Tuesday, May 29, 2012

A Note to Myself

Dear Self,

You know that thing you read this afternoon? That thing that made your skin itch because you wanted to be in that situation too? It wasn't even in the spirit of envy, but simply in the way it encapsulated the rewards of what you want to achieve. So you say 'one day', but what does that even mean? Why put it off and then give yourself reasons why you'll fail?

Stop giving yourself excuses not to try.

You are not too old. You are not too inexperienced. You are not too anything. You're simply afraid of disappointment. While that's a very real fear, it's not a reason to hold back or, worse, never even give yourself a fair shot at it.

You know what you want. You're afraid to admit it really, but you know, deep down. And that's what happened today, and it's that tingling you get when you read things. That's your motivation. Hold onto it. Hold onto the aggression you experienced reading that article, the one made you want to berate yourself for sitting on your ass all day rather than working towards what you wanted. Because you know what? For the first time, you actually believed you could have it, if you just tried hard enough.

You actually believed in yourself. Who would have thought?

And why shouldn't you? You're not a child any more. You have three degrees. You have been endorsed by people who didn't have to say nice things about you. You have been published in over 30 magazines, and yes okay, it's not going to win you a Pulitzer, but it's still something. And next year this time you'll actually be a published author contributing to an academic field. Really, it's not shabby for a 24 year old. You should embrace that.

Go out there and get on with it. You know what you want, so go for it. All the writers you admire, all those artists, none of them waited. Not for experience, not for training, not for the mythical right moment. They had something they wanted to express, and they just went out and did it. They doubted themselves, other people doubted them and I'm sure many people told them they were doing it wrong. The didn't let that stop them, and they certainly didn't let the thought of it stop them from even starting.

This is one of those things you can't wait to perfect. Don't get bogged down in the semantics and technicalities. You've learned the rules, it doesn't mean you have to live by them. There is no right or wrong way to do things here, you can't fail as long as you're true to yourself. You are the only thing that's holding you back. Stop being so scared of yourself.

It's time you got this shit done because it's now or never. Wasn't that sort of the point of coming halfway across the world? It won't happen if you keep giving yourself out clauses. Remember this feeling the next time you feel like giving up, the next time you're too tired or the next time it's all just too hard. Remember the anger and the frustration and the terrifying depth of wanting. Don't waste the potential.

Now stop wasting time. Honestly.


Music: The Ship Song - Amanda Palmer (cover)

Monday, May 28, 2012

Adventures in Fangirling

The great thing about Europe is that travelling from one country to another is not the arduous, logistical nightmare it is back home. So it was entirely possible for Kat, a friend from Spiders Group (for those not in the know, that’s my writing group back home that I shamefully under-attend), to come over from Germany for the weekend. I forget how it all came about – we were talking on twitter one minute and planning the next. And I admit there was potential for it to be weird cause we didn’t really know each other that well (due to my aforementioned under-attendance) but turns out that was just my social awkwardness manifesting – it was totally not an issue. To use the descriptive prowess of Arthur Shappey, the weekend was, in one word, brilliant!

Things didn’t start ideally with her flight being delayed, but we were not to be put off and met up Friday evening all the same for dinner and a wander around town. We walked a lot. No, really. I cannot stress this enough. With the weather playing along, delivering blissful sunshine all weekend, it was really nice to soak up the vibe in the centre of town – everyone is just so happy and life spills onto sidewalks, it’s really just a whole different buzz around here when things heat up. Kat exercised some magnificent self-restraint in not purchasing bags, tea pots and other awesome things. She is to be commended, really. The day ended with us being foot-weary and sleepy, but I thought it was a really good effort on our parts.

Alas, I was working on Saturday and while I was slaving away (read: staring into space), Kat was off enjoying Camden markets (I warned her about the corsets, let it not be said I didn’t) and we eventually met up at Euston Square. Why, you might ask? Well, when the opportunity presents itself to indulge in your beloved fandoms, it is the duty of every self-respecting fangirl to make the most of it. As we’re both avid Sherlock fans, we were honour bound to put our fangirl game faces on and see all the things! So naturally we went to Speedy’s Café.

