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Monday, 22 September 2014

Book club

I went to a book group the other day. We read 'To Kill a Mockingbird'. I was the only person in the group (and from the reaction I got, possibly the world) who hadn't read it before. Having read it I am now certain that racism is a bad thing. 

I found that a funny joke. 

The rest of the book group didn't. I'm not sure if I can go back again. 

What I enjoy and find amusing about book groups and to an extent English lessons at school is the level of detail you have to go in to. The majority of the time you just read a book and think either 'I liked that' or 'I didn't like that'. Throw a book group or an English teacher in there and it turns in to a full on exploration in to the author's psyche. It's the literary equivalent of a 14 year old girl explaining a crush to her best friend. 
"Then he touched my hand; which I think means he wants to marry me." "Then he asked if I wanted a water. What do you think that means?" 
In most cases the answer to these questions is "no" and "nothing". 
I know that books have sub text. I know that detail makes the book. I also know that occasionally it just is what it is. 
As you sit there picking a book to pieces someone will inevitably ask 'Do you think that the setting is important to the book." And everyone will turn to the text and go 'Oh yes, definitely - the moors reflect his character' or 'the sterile environment shows that he is separated from the real world' and you nod along but there's a bit of you that thinks 'Yeah, maybe or maybe that's just where it's set.'
 I had two years with an English teacher reading Jane Eyre (a book I now loathe by the way) and banging on about the 'symmetry of nature'. You couldn't read a paragraph without her reflecting on how the constant driving rain reflected Jane's despair or Mr Rochester's sorrow. We all dutifully wrote this down and regurgitated it in our exams but there was always a bit of me that thought 'maybe it's always raining because it's Yorkshire. It rains a lot there.' 

I suppose the questions are meant to make you think more deeply about the text. To make you examine the motives of the characters and discover meaning. I certainly found the book club enjoyable and I do quite like the fact that there are no wrong answers. If you can make an argument for it then no one can prove you wrong. Unless the author is sat there then you can claim what you want. I would just love it if the author was sat there and occasionally could chip in and say 'Where did you get that from?'

Oh and as a blatant plug, my book is out now. Feel free to discuss it in book groups. I can tell you now it's set in London as I know the city and Tess gets the bus everywhere as she doesn't have a car, not because it symbolises her being carried through life on pre-determined routes. Although now I think about it that's rather good. Scrap my previous explanation, that's exactly why she gets the bus everywhere. 


Monday, 8 September 2014

Home, home on the ?

This adventure has meant that there has had to be many changes in my life. This is no bad thing and I think I have taken most of them in my stride. However there was one thing that was slightly bothering me: living with other people. 

I have lived on my own for seven years and I love it. Love everything about it. It's great. Everyone should do it. Ignore the fact there's not enough housing stock, grab a tent and live in a ditch - you'll love it. Now obviously I have lived with people before. It is unusual for a toddler to live independently. After I left home I lived in various flatshares and enjoyed them before buying my own place when I was twenty seven.

I rented my flat out in July and for six weeks I stayed with my parents, friends and siblings. It was very pleasant. A perfect reintroduction in to living with people again. But I knew that when I got to Sydney I was going to have to live with strangers and that would mean something else I've not done in a while...flat hunting. 

Most of the flathunting I've done has been for a flat, this time I was going to have to scope out flatmates as well. Luckily I was staying with very nice friends so I didn't have to take the first thing I saw, which was just as well. There's a lot of freaks out there. 

Some of the places I saw were just badly described in the ads. "Near public transport!" translation: as the crow flies it's half a mile to a bus stop. If you don't fly like a crow then it's a 40 minute jog. I'd placed an ad on a flatsharing website saying what I was looking for (a short term let of around 2 months). One woman called me. She sounded very excited. She felt she had just what I was looking for. I met her at 9 on a Sunday morning, heavy with jet lag. She made me a cup of tea and then told me that she was really looking for someone who could stay long term. 'Oh well', I thought 'I got a cup of tea out of it.' Then she suggested that I may like to stay with her parents, so drove me there. Her parents were well in to their 90s and were using their house as a furniture warehouse. I said I'd think about it and she gave me a lift in to the city. She was actually very sweet and I'm sure would have been nice to live with long term. Short term - well I wasn't going to live with her parents. 

The strangest one was in Paddington. A very nice area close to the city. The woman sounded normal on the phone. Sadly in person she was insane. She showed me the 'furnished' room (a heavily stained matresses in a damp room). She explained that she worked from home so she would prefer it if I never cooked (smells). She then asked me how often I showered (enough) and how long it took me to dry my hair. This information was so she could fairly divide the electricity bill. Again I smiled and said I'd let her know. 

