Monthly Archives: January 2011

The Rules of Dorms (according to my current dorm members)

1. It is perfectly reasonable to come in to a dorm at 1am and switch on the light, even if 5 people are already asleep in the dorm. This is because if you are awake at 1am and they are asleep, you are a much cooler person than they are. This rule is doubly true if you are only switching on the light to put on more make-up/change clothing/grab extra jewellry before heading out again. Then you are really, really cool and are further, allowed to make a lot of noise as said clothes, make-up etc. are retrieved from various parts of your bag.

2. If you are reading in the dorm room with the lights on, it is perfectly unreasonable for someone to ask you switch them off so they can go to sleep, even if there are innumerable common spaces within the hostel (with lights) were you could also read and nowhere else they could sleep. This is thanks to the ‘I-was-here-first’ clause.

3. You should generally be Australian. And you should have loud conversations about how awesome Australians are whilst standing in the dorm room, making any other nationalities in the room feel uncomfortable and left out. If other Australians are in the dorm room and not participating in said conversation, they are too be ignored and/or sneered at.

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Things in London Today.

Enjoyed:
1) A woman dressed in a full-body fluffy crocodile suit (presumably it was the warmest clothing she had) riding her bike past posh Kensington houses
2) An old man feeding peanuts and talking to the squirrels
3) Geese the size of small children (who actually look like they might eat small children) in Hyde Park
4) Pink Pelicans
5) Jane Austen’s writing desk at the British Library
6) Charlotte Bronte’s hand-written copy of ‘Jane Eyre’ at the British Library
7) Listening to James Joyce reading ‘Finnegan’s Wake’, Alan Bennet read, ‘Alice in Wonderland’, Juliet Stevenson read, ‘Charlotte Bronte’, Seamus Heaney read some of his poems and W.B.Yeats read some of his, whilst collapsed in a jet-lagged heap on the floor of the British Library
8) Reading a poster about the evacuation of children from London during WWII at the Imperial War Museum and being approached by an old man…
OM: You’re lost in thought
Jen: I’m just reading this poster.
OM: Oh, yes, I was one of those children.
Jen: Really? Where were you evacuated to?
Old Man then tells very interesting and detailed story of living with a blacksmith in Oxfordshire and with a doctor…. somewhere else. Much of which I missed because I was concentrating too hard on his delightful accent. *Sigh*
9) Many varied editions of ‘Alice in Wonderland’ at the British Library, including a Russian version, a version illustrated by Dali and one created by Guinness, which inserted references to the black stuff into all important moments of the story.
10) Men dressed in metal vests and metal hats with feathery fountains coming out of the top, riding horses in formation at Kensington Gardens and no one thinking this was odd.
11) The following poster/mug/notebook:

(which is very me, but not very ‘British’)

Not Enjoyed:
1) A women being refused entry to the Imperial War Museum because her jumper said, ‘Fuck Reality’.
2) Using a red-phone box that smelt so badly of stale urine, I had to hang out the door whilst making my phone call to prevent myself from throwing up
3) Middle of the night jet-lag induced paranoia about male dorm room members, who I was convinced were going to rob me, rape me, or even worse, keep me up all night with their horrendous snoring. Said paranoia escalating into helpless, middle-of-the-night sobbing and fervent wishes to go home and existential cries of, ‘What have I done, what have I done?’ All of which, of course, was forgotten as soon as I managed 8 hours sleep and got a nice big bowl of muesli, some toast, and oh-so-lovely English Breakfast tea into me.

So, that is London so far. I’m finding the whole experience very odd, though. The city feels ridiculously familiar and comfortable for somewhere I have never lived and only visited once before. It must be the countless BBC dramas, the piles of 19th century novels, Harry Potter etc. etc. that I have read and watched (and re-read and re-watched) over the years that just makes being here seem so normal. I’ve devoured the city by osmosis. It seems, also, that traveling alone somehow makes it more difficult to realise you are traveling. I don’t know why that would make sense. It seems like, without talking to someone else about the experiences, they just float by – as if they have to be remarked upon to exist. It feels like I’m just watching a particularly good movie at the moment, because I haven’t really interacted with many people yet. I’m meeting up with a mate, Sons, tonight, though, for dinner and drinks in Brick Lane, so hopefully things will change after that.

