Every November these plants excel themselves and shamefully I have no idea what they're called. Winter flowers are always so unexpected, and so very appreciated.
Thursday, November 30, 2006
Every November these plants excel themselves and shamefully I have no idea what they're called. Winter flowers are always so unexpected, and so very appreciated.
Wednesday, November 29, 2006
Curiously, the number of poems in the collection he has just finished is the same as the age he will be tomorrow.
I've taken the day off work and we're heading into central London for a day of hopefully happy and cultured activities befitting a poet and his wife. First off we're going to hit the half price ticket booth in Leicester Square, to see if there's any chance of a cheap matinee musical - Les Miserables is his preference - then it's time for lunch. After lunch, If the musical doesn't pan out, we'll make our way to the National Gallery for the Velasquez exhibition. Then I'm sure we'll be hungry again, by which time we can walk over to the South Bank for dinner and Waves, a multimedia production based around Virginia Woolf's 'The Waves'.
I've taken Thursday off too. After all that culture I may need to sleep in.
Happy Booffitaire, my poet!
* 'booffitaire' = birthday, courtesy of the poet's mum's Italian accent.
Today, within the space of a minute, on a small side street in Camden Town, I was graced with the presence of not one but two spitters. Thankfully only one was preceded by a loud, drawn-out and juicy hawking. It took all my presence of mind not to grab the spitting idiots and promise that I would hunt them down when the flu pandemic hits because they will be guilty of malicious infection-spreading behaviour, and I hope you don't have TB because that's a really nice thing to spread too. Ok, I'm too much of a wuss to actually do it, and I'm probably just making the flu and TB things up because I'm so grossed out, but I want to every time.
Apparently this is not unusual in some Asian cities. Years ago a friend visited Hong Kong and, as well as the spitting, was stunned to see a business-suited gent lean over and calmly vomit into the gutter on his way to work. At least he used the gutter. I don't know whether to be proud or ashamed that while camping on Moreton Island in the 90's, I made my drunken stumbling way to our hole-in-the-ground toilet before I threw up. The brown snake killed not far from that spot the next day was not a happy surprise.
But I digress. Spitting is one area where the internet cannot possibly annoy me as much as real life. Internet people may use the word cliche incorrectly. They don't spray their slimy bodily fluids, accompanied by disgusting noises, over the places I want to walk.
Tuesday, November 28, 2006
This is slightly late for Thanksgiving, but I am so thankful we do not have a television right now, because every year around this time my ire is significantly raised by all the newspaper and magazine, not to mention radio, coverage of I'm a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here. Blah blah z-list celebrities blah blah witchetty grub smoothies blah blah insects blah blah ooh! a snake! blah blah jungle. Excuse me? Jungle? What jungle?
In Australia, in terms of treed spaces we have the bush, and we have the rainforest. We also have the black stump, but that's a story for another day. We have scrub. We have national forests. What is this 'jungle'? We have no jungle in Australia*. I guess to the poor little British celebs anything that doesn't come enclosed by garden walls is pretty scary and may seem jungle-like, but come on, Jason Donovan is in there this year. I know he's no Aussie pin up (anymore), but doesn't he have the balls to stand up and say, 'NO, Ant and Dec, you freaky freaksters, as an Australian I know not of this jungle you are forever mentioning. We are in the bush, dudes!'
Imagine how annoyed I'd be if I actually watched the show.
* I don't care what the actual definition of a jungle is and whether it matches the Australian environment in which this show is filmed. All I know is that I have never ever heard an Australian describe any part of Australia as jungle.
Monday, November 27, 2006
Saturday, November 25, 2006
Friday, November 24, 2006
My hometown is Brisbane, the capital city of Queensland, Australia. Also known as Brisvegas, Brisboring and Brisneyland. When I worked in advertising in Brisbane, colleagues from the ‘big smokes’ of Sydney and Melbourne would sometimes comment that it was more like a big country town than a city. Certainly from the vantage point of having lived in London for 8.5 years, I can see their point. We have skyscrapers and busy streets in Brisbane, but the ambience is not that of a big city. Thank goodness.
