Monthly Archives: March 2012

Sun Parties

Ok, ok, I’ve been banging on about how lovely and sunny its been for the last few posts. But the fact is, its SO lovely and SO sunny I just can’t get over it. Yesterday afternoon I sat in St. Stephen’s Green for 4 hours straight and read my book. I did the same the day before. I took off my shoes. I wore sunglasses. I watched the water sparkle (it actually SPARKLED. I’m not sure if it was sunlight or chemicals or little volts of electricity, but the water SPARKLED in front of my very eyes, ‘Hey there, look at us, we’re water in the sunlight. WATCH OUR SPARKLY FINGERS, MOTHERF*CKERS.’ Um… yes… water doesn’t have fingers, but… ). I saw swans swimming gracefully under the bridge in some sort of weird real life re-enactment of those romantic rides at old fairgrounds. I saw seagulls wash themselves in the water, because it was so DARN WARM that the Irish seagulls were clearly suffering from heat exhaustion. There’s something strangely hypnotic about a seagull washing itself. I was trying to think of what it looked like so I could report back to you all, but it was such an extensive process I’m not sure I’ll do it justice. They do this weird little neck scoop, presumably to get the water on to their heads and down their backs and necks, which was kind of cool. But, the more impressive move, was the kind of butterfly arm swing they did with their wings, which would throw arches of water up and over them, and after a while would so destabilise them, they would kind of tip into the water until their head went under and they had to stop and right themselves. Endlessly amusing.
But, what I think is really hilarious is how the state of the city changes in the sun. I guess it would happen in any city, but its just so remarkable in Dublin, that I have to dedicate a post to it. Its like a party atmosphere. Its like everyone in Dublin goes, ‘Sun? Hells yes, street party!’
Everyone’s nicest clothes come out, their hair is done that much prettier (or maybe its just not wilting under the incessant rain) and their make-up is done that bit brighter (or maybe its just the sun on their faces making their make-up sparkle like a lake in St. Stephen’s Green). Everyone looks cooler, because they’re all wearing sunglasses, and it is a scientifically proven fact that sunglasses make you look cooler. That’s why celebrities wear them.
Walking down Grafton St. (the main pedestrian shopping strip in Dublin – think Hunter or Pitt St. malls) yesterday, the celebratory atmosphere was so palpable. Normally there’s a few buskers around, playing Irish fiddle-dee-dee music or, you know, mournful soft rock, like Coldplay’s ‘Yellow’. Yesterday, the number of buskers had tripled. But not only that, but it seemed like the normal, rainy day sad buskers were gone, and they had all been replaced with the happy, sunny, carnival day buskers! Instead of sad white boy music, we had big band and jazz – there were saxophones and electric guitars people! There was a man creating giant soap bubbles and sending them out over the heads of the shoppers. There was a man making balloon animals. There was a dread-locked man doing a dance with a glass ball (I don’t know – it looked cool).
Every available green inch of St. Stephen’s Green was covered with people on picnic blankets, reading books, listening to music, sunbathing, playing games, dancing, singing, eating, looking pretty. I was trying to remember if there was this level of celebration when there was a sunny day back home, and, of course, I came to the conclusion that it wasn’t of the same level. I mean, if you’re used to the sun, if it comes out every second day, you can usually skip a day or two. You can think, ‘Oh, I’m a bit tired today,’ or, ‘I have heaps of work today, so I’ll just stay inside,’ without worrying if this is the last sunny day you will see for two months (people tell me its been quite rainy in Sydney this year. Maybe sunny days are more exciting these days to Sydney-siders, but I’m talking about my many years of El Nino experience). So, not everyone comes out at once, and they don’t drop all their other commitments to just ‘be’ in the sun. Not so, over here. I had plenty of things I should have been getting on with the last two days, all related to my laptop. So, all things that needed to be done inside. But every time I suggested that I should consider going home, a slightly hysterical voice in my head started to laugh maniacally, ‘You’re going to give all this up to sit inside and type on your computer? Are you INSANE?’ Normally you’d expect a voice like this to go on and list reasons for why I should stay outside. But, it wasn’t necessary. The rest of me was just like, ‘Oh. Yeah. Course. Stupid me,’ and turned over on the grass. To make sure all my skin was getting equally traumatised, you see.

An accurate depiction of Dublin in the sun. Found at: http://eslimaginarium.wordpress.com/2010/06/25/holiday-vampire-weekend/
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Jenny’s Tiny Play

So, today, because it was so sunny, and because my Literary Manager thought I might like a bit of a change, instead of reading other people’s scripts, I got to write my own! What fun! And, taking inspiration from Fishamble’s current production of Tiny Plays for Ireland, I wrote a tiny play too. This one was site-specific, meaning I got to go out into the sunshine and write a play somewhere that I liked. So, I went to the park. OF COURSE I went to the park. Where else would I go? What a blissful way to spend an hour. Anyway, here is the second draft of my tiny play, after having been re-drafted with the expert advice of the Fishamble Literary Manager.

They’re sitting in front of this. Found at: http://www.awaycity.com/wiki/Statue_Robert_Emmet

(ELAINE and THOMMY are sitting on a park bench in front of the Robert Emmet statue in St. Stephen’s Green. They are kissing rather passionately. THOMMY reaches for ELAINE’s breast) 

ELAINE: Thommy!

THOMMY: Wha’?

ELAINE: We’re in a park.

THOMMY: So?

ELAINE: So, they’re are people around.

THOMMY: I don’t mind.

ELAINE: Well, I do! (silence) Lovely day.

THOMMY: Jesus.

ELAINE: What?

THOMMY: Didn’t cut school to chat about the weather.

ELAINE: Told you already, Mum’s at home today. (beat) We could go to yours?

THOMMY: Me ma’s at home too!

