Monthly Archives: July 2013

Edinburgh Continues

Where did I leave you? Time here doesn’t really exist. Nor do dates or days of the week. You enter ‘Fringe time’ and all that matters is shows shows shows and whether or not you’re hungry or if its raining and you need your umbrella and when does the next show start. Ok, so, yes, time does exist and its very important otherwise you’ll miss your next show, but, oh, shut up, I don’t know all the days have melded into one long continuous day even though the clock hands keep moving and sometimes the sun sets and the moon comes up but its all really just the same, long day.

So I think I last spoke to you on Sunday evening whilst perving on a cute tall, bearded Scottish bartender. That sounds like me, right?

Monday I spent at Underbelly doing various odd-jobs. That night we were given a pizza party! At which it was rumoured there were 100 pizzas ordered! Or perhaps 200! We didn’t quite know, but the pizza kept coming and oh were all the little worker bees happy. We possibly had an entire pizza to ourselves! Or maybe it was half. Either way it was lots and absolutely enough. I’ve noticed that my Edinburgh Fringe diet seems to consist of various forms of cheese on/in carbohydrate. Cheese twists. Cheese scrolls. Pizza. Cheese sandwich. Cheesy Mash. Cottage cheese toast. Occasionally I start to feel a little bloated and that’s when I go and buy a punnet of some kind of small, round, juicy thing in various shades (blueberries, cherries, strawberries, grapes) and eat it all very quickly and very enthusiastically and all in one go. ‘Mmmmm!’ I think, ‘Round, juicy sugary thing with Vitamin C will counteract all the rest of the badness I have consumed today!’ I haven’t gotten sick yet, so clearly it is working.

What else has happened? I made the mistake of going into a retro store opposite Underbelly on Monday because things were on sale. Then I made the mistake of looking at all the things very carefully. After that I made the mistake of trying on things that I liked. And I followed that up with the mistake of fitting into them very well and looking pretty so to cap it all off I topped it off with the colossal mistake of BUYING EVERYTHING. I comforted myself that the dresses were at least half (AT LEAST) the cost of similar retro dresses in London and that I had gotten 4 dresses for the price of 2 that I had bought in London just last week. So that is definitely a saving! Of some kind! In the long run! I think! I have worn at least two of these dresses already and lots of people compliment me on them so, mission accomplished! (I have voluntarily banned myself from all other Scottish charity and/or retro stores. It’s hard, but I need *some* money left over for theatre and booze).

Yesterday I got up at 8am to paint things at Underbelly. It was actually surprisingly satisfying. I got to use rollers. Many different rollers of many varying sizes. Long rollers. Little tiny rollers. Rollers with purple paint, rollers with beige paint. The occasional paint brush. Oh, how nice it was to see those lovely bold colours slide on over that boring ol’ wood. I enjoyed it so much I thought perhaps I should become a house-painter. But then I got switched to tech oddsbody on a tech run and I got to pin up curtains and run around looking for things and climb up ladders so people could pass me wires and then I decided I should become a techie. So, just a typical day in my completely unstructured, conviction-less and seemingly aimless life then.

After the day spent building and painting and pinning and cleaning and running around getting sandwiches, I decided to walk to my venue, which isn’t *too* far away, but it is *a bit* far away and its also *a bit further away* then all the places I had been during the day and by the time I was walking back I was ready to eat any particularly juicy looking body part that was swaying ahead of me. I managed to contain myself enough to get to a M&S, but then found myself almost crying in the aisle, staring at the sandwiches and wailing, ‘There’s not enough bread! Where has all the bread gone in these sandwiches?’ And cursing Robert Atkins from the very depths of my soul. Luckily I found an Upper Crust which sold baguettes the length of my arm, so after wolfing one of those down, I was able to continue on my merry way without taking hunks of meat out of passing strangers. I then headed out for some drinks with one of my housemates who knows many, many people at the fringe. So I also got to meet many, many lovely people and then more came along and I met them too and it was all lovely because everyone was lovely and we all gave each other flyers and talked about our shows and swapped stories and gave each other encouragement and it all sounds a bit lovey-dovey now, but it was nice to be in the middle of, even if it’s a little dull and tedious in the re-telling. I made the mistake of coming home late and attempting to do work after 3 drinks and expecting it to take 30 minutes, and then finding out it was going to take more like 2 hours. After far too few hours sleep, the sun rose and I was far too anxious to sleep again, meaning I spent the morning in bed filling out review requests and show information and doing other ‘useful’ things like being on Twitter and promoting my show (and occasionally watching videos of porcupines eating bananas or kittens demanding to be stroked).

Today the Fringe officially started and many of my friends began their previews. I don’t start til Saturday though, which is kind of nice, meaning I can see a lot of stuff and also get eased into the Fringe a little, get used to the vibe, do some flyering, meet people etc. all without too much pressure at first. I am still very worried about flyering. But I’m sure I’ll be over it by the end of the month. The key is just to be confident and happy and certain about the fact that your show is good. I’m sure that’s the key. I’ll try that key and if it’s the key I’ll let you know. If it’s not, I’ll try and figure out what the actual key is by the end of the fringe and also let you know. Just in case you wanted to know the key. Key.

I managed to see 4 shows today, a real wonderful mix of things and if nothing else I’m grateful to be at the Fringe for the sheer inspiration. I think that if somebody wanted to get an education in theatre they could either go to university for 3 years, or they could just come to the fringe and see as many shows as possible. I think they’d pretty much be able to cover most forms of theatre over the 3 and a half weeks. What a terribly exciting project that would be. I’m trying desperately not to think of the state my bank account will be in by the time I get home (September is for sleeping and also eating baked beans on toast and walking all the places because I can’t afford public transport), because I can also kind of tell that this is really, truly worth it. I’m not going to regret seeing every possible show at the fringe this year. That is not a regret I would ever have. So, FTM, as a friend of mine would say (fuck the money) and FTS (fuck the superannuation. I just made that one up). Who needs a house? And who wants to retire anyway? I’ll work until I die! (On a related but completely tangential matter, one of my ancestors did just that. He was squashed in a Newcastle mine at the age of 87. 87! If he can work in a mine until that age I can certainly sit in front a computer screen replying to emails. If there are still computers to sit in front of. As long as the polar ice caps are still in place and I haven’t drowned.)

So far the start of the fringe has been remarkably stress-free and enjoyable. We’ll see what happens when I have to try and get people into see my show. But I have a good feeling. Because I really do have a good feeling about this show. I actually, truly believe in it and think that people will enjoy it. Amazing!

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Edinburgh: The Start

So, yesterday after my final shift at work, I packed up my things, jumped on a train to King’s Cross and headed to Edinburgh.

Oh if only it had been that simple, friends. If only.

