please, be wrong. Go exploring because you will find the charm in the city even if the city will not charm you. You wake and even though it cost you dear you fight your little war inside and out. Because this too will change.

You wake up and there is still one bird, chirping and relentless.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Scams, Scrams and Heavy Sighs

Having done my time as a house elf, and done it well, I have left the bonny Highlands and now find myself in Glasgow, and the contrast is shocking. The noise, the movement, the intensity of life...

So I begin the great hunt for that rare prey known as 'employment'. A more demoralising quarry there is not, although I have had a little luck with freelance editing, more on that later. Most of my days have been spent trolling various employment sites, including Gumtree, at which I responded to an ad for article writers.

I received the following a few minutes ago:

From: Jack Kenton
Subject: Writing Work Ad
Date: 17 August 2012 1:39:03 PM GMT+01:00
To: -


Thanks for replying to my ad for writing work. We provide reviews of film and TV shows to various websites to build up the content available on their sites and we're currently looking for more reviewers to join our team. For this position you will require a broadband Internet connection to watch movies as you will need to stream most of the films you watch over the Internet.

The reviews you will be writing will appear on blogs and websites and you will be credited as author. You should have good written english skills but it doesn't matter whether you use Americanised or British spellings of words (either "color" or "colour" would be fine, "movie" and "film" are both acceptable, etc.).

You will be emailed a list of about 100 potential assignments each week, with each specifying the film and if it is a 250 or 100 word review. You then choose which ones you think you can manage for that week, let us know which you've chosen and then hand them in to the specified deadline. If you find you want to do more than you originally thought you can always request to do more. Pay is £7.50 for a hundred word review and £20 for a 250 word review. You don't have to be exactly dead on the word target but are expected to be under by at most 10 words. You can go over by as many words as you wish. You'll find that the reviews don't take long at all to write and more of your time is generally taken up with actually watching the films themselves.

We will also pay you an allowance for a lovefilm account each month so you do not have to pay for the films you watch. You'll be paid this allowance via bank transfer at the start of each month in advance of having to pay for your month's subscription and your review earnings will be paid the monday after the review is received, if it is received on or before the friday. If you already have a lovefilm account we will not be able to pay an allowance.

Lovefilm give a free trial for your first 30 days so we will only pay your allowance from the 2nd month. You can choose either one of the following subscription options: "Instant" (£4.99 after the trial period ends) or "Have It All" (£9.99 a month after the trial period). We also need to track your signup so you will need to signup through the following tracking link:

We've had quite a few responses and we have quite limited positions so if you'd like to give it a go then please write a 100 word trial review of a film of your choice from the top ten in the "lovefilm favourites" category within your account. You should be able to access this within seconds of creating a trial account. You should save the review in a file and attach it to an email replying to this one. Please note that you won't be paid for this tester review. To simulate a real-life deadline you should email this through to me by 5pm on Sunday. If you can get it to me earlier than that then the earlier the better. Also, include a phone number I will be able to get hold of you on in your email and I will give you a call after Sunday to go through everything with you and to answer any questions you have.

I've attached some example reviews to this email so you can see the type of thing that other people have done and what we're looking for.




This e-mail was sent by JC Communications, located at 780 - 790 Finchley Road, London, England NW11 7TJ (United Kingdom). To receive no further e-mails, please click here.

  1. Googled "JC Communications" and there are far too many companies using this name.
  2. Googled 780-790 Finchley Road, London and there are a surprising number of businesses listed against this address, none of them linked to "JC Communications" or Jack Kenton.
  3. Jangomail is a free webmail service.
  4. No information on specific sites where these reviews will be posted is given.
  5. Tinyurl used for the tracker.
  6. The 'samples' provided were...well...Fuck's sake, seriously.

Batman Forever

Wow. Just wow. And I thought Batman Begins was excellent. This... this piece of art... its PHENOMENAL!! From the scale, to the acting, the atmosphere, the music, the action, it's all art. I have not experienced this level of greatness in the cinema for a long time. This film is the darkest Batman, as well as one of the darkest, violent and gripping films, ever made.

In short, it's a masterpiece. One that will knock you out of your seat. It is the best Batman film ever, the best superhero film ever and the best film of 2008. Do yourselves a favour and see this piece of art. Repeated viewings highly recommended.


Frailty is the story of a closely knit single-parent family that becomes divided when Dad wakes up his sons to tell them he's had a vision. In it, an angel has explained to him that he is a Demon-slayer; and given him a list of names with which to begin God's Work.

The youngest child is immediately overawed by his dad's new special purpose, and toddles off to help him out; the elder of the children is at first unsure, and then scared when he sees just how literally Dad is taking his vision; and then horrified when he finds himself expected to help.

