Monday, December 17, 2012

Built of living light

I realised today that I haven’t even been home a month yet. It feels so much longer. And I know that makes what I’m now going to say sound completely nuts but, well, I’ve decided to go back to London.

For weeks before I left I was wavering over whether or not coming home was the right move for me – I had panic attacks, the whole lot. Even the day before I got on the plane, I still wasn’t sold. But I missed summer, and my family, my friends, and my dog – so I told myself it’d be fine. It was an amazing career opportunity and I couldn’t just turn it down because I was having a good time…so I left.

The problem is, no matter how great an opportunity it is, I cannot for a moment say that I find any satisfaction in the job. I’ve been desperately unhappy. And it’s not just the relentless stress of editorial work – I’ve actually managed to get a decent hand on the work involved in being an editor – it’s just the whole culture of the industry. I know what this type of work involves, I’ve done it before and I was utterly miserable. I don’t know why I thought it would be different this time, but I’d hoped. Sadly, it wasn’t the case though. I’ve already been working extra hours, getting in at 8am, taking work home with me, working through lunch. And you know what? I don’t want to do that. I don’t want to be stressed all the time, and work extra hours and constantly be pushed beyond my limit. I don’t want to wake up in the mornings dreading the day, and spend every moment counting down to a moment when I can escape. I don't want to live like this if I don’t have to.

Surely there comes a point where you have to ask yourself if an opportunity is worth what it will cost you. And then suddenly I heard there was a position going on the team I worked for in London and my first thought was ‘oh thank god, I can go back.’ Thankfully, it turned out that they’d have me back. It all happened over two days, which I know seems very quick, but I did put a lot of thought into it. I canvassed opinion. I was afraid I was being crazy. But my instincts told me to do it, and so I did. After all, my visa will only last one more year. If I don’t do it now, I won’t have the opportunity again.

I must admit that I’ve been surprised by the response I’ve gotten. Most people actually seem to think I’m doing the right thing…I just assumed people would think I’m nuts, but hey. Apparently some people even think it’s a very mature thing to do. What. Even. The worst prospect was telling my team and handing in my notice. I thought for sure I’d be run out of town after putting them through this – but everyone has been so incredibly accommodating.

The thing is, I made a mistake. It’s as simple as that. I wasn’t ready to come home. I wasn’t ready to take on a job that would cost me my life, not when I had just started to finally have one. I love Sydney, obviously, and I love my friends and family, but I just need to do this.

This morning as I left for work my dad said to me that I was so much happier now that I’d decided to go back. And it’s true. After I handed in my notice, it was like a weight had been lifted from me and everything just made sense again. As dad pointed out, I will have to come back eventually. But by then, hopefully, I’ll be ready.

Music: The house that heaven built - Japandroids

Sunday, December 9, 2012


Leaving your home, knowing you won't be back for months, is hard.
Coming back is also hard.
Letting yourself become invested is hard.
Falling for someone is hard.
Making serious decisions is hard.
Leaving people behind is hard.
All evidence suggests life is hard. (Ten points to Gryffindor for pointing out the obvious)

And it's so annoying when all you want is to be a carefree twenty-something, but your brain never really shuts up long enough to forget all these things.

You think taking a year off to indulge in that carefree side is going to make everything easier, get it out of your system, but really once you get a taste for that life, the "reality" you knew before becomes this weird alien concept. And trying to get back into that is...well, hard.

Frankly, I don't even know why I'm trying. Part of me just wants to pack up and get straight back on a plane to London. Another part of me wants to pack up and go straight to NZ for a new adventure. And then there's the part of me that knows no matter where I go, or what I do, I'll always feel like this. I'll always struggle to consolidate my life into a whole. I've had lives on three continents, crossed oceans, and every journey irrevocably changes you, and every time you return, the places have changed too. It's transient. And if you're always coming and going, then you can never belong anywhere.

So, what do you do? Do you give up and lose yourself to mediocrity because it's easier? Do you continue to flit about the world, tearing yourself into little pieces every time? Do you wait for someone to give you a reason to stay?  What do you do?

I love Sydney, I do. I love the beaches, and the harbour, and the history of my life here - my friends, my family, the familiarity of growing up. My restlessness is not a reflection on any of that. But I hate the job, and the complacency, and just how narrowed life becomes.

I don't know. I guess I feel like I discovered a part of me overseas that I feel I can't sustain here, and I really liked that part of me. The thought of losing it devastates me. And I felt part of something, something fun and filled with so much energy. There were days that were utter shit, yes, but there was potential. And now I'm just treading water. And for what? I'm doing it so I can get "experience", so I can put it on a piece of paper that will one day lead to a career, something I don't even want.