Do you know what the worst thing about packing is? Usually, you can’t do most of it until the actual day that you are leaving. So, though I had been gradually packing my bag over the past week, washing clothes (particularly knickers) and packing them away, many of the most important things (laptop, chargers, iPod, toothbrush, toiletries) that I use day-to-day had to be remembered on the day I actually left. And because I am me and I prefer everything to be done in a mad rush, I always forget this important fact until it comes to the day that I am leaving and I realise I haven’t actually left enough time to get everything together. It’s the same instinct that convinces me that everywhere in London is only half an hour away on the tube (everything in London is not half an hour away on the tube). By some amazing twist of fate I had left myself a couple of hours between finishing my last work shift and my train to Edinburgh, but instead of taking advantage of this, I instead chose to go home and eat all the food I had left in the fridge. Fair enough, I hadn’t eaten since the morning and I didn’t want the food to be wasted. But I then followed this up by watching my favourite BBC bonnet drama of all time on YouTube (it’s The Buccaneers, if you’re interested. About 4 American girls who go to England specifically to marry British aristocrats. Please don’t read too much into that). Why, you may ask. Well, because I had tried to watch it the night before, you see, and the internet wasn’t working properly and that had annoyed me, so, of course, I had to watch *just a little* whilst I was packing to ease the irritation of the night before. Of course, watching my favourite bonnet drama of all time whilst I am packing turned into watching my favourite bonnet drama of all time whilst my suitcase sat, open, in the hallway, being ignored.

Now, the suitcase with my clothes wasn’t the only thing I had to drag up to Edinburgh, unfortunately. The other thing was my props basket, of which I had grown so fond and attached to that I had bought a garden trolley with which I could drag around my props basket (it being too inconvenient to carry from my house to the venue every day), instead of, say, transferring the props to some kind of easily carried bag and then buying another, similar basket up in Edinburgh. Of course, I immediately became extremely fond of and attached to the trolley and chose to ignore the fact that the trolley was cumbersome in its own special way and I should possibly have bought one in Edinburgh, instead of carting one up from London. Nevertheless, I had the trolley and it was here now and it had cost me 23 pounds and I had to deal with it. However, me being me, it didn’t occur to me until an hour before I was supposed to get on the tube and head to King’s Cross that perhaps I should have done a test run with both trolley and suitcase and bag-with-tape-player (and backpack for important things) to see if it could be managed. I pushed the hall rug out of the way and attempted to drag the trolley and the suitcase behind me down our approximately one and a half metre long hallway. Even in the short distance, it didn’t really work. So, then I piled everything on to the trolley, suitcase, basket, bag-with-tape-player. Tape player bag immediately slid off. I reached a compromise, whereby I kept the basket and suitcase on the trolley, carried the bag with the tape player and had my backpack on my back. So far, so good. So, more Buccaneers. Obvs.

After this short YouTube break I glanced into the hallway, which was currently housing the trolley with its basket and suitcase, the backpack and bag propped against it. I then thought of the stairs out of my apartment. I then thought of the stairs going into Clapham Common station. I then thought of Clapham Common’s escalator. I then thought perhaps, perhaps I was out of my mind and I should just call a taxi. But the thought of paying a taxi almost the cost of one of my one-way train tickets to Edinburgh hurt too much and I pushed the thought immediately from my mind and watched *just a little* more Buccaneers.

Now 15 minutes past the time I had decided to leave the house by, I immediately started to panic and think that I had forgotten everything important. When I couldn’t think of what those important things that I had forgotten were, I immediately stuffed a variety of not-so-important-but-possibly-useful-if-everything-goes-wrong things into my suitcase (extra shoes, scarves in case the heatwave suddenly turns into a cold snap, a last-minute shirt, more books etc.) Now convinced I had absolutely everything I could possibly need, I pulled my trolley and bags out the door. Standing at the top of the stairs, I realised things were going to be difficult. Very difficult. Sure, it was easy to drag everything behind me on the trolley, but going down stairs? That was another matter altogether. I took the bags in shifts and tried not to think about how I would have to leave my bags unattended at Clapham Common station to do the same thing later on.

Now, my trolley is cute, but set up the way that I have it set up, the handle is very low. Think of one of those childrens lawnmowers that spit out bubbles instead of cutting grass. The handle is about that height. About the height of my knees. So, to drag it along I had to lean to the side, backwards and down. Apart from looking ridiculous, it was terrible for my back. Only a few metres up the street and I was starting to ache. Not only was it was awkward, I had to keep stopping and checking that my screws were all in place (the one and only test drive I had done the week previously ended in disaster when I picked the trolley up at Clapham Common station and it fell apart in my hands because I had not tightened the screws with a spanner – I had only used my hands. This time I had used a spanner, but I still wasn’t taking any chances). It took me 15 minutes to get to Clapham Common station, when it normally takes me 5.

At the station I was confronted with the problem with the stairs. Just as I was about to abandon half my bags and go down, a gentleman asked if I was alright. It is always my instinct to tell a stranger that I am fine (friends are a different matter, but strangers shouldn’t have to deal with all my shit), but this time I decided to take the help offered. He carried my suitcase down and I took the trolley with the basket on. Very pleased with myself (and the stranger), I rolled down to the barriers and looked at the screen of approaching trains. And that’s when I remembered the sign I had seen earlier in the week. Trackwork. Rail replacement service. The worst three words a Londoner can ever hear. Not to mention a Londoner who had a suitcase, a basket, a trolley, a bag-with-tape-player and a backpack and had just dragged all of them down a flight of stairs to get to the station. I cursed myself for forgetting that I had told myself to remember to look at this information online earlier in the week, when I had seen the sign. I asked a station manager how I could get to King’s Cross. He told me I needed to get the overground to Stockwell, then get on the Victoria line to King’s Cross. My whole plane had revolved around the fact that I would not need to change trains. So, in a panic, running even more late and exhausted, I decided to drag all my things back up the stairs, out of Clapham Common station and get the damn taxi anyway. This time, two gentlemen helped. Amazing. ‘I have always relied on the kindness of strangers’, I felt like fluttering at them, except for the fact that I was sweaty and grumpy and they were already gone.

Safely in a mini-cab, my things in the back, we sped towards King’s Cross (well, we sped as fast as London city traffic will allow). The trolley rolled around in the back, making me cringe every time it smashed into the side of the car as if it were trying to escape by breaking through the window. I swore the next time I went to the Edinburgh Fringe from London I would hire a freakin’ car (the next time, oh, the next time).

The cabbie dropped me off at King’s Cross and I started my strange procession towards the station. Somehow, I started pushing the trolley instead of pulling it and everything suddenly was much easier. I mean, sure I was bent over ridiculously (keep in mind the height of the handles) with my arms squished together, making my cleavage if not scandalous, at least overly noticeable; and sure the fact that I was now pushing the cart meant it was going at a speed just-the-other-side-of-manageable, but at least my back wasn’t hurting. Quite so much.

I got my tickets and headed to the train. Next hurdle: getting all my luggage into the luggage storage areas. An Indian family was way ahead of me and was proceeding to pack their own over-large suitcases (and trolleys) into my carriage. I sped around and went to the other side of the carriage, nimbly jumping ahead of a girl coming at the storage area from the other side of the carriage and proceeded to take up all the space with all of my shit. I didn’t even notice the little judgemental pause she left as she stared at my things in the luggage area and then attempted to put her things in as well. Well, I kind of didn’t notice. I pretended I didn’t notice.

Then followed 4 and a half of hours of bliss on a train. Those of you who don’t yet know my love-affair with trains, well. Let me just tell you that it is a deep, meaningful and, I expect, everlasting feeling. I love the time I spend on trains. I love feeling separate from the ‘real world’. I love listening to my music and seeing the world go past. Putting wi-fi on trains was a big mistake, in my opinion. I pretend it doesn’t exist. If people ring me, I’m all, “oh, I’m so sorry, I would do that for you right now, of course, but you see, I’m on a train’. Trains are the freakin’ bomb. Closely followed by planes. Trains win mainly because planes are scarier. And travelling on a train makes me think I am in the nineteenth-century. I read my book, I listened to music, I stared out the window, I napped, I ate, I laughed, I cried (I honestly did), I experienced all the things that it is ever really necessary to experience in a single day in the life of a human being. You don’t need anything more than a train.