The main problem for him is what - if anything - can he do about it? Thus begins the desperate test of a young boy in alerting the authorities to Dad's behaviour in the face of the ironic question regarding who might believe his story, over the respected word of his once community-friendly father.

Frailty is an excellent film that boasts an interestingly twisted plot, building up from an average film into a disturbing and interesting film, to one which catches you by completely by surprise at least twice right towards the end.

The acting is also good, notably so from the two boys playing the sons. I was very pleasantly surprised by this film and would recommend it.

Nobody pays for shit like that. Nobody. Especially not £7.50 for 100 words, that's fucking ridiculous. A dream, sure, and not how the world works. Also, those are shit. I mean, I know as a writerly type person I have unforgiving standards when it comes to any sort of written word, but there is no denying the shit and weak bollocks those 'reviews' are.

Initially I thought it was a scam to get people to sign up to lovefilm, but instead of being insidious marketing it's just some lamprey stealing bank account details. He advertises this writing job and bar work as well, confirmed by third party sources here;


- and here;

So hey, hopers, dreamers and hunters in the UK, don't give Jack Kenton your bank account details, okay?

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

5 June 2012

1989 - The massacre at Tiananmen Square, in Beijing, China.

1981 - The first reported cases of AIDS.

1973 onward - World Environment Day.

And lo! 2012 marks 31 years of Tessa On Earth. My Dad describes my arrival thusly:

7:40 am on this day you came to us all wrinkly and bossy and having said your piece you nodded off.

This is a pattern that hasn't been deviated from overly. For better or worse. Heh.

Due to inattention I didn't plan anything to mark this occasion, and so last minute ceremonials involved seeking wishes from other people to make on their behalf. These wishes were folded in paper, and two hours of my life spent constructing a pyramid of drift wood, quartz and seashells, along with some pilfered matches, saw these wishes turned to breath and then the wind horses took them and they have disappeared.

There is footage, but who knows when I will get time to tame it.

However, my fellow hospitality monkeys inflicted a wee cake upon me, with candles and fuego and everything!

And a Kinder Surprise! And a Ginger Joe and buuuuurggggeeeer. I am well spoilt by these people I have yet no right to expect such attention from. Dancing dancing dancing!

Looking back on what it was to be 30, I can summarise the year as being 'brilliant', apart from the hand stuff. So many amazing, fascinating and inspiring people have entered my life and chosen to stay in my life, even as I have taken off vagabonding about the other side of the world. If I have learned anything from this self-indulgent voyage, it is that home is not a location, it is scattered in little pieces around the world in the hearts of those I love, and who love me in return. There are a great many ribcages I call home, and all of them are wonderful and dazzling.

Looking at where I was this time last year, and what has changed since then, I can afford myself a pleased little shimmy. So many "one day" desires I have turned into "that was sublime" memories, many of which I was not in the process of actively pursuing. Scotland, it must be said, has been incredibly kind to me.

Hell, I wasn't even unhappy this time last year. Things were going very, very well.

I just learned that, well, even then, things can still get even better.

I'm almost afraid to ask anything more of myself for the coming year, as if I'm being greedy in all this conquering and questing and exploring and what-the-helling, but if I know me, and I'm afraid I do...

There is always more.

<3 you all

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Don't make wishes; make memories.

Wylde Swan 7 Day Voyage Three-quarters of last month's pay, seven day working week, two days to prepare, I don't even know how it happened. The stars aligned. The planets aligned. The earthbones groaned and the flowers moaned and all the winds whispered in their sleeping ears and tilted their dreams 2 degrees toward my future, and oh, I don't believe in fate or the kindness of divine deities, but maybe chance and coincidence and the seasons and salted air have conspired a maelstrom of delight focusing here, in this coastal village, sails and snow and singing.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

From on high

Some, when cresting a summit, will bellow their triumph to all laid out below them. I am not one of those people. To make noise is for me an act of disrespect, and no word in any human tongue can challenge the wind.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Ullapool, now Tessa Base Camp


If I walk to the end of the verandah, this is what I can see. In the foreground, beyond the frame of this glimpse, a flock of ducks scabbling lazily as they settle on the grass in the dying light.

The shore is stone. The loch is sea. Dried weeds amid the pebbles. On the steps to the footpath a shattering of mussel and scallop shells, derelict barnacles and crushed mother-of-pearl.

A raised voice echoing around a corner. Such fury and vehemence. Don't you dare. Get back here.

To my left, an empty carpark. Two horses in coats, clopping in tandem across that space between buildings. Whingeing whinny and snort.

For a moment, I believe the supermarket not to stock bananas. For a moment.

