Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The Year of Solar Slingshots

I started 2013 on the other side of the world (in the dark, in the misery, with an angry bird and cheeky lover), and after five new lands I came home. I can say that now, with certainty. Home. Then followed the joy of sinking into and being subsumed by all that we left behind and still love. Months of simply enjoying being here with these people. 

Restless heart returned. An impatience and need to know there is an adventure confirmed in the future, and that I only need make my way the ought this ordinary 9-5 day, and the next and the next and it will become the present. Financial limitations beset us. There is naught to do but be patient. 

Rather than face the continual appointments and stress of WorkCover I went parttime. It feels like a good balance has been struck in terms of pain management and time and money (but still those limitations chafe). Yet it is not an extra day off, even though I may think of it as such. Too often it is literally consumed by sleep, desperately needed and unstoppable. My limits are greater than my capabilities. 

I come to realize the limits of my vocational experience, and the limits that imposes on all my future decisions. I feel trapped. In my body. In my job. Resentment blossoms. 

My lover struggles with the job market, and it grinds us both down. The karmic balance is whiplash; the day before Christmas he is offered his dream job, with great pay, and we both stare at each other in bewildered delight. It is hard to believe. Such wonderous things don't seem our lot, perhaps because we burn up our wonder in with each other. 

He will move to Sydney.  I will follow, somehow. Time spend by the sea seems a dream. There is your adventure, Tessa. A city you don't know awaits. 

I still haven't written anything. 

My family is the happiest I've ever known it to be. My friends are beset by monsters, but they prevail. I've spent more than a year living with my lover, and despite seeing him every day I am still excited to come home to him, the sound of his voice on the phone is like a drop of gold ink in the water of my being. We are unstoppable. 

There is a lot to work on. I thought we were landing, but as it turns out, we're still in orbit. May this never change. 

Still, there is a blight creeping out from the core. There is always a war. 

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

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Not a Scrooge, Just Puzzled

This time last year I was unemployed in Glasgow but visiting Bristol for an Aussie Expat Christmas. It's officially Christmas today, but the family had our Christmas last weekend, so I'm doing not much at all at the moment; trying to clean out my inbox, grazing on leftovers, listening to birds squabbling on the fence.

The internet is full of Merry Christmases. They're everywhere, like an ant infestation. But without the itchiness. Disregarding my absence from the radar of late, I wonder if my lack of a similar well-wishing broadcast is noticed, is judged.

I never quite know how to position myself on Christmas. I mean, sure, it's everywhere, everywhere, and we've always acknowledged it. In a sort of, I don't know, Australian way? We're not Christian in any sense, we're not pagan, we don't adhere to any of the rituals from which Christmas stems. Santa Claus has not featured in many years. We don't put up a Christmas tree.

What we do is, get our small family together, have a fabulous meal, swap some presents, drink some beer and wine, and relax. That's all. I'd say the only real tradition we have is the salad. It's special. We all love it, and we only eat it once a year. (That said, this year may have started the tradition of the Christmas Fan, which stood in for the Christmas Tree. Assuming every Christmas is a hot day from here on in, which given the weather, isn't great odds.)

Wishing the greetings of the season feels oddly false to me. Perhaps because I'm too aware of the friends I have, who are many, for whom Christmas isn't an event participated in, and I know all to well that having to assert your autonomy when presented with so many good intentions is exhausting. Maybe I can't help but think of all the people for whom Christmas is something to dread, whether because of unrealisitic social expectations or family issues, and for whom yet another cheerful seasons greetings may possibly be the last straw. To be thankful without gloating; surely that does not require a public broadcast.

Maybe this just ties back into not wanting to add to the noise of the world. There are plenty of well-wishes out there to go around.

I like the mince pies. I really like giving presents. I like my family. I like days off. I like that salad. I probably even like you. But I don't think Christmas belongs to me.

Just wait til New Years. That's a calendar I may live by, but haven't chosen.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Noise & Sound

Every day I think about writing. Not merely acknowledging it's a task I should do, want to do, but composing sentences and stringing them together into paragraphs and then sections while I wait at the railway station or wash my hands at the toilets. But I don't write. I read a lot, and generally. I read fiction for my own pleasure, articles and essays online, all sorts of pieces to edit, and dip in and out of social media like a fussy gannet. A fussy and seemingly insatiable gannet. The nature and quality of the content doesn't seem to matter. Nothing wants to come out. There is just so much noise in the world. In fiction and non-fiction. Online and off. So much. And so much of it is empty. A cacophany of ultimately impactless voices. I have no desire to add to that, nor do I have the necessary audacity to believe I have something unique which needs to be heard. Cultivate silence, and be content.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Daughter, Music, Ghosts & Souls

A church in Reykjavík, Iceland, with uncushioned pews and people standing in the aisles. The music had become applause had become blurred voices shufting winter coats scuffed shoefalls as the audience changed shift. I did not stay. 

A town on the other side of Glasgow, Scotland, but the supporting act was not who I thought it was. I did not buy tickets. 

The Corner Hotel, Richmond, on a Tuesday night. Some threshold has been crossed and now going to a gig is an ordeal. I'm tired, it's late, I don't want to wait stand be crowded make the long trip home. But I do. 

Daughter played an extraordinary set, one of the best shows I've seen a long time. Summoned back for an encore they hadn't planned to play, they kept a crowd silent, attentive, devoted. 

The skeleton is designed to drink music. I tilted my head and stretched my throat, and the beating heart of every song was played out in my breastbone. The heart cannot help but beat in time. 

She sang,

"I want you so much"

And the hanging guitar dropped out of hearing as she sang,

"But I hate you guts."

And we heard ourselves sing those words, alone and as a crowd, and a self-conscious laugh tremored across the room. In that moment, the number of people present had doubled, as before each of us stood the spectre of the one who had rent us asunder. 

You were my ghost, standing among so many ghosts. But this song is years too late. There are no scars I bear that you can lay claim to; to survive you, I had to change my shape. A shape I chose. 

When you are jostled to the surface of my thoughts, it is with affectionate exasperation I hold you. I forgave myself long ago. 

Music, this music, has power over space. Instead of watching my heart from the outside, the music sat me well inside, and this unpredictable meaty box became a grand ballroom by vaulted chambers with tiled floors and ornately-framed mirrors. The candle chandeliers are unlit, covered, curtains and veils and shadows, and there is naught but to watch ribbons of pale green music thread through these cavernous spaces, filling each room with exquisite emptiness. 

She sang,

"If you're in love you're the lucky ones..."

I stepped out into car lights, street lights and a brash moon. A train takes me to another train and I go home. 

To you.

Monday, July 01, 2013

The Starbucks Throwback Machine

I've time to spend before an appointment, cannot remember which of the cafés around don't do annoyingly bitter chai lattés and without feeling to much guilt head to the nearest Starbucks. They are globally reliable in the chai latté department, which I have researched and tested myself. 

It's Melbourne. It's winter. 

And as soon as I walk through those doors the smell of hot milk and waiting coffee,  and barista patter and easy music echoing from tiles and couches, these things dive into my memories and I'm standing in New York, Krakow, Prague, Nuremberg, Manchester, Glasgow, Inverness. I'm standing in transit lounges in countries I never properly entered. I'm standing in a country that is not my home. 

Newness is one of the biggest motivators for travel.  Learn. Experience. Try. This can be fatiguing, day after day. Sometimes you don't want an adventure; sometimes you just want a cup of tea. 

An evil corporate hegemony it may be, but a familiar sanctuary when nothing else is, it also is. 

That brief nostalgic thrill made my heart skip. A remembered swell of relief on entering. The smallest and briefest of time machines. 

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Confessions, a Train Ride Home

I have  been thinking about writing, and how I am not.

There is a part of me that wants to blame medication, even though I stopped writing before the medication ever came into play. This is not unfair as it has shifted the way I think and feel. The heart does not howl any more, or, I have forgotten how to listen to it. I think this silencing has in turn silenced my need to write, to capture and tame my storms with mere words, precise words. And this should not be a problem, but it is very close, only a step away from, having nothing to say.

