Monthly Archives: August 2012

Notting Hill Carnival

I told you I had lots to write about. Three posts in three days! Its almost like the good old days of last year when I could find so many things to write about and annoy you with that I’d have 16, 17 posts in one month! Amazing!
When I got back from Norway on Sunday, one of the things I noticed through my jet-lag and hang-over was a poster for the Notting Hill Carnival. It had an intriguing image (a policeman pulling a giant purple feather out of a tree) and told me that I shouldn’t miss Britain’s largest carnival. And I thought, well, no, I really shouldn’t miss that, which I suspect is every advertisers’ dream response to one of their ads. Anyway, I slowly and painfully tried to focus my eyes on the dates and even in my sleep-deprived, alcohol-induced haze, I had a sense that these dates were very soon. Possibly happening right at that very time. That I was currently within the dates of the Notting Hill Carnival, which was Britain’s biggest carnival and I was missing it and I had been told explicitly by the poster not to do so.
Slightly distressed, but with jetlag winning out over anxiety, I went home and went to sleep. When I woke up I checked the internet for details. Turned out the carnival was happening Sunday and also the next day, which was a bank holiday I hadn’t heard about. And I remembered again what the poster said and thought, ‘Hmmm… yes, I really shouldn’t miss that,’ and decided to go the next day.
After a slow start on the Monday, I managed to get dressed and out of the house by around 1pm. The route to Notting Hill from Clapham Common seemed ridiculously and unnecessarily complicated and the maps of the event provided (well, not provided) on the Notting Hill Carnival website were unhelpful to say the least. But, I finally managed to find a map of the parade route via Time Out and ventured out with a vague idea of a variety of stations that I could get out at. I had originally planned to get dressed-up, put on some make-up etc. but in the end I couldn’t be bothered and went for my comfy clothes, thinking, ‘oh, its just an outdoor festival, how big a deal can it be, really?’
Well, I tell you, faithful reader, it’s a pretty big deal. The outfits people had created included glitter, feathers, wings, wigs, temporary tattoos, face painting, short-shorts, high hair, platform shoes, intricate nail decorations, bling-bling and that was just on the spectators. Having misunderstood the meaning of ‘carnival’, I had pictured markets, food stalls, maybe a ferris wheel and some cans I could try to knock over with a ball to win a teddy bear. But this was ‘Carnival’ with a capital ‘c’, more related to the Brazilian celebrations than to your local state fair. 
Now that is what I call a sash-ay!

I love this guy.
When I visited Latin America in 2008/2009, I was adamant that I had no interest in Brazil, no interest in Carnival, that it would be a ridiculously expensive, debauched, loud, crowded, dangerous party with lots of boobs and booty and it was all tacky and totally not my scene. I would nobly hike the Andes in Peru and Chile, I would gape over Iguazu Falls in Argentina, but I would not, WOULD NOT be dragged into the spectacular monstrosity that was Brazilian Carnival. But, after this (and realising that Notting Hill Carnival is on a slightly smaller scale to the one in Brazil), I suddenly understand the appeal.
He stuck his tongue out at me afterwards! And I missed it!
It didn’t start well. The closer I got to the Central line, the more packed the underground got. People were worried about the Olympics, but my god, the traffic for the Olympics had nothing on the carnival. The tunnels to and from platforms were literally packed full from side to side with people, heads down, slowly shuffling in one direction. If anything bad had happened, anything from someone having a stroke, to a terrorist attack, there was really nothing anyone could have done. There was hardly any room for anyone to get away at any speed. I’m a little claustrophobic, so I had to force myself not to fixate on those thoughts, breathe calmly and not let loose the panic that was slowly rising in my throat. Once on the actual train, things weren’t much better, everyone was packed in like those pictures you see of Tokyo in rush hour. But as soon as I got to Queensway and got outside into the fresh air, things started to improve.
The streets had been blocked off and people wandered about happily, blowing whistles or using those horrible vuvuzelas everyone had at the South Africa World Cup. People were drinking and carousing and just generally having a great time. There was music blasting out from restaurants, cheap tat being sold on every corner and I kept getting hit by waves of barbeque smelling smoke every time I turned a corner. There was a buzz in the air that was impossible to ignore or resist.
I was disappointed when I finally found the parade route, as there was nothing to see except empty street. I hung around awkwardly for a bit, uncertain if I should wait for the parade to come to me, or if I should go to it. Eventually, I decided the latter, buying two ciders along the way so that I could fit in with the drunken comrades surrounding me.
I think this is my favourite photo of the day. These girls are gorgeous.
I eventually found the parade, which had been halted for unknown reasons. It was a little ridiculous really, all these amazingly-dressed performers, in sparkly underpants and headdresses and gigantic artworks strapped to their backs all kind of just hanging out, picking at their nails, snacking and for all the world trying to act has if they didn’t have the equivalent of 20 ostrich’s feathers exploding out of their shoulders. But when they finally started up again, I couldn’t keep the grin off my face, nor could I stop myself bopping around embarrassingly and knocking into the crowds on either side of me. The music was pumping so loudly I could feel it vibrating in my breast plate. Perhaps not so great for my ears, but still, I can’t help getting fired up by something so loud and visceral. People danced in the streets and the roofs with each other, with the performers, on their own. At one point an unknown man came up to me and started dancing with me, but over-balancing, he ended up falling on top of me… I landed on my tailbone in the gutter and lost the rest of my cider, but I was in such a good mood, I couldn’t stop laughing. It was like that scene in Muriel’s Wedding when Matt Day unzips the bean-bag and Toni Collette goes into hysterical screeching giggles and its all just so painful. That was me, the hysterically giggling one, lying on her backside in a Notting Hill gutter, surrounded by empty beer cans and stray feathers. I’m paying for it now, of course, massive bruise on my behind which is making sitting down at any speed rather uncomfortable.
I had only intended to go for an hour or two to ‘check it out’, but I ended up staying all afternoon. And I was just on my own. I’m sure it would have been much more fun with friends, so I intend to grab a posse next year, deck myself out in glitter and feathers and live it up.
Either that, or I’m moving to Jamaica. 
‘Oh, excuse me, I think I may have mislaid my friend amongst your feathers.’
And, well, you know me:
I might just do it.

