Between Australia and Austria

…. 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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