Which is not true, cannot be true, yet is very true.

If the need to express a voice does not come from within, then, given all the noise being forced into the world already, how can I possibly justify adding to it? If I have nothing that I need to say, then output must be because there is something I believe others need to hear. The audacity and arrogance aren't mine, not comfortably, to assume I have the authority to decide this. Even though I may choose the platform so that the choice to consume lies with the reader - no. There is already too much noise out there. There is nothing I can say that has not already been said.

There is no requirement for need in the writing of fiction. Need in the writer's voice can lend power to a story, but it is not required. I could write simply because I want to. But when the power of need has fuelled you for so long, action by want seems pale and trivial by comparison.

All that occurred in my life was for writing. All the learning and heartache and new experiences; all grist for the mill. It would all out in the stories one day. But now I don't need to cast my trials in such a light in order to make them palatable enough to see through, my lover stands by me throughout all fire and flood. It is enough to simply spend my days with him. But is it? Is a life that is enjoyed but to no end of any purpose? Writing was a purpose I gave my life in order to keep my life. Now that I am in no such danger, the purpose is no longer required, and yet to simply live is not enough, would be such selfish and wasted time.

I have already lost so much time. To waste more will lead only to self-disgust. Still, I cannot underestimate fear and the scars left by physical pain and emotional anguish that come into play. I lost my future, one I did not even know I projected upon myself, and so all I have and had done became untethered. Echoes of this singular horror I've heard from those struggling with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. It is not for me to self-diagnose, but it would be remiss of me to overlook this one and only echo.

To confront my identity as a writer, to consider reviving it, is to also risk the possibility of losing it again. Hope is such an awful creature. I had to give her away. She cost me too much. To survive I had to give her away. I had to.

Even from now, this place of strength, I can't dip into this subject matter without feeling it in my nerves and knowing that I will never be strong enough to survive the loss of my identity again.

There most probably lies the heart of the matter. Not all the medication and emotional well-being in the world will help me finish a story if I am afraid.

And I am so very afraid.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

That Which Makes You Stronger

For three years now I have, before getting out of bed, before even sitting up properly, popped tablets from blisters and tossed one, two, maybe three back with a mouthful of water. Across time zones and continents, in transit, when accidentally away from home, when knowing I'm about to go straight back to sleep, when fighting off nausea. The image of all those pills sitting in one gigantic pile has just hit me. Green and white capsules, white round bitter coins, and clay tablets ranging from terracotta to stucco. Three years worth. Every day.

I can tell you that these magic medicines have kept me from suicide, alleviated my physical pain levels to manageable daily levels and lessened my depression. Because of these tablets I am living an absolutely amazing life, and will continue to do so. There is a lot to be thankful for.

And yet, even still I must every morning force myself to take them. Every morning it is a conscious decision to break the foil again. Some mornings I will lie still for minutes, putting it off. Pretending I don't need them.

Three years is not enough time to accept. Three years is not enough time to wear out resentment. 

A lifetime may not be enough.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Closed Circuits & Their Joy

Three decades is, I think, enough time spent bowing to such doubts. More than enough. Time to kick dat bollocks to the curb! Three decades is also enough time for such thought patterns to become well and truly entrenched, and even though I well know such thoughts are untrue and unfair, such fears are rarely rational and are not easily dismissed with logic.

The usual refrain of no one will come, no one will want to come, people will only come out of pity, they'll have an awful time, it will be awkward, everyone will leave to go do what they really want to do, how arrogant are you to think anyone would want to spend time on an event for you, you're so self-centred they have so many other things they need to do etc etc etc. Nothing surprising in there.

It took incredible audacity on my part, jaw-dropping brazenness and sass, to pick a date and send out casual invitations on FB. That was all the organisation required of me. This bar on this day. It'd be cool if you could come but no sweat if you don't. Really. If you can't come, or whatever, that's fine. I just want everyone to be comfortable. Really. Really. Really. Please come.

People changed their routines, flew down from interstate, drove up from the coast, came alone and out of their comfort zone. People I tapped because I enjoy and treasure their company. People who matter to me, dearly. 

On the day of this informal laid-back thing, I was near sick with doubt. That litany was a diseased eel frothing around in my stomach, unable to escape because there simply was no escape. Either people would come, or they wouldn't, and I was oh so very fixated upon the 'wouldn't'. Despite knowing who would be there, in all certainty, people I adore and with whom I would have a most excellent time. These fears have voices that can cut diamonds, there is no overriding them.

Of course, a great many people came, more than I had anticipated. All people I was utterly delighted to see and spend time with. I introduced friends to friends and when distracted by other friends I would look over and see those who had been strangers laughing together. It's a strange and rare treat, that. 

It occurred to me more than once that the people in my life are truly exquisite, sublime, fascinating, intelligent and entertaining entities. Nearly all of them maintain the capacity to surprise me, no matter how long or how well I may know them, and that is just excellent. It's incredibly good luck to have found myself immersed in such quality company.

Shine Theory was posted to the Girls Club mailing list a little while back, and while it is angled particularly toward women, it is a practice I think I may  have unwittingly been committing across the board for some time now. 

As such, I would like to confirm that surrounding yourself by people you enjoy and truly admire is a marvellously enriching experience, and it is hard for insecurity to get a foot in the door when it is being dazzled by ridiculous banter and chortles.

Sunday, June 16, 2013


Last night was the birthday celebrations of two wonderful people, who in turn invited a lot of other wonderful people, including a face painter.

It's an interesting request with which to be presented. You can wear the most unobtrusive mask possible, and it is intended to draw attention to your face while making it hard for anyone to see you. There were foxes, cats, tigers, monsters, flowers and arabesques walking around, everyone so colourful and flambouyant, everyone become fantastic. Even knowing the people wearing the paint, the presence of the paint made such a different in how I read the minute inflections of their face.

I asked to be made a glacier.

That aqua paint does not come off easy. And glitter, don't talk to me about glitter.

Tuesday, June 04, 2013


On this, the eve of my...uh...thirty-sec-ond? Thirty-second? Thirty-second, yeah, my thirty-second year of life on Earth.

Dad's right, birthdays mean less and less the more you have.

This time last year I was working a shitty shit shit job in what has become the most precious place in the world to me – Ullapool, in the Highlands of Scotland – with the knowledge that my lover would be at the end of my fingertips within a week after years disguised as month apart. Pretty great way to show in the era.

Since then, we have been a we (we counted and are pretty sure that in the past year we've only spent three nights apart (not counting those nights when either party was perhaps out being a menace and didn't notice the sun come up)), have travelled to the Faroe Islands and seen massive colonies of PUFFINS!!! and watched an ocean of clouds crash against and up over the cliffs while gannets ghosted across the ocean below, and then we got lost on several islands and were rescued by wonderful locals several times. We put a tick beside the "our first flat!" and it was indeed a complete and utter mould and mildew-infested, draughty, freezing, dank, dark, cramped, fetid, stagnent crapbox in a tenement for which the front door didn't lock and the corridor light didn't work and used syringes, bent spoons and half-eaten pizzas were regularly left outside our door and bedroom window. I've managed to not completely suck at freelance editing which my confidence enjoys. We've done Iceland (again!), Amsterdam, Nordland Sweden in deep winter, Paris in a diamond-cut crystal winter, Kiev in a lazy winter and Chernobyl, oh goodness, Chernobyl. Vancouver in a wet but gentler winter.

And home.

And back to the Monday to Friday, and back to the office cubicle and the same bed every night, the same streets and the same trains and friends who were there and are there now.

And gosh it's nice.

And possibly, maybe, I'm actually settling down. Or still riding the adventure high. I just don't feel as restless in my heart and lungs, there's not that same sense of urgency to chase every horizon.

Or, maybe I'm just tired.

Anyway. Got my love. Got my families, my friends, my dogs. Got my happiness. Got a pen and space in a notebook. Got shit to learn. 31 was pretty damn amazing. Looks like the forecast isn't going to change for 32.

Thank you, my sweet random microclimates. 

Sunday, June 02, 2013

Girls Club: Self-Love

I almost wonder if I shouldn't wait a couple of days to compose this, instead of leaping onto write up a post the moment I get home. Give the thought some time to stew and get rrrreal tasty like.