One of the things I love about Brisbane is that people say hello to and smile at strangers. Not just in the suburbs, but in the heart of the CBD too. Not all the time and not everywhere, but it happens. It’s one of the things I miss most about home – the friendliness. I really enjoy walking through the streets of the centre of town and smiling and saying hello to random people, it gives me a real buzz and makes me feel connected. Maybe if I lived in a small community like a village in the UK it might be similar, but the big city vibe of London is certainly not friendly, and rather isolationist.
Which is why I started to say hello to strangers here, on the streets of North London (even I’m not masochistic enough to try it on Oxford Street, on the rare occasions I venture into that hellhole). I’ve had many and varied reactions – from surprise, a quick smile and muttered ‘hello’, through complete shock and a look of disgust, to blank looks and being completely ignored. I invariably walk away with a broad smile – sometimes because of the look on the face of the person I’ve just so completely discombobulated, other times because they’ve responded in kind. I persevere, if only because it amuses me to make some people realise that the figures passing them on the street are real live human beings who might (shock!) actually want to interact with them.
Hence the Hello Project. My most successful venture so far has been saying hello to a little old guy I used to see almost every weekday morning on the way to the train station. He’d be coming back from the corner shop with his newspaper, and I’d be walking to catch the train for work. That first morning, just before he passed me, I said ‘hello’ and smiled. He was completely taken aback and kind of choked, staring at me. I smiled to myself and kept walking. The next morning, I did it again, and he tentatively murmured ‘hello’. I kept at it for weeks, occasionally using the rather more British ‘good morning’, and before long I could see him registering my presence from the end of the street: he straightened up and a little bounce came into his step. He would say ‘hello’ cheerfully with a big smile in response to my greeting, and we would both continue with our day, at least one of us (me) heartened by our contact. I haven’t seen him for over a year now, and I miss our ‘hello’s’.
The poet and I are so close to booking our flights to Australia for 2007. I can’t wait to be back in the land where not one person gives you a dirty look for smiling at them.
Thursday, November 23, 2006
Wednesday, November 22, 2006
What is it with the rash of relative youngsters writing ‘autobiographies’? I’m 36, and while I may not be a celebrity or have a jetsetting life, I know that it would be a rare person my age who could write a decent autobiography. Even someone who’s been kept hostage by aliens in a cave for 5 years - that could be a good book, but it wouldn’t necessarily be an autobiography.
We have the likes of Billie Piper, Jordan and Kerry Katona, none of whom has reached the ripe old age of 30, cluttering up the bookstores with their 'autobiographies' while I can imagine there are scores of older, better writers who are hard pressed to get their work published. David Beckham, Jade Goody and Gary Barlow - what exactly am I meant to take away from their recounting of their lives so far? And that's just the UK. Damn this celebrity-obsessed culture, and a publishing world dictated by marketing.
The best autobiographies I've read were written by those in their 60’s, 70’s, 80’s or older. In my opinion, Sharon Osbourne should have waited another 20 years, although I'm sure her book is entertaining. I want to read books by people who have actually lived, have seen the world change, have maybe had children, grandchildren, changed careers…. People who have had the time to look back and reflect on their life, not just write a retrospective diary. Or, even better, have it ghost-written. And yet Wayne bloody Rooney gets £5 million for a five-book deal. He’s, what, 21?
I'll let Lucie Cave, ghostwriter of Jade Goody's book, have the (almost) last word:
All of these people who emerge from shows like Big Brother now know just how much they can sell their first interview for. They're far more clued-up than ever before. The celebrity autobiography is a natural extension of that. It's become the must-have accessory for anyone who's reached a certain level of fame.Maybe that's my gripe. I don't want to read an accessory.
Tuesday, November 21, 2006
Read this article in the Guardian yesterday. I find it hard to believe (but also strangely plausible) that in some parts of child-soccer-playing America, parents and coaches are not allowed to keep score. Nobody wins or loses.
There's also a school district where, in gym class, the children are jumping rope for exercise - but without a rope. They don't want the kids who trip over the rope to feel bad and lose precious self-esteem. By removing the actual rope, kids can simply pretend to jump rope, and no kid gets embarrassed.Or every kid gets embarrassed.
