Archive for March, 2007

Between Australia and Austria

Posted in Uncategorized on March 25, 2007 by ladyredjess

…. the boiler remained broken. After three days in Austria I came back to an ice chest at 12.30am. The following afternoon a man came from British Gas to look at it and said he didn’t have a spare part so would have to come next Tuesday. He was clearly an absolute master of his trade, for he left the boiler leaking. I was worried about the water being wasted (and was haunted by the fable of the boy with his finger in the dyke – the literal variety, not the figurative, for all the filthy-minded out there, of whom of course I am not one – and of the flow of the leak becoming monstrous) so asked A- to call them again. A friendly black man wearing a hearing aid came on Friday, looked at the leak and called the previous employee ‘dogface,’ at which I was highly amused. He put in a new part, and now we are cocooned again.

… the washing machine also remained unfixed, at which I unleashed a rant against the incompetent bureaucrats who populate this country, which is also allied to my fury at the incompetent bastards who consigned Sally Clark to prison, and to an early death (more to follow on this, in a later blog). A-‘s washing now fills two Ikea bags, and H kindly did some of my undies in his wash at the laundromat, which I was too tired and lazy, and also possibly too much of a snob, to enter. The problem was the twitty ‘engineer’, who ordered a part from the south of England, only to put it in and blow the fuse again. He was going to order another part from the south of England, so as to repeat the process, at which point H and A- blew up at him instead. I kept out of it because a) I couldn’t understand his accent and b) I hate confrontation. So, next Tuesday comes the Superior Engineer (obviously of a higher grade of employment, and hopefully harbouring a higher degree of cerebral matter) to confirm that the washing machine actually is fucked, after which we will get a new one in a week. A- has been stockpiling laundry liquid in anticipation.

… I had my annual visit to the audiologist, who put me in an electric chair in a darkened room and had me stare at little red and green lights that came on. Then the chair spun around slowly, the point of which was to make me dizzy. I wasn’t dizzy, but I was petrified with claustrophobia. For someone to whom sight is everything, to be in a completely black space is terrifying. However I practiced my deep breathing and got out of there without running amok in small, hysterical circles. Afterwards the audiologist confirmed that while most people got dizzy, I didn’t, ever. I could have told her that myself. I didn’t really understand what the reason was, but it was something to do with being deaf in both ears. But by extension people who can hear in both ears shouldn’t get dizzy either.

… my collaboration project with Guildhall School of Music culminated in a performance at Wigmore Hall. My composition collaborator, S, had done a beautiful job of putting my poem to music. I hated everyone else’s songs, except for the last one – they were so academic, and dry and un-lovely. We were on first, and as a consequence T missed my performance. I was annoyed, but he countered that I’d promised I’d wear my red cashmere dress, and I hadn’t. I was, however, wearing my red stiletto boots and a short skirt, and I should have thought that would be enough to please any man. A turned up so late that he heard the last two songs, one of which made him laugh. It was probably the one of the composer breathing into his flute, yet not producing any sound. This was one of the academic songs with which I had no patience.

To give you an idea of the mentality of some of the poets, allow me to relate what happened in one of our collaborative sessions. For the first session, musicians played recordings of their music so we could get an idea of their style. Likewise, in the second session, the poets reciprocated. I felt very out of place after I’d read mine out, as I was only one of 2 female poets, and my poems were fairly erotic. Somehow, being in England makes me feel far more sexual and overbearing than I would in Australia. It’s something to do with the repressive, 19th century atmosphere of this place. But let’s not get started on that just now.

The guy who went last was clearly very into his theory, whatever it was. He stood up, opened his laptop and showed it to us, and said, ‘This is a poem.’ There were no words, only circles. Then he blindfolded two of his contemporaries and had them stand in the middle of the room. A laminated map was at their feet. The poet started reading out his ‘poem’ and played some music on his computer at the same time. Meanwhile, the blindfolded men took out coins and started throwing them onto the map. Then one of them got onto his hands and feet and began fumbling around for the coins and ended up, at one point, in a somewhat compromising position.

One of the music students was looking on with absolute horror and I started to get the giggles. Actually, it was worse than that. I was on the verge of laughing out loud, so I had to turn my hearing aid off and stare fixidly at the desk so as not to receive anymore stimuli. Later, L told me he’d passed a note to R saying, ‘This is how we lost the colonies.’ I burst out laughing.

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Being Intimate

Posted in Uncategorized on March 25, 2007 by ladyredjess

I’ve just got back from Salzburg, where I was presenting at a conference on Persons, Intimacy and Love. It was good, and worthwhile, but utterly exhausting. Two full days of listening, with a hearing impairment, to lectures and to people talking over lunch and wine and coffee, completely did me in. I stayed at the hotel where the conference was being held. It didn’t have much to recommend it except for its pillows, which were the biggest and fluffiest I have ever seen; sleeping on them was like burying my head in a nest of clouds. The town itself didn’t have much to recommend it – it was touristy, and generally unattractive. T told me to piss on anything to do with Mozart, but had I followed his instructions they would have resulted in a bladder complaint. Instead I bought him some Mozart tat, just to be perverse.