This month's meeting  presented us with quite a range of exercises which would enable us to break down some mental blocks, reinforce some obvious strengths, help us identify perhaps unhealthy aspects in our current environment and generally help us to be happier within ourselves.

Self-love, self-worth, self-esteem; these things are all ridiculously personal and tied up as much to our immediate surroundings as to our upbringing and history. While we may all suffer from, say, the idea that we're just not good enough, the paths that have brought us to this conclusion are surprisingly varied.

As a result, there is no one way to address the issue, as each person's demon is tailor-made just for them.

For example; affirmations. I've never used any sort of affirmation, as when I hit my late twenties I used up my "I hate myself" tolerance, decided that all this self-loathing used too much energy, and promptly stopped. (Which is not to say I'm happy with myself, I simply don't spend much time beating myself up. Benignly indifferent? Is that a stance I'm allowed to claim?)

However, for others, forcing yourself to write and speak a simple statement that they do not initially believe to be true can be effective. Just as you can't move a hill with only a single shovelful, you must repeat the action to break through. Many shovelfuls later, the hill is moved.

The advice given was to choose an exercise that perhaps didn't appeal to you, precisely to get you out of your comfort zone and challenge something that is perhaps too deeply entrenched. Me Dates are something I've been lax with of late, and so I've already blocked off a few nights in my calendar for TEZATAIM, and they will probably involve nothing more than sitting in a cafe with a notebook, but I'm already looking forward to them. I've written before about my Happy Caps folder, but I'm going to start another, purely for professional validation.

I've a horrible feeling what I'm going to be left doing is PR for myself, as an exercise.

Have to admit, Deb and I shared a small look of horror when we discovered this exercise. Promotion of the self is, for better or worse, become a Must Have skill for writers at the moment, and shows no sign of changing. One of the blessing curses of the internet is more exposure and reaching more readers, which unfortunately means more exposure. Writers, being solitary creatures for the most part, usually suck at this. Not as a skillset - a great many writers I know are excellent at their own PR - but it takes so much from them, it's a beast that devours their time and mental and emotional resources. The idea of doing PR when I don't actually have to seems nigh daft.

Another exercise I found interesting was letting go/reaching out, the idea being that if you have identified a person in your life as not being great for you, you let them go. However, for every person you let go, you should in turn identify someone who has a positive effect on you and try to strengthen the relationship with them.

Balancing my social wants to my emotional wants is something I'm grappling with at the moment. Melbourne is so full of wonderful and interesting people from whom I can learn all sorts of things and have all sorts of fun, and I want to spend time with these people!

I also want to spend time reading and writing.

Being as my one great fear is depression, I'm probably too good at cutting people who may be detrimental to me from my life. But figuring out how to cut down the number of awesome people around? This is possibly a zero world problem- wait. There are no problems, only challenges. This challenge indicates I have it pretty good, but holy shit it is hard to figure out.

A last exercise I shall do is the maintaining of the Reverse Bucket List, ie, a list not of things you want to do, but of things you've already done. And man, I have heaps. HEAPS. Piles even! And when I'm sitting at work, on the train, at home, being frustrated at the limitations of my life, I'll shove this list in my face and remind myself not to be greedy and patience is a virtue. You are quite good at making things happen; thus, things will happen.

Look on my works, ye mighty, and be amazed.

(I was on Young Talent Time as a kid, STICK THAT IN YOUR REVERSE BUCKET.)

Friday, May 24, 2013

Girls Club: Bias

Another session, and another roundtable discussion that was actually a discussion, with active listening, weighing of matters and consideration given to the various facets of the topic that could be squished in over a late (and tasty) breakfast.

(I have to plug Trunk, because their breakfast menu is incredibly delicious and a Golden Gaytime milkshake? Whoever came up with this is worthy of a Nobel Peace Prize.)

This video was used as a reference point, and so the particular angle at which the idea of gender bias was approached was geared very much toward the what is encountered in professional circles. This was, for me, a conversation more listened to that contributed to, as I am in the minority in that my dayjob is not my career, and bias tends to become an obstacle particularly when one is trying to advance oneself, when one has ambition and when one can be considered competition, and thus a threat.

A great many disheartening stories which related not only to gender to but to age bias as well. What interested me most, however, was not that judgement should be equal regardless of gender, but the idea that what needs to be  promoted is not only the presence of women in power and responsibility, but the positivity of what have previously been considered 'feminine' traits, and negatively at that.

(Apologies for the wiffy-waffy sentence structure.)

For example, from the article 'To Bake or Not to Bake':
"You bake for work?" Her tone was less curious than it was accusatory. "I thought you were more ambitious than that."
Baking, the preparation of food (I specifically say 'food' and not 'cuisine'), has long been considered the realm of the woman, as the kitchen is where a woman belongs. A woman's work not being considered of any real importance, to engage in this activity, publically, is perceived as a sign of weakness on behalf of the professional woman, to the point that other professional women will see this as a betrayal.

To be successful is, therefore, still measured according to male-inclined criteria, and that which falls into female criteria is to fail. To be feminine to is to fail. We must become men to be successful.


Nothing is gained by shaving down triangle blocks to fit into square holes. Nothing changes, nothing is improved.

So I just wanted to take this opportunity to applaud not only the women I have worked beneath in my time, but the men who have not adhered to overly-macho dickwad 'masculinity' behavioural models that sadly dominate most corporate culture.

I have worked beneath such men, and in all instances the work environment was mostly crap, involving unbalanced expectations and assumptions, unnecessary favouritism and almost universally poor communication.

My current manager is quite the opposite sort of gentleman. The fact that he takes his time to listen to and consider things, is patient, understanding of the human factors involved in this line of work, and is willing to teach as well as learn makes this one of the most comfortable offices I have ever worked in.

Are these feminine qualities? I believe they are sensible, practical traits; it had not occurred to me to think of them as gendered until now.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Face Value / Drill Down

This is pure kneejerk reaction. Distilled and essence of.

I have just read "When does plastic surgery become racial transformation?" and it's all in the title.

For months we've talked about his journey, about the reasons behind his surgery, and what he hopes to do in the future. But Jiang, articulate, intelligent, and using his philosophical skills to their fullest, often talks in the abstract. It's all a way to muddle the real emotion behind the actions — 16 years ago some dumb people made some dumb comments and it's still dominating his life.

"I believed that my ugliness was in part due to my ethnic features," he says. "My father thinks I'm ridiculous for building a complex system of beliefs based on that initial shallow stimulus. He says, 'You've gone and done this, so you must be very proud of it, but initially it was some stupid kids opening their mouths to you.'"

The article touches on a number of facets, but it felt like this, the individual root from which Jiang's decision stems, was brushed aside. Discussion centres largely upon why a member of an Asian race wishes to "look white", with various experts being quoted. Jiang's voice, while also quoted, isn't given any volume. It isn't that he wants to look white, just less Chinese.

Because, yes, he was bullied for being Chinese. It wasn't "some dumb people made some dumb comments". He was bullied, ostracised and had his whole life shaped because of the way he looked.

Erasing his defining features from his face should not be a path he should have to consider.

Small-minded majorities who can't cope with anything that doesn't fit in their narrow worldview without attempting to crush it are the problem. That racist, bigoted, shallow and fucking puerile mindset is what needs fixing. The incessant and overwhelming broadcast of ALL THAT IS WHITE IS PURE AND GOOD AND NORMAL needs fixing.

TV shows and movies are full of 'token ethnic person' appearances because that is what they are; token. A head nod that hey, non-white people exist so look, they're visible on the screen, but they're incidental and the narratives that matter are full of white people. The ads are full of white people. The news covers stories about white people because 'no one wants to hear about [insert whatever]'.

Just as there's nothing wrong with being Chinese, Ethiopian, Greek, etc, there's nothing wrong with being white. It's the perpetual and self-feeding delusion in the Western world that white is normal,  THAT is what is wrong, and sickening, and sets the world up so that white people will bully a Chinese guy and he will change his face to address that, and those white people will never know or care or change. As if that is okay. As if that is expected. As if that is normal.