There is no wind down by the water. The air is cold, too cold busy itself. The silence surrounding me as I stand in the daffodils is dense with space.
I find my thoughts tripping over small occasions upon which people have found fault with me. Slights and rejections that I have perceived. Looking at photos, I remember an impatient sigh that that pricked my quilt. They walked ahead and never looked back. None of these are insults or intended to offend. None of them. I did not need to bruise. But I chose to, and have, and when I run fingertips across these memories, those bruises quiver in their sleep.

There are memories here too, to shore up these failing walls.

But it is cold. There is no conviction.

Attempting to Settle With Fibromyalgia

There is only one bus for Ullapool on Sundays. Tonight I will sleep in a bed that will be my bed for at least a couple of months to come. On Wednesday I will no longer be Master of My Own Fate, I will be employed, with a boss, with tasks and responsibilities and my time will no longer be my own.

This will probably be good for me, but I have to admit the notion leaves me somewhat disgruntled.

Coincidentally, I'm coming up on the last of my medication. I was given a slab of Pristiq before I left, enough to last me through the uncertainties of travel in various countries in the EU, also enough that would see me having been on a stable dosage for in excess of six months. It doesn't pay to tweak dosage and medication too much, and my psychologist was quite adamant that before attempting to lower my dosage I should sit pretty for at least six months.

Pristiq, or Desvenlafaxine, is not available in the UK.

The doctor I saw in the Bank Medi Centre did a fair amount of checking her references, and qave me a prescription for Effexor, or Venlafaxine. She was thorough in calculating comparative doses. The prescription given will be a slight reduction, but less than dropping from 150mq to 100mq of Pristiq.

This will be a direct chop and change. As soon as the Pristiq is done I will commence the Effexor. Much as this sounds dubious, I did the same when switching from Cymbalta to Pristiq, and on the recommendation and assurance of both my GP and psychologist, with no notable side-effects to speak of. Apart from space-cadetness. Vague I can deal with, however. Amplified depression, not so much.

I am still shit fucking scared.

The Fibromyalgia Support Group in Inverness has not responded to my email, and further searching has not indicated any particular doctors with an understanding of fibromyalgia in the area. In this case, I figure I'll save myself the travel and register at the medical clinic in Ullapool. There's only one. There are a few practicing doctors there, so even if none of them have any experience with fibromyalgia there must surely be at least one I feel comfortable talking to.

This lead to me attempting to research how one goes about joining the NHS. Should anyone else happen to follow in my footsteps, I have some very simple advice: don't.

The websites, which I am not goinq to link to because they are all confusing and lacking in anything that looks like administrative process, have nothing, naaaasink, on how to go about joining, or information for expats. A friend who had already navigated this told me to simply make an appointment and register with a doctor, and it will sort itself out there. Cool? Cool.

And while rummaging around online learning all this I read about my medications all over again, and about fibromyalgia all over again, and the words THERE IS NO CURE have lodged in my throat, all the descriptions of pain, fatigue, depression, aches, all the limits and restrictions, the unending unceasing reality of it, I remembered these things all over again.

I start work on Wednesday. There is a frightening amount of hope pinned upon this menial job.

Sunday, March 04, 2012


Upside-Down by sirtessa
Upside-Down, a photo by sirtessa on Flickr.

I don't think anyone or anything looks dignified when having a good thorough scratch.

Oh, Internet.

I had to double check that kangaroos weren't poisonous (don't ask) and found the following;

Thursday, March 01, 2012

The tiger lily faces me, and I it. Petals arched back, flush and luscious, stamen a demure puckered kiss on a ballgown of violent, furious, unapologetic red. Undefined cloud slides a hand across the sun's face, and the flower glows.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

I am reading. I am concentrating. This is a focus so long unworn. Remembrances that are not memories stir somewhere deeper than the heart.

I want to make.

Saturday, February 25, 2012




It is a reboot of the original series, and I have to say, it is ace. The origins of the turtles and Splinter has knit together several antagonists from various, shall we call them, parallel universes that the many many licensed franchises the turtles have evolved in over the years. A good blend of both the original Mirage comic and the 80s cartoon, even featuring "General Krang". Curious to see if Krang remains a gooby brain (I never did like the story arc given to the gooby brain Krang/Shredder character in the new TMNT cartoon series). Art work by Dan Duncan is gorgeous, once again blending the multitude of styles in which the turtles have been depicted in the past. A good balance for the kids new to turtledom, and the kids grew up but never let it go.


(Funnily enough, I was only this week missing my TMNT comics and DVDs. We all have our comfort stories. Thank you, universe. Don't think I don't appreciate it.)

Monday, February 20, 2012

Pigtails: +10 Cuteness

This is the longest my hair has been since I chopped it all off.
What the hell do you do with all this stuff? I just gets in the way all the time, and I actually need to use conditioner now. An extra product! That's not low maintenance!