The closer we got to Edinburgh, the more melancholy and vulnerable I started to feel. I don’t rightly know whether or not it was the approach to Edinburgh and THE FESTIVAL or if it was because I was tired and hungry (no vegetarian sandwiches left at the train cafe), or if it was the fact that I was listening to Frightened Rabbit’s Fuck This Place or a combination of all three, but I suddenly wished the train journey was three times as long (to be honest, I tend to always wish that train journeys were three times as long). I got off at Waverley station with all my bags feeling very sad and very scared, very small and very intimidated. Drunken Wallys (I mean the character from the Where’s Wally books, by the way – 4 of them, all in very shiny blue tights with pockets over the groin area for… well I don’t know, really. Money, maybe? The pockets were all on the outside of the tights, so they couldn’t be for their penises. Unless they had all, collectively, put their tights on inside-out accidentally due to the excessive consumption of alcohol before getting dressed) caroused in front of me and attempted to steal the roses sticking out of my props bag. I then took the lift up to the street and stepped out into Saturday night Edinburgh, pushing my trolley in front of me. The drunken people were very amused by my attempts to push my trolley over the cobblestones. I was not so amused, especially once I got to the hostel and realised a) one of the goddamn screws had fallen out of the goddamn trolley a goddamn second time and b) there were more goddamn stairs to be tackled.

Once I had everything stored safely in my hostel room, I decided that even though it was 11pm, I wanted to head out and see beautiful Edinburgh. Because I love Edinburgh. It’s a beautiful city. If I could find some beautiful Edinburgh man with a beautiful Scottish accent to marry me and whisk me away to an Edinburgh house to live in, I would do so. I would do so right now (that may be the cider I am currently drinking talking, because last time I remember talking about this I was adamant I was going to be a happy spinster living on a Australian outback farm with two dogs and a lot of crocodiles). Even with all the tourist crap everywhere. Even with the kilts and the whiskey and the red beards on everything, it is a magical, magical city. I walked up the Royal Mile towards the castle and hey, if you want somewhere quiet and a little creepy and a little special and a little bit ‘significant’ and inspiring, I can recommend the Royal Mile at night. There are surprisingly few people about, and the shadows just add to the atmosphere. I wandered and stared into buildings, down alleyways, at historical interest signs, picked up pennies and recited that poem to myself about picking up pennies and having good luck. It wasn’t much, but it at least it all did seem to be mine.

Today, I relished a small sleep-in (to 8:53 am!!!) before heading towards the Underbelly for my first day of training. Did I forget to mention that I’m working up here for a venue as well as doing my show? Did I forget to say that? Did I forget to tell you HOW INSANE I AM? Oh, I forgot, did I? WELL, I AM INSANE. Anywho, today really marked the start of my Edinburgh experience. I was kind of regretting it when I woke up, to be honest. I really would have preferred to sleep in and then go and sit in some of my favourite Edinburgh cafes  and eat scones and watch the rain rather then go and be trained and get messy working for Underbelly. I had to be there for 10am, which would have been fine, except for the fact that the streets in Edinburgh are constantly changing names. For no reason at all, it seems. So, I had memorised a whole heap of street names from my Google maps, which turned out to be the COMPLETE OPPOSITE STREETS of where I needed to be (here’s a tip, if you ever find yourself in Edinburgh – and who wouldn’t find themselves in Edinburgh? It’s utterly delightful – and you are using Google maps, if your map shows a little blue path going down one street, don’t read the name of the connecting street over the intersection that seems to continue on from that little blue path and expect it to be the right name. It’s not. Inevitably, it’s not. Even if the streets seem to follow on from each other, it seems that an intersection changes the name of a street in Edinburgh. And many other things also change the name of a street. Like, a bridge. And, traffic lights. And, like, they were just bored of that name so, like, they decided to call it something else from this random point onwards, and, just, like, deal with it, ok?) We had training and then we had an afternoon of assisting with the set-up of all of the Underbelly venues. I spent a good hour sorting screws into different sizes. Never done that before! Luckily I was doing it with a very nice English girl, who sounded American, who had grown up in China and now studied in Scotland, so there was plenty to talk about. There are some fab sounding shows in the Underbelly program (oddly enough, half of them seem to be Australian), so I’m looking forward to seeing some of them, in between flyering and working and doing my show.

Agh, good God, there is no time, none at all.

As it was grey and cold today, for lunch I decided on ‘Mum’s Comfort Food’. That is seriously the name of the cafe I went to. And, let me just say, that if you ever go to Edinburgh (and why wouldn’t you go to Edinburgh? It’s delightful), you need to go to this cafe. It was MADE for grey, rainy Scottish days. Everything is old-fashioned comfort food – mac and cheese, burgers, sausage and mash, pies… As a vegetarian, I often miss out on these comfort foods, because they usually involve meat, but ‘Mum’s’ caters beautifully to vegetarians. I’ve never really had sausage and mash in the UK (having been vegetarian for 9 years now and a diet-freak weirdo before that) but Mum’s not only has sausage and mash, it has vegetarian sausages! It has a CHOICE of vegetarian sausages! It has a CHOICE of vegetarians gravies! It has a choice (of at least 12) different types of mash! DIFFERENT TYPES OF MASH! OMG DIFFERENT TYPES OF MASH. I got 3 veggie sausages with tomato and thyme gravy and chipotle and cheese mash which I couldn’t pronounce, but I could appreciate. Oh, yes, I could appreciate it. It was the perfect meal for a girl who was cold and hadn’t eaten breakfast and was about to spend the afternoon lifting heavy things in the rain (I am so hard-core. I LOVE being hardcore. I should like, totally get something pierced or something). They even gave me a marshmallow chocolate covered biscuit because I agreed to share my 4-person table with another woman that I didn’t know. See, kids? That’s what happens when you share. You get marshmallow chocolate covered biscuits. Someone should let Kevin Rudd and the Australian public know re: letting refugees arriving on boats claim asylum in Australia.

Anyway, I am now in the wonderful over-priced bar that I always go to when in Edinburgh and I have enjoyed a pint of my favourite Scottish cider, Thistly Cross, which is twice the strength of other kinds of cider and is therefore twice as good and is making it twice as impossible for me to type correctly and recognise how to fix spelling mistakes and everything is good because I am also perving on the cute bartender and pretending that he is perving on me too, when really he is just watching the people coming in the door, but I don’t care, I don’t care, because I am in Edinburgh and I am so so excited and everything is wonderful, wonderful, wonderful and everything feels possible and I’m sure everything will be different by the end of the fringe, but right now everything is wonderful, wonderful, wonderful and I can’t wait, I can’t wait, I can’t wait.

EDINBURGH!!!

 

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Almost Edinburgh

You know what today is? Today is the last day I’m in London. Today is simply a day I am not in Edinburgh. That’s all today is. That’s all this week has been. ‘Days-I-have-not-yet-been-in-Edinburgh’.

I am, in equal measure, excited and terrified about what is about to happen next week. I have no illusions. I know its going to be a hard slog. I know I’m going to have little-to-no-audience. I know I’m going to find flyering difficult. And, yet. I’m really, really dreadfully excited. Its probably because a) Deep down I’m a cock-eyed optimist and whilst I’d never want to say this to anyone in person, there is a side of me that’s going, ‘Imagine what it would be like if I became the unexpected STAR of Edinburgh? Imagine what it would be like if in a month’s time, MY LIFE HAD CHANGED IRREVOCABLY?’ And then I’m all:

Rainbow Happy

for at least half an hour.