Dweck found that in America, 85% of parents think that telling your kids "you're so smart" was an important thing to say and did it daily. Unwittingly, they were depriving their children of what really mattered - the conviction that an industrious work ethic will bring them success. Confidence might breed success, but artificial confidence doesn't. It actually lowers ambition.
Of course if every kid in the class gets a gold star, gold stars won't mean anything. And no one is going to feel good about themselves for getting a gold star, not even the kids who have done well. In fact, the kid with the best self esteem in that class might just be the one who got the smiley face sticker when the teacher (omg disaster!) ran out of gold stars. Because she's obviously special. Right? Smiley stickers will be coveted.
How can people start out with the best intentions and get it so wrong? I've been reading this excellent book and I really like the author's take on how we've gone wrong with self-esteem.
Our schools today are full of ... programs that reward kids with everything from gold stars on up for what are really minor or insignificant achievements. Today's parents are cautioned not to be critical of their children under any circumstances; the message is that unconditional love and acceptance build self-esteem. But the flaw in this logic is obvious. True self-esteem requires an accurate appraisal of one's own abilities in comparison to those of others. With a healthy sense of self, you can accept your weaknesses... There are real differences in abilities, which are rewarded differentially by life. Unconditional acceptance seeks to deny those differences and build a phony self-esteem, vulnerable to puncture by life's experiences. (Richard O'Connor, Ph.D.)Praise our kids, yes. But don't praise them for every little thing and for everything equally so that they never learn the value of their efforts.
From the Guardian article again:
Generation Zero was raised in this culture, with Dr Frankenstein's results. Case in point: today, 94% of high school seniors believe they are going to college. That's their plan, their ambition. But only 63% of them will actually enrol. That gap between their plan and reality has never been wider. And 64% believe they will have a career as a "working professional," when just less than 20% will.
They've been given inflated ambitions, without being taught the necessity of effort. They are unequipped to respond to failure.
Sunday, November 19, 2006
Saturday, November 18, 2006
Friday, November 17, 2006
One of the girls at work today asked me if my leg was hurting, because she noticed me limping. My leg wasn't hurting, and I didn't know I was limping**, although come to think of it, my thighs felt rather tight. In a not-good way as opposed to lean, toned thighs. I think I used to have some of those.
But then I am the queen of tight muscles - the muscles in the side of my calves are so tight that I can sprain a ligament in my foot just by stretching it the wrong way. Go me! I discovered this a couple of weeks ago after my foot felt a bit funny and 'stuck' one afternoon, and gradually became more and more painful until I couldn't walk on it and almost fainted in the Indian takeaway after I limped there in search of spicy comfort. (Curry, in case you were wondering. As opposed to Asian porn.) One emergency trip to the osteopath that night (thanks to my brother-in-law for driving me), the pain diminishing even in the waiting room, a diagnosis of slightly sprained ligaments***, and by the next morning I could walk again. This was a bonus as the previous night I had resorted to crawling up the stairs and coming down them on my bottom. I had hoped to not have to do that at work.
So, limping. Another friend at work asked me some time ago whether I was limping one day as we walked somewhere together. I hadn't been aware of it, but I sure am now.
Anyway, here's hoping it's only slight, otherwise how have I got to the age of 36 without anyone telling me I have a limp?!
* Germaine Greer has a limp. But then I wouldn't have noticed, considering I didn't even know I have one.
** Limp is a very strange word/part of a word. Especially when it's used as many times as I have used it in this post. Do you get that with words - look at the same word often enough in a short period of time and it just looks all wrong?
*** This year has seen me injure my feet an incredible 4 times. Two 'broken' toes (didn't have xrays but medical opinion seemed to think so), one badly sprained ligament that didn't heal for about 10 weeks (caused by stubbing my toe! wtf?) and now this latest fleeting sprain. Which hurt like hell and had me whimpering and clutching at my foot when I wasn't crawling home from the Indian takeaway. It wasn't agony, like the ovarian cyst pain I've had, but it was intense. And then it wasn't.