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Father Always Said…


A couple of weeks ago, my brother and father had a conversation in which they discussed the differences between female and male styles of conversation. They decided that men used conversation to share information, and once the information is shared, then the conversation is ended. Whereas for women, conversation was a matter of reassuring ourselves that we existed, and that other people existed, and that we were all ok as long as we kept talking (or something like that).
At the time, I didn’t disagree though I felt possibly I should (you, know… as a feminist… ). Were we having the same conversation today, I would simply point to the middle-aged British man from Chichester that I met on my Korean Airlines flight and say, ‘well, what about him then? Is he a cleverly disguised middle-aged woman?’
I talked very politely (non-stop) to him for an hour to an hour and a half at the start of the flight. The only way to get him to leave me alone was to put my headphones on (preferably whilst he was taking a breath in between sentences) and start up a movie really quickly. Unfortunately, he also had an uncanny ability to know when my headphones were slipping off, and would take the opportunity to say something else to me. If I made the mistake of asking him to move so I could go to the toilet, then I would have to have a 5 minute conversation with him before being allowed passed. It was a toss-up as to whether or not it was better to go regularly, but talk to him more, or wait until the last possible moment to reduce the amount of conversation, and then spend one horrifying 5 minute period wondering if you were going to make it up the aisle or not.
Once we got off the plane, he followed me all over the airport, because he had no idea where to go or what to do, and decided I was his own personal travel guide. Questions he asked included, ‘Have we landed in North Korea?’ ‘Who? King John Ill? Who’s that then?’ ‘So, where have we landed again? Itching?’ ‘(In front of the Quarrantine sign) Is this Immigration?’ ‘We’re going to Gate E? (Jen: ‘Gate B’) So, Gate E? (Jen: ‘Gate B’). Ah, right, got you now. Gate E.’ ‘Oh, no, I don’t have that card, they didn’t give me that card, what should I do, where’s that card? (Jen: ‘Its in your hand.’) Oh, there it is then! Oh, look, I’ve filled it out already! When did I do that? I don’t even remember getting that card.’
It was like travelling with a 5 year old. Which I certainly did not sign up for. But, luckily, I heard him order his wake-up call for tomorrow and I’m going get up a whole 2 hours earlier so I don’t have to talk to him at breakfast and am then out of the hotel before he’s even gotten out of bed.
Apart from that and a few tears at the airport (Customs Official referring to the fact that I listed my occupation as ‘actor’: ‘Are those ‘acting tears’? Ha ha ha.’ and then, ‘What on earth do you want to go to the UK for?’ Thanks. Very encouraging) everything is going well so far. There is snow and minus temperatures in Korea (a good sign in my book) as well as an hilarious instruction manual on the hotel toilet (‘After bowl movement press 1. button or 2. (female urine) button’), and every building over here is covered in neon flashing lights, which kind of makes it feel like its ALWAYS Christmas in Korea.
And after all that, I’m going to bed. Next post from the UK.

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Deer by Helen Mort

This poem was written by the poet-in-residence at Dove Cottage (Wordsworth’s old house). I hated Wordsworth at high school (I have since discovered he’s not so bad – I think it was my teacher’s fault), but this poem I love. I also love that you can be a poet-in-residence at Dove Cottage. I find this wildly romantic. I also find Dove Cottage wildly romantic. I like things that are wildly romantic. I would like to think my travels will be wildly romantic. I also plan to visit Dove Cottage sometime in the next year or two, so this is completely relevant to this blog. Totally.

The deer my mother swears to God we never saw,
the ones who stepped between the trees
on pound-coin coloured hooves,
I brought them up each teatime in the holidays

and they were brighter every time I did;
more supple than the otters that we waited for
at Ullapool, more graceful than the kingfisher
that darned the river south of Rannoch Moor.

Then five years on, in the same house, I rose
for water in the middle of the night and watched
my mother at the window, looking out
to where the forest lapped the garden’s edge.

From where she stood, I saw them stealing
through the pines, and they must have been closer
than before, because I have no memory
of those fish-bone ribs, that ragged fur

their eyes, like hers, that flickered back
towards whatever followed them.

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First Post – one week til I take off.

My 3rd attempt at keeping a blog. This one is meant to take the place of group emails whilst I am away. However long that will be. So, read if you would like.

I am heading out on the 24th of January, at 9am flight from Sydney to Seoul, Korea. I spend the night in Korea and then fly on to Heathrow, arriving at about 4:30pm 25th of January.

Just in time for Australia Day at Earl’s Court, says Father. No way, says I.

I’m meeting up with my mate, Sons, who is taking me on a whirlwind tour of London theatres, then I head up North. I’m going on the train and ferry from London to Belfast, so I get to see a tiny bit of Scotland (Kilmamock – so delightfully Scottish!) before hopping the ferry to Belfast. I’m there a few days, then a few days in Dublin, before heading on to Bandon, Co. Cork, where I will be spending 5 – 6 months being an au pair for 2 little girls. I have included some pictures of Bandon from internet searching. Now, tell me they are not the most ridiculously idyllic photos you have ever seen. Even if they have been ‘enhanced’….

My internet research has also thrown up the Cork Midsummer Festival, the Cork Arts Centre (which has a competition for One Act Plays each year – the prize of which is having your play performed professionally – and takes unsolicited scripts), and a theatre forum happening in Cork a day after I arrive all about how to make theatre in Ireland. So. Getting ridiculously excited about potential opportunities. Also read this New York Times article all about theatre in Dublin (‘Off Off Broadway? Try Dublin’), which is rather encouraging – http://travel.nytimes.com/2010/09/05/travel/05Dublin.html

It seems like pretty much every city in Ireland has a variety of different festivals, ranging from theatre festivals, to trad festivals, to writing festivals and storytelling festivals. On top of which, every local pub is a hive of poetry, theatre, storytelling and music. Not to mention, much drunken revelry. I don’t know how I’m going to fit it all in!

Finally, if anyone is around in Sydney next Sunday (23rd of Jan), I’m having a little get together/send-off down at Coogee Beach. Bring food, booze and anybody you like. I’ll be there from 3 pm onwards. And if anyone feels like coming to the airport Monday morning to see me off, I’ll be there around 6am and would love to see you (Stepmother will be recovering from an operation and Father has decided I’m an adult now, so he doesn’t need to hold my hand through check-in etc. Whilst this is technically true, the thought of checking in alone for an overseas journey of an unknown duration and having no one to wave me off with a little white hankie at customs makes me feel like bawling my eyes out in a manner that would rival the most temperamental of 5 year old children).

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