I think also b) I’m looking forward to getting out of London and having a bit of a change, meeting new people all of whom share my interests and passions. I like those people. I know I exist in a happy little rainbow bubble where everyone is like me, but, well, sometimes its just nice to be in those bubbles. Sometimes its comforting. Leave me alone intercultural-happy lefty idealists let me live in my upper-middle class white artist ghetto for a bit.

c) I just really like Edinburgh. And I like that I’m going to spend 4 and a half hours on a train to get there. I really like trains. Have I told you that before? I LOVE trains. I love that you can’t do ANYTHING on trains. This is also the basis for my passion for planes as well. People call you up and either they can’t get you on the phone and you’re all, ‘Oh, sorry, I’m on a train/plane. I’ll have to deal with that at a point when I am in the real world. Right now I am existing in a parallel universe where chores and tasks DO NOT EXIST.’ I liked both things better when I couldn’t get the internet on them, but, hey. This is the life I think I will have to get used to. Trains are better because you can see the scenery better and you don’t have to look at the scenery half in a, ‘oh isn’t that pretty’ kind of way and half in a, ‘oh, I do hope it doesn’t get very close to me at a very fast rate’ kind of way (though after Spain and all that happened there yesterday, perhaps I’ll feel differently tomorrow).

Anyways. That is all in the future. Future posts to be written about all those exciting things. Right now, its about the past and what I did then.

TUESDAY

Tuesday is a boring day. Exciting new things don’t happen on Tuesdays. Except for impromptu Clapham Common drinking picnics with your workmates that involve playing soccer and singing (half the words of) ‘American Pie’ to a guitar . They happen on Tuesdays. Tuesdays are the best days.

WEDNESDAY 

Ok, so actually, Wednesdays are boring days. Exciting things don’t happen on Wednesdays. Oh! I got a gift from a project I crowdfunded in Ireland in 2011 (!!) It was a little video with stories from around Dublin. The idea is that these stories will make up original tours around Dublin delivered to your phone via an app. Its a cute idea. I would like to see the app. The characters they have on the DVD are very Dublin. It made me nostalgic.

THURSDAY

Thursday is a day for cleaning. Cleaning all the things. I washed rugs and sofa pillowcases and sofa covers and throws. Why did I do this? Because I found the 5th flea in our house over 3 weeks. And we all decided that washing EVERYTHING was the way to go. This might unnerve you, but I have never washed rugs or sofa throws or sofa pillows before. It seems like a very adult responsible thing to do. You know, to notice that a communal item requires cleaning and taking that task on board. I’ve lived most of my life attempting to avoid noticing this sort of thing. Well, that’s not entirely fair. I just was never quite aware that that was a thing that you could do for furniture. Sure, I saw ladies in 19th century movies batting their rugs to get the dust off them, but I just assumed that was something you only really did for 19th century rugs. You know, because 21st century rugs have dust-repelling technology built into them so its just not actually necessary to clean them anymore. Right?

You’re all really glad you didn’t house-share with me in uni now, aren’t you?

FRIDAY

Today I saw the latest instalment in the Before… series (‘Before Sunrise’, ‘Before Sunset’ and now ‘Before Midnight’). I was going to write ‘final’, but I kind of don’t want it to be the final instalment. I kind of hope they keep re-visiting these characters every 9 years. My friend and I had very different reactions to the movie. I was hysterically happy at the end, she was devastated (we both still cried though). Like the two movies before, the ending is open so you the audience can very much make their own decision about what happens next (until they make another instalment and take the openness out of it). So, I think we latched on to different thing – me to hope, her to despair. That said, I’ve also been in an incredibly angry, shitty, ‘the-world-is-crap-and-owes-me’ mood the last little while and I think seeing a version of that up on screen made me feel just a tiny bit vindicated – ‘See? The world is crap! I said so myself! But you can still be a little bit happy anyway, if you don’t think about it too much.’

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The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart

Isn’t that a beautiful title? That is a beautiful title. You read that title and you think, ‘that is something I want to know more about. That is something I would sit down and hear a story about.’

I wish I had come up with that title.

I didn’t come up with that title. This guy did.

But, still. It’s a beautiful title.

And it’s a beautiful play. I was lucky enough to get day tickets on Monday night (it’s entire season is sold out, except for Monday nights, which you have to buy, online, from 9am on the day of the performance) and despite the sweltering weather and the fact that the venue HAD NO AIR-CONDITIONING (ok, ok, its England, they got caught out, but, STILL) it was a wonderful, wonderful play.

I don’t generally write about things I’ve seen because I don’t think I do it very well. But I’m going to try and write down my experience of this one, because I think it’s important to understanding a lot of things for me – about why I went to Ireland, about why I love the theatre, about what draws me to folk music and folk tales.

A little back story. ‘The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart’ is a based on Tam Lyn and other folk tales in which the hero is taken into a parallel fairy world/hell and about what happens when they finally get out again. ‘The Strange Undoing’ is set on mid-winter’s eve in a Scottish border county town called Kelso where an uptight academic (Prudencia Hart) is attending a conference entitled ‘Border Ballads (neither Border nor Ballad?)’ If that wasn’t injury enough for Prudencia, her car then gets covered in a snowdrift and she has to spend the night in a pub hosting a karaoke ‘nite’ with a fellow ‘folklorist’ who studies ‘The X Factor’ and football chants. Desperate to escape, she wanders off into the night to find a B & B and that’s when things go from bad to worse.

If it were just that, it would be an enjoyable enough play. But the thing that makes the play truly fun is that it is done in a ‘storytelling’ style, with the actors/storytellers/musicians alternating between acting characters, providing narration, singing/playing songs and creating the set and props out of a variety of objects they find to hand, including tables, napkins and audience members. The audience is spread through the space on folding chairs at the London Welsh Centre (as dowdy and untrendy a mid-twentieth century community space as it would be possible to find – from which stems it’s incredible charm) while the Scottish songs start blare out on traditional Scottish folk instruments (I messaged my father to ask if this is what is called ‘getting in touch with your roots’. He replied it was simply ethnic confusion on a grand scale). The storytelling is interspersed with Scottish folk songs, performed by the actors on a variety of instruments stored on a table up the front of the room.

And here we get to the trouble. I can’t really explain to you what these folk and traditional songs to do to me. If you search for ‘Will Ye Go Lassie Go?’ (the show’s opening number) on YouTube, you get a series of mawkishly slow or tackily upbeat covers. You’ll listen to those songs and think I’m pathetic for being so easily moved, so simply manipulated. But done live by a group of musicians you’ve never heard of, all of whom are just a few feet from you, standing tall, confident and looking you directly in the eye – conveying with their eyes that something big and significant is about to occur – well, suddenly these little songs become another thing entirely. They’re simple songs, yes, songs that you know so well (even if you don’t really know them at all), things that you have heard in movies, sung by your grandparents, on ads, that you might have learnt at school, that somehow just get into you. They can be dreadful, they can be nothing at all and at other times, they will have you pinned to your seat with delight, every cell in your body on edge, aching for the next note to wash over and hit you. Is that too much? I don’t think so. That’s what it feels like. And I can’t really explain why.