You don’t need to be a consulting detective to see where this weekend was heading. Our wanderings around town took us to Baker Street, New Scotland Yard, St Barts, The British Academy (aka the Diogenes Club) and Eaton Square (aka Irene Adler’s house and, as Kat astutely observed, the location for the house in Upstairs, Downstairs.)

Pavement of angst, anyone?
Of course we also fitted in other things such as visiting awesome bookshops like Daunt on Marylebone High Street, stumbling onto street markets, cooing over amazing things in obscure little shops and rummaging around vintage shops (where we may or may not both have exclaimed “It’s a John sweater!” at the same time. We are cool like that.) Obviously, I also had to take her to Forbidden Planet – what sort of fangirl would I be if I didn’t? There was also much indulging in Starbucks frappuccinos and some pretty hilarious people watching.

During our shenanigans, we realised that along with sharing a passion for Sherlock, Who, Black Books and all things British, we also both really, really like cars. Cue two hours wandering around Chelsea and Kensington sports car spotting, also known by the game title of ‘How many Aston Martins can you find on one street?’ This wasn’t really the aim, but it turns out there are an obscene amount of Astons around so it sort of just happened.

Did I mention the weather was glorious? Because it was.
We decided to take it easy on Sunday and had a late start at St Pauls, before wandering across the Millennium Bridge and along the south bank. Here then we came to the crowning glory of this weekend of fandom as the BAFTA Television Awards were on and they were still handing out wristbands for people to watch the red carpet. Like we’d miss such an opportunity!

We actually found a really lovely beer garden to chill in for a bit before it was time to stake our claim in the fenced off area next to the “red” carpet. This was the most painful part but thanks to my handy umbrella, word games we’re equally terrible at and Starbuck’s frappuccino happy hour, we managed to survive with minimal discomfort. There were some moments of barely suppressed rage when other people got pushy and annoying, but such is the way of the line-up. In retrospect, I choose not to waste my energy on that because we actually did really well for ourselves…

If I can only have one caption, let it be said that Andrew Scott is just too adorable for words.
Yup. Surely you can imagine how absolutely epic this was. Kat was blessed by Mark Gatiss, her writing idol. The only way the day could have gone better is if Benedict actually came to our little section – but the poor guy was obviously melting and so desperate to run away, you can’t fault him for doing just that. And now, hilariously, we can be found in the back corner of a lot of BAFTA footage, craning our necks and bouncing around, since we were right across from the cameras.

After cooling down with the help of pear cider, we giddily skipped off across Waterloo Bridge in a happy blur of adrenaline and eventually collapsed in St James’ Park, just as the last echoes of daylight faded from the sky. We didn’t want to call it a night but it was 10pm on a Sunday, there wasn’t much else to do. It was really quite sad to farewell Kat and wish her well on her merry way back to Heidelberg. Sigh.

So! Overall verdict: the weekend was quite the successful adventure and definitely one to remember.

PS: Let the record show that Joe Gilgun is frowning in that pic cause he is confused by the copy of The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes Kat has given him to sign - "What am I signing?"

Music: Qikitarjuaq - Cabin Pressure

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Dreaming what I'm thinking

Stop press! Summer has come to London, for one week only! Step right up and make the most of it while you can.

Well okay, maybe I am being a tad dramatic...anyway, who knows if the promised week of good weather will even happen (previous experience favours answers in the negative), but today was actually nice and sunny, with the forecast predicting at least five days of much the same early to mid-twenty temps. Not hot exactly, but a definite improvement over the 12 degrees of last week.

Funnily enough, London is an entirely different place when the weather's nice. People seem to undergo some sort of Jekyll and Hyde transformation, where under the sun's watchful gaze they suddenly turn compliant and friendly. Even the giant clusterfuck that was the state of Waterloo this eve could not dampen their spirits.