ELAINE: Oh. Right. (beat) Who’s that over there?

THOMMY: Who?

ELAINE: That statue.

THOMMY: Dunno. Some writer?

ELAINE: (she stands up to look) Robert Emmet.

THOMMY: Who?

ELAINE: Robert Emmet.

THOMMY: Never heard of him.

ELAINE: “Presented to the People of Ireland by the Robert Emmet Statue Committee of the United States of America, April 13 1966.”

THOMMY: Great.

ELAINE: He looks kind of sad. Don’t you think?

THOMMY: I guess.

ELAINE: 1778 – 1803… he was only 25 years old when he died. That is really sad. Isn’t that really sad?

THOMMY: Wha’? Oh, yeah, sure.

ELAINE: That’s young. Imagine dying that young. You wouldn’t have time to do anything, would you?

THOMMY: Like what?

ELAINE: Get married, have kids.

THOMMY: Kids are stupid.

ELAINE: You don’t want kids.

THOMMY: Nah. (beat) Do you?

ELAINE: Dunno. But, like, at 25, you wouldn’t even have the chance. You know, after university…

THOMMY: (laughing) University???

ELAINE: Don’t you want to go to University? 

THOMMY: Studying’s stupid.

ELAINE: But, to get a job, like!

THOMMY: Always reckoned I’d get a job fixing things. You know, cars and that.

ELAINE: You just want to fix cars?  That’s your life’s ambition?

THOMMY: Me life’s ambition? Nah, me life’s ambition is to get a Honda Civic.

ELAINE: A what?

THOMMY: Its only the best car around.

ELAINE: Your life’s ambition is to get a car?

THOMMY: Yeah, and pimp it out, like.

ELAINE: You know what? If you died at 25, it wouldn’t be sad at all.

THOMMY: (genuinely hurt) Hey! (beat) What do you want to do before you’re 25 then?

ELAINE: Something… impressive.

THOMMY: That’s your plan?

ELAINE: Like Robert Emmet!

THOMMY: You don’t even know what he did!

ELAINE: You’ve got to do something impressive for the USA to dedicate a statue to you when you’re only 25!

THOMMY: You’re mad.

ELAINE: Least its better than a car.

THOMMY: Least I’ll be happy. Elaine, no-one’s gonna erect a statue to you before you’re 25. No-one’s gonna erect a statue to you at all. You’d have to… save loads of people, or win a war, or start a country, or something.

ELAINE: Well, maybe I’ll go to Africa then! And… save all the starving babies or something.

THOMMY: Nobody’s gonna erect a statue to you even if you save all the starving babies and fix Africa and died before you’re 25. Its just not gonna happen.

ELAINE: Why not?

THOMMY: ‘Cause that’s not something that happens to people like us.

ELAINE: And what are we like?

THOMMY: Ordinary. We’re just… ordinary. (beat) 

ELAINE: I think that’s probably the worst thing anyone’s ever said to me. (beat) You’re horrible.

It used to have a very different ending – 5 more lines that gave it a real, ‘wah-wah-wah’ finish, as if it were in some sort of bad 1970’s TV comedy. But, Gavin thought this was a better ending. It took me a while to agree, and I still feel like taking the very tragic ending and twisting it into something funnier, but, I am trying to sit comfortably with the pain and the angst and the ‘very-serious-message’ and not try to throw it away.

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Beautiful Sunny Days

Maybe some of you will remember that I wrote a post, barely 6 months ago, which was entitled, ‘In Praise of Winter’. And, for those of you who don’t remember, or who would like a refresher, or just like to click on things, here is the link to said post, so you can go and check on what I’ve said and see that I’m not lying: http://ohtheplacesyoullgoireland.blogspot.com/2011/10/in-praise-of-winter.html
Basically, it was a snooty little piece telling people they had it all wrong, and that winter was the best season in the whole year, and I was far superior to everyone, as I had recognised this and no-one else had, and I then proceeded to list my reasons as to why I was right and everybody else was wrong.
Or, something like that anyway. 
So, you may be surprised to read this post, in which I declare that, actually, I was completely wrong and everyone else has always been right. About everything.
Now, before you gloat (Liam, I am looking particularly at you… well, not AT you, but, more, nodding through cyber space at you…) I still maintain that I do like winter. And I also maintain that I’m still not a fan of scorching hot days and sun burn and sweat patches, and humidity that basically inhibits your brain function, so that instead of being able to read/write James Joyce, Balzac and Tolstoy type masterpieces, you’re reduced to conversation of the monosyllabic variety.
But, I will concede that a sunny, balmy day is a delightful thing.
Let me also clarify for the Australians in the audience. A sunny, balmy day for me is now something of the 17 – 18 degree variety. This is perfectly lovely weather, in which you do not need to wear jumpers, stockings, jackets, gloves or scarves. You can wander around the city unencumbered by swathes of material. I know, I know, just 6 months ago I was essentially saying that wrapping yourself in loads of mismatching crazy materials was as close to heaven as it is possible to get in this world, but, after 6 months straight of the same jacket, the same scarf, the same gloves, it starts to get old.
What can I say? I’m just fickle. And easily bored. My Year 8 Science teacher once told us that we had the attention span of an ad break during the Simpsons, which, apart from being one of the more ingenious insults a teacher has ever dealt me, had more than a kernel of truth for myself and, if I may be so bold, many of my generation. One of the problems I have had with, say, choosing a career, is that I’d think, ‘Oh, medicine! Oh, that would be great! You know, problem-solving, and saving people’s lives, and wearing a white jacket, and looking at X-rays, oh yeah, I’d really enjoy that,’ but then I’d think about being a doctor 5 days a week, 52 weeks a year, for the rest of my life and I’d go, ‘Oh, yeah, but I think I’d probably get bored after a few months.’ And, after 8 or 9 years of training, you don’t really want to get bored after a few months. This process was repeated for essentially every single career I ever considered or was asked to consider by my superiors. ‘Oh, yeah, train driving! That’d be really exciting! For, like, a day.’
ANYWAY, the point I was trying to make, before I so rudely got in my own way, was that I’m terribly fickle, and whilst 6 months ago I would have confidently told you that winter was my favourite season, and I didn’t really like the summer, and I’ve never had a great desire to go to tropical destinations, or even Southern Europe, right now I feel very differently. It has been a weekend of sunny, balmy days (17 – 18 degrees, Australians), and I suddenly feel the need to book a trip to Portugal and/or Spain, buy a pile of cheap, airport paperbacks and let my skin cells get majorly traumatised on a beach somewhere, in a way that I have never, ever desired before.
Yesterday, because of the delightfully balmy weather, I went for a walk with my friend Eadaoin and her family, down to Marlough Woods, which is near to Cobh. We wandered along the rocky beach, I found a (possible) fossil, we swung on a rope swing, which was clearly not made to carry the weight of adults, and had your generally stereotypically idyllic day. We then went into Cobh, which is all excited at the moment, because it is the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic, and Cobh was the last place the Titanic stopped before it (tried to) head onto the USA. In hindsight, its probably in poor taste to be excited about the horrific, unexpected and tragic sinking of a ship, but, well, what are you going to do. Cobh has a new ‘Titanic Experience’ museum, and yesterday it was screening a new Titanic costume drama (written by the dude who wrote Downton Abbey – are you allowed to call people who write costume dramas, ‘dudes’?) that will be showed on TV in the next few weeks, so the Titanic mania was reaching fever pitch. You could see it in the decoration of shop windows, which were all Titanic-themed, some with paper-mache versions of the ship made by local schoolchildren, others with related photos and antiques, and I even saw one of the charity shops had decorated its window with two mannequins in similar clothing to Jack and Rose. They were even positioned like they were in the famous ‘I’m flying, Jack!’ scene. I felt this was very impressive. Or, it could have just been the sun, improving my mood.