I need to work on relaxing my calves to help with the ligament issues, but apart from incredibly painful massage, there seem to be no exercises that really stretch those muscles. Any ideas?
Thursday, November 16, 2006
Body Shop perfume roll-on
Eyeliner x 2
Gum and gum wrappers
A post- it note emblazoned with 'Collect Master'
Watch with broken strap
Keys with personal alarm keychain that invariably goes off when I yank my key from my bag
Cinema tickets for The Grudge 2 and Scenes of a Sexual Nature
Mirror broken off from a used-up compact - classy
And my purse (wallet), which is a whole other world of junk.
Wednesday, November 15, 2006
Also, please note that the tags and hems on towels should always be folded inside the towel, when the towel is being stored, or if it is folded on a towel rail. You should dry yourself with the inside of the towel, i.e. the side the tag is sewn into, the side the hems are exposed on. Unless you are just drying your face in passing, in which case it is fine to use the outside of the towel. Teatowels should also be folded with their hems inside. This is very important and the fate of small countries depends on your following the rule correctly. And, it's neater!
(Yes, I have just been flicking through Nobody Cares What You Had For Lunch in search of blogspiration. I did not make up the towel bit just to fit in.)
Tuesday, November 14, 2006
Monday, November 13, 2006
The best thing about having an apple tree that leans into your back garden so that half of it is on your property, is that you do nothing, and end up with all of these delicious apples for free. Then again, the people who actually own it don’t need to water or fertilise or spray it either. The birds get some, but so what. The tree does all the work and we reap the benefits of crisp, sweet apples for several months a year. If it was on my side of the fence I’d hug it.
Sunday, November 12, 2006
Last night we went to a local Italian restaurant to celebrate the poet’s mother’s 84th birthday. She’s the only person I know who will seriously admonish anyone who buys her a gift.
Oh (she says, prompted by Google's logo), looks like I forgot it was Remembrance Day today. At 11am this morning I was at the hairdresser. I want to say something like 'oops' but what is there that doesn't sound flip and disrespectful?
Saturday, November 11, 2006
And yet James Patterson... I seem to forget every time how crap a writer he actually is. Somehow he manages to keep a story going, keep me interested, throw in enough of the vaguely interesting detective work and crime-fighting jargon at the same time as I'm retching at his prose. I mean how are these sentences even published?:
I sat there very quietly, and I held in a primal scream that would have shattered all the glass in the office.The golden rule of writing, Show, don't tell obviously means nothing to this guy.
I can't find the quote now, but he uses the word 'de-spirited'. The word is dispirited, James.
I noticed that in recent years he's co-written several books (I hesitate to call them novels, although in this month of Nanowrimo I guess anything goes), maybe the quality of those is better?
James Patterson is such a prolific writer, and Alex Cross is such a familiar character, that fans, and those new to this series, are bound to enjoy the latest addition to the Alex Cross/Will Lee novels.Yeah, because we all know the more prolific a writer, the better. Right?
This review snippet from Amazon's German site says it better than I have:
James Patterson is the literary equivalent to a five-course dinner at your local fast-food restaurant. Meaning: it probably won't kill you, but there are certainly better ways to enjoy yourself. Patterson novels come in small bites. There are 121 chapters in 2nd Chance, each of them rarely more than two pages long. So, the book consists of a surprising amount of empty and half-empty pages. This might agree with readers afflicted with a short attention span. They won't have a problem finding the page where they fell asleep the night before. It is rather irritating to readers who are used to regarding a novel's division into chapters...as part of the story's construction. Between the empty pages there is regrettably a lot of mediocre if not bad writing. " Political correct " cartoon characters and dialogue that seems to come straight from " Writing by Numbers " are quite annoying.Not that I'm necessarily opposed to a bit of bad but strangely engaging fiction once in a while. I've read a fair number of Patterson's books, each time wondering why. As opposed to all the Buffy the Vampire Slayer books I read a couple of years ago when I was anxious and depressed. Literary valium. Highly recommended.