And I know what you'll say. That's growing up. That's life. That's reality. But why? Why should that be it? Who decides these things? And why do we just fall in line with it?

It all seems so ridiculously contrived.

Music: Skinny love - Bon Iver

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Happy Hour: Grandma's Bar, Sydney

After spending the better part of the year loitering in London pubs, I was quite bereft at the thought of returning to Sydney’s characterless pubs. What can I say, you get used to a certain lifestyle when you’ve been falling out of Soho pubs on an alarmingly regular basis (stand by for the future thesis on London’s terrible influence on one’s liver). I had barely been back a week before I was already desperately missing it.

Luckily, in my absence, small bars have popped up all over Sydney like little cocktail-fuelled mushrooms. I say in my absence, I think some of them were around before I left, but I was obviously not quite hipster enough back then to be in the know. But now that I do know about it, I have made it my mission to visit as many of these bars as I can. Sure, it’s not remotely the same as the London pub scene, but it is pretty cool and much better than sitting at home, alone, crying into my whisky.

So, in the interest of not being a sad loser, I gathered some friends and headed off to Grandma’s Bar on Clarence Street. I’ll be honest and admit that my fascination with laneway/basement bars comes mainly from the difficulty in finding them. So clandestine! Fun! Grandma’s doesn’t disappoint on that front, it’s in the basement beneath a guitar shop with the barest slit of window facing the street. Try giving your friends directions to that. “No, not that guitar shop, the other guitar shop! The one across from the Games place!” And then it’s down the stairs and into a world of exposed brick, tropical wallpaper and an almost pseudo tiki bar charm.

First observation, the place is tiiiiiny. The second, the bar staff are all incredibly nice. From the friendly welcome to the excellent service all through the night, I really couldn’t fault them on anything. They also seem to be quite the talented bunch who know what they’re doing; I loved watching them make our many cocktails, you can just tell when someone actually cares about doing it right.

Grandma’s is so called because it takes its inspiration from the sort of cheesiness you’d find in a dusty house that has remained unaltered since the 70s – or as they say on their website “retro-sexual haven of cosmopolitan kitsch and faded granny glamour.” It could have gone horribly wrong, but it works brilliantly. And, cliché as it may sound, the place does feel very homey. Elegantly dishevelled, if you will.

The cocktail menu is decent enough, with the average price being around $16. My favourite was the Fa’fafene, I have absolutely no recollection of what was in it except for the overwhelming memory of grenadine and mint, but it was exactly what I needed on a hot, humid Saturday night. Very refreshing. I also had a wonderfully well-balanced Rum & Rye Sour, while my friends sampled the Paloma #2, the Wibble, Thunderclap and Mango ‘Ting – no complaints about any of them. Oh and for the non-drinkers and designated drivers, they’re happy to mix up a mocktail of your choice.

The main party trick at Grandma’s is the Ultimate Mai Tai. Yep, they set them on fire. And when my friend discovered this she would not rest until I ordered “a Flaming Moe.” It was quite the spectacle as the rum is lit and then poured into the drink, leaving the lime flaming. All served in a tiki mug. I was handed a straw and told not to stick it in the flames…I’m sort of sad that it’s even necessary to tell people that. Really? No plastic in the fire? Outrageous. I’m not a massive fan of Mai Tais, I think it’s the Curaçao I don’t enjoy, but I’ll put this one up there with one of the better ones I’ve had.

As for food, the menu is a bit sparse. Going on its size, it’s probably not the sort of place they want people wasting time eating. Bar snacks aside (which for some reason includes biltong), there are four different kinds of jaffle available. I sampled the vegetarian one and it was tasty enough. Who doesn’t love a jaffle?

If you can tear yourself away from the cocktails long enough (something I’m struggling with because I’m still adjusting to the price of beer in Sydney – wait, you want how much for that??), Grandma’s has a variety of beers and ciders available as well. So go forth, and be merry. Just don’t tell everyone cause I don’t want to have to line up.

Grandma’s is in the CBD at 275 Clarence Street, they have a sparse little website.

I’m really thrilled by all these lovely bars tucked away all over town. It’s so Melbourne, but better, because it’s Sydney. Sorry, I am biased, can’t help myself.

Originally posted at Savannah Sunset

Music: I can't make you love me - Bon Iver (cover)

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Faded jeans and faraway eyes

Long, frantic day featuring a photo shoot, proofs and articles. Only thing I wanted to do when I left was take my dog to the beach and just chill for a bit.

Would you come for a drive?
You can lean into me
If you ain't been in love for a while

Music: Mae - The Gaslight Anthem

Monday, December 3, 2012

On a wire

The weather today is mostly apathetic with scattered bouts of self-loathing.

Music: The River - PJ Harvey