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I’m trying to jump right back into the blogging thing before I come up with lots of reasons as to why I shouldn’t do it. I’m on a roll. I wrote a post yesterday, I’m writing one today. God, there was that one month last year when I was blogging every day… madness.
In fact, I’m wondering whether or not the reason I’ve been so reluctant to blog recently is because I signed up to this ‘fun’ challenge called 31 Plays in 31 Days. That’s right, you read correctly, 31 Plays in 31 Days. So, I’ve actually been writing plays every day, or at least, three plays every few days. And, because I’m not particularly imaginative  or creative, a hell of a lot of these plays have starred myself in situations which have happened during the day, or things that I’ve been thinking about during the day. So, I think what I’m trying to say is that instead of doing my travel blog writing thing, I’ve been recording everything in play format. Which is kind of funny and cool now that I think about it.
But, no, I’m not going to post those plays up for you to read. Some of them are ok. But others are quite, quite bad. Which is, of course, the point of doing 31 Plays in 31 Days – to just get you writing anything and not worrying so much about the quality of the things you’re churning out. Well, I guarantee that I am not worrying about quality. My main criteria is, ‘Are there characters? Are they saying things? Then, yes, its a play.’ A lot of the ‘plays’ aren’t so much ‘plays’ as words in some sort of assembled order on a page and formatted in a way that would suggest dialogue and stage directions. There’s a whole series involving me sitting on a mountain top and eating brown cheese with a troll and talking about Norway.
Which brings me to my next topic: Norway. After Sweden came Norway.
For those of you who don’t know, I spent a year in Norway after finishing high school. I was on ‘school exchange’, except that no Norwegian student went to Australia to ‘exchange’ with me and I didn’t actually do anything in school except annoy my friends and stare out the window and pick-up the occasional Norwegian word or two (I had, after all, already finished my school back home in Australia and didn’t need to do anything).
I went back to Norway in 2006 to visit a few friends, but I haven’t been back since. It seemed a bit silly, really, that whilst living in Ireland, I had been comparatively so close to Norway and yet I still hadn’t visited. So, it seemed even sillier that I would be booking a trip to Sweden and not take the opportunity to pop across to its lovely neighbour and visit. So, that’s what I did. I took another 6 days and went back to Norway to visit some friends.
This was all well and good until it got to Monday night in Stockholm and I had to leave my lovely Aussie friends and my lovely new international friends and get on the plane. I was swept with a feeling of unease and unhappiness. I was convinced Norway was going to be ‘difficult’. But, I’m used to this feeling these days. It seems to confront me before most ‘new’ things these days. Before conferences, holidays, visits with friends… you name it, if it takes me away from something comfortable and easy (like sitting on the couch and watching ‘Friends’ whilst eating yoghurt), no matter how good I think something is going to be, or how right its supposed to be, or how much I wanted to do this thing two months ago when I booked it, then I get this feeling of unease and reluctance.
I landed at Oslo Gardemoen, which apart from a selection of self check-in machines, looked exactly the same as it did the first time I flew in there in January 2002. It looked the same as it did when I’d spent the night there in January 2006 waiting for a flight to NY. I didn’t think that an airport building could bring up such emotions, but there I was, standing with my bags in the middle of Oslo Gardemoen trying to fight back tears. I went into the stores and stared at all the different Norwegian chocolates and lollies and chips; I stared at the newspapers, piecing together headlines, at the Norwegian advertisements, dragging long-forgotten Norwegian words out from the darkest reaches of my brain. I know its odd to comment on the smell of an airport… but Oslo Gardemoen has a very distinct fresh smell, I think it comes from the wood they’ve used in the building of it. The smell was fainter this time than the last time I remembered being there, but it was still there.
All of this was more than a little confusing and overwhelming. I’m not so great with all those conflicting emotions. Usually I just cry. Sometimes I laugh. Its like the emotions have got to get out somehow and before I know it my face is reacting in conflicting ways I have no control over and people are staring and going, ‘Why is that crazy lady standing in the middle of the airport with tears on her face and laughing hysterically at an airline advertisement?’