Friday, November 10, 2006
The first hit was http://baconandehs.blogspot.com/2004/08/im-married-to-poet.html. An ode to a stye. Interesting, but not compelling, and obviously not particularly representative of that particular blog. Onwards to Sylvia Plath, that most famous (among feminists at least) of poet’s wives, a phenomenal poet herself - an unsurprising find. Plath and her husband Ted Hughes make many appearances in my little google-trawl. Alice Notley married a poet. When he died, she married another poet. She also wrote poetry, and one of her collections is titled Waltzing Matilda, which endears her to this Australian blogger immediately.
Maybe ‘how to marry a poet’ might yield more interesting results? Yes, we have a news article from 2004 about some woman planning to marry a dead French poet, a poem (what else) entitled I think that I shall marry a poet, and a ballet, La Esmeralda, where Esmeralda consents to marry the poet Gringoire to save him from death. Much like my situation really.
And finally, the definitive site I was looking for - Yahoo Answers on ‘would you marry a mathematician or a poet?’ (I managed a physicist and a poet, in the same marriage). I wonder if these people (12 year olds no doubt) actually know any real poets?
Thursday, November 09, 2006
I would like to step out of my heart and go walking beneath the enormous sky.
When I first started reading poetry, long before I met the poet, this line by Rainer Maria Rilke, the German poet, caught at my heart. During a particularly melancholy period I decided on this line as my epitaph. These days I’m not so focused on the grave all the time!
Tonight we went to a reading and launch for one of the poet’s friends who has just published a translation of Rilke’s The Duino Elegies. The reading was held in a wonderful independent bookshop, Crockatt and Powell, near Waterloo station, a bookseller of the kind that is sadly becoming increasingly rare thanks to the empires of Borders, Waterstones and Amazon. My favourite quirky touch was the assortment of intriguing and beautiful bookmarks scattered through the shelves and tables of books. And they have a blog!
We read in the tube and the bus on the way home, delving into the very accessible introduction by a German scholar, becoming absorbed in the elegies, and I wondered why I had never really followed up that first Rilke moment, why I had read bits and pieces over the years but never a whole book. This is changing as I write, I’ll be carrying this book around with me for some time. Rilke’s poetry is breathtaking, and this is a fine translation, as you might expect from a fine poet like Martyn. Even though my knowledge of German is fairly rudimentary, having the German text facing means I can both entertain myself and get a sense of the rhythm the poet intended, reading aloud on the bus like your average German-speaking literate London loony.
And how bewildered is any creature
that is womb-born and yet has to fly.
As if frightened of itself, it must hurtle
through the air the way a crack goes
through a tea-cup – so a bat’s track
streaks through the porcelain of evening. (Eighth Elegy)
Wednesday, November 08, 2006
In 1995 Suzanne Treister created the fictional alter ego Rosalind Brodsky, a delusional time traveller who believes herself to be working at the Institute of Militronics and Advanced Time Interventionality (IMATI) in the twenty-first century.
HEXEN2039 charts Brodsky's scientific research towards the development of new mind control technologies for the British Military. This work uncovers or constructs links between conspiracy theories, occult groups, Chernobyl, witchcraft, the US film industry, British Intelligence agencies, Soviet brainwashing, behaviour control experiments of the US Army and recent practices of its Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Command (PSYOP), in light of alarming new research in contemporary neuroscience...
Lots of intricate and interconnecting drawings and sketches, tiny handwriting and the overwhelming sense that this was just the tip of the iceberg of a really quite interesting and involved conspiracy theory about the involvement of the occult in the military. There must be some kind of written thesis somewhere, because the detail is phenomenal. Or maybe a whole library of theses.
Tuesday, November 07, 2006
After a couple of mind-numbing hours poring over tiny complicated figures in Excel spreadsheets we can no longer pretend to understand, helping the poet prepare his tax for his accountant, I've got nothing for you but relief that we didn't argue like we usually do when using the computer (he doesn't get multi-tasking).
Also, my feet are frozen. When I first came to the UK from semi-tropical Queensland I believed the myth that central heating means you wear skimpy clothes all year round, because it's warm! Inside! But no, not for you the eternal indoor sunshine, not unless you can afford huge gas bills. So it's sexy thick socks and hot water bottles for me when I'm on the net, and now time to have a bath. With a shower afterwards, because it is impossible for me to be clean when I am sitting in the water my dirt has washed off in. Not that I'm dirty. But I'm all for the rinsing.