I just spent half an hour attempting to find an image I saw on Facebook a few weeks ago, which accurately summed up my worries over the Jack and Rose water-death scene, which is that, why the hell couldn’t she have moved over and shared the plank of wood with him? Was it her not-yet-purged upper-class British snobbery? Was it that she was so cold her brain had stopped functioning and therefore she didn’t realise she was lying on a plank of wood twice her size? Or was it James Cameron’s burning desire for an Oscar, and he thought if he tragically killed off one of the main characters that would somehow make the film more ‘real’, or ‘historically accurate’, or give it a ‘message’, which one could only presume was that Oscar-worthy directors are not afraid to kill off their handsome leading men? I guess we’ll never know. Anyway, I couldn’t find the image, so I give you the one above instead. Its not quite as funny, but, God, I can’t be arsed looking any longer. Plus, this caption has taken almost as long to write as it took to find the image. Blergh. From: http://hellyestitanic.tumblr.com/page/87

Today, I was mainly on a bus, getting back to Dublin, which was a disappointing waste of sun, but, at least once I was back in the city, I was able to walk around in a SLEEVELESS dress quite comfortably. I was then able to sit down in said sleeveless dress and read a book, even when I was sitting in the shade. It was almost like being back home again.
I think one of the reasons this winter has been so tough is that it is the first serious winter (Australians, you don’t have serious winters, just so you know) I have experienced all the way through since I was a kid in Minnesota. When I went to Norway, I arrived halfway through winter (January), and I left halfway through (December), so I never had to experience that 5 – 6 months of increasing darkness, increasing cold, and knowing that it would be many, many weeks before you would be able to walk around comfortably outside again.
What’s wonderful about having been in Ireland for longer than a year is that I’m experiencing the same seasonal changes that I witnessed last year. I’m trying to think why this is wonderful. It feels like I have some sort of insider knowledge, maybe. Its not exactly exclusive insider knowledge, as everyone in Ireland will have noticed the same thing, year after year. But, its new for me, this very obvious passing of the seasons. I can see why people write poems about it and used it as metaphors for emotional states in innumerable books and movies. There is such a feeling of joyful anticipation in the air in Spring. Even though the sun is only out til 8pm tonight, the longer it stays lighter in the evenings, the more I’m reminded of the days in June when the sun will be out until 11pm. Every night is a reminder that we are creeping, ever so steadily towards summer. We’ve just had a big leap forward to, as daylight savings started today. 
Anyway, so I admit it. I’m totally fickle and all over the place in my tastes and opinions. Don’t listen to a word I say. I suspect this post is evidence of that. If not just because I completely back-flipped on my view points regarding summer and winter, but because I think, despite my promise of two weeks ago to pick a topic and stick to it, each of these paragraphs talks about something completely different, only mildly related to sunshine-y days. If I were my English teacher, Mrs. Wallace, the first person in my high school career to point out that I had absolutely no idea how to structure an argument, let alone an essay, I would be giving this post a big, fat F.
But, guess what? Its a quarter to eleven, and I cannot be bothered going back and rewriting it.