And that is what this play was like. There was much that I didn’t understand. Allusions and imagery that washed over me and filled up my eyes and caught in my throat for reasons that I couldn’t fathom or explain rationally. I understand the basic plot, of course, the level one metaphors and discussion, but the reason the story was being told, ah, well, now that was another matter entirely (that was more a level ten kind of discussion). The lines made sense, I knew the meaning of all the words, but what it all added up to, well I wasn’t entirely sure. In some ways it’s very similar to how I used to think about Foucault at university (‘I know what all these individual words mean, Foucault, but when you put them together in that particular order I AM AT A COMPLETE FUCKING LOSS), but instead of frustration and annoyance (which is generally what I felt when reading Foucault – he only wrote that way so he could feel smarter by making everyone else confused), I felt lifted, stretched, as if trying to reach for the realisation of a feeling that was just outside of my grasp. The show felt like one great big attempt at describing and depicting feelings so big and complex that they couldn’t be pinned down.

When a theatre show has really grabbed me, when it has really affected me, this is how I feel – I walk out of the theatre encased in my own little hyper-sensitive bubble, alert to every stimuli the world throws at me. It’s one of the reasons I love going to the theatre on my own, so that I can leave and just walk around in my little bubble for a while, letting the images and feelings and thoughts brought up by the play just sit with me, rather than attempt to start talking and analysing and understanding and normalising and slipping straight back into real life. My favourite thing to do in Sydney was to see a show at Belvoir St or the Stables and then walk home alone to Erskineville in the cool summer air (don’t tell Dad) mulling everything over before collapsing exhausted into bed. This walk home was essential not only to falling asleep (I’d be so excited and hyped up by everything I’d seen that even if I went straight home I wouldn’t be able to sleep right away anyway) but to my enjoyment of the theatre show itself. The walk home could sometimes take as long as the play itself took and was a way of extending out that final moment of a play (the bit before the audience claps – and they always clap too soon for my money). The fact that I can feel something but I can’t fully understand it only increases the intensity of the experience (incidentally it’s also why I’d be a pretty shit reviewer – because the shows I really love take me forever to understand and digest and absorb and as this post is proving, my ability to explain what these excellent things are about or why they are good takes a corresponding nose-dive).

Anyway, what has all this got to do with Ireland and folk music? Well, as I tried to explain clumsily at the start, folk music (well-performed folk music) has the same effect on me. It’s not the music itself usually, because, as I said, they’re pretty simple songs, often done pretty poorly. It’s watching excellent musicians perform them, improvise over the top of them and bring themselves to the song. In performance, music is all about feeling. You’d think, looking at some boring hipster bands that music is all about nice clothes and closing your eyes and looking cool. But, I think it should be about a strange, inexplicable attraction. A pull, a connection between you and the musician and the music. Something that draws you into a song or a band or a musician for a reason you can’t quite put your finger on. It’s that strange mix of confusion, hyper-sensitivity and feeling that I get after a really full and inspiring theatre show.

And, Ireland? Well, to be honest with you, I think I was possibly trying to find a place where I could feel that way all the time. And that place was not Sydney. And I’m sad to say it’s not London. I mean, I love London, but it’s just a city. A bigger city, a richer city, a city where more things happen, but it’s just a city. London is too normalised, too modern, too busy, too relentless for you to be able to be overwhelmed by things. That probably doesn’t make sense. Ok, so in London, you’re too busy trying to get from A to B, trying to figure out how to stretch your pay check, where to meet your friends, where to experience the ‘next greatest thing’ (that someone else, usually in the media, has decided is the next greatest thing). You shut yourself down so you don’t have to deal with all the mundanity (is that a word? No red lines = word). I know city living. I’ve lived in cities my whole life. I understand them. That’s not to say I don’t sometimes get stopped in my tracks by something. Maybe by something good (a show, a gig, the moon, the Thames). Sometimes its bad – like when I carelessly walk by someone I want to care about (a homeless person, an old person, an upset person – someone I care about, in theory, in the safety of my own home, but not in the real world, not in the street). In a city you walk past these people all the time. The only way to survive is to just keep on walking. But sometimes, a few steps past whoever it is that I’m ignoring, its like someone has violently ripped through all my shut-down visage and forced me to experience how shit the world is all at once and in that second. And then it passes and I shut down again.

So, I know cities. I know what it’s like. And I guess I wanted to live in a place where I didn’t feel like I was deliberately shutting myself down for most of the day. (And just to be clear – its not that I wanted to move away from cities to avoid the homeless people. It’s that I wanted to move away from cities to avoid the deliberate shutting out of all things, both good and bad, just so that you can get through your day without being constantly distracted). And I thought that Ireland, where so much folk music came from, where so many myths and legend came from, with it’s history of passion and emotion and sorrow, well, I thought it might just be a place where everyone was walking around utterly absorbed in every moment of every day.

That turned out not to be the case, of course. Not to say that the move didn’t shake me up a bit, but it wasn’t *quite* what I had expected. In any case, it was probably a very naive hope. Much as the Romantic in me (capital ‘r’, people, not the small ‘r’ romantic you always associate me with) would like to feel hyper-connected and aware of all the goodness and the beauty in the world at all times, there has to be limit. You have to be able to sleep. You have to be able to eat. You have to be able to sit still and feel nothing now and then. Otherwise you would keel over from exhaustion, spending your entire life on tenterhooks, waiting for the next wave of emotions to wash over you and drag you under (As a side note, I do find it odd that considering how much I hated the Romantic poets at high school I seem to have modelled a great deal of my opinions, ideas and life on theirs. Maybe I hated them because they reminded me too much of myself…)

Anyway, all these musings aside, I want to state how delightful it is to be willingly dragged out of your everyday mundaneness and littleness into something much broader, wilder, denser; something beyond your everyday comprehension and consideration for a few hours. And that is what ‘The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart’ did for me on Monday night.

I do still just really love that title.

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Even More London

This poor little blog is getting so neglected. And even when I do get the chance to write, its just in bullet-point form, no overarching themes or ideas, structure to bring it together (because, let’s be honest, all my blogs up until the last couple of months have had these things in DROVES)…. no, its just a list of my day-to-day activities. At least some alien historian researching the culture of Generation X a thousand years in the future is going to be really happy that I did this. I’ll be the next Samuel Pepys.

Except, without the Great Fire of London bit.

Or the plague (please, God).

I don’t want to worry you but I suspect its going to get even worse when I head up to Edinburgh. You won’t even be getting paragraphs, you’ll just get slightly hysterical yelled updates – ‘DAY 10 – ATE A DEEP-FRIED MARS BAR! DAY 14 – HAVE ONLY SLEPT 2 HOURS! DAY 20 – DON’T KNOW WHY I WANTED TO DO THIS! DAY 23 – CAN NO LONGER REMEMBER MY LAST NAME OR HOME ADDRESS! PLEASE SOMEONE SEND HELP IMMEDIATELY!’

Anyway, without further ado, the past 5 days –

WEDNESDAY

What did I do on Wednesday that I can classify as new? Well, this might be too much of an over-share, but its the only thing I can reasonably call ‘new’. I slept totally nude. And, I do mean, TOTALLY nude. No sheets or doona or anything. Windows wide open (the curtains were closed – come on, guys, I’m not a weirdo). So it’s not exactly a completely new thing. I’m a nude sleeper from way back. The summer before I left I can remember it being so hot in my room that I slept nude and then created little ice packs to put on my forehead, my chest and pile up around my middle area. Sure, I woke up thinking I’d wet the bed, but I woke up cool. Which was the only thing that mattered in the Australian summer.