I don’t know what its like for other former exchange students, I don’t know if they feel this same level of emotion, nostalgia and confusion that I do when they go back to visit their former homes. I think its a mix of a lot of things, certainly nostalgia, a feeling of getting ‘so old’ and that it was ‘all so long ago’. But, I think also other things are mixed in there, not always good: I was very home sick in Norway for a while and I was also a little lonely because I was shy of making friends, of forcing people to speak English to me. Later on, even though I learnt Norwegian to an extent, I was never able to communicate as effectively in Norwegian as I was in English. Not surprising, but it does really affect your feeling of who you are and of the connections you make to people. I had a Spanish friend in Ireland who said that in Spanish she was ‘crazy’, but she couldn’t be in English, because she didn’t have the right language to express it. In Norway, I was constantly stuck in the present or the future. I could hardly talk about anything that had happened in the days or hours or minutes before because I hadn’t learnt the past tense of verbs. That’s very strange. That’s a strange feeling to only be able to talk about things that are going to happen or what you’re hoping will happen. It definitely limits your conversations. It often made me feel like a child, because I was really only able to express myself in the most basic ways.
Let me be clear, I’m not complaining by any stretch of the imagination. It was an incredible experience being in Norway and I met so many wonderful people. I was offered such incredible hospitality on all sides and the Norwegians have an enviably beautiful country and way of life. I did really feel at home by the end of the year. And that’s a strange feeling as well. To feel at home in a place, to create a life for yourself in a place that you know you will never end up living in again. Because, unless something amazingly crazy happens… like I marry a Norwegian, or… I get a job in the oil industry, its highly unlikely I will ever live there ever again. I’ll visit, sure, but I will never get to go back there again in the same way. And I do have this sense that I missed something whilst I was there. Maybe I would have felt that way no longer how long I stayed. Maybe it was because I never got my Norwegian to a level which I was happy and comfortable. I don’t know.
But, anyway, I think that one of the reasons Norway was such an incredible experience was because it was complicated. And, standing there at Oslo Gardemoen at 9pm, waiting for my train to Bergen all of those complex, intertwining feelings sneaked up on me and gave me a swift kick to the guts. But, I tried not to think about it and concentrated instead on writing my two plays, getting my train tickets (whilst refusing to use the English option on the train machine) and trying to figure out the free wi-fi in the airport.
I was on a late-night train to Bergen. The train journey from Oslo to Bergen is gorgeous, but I knew that I had to at least try to get some sleep on the trip. The thoughtful Norwegian train company had given us a free eye-mask, blanket and ear plugs. Despite this, my attempts to sleep were misguided at least. The one time I managed to get to sleep I had a horrible dream about hiking through the Norwegian hills and discovering a murdered old man on a rocky outcrop above me. I woke myself up quick smart from that dream and then regretted it, because of course I couldn’t get back to sleep.
I got into Bergen very early that Tuesday morning, not entirely certain what to do with myself. I was meeting up with friends later that evening, but they were all responsible adults with responsible jobs, so I wasn’t able to meet them during the day. I walked into town attempting to find a cafe where I could sit down and shelter from the unexpected rain (it was so sunny in Stockholm I had forgotten that rain was something that happened). Nothing was open. I ended up huddling in a shelter for the Bergen tourist train, which told me very sternly that it was only for customers of the tourist train, but considering the first tour wasn’t until 10am, I figured I was good for at least a few hours. I smeared peanut butter onto some bread with my finger and munched on it as I watched Bergen wake up through a haze of mist, rain and a lack of sleep. In hindsight, I realised there was not much point in rushing off from Stockholm and I probably could have taken a flight direct to Bergen, giving me the opportunity to have a proper night’s sleep in a bed and have attended the final party. I felt more than a little silly and very grumpy with myself, which was only heightened by the fact that I didn’t quite know what to do with myself and so had plenty of time to sit, stare at the rain and mentally kick myself for my poor travel choices. You’d think with the amount of travel I’ve done recently I would be able to organise myself better, but, no.
Anyway, I eventually put my luggage into some lockers at the train station (there are still some places that have luggage storage!!) and went for a wander around the city. It was quite lovely, but I was quite tired, so eventually I gave up, bought some food and headed to my hostel for the night. It was a fair way out of the city, but up high and with a lovely view, so I was pleased. Most of Bergen was booked out, so I had to take a single room instead of my usual dorm, but it was actually quite delightful. I had bought all my favourite Norwegian foods: brunost (brown cheese), blueberry jam and risgroet (a sort of warm rice pudding eaten with butter, sugar and cinnamon) and set about devouring them all in my hostel room. I ended up tired and bloated, but feeling mightily pleased with myself. See pictures:

After a quick hike up the mountain behind my hostel (unfortunately cut short by rain), I retired to bed early, so as to be ready for a full day in the morning.
I spent the next day hiking around the mountains behind Bergen. I had done this the last time I visited in January 2006, but I was looking forward to seeing it in Summer. The funny thing was that, apart from the temperature, it was almost exactly the same. Bergen is pretty mild, considering how northern it is and gets very little snow. It specialises in rain; a speciality it was showing off on this particular day. I eventually retired to a nearby cafe (Krok og Krankel – essentially ‘Nooks and Crannies’ – absolutely gorgeous!!) to look over my lovely pictures of Bergen, including the strange number of ‘Alice in Wonderland’ style signs about the place:

I’m not entirely sure what a ‘pulverheksa’ is. ‘Heksa’ is witch, and pulver is ‘powder’. So, as far as I can make out this sign is telling me to ‘Look up for Powder Witches’. I am not sure if Powder Witches are in anyway related to the Powder Puff Girls, but I like the sign anyway. 

That night, I met up with three dear Norwegian friends who I hadn’t seen since I got on the plane back to Australia in December 2002. Through an unfortunate situation where I hadn’t moved my computer clock to Norwegian time, I ended up being late and therefore stressed and out-of breath, but it was all ok in the end. It was wonderful to see the girls again and catch up on 10 years worth of our lives. Strange, yes, a little surreal, but wonderful nonetheless.
The next evening we met up again for a beautiful feast at one of the girls’ apartments. We sat around afterwards in the living drinking and chatting, strangely reminiscent of what we had done back in Vadsoe 10 years ago, except that then it was all chocolate, lollies, crisps and cider and now it was salad and bread and shrimp and wine. Same same but different.
The next day I headed off to Oslo, this time able to actually enjoy the scenery. Well, as much as I could because the trip is fairly windy and I got massively motion sick and had to sleep it up for a bit. But still, I managed to see some gorgeous things: 

In Oslo, I was staying with my older host sister in her apartment, but once again, she is a responsible adult with a responsible job, so I sat down and had an afternoon cider in the sun whilst waiting for her to finish with work. That evening, we went out for dinner with my other host sister, which was absolutely delightful. The both of them spoke to me in Norwegian most of the time and I understood *most* of it, but seeing how I was concentrating so hard on understanding them, it was then too much brain power to try and think of Norwegian replies, so I answered in English. It was a very strange way to have a conversation, but kind of thrilling too and by the end of the next day, my brain seemed to be re-wiring itself to Norwegian and I was answering more and more without using English. Its kind of amazing and gratifying how quickly it comes back.
Saturday we walked around Oslo a bit and then went to a party that night. In the end, I had about two hours sleep before having to get up for the plane back to London the next morning. It was another amazing, but high-emotion trip. I’m hoping to go back again soon and in the meantime, I bought a pile of Norwegian books and I intend to read them…
Or, at least… read bits of them… The bits I can work out. And then use google translate for the rest.

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Feminists, Strawberries and Swedish Goslings