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London Again, or, Cambridge Again

This post may be a little incoherent. I calculate that I’ve had around 10 hours sleep over the last 4 nights, and I used most of my remaining brain power at work this morning, attempting to come up with better words with which to describe people’s plays other than, ‘good’ and ‘nice’ and ‘interesting’. And, when I say I used my brain power, I mean I typed those word into the thesaurus thingy on the side of the computer, and then got grumpy when the thesaurus didn’t feed back the specific word I wasn’t thinking of and couldn’t remember. Even that was almost too much effort. I spent a lot of time knocking into things and tripping over things in the office today. Sleep deprivation obviously affects my spatial awareness.
But, anyway. 
Last Saturday, which, the more observant of you will realise was St. Patrick’s Day, I took an evening plane to London. This might seem madness to you all, and I was a little disappointed myself when I realised I would be spending another St. Patrick’s Day away from the big celebrations, but after simply attempting to walk through Dublin around 5pm, after the parade, and after all the drinking had started, I was glad to be leaving the city. I have never seen so many people in one place before. Let alone that much cheap green stuff. I was dressed all in red, and I felt like I was the singer in some music video, pushing grumpily through a sea of green whilst being all art-y and misunderstood. You know, ‘Bitter Sweet Symphony’ but in colour and with a girl and more people. That sort of thing.
I got into London with relatively little fuss, though I stood for many minutes in a queue to have my passport checked only to be told by the passport man that as I had come from Ireland, I needn’t have bothered. Ah, well, you live you learn. I feel that sentence accurately sums up the entirety of my two and a half days in London. Before last weekend, I was very bad at the ‘quick European business jaunt on planes’ (not surprising, really, considering I had never done it before), but I feel after this very educational two days, I will be better prepared for the next times that I will have to jump across the water for various events.
Anyway, I headed to my hostel and got gratefully into my bed, only to spend most of the night staring at the roof, unable to sleep. I’m not even certain why, as my roommates were probably the best behaved roommates I have ever had in a hostel anywhere in the world. In fact, I was the irritating one coming in late to the room, switching on lights, using torches, attempting to move about quietly, but then stubbing my toe on various furnitures and cursing loudly.
The next morning was beautifully sunny and warm in London, so I dressed appropriately spring-like and optimistically and headed to Cambridge. Of course, this was a mistake, but I’m sure you don’t need to be told this anymore, and that you can imagine what happened, after all the times I have detailed in this blog days that I have been tricked by blue skies to venture out into the outside world without an umbrella/jumper/gumboots/ski-jacket and then had to deal with the consequences. I spent a lot of the day wondering if my fingers were still attached to my hands, or if I had accidently left them clutching my hot tea cup in the last cafe I was in.
In Cambridge, I met with my wonderful cousin, Kathryn, and met her new boyfriend. Well, he isn’t actually new, but I haven’t met him before, so he felt brand shiny new to me. He was very nice, and we had a lovely conversation, before he had to head off to finish some university work. Kathryn and I spent the rest of the day walking around Cambridge and catching up on a year’s worth of news. Kathryn is almost as good at segues as I am (or perhaps, I’m almost as good as she is), so we had many interesting conversations, that ranged from the intersecting problems of careers in academia and the arts, the various wives of Henry VIII and their fates, patterened stockings, hair colours (and hair dyes), our respective families, activism, feminsim, other -isms, floods in Australia and drought (ha!) in the UK, houses and housemates, and other things I can’t remember anymore. There were many times we stopped mid-sentence in one conversation and said, ‘Oh, but, wait, what was I saying before? We were talking about something else and it was very interesting….’ In short, it was an absolute delight to see her again, and we probably managed to squeeze a week’s worth of normal people’s conversations into the day and a half we spent together in Cambridge and London.
When it started to rain, we took shelter in the Fitzwilliam Museum, and I think that from now on, I will only ever go to museums with Kathryn, because its so much more fun. Kathryn is finely attuned to the inherent absurdity of these old, pompous museums, whilst simultaneously being able to appreciate the beautiful things that are on offer. One minute you’ll be laughing at a ‘guglet’ (just a fancy name for a bottle, really), and the next you’ll be oohing and aahing over an embroidered medieval portrait that uses real human hair, tiny pearls, metal string and seeds. Favourite moments included the gigantic owl (with removable head! All other owls are now inferior, as they do not also have removable heads) and finding a sign in a small cabinet saying, ‘Unless otherwise stated, all objects in this cabinet are Japanese.’ There were only 3 things in the cabinet, and they were all labelled ‘Japanese’. Oh, those hilariously bureaucratic Brits and their overly-enthusiastic labeling.
At 5pm, Kathryn handed responsibility for me over to our mutual friend, Michelle, who I had previously spent a lovely evening with in Cambridge last November, as Kathryn had a mother’s day dinner to get to with her boyfriend’s family. Michelle and I caught up on 5 months of activities over a few drinks, which turned into a few more, which turned into Jenny missing the last train back to London. I would have been more annoyed if I hadn’t been so full of subsidised college port and Bulmers cider. Michelle got out her blow-up mattress, and I put the alarm clock on for the ungodly hour of 6:30am, as I had to go back into London to check out of my (now completely useless) hostel room before 10am. Unfortunately, the air bed must have had a hole in it, as I kept having to blow more air into it during the night, resulting in my second night of very little sleep. Things could have been worse though, I could have had no friend in Cambridge and had to sleep at the train station, so I was very grateful for the bed. I was also grateful for the vegemite toast I was able to eat the next morning, something I haven’t tasted for over a year.
Monday morning was madness, as I had never been on the tube at peak hour before. It was more than a little terrifying and claustrophobic. I didn’t like it one little bit, I have to say. It was the second time that weekend that I had been a little bit overwhelmed by such a crush of people. There was a part of my brain that switched into panic mode. It wasn’t at all rational, it was just an instinctive reaction: ‘Get away, get away now before something bad happens. Before you’re taken somewhere you don’t want to go, before you’re pushed into the street in front an oncoming car, before you’re trampled to death in the push for the subway.’ Melodramatic? Perhaps. Or, maybe I should just make sure I don’t get a job in London that will require me to work at the normal hours of everybody else so that I can avoid the crush.
London was delightfully sunny again, so I sat in Kensington Gardens in the sun and read my ‘Vanity Fair’ and waited for Kathryn to arrive. About halfway through the magazine I had a sudden thought, which was, ‘Goodness me, I’m just sitting in Kensington Gardens, reading a magazine as if it is the most normal thing in the entire world. This would blow my 15 year-old self’s mind’. A moment where I realised just how lucky I was, if you will, and that I was very pleased to have gone off and tried to do the things I’ve always wanted to do. It was strange not to feel excited about being in London, strange to feel happy about being there but still, feeling like, ‘Well, yes, this is just where I am now. No biggie.’
Kathryn and I continued our tour of weird and wonderful museums, this time going to the Natural History Museum, which I had always avoided on previous visits to London, but, of course, Kathryn made it fun. We interacted most enthusiastically with the interactive exhibits and most likely annoyed all the serious elderly people, but we felt we entertained at least a few of the hip, young attractive people around the place, who kept giving us half-smiles as they went past. I don’t know why I didn’t know that the hip, young attractive people hung out at the Natural History Museum, but now that I know this, I will be coming back often.