Monday, November 06, 2006
My favourite little boy in the world met his new cousin (and my new nephew, born last Sunday) today. As always, I wish I could have been there as I'm not going to see either of the little blighters until May.
The poet and I are going slightly mad under the exploding skies, and after having seen Borat this afternoon we're heading back to the cinema, freshly roasted chestnuts in our pockets, to watch The Grudge 2. I expect nothing wonderful, just the presence of Sarah Michelle Gellar is enough to render it worthy of my attention.
Sunday, November 05, 2006
The poet's mother was a refugee in wartime Italy, her village and the surrounding countryside decimated by the Allies and the Germans, who holed up in the monastery at Montecassino. One day a shell exploded in a cooking pot next to her, and she saw too many civilians blown to pieces. On nights like these I wonder whether, holed up in her cosy living room, she's taken back to that time, if the explosions in the sky frighten her the way they freak the neighbourhood cats and dogs. Even our goldfish is hiding in his glass jar within the aquarium.
I much prefer fireworks in Australia, where you have to have a permit, and so generally the only fireworks you see are big organised, orchestrated extravaganzas like Brisbane's Riverfire. Amazing spectacles, the best fireworks set to music and handled by experts. Safely. Here, anyone over a certain age can legally buy as many fireworks as they like, and so you get kids throwing firecrackers at each other and passersby, little raggedy 'displays' in every second back garden, and as far as I can see, there's no real excitement about the wonder of these beautiful explosions. They're so readily available (new shops open up at this time every year just to sell fireworks and then close down once the season's over) that they're not special. People start with the fireworks some time in August (Diwali?) and you're not guaranteed a quiet night until after New Year's Eve. And then there's the safety issue - people are injured and blinded by fireworks every year.
As a child at Brisbane's Ekka (the yearly Royal National Show), I was awed by the sparkling, fizzing lights in the nightly firework show. I still feel that way when I see a good fireworks display. I look up into tonight's sky, with the occasional unfolding sparkling flower, or glittering tower of light, but mostly just a lot of bangs and nothing to see through the smoke, and all I feel is irritation at the pollution and annoyance at the noise. Bah humbug!
Saturday, November 04, 2006
I've been unwell for the last week and a bit, culminating in my taking yesterday off work as a virus wreaked its worst on me. I was back in my office today, croaky-voiced and coughing, One of the directors I work for popped her head in to say sympathetically how terrible I looked.
I was caught completely unaware when, in the same breath, she asked "any chance of a cup of tea?" So much for sympathy.
Friday, November 03, 2006
You may know of Miss Dahl as the British model most famous for being rather larger than the average fashion model, size 14 or something and rightly praised for her curves. Until of course she decided to become rather skinny after all and now just looks like any model.
But wait, all is not lost for the girl who apparently inspired the character of Sophie (the giant's helper) in her grandfather Roald Dahl's book The BFG. She published a novella in 2003, which I have not read, and it seems that this, and having a grandfather who was a good writer is reason enough for the Guardian to commission her to fill a quarter page each week with frankly average prose. Or could I be cynical enough to think that the reason her novella found a publisher was due to, I don't know, her name? I don't know whether these 'stories' have been cut for length and that is why they are not actually stories but scenes, but I am disappointed that despite the wealth of good short prose writers in Britain, many of them unknown to the general public, The Guardian has spotlighted the writing of someone seemingly for who they are rather than how they write.
Indeed, why publish the same writer each week? - why not give us a taste of someone different in every issue. There is certainly no shortage of writers out there. Many of whom could come up with a better, cliche-free sentence than "James and Bee ran to the front door, eliciting a volley of laughter from the doorman of the next-door building." Or "Lola looked down, feigning shyness, but in her bones she already felt Fortune's smile."
She's not a bad writer. She's just not very good. Like any writer, she needs to work hard to become good. Unfortunately for her, with a grandfather like Roald Dahl, she's always going to have her work judged against his. Except, it seems, by The Guardian.