I know, I know. I’ve been so slack with the blogging recently. The fact of the matter is I’ve been really reluctant to write anything. I’m not sure why. You’d think I’d be overflowing with London things to write about: “Oh, the free galleries I can see!” “Oh, the view of St.Paul’s against the blue horizon!” “Oh, the ads in the tube stations!”
But, no. No, I haven’t wanted to write about anything.
It feels like pulling teeth today, really, it does. It might be the fact that whilst I’m writing this I’m actually trying to watch an episode of ‘Rizzoli and Isles’, a ridiculous American crime show which in all honesty had one of its main characters have a serious crush on that horrible Fox News ‘interviewer’ who just yells at everyone that doesn’t agree with him. It might be because even though I’m in London, I’m not working yet and so I spend most of my days like a dilettante unmarried upper-class woman of the 19th century who has nothing to do with her time except embroider pretty things on to other pretty things whilst sitting on pretty things arranged next to other pretty things. It might be because I changed the blog address and lost all my stats and now I have no motivation to keep writing things and sending them off into the ether to see how popular I am in google searches and with people that don’t even know me. 
Anyway, whatever the reason, I do actually have a lot of things to catch you up on. I have so many things to catch you up on I’m probably going to have to divide it all into a couple of different posts.
So, first of all, Sweden.
Two weeks ago I headed to Stockholm for the 2012 Women Playwright’s International Conference. For a variety of reasons, mostly that I screwed up the submission process, I didn’t have a play being presented. But, a few good friends of mine from Australia did have plays being presented and were coming over for the conference, so I thought it would be worthwhile going along anyway.
Ah and how right I was.
It started well with a bright sunshine-y day in downtown Stockholm. With a bit of time to kill before registration started, I decided to take a walk around the surrounding sweetly cobbled streets. Whilst blissfully taking photos of the gorgeous Katarina Church, I saw some familiar looking figures walking towards me on the other side of the street. I stopped. They stopped. I pulled down my sunglasses. And, then, with squeals that would make the contestants of Britain and Ireland’s Next Top Model cringe with shame, we launched ourselves into the street to greet each other. Even though I knew my friends were coming to Stockholm, to the exact same conference that I was going to and we had discussed how and when we would meet up, there was something still so ridiculously exciting and thrilling about accidentally coming across them in the middle of foreign city.
Once we had squealed and giggled and jumped up and down in the street for a sufficient amount of time, we headed up to the theatre, debating whether or not we would forever embarrass ourselves and be painted as irredeemable theatre nerds by turning up to registration 15 minutes too early. So, instead we decided to sit down and catch up on the past 18 months, which unfortunately turned out to be the wrong choice, because, unsurprisingly at a theatre conference, most people are irredeemable theatre nerds and they had ALL decided to turn up 15 minutes early, meaning that by the time we turned up 15 minutes late, we were actually half an hour late and the queue for workshops was miles long. SO, we didn’t end up getting the workshops we wanted, but as one of the other conference participants told me later in the week, its sometimes better to go to the things that you don’t want to go to or have no interest in, because they’re the things that are going to really challenge you. Which, obviously was what I was aiming for. I mean, I was late deliberately. DELIBERATELY.
Anyway, whatever. After avoiding the speed dating and forced interaction activities in a manner reminiscent of teenage girls (we figured we had met enough people in the line for the workshops), we spent an afternoon chatting and gossiping with other Australians at the nicest theatre bar I have ever happened across in my extensive theatre career. See photo:

View from the bar

Pretty spectacular. Plus deliciously warm and bright Swedish sunshine, cider and good conversation, putting me in a pretty darn fabulous mood for the opening night party. Not that I really needed to be put in a better mood for the opening night party, as it was being held in the Stockholm Town Hall. That doesn’t sound so impressive if you’re used to the town halls of city councils in Australia, which are either modestly pretty 19th century piles covered in Grecian columns or horrifically grey 1960s concrete blocks. However, consider that the Stockholm Town Hall is where the Nobel Prize ceremony is held each year and the room in which they have the Nobel ball is covered in 10kg of gold. So, I was in a gold room, with a whole bunch of awesome female playwrights from around the world, as well as old friends and they were giving out FREE WINE. Kind of impossible to be in anything but a good mood with that sort of a set-up.
The next morning, we all trooped back to the main stage of the Sodrateatern for the keynote address on Theatre in the Arab World. We heard from women making theatre in Lebanon, Egypt and other parts of the Middle East. I kept thinking, ‘if I had to come up against all these obstacles to make theatre would I still be doing it?’ One woman, who looked several years younger than me, was involved in the Egyptian uprising last year and is currently creating verbatim theatre projects from other involved in whatever spaces she can find (schools, cafes, libraries). You hear something like that and then think back on your own plays about Jane Austen or girls thinking they’ve grown a fishtail and you think, ‘oh. Perhaps I’m not as serious a playwright as I thought I was.’ Still, it was amazing to be around a lot of women who are so focused on the messages that they are sending out into the world and the things they want to achieve with theatre.
That afternoon, presentations started. Each playwright was given a half hour slot in which the audience got an introduction from the playwright, a short reading from the script and the opportunity to ask further questions. It was surprisingly exhausting considering all I was doing was sitting on a chair and listening to people talk. I came up with some pretty piss-weak questions to begin with (‘Is this the start of the play?’ ‘Yes’ ‘Oh. Ok. Good.’) After dinner, we headed off a panel discussion on ‘Female Representation on Stage’, in which fellow Australians Van Badham and Chris Mead were in conversation with a couple of Swedes and a British woman about the state of women playwrights (and women in general) in the professional theatre. An interesting though slightly depressing conversation.
The next few days pretty much followed the same pattern. Workshops or lecutres in the morning, readings in the afternoon, dinner followed by performances or discussions in the evening. On Friday, an open mic night started and you should be able to guess by now, dear reader, that I took full advantage of the opportunity of a microphone and an empty stage. I read out two monologues, both of which were pretty well received and sang a song. People really need to keep me away from raised platforms and projection devices because… well, because attention-seeking behaviour on my behalf inevitably follows.
Of course, like any of these sorts of conferences, its not so much the scheduled events that make an impact as it is the conversations and interactions you have outside of the schedule that leaves you feeling so giddy with happiness that you’re ready to float off into the Swedish sunshine in a haze of pear cider and blue skies. So, just as important to the week were the endless punnets of strawberries bought by one of my friends, the D and M conversations had in the hostel when everyone else had gone to sleep as well as the impassioned theatre rantings that kept me tossing and turning long after I had tried to go to bed. The free lunches eaten on a high, open patio in between workshops and readings; the slightly ridiculous conversations had in between readings about the Swedish actors, one of whom was an impressive doppleganger of Ryan Gosling; the strangely garish ocean-themed paintings on the wall of the tiny alcove in the Indian restaurant where we had our dinner one night.
Best of all, I met several people who either live in London, will be in London soon or will be passing through.
Unfortunately, I left before the final party, which I hear was fantastic. On the upside, after a week of waiting, I finally got to sit in the brightly coloured plastic thrones to have my final Swedish cider of the week before heading on to Norway:

But that is, as I’ve stated previously, another story for another day.

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Random London Evenings

I don’t know why I’ve become so reluctant to blog over the past few weeks. Its not like I haven’t been doing things. I mean, its London! Of course I’ve been doing things! But, for whatever reason, possible blog topics have eluded me. There’s this general sense of, ‘Oh, yes, but, you know, that’s just what I do now. I just visit the Tate Modern on my lunch break, no biggie.’ Forgetting that Jenny of only a year or so ago would have lost her mind over someone who just visited the Tate Modern on their lunch break. I am now that Jenny and yet, I am still (as far as I can tell), in possession of my mind. Sorry, have just started on cider with blackberry liquer (seriously? I LOVE the cider selection in my local Sainsbury’s), so the sentences may be weird. And, also, why is it I only seem to blog when drinking? Not good for grammar and punctuation skills and as we have established before I judge people pretty harshly for those things and I don’t exclude myself from that harsh judgement, meaning I’ll probs wake up tomorrow morning re-read this post and decide that I my 18 years of education were clearly all a waste because I am evidently so dumb and a completely undateable human being. 
ANYWHO. As I said, its not like there hasn’t been things to talk about. I was with the fam in Edinburgh and then the Lake District, the latter of which I had never been to and it was just lovely. ‘I wandered lonely as a cloud’, except I was with my brother and dad and stepmother and I don’t like Wordsworth. But, despite reserving a special kind of hatred for Wordsworth’s over-the-top sentimentality, I had to admit I was quite the fan of his taste in landscapes. Well played, Wordsworth, well played.
I returned to London and started work experience with a young theatre company called Tonic, which is run by a very talented young director, who I very much enjoy being around and hearing her opinions on things. My main task has been research into climate change for a new play of theirs, which has slightly skewed my perspective on everything in my life whereby I’ve stopped imagining someday buying a nice apartment in some fabulous metropolis and settling down with a lovely bloke and instead have decided to start stockpiling tinned foods in the mountains somewhere and learning how to build fires and find fresh water. But, apart from my paranoia, its been great.
I’ve been to no less than two rooftop parties with hipsters in Brick Lane, which I think makes me dangerously close to being a hipster too, but luckily I don’t have funky glasses or work in graphic design or am incredibly skinny… on all other accounts though, I’m dangerously close.

Tommie Smith. In Clapham. Uh-mazing.