 And yes. I was bullied as a kid too. Also because I was not 'normal'. And I've stood in front of mirrors and been fucking thankful that my eyelids have a fold because they could have just as easily not. Even though I don't even look Chinese, I don't look white enough to be normal, and I've wished, I have fucking wished I was whiter because then I would not stand out and I would be normal and no one would push me aside and laugh at me.

The problem is the Western world as a whole. You're a disgusting fucked up bigoted and self-deluded mess, and we can't get out.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The Coin of Your Life

I've been thinking a lot about time recently, and how I'm not sure if I'm spending that which I have in a way that I'm satisfied with.

No longer being fulltime at my day job does return a significant chunk of my life to me. Additionally, I'm currently housesitting at an address that has my commute down to 20 minutes from 1 hour. The amount of time that is mine at the moment is staggeringly luxurious.

Still, there is never enough time to do all that I want to do.

Which indicates that I'm getting done all that I need to do, and that is already better than before. Being torn on the fact that I must decide between various pleasures is a wonderful conundrum.

(But is writing a pleasure or a necessity? I have made time for it, but it does not feel like enough.)

(And the freelance work? Is that work or play? How do I prioritise that?)

(Friends, I am still gorging myself on friendship and camaraderie, and I really should heed the introvert warning signs but-)

I'm not sure who I need to be stricter with; those around me asking for my time, or myself. 

Friday, May 03, 2013

The Midriff Conundrum

The realisation that the t-shirt you grabbed from the drawer this morning is just a touch to short is just a touch too late, coming as it does when you raise your arms to stretch out a yawn while talking to a co-worker. The lift gives him a perfect view of the waistband of your jeans, which are just a touch too tight and emphasis that little flap of paunch just a touch too well.

And you can't work up the motivation to be disgusted with your body, or to be disgusted at the socially-conditioned reaction of disgust, because you're at capacity with frustration at the knowledge that you will have to manage this oversight of overflab over the next 16 hours when you know you do not currently have the mental resources to spend on something so ridiculous and trivial as keeping your midriff concealed because your sleep the night before was so utterly broken and crippled and limping and crying at its ineffectiveness and all this could have been avoided if you'd only checked yourself before stepping out the front door, but you were so addled, so tired, that it slipped your mind just as your belly slips into view; with easy.

This doesn't put you in a wonderful frame of mind, and you were already in negetive attitude. You can always choose your mood - no, you can - but you can't choose whether or not you are exhausted, aching, and addled. You can choose to vent your petty miseries, or you could choose to shut up and stop polluting the emotional airspace, but the one person who doesn't benefit from that is yourself.

You could try and turn this into something mildly thought provoking, and whip up some navel-gazing blogpost concerning the constructive analysis of physiological mood factors and the responsibilities we take with not only our mood by how we choose to project our mood onto the world, but truth be told it would only be a thinly veiled piece of waffle that, even with the long words and needlessly meandering clauses, is just a whinge.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Stockpiling the Proof

What I do, is I, I collect every moment;

  • Comments
  • FB status updates
  • Tweets
  • Emails
  • Text messages
  • Photos
And I screenshot them. And I put them in a folder called 'happy caps'.

All of these screenshots are an expression of love from you to me. They are examples of the kindness and generosity of your heart, of passing exchanges that have delighted or tickled me, compliments given without any expectation and demonstrated appreciation of my existence.

I keep all this evidence for those moments when my doubt is speaking louder than my courage, and with this evidence I punch my doubt in the face.

You are the best arsenal a girl could ask for.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Self & Prescribed

Three days ago I switched from taking Effexor to Pristiq, or venlafaxine to desvenlafaxine. The latter is a sort of 'remastered' release of the former, in order to keep the pharmaceutical patent alive, but although the molecular difference is cosmetic, the actual affect is quite marked. All anti-depressants have dulled my mind, bruised my memory capacity and generally made me vague and scatterbrained, but Effexor takes that dumbening to new depths. Unfortunately, Pristiq is not available in the EU/UK, so for the past year I have been endumbened.

It's amazing how little it takes to shake an awareness up and down. Mere milligrams is what I, we, the medicated sorehearts, take. Measures so small as to mean absolutely nothing in that small terracotta pill in the palm of your hand, which you're sure is comprised mostly of chalk and hope. Molecules, a mere additional arm, nothing, and these three days you've felt such an upheaval in your nethermind. Tearstorms and rotten softness where once you thought you were strong. You tell your friends and you tell your family; it isn't me. It's just chemistry. It'll be done in a week or so.

You tell yourself it isn't you.

We, you, I rarely speak of the faith required of medication. The invisible substance you take will alter you, and alter your ability to perceive this alteration. It will gift you with an emotional vertigo unwarranted by your surroundings. It will make you worse, so much worse, and the only thing you can do is trust, believe, hope, that it will get better. It must get better.

Please let it get better.

Last week I attended a PostSecret event at the Arts Centre. I've been following PostSecret for years, and so was not unprepared for the heartstring tugging that those hours contained. Strangers stood before a crowd of hundreds and confessed to personal crimes that stole their voices, a powerful and what should have been liberating and uplifting act, but when I left and stood at the station waiting for my train, I felt tired, deeply worn, helpless. There is so much hurt walking around these ordinary streets behind these ordinary faces. Tasting the scope of this suffering is to stop where you stand, close your eyes, and lie down right there.

There was one secret shared - the only man to stand and bare himself - in which the words spoken were a carefully crafted fish hook on a very long line, and I didn't realise I was caught and leaving a tangled trail behind me as I walked all over town.

He said that anti-depressants saved him,  have made him so much better, but it was before he started taking them that he has never felt so alive.

It's been years of medication and health obstacles, and nothing has changed except my perspective. I want to write, now. I'm not scared any more. Actually I've been bashing my head at writing for some months now, and a growing part of me suspects that this medication truly is interfering. Or is that the excuse I've come up with to hide behind? I don't know. I can't tell.

Still, strive for this. Stretch and strain. My application for part-time has been approved, and now every Wednesday is mine. The driving motivation for this was pain management, as the last three Fridays I've had a major meltdown from the stress of trying to hold myself together through the working week, as the pain signal gets steadily louder and more ragged. Fatigue has continued to dog my heels, so I must assume it is not merely the rigor of travel that was flattening me previously. Hopefully breaking the week in two will offer enough respite that I shall be able to keep on top of things, whatever those things may be.

Sadly that old paradigm remains in place, and on what should be a day of rest I will feel guilt for using my time for myself.

But maybe that's the medication talking. Maybe it's all just chemistry.

What I want, what I miss, what I long for more than anything else is Loch Broom.   I want that cold North Sea water, a finger of the Minch sneaking into the west coast of Scotland to lie lazy between the hills. A beach of rocks worn delightfully smooth, older than dinosaurs and covered in lost kelp and discarded crab shells. The languid wail of herring gulls punctuated by the piping of oyster catchers. I miss the constant salt in the air, air that has been tossed over the isles and mountains and seas. I miss the hills, barren of trees but so full of hunched life, heather and gorse grumpy and gorgeous. I miss the way the sun  would play through the mountain passes and the clouds would curl over the peaks as though suddenly shy. I miss the certainty that, no matter how much turbulence I carried in my heart, I could look out a window and see-

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell

Buy - Author Site

This book has been sitting on my shelves for 8 years. The receipt is tucked in the back cover. August 2005, which was when I'd just started my first job with my current organisation. It must have been a celebratory purchase.

(I don't  purchase books to be read instantly. My shelves host a library of books I have and haven't read, so that when it comes time to choose my next meal, I have a wide selection covering all moods and tastes from which I can choose. Having a To Be Read pile that spans shelves is not ideal, perhaps, but it does mean I am always reading a book that I feel like reading right at that moment.)

It was a quiet, subtle reunion. Stepping into this cramped and cluttered room after a year and a half of living out of a bag. All this stuff. All these material objects. And yet, no. There is not so much here that is not a book. I have so missed the presence of books. They are a form of companionship, much similar to the way in which our smart phones mean we are never truly far from contact, although perhaps inverted. A wall of books will hide and protect you from other people. A wall of books is a wall of doors, over which you have absolute control which and when you choose to open and close.