Being entirely in love with summer, I of course joined in almost instantly. Despite my co-workers all carrying on about how hot it was this morning (I still had my scarf with me and the heater on, so you know, we're just going to have to agree to disagree on what actually constitutes hot. For future reference, it's anything over 30.) I spent lunch sitting in the local park with one of the guys which obviously ruined productivity for the rest of the day as only sitting in the sun can. Then one of the managers had the bright idea to go for an ice-cream run - cue the entire office devouring ice-cream cones and grinning like a bunch of school kids getting an early mark. Absolute insanity. But quite fun, so I'm not complaining.

In other news, I'm terribly homesick at the moment. The sunshine has gone some way to mitigate that, but still. Mope. At least there are things to look forward to, such as the weekly Game of Thrones eve with Abbi and Paul, and a friend from my writer's group back home is in town this weekend so we're going to hang out and fangirl like there's no tomorrow. And next month, another friend from home is over for a couple of days. I've seen so many people since I've been here. Crazy small world is crazy.

Currently trying to decide if I can be bothered making dinner. I don't think I can, but I do sort of need to eat. So cheese toast? Followed by Homeland? I've heard good things about it (well, Damien Lewis, how can it be bad?) so I got the first couple of eps and I suppose now that I've finished The Hour (amazingly, awesome, brilliant show - love) and Downton Abbey (needs more Sybil/Branson, come on), it's as good a time to start as any.

Right then. Plan. Food. Go. Here's hoping my house mate has actually washed his dishes tonight...

Music: She's a rebel - Green Day

Friday, May 18, 2012

Turning of the seasons

As I mentioned before, I attended the Rugby Sevens at Twickenham last weekend – the final weekend of the world series. I know I’ve said it before but I really recommend going to a Sevens tournament if you ever have a chance. There’s always such a great carnival atmosphere and it’s actually just heaps of fun. Apparently the event had over 100k people over the weekend, pretty decent. Should be interesting to see how it does as an Olympic sport.

Anywhoodle, Twickenham was 70s themed for the event so there were wigs, sideburns, platforms and flares a plenty. There were also a lot of people in random costume (including a group of daleks) – the most popular being groups of Wallys and Wandas of Where’s Wally (or Waldo I suppose, depending on your frame of reference) fame. There was also a couple of guys dressed up as smurfs. I don’t get this at all but it does seem to be a popular choice as well – I see a group of smurfs pretty much every Sunday I pass through Clapham Junction (mind you, it could always be the same group of guys…which would be very sad, but not impossible.)
Blurry daleks are blurry cause they never stand still.
Walking to the stadium was an experience in itself – pubs were spilling over with revellers and the sidewalks were littered with stalls selling all sorts of things, including one house that was hosting a braai in the front garden. It sounds so silly but it was actually really nice to find myself surrounded on all sides by Australian, New Zealand and South African accents. See, this is the benefit to having ties to all three countries (even if the NZ one is just in my own mind), I always feel at home.

Even though I had access to the press box, I didn’t really hang out there. It sort of defies the point of being at the event for me. My main concern is always the people and the atmosphere. So I was chilling in the stands, first with some English supporters who I quickly abandoned (it is my humble opinion that English fans kinda suck, further affirmed by all the cricket fans I've had to deal with this week since work is just up the road from Lords) in favour of a group of kiwis and Samoans. Much better. I'd also just like to point out that being able to wander wherever you like in a stadium this size is pretty awesome.
Do not let the sun fool you, it was still very chilly.
I then transplanted to the section next to the tunnel entrance which appeared to be populated entirely by family and friends of players. Cue players clambering over the railings and chairs every two seconds. I seemed to be surrounded on all sides by Welsh supporters which was actually very nice as the Welsh team members visiting them were all so lovely to me (I only later realised that one I was flirting with only turned 19 this week. 19!!! Jesus.) Too bad they had such a terrible day on the field.