And, then, last night I had one of those wonderfully random evenings that you can’t quite explain but only really happen in big cities. I had been signing up to my local library on Thursday and happened to see a flyer for a screening on Friday evening of a documentary about Tommie Smith and John Carlos (the runners who made the black power slaute on the Olympic podium at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics. In tiny letters at the bottom of the flyer, it stated that Tommie Smith himself would be at a Q&A afterwards. I thought, really? Tommie Smith? He’s going to be in my local library? And, I thought, that’s something I really gotta see. I’m kind of a sook and I do cry at a lot of things, but that image is one of those things that tends to get me choked up no matter what the circumstances. The documentary wasn’t amazing (an ESPN TV documentary with many fast cut aways and lots of ‘inspirational’ music with little on historical detail), but it was certainly a thrill to be in the same room as Tommie Smith and to hear him speak. He’s certainly a character.
My housemate and I then headed home, where I changed and got ready to go to an all-night theatre performance. And, when I say all-night, I mean, all-night. It started at 11:45pm and went through until 6am. At the risk of making it sound naff, it was an ‘interactive’ piece based on Medea. But, it was so much more incredible and beautiful and magical than any interactive piece I’ve ever seen before.
The first half was the wedding of Medea and Jason. When we entered the space, the actors had these huge tents of coloured ribbons attached to their torsos, which they were spinning around in and we could stand under the giant tents with the actors and watch as the ribbons twirled around us and over us and past us. Music was playing loudly and lights were flashing. It was gorgeous, it was so joyful. The marriage of Medea and Jason was exciting and happened around us and with us. We played music, wrote rhymes for the couple, prepared them for the wedding ceremony. After a quick tea, coffee and biscuit break at 2am (in which I grabbed far too many biscuits and tea – caffeine! sugar! must keep up energy!) we went back into the space. This was probably my favourite moment of the whole night. We sat in the now empty space where we had witnessed Jason and Medea’s wedding. A group of women dressed in white ‘peasant’ women, who came through the crowd and took some of us by the hand, two at a time. I was one of the people chosen by a peasant woman. They took us into another room and got us into our pyjamas at which point it became clear that we were meant to be Jason and Medea’s children. We were put to bed, read a story, given hot chocolate and then told to go to sleep. During this time, a scene between Jason and Medea had a scene in the middle of the room, which the other half of the audience watched. I had a hard time not also wanting to watch and my ‘nanny’ had to keep telling me to go back to sleep, tucking me in and stroking my head. There was something so wonderfully warm and comforting about the whole experience that I really didn’t want to end, nor did I ever want to leave my wonderful nanny (who I continued to refer to as ‘my nanny’ in my head whenever I saw her in the show afterwards).
Many other things happened that were so much fun, but I don’t have the words or the time to describe them all. Apart from the show itself, which was wonderful, just being in the Southbank Centre at an odd time was magical in its own right. We had tea, coffee and biscuit breaks on the roof of the Southbank Centre at 2am and 4am and then at 6am. There’s something so peaceful and special about seeing a big city late at night. Its not completely dead, of course, I don’t think big cities ever are, but there’s something wonderful about seeing these big, empty spaces with only two people strolling slowly though them, holding hands, swaying their arms of spinning around. At 6am, we were given breakfast on a long table, with lovely china (some of it looked like it had come from ‘Hungry Tea’) and with the cast.
It was a wonderful experience, though oddly lonely, considering the huge crowd of people surrounding me. Everyone else had pretty much come with someone else and, despite the interactive nature of the show and that fact that during the show I spoke to many people, something about seeing them all in the morning light rather than in the darkness when being asked to do strange things meant I couldn’t talk to them. I leaned against the concrete of the Southbank Centre roof, looked over the orange sky of London and the happy, peaceful people sharing bread and fruit and wished desperately I had someone to share it all with. Of course, there was no-one, so I went home to bed instead.
Don’t feel too bad for me. I do have plenty of friends over here and it was all my own fault for not inviting someone to go with me. And, that’s kind of the interesting thing, because normally going to the theatre is such a complete experience for me that I don’t feel I need to go with anyone; I can enjoy it on my own. The strange thing was that even though was a complete experience, it was so unique, that I wanted desperately to be able to share it with someone.
Anyway, that’s by the by. It was a pretty fab and totally random night. I’m totally wrecked today though. I fell asleep at 6:30pm and woke up again at 7:30pm in the kind of exhausted haze that can only be solved by eating high-sugar, comfort food and then going to bed at a normal hour the next evening. I was meant to go out tonight and I just couldn’t manage it. Instead, I am lying horizontal on the couch, watching ‘Bridesmaids’ and drinking cider. Its pretty good.

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Edinburgh Fringe – Photo Essay

First morning, first show. Breakfast included, but overall the show is not great and the croissant is stale.


Dirty Great Love Story is my kind of theatre: fun, clever, wordy and about love. Hooray!

Look at all them posters! And I know those people on the white poster with all the faces! Yay for Lady Sings it Better

This looks cool. And upside down udder and a venue.


They totally stole my name!!

One walk down Royal Mile and I have a lot of unwanted paper.

Favourite shows from the first afternoon. Dirty Great Love Story and After the Rainfall

Look! Irish theatre friends at the Edinburgh Fringe! And I’ve been carrying around their bag all festival!

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Things I Learnt at the Edinburgh Fringe…

I was going to write something yesterday, because I really felt like I hadn’t made enough posts for July which, as we’ve discussed before, is connected to my long-standing obsession with my blog stats, but… well, I couldn’t be bothered last night, quite frankly. I got sucked into watching two episodes of ‘Damages’ instead and spent my evening mentally criticising Rose Byrne for being too skinny and congratulating Glenn Close on being terrifyingly creepy. 
So, anyway, I though I would start again in August and try to be a little bit more proactive and hard-working with the blog. So, here goes.
Today was my very first day at the Edinburgh Fringe EVER. I’ve been wanting to go to the fringe for a good few years and was really annoyed I missed it last year, but, anyway, never mind, I’m here now. It really wasn’t even a proper day, because, *technically* the Fringe starts tomorrow and because it was my Dad’s b’day this evening and we went out for dinner, which took 4 hours and by the end of it I was in no state to see anymore theatre. So, I’ve only seen 4 shows today, which my parents think is the most amazing and ridiculous thing they’ve ever heard ever (and they lived through the ’60s), but I know it’s pretty tame by Fringe standards.
However, after my extensive viewing experience across these 4 very different shows, I now feel that I am expert enough to start passing on lessons to those of you not lucky enough to have ever attended the Edinburgh Fringe.