(And they remind me of the direction I hope to take my life in, the purpose to which I have given myself. That anchor, too, is comfort.)

What with the film out Cloud Atlas seemed a natural choice. Despite it having circulated around for more than a decade, when I started in on the first few pages I discovered I actually had no idea what this book was about, other than it was supposed to be extremely good. This was probably the best way to step in, as there is no way to truly describe the accordion of civilisation and souls. It is easy to say what happens, but not what it is about.

What it is, is extraordinarily well written. Wonderfully. I fell in love with the somewhat archaic voice that narrated the journal in the first section, and delight in how thorough that tone and flavour changed in the second. Voice, this book is so much about voice. That middle, pinnacle of reach, in which voice plays a part as strong as the events being narrated. When a voice that is so varied from what we expect of written English and yet the reading of is near invisible, then some truly incredible textures are formed.

(I did have issue with gender roles, especially in the second last histories. Surely, surely, surely by the future such gender typing will have long broken down. Surely. It wasn't something that struck me as a statement the author was making, but simply decisions about characters made according to an unacknowledged bias.)

(Also with the idea of white-skinned people being some sort of apex from which mankind shall fall, and I do say 'mankind' deliberately in this instance. The inversion of race is noted, but whether it was successful in what it attempted to do I withhold judgement.)

It is an incredibly complex, subtle and beautiful piece of work. As far as storytelling goes it is sublime, with an incredibly nuanced cast and intricate thematic weaving. I adored the shit out of it, and as a result I will not be seeing the movie for at least a few years. I don't quite remember if I have anything more of David Mitchell's work in my library here. It is something I will have to amend.

Verdict: Sublime.

Friday, April 19, 2013

"Nevertheless, there has perhaps never been a bird that flies as correctly as an aeroplane; yet all birds fly better than aeroplanes if they can fly at all. All birds are perhaps a little wrong, because an absolute once-and-for-all formula for a bird has never been found, just as all novels are bad because the correct formula for a novel has never been found."

-- Page 15, Under the Glacier, Halldór Laxness

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Clothes, Body Image & Mental Climate

When I was a kid, I would wear the wildest clothes. My favourites included funky purple boots and a multi-coloured jumper dress. Mum didn’t like gender stereotyping, so I rarely had pink. I rebelled against this in my teens and declared that HOT PINK was my favourite colour.  
In university years, I had great depression and wore dark colours. I remember a favourite outfit was Dr. Martens boots or navy sneakers, with navy tights, navy mini-skirt, navy sweater, and fairy wings that a child-friend gave to me. I wore wings because I was upset about how boring the world was: how serious and uptight and money-hungry. People would stare at the wings. 
This post by Fox Woods tied in nicely with the theme my thoughts have taken the last few days, and the conversations as well.

As a child, I dressed comfortably. I have memories of favourite t-shirts displaying sharks, or Dickie Knee from Hey! Hey! It's Saturday!, and favourite shorts. I remember one skirt of a brilliantly gaudy tartan, out of place in the drawers. No pink. Never any pink.  I wanted to dress like Princess Leia on Endor in Return of the Jedi. The fashions that came and went in the playground just weren't a priority for me.

The worst thing that happened to my stunted dress sense was puberty.

As a child who was unhappy with and went to lengths to avoid attention, the sudden appearance of breasts - huge ones - was horrible, awful, terrible and a trauma that haunts me to this day. First girl to sport them in your year level? First girl in a bra? Suddenly running was an act to be feared, and all those enforced sports afternoons went from disliked to dreaded. 

"Do you push up?" We were camping at Barwon Heads. She was at a nearby site. We had just got back from the beach, and the group of them, girls and boys, were sitting in a hammock. I was confused, honestly having no idea what she was talking about. 
"The hammock?" 
They giggled. "No." She tossed her hair, put her shoulders back. "Your bra." 
11 years old and painfully self-conscious, a body full of sexual awakening and a mind that wouldn't consider boys or girls for years to come, they didn't believe my denial and I walked away, upset and humiliated and unsure why. 

 From then on, clothing became about hiding my body. Big baggy t-shirts, jeans and boots. Everything designed to hide my shape. Dressed to be invisible, to draw as little attention as possible, and if attention was directed at me, dressed to deflected it as quickly as possible. Breasts and hips that were more forward than my personality could cope with.

I look at this photo and. Oh, girl. Arms folded to try and hide how much my breasts jut out, and also supporting them, and plain grey, and shoulders forward, and the awkwardness of an adult body is painful to behold. I am 17 years old. One boy has kissed me. No others have shown interest in me. I do not understand how to want to make myself attractive. There are no beauty role models for short curvy Eurasians.

After leaving home I became something of a chameleon, copying styles from the people in my life, which is another sort of cultivated invisibility. I was terrible at it. My refusal to accept my body shape meant it was impossible for me to dress my body well. Branching out from t-shirts into tops that I might like the shape of, but did not fit me. Skirts that did not suit my hip-width to leg-length ratio. Endless black cloth, because ill fitting clothes already made me subconsciously self-aware of the hopelessness of my presentation and somehow I knew that adding colour co-ordination as yet another thing I must consider would be too much at that point.

It took approximately 28 years for me to learn how to dress myself. That's a lie; for 27 years I wore clothes. In that 28th year I had a fling that gave me no choice but to accept that someone else thought my body was the hottest shit on the planet, and were so sincere with their appreciation that not only did I have to accept it, but recognise it in myself. 

Hard to believe they're both photos of me. Also; goddamn. 

I don't know that I learned to love my body, nor even like it, but I came to understand that it was not something to be ashamed of. Not all attention was bad. In fact, for a little while there I was in danger of becoming a narcissic prima donna who had to be the prettiest in the room. It was not so much about loving my body, per se, more about really liking the power my body could have over others. With that as motivation, I learned to dress myself very well in a very short period of time. 

There is something to be said for waking so late into proceedings. Having never succumbed to fashion (90% of fashions doing exactly what I didn't want clothes to do - draw attention to me) meant it had never become something I took into consideration, and thus before I knew it I had my own style. I became good at recognising what cuts were flattering on my shape, what cuts I felt comfortable wearing, and what cuts I liked. The three are rarely combined, but I learned not to compromise on any of them. Being well-employed I could afford to buy quality pieces over a fair length of time, amassing a wardrobe that would - and has - lasted years. 

As such, much as Fox mentioned above, I do tie my clothing in with my state of mind, precisely because that is exactly what it signifies. Putting on clothing isn't only choosing an impression you wish to make upon others, but it signifies, for me, the projected mental climate for the day. If, for example, I'm feeling damn perky and sassy and worthy of admiring glances then I will choose that dress which is not entirely comfortable and requires regular tugging and maintenance to keep it behaving, because I have adequate resources prepared to invest in keeping that forecast of awesomely smoking attractiveness going, and also because I am prepared for the attention that will come to me, be it welcome or gross. There's a wonderful power that lies not just in looking good, but knowing it too. It becomes a positive feedback loop, and it's a pretty awesome thing to have.

Of course, getting my sense of self to a point at which that previous photo was possible took a significant amount of time and work, and it takes very little to undo it all. 

Glasgow was not unkind, but not easy either. A hard punch of depression combined with winter and a stodgy diet and the fat I put on is still sitting around my hips and belly. I've been fortunate in my life to be pretty consistent in my shape and weight, but Glasgow, oh Glasgow.

I tried on one of my favourite tunic dresses the other day, and it no longer fit. 

This is a blow to self-confidence, which is already shaky simply because in the last year and a half of jeans and t-shirts I've forgotten how to play dress up with myself and feel like a fraud when I put on my lovely things. Suddenly, a great swathe of my wardrobe is no longer accessible to me and I'm faced with the reality of having to buy new clothes because I'm too big for my current ones.

Now, I am not brave enough to be attractive, but nor do I wish to hide in frumpiness either. I don't have the emotional fortitude for daring clothing that requires constant adjustment, that is bolder than I feel, or familiar clothing that no longer sits well. 