There were a couple of moments where I was just amazed while eavesdropping on conversations. Like when guys behind me were perplexed why a couple of guys dressed as the Mario Brothers and draped in NZ flags were hanging out with members of the Samoan team. ‘But they’re obviously from New Zealand,’ one guy remarked in clear confusion. Dude. Seriously? I though everyone knew the islands are all one big family. I was also very unimpressed by the booing happening every time NZ or Aus scored a try though. Oh, and France, but that I expected. So not cool.
Rhys, a Welsh player sitting behind me, described England's gear as "impressively ugly kit" and I
wholeheartedly agree. The purple/green monstrosities are way worse when seen first-hand.
Funnily enough, the main thing I took away from the tournament, other than a cold that has gotten steadily worse during the week and a further cemented belief that southern hemisphere teams just play more exciting rugby, is that I’m really looking forward to studying in NZ. It seems completely random, but it’s true. I love kiwis. I don’t know why, but I do. And I miss New Zealand. I miss rugby. I miss home too, more this week because the weather here has been so unbelievably shit.

I can handle a lot of things about living in London. Like being alone 70% of the time. And being at the mercy of public transport which generally means being squashed into trains every morning. And even being completely broke and generally relying on the kindness of my utterly amazing friends here. But I simply can't handle the weather. I struggle to understand how anyone can put up with this for long periods. And I know for a fact that London is actually capable of nice weather and prolonged periods of sunshine, but that doesn’t cancel out that it can also be utterly miserable for weeks on end. And even when the sun is out it’s still cold. It's freezing and the nutters at work have the door open and the aircon on the minute the sun peeks out. I cannot understand it. My mind does not compute. I cannot wait to get back to 38 degree summer days and 90% humidity, when even walking from your car to your front door leaves you overheated and the only thing you want to do is lie around in your swimwear watching Top Gear. Bliss.

And yeah, I know if I study in Dunedin, I won't have that either. The weather will also be sub-arctic and rainy most of the time...but it's only a three hour flight from home (and a five hour drive to Christchurch, three and a half to Queenstown. Love.) That's closer than if I studied in Perth, even.

As much as I love the UK, and Europe, it's just too far for me to cope with on a permanent level and the weather does my head in. I'm a summer child and this *indicates through window at the solid expanse of grey sky* just won't cut it I'm afraid.

I think we have to face it, NZ. I think I love you. 
But probably not as much as I love this place. It's where all my stuff is.
And it's also where this furball is waiting for me. Hard to compete with that.

Music: Don't carry it all - The Decemberists

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Is it in you now, to barely hear the truth that you have spoken

If I’m honest, I haven’t been having the best couple of days. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been hanging with friends and had a blast at the Rugby Sevens, but that’s all superficial really. It’s within me where the problems are.

I don’t think I mentioned it on this blog since the trip was underway, and I never mentioned it on the travel blog because it didn’t seem like an appropriate forum, but about two weeks into our adventuring I was told that my grandfather (paternal, only one I have left) had been diagnosed with liver cancer. They didn’t think he had much time.

Terrible news, at the best of times, even harder cause I wasn’t with my family. I couldn’t be there with them, couldn’t reason it out. I debated whether or not I should go to South Africa to see him, but after talking it out with R and my mum, it was thought that it was better to wait and see how things went. Of course, I had just been to South Africa in January and had made the active decision not to see my father’s family…because they live really out of the way and always cause drama and I’ve never felt quite as at home with them as with mum’s family. Will I live to regret this decision for the rest of my life? Yes, I think I will.

You see, it was hard enough the last time I saw them - at my maternal granddad’s funeral, an absolute emotional quagmire that I frankly still haven’t dealt with. Back then, my grandma already didn’t know who I was and I couldn’t see myself visiting them in January and dealing with that. As it turns out, I’m not good with dealing with death. Not at all. What I am good at is suppressing my own emotions because I don’t know what to do with them, and instead taking on everyone else’s burdens instead. I excel at that. Just the other night mum told me that I couldn’t carry everyone else’s burdens for them…but it’s all I know how to do. So.