ANYWAY, point is, I’d never had to sleep this way in London before. Even last summer, I might have slept nude, but I still covered up with a doona (which might sound odd, but I’m very particular with my PJ’s and if they’re too cloying or too warm or too itchy or too slippery I generally throw them off in irritation halfway through the night anyway. So it’s best to just get it over and done with early on). Wednesday night, however, was disgusting. It had been 33 degrees during the day (yeah, ok, shut up Australians – I’m not used to it anymore and besides, I came over here to ESCAPE that weather) with not even the faintest whiff of a breeze. I had my windows wide-open (as previously mentioned), but it wasn’t making a bit of difference. The air was still. It was heavy. It was just… hanging there. Pressing down on your head, your throat, your chest, your skin…

Not that anyone in London is complaining, mind you! No, no! We’re all delighted! Delighted! Delighted we start sweating the minute we step outside! Delighted we turn up everywhere with our hair matted and our faces bright-red! Delighted that everyone and everything now constantly smells of sweat! Delighted there are so many people in the outdoor swimming pools that it’s more people than water! Delighted!

THURSDAY

Just to really ram home to me how ‘not special’ Surprise Theatre at the Royal Court was last week, I had this happen to me on Thursday night:

I went to an Edinburgh Fringe networking event. I hate networking at the best of times but I was also exhausted, having done the late shift on Wednesday, the early shift on Thursday and being kept awake all night by the heat and my local crazies (they have only become a fixture in my life the last 3 nights. I really hope they move on soon). I had taken an afternoon nap, which is fine if you don’t have anything else to do for the rest of the day, but generally leaves me feeling sluggish and crabby for many hours afterwards.

Luckily, we don’t have the internet in my house at the moment, so to make a decision about whether or not the networking event was worthwhile, I had to leave my house and go to Caffe Nero to check the listing online. Once I had gotten off the couch and gotten some fresh air, I started feeling better. I decided I should probably go to the networking event ‘just in case something important might happen’ (who knows what). It was ok, but I’m always so awkward, I never know what to ask people, I hate telling them to come see my show and I usually get attached to the least useful person in the room simply because they are the least intimidating. So whilst networking events may be useful to other, normal people, for me they are just an unpleasant evening spent chatting to someone I don’t really like in a corner and eating too much free food.

Despite this, one of the women I met came up to me during the night and said, ‘Do you want to come see The Colour Purple with me? I have free tickets and my friend just bailed.’ This is one of those moments when it helps to have drunk a large glass of rose beforehand. It helps you say, ‘Yes, person-I-have-met-just-an-hour-ago, I will go with you to the theatre and spend the rest of my night with you to see a musical I know nothing about (except that the movie version had Oprah Winfrey in it).’ Luckily my new friend was lovely. She was Canadian and producing and directing a show for the Ed Fringe. It was written by an Australian, so that was interesting, and we ended up having a great night. The show was great, performances uh-mazing (voices in particular) and we were on our feet (with the rest of the audience) from the second the last note died away.

So, perhaps this is what the Royal Court should do for their next season of ‘Surprise Theatre’. Instead of having the shows a secret (or maybe, ON TOP of having the shows secret), they send out 10 – 20 people to various events across London with free double passes to a show happening THAT NIGHT, in UNDER AN HOUR and they have to convince someone that they are a) not a creep trying to murder them and b) to come to the theatre with them. How awesome would that be? Now, THAT’S a reality TV show I’d happily be involved in! OOh, and all the drama of getting someone to see a show they never would and then seeing their reaction! Big tough army men to go and see ‘Matilda’! Bottle-blonde ditzes to see David Hare! The tears! The confusion! The hilarity!

FRIDAY

I did a Commedia dell’arte workshop/audition with a young theatre company doing their first production in Cornwall this September. It was fun! There were only 4 of us auditioning, so it made it all a little bit awkward, and they were all much younger than me, but I thought, hells, if I get in I have an excuse to go to Cornwall! Not that you need an excuse to go to Cornwall (I’ve heard Cornwall will let anyone visit Cornwall that wants to visit Cornwall. Cornwall’s not picky. Cornwall’s not a snob. Cornwall loves visitors!) But this show would at least FORCE me to go to Cornwall. And you often need to be forced out of London. London gets its hold on you and then its difficult to let go.

SATURDAY

This is going to sound a bit odd. But, this was the first time I have ever seen a Muslim person pray in real life before. Obviously I’ve seen it before on TV, movies, the news etc. I know the general idea of what is going on and meant to happen. But, I’d never really seen it happen in front of me before. I’ve been in to churches, I’ve seen and participated in that sort of prayer. I’ve been to shabbat dinner and experienced that. But never a Mosque. Even in Marrakech I didn’t ever see it. I heard the call to prayer and saw everyone go inside, but never did I see it in front of me.

This is how it happened:

At work yesterday evening we had a DJ and a function. This means we need to get in a couple of security guards just to keep an eye on the place. One of the security guards came up to reception during the evening and asked if he could use the room. I asked what for and he said he needed to do a short prayer. I said of course, as most of my guests had checked in and it was pretty quiet. Also, there was really no other quiet spot inside the pub/hotel for him to do it in. He took out a small piece of linen and placed it on the ground instead of a prayer mat and then began. As soon as he started I began to have second thoughts, what if a guest came in? What if my boss walked in? Exactly what would they make of the situation? And wouldn’t it be distracting and unpleasant for the security guard as I had to explain to whoever had walked in what was going on?

Of course, almost immediately after this thought popped into my head my boss walked up the corridor and popped his head in. Despite the impression that he was speaking very loudly (I think it was only because I wanted everything to be completely silent for the security guard), my boss didn’t seem to mind. He was a little confused, but certainly didn’t intervene.

When the security guard was finished he stood up and said thanks. I really wanted to ask all sorts of questions, ask him how he knew which way to position himself, what he was saying, how many times a day did he pray and all sorts of other ignorant questions that I kind of knew the answer to but wanted to talk to him about anyway. I felt like we had this really amazing connection just because he had been doing something so spiritual and intimate in my presence.

Of course, he didn’t feel the same way (story of my life), so he put on his shoes in record time and was out of there before I even had a chance to say, ‘No worries’ in reply to his ‘thank you’. For him it was a daily activity that was possibly a little awkward to do in front of someone else and would have been made even more so if I had then proceeded to play 20 questions with him (I guess it would be like if someone started grilling me over… cleaning my teeth in the evening. Or something more important. I don’t know what I do that is daily and important. Eat food? Yeah, that probably has the same significance to me as prayer does to someone else).

SUNDAY

TODAY I PLAYED CROQUET FOR THE FIRST TIME. If you don’t understand how excited I am about this, then we probably shouldn’t be friends.

Come on! It’s croquet! It’s SO ENGLISH (even though it sounds French)! It’s so silly! It’s so genteel! It was in Calvin and Hobbes! Alice plays it in Alice in Wonderland with flamingos and hedgehogs (That’s ADORABLE!)!