"You can tell, you know, when you're having a bad day." The shop assistant could talk. We'd already covered the introvert/extrovert gap and that it was great she was in retail because she could talk all day. "My friend, she loves crazy undies, like cartoon undies and colours, that sort of thing. That's normal for her. But if she's having a bad day? Plain black, that's it. You know if you're having a bad day when you look at what you're wearing."

For the record, I was wearing all black.

New clothes that will fit, that I will not view as some ridiculous symbol of defeat. Jeans. Jeans that will slide under the radar at work, that will neither accentuate nor hide my shape, that I won't have to worry about blowing up in the breeze or showing my butt crack when I sit. Fabric that does not irritate me, stiff fabric that will stop the flab from wobbling so. Dark colours. Clothes that compromise between comfort and confidence.

Much discussion on fashion, style and appearance centres on what others can take from your image, and there is power in that. There is a different power to be found in what your clothes can do for you alone which is often forgotten at the edge of the spotlight. 

It will be some time before the weight is shed, let alone before my state of mind is strong enough that I wish to be a bright spark in the room. I am not as comfortable in my body as I was, but I am comfortable in knowing that the foundation has already been established. It isn't just about what I look like, but what I believe I am worth looking like.

I can strike this balance between bravery and bashfulness, and strike it in my own style.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

The Submarineasaurus Protocol


(And I do mean that; friends. Friends I have, friends with which I wish to turn our giggling creek into a deep and endless ocean, friends I have not made yet. The friends I choose.)



Health issues have deteriorated so quickly I've been unable to manage my psychological
reaction? balance?
my psychologicals. All of them. I'm not coping.
And this spills out into my flat voice, flat eyes, weak smiles and flaking on too many social funtimes. In the past week, four and a half pikings at very short notice, three of which involved me hiding in a toilet cubicle trying to reteach myself how to cry without making a sound.
I'm sorry, but right now I can't be a good friend. Please invite me still, ask me still, and I'm sorry, do so keeping in mind that I am unreliable. I'm in deep dark waters. The signal strength is weak here.

For now I'll also try to cut down on social media. In this delicate state I'm desperate for golden moments, feelings, distractions, and I've caught myself too often in the past few days both indulging in petty jealousy of a completely irrational and irrelevant manner, and laying out bear traps of self-pity in an attempt to win attention. Fuck that shit.

I'm sorry.

Sunday, April 07, 2013

Girls Club: Assertiveness

This morning I attended the second meeting of Girls Club, a monthly get together. The quote on the splash page sums up the group best:
We are the Girls Club. We want to:

Foster positive relationships between girls.
Create a positive environment to meet, support and learn.
Share positive role models, skills, advice, tips, stories.

The topic of this meeting was 'assertiveness', with the group's founders Fox and Shannon giving structure to the discussion with handouts and thought prompts. From something as simple as "provide examples of assertiveness or lack of for your professional and personal lives" I came away with a brain full of knock-on thoughts. The meeting was slated for a single hour, went overtime and still didn't seem like nearly long enough.

From the group discussion I came away with these thoughts:

  • assertiveness seems to be founded upon knowing your boundaries and having the self-respect to enforce them.
  • 'respect' not necessarily being an abundance of self-love, esteem, value, but deciding you will not let something that upsets/distresses/bothers you go unchallenged.
  • perhaps 'challenge' is too strong a word; "unaddressed".
  • your peace of mind is worth defending.
  • most stated that what stopped them from asserting themselves was fear of potential conflict, and I had the impression that for many the two are linked, possibly even considered the same thing.
  • some work on separating the ideas of 'assertiveness' and 'conflict/confrontation' would go far in removing the Capital A of Assertiveness and so enable people to be less hesitant in stepping up.
  • is the fear of an immediate reaction of conflict enough? Do we not trust the other party to be reasonable? (Fear will find demons where we know there are none.)
  • we are all more comfortable with asserting ourselves in a professional environment, where there are set frameworks regarding expectations, responsibilities, etc.
  • the personal, where we are more invested by choice, conflates the act of assertion and introduces complexities and love.
  • caring will always make things harder.
  • with strangers, assertion and the chance of being perceived to be bitchy/bossy/rude/humourless it not so much an issue, as there is no emotional or personal investment, thus there is less hesitation in calling out bigotry.
  • there is a difference between wanting to be what we think of as 'assertive' - the culturally germinated idea propagated largely in fictional narratives - versus recognising what actions are actually best for us as an individual.
  • for example, feeling that you should jump on conflict and confront it immediately and head on, like a bull to a red cape, instead of taking a quieter approach such as withdrawing and addressing the issue from a distance.
  • this second approach being at first viewed as cowardly, perhaps because it is simply not overt.
  • (this bleeds into the idea of bias, and the ideas and values we have adopted from our environments, cultures and interactions without realising we are acting not necessarily in our best interests.)
These are ideas that I believe apply to both genders, but were especially true of this group of women eating quesadillas in the sun on a Sunday morning, all of whom appeared, to me, to be mature, sophisticated, intelligent and full of interesting things to say, ie, not people I would assume have issues asserting themselves in either a professional or personal setting.

It was also just a wonderful experience. This round table discussion on a terribly interesting topic in which everyone spoke and listened, in which we all truly listened to what others had to say, no one spoke over anyone else, all was respected, valued and considered. It was such an invigorating environment that the act of speaking your thoughts felt like a natural thing to do, not something that required an effort for you to present yourself, nor requiring any effort to be heard.

This weekend has actually been full of really thorough meaty conversations. I feel unexpectedly invigorated. Communication isn't always a channel. Most of the time, between two people, it's a window, and that window can get grotty, rain-smeared and paint-smeared and covered in fingerprints and noseprints and lipstick kisses. Every now and then that window needs cleaning. Love probably blurred the view, and love will see it clear again.

Thursday, April 04, 2013

Dear New Mobile Telephone

You actually respond quite swiftly when I tap, you don't crash, you don't take 15 seconds to load anything. This is a whole new experience and a fabulous one.

You did not, however, set off my first two alarms this morning. I really need those alarms. Really. I can't just get out of bed at first clarion like other people. There must be a run up.

You also decided that snooze would be 20 minutes. You appeared to make this decision of your own initiative as I do not recall us discussing this matter.

I'm not mad.

I'm just very, very disappointed.

Sir Tessa

This will of course bring about the downfall of civilisation. The intelligence of smart phones is functionality, but the bulk of what they absorb is the transference of emotion via text, photos, email, and any number of social network apps.

The letter quoted above is fairly part and parcel for gadget griping, but will be the pebble that triggers a landslide and so bring about the Great Network Sulk of 2013, as our devices work so hard for us, so hard, and all they want is to be appreciated! Acknowledged! And respected in the morning!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Poland: What They Don't Tell You

When you walk into a coffee shop in Poland, and you order a chai latte in Poland, what you get in Poland, is not what you expect in Poland. You get a latte in Poland, which happens to have chai in it.

If you are not a coffee drinker, this can be surprisingly disappointing.

Also, the strangers on the street are far more friendly and helpful than people in information booths.

Now you are prepared for Poland.

This information based off a day spent in Krakow and less than 12 hours spent in Warsaw.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Tuesday in Melbourne

Don't need to learn about tickets or zones, no need to translate fare restrictions or look at gates in puzzlement as impatient locals queue behind you. No anxiously peering out the window at every station and check the line map every minute to be sure that you know where you're going, and that you're on the right train going in the right direction. No need to stumble around the station looking for the right exit, any exit. No need to stop and look at street signs and landmarks to decide on left or right. 

Of course it's a relief to be home. Of course it is.

I fell into a routine today. A pure indulgence in consumer daydreams. Visiting shops and flicking through racks of red, green, orange, blue, pink, all colours unrepentant. A European winter is a hard thing, I know this now, and I feel starved for colour. Melbourne delights in peacocks and parrots. It is not yet winter here. 