And as I rounded the corner in one of the cobbled streets, I came across a shop which had rows and rows of painted eggs in its windows. It reminded me (again) of a fairy tale we’d read when we were kids, and even though I’ve racked my brains for a week I can’t remember which story it was. All I can remember are these beautiful painted eggs, and thinking how much I wanted one of them. You couldn’t get eggs like that in Australia.

At the back of the touristy streets was a big church, and below the church were some fruit markets, and a stall selling lavender. The smell was so rich that I was tempted to buy some, but I resisted. I don’t need lavender.

However, on the 2nd and 3rd days it SNOWED. Not grotty London snow, but big fat snowflakes that settled on the ground; it was just like being in a snowdome. After that the town was much prettier, and as the taxi driver took me to the airport, the mountains appeared in the distance, covered in snow and sunlight; it was gorgeous. On some other hills that rose above the town was a forest without any leaves, very grim and forboding like something out of the Grimms Fairy Tales, and I realised how only those kinds of stories could have been written in Europe. Near the hotel were the Mirabell Gardens, in which the song ‘Do Re Me’ from the Sound of Music was sung.

At this point I must make a most dreadful confession: in 1999 I went on the Sound of Music tour. It was kind of under duress, but mostly due to my own timidity, because I didn’t want to be left behind while my travelling companions went off, so I went and saw a lake with a lot of rubbish in it, a gazebo, the inside of a bus, the tour guide cracking jokes (which E told me were awful) and the selfsame gardens, which were lovelier then as it was summer while we were travelling.

I was glad when it was all over though (both the Sound of Music tour and the conference), and came back to (slightly) warmer climes. People said they enjoyed my paper on Molloy, but I didn’t get much feedback. There weren’t that many literature people there and I think they didn’t feel qualified to comment on it. Well, I didn’t feel I could comment on theirs; half of the papers went over my head. I was grumbling to someone about how academics rarely wrote in an accessible way and she replied that often it was because they couldn’t write in any other way; she certainly couldn’t, and I thought, Oops, I’ve put my foot in that one.

‘Must be a chick thing.’

Posted in Uncategorized on March 12, 2007 by ladyredjess

Thus spake the numbskull in ‘Alien Resurrection’ after Ripley had blown to bits the tanks full of attempts at recreating her self from a bit of DNA left on a piece of ice in the last film (I know that was a bad sentence, but I can’t be bothered to fix it). Or rather, the idiot who wrote that stupid line and ruined the whole scene.

I love Aliens. Once I was so infatuated with Ripley (during my anorexic adolescence when I found her leanness so very appealing) that I thought that, if I had a daughter, I would call her Sigourney. Then a friend asked, ‘So what would you do for her nickname? Call her Siggy?’ and I admitted that perhaps it wasn’t such a good idea after all. But on that note, I like the themes of motherhood, pregnancy and hosts that ripple through the stories, especially in the last film, where the boundaries between alien and human began to break down, and you can’t tell what a mother isanymore, because the doctoring of DNA has become motherhood. Which is why that line shat me, because it pointed so obviously to what was there, that it assumed the viewers were dumb.

But what I like most of all about the movies is that Ripley is such a ball-breaker. She’s as tough as nails, smart and has satisfyingly sarcastic one-liners. I said to A- that, sadly, I didn’t think they made movies with strong female characters like that anymore and A- replied, ‘I don’t think they have ever!’ (She also said, in a discussion we had with H about whether it was the blood or the Alien’s saliva that was acidic, and H said it was the blood, and A- said, ‘I hope she doesn’t menstruate,’ and I said, ‘I bet they didn’t even think of that.’)

Yet I found it unnerving that it was still a resurrection, because although I was glad Ripley had come back to life, it was still upsetting that she wasn’t completely the same. It was like in the Dune novels, by Brian Herbert, when Duncan Idaho was replicated each time, but always changed some way. I loved that character, and I was disappointed that he never lived as he originally had.

Anyway I like these ideas about perpetuating love and life, and I dimly recall Sue Woolfe saying, in an interview, that someone like Ada Lovelace had invented the computer so she could find some way of extending the life of a person she loved, who was dying. It’s for the same reason that I’m interested in memory, and in the question of how you can bring back someone who you’ve irrevocably lost through the process of remembering them. And I’m wondering if I’ll ever be good enough to write something science fictiony, and have it work as well as well as Aliens.

But maybe it was a chick thing, on Friday, to burst into tears after spending an hour and a half getting to the British Library (there was an incident of some sort, so the police had cordoned off half the street so I had to walk to St Pancras from halfway down City Road, in very high red heels), only to discover that I’d left my card behind and couldn’t get into the reading room. I was already overwrought because it had taken so long to leave that house that I felt like I was living out my recurring nightmare of never getting anywhere because of having so much stuff to pack. So I went to the membership desk and asked if there was anyway of getting a temporary membership card and the man said yes, there was, if I paid £5 and provided proof of address and identity. Since I can’t even afford to pick up my dry cleaning, let alone pay £5, and since I’m not in the habit of carrying around my latest gas bill, there was no way out of it, and in despair I rushed into the ladies’ and started howling. Naturally it would have been more efficacious to cry in front of the man at the reception desk but unfortunately I hate crying in front of other people. There was nothing for it but to get on the bus and go back home. I did, however, see a man in a suit playing a guitar in a parking lot and, tossed onto the top of a bus shelter, a potato that had been spraypainted blue and jabbed full of red toothpicks.

