Saturday, March 31, 2007


Janetta's icecream (in St Andrews) deserves a post of its own.

Not a patch on D'ella Palma in Rome (and New York, apparently), but rather delicious all the same.


A couple of weekends ago the poet and I went to the St Andrews Poetry Festival. It was a working weekend for him, he was reading and taking part in a discussion about the film based on his Chernobyl book, which was show twice and sold out both times. For me, it was a chance to enjoy a six-hour train journey, spent mostly snoozing, reading and watching the countryside wend its way past, while the poet chatted with a couple of women on their way to a hen night in Edinburgh, and then a couple of nights in a very cozy bed and breakfast, with two days wandering from event to meal to icecream (dutch chocolate and walnut & maple, from Janetta's, an experience I'd been advised not to miss) to brisk walk. Walking was necessarily brisk as it was absolutely freezing.

It seems the rest of the UK had fairly hellish, windy, snowy weather that weekend, but we were well-sheltered in St Andrews, and only glimpsed a few little snowflakes on the morning we left.

I had two chances to talk to to Gwyneth Lewis, author of Sunbathing in the Rain, which I read and found immensely helpful earlier this year and thank her for the book, but the first time I didn't want to interrupt her when she was eating and talking with friends, and the second time I was unsure whether the woman bending over a bag outside the 100 Poets reading (definitely very mixed quality there!) was actually here or just had similar hair. Kicking myself now.

Being so close to the poet and reading a reasonable amount of contemporary poetry over the years myself, has given me a fairly critical ear for what works and what doesn't. Regardless of whether I actually like it. There is a lot of underworked, or just not good enough, poetry out there - winning prizes and getting acclaim seemingly only because of the name of the poet - and it's frustrating when despite the quality of his work (and the number of prizes his work has won), the poet doesn't make the 'upper tier' of poetry in this country. More reason to move to Australia, I say!

Thursday, March 15, 2007

St Anza... literary festival... poetry... geddit?

This weekend the poet and I are going to the St Andrews Literary Festival aka StAnza. He’s doing a couple of readings and the film of his Chernobyl poem will be shown twice, once with a discussion session.

I’ll be wandering around between his events, checking out some of the other events and probably spending too much money on books. Because they can be signed! By the actual authors! I’ll probably be wearing my Fussy tshirt – where better to wear clothing emblazoned with ‘Writing well is the best revenge’ than a literary festival?

I can’t wait for the long train journey – potential rail strikes and people who may have to be reprimanded for iPod abuse notwithstanding – time to read and sleep and gaze out the window at the countryside. Working on the Queensland Rail account in my deep dark Australian advertising past really sucked me into the romance of the rail. Or maybe it’s genetic, my granddad worked on building many of the state’s railways. I’ll be fighting the poet for the seat facing backwards because I believe you really do see more that way. When you’re facing in the direction of travel it all goes by too fast, I like to let the country unravel behind me.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Kids these days

Somehow, starting his first year at school has got my nephew so excited that he's channelling John Travolta. I fear for his social standing with the other 5 year olds. Is he too young for an intervention?

Things the UK hasn’t got right yet #1

When I was at the cinema today to see ‘Freedom Writers’ (pretty good, if you like ‘teacher inspires wayward teens and changes their lives’ films like Dangerous Minds, with a smattering of the Holocaust. Also, when did Hilary Swank become such a babe?), I noticed that there was a new drink on sale:Frozen Fanta.

Great, so the UK’s cinemas finally get slushy-type drinks that aren’t blue, and the best they can come up with is Fanta??

Give me my Frozen Coke!

Note to self

Stop writing blog entries in your head while lazing in bed on Sunday mornings and then not actually typing them and posting them!

Monday, March 05, 2007

And another...

Perhaps all dragons in our lives are really princesses, just waiting to see us just once being beautiful and ourageous. Perhaps everything fearful is basically helplessness that seeks our help.

Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

As someone who has spent far too much of her life being fearful, this appeals.

I have no idea where I have stored the current volume of the 'quote journal' I've been keeping for about fifteen years. Until I find it, I have random scraps of paper piling up on my desk.

Speaking of piles of paper, I had to move more than a few yesterday when I vaccuumed the entire house*. I think the last time I did such a thorough job may have been just before my mother visited for the wedding. I hate vacuuming. Actually, vacuuming a simple square empty room I quite enjoy, vacuuming a room with minimal furniture I don't mind, but moving everything, including rugs and mats to vaccum underneath is a real pain. Almost but not quite worth the satisfaction afterward. Also, I have a dust allergy, and while this is not a problem anymore since I was 'desensitised' at 17-18, I miss the days of not being allowed to vacuum because it stirs the dust up and aggravates allergies. And oh! I'd almost forgotten being let off housework altogether sometimes because it seriously makes me feel sick. All that bending down and straightening up does me in.

When we were kids, our mother would pretend the vaccuum cleaner was a crocodile, and we would (well, I would, my younger siblings probably scoffed at my immaturity from the safety of the kitchen) jump out of reach onto the lounge (in American/British, the sofa), occasionally dangling little feet daringly close to the fearsome metal creature's maw. I remember the abject terror if Mum raised the sucker end and came after our feet, or if I was just a bit too slow in lifting my ankles and the cold metal pushed into them. Imagination is a wondrous thing.

However, vaccuming is not quite so much fun when there's only me and the fish safe in his glass box and a poet absorbed in his work who's liable to brain me if I go near his study. And then there's the stairs. Bane of my vacuum-wielding life. Usually I give up and relegate them to 'next time', picking up any obvious bits of fluff to assuage my conscience but yesterday I took a deep breath, attached the tiny little vacuum head to the end of the hose and painstakingly vacuumed each furry green surface of every bloody stair. All the while balancing the body of the vacuum cleaner against my legs as it threatened to drag me down the stairs because the cord is too short to go all the way upstairs if plugged in downstairs.

Between times, the poet occasionally runs his hand several times over the carpet and triumphantly comes up with a tangled swirl of girl-hair that seems to be unpickupable by vaccum. I on the other hand take pains never to run my hands over the carpet, as what I don't know can't make me feel guilty.

* I lie. I didn't vaccum the spare room. But seriously, there's like a square foot of rarely trodden bare carpet in there.

Wise words

But you yourself will always be the worst enemy you can encounter; you yourself lie in wait for yourself in caves and forests.

Nietzsche, Thus Spake Zarathustra