Just as I was losing the will to live a flatshare appeared in Bondi. They wanted someone to take a room for five weeks. Could I see it that night? You bet your arse I could. Great location, huge flat, nice flatmates (I checked that they had no hairdrying rules - they don't). Done! I moved in last Saturday. 

After October - I think I may head off round the south coast for a bit. Who knows? But for now I am content with this. 

I had an afternoon swim in the outdoor pool yesterday. 
Before you get too envious - I had to get out as I went purple with cold. But in a couple of weeks I'll be back there. 

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Time Travelling

I have arrived. The eagle has landed etc etc other metaphors for arriving in a country without the plane bursting in to flames (it happens). The flight was actually OK. I was on one of those Qantas airbuses and it was enormous. I was also out of my skull on a cocktail of prescription (not necessarily my prescriptions) drugs which made the whole thing a lot more palatable. I was even relaxed enough to take a quick nap on the floor of Dubai airport. Never let it be said I don’t travel in style.

I had somehow managed to get in an early boarding row so was one of the first on the enormous plane. As it filled up the seats next to me remained empty and so I’d managed to convince myself that I was going to have a whole row of seats to myself. I was of course being ridiculous. This never happens. You are always rammed in and convince yourself that the flight is full then on a wander to the toilet you see about 20 rows of seats that have one person stretched out along all three seats. Your reaction to seeing this varies depending on whereabouts in the flight you are. Early on you tend to think “Oh I wonder how they managed that”. Later on “I’m going to wake them up and ask them how they did that and then tell them that it would be nice if they shared their good fortune around and we all took turns at sleeping horizontally”. 14 hours in and you are standing over them weeping.

The empty seats next to me were filled about 2 seconds before the doors closed. They were filled by a strange couple who were having a domestic. They were terrifying. I stood up to let her in and the first/only thing she said was ‘is this all your stuff?’. This was in reference to the full up over head locker. I replied that my bag was under the seat in front. She ignored me and got in her seat, her scary husband sat next to her and we all sat in silence. I listened to the people behind me bond, they were practically arranging to come to each other weddings. I even began to envy the people sat next to the child going mental. Then scary man broke the silence. By calling his wife an f***ing b***h. Her response to this was to hand him an inflight magazine and say ‘Oh look we went there’. I shut my eyes and listened to him detail the plans for their divorce, whilst she smiled and laughed as if she was at a dinner party. Luckily at that point my fake sleep turned into real sleep and I was spared their weirdness. When I woke up they had their arms round each other and were watching the Big Bang Theory. They then started whispering sweet nothings to each other. I pretended to sleep again.
I could only assume they were one of those ghastly couples who thrive on tension and make up sex. You’ll be as thrilled as I was to hear they were in the same seats all the way to Sydney.

I had planned to try and sleep at the correct times so that I would arrive early morning in Sydney and then power through till the evening. Of course my plans failed and I awoke at about 11pm Thursday night all ready for a 5-30am landing. I prepared myself for jetlag/death.  I’ve only ever had jetlag badly twice. Once when I actually thought I was going to die and the other slightly more amusing version where I couldn’t stay awake. I would be mid sentence and then wake up three hours later glued to the carpet by my own drool. This continued for a week. The only thing that made it more amusing was that the two people I was living with got exactly the same thing. At any given moment there was the chance that one of us would just collapse in a heap and pass out for a couple of days.

This time I got a strange kind of jet lag. The type where I decided that I was a higher evolved human. I managed to not only change time zones but also evolutionary stages. I got to a point where I didn’t need sleep or food. Inevitably this had to come to an end and it did in spectacular style on Sunday evening. I assumed I was out of the danger zone of jetlag and was enjoying my new evolutionary life as a thetan and so decided that I would try out a church in the city for it’s Sunday evening service. I think it was nice. I think I spoke to people. I got hit by the truck of tiredness about 10 seconds in to the service. I had to keep pretending to pray so I could shut my eyes. Then I had to keep jerking myself awake so I didn’t go in to a coma and fall off my chair. I got an attack of the involuntary head dips. Where you think you’re fine and then suddenly your head jerks back up and you realise it’s slowly been sinking towards your knees. I think I was drooling. I realised that I wasn’t a thetan and I was also very, very cold. I got home somehow and put on all the clothes I own, borrowed a onesie and went to bed, shivering. Only to wake up at 3am boiling. Oh jet lag you cruel mistress.