Calvin! And Hobbes! Play Croquet! BEST. Found at: http://www.gocomics.com/calvinandhobbes/1987/06/07

Calvin! And Hobbes! Play Croquet! BEST. Found at: http://www.gocomics.com/calvinandhobbes/1987/06/07

I approached croquet with much enthusiasm but not much skill. And, unfortunately, it turns out that in the game of croquet, skills matter more than enthusiasm. This saddens me. I think enthusiasm should count for more in this world (except in America, where you guys all need to just calm down. Especially everyone on Oprah when Oprah used to give out gifts to the audience. Just, chillax dudes – Oh, wow, look I brought it back to Oprah again – these posts do have structure and themes).

Anyway, CROQUET!

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More Summer Days…

God, London, what is with this heat? I mean, normally I complain about the rain and the cold and all the rest, but, wow. Lordy. My underarms are stinky and my thighs are sticking together. Its not what I signed up for. But, as all good Londoners have been saying for the past week and half, ‘I’m not complaining! I’m really not complaining! I mean, I love it! Really I do!’ Everyone is kind of scared that the weather is actually like your mean great-aunt who would take things (gifts, toys, food) away from you if you complained about it too much (not that I had a mean great-aunt who took things away from me. All my relatives were very nice. I’ve just seen it in the movies and so I presume it is a thing. You know, like accidentally using sperm as a hair gel. That is totally a thing)

Anyway, as I’ve said previously, the hot weather requires all British citizens (and all others who have lived in Britain) to be outside, getting sunburnt, wearing very few clothes, drinking a lot AND BLOODY WELL ENJOYING IT.

Meanwhiles, I have done the following:

SATURDAY

Oh Lord did I ever have trouble coming up with something I could pretend was ‘new’ for Saturday. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I had a lovely day. But I don’t really think anything that I did that day could be conceivably described as ‘new’. I went for a swim. I went to work. I went for a drink afterwards. All delightful. But, new? No. No, not in anyway.

I’m pretty sad about this. I mean, I didn’t last all that long with my little plan in the end. I mean, I know I wasn’t really following through with the plan, really. I wasn’t actively going out and trying to find new things to do – I was kind of so busy with my own life that I needed to live day-to-day that I didn’t have much time left over to be thinking, ‘What new thing can I conceivably experience in the few hours I have to myself?’ I was clutching at straws – oh, I drank a new thing! I ate a Cliff Bar!

So, what can I do about this, really? Now that its Tuesday and I have no ability to go back in time and do something new? I am going to have to resort to the really, really most boring, boring of ‘new things’. And that is, I went to a new bar for the first time. It was actually a Spanish restaurant. It was the 21st b’day party of girl from work. And that was it. I drank far too much, far too quickly and twisted my ankle on the way home. Woo.

SUNDAY

Now Sunday! Sunday was much better! Still ridiculously hot, but with no beach to head to, it was beginning to get a little old. Slightly hung-over from the too-quick drinks of the night before (white wine isn’t meant to involve hang-overs!! WHAT IS THIS??) I headed out to Peckham to go to a foodie festival with my friend who lives out that way. I really like Peckham. Because it is on the other side of gentrification and it still has some character (in the form of awesome supermarkets that sell aloe vera drinks and coconut water) whilst also having nice parks and hosting foodie festivals. We ended up spending all afternoon together and I lay in her garden, on a picnic rug under a crabapple tree, which is just… so delightfully quaint and storybook that I can’t even handle it. I would like to live under that crabapple tree. It is propped up with a chair and a stick as it makes it slow progress across the garden. Oh boy, the crabapple tree!!

MONDAY

On Monday I proved what a capable single woman I am! I built a garden trolley! All on my own! This one here:

Isn’t it cute? Isn’t it delightful? It’s a gardening trolley! Which confused my housemates no end, as we have no garden. We live in an apartment. But, its actually to cart my props around in Edinburgh (my accommodation is a fair distance from my venue). Oh, was I ever pleased with myself putting it altogether last night. My housemate suggested I get our male housemate to help. But I refused! No no! I used to be an excellent Tetris player, back in the day! I was very good at Lego! I needed no man! I could do this all on my own!

And I certainly did. No tools even. I was so pleased with myself. I began to get a little bit sad at the thought of leaving my trolley behind next year when I have to come home. My poor trolley! How ever would I explain it to him!

Of course, it was all another matter when I rolled it to Clapham Common station today and all the nuts and bolts fell out when I wasn’t looking and it fell to pieces. Then I was less than delighted with the trolley. And then I realised it was probably my fault because I had used no spanners to tighten the bolts and then I felt like a silly girl. But, really, why do I have to blame that on my gender? So, it was just silly and in no way related to my inability (as a girl) to understand practical, engineering and building-type tasks. Ra ra feminism!

TUESDAY

That was today! Oh boy was it hot. I had to change dresses half-way through the day and get under a cold shower. London, I don’t even know you even more! (I swear I’ve said that some time already. It does not take away from its truth) The nicest thing that happened to me today was an old Swedish lady started talking to me on the Overground. She sat next to me and was talking to her son and her son’s friend in Swedish (I couldn’t tell if it was Swedish or Norwegian or Danish, but I couldn’t properly understand it, whatever it was). Of course, this endeared me to her straight away. I was reading a very serious book about the Murray-Darling Basin and the need to come to a new understanding of the ‘managing’ of this waterway. In particular, an understanding that gave precedence to the traditional owners’ way of understanding land, culture and resources. Its heavy going to say the least and I unconsciously let out a big ol’ sigh. She turned to me and said, ‘Why do you sigh?’ I explained to her the book I was reading and how it had lots of big ideas that were making me sleepy. She seemed really interested and asked lots of questions and I told her all about my book and showed her the maps of the Murray-Darling basin and it was just so… lovely.

You don’t normally talk to people on the tube and I realised when I got off the train today what a shame that was. I mean, I didn’t ask her much about herself, but how amazing is it that two people from complete opposite sides of the earth meet in London and talk about this specific area of Australian geography? And these particular philosophies on environment and country and culture etc? I want to hope that she’d never heard of the Murray-Darling before (why would she have?) and now she has this tiny kernel planted in her head about this place in the South-East of Australia. It made me wonder what sort of interesting stories I’d get out of all the other Londoners I come in contact with every day.

Of course, most of them probs wouldn’t speak to me. Because that’s not what we do. Probably the only reason I spoke to her was because she was elderly and dressed in awesome clashing bright patterns and because I had heard her speaking Swedish. If she’d been a different combination of things I may not have spoken to her. Or not have been so eager to answer her questions. Its a shame. How many interesting conversations am I missing out on?

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Things I Never Want to Hear Again

I’ve been single for a very long time now. And, as a singleton, there are certain tried and true sentences that people offer up to you as ‘consolation’ for the fact that you are single. I pretty much don’t expect ever to be in a relationship again, which I am ok with, but most other people find this extremely distressing. They take this statement to be some kind of cry for help, some silent plea for compliments and reassurance. Which just infuriates me, because, you know what? Despite everyone’s impression of me as some kind of romantic, boy-mad, love-obsessed, Austen-maniac, I have spent most of my life as a single, independent person (don’t even get me started on whether Jane Austen has more to offer the world than romantic wish-fulfilment stories for sad 20 somethings). I am perfectly ok. I know sometimes this blog has made you think otherwise and certainly there have been times when I’ve been down about the fact that I am single. But, no longer. I am sick of talking about love and romance and relationships and all the rest. I think I’ve probably talked about it enough to last me a lifetime. So, I can’t speak for all singletons, but, if anybody says any of these things to me again, I am liable to do a Hulk-style rage and tear apart some inner-city skyscrapers. Or something.