Oh, I’ve gone off course and the story is all muddled. Last week, granddad was admitted to the hospital. He is in a bad way. Very bad, really. Dad flew out on Tuesday and when I just spoke to him a couple of hours ago, he said they had a bad scare earlier where they didn’t think he’d make it through the night. Dad is of course shattered, though he won’t admit it, and I am absolutely furious at him for going over there alone and at mum for letting him come to that decision when we all know how absolutely fragile he is with these things. And I am absolutely furious with dad’s family for making mum feel like she’s not welcome at this time, like she’s not important enough to be part of the decisions or the whole process, because they have no fucking right to make her feel like that. And that she would say to me that there’s no point in either me or her going because we’re not wanted there? It makes me livid. Infuriated. We have just as much right as his children do, we have been part of his life, he’s important to us too.

And I just can’t fucking deal with this. I can’t. I’ve realised I completely cannot deal with death. And the thought that I have to go through this again when I haven’t even begin to come to grips with the last time? I don’t know what to do. I don’t know how to express what I’m feeling or how to put any of it into words properly. And the sad reality, after he passes, I’ll have to go through it again…and again…and again.

And it’s stupid, because obviously I know that’s how life works. And I’m not new to death, but I guess it’s never been people I actually cared about before. Or it was when I was too young to fully understand. I’ve always been close to my grandparents, both sets. On my mum’s side, I was the youngest grandchild for a long time, and on my father’s side I was the only girl. I’d say I was my maternal granddad’s favourite. And there are certain things I can’t even think about for fear of coming apart. Which is partly I guess why I’m so obsessed lately with going on safari, or why I like to go to rugby games as much as I can…I guess some part of me feels like he’s still here in those moments. And I really never dealt with the fact that he’s gone, not really, because others needed me so much more at the time and I just wouldn’t allow myself to even think about it. I think that’s about the size of it.

And now I can’t avoid thinking about it. And I’m going to lose my other granddad too, and my grandmother…the one who I used to crawl into bed with as a toddler and who would tell me stories and sing me songs and knit me jumpers and bake all my favourite cakes, she doesn’t even know who I am. And I know, I know, I’ve been very lucky in that I have had both sets of grandparents for as long as I have, not to mention still having my great grandmother as well, but that doesn’t make it any easier. It’s just not fair…and isn’t that just the most pathetic, naïve, petulant and predictable thing anyone can say in this situation? I’m so disgusted with myself.

I just don’t know what to do. I honestly don’t. I’m supposed to skype with granddad tomorrow night and I don’t know how I’m going to manage it. There’s so much I still wanted to talk about, with all of them, so much I wanted them to know. I wanted them to be proud of me, I wanted them to see that all the faith they always had in me wasn’t wasted. And I haven’t done it in time. I haven’t done anything. And now I have these gaping holes in my life where they always were, even if I didn’t really speak to them as much as I should have, I knew they cared and were always interested and were just part of what made me…well, the person I am I guess. Even if that person turns out to be someone woefully inadequate in dealing with her own grief.

I'm just really, incredibly sad. And now my tea's gone cold cause I've been so busy crying writing this. What am I to do with myself?

Music: Blaring car alarm and the throbbing of my head

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Up and over it and over them

There are a couple of things I find oddly satisfying about living in London. Silly things, like when people ask for tippex or sellotape. I can revert back to those terms again! I don’t know, it amuses me. Oh, and being able to elongate my a’s without someone looking at me funny.

Life trudges along merrily. I had a rather eventful bank holiday weekend as M and A were in town, time for some Extreme Tourism™ For those unfamiliar with this craze, it means cramming as many touristy things into a single day as humanly possible. I think we did very well.