From: http://www.tourist-information-uk.com/natural-history-museum.htm

We said good-bye on the tube, hoping to see each other again before Kathryn goes home in May (so, there’s a good chance we will), and I headed to New Zealand House in Westminster, for the first meeting of ’50 Ft Women’, the mentoring project I’m part of. I was more than a little terrified, but it ended up being a lot of fun, and, of course, everyone was very interesting and easy to talk to, and friendly and impressive and wonderful. We met most of the mentors through a ‘speed mentoring’ system, which was more than a little fun, but it did exhaust me and my voice. The nice thing was that I felt able to talk intelligently about my skills and talents to these women, and that they responded well to those things. I’m very bad at presenting myself in a good light and holding up my achievements as worthwhile to new people (I have a tendency to downplay everything I’ve done and take the piss out of myself… I’m sure none of you have noticed that), so it was good practice. A lot of the women were involved in social justice projects, or research, which I think will be interesting to be around, as I would like to consider how to combine some of my interests in the arts with politics and ‘doing good in the world’. I obviously know very little about this sort of thing at the moment (well, not very little, but, relatively little, especially compared to the other women there), but, the point of the program is to make connections, share knowledge and experience, so hopefully I will learn. I need to think a little harder about what I want out of my mentoring program before I meet my mentor (I don’t know who it will be yet), but I already feel very inspired, motivated and optimistic. I’m looking forward to moving to London all the more.
After the event I was quite wired, and whilst I had meant to go to Stansted Airport straight away (I was sleeping there that night), I didn’t feel like going just then. Instead, I paid a large amount of money for some lollies, and even more money for a movie ticket and went and saw, ‘This Means War’ at Leicester Square. It was surprisingly diverting and amusing, at least until Reese Witherspoon had to choose between the two highly attractive spy-men, and then I just got bored. Personally, I think she should have kept seeing them both. It only seemed right.
I then headed to Stansted Airport and managed to get a reasonable sleeping position, meaning I didn’t get a spot lying stretched out on the chairs, but I was against a wall, so I didn’t have to sleep with my head flung back, and mouth hanging unattractively open, but could curl up over my bag and against the wall. There was a very strange looking woman who seemed to stare at me all night long, but that might have been because when I first got there I stripped off all my warm clothing, falling asleep just in my skirt and singlet top, and then every 30 minutes, I’d wake up and put on another piece of clothing until I had taken everything out of my bag and put it on my person. If I was the lady, I probably would have stared at me too. I managed a bit of sleep, but not nearly enough, and decided that I would replace sleep with food, and when that didn’t work, I decided to replace sleep with tea, which only left me feeling nauseous and jittery at work. But, really, who cares? I love my job, I was in London for the weekend, I met my cousin and my friend and a variety of inspiring women who are willing to give me life and career advice. So, what’s a few hours less sleep?

From http://blog.travelpod.com/travel-photo/maryfayce/3/1254956855/token-sleeping-person-picture.jpg/tpod.html