1) ‘You need to love yourself first.’ So, me not being in a relationship is evidence of the fact that I don’t love myself? That seems a little unfair. I know I have my down periods, but I think that probably makes me a pretty ok person and not an egotistical maniac. I mean, am I required to love absolutely EVERYTHING about myself before someone else will love me too? ‘I love the little toe on my left foot even though its manky and has a funal infection that made the nail fall off. I love it in spite of its difficulties. I love it BECAUSE of its uniqueness. I love the third knuckle on my right hand because…’ etc. I’m pretty sure most of the people I know in long-term, committed relationships aren’t like that. And who do I have to see about proving that I like myself a sufficient enough to be in a relationship? Is there some kind of government body? Some sort of list I should sign up to? Or is just something that you announce on your first date? ‘Don’t worry- I love myself a sufficient amount to be on this date with you. We can proceed further, if you would also feel you love yourself enough to be on this date with me.’

2) ‘You need to make space for love in your life.’ My room in London is very small. How much space exactly is this love going to take up? I’ve already broken my chest of drawers with the amount of clothes I have in there and my shoes are spilling out of my cupboard.

No, but seriously. What is this mystical crap? How exactly do I make room for love in my life? Do I just block out large chunks of time in my calendar and mark it ‘love’ and then just sit around in the park or another public area and hope someone gets the message?

3) ‘Maybe you’re just too picky.’ That’s right, people, the way to find love is to force yourself into loving someone you don’t love just because they love you! And, I mean, really, shouldn’t the fact that they love you be enough for you to love them back?

4) ‘It’ll happen when you’re not thinking about it.’ Ok, maybe this is true. But, hello, has nobody ever played that mind game on you when they say the only think you’re not allowed to think about is a large, purple elephant? And then, of course, the only thing you can think about is large purple elephants? Hundreds of them? Thousands of them? Some in tutus and some in fancy hats and all of them doing the can-can? On your BRAIN? It’s like that other irritating phrase that you should ‘be in the moment’. The minute you start monitoring whether or not you’re in the moment, you’re no longer in the freakin’ moment. So, you think, ‘hoorah! I’m not thinking about love right now! Now its bound to happen! Oh, wait… DAMN IT!’

5) ‘Have you tried internet dating? My friend met someone AMAZING on internet dating.’ Yes, I’ve tried it. It sux.

6) ‘Have you tried speed dating? My friend met someone AMAZING on speed dating.’ Yes, I’ve tried it. It sux.

7) ‘But you’re gorgeous!’ IRRELEVANT. Whilst I enjoy being complimented as much as the next person, if there is anything that Jennifer Aniston and the tabloid press has taught my generation, it is that just being beautiful won’t stop you having problems with love. And just being beautiful won’t prevent some other, younger, sexier, arguably more beautiful woman coming along and stealing your thunder.

8) ‘You’ve been travelling.’ Apparently travelling makes people so unattractive to other people that you cannot, CANNOT ever be in a relationship with them. Perhaps its the smelly shoes. All that walking. Never mind that other people (often the people telling me ‘you’ve been travelling’) have gotten into relationships whilst travelling, when it comes to me – ‘you’ve been travelling.’

9) ‘Don’t be silly – of course you’ll find someone! You’re awesome!’ The WORST. Because:

a) I apparently cannot argue against this statement without seeming particularly depressive and self-pitying. The more I protest with whoever is saying it, the more they pat my back and smile at me and gently shush me and tell me again, ‘Don’t be silly!’ But, here is what I want to say, well-meaning people, if you would just stop patting me for a second. Can you guarantee that I will ‘find someone’? Can you pinky-promise me that I will ‘find someone’? Can you put down a million dollars and promise me that I will ‘find someone’? That’s right. You can’t. You won’t. Because not everyone does ‘find someone’. Some people stay single for the rest of their lives.

and, therefore,

b) In this statement, in your reasoning, my awesomeness is reliant on the fact that I will ‘find someone’. Given that, as we have already established, it is NOT guaranteed that I will find someone, and perhaps I won’t, would that then take away my awesomeness? Or does that mean that I was never awesome in the first place? Call me egotistical, but I think I’m awesome as a single person and also in a relationship. I don’t want to toot my own horn guys, but I’m a lot of fun. You want to be my single friend? Great, I will go drinking with you. I will cut it up on the dance floor with ridiculous moves that make you laugh. I will go on holidays with you. I will bring you presents from my trips. I will bake you things. I will write you stories and poems. I will take photos of you doing fun things and post them on Facebook so everyone can see what a fun person you are. I will go to your shows, your gallery openings, your music nights. I’ll read you articles from ‘Vanity Fair’. I will support you in your crazy decisions. I will discuss politics with you over Pimm’s. I will discuss Justin Beiber with you over red wine. I’m a freakin’ hoot. But, hey, you want to be my partner? Awesome. I’m great. I’ll cook you curries. I’ll remember your appointments when you forget them. I’ll organise our holidays. I’ll buy you funny T-shirts just because I saw it and it made me think of you. I won’t clean our room, but I’ll do the dishes. I’ll make playlists we can dance to in the living room. I’ll remember your friends’ names and make them b’day cards. I’ll snuggle with you when you want and hold your hand in public. I’ll probably secretly watch you lovingly in the corner at parties whilst you’re talking to other people. I’ll sneak up behind you and kiss the back of your neck when you least expect it. I’m adorable.

I’d be much happier if, next time you asked me about my love life and I replied nothing was happening you replaced your well-meaning, ‘don’t worry, you’ll find someone, you’re awesome!’ with the phrase, ‘Well, it doesn’t matter anyway. You’re awesome’.

Say it with me, people, ‘Well, it doesn’t matter anyway. You’re awesome.’ It might take some getting used to, I know. I sometimes feel like the pressure to get married, or be in a relationship is worse these days than it was back when you got married for money and property. You know why? Because, in Austen’s day at least you could blame your parents for not saving up a good enough dowry, or for not furnishing you with enough accomplishments. If you wound up a spinster you could think, ‘oh, well, it’s all about money and property anyway, so I just didn’t have enough of those things to be a good match. Now let me get on with being an awesome spinster aunt.’ Now that marriage and relationships are all about ‘true love’ (what a wank) and who you are as a person, the fact that you have failed to get into a long-term relationship suddenly means that there is something wrong with you. Not with your parents, not with your house or your dowry, but you. Specifically you. And the pressure to be in a relationship just goes on and on and on. It doesn’t end at 25 and you can think, ‘oh well, never mind, I tried, but it seems like this is my life now.’ You have to keep doing embarrassing, soul-destroying things (internet dating, I ask you!) until you find someone, ANYONE to love you in the way that popular culture says you should be loved. All the lies we are fed about relationships and love and marriage perpetuate this impression – the lovers being two halves of a whole, making you incomplete as a singleton; that there is someone out there for everybody etc. So, if you don’t happen to find someone who loves you for you, well that probably means that ‘you’ isn’t worthy of being loved in that way.

But the fact of the matter if that I quite like myself. I have quite a few friends who quite like me too. My family seems to be pretty happy with me – I haven’t been chucked out of any gatherings or refused invitations to any things. I get all kinds of love from all kinds of places. Dogs really like me. Kids snuggle in to hear me read them stories. I am no social pariah. I’m a good, decent human being. I’m kind of smart. Sometimes I write good things. I like the world. And none of that is reliant on my ability (or not) to be in a ‘committed’ relationship with someone.

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