1) Just because someone in the cast went to Central School of Speech and Drama doesn’t mean the show will be good. It also doesn’t mean that said actor can act. Also applies to RADA and LAMDA.

2) Sheets in a block colour are very arty. They are also very significant. They can be used to make all sorts of things. Ship sails. Water. Shrouds. Ropes. Sheets (on a bed). Do not underestimate the humble sheet. Do not underestimate the artistic kudos you can receive from using a humble sheet as a prop within your Edinburgh Fringe.

3) Creating a ‘standing-up bed’ (that is where the actors stand up and whilst other actors hold up pillows and wrap sheets around the ‘sleeping’ actors) is very ‘now’, is very ‘cool’. In short, I saw it in 50% of the Edinburgh shows today. Which means its either very ‘now’ or very ’20 years ago’.

4) Do not trust that Edinburgh shows will start on time. Do not leave 5 minutes in between shows, even if they are in the same venue. Because then you will be stuck in a position where you are waiting to see a production of ‘Shakespeare Over Breakfast’, which you weren’t really sure you wanted to see anyway, listening to Daniel Powter’s ‘Bad Day’ at full volume and hating on everyone in the show, the venue and the festival because your perfectly organised day is about to go down the tubes and it is clearly all their fault, and furthermore, they chose to do this deliberately, DELIBERATELY, I tell you, because they clearly dislike you (yes, YOU, specifically, YOU) so much.

5) Theatrical depictions of Australians by the British will inevitably involve either:
a) Racist comments (directed by a white Aussie towards another racial group)
b) Incredibly ugly clothes (think bright orange jumpers and cork hats)
c) bad accents
d) Surf Lifesavers
e) Jason Donovan and/or Home and Away references and/or Neighbours references
f) Very loud talking
g) Stupid and/or ignorant comments
or all of the above.
However, we should feel proud that Brits seem to think that we are the easiest way to bring humour and/or lightness into a scene. We’ve essentially become the Irish of the 21st century.

6) Just because a show includes breakfast in their ticket price does not mean it will be good. In fact, that’s probably your best indication it will be bad. They’re spending the money they should be spending on light effects and actors’ wages to provide you with stale croissants.

7) You will always miss out on something good. Also, you will always end up doing something you regret. It’s like a life lesson, but condensed so that you can experience it in the handy time-space of a day. Is time-space a term? I have a feeling its not, but I’ve been out drinking for my Dad’s 60th and I can’t remember anymore. Please leave suggested better terms in the comment sections. I may or may not take them on board depending on how amusing I find the term ‘time-space’ when I am sober. But, you will at least have the satisfaction of feeling superior and looking more intelligent than me by correcting me in my own comments section. Joy!

8) The Fringe is not environmentally friendly. There is not much you can do about this. People do not react well to you attempting to give back their flyers for ‘environmental reasons’. They think that you just don’t like them. Which is not true, you just want to give back their flyers for a person that is harder to convince or has a less sophisticated way of remembering which shows they want to see than you do (I fold down the top corner of the page in the Fringe guide where there are shows that I want to see. So far it has proved most effective). Really, I don’t see why they should be so offended. I’m saving them money! Making sure their flyers are most effectively used! They should be grateful!

9) Fringe chairs are uncomfortable. Always. You should take a pillow. Fringe venues are hot, despite the weather outside. Always. You should take a fan.

10) The Fringe guide book is overwhelming. The website is mildly better. Don’t try to plan things too far in advance. Pick a show at a time, go to it and figure out the rest later. Otherwise, you’ll be sitting there with the guide open on your lap, flicking back and forth muttering show times and strange venue names to yourself, grid references, attempting to create a cohesive whole out of something that is essentially the bargain bucket at a charity store (a BIG bargain bucket. The type that you end up dragging a paisley quilt cover out of assuming its a really awesome skirt).

11) Pretty much everyone has at least a 4 star review from someone for something. It is not a guarantee that the show will be good or worthwhile.

12) Female comedians like to have their photo taken in extreme close-up, usually with one eyebrow raised, possibly clutching strange objects like a brass horse, or a bunch of lemons. This proves how kooky and potentially amusing they are. Male comedians seem to prefer satirising CD covers and/or move posters and/or showing their penises (or pretending to).

13) If sheer number of related productions is anything to go by, Shakespeare is still a really excellent choice of show to put on. As is anything to do with Jane Austen. Or Dickens. Strindberg’s good if you want people to think you’re a little bit left of center and a true theatre intellectual (who’s Strindberg you ask? Well, if you have to ask, then you probably don’t deserve to know…)

I think that’s probably it for the moment. I’m sure there are more lessons, but I can’t remember them right now. I will write them down later. Lots of love, kiss kiss, going to sleep now, Jen.

At the Edinburgh Fringe there is a severe chance you will lose your head and grown a letter in its place. Found at:—1-PLACE-LEFT


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