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Dress Rehearsal

There’s something magical about a dress rehearsal. Yesterday, I was invited to Fishamble’s dress rehearsal of ‘Tiny Plays for Ireland’. At the end of last year, Fishamble asked for scripts of no more than 3 minutes from the general public that spoke to the contemporary situation of Ireland. Originally, Fishamble was going to write or commission a new play about the banking crisis themselves (they were going to write a play about Anglo-Irish bank, which in 2007, I think, was described by some important people – great with the facts, Jen – as ‘the best bank in the world’. Its estimated, from a hugely reputable source… oh, ok, just another web page, that Anglo-Irish will cost the Irish taxpayer 90 billion Euro over the next 20 years due to its debts that the Irish nation took over. Hence, Fishamble would call the play, highly ironically,’The Best Bank in the World’, which I think is the BEST NAME EVER for a play). However, they decided that put a bit too much pressure on one playwright (sum up the whole crisis! In two hours! And give us all the details! And make it entertaining! And give it a message! And make it speak to all the different people in the nation! And give us a sense of closure! And give us our voices back! etc.) So, instead, they decided to do this ‘Tiny Play’, which allowed a variety of people to express how they feel about contemporary Ireland in general. They got 1700 scripts (!!!!), which the Literary Manager likened to reading War and Peace. From that, they culled it down to 44 scripts. They were originally only going to do one season of 22 scripts, but there were so many, they’re doing two seasons. The first one is on now, the second will be on later in the year.
Anyway, that’s all the background to the dress rehearsal yesterday. Not that any of it really matters, its just for your interest. The real wonderful thing was just being in a proper theatre again, experiencing a dress rehearsal. I’m all for site-specific and using different spaces in unique ways etc. etc. but I can’t deny how much I love a traditional theatre space. And there’s something really magic about a dress rehearsal in a traditional theatre space. Of course, its very exciting when you’re an actor, and its the first time you get to wear your costume for the first time (probably my favourite thing about acting is getting a costume. I could lie and tell you all sorts of noble reasons why one should act, but, honestly, that was the thing that really always excited me about acting. ‘You mean, I get to play dress-ups even though I’m no longer a kid? How can I get involved with this??’), and the set is there, and the lights are on, and you finally get to go through the whole show and see how many of those lines you actually remember. But, I think it might even be more exciting to be on the outside. Well, it certainly was yesterday. I didn’t have anything to do. I was just a spectator, so that was relaxing. I could sit and watch all the excitement that was going on around me. So many people are involved in a professional theatre production. There was the stage manager, the lighting designer, the set designer, the costume desigers, the lighting assistant, the sound designer, the director, the production manager from the office, the man taking promotional photos, the man making a promotional video and all the writers whose work was chosen. All of them, sitting in the audience, watching intently. Some taking notes on things that had to change, some of them following the script, ‘on the cans’. Everyone focused so intently on the stage, on the actors, making sure everything goes to plan. There’s a buzz in the room, a slight edge, or tension, because its the first time everything is coming together, its the first time you get to see if its all going to work. The first time you see what show you have. By the time the audience is in a few days later, the edge is usually gone. There’s still a buzz, but, by this time, most problems should be ironed out, there’s a routine, people have settled into the show. The designers aren’t around, they’ve finalised their designs, the writers have gone as well, or they’re hidden amongst the rest of the ‘usual’ audience.
Apart from that, attending the dress rehearsal always feels like a privilege, because you would have been chosen as a friendly audience member, someone who won’t mind if things go wrong, or who would be interested in seeing the behind-the-scenes process, or who may be able to give valuable feedback. For all of those reasons, going to the dress makes you feel special, makes you feel like you belong.
I think also, the dress reminds me of all those years in Young People’s Theatre, all those happy hours of sitting in the theatre in Hamilton, of knowing everyone involved in the show, from them lighting designer to the front of house volunteer, from the stage manger to the littlest munchkins. Of considering most of those people as my friends. The dress rehearsal for a show at YPT was usually the start of the school holidays and took most of the weekend. We’d wander down to Hamilton in between runs and get lunch or dinner, pides, Subway, Chinese, chocolate, lollies, whatever. Come back to the theatre singing and dancing and generally annoying the rest of the neighbourhood (though considering we were teenagers and could have been drunked/drugged hooligans if we felt like it, they probably got off easily). Going to a dress reminds me of that happy anticipation: of the school holidays, the start of a show, of spending two weeks in a theatre with friends. There’s nothing like it.
Yes, there’s something really magical about the dress. 

Found at http://dsata.blogspot.com/2011/02/actresses-and-looking-glass-2.html

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Big City Girl

Well, I promised you this post in the end of my last post, and I am not one to go back on my promises. I know that many of you have been waiting for said post with baited breath, almost as excited as you were when you had pre-ordered your Harry Potters from Dymocks, and it was the night before you could go and pick it up (shhh… don’t ruin my fantasy about how important my blog is in your life).
This post is dedicated to big city living and all the wonderful things you can do when you live in a city with a population that goes into 7 figures. There is a song, that some of you may remember from your years of watching Playschool, in which the singers alternately list the good things about living in the city and the country.

Living in the country is nice and peaceful, 
Living in the country is fun… etc.