(Actually, I'm just scared of going to an unknown hairdresser. Only used the one back home, she knew what to do. Me, I have no idea what she did, so don't know what to ask for.)

Ed, En, BRAAAAH of Rooftops

Just one of the many closes that form the ribs from the spine of the Royal Mile.

In New York it was water tanks. In the UK, it's chimneys. Seriously. WTF.

And Edinburgh is just such a bloody pretty town, yet so full of winds and trees and twists it is near impossible to photograph.

How is it possible to be both orderly and ramshackle at the same time?

The monument to Sir Walter Scott, for contributions to Scottish literature, a revival of Scottish culture and raising interest and passion in Scotch identity.
A monument to a writer.
A writer.

"What do you think of Michael Bay?"

These ones aren't too bad, to be honest. Humour is always a plus. Snide little put downs (which may easily be tongue-in-cheek, but without knowing the owner of the voice nor having any emotive modifiers to guide my interpretation I have know way of knowing this) are not.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Just blindsided by the most awesome ever.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Honestly, you people.

I love the search string section in site stats.

Saturday, February 11, 2012


There is a lot to be said regarding the inconveniences of snow, but being an Australian who did not make use of the ski season, I'm fairly certain it will take a great deal more snow and inconvenience before the novelty wears off.

It isn't only that it changes the whole world around you, changing the mood and flavour of any environment, nor how pretty the flakes are as they fall, although of course I love these qualities as well.

What I love best is how tactile an experience snow is. I love walking on snow, the way it crunches and crackles so satisfyingly underfoot. It has a wonderful give and at the same time, a perfect firmness as well. The way it moulds so perfectly to the pattern of any sole is just a little bit ridiculously delightful, and should I retrace my steps I can't help but examine all my footprints and be pleased and proud of their crispness. Except when I drag my heels, which is often it would seem. And, oh! The sound snow makes when tromped upon! I love it! The crunch, creak, grind, crackle, squeak and squawk, I love it! The same way I loved cracking acorns in Wilmington, and I stomp on gum cups back home, and curly dried bark.

I don't actually like touching snow. It is, unsurprisingly, very cold.

Snow is a storyteller. Today I went for a wander through Nottingham, and found a bowling green locked away and that square of unbroken white was asking to to be written upon. By birds, by rabbits, by dogs and by me.

When snow is fresh, it makes us explorers and pioneers, treading where no one has trod before.

I saw a White Horse on a White Hill

The giant chalk figures carved into the slopes of the Salisbury Plain were definitely on my list of Wonders to Behold, and so yesterday my native guide and I set off on a quest to view the Uffington White Horse, along with other neolithic marvels.

Now, as I said, these carvings are chalk, ergo, white.


Employment QET

It's very hard to pull out of the "I'm travelinq! I have no responsibilities! I am beholden to no one and nothinq!" mindset. As far as mindsets qo, it's a bloody awesome one, sinqularly unfettered, brazen and indulqent.

But, the monies. The UK £ eats and punches and qenerally stomps all over the AUD$, and I did come all this way to try my hand at a different life. Durinq my second week in London I made a lazy perusal of ads for live-in jobs, found one in the remote north-west of Scotland, and after takinq several days to write a sinqle paqe CV (seriously, aqencies of the Victorian Public Service, SHORT RESUMES ARE AWESOME), emailed that off. And continued flouncinq around museums and the like, with qreat intentions to look and apply for further jobs. Qreat intentions.

Anyway, I haven't applied for anythinq else. I haven't even looked.

Which is fine, because I qot that job.


First: QLEE!
Second: Excitement!
Third: Shock.
Fourth: ...wait, this means I'm qoinq to have to start qettinq up in the morninqs?
Fifth: QLEE!

Thursday, February 09, 2012

"You like catwoman or something?"

It's been too lonq since the last 'sharinq is carinq' post of messaqes received unsolicited on OkCupid and left sittinq in my messaqe box without response. Once aqain, usernames removed as I have no intention of humiliatinq the individual, but my qoodness I'll pass judqement on the lot.

As you can see, some of these messaqes are leqitmately awesome (mad, mad, mad, MAD props for the Swiss Army Shark), and, as you can see, some of them aren't.

You can also no doubt see that calling someone 'crazy', 'a nutcase', 'weird' and other similar labels isn't going to get you anywhere. 'Crazy' especially. You don't know shit about the person on the receiving end of your message, whether or not they've had to struggle with their thought patters, brain chemistry, or watched this struggle in the people they care about.

I've had to fight to not be crazy on my terms, so I know I am not crazy, and fuck you for having such a small narrow world view that anything not fitting neatly within its parameters must be 'crazy'.



Guys. The Swiss Army Shark. Always a winner.