Meanwhile, I am going mental (just in case it wasn’t obvious from the abovementioned incident) because I haven’t been writing. I think the instability also has something with the fact that my baby (so to speak) of seven years has left me and now I need something else to fill the space. Stories keep welling up in me, bursting to be written down, and I just can’t seem to find the time.

At least now I’m writing in notebooks again, which I haven’t done for years, and I’m using the chocolate brown one that C sent me after we’d had a fight. I’m writing down my dreams, because A- said she’d had a dream that she, H and I had moved to a house by the beach, and I said I never had happy dreams, so I’m logging my dreams for a month to see what they’re like. So far I’ve had my only other recurring nightmare – about marrying a man I don’t love, and having a less-than-perfect wedding – and a dream about being frustrated with H because he was having a dinner party and it wasn’t organised, as usual.

And I have, at last, found an author who inspires me – Marguerite Duras. I’ve just finished ‘The War’ and for a day I was slightly stunned by the potency of her words. I read ‘The Lover’ last year, but I found the film far better than the book. Naturally, this had absolutely nothing to do with the fact that Tony Leung was stark naked in it, but all the same I think I’ll go back to that book and try it again. And I might watch the film again too.

Shades of Grey

Posted in Uncategorized on March 3, 2007 by ladyredjess

Coming back to London has been a shambles. After a 25 hour flight (delayed because we had to let a sick woman get off the plane at Bangkok so she could go to hospital, half an hour after we’d boarded), and waiting another 40 minutes for my luggage (delayed because of the rain – surely if they worried about the rain in this country, no one’s luggage would ever arrive), I stumbled onto the Tube. It was grey outside. The buildings were grey. The trees were grey. I was reminded of a fragment from Praed’s transcripts, during a conversation she’d had with a spirit named K, who’d said to her: ‘For pleasure I can’t imagine anybody wanting to live in England. The grey sky – the grey mud – the prevailing colour is grey.’ It seems that dead people don’t like London either, even when they’re dead. And yet again I asked myself, ‘What on earth am I doing here?’ Aside from the dosh that Melbourne Uni has given me, it’s because I’d be bored if I stayed at home.

I woke up at 3.30am the next morning and couldn’t get back to sleep, so I attempted to deal with the luggage strewn across my floor, gave up, got dressed and trudged to the bus stop. The bus took forever to get me to work. The C charge has been extended and everything is slower than before, because of all the people turning away on the rims of the zone. I contemplated buying a bike but it’s hazardous because I can’t hear the traffic around me, and my mother would probably crucify me first by screaming at me down the phone, ‘You can’t do that!’ Although whenever someone tells me I can’t do something, I go and do it.

At work they’d written on the whiteboard, ‘Welcome back to work, Jess,’ which was sweet. I distributed Warheads, Freddo Frogs and Caramello Koalas. By the end of the day I was so tired I couldn’t speak.

Wednesday was payday. I discovered that I’ve used up all of my savings and my wage only just covers my living expenses. I can barely afford to walk out of the house now. I was plunged into gloom. I tried to sleep before going to M’s talk but I was too overwrought and had to cancel.

I kept waking at 5am. Thursday I went to the physiotherapist about my knee. It was a bloke feeling me up this time, so one couldn’t complain. He gave me different exercises to do so maybe these ones will work and I can start running again. Friday, the tuner came to look at H’s piano. The poor man, red-faced and friendly, plucked and banged and struck for four hours and then gave up on it. Then the washing machine man came. It transpired the washing machine has a broken fuse and we can’t get it fixed for another week. I think I have enough undies left to last me that long. Meanwhile A-‘s clothes are piling up in the bathroom.

While checking my emails that morning, I came across a ‘gentle reminder’ from the Intimacy conference organisers that papers were due in that day. I haemorrhaged for 15 minutes – I thought I’d had weeks to do it – then pulled myself together and started writing the paper. It was just a cut and paste job, and I was too dispirited to care about it much, so it didn’t take long to do. When the pinao man left I tried some scales and realised I had forgotten pretty much everything my music teacher had taught me. So much for the thousands my parents ploughed into my piano lessons, and I hope they don’t read this bit. By the time H came home I was too depressed to move. I cancelled on T and we watched Crash, which kept me awake. It was a good movie though, and I liked that it was so nuanced about racism. H complained that it won an Oscar above Brokeback Mountain, and I said that maybe in a few more decades there would be movies made that were more sophisticated about gay relationships and homophobia.

Saturday I shopped and baked Russian Tea Cakes, then Wtk came over in the afternoon. I realised it had been three months since I’d seen him, which is appalling.

That was the end of my first week back in London. I think ‘grey’ sums it up pretty well.