As far as I’m concerned at the moment, they could have saved themselves the time and effort in writing the country verses and just focused on all the wonderful things that the kiddies could look forward to once they had moved to a great big metropolis. I used to have this little dream, which was that if ‘life’ ever got too much for me, if I ever wanted to give up on the acting and the rat race and all the rest of it, I would buy myself a little cottage in the hills somewhere, buy a collection of floral moo-moos, and spend the rest of my days baking (and eating the proceeds of said cooking). If it all got too much, I would just give up on it all and head for the hills, because, I was certain, that would be much more enjoyable and stress-free. Looking back on it, to a certain extent, that is what I did for the past year. I tried to stay fit and eat healthily, but every time I did, there was voice in the back of my head going, ‘Well, what’s the point anyway? No-one’s going to see you.’ Turns out heading to the hills is just as hard, and, in some ways, harder, because it took me away from everything I really loved and cared about. Most things became much harder to achieve.
In the past two weeks I have started swimming again (joy of all joys!), gone to spinning classes (which I never knew I liked before!), started kettlebell classes (which I never knew I didn’t like before…), broken my violin, and had it fixed the very next day, walked absolutely EVERYWHERE I have needed to go, bought ‘ethnic’ food from an ‘ethnic’ supermarket and many other things. I think the most exciting feeling though is just looking at all the people and all the buildings and the hustle and bustle, and just hearing the possibilities everywhere! All these people who are living their lives, they may be future friends, future partners, future colleagues! Who knows what things might go on in all those buildings in the next day, the next week, the next month? Possibility, possibility, possibility! That’s what seems to be screaming out of a city. Its exciting, and, more than that, its comforting. If there’s something going on, chances are its going to be going on somewhere near you.
Some of the other things I have done in the last two weeks:
1) Attended a Performance Artists Network’s 4 hour showing of performance art. This is not something I would normally have attended, even back home in Australia. But, as I have very few friends here, so consequently few social engagements, I have been attending anything and everything that is at all relevant to my interests. Some of these performances were very interesting. I don’t feel I have the required performance language to understand what was going on. There was a man lying on the floor, picking up grains of brown rice one at a time and putting them into his ear. There was a woman wrapped in white gauzy stuff and walking around the room. There was a very tall man standing in a room with a black hood over his head, holding a microphone. There was a man talking about time, who also had a sock puppet friend that seemed to what to feel him up as they were performing. I only managed to stay for an hour. Not because I didn’t find it interesting, but because I had no one to discuss the things with. But, also because I didn’t feel like I could fully understand everything. Its like my brain can only handle so much metaphor and symbolism before it overloads and ceases to function. So, the metaphor and symbolism in a David Hare play is do-able, as is a Stoppard play or Beckett play. Something like a Sarah Kane is pushing my limit, but I can stand it, as long as the production is good and I have people to help me afterwards. But, once it gets out of even an attempt at a narrative I start feeling like I often do in my real life: ‘But what does it mean? Which things are significant? Should I look here or there? Is it good or not? Am I enjoying it or not?’ I get very confused. This is not to say I didn’t enjoy it. I just left feeling like I possibly had missed out on many messages. I did see one thing I liked, and seemed to be able to interpret. It was a man, and he had a pile of papers which looked like blanked out government files, and he would burn then, whilst holding a picture of a victim from a foreign war, and then throw it on the floor. I felt like it meant that these people were nameless to us, covered up, destroyed, in their physical state by the war, and in memory or history by being censored. That was my reading anyway.
2) I went to an event in a beautiful bookstore called, ‘The Winding Stair’, that was in honour of al-Mutanabbi Street, which is/was a famous street in the book selling district of Baghdad, which was blown up by a suicide bomb 5 years ago. A movement was started in San Francisco by artists and writers to create 3 books each, to symbolically replace the books that were destroyed. I am uncertain of the philosophy behind this symbolic gesture, but, nevertheless, it was an interesting event to attend. There were many people there from the Iraqi community, though mostly men. A female Iraqi poet read a poem about her composer father, whilst they played some music of his underneath. It was intriguing. An Iraqi men did a short (15 minute) performance about his move to Ireland, which was absolutely beautiful. So simple, so short, but incredibly powerful. I was in tears, and went and thanked him afterwards.
3) I saw a performance of a play in Irish. Now, before you get too excited, I haven’t learnt Irish in my time here, nor have I miraculously soaked up the language from being around Irish people. In fact, I know a shockingly small amount of Irish. I know the word for good-bye, for prime minister, for parliament, and, that honestly is about it. I consistently mispronounce the simplest of words (to the delight of my Irish friends, I’ve found). But, this play had a simultaneous translation (via headphones) into English. I had hoped to hear more of the Irish, but it was difficult to concentrate on the story being told in English and listen to the sound of the Irish at the same time. I got better at it by the end, and it was certainly an interesting cultural experience.
4) I went back to Cork and saw a film at the French Film Festival and went to a stand-up comedy gig, just to prove that Dublin does not have the monopoly on cool big city things that you can do. The film was wonderfully fun and silly, the follow-up to the Lebanese director and actor, Nadine Labaki’s film ‘Caramel’ from 2008 (another fabulous film – go see it), and also had a very serious message, which no-one could argue with, even if it became a viral video on Facebook: be more tolerant of religious difference. 
5) This evening, I went to an event called ‘Milk & Cookies’, which is a storytelling night held in Dublin, where they actually give you milk and cookies as well as cupcakes and chocolate slice. Of course, me being me, I stood up and read a story, which, for the full Dublin experience, you can read here: http://iwrotesomestories.blogspot.com/2012/03/molly.html In a new town, meeting new people, some people go to the local pub, some go to community centres, some join sporting clubs. I, go to open-mic nights, and if they laugh at my stories, or compliment me afterwards, I somehow feel accepted and happy with myself. It was a very fun night with lots of weird and wonderful stories. I was, intriguingly, the only woman, out of a 2 hour night of stories to get up and read. This was not for want of women in the room (one girl did get up and read, but read a friend’s story, not her own, though she did a very good reading, I have to say). I don’t know if it was that night in particular, or if it is common theme, but I was intrigued. I wonder if it was because, like the girl sitting next to me, most of the women were too terrified by the thought of standing up in front of a group of people and telling a story. But, there are many more actresses out there than actors, so it can’t be performing per se that is the problem. I don’t know. Maybe I should go to a few more of the events before I start making judgements. It was a wonderful night full of crazy wonderful stories, many of them with strange connections to Sydney. One was about 3 Irish brothers who ended up in Newtown, another was about Gilgamesh (whose statue, confusingly, graced the grounds of the University of Sydney), one involved a description of a house that was ‘as big as the Sydney Opera House.’ A girl told me after my story that it was wonderful, but that because my accent was ‘class’, she could have listened to me talk for hours no matter what I was saying. That was quite amusing. Usually I’m the one telling others that.

Carrie Bradshaw. Not an accurate depiction of my life in Dublin. But, I do love that jacket.

Anyway, that’s a taste of my new life in the big smoke. I’m off to the bigger smoke (again) on Saturday, when I head off to London. One might ponder why I am heading to London on St. Patrick’s Day, but that is a story for another post, another time.