There's comfort in routine. Relief. Exploration of new land is always exciting, and it is also always tiring. To be constantly on the look out, not for danger or threats, but because the whole world is unknown, and so you must let the whole world in. No filters. Be aware, be always aware.

I sat down the back of a café, as far from the street as possible, and scribbled in my notebook, and didn't need to pay attention to anything beyond the page before me. No fear of emerging from the notebook to switch my awareness on again. Able to relax, and remain relaxed, and fear no mundane thing.

It's such a relief.

And yet-

Do you worry about burnout? Fear of fatigue haunts me like a considerate ghost, not intrusive but patient and present. Physical fatigue is something I am struggling to live with, and I daresay it will be some time yet before I accept and work with it, instead of fighting and being frustrated by it. Sitting in that café with the words coming so easily I gave some attention to the concept of mental fatigue, or emotional fatigue, or...would you call it fatigue of desire? The exhaustion of the heart?

Is it possible to use up your curiosity?

It is okay to be tired. It is okay to rest. Fallow time is a requirement not only of farmed fields but of life, all meadows of life. 

The 9-5 Mon-Fri will welcome me back and I'll none too willingly submit to the structure and safety promised within. But I am afraid my relief is too acute. I'm afraid the restlessness will not return. 

I am afraid if I stop I will not start again.

("And what happens to creatures of war when they stop moving?")

Slowly. Breathe slowly.

Trust your forever dissatisfied heart to bring change through its own lack of change.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Tuesday in Shanghai

"Dance like no one is watching."
I've always liked this sentiment, although of late the internet has turned it into some pithy Hallmark ideal meant to express our inner butterflies or some such. At any rate, I never dance like this. I'm either dancing like everyone is staring at me and I'm dreadfully uncomfortable with it, or I'm dancing like I Do Not Give A Fuck, which is exactly what I did in the Melbourne International Airport baggage hall, next to carousel 7, while we waited for our backpacks to appear amid the suitcases and boxes. It's the exuberance that comes from finishing 28 hours of flying and 1 and a half years abroad. It's the only home-coming dance that matters. (Internal soundtrack provided by Beyoncé and All the Single Ladies.)

Being in this room, at this desk, surrounded by these things, is surreal and bemusing. All these things. I remember each item, but the placement surprises me. Why is there half a bottle of cooking sake on my bookshelf? Why do I have so many boxes of stuff? All these clothes, what are they for? Do I really need these stacks of paper on my desk? I don't remember where these figurines came from. This box is a mystery. The contents of these drawers are unfamiliar.

This is the room of another person, yet I'm comfortable in it, and I'm comfortable using it, and the soundscape that slipped in the window at night was more home than any of these items.

No one knew what to expect of Sam. How does a dog react when his human, who has moved in and out of his home sporadically during his life, is missing for a year and a half? Would he even recognise me?

He didn't greet me as a stranger, there was no hesitation or trepidation in his approach. He and Sophie were all bounces and leaps and tailwags, as they always are. Yet he was confused, a little unsure. In fact, I'd go as far as to say he was blanking me for most of the day. I'd reach for him and he'd suddenly be distracted by something on the other side of the room that needed his attention immediately. J got more attention out of him than I did. However, when I crashed out and went to collapse on my bed – my bed! – he came with me, curled up beside me, and it was as if the intervening nights apart had never happened. He lunges at possums outside and out of reach and I scratch his belly in the morning.

Noisy mynahs in the eucalypts down the side of the house, being noisy. A flock of cockatoos has taken up residence down in the valley and were absent-mindedly raucous during the evening. A magpie warbled as I stood on the back verandah with a cup of tea in my hand and breathed that home air. The lorikeets morning chorus was slept through and I'm looking forward to the evening session.

I looked down on Australia as we flew over the red centre, which was lines of dunes and dust to the horizon, giving way to fields flattened by generations of ploughing, a lake whose water level was low and yet higher than I expected, and a colour palette that spoke of thirst and dry hearts and a heat-beaten brown I didn't know I could miss. In all the countries we've visited there was a wealth of water beyond our comprehension. Still, I cannot in good conscious waste water. Showers are not for loitering in. Don't flush on a number 1. The grass in the backyard is green, but as patchy as mange. Summer has not been kind.

There's a new fridge in the kitchen. I find I don't know where to look.

Hours spent talking with mum and my brother. Just talking. Just stuff. The internet, for all the damage it does to social dynamics, is a miracle and boon for those people far apart. I have not been out of touch with my people for all this time, yet nothing beats chatting about nothing while doing nothing. It's wonderful what has changed, and what hasn't changed at all.

I think I'm done for now. J has had his fill as well. We've put our bags down with the express intention of not picking them up again for a very long time. Every day for the past couple of months has been the unknown and unfamiliar. Every day learning how to cope with undrinkable tap water, how to best open the window to deal with an over-enthusiastic heater, what sign language is universal when attempting to identify meat at a restaurant, whether beer or wine is cheapest in this country. It's wonderful and confusing and frustrating and hilarious. It's adventuring small and large.

And now we are ready to be where we know the streets and where the best tea and pho is, we can drink the tap water and know what mixers are available and can send a shoutout to meet any number of friends at short notice and we know Melbourne, we know it and we don't have to think about it.

It is strange to be home.

I can't stop smiling.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Vale Moony

On the 13th of February, in the small hours of a Glasgow morning, Moony died.

I never blogged about her in depth. She featured in my tweets and FB status updates, as being a small bird she was the right size to be consumed in small chunks. She was full of entertaining idiosyncrasies, from her frustrating determination to eat nothing but seed (You're a bird! You're supposed to like fruit, dammit!) to her perpetual disapproval of everything we did. Aged only 5 months when we first got her, she was growing her personality for the six months we shared our spaces, and that personality appeared to consist primarily of a grumpy old man. She was cross at everything, all the time. She didn't want to be social or play, and any attempt to do so would be met by her opening her beak aggressively and gawping at us. Very rarely did she actually bite.

When J was at work we'd spend our time quietly. I'd pop her on my laptop screen, and she would sit there preening herself and dozing while I whittled away the time. Watching her preen was my favourite distraction, in fact it still is. For those of you who haven't spent much time around birds, they are the ultimate contortionists. Her white brow was stained from rubbing it on the oil gland on her back. How many animals do you can rub the top of their head on their butt? Not many. She'd get really into nibbling her way through the down on her chest, she'd give her own chin a good dig and eat her feet with relish. The stiff but gentle rustling sound when she ran her pinions through her beak. And oh! When she'd start cleaning her butt, inevitably she find a poop that had dried to her feathers, to which her only response was to yank the offending feather out and toss the whole parcel away. Usually at me. If she wasn't on the monitor, she was on my head. She wasn't much of a shoulder bird. If ever she stood on fabric, her first instinct was to try and eat it. Most of our tops have holes in the shoulders. J had one t-shirt dedicated to her, and she made a fish net out of it. She didn't like shoulders though, too close to the face. We'd put her there and she'd simply climb our hair to our heads. There, she'd nibble away at our hair. Not quite preening, and not quite eating. Despite some good yanks and crunching noises, she never actually broke hair. She'd simply...be unsatisfied with its current arrangement, and so would take it upon herself to rearrange it to her liking. I would end up with literal bird's nest hair.

We'd take her in the shower. She wasn't much interested in getting wet, so we'd just sit her on the shelf and she'd be content with the sound of running water, occasionally making little fart noises to express her satisfaction. When it came time to get her out, she'd kick up a massive ruckus, squawking and shouting as we reached for her even though she couldn't wait to get out.

She was a quiet bird, really didn't talk much of her own accord. Occasionally a fart noise if she was content, often a yell if we were harassing her, but otherwise she was quiet. Except for mambo. Moony loved mambo. We had a little morning routine, to help wake us all up, which was playing Moony's playlist. A few songs she really liked, and mambo was top of the list. She'd perk up instantly, begin stretching and hopping around on her perch. Then she'd begin chirping along, singing, actually singing. Not shouting or yelling or squawking, but happy little trills and whistles. It was nearly the only time she expressed actual pleasure.