Having arrived on Thursday morning, the poor things made the critical mistake of taking an afternoon nap – naturally they were in a rather zombified state when I met them for dinner that night. They were very upbeat and positive though, boding well for their first trip to Europe. I’m very impressed by how much they managed to do despite the jet lag – definite A for effort!

I took them shopping late on Saturday and then it was off to the West End for The Lion King. Thankfully the rain managed to stay away on Sunday and it was actually kind of pleasant for us to walk everywhere and see all the things! Well ok, maybe not all, but we did the major tourist sites at least. I was quite sad to wave goodbye to them that evening, it was so much fun to share in their first-time London joy. I’ll probably do a post about it all on Winchester Chronicles, and I’ve also asked M to guest blog about her time. Keep an eye out.

In other news…there is no news. Work is uneventful, if mundane. Been a bit busy the last week or so doing canvassing which, in my humble opinion, is the biggest waste of time ever. I just don’t see how it could possibly be an effective marketing technique – who even reads these letters? I know I never do when we get them at home. It goes straight in the recycling. Pointless. It’s almost as annoying as people who call in when they get a missed call and expect me to know who rang them and why. I loathe that. Why do people do it? Just. No.

Anywhoodle, I think I’ve settled in well here though, everyone is friendly and it’s a nice enough environment to work in most of the time. There’s only one person I have a genuine dislike for in the office (the majority are likeable and the rest I’m indifferent to). She is one of the managers although her job mainly appears to be wandering around outside and dodging her clients. I have never known her to return a call, and actually, it’s very rare for her to even take a call (which I have the privilege of screening.) There’s a fine line between being busy and being a rude and she is on the wrong side of it. I have no patience for it.

What else can I report on? There was a hyper guy outside the office yesterday, carrying on about Paul McCartney. At first I was perplexed and vaguely concerned for his sanity, but then I had to head down the road and realised he was raving because Paul McCartney was actually there. I think it’s safe to say he’s a big fan. Such is life in the Wood. (My main observation about this area is a) it’s overrun by Americans and b) it’s in some sort of vortex because you’re always greeted by a sub-arctic blast at least five degrees lower than anywhere else when you exit the station.)

Had a lovely dinner and Game of Thrones viewing sesh at Chez Osbiston last night. Always fun. Speaking of, if you love your retro-vintage gear, check out ra ra Retro. The shop will launch in June and you’re bound to find some real gems.

Other than that, I have so much writing to do. Starting with my thesis proposal cause I really need to get everything sorted and applying for admission/scholarships/what have you. I also have an article due at the end of June and I’ll have another one to do next week - off on assignment to the London Sevens this weekend. So thrilled, I can’t even tell you. Then of course I do still have my own writing to get on with. I need to stop making excuses. It’s a serious problem. I truly am my own worst enemy.

Well, I better get back to work…or pretending to do work rather, the printer is el broken so no canvassing can be done and I’ve already done all my other work. Efficiency, thy name is Jen. Yesterday I spent most of the day planning future trips and trying to see how far I can get on my meagre, non-existent budget. I can’t believe that I have the travel bug again when I’ve scarcely been back for a month…and technically I’m still travelling anyway! I have issues.

Right, work. Shutting up.

Music: Hell - Tegan and Sara

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Strike a Match

There's a lot that I don't know
There's a lot that I'm still learning
When I think I'm letting go
I find my body it's still burning

And you hold me down
And you got me living in the past
Come on and pick me up
Somebody clear the wreckage from the blast

Yeah I'm alive
But I don't need a witness
To know that I've survived
I'm not looking for forgiveness
Yeah I just need light
I need light in the dark
As I search for the resolution

And the bars are finally closed
So I try living in the moment
For the moment it just froze
And I felt sick and so alone

I could hear the sound
Of your voice still ringing in my ear
I'm going underground
But you'll find me anywhere I fear

Yeah I'm alive
But I don't need a witness
To know that I've survived
I'm not looking for forgiveness
Yeah I just need light
I need light in the dark
 As I search for the resolution

Music: The resolution - Jack's Mannequin