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Filed under Dublin, Ireland

Howth

I’ve been thinking a lot about blogging recently. Not actually blogging, but just thinking about it. Abou what makes good blogging. You see, I was displeased with the quality of the last post, because I was rushing it, and writing in an internet cafe surrounded by yucky boys playing internet games, neither of which is productive to my abilities to write amusing blog posts, apparently. Yes, I get more displeased about the quality of my blog posts, which I don’t get paid for, and that only my friends and family read, than I do about… other things that I should potentially care about more.
Yes. Good. I’m not in an internet cafe, by the way, I just didn’t think that thought through before I wrote it down.
Anyway, after mulling for many hours over my less-than-impressive blog post, I came to a decision, which is that I must pick a topic and stick to it, instead of writing long rambling posts that sort of go, ‘And then I did this, and then I felt that, and then I saw this person, and none of it really makes any sense to me and… The End,’ because, apart from sounding like an 7 year old reporting back to her class about what she did on school holidays, I think I may be wearing out my welcome with the readers back home.
Yes, readers back home, I’m thinking of you. I’m always thinking of you. Promise.
And, after that incredibly long and NOT AT ALL RELEVANT introduction, I will tell you about Howth.
One of the lovely things about moving to Dublin (there are many, but I’m saving those thoughts for another post to be written later in the week about the joys of living in a big city… yes, stay on topic, Jenny), is that I have a brand new city to explore. Its like having the joy of traveling and yet staying in the comfort of your own place all wrapped into one. Its the best feeling, but only lasts for a few months, at the most, in a new place. So, whilst I knew where many of the important things were in Dublin (the Abbey Theatre, the Project Arts Centre, the Irish Film Institute, various music venues, the best place to buy cheesecake), I still had many things to explore. This is also good for my blogging, because, quite frankly, since I’ve stopped looking after the kiddies, the amount of things to write about each day seems to have dwindled. As frustrating and hard-work as they can be, at least children provide all sorts of possibilities for amusing self-reflection and nostalgia. Perhaps this is why there are so many TV shows based around them (‘Kids Say the Darndest Things,’ ‘Funniest Home Videos’, the feel-good section at the end of the local news). But, FOCUS, Jenny. Yes, a new city provides new places and things to write about. One of these places is Howth.
Here is Howth:

And here is also Howth:

     
Prettiness. Found at http://geodublin.com/day-trips/howth-village/

So, as I was saying in my last post, Dublin seems to be trying to make up for its bad impression on me back in 2011 by being ridiculously sunny and beautiful every single day forever and ever. It got to the point on Sunday that I was like, ‘Really? Another sunny day? But… but I’ve done all the sunny day activities I can possibly think of… what else could I possibly do? What did I used to do back home when it was sunny all the time?’ It was then that I remembered the advice of the kindly taxi driver who had gotten me to my British Visa appointment on time (not that it mattered in the end, but, oh, Jenny, just stop with the tangents and the parentheses!) He said that if it was a nice day, I should get a day ticket and go on the DART (the train) around the coast of Dublin Harbour, as it was very pretty. I decided that on Sunday I would follow this advice, as, everyone knows that, when traveling, you must always take the advice of local taxi drivers.
That’s a rule right? Yeah. Yeah, that’s a rule.
Because I couldn’t quite figure out how to get a day ticket right around Dublin Harbour, as my home is smack bang in the middle of the two ends of the harbour, I amended the taxi driver’s advice, and headed to one end, thinking that would give me something extra to explore another day. And, the end I settled on was Howth.
It was just delightful. Howth sticks out away from the mainland, in some sort of… thin peninsula, I guess its called? With, like, a knob on the end? I haven’t done geography since Year 8, don’t get all judge-y on me, just look at the map and you’ll see what I mean (yes, I could check Wikipedia, but I couldn’t be arsed, I have other things to do, like STAY ON TOPIC). There is also a hill behind Howth, which means, when you go up it, you get fantastic views all the way down the coast to the Wicklow Mountains in the south, and to… some other mountains in the North. It was a gorgeous sunny day, but you could see that just up the coast, and just inland, there was rain. Because I was so far away, the rain looked like smoky ribbons dangling from the clouds. It was beautiful, and rather dramatic.
I took the bus all the way up to the summit, and then walked down the hill towards Howth Village. I had seen a lovely market was going on down in the town centre, and we all know I can’t resist a good market. There’s something about buying things from stalls that makes me happy. Call me crazy. But a pile of carrots from a stall, regardless of taste or look or quality, always make me feel happier than a bag of carrots from the supermarket. Its my inner contrariness coming out.
Before getting to the markets, I walked along sea wall down in the harbour, which reminded me of the wall Louisa Musgrove jumps from in Persuasion, and Jane Austen connections are always good things for a place. I sat down to eat some scones I had brought from home, which the ridiculously oversized and menacing looking seagulls decided I was meant to share with them. I disagreed and stuffed them all in my mouth before they stole them right out of my fingers. Seriously, they looked like they were going to. I saw some poor 11 year old boy accidently walk into a swarm of gulls, and then proceed to act like Tippi Hedren in The Birds. They were scary, like.
The markets were wonderful, and I bought many things that I didn’t need, like sweet chilli chutney, olives stuffed with jalapenos and seeded bread. Mainly because I can’t resist things in stalls, or more accurately, men selling things at stalls, and even more specifically, men with Northern Irish accents selling things in stalls, but also because I feel bad for eating hundreds of free tasters and then not buying anything. I’ll have to go back though, as I am currently limiting my sweets intake (I know, how did that happen?) and there was a rather rotund fellow with an incredibly warm smile and overalls on (oh, how wholesome!) and he was selling the most adorable looking mini-cupcakes, with gigantic swirls of icing and whole cherries on top, and, because I had already had scones, I COULDN’T HAVE ANY MINI-CUPCAKES. Well, I could have, but, oh, you know. I’m trying to be healthy for at least a little while. And then I can go back to mini-cupcakes, which will obviously taste so much better for me having waited. Well, that’s what I’m telling myself anyway. 
Of course, this being Ireland, the glorious sunny day couldn’t have lasted without at least one sudden icy downpour of… something (Is it rain? Is it hail? Is it sleet? Oh, glorious adventure!), which lasted all of 10 minutes. Long enough for me to run to the bus shelter and resolve to get the next bus, but short enough that after it finished, I felt a right tool for continuing to huddle under the bus shelter for 20 minutes and insist on returning home, despite the-once-again-sunny sky. But, I was very happy with my day, and delighted to find such a beautiful place within such easy distance to my home, so that on future glorious sunny days (of which I am certain there will be many more, won’t there, Dublin?), I can escape the city and head for water, and hills and walking and vistas and markets and mini-cupcakes. Joy!

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