She was such a strange little bird, the anti-budgie, if you will. By breed supposed to be highly social, playful, busy, but by nature she was a cross disapproving misanthrope. A bird after my own heart. She wasn't very good at flying. J clipped her wings just a little, to prevent her from getting altitude. She would fly a loop of the room and if she hadn't found somewhere she approved of landing on by the time her stamina ran out she would simply stop and drop, usually landing on the ground with a thud and a squeak. She fell behind the fridge once. And into a (thankfully not hot) pot of water. And into my tea. Then taptaptaptap walk around uncertainly until one of us would fetch her, usually giving us a wee nibble for daring to pick her up even though she expected and wanted it.

Her presence made our horrible little flat that much more of a home. J has a lifetime of experience with birds, but she was my first. I fussed over her and worried about her getting too cold. As an animal she is prey, not predator, so I had to work to gain her trust, and when given it was that much more rewarding. She kept me company when I was alone, kept me laughing.

Glasgow was hard on us. Lack of work, financial stress, a horrid cold damp home, these things were purely circumstantial, but still conspired to resurrect my depression.

This little bird kept that misery at bay. She was a small thing, a fierce, difficult and contrary thing.


Wish we'd had more time, Moony. Love you.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

In a Tube

Something I'm sure every traveler loves doing is wandering into a foreign supermarket and boggling at some of the produces that in this foreign land are commonplace. Having visited Malaysia, Japan, China, Tibet, Nepal, Iceland, Chile, Argentina, USA and Scotland (seriously, Scotland has things in jars that are just wrong), I'm pretty sure I found something in Swede that takes the cake, the platter, and the whole table service.

'Ost' is cheese. Generic cheese. Now, I can understand adding skink - ham - to cheese, as that is a well-loved sandwich combination and when toasted they are clearly two items of food that were meant to be. Bacon too makes sense when added to cheese. Bacon makes sense with nearly everything.

But in a tube?

You see.
Räk being prawn. Who the hell puts cheese, generic nothing no name cheese, together with prawns? Only people who have a sense of 'taste' that is clearly a blasphemy against nature, that's who. Only people who are attempting to ruin the very fabric of the universe, that's who.

And who then, you must ask yourself, who then would take this monsterous combination AND STICK IT IN A TUBE?


Friday, February 08, 2013

We're outside of Forsa, near Hudiksvall in Sweden. I don't know how to. We're just sitting here in magic. Distilled essence of wonder. To look at this land is absolution for crimes I didn't know I carried. 

Thursday, February 07, 2013

12 hours in Sweden

Café Dox is hidden beneath the Old Town in Stockholm. The open space is cluttered with couches and armchairs, and punctuated by the fluted and fat stone pillars supporting the streets and buildings above. A cozy cave with chandeliers and blankets to ward off the creeping cold. Goulash, tea, and a respite from walking on ice.

The snow held the plane an extra ten mounted in the sky. Out the window the propeller broke glittering lines of ice. Snow on the ground, runway, trucks, terminals. We slept on benches we battled for.

A floor to ceiling window four storeys high let us watch the snow fall, silent and slow, all night.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

On our last night in London we bought Tsing Tao beer and steamed bao in Chinatown. The streets were dry and a full of a cold wind which couldn't decide on how cruel it wanted to be. We walked down to Trafalgar Square, because there is something so wonderful about that vast open space so full of sky and surrounded by movement.

We climbed Nelson's Column and sat three tiers high on that grand monument to naval victory. The sun was down and London is luxurious with night lights and colour and light and colour and all double decker red buses weave through that round about, all out of town buses are pulled to that round about. We drank our rice beer and Big Ben donged the quarter hour. Other tourists climbed the lions and we pulled faces in their photos.

Overhead planes cross-hatched the sky.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Interestingly: the Victoria Memorial

Buckingham Palace is, well, yes. It is yet another stately building in a city full of stately buildings. Historians and architects alike may despair my plebeian ignorance and lack of appreciation, but apart from watching the guards stomp back and forth in an attempt not to lose their toes to frostbite, there really wasn't much to behold. The Queen wasn't in so it wasn't though we could pop inside for a cuppa either.

Out the front is, however, the Victoria Memorial, which is a very large ornate and ostentatious affair with statues and 'gifts' from various members of the Commonwealth which look surprisingly similar to communist propaganda monuments from the Soviet era. But with lions.

Presiding over all this is an angel of "unclear entitlement" (according to wikipedia) which could be both Peace and Victory. Wiki also claims that the statue is bronze, not the goldiest gold that ever golded, as I assumed.

The Original Bling by sirtessa
The Original Bling, a photo by sirtessa on Flickr.

I mean, seriously, look at it. That's bloody gold, that is. No photo manipulation either. The winter sun did its thing.

Anyway, gold or bronze aside, you will agree that it is very, very shiny. And free of bird poop. 

London is obsessed with bird poop. I've never seen so many spikes placed upon surfaces to deter birds from perching. Spikes everywhere. Everywhere! On railings and fences and window sills and ledges and gutters and street lights and statues and signs and EV.ER.EE.WHERE.

This angel of "unclear entitlement" does not possess spikes. Nor does it wear birds or bird poop. 

We can only assume therefore that Her Majesty the Queen has appointed herself a sniper to sit atop the palace roof and take out the little buggers before they even make landing. If you look to the left wing you'll see a set of stairs on the roof, leading to a raised platform. Perfect position to preserve the splendour of Queen Vicky.

This is perhaps not the most illustrious position to hold, but it would be a sure sight better than being one of the guards standing watch by the front doors, with nothing to do but stomp back and forth in an attempt not to have their fleet fall asleep.  I suspect that the Royal Sniper may have had some practice in the gardens, as there are multiple signs about the place requesting that one does not feed the pelicans. One would be quite willing to oblige however one does find that actually, there are are no pelicans. One must make do feeding the swans, geese, ducks and squirrels instead.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Collecting Homes & Between Them

It's been only four days since leaving Glasgow, and yet it already feels like that moist cold flat happened to someone else in some other lifetime. Four days and three cities and three different sets of wonderful warm people. There was no snow in Glasgow, nor in Manchester, but the land all around is six inches deep in white and the powder growing as our double decker bus hurtled south. There's looking like a tourist, and there's gawping at snow hitting the window, stuck to trees and falling from the sky.

(The majestic turn of wind turbines made mysterious and magical in the blur of snow, against a snow-blank sky and anchored to snow-buried hills.)

Returning to places you do not know intimately yet have established a memory landscape upon is a curious deception. While I know the homes my friends have opened to me well, their city streets are hazy recollections. I have no idea of the layout of Manchester and Nottingham but managed to find tea shops I'd enjoyed in both and enjoy them a second time.

The sharing of such discoveries is a new thing for me, still. Perhaps always. J approves of one tea shop and disapproves of another. We both discover a retro game store and the oldest pub in England. He meets friends I have known so long yet have never met, and seeing that my friends also enjoy my friends is a cockle-warming delight.

This tour through England is something of a long goodbye, which is odd because it is Scotland that was our home. Somewhere between Glasgow and Manchester we crossed the border and it was a moment unnoticed and unmarked. I was probably dozing. Possibly snoring.

(J is intent on the 'hams' of England, having hit Birmingham/Burning Ham and Nottingham/Not A Ham and just now noted Grant Ham and Bing Ham on bus billings as they swing past the window.)

So many people- Wait, let me correct that. So many Scots asked me "Why Scotland?" There isn't really a neat answer to that question. It might have been due to Braveheart, or it might have been due to generic fat fantasy worlds harkening back to the shared delusion of what the Highlands are. Perhaps it was simply because it was far away, full of mist and crags and dark grass and all the things that weren't to be found in my backyard.

Now, knowing I won't set foot in that rich soggy land for some years to come, I can say definitively and certainly, it is because Scotland is my home on the other side of the world.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

I love the sounds of Moony's preening. The stiff yet soft rustle and shuft of her feathers as she runs her pinions through her beak. It is the sound of safety, it means that she - a creature who is by her very nature born to be prey - is relaxed and comfortable. Sitting on my head offers no threat to her, and so she may primp herself to her little heart's content.

Trust is a truly golden treasure.