damp, dark & dreary london

And  I love this weather. I really do. Cold and wet has always been my favourite, even over snow.

But I'm tired. I'm a little worried, despite still believing everything will work out. I had a job interview on Saturday, but I don't think I got it. I haven't heard anything. I'm a little disappointed, too: I had hoped to be able to take a course here, starting in the fall, but because you sign up for full years of study at British universities and not terms, the one I had my heart set on is not legally viable. There's a host of other options I can look into, of course, but the thing that made this one so perfect, aside from the actual things I'd've been studying, is that it would have actually have been a first year of uni in credits.

Right now, though, I’ve got my cosy sweater and a quilt. I’ve got tea, and spinach & chickpea soup, and walnut cake for later. I’ve got Dylan Thomas, and Alan Garner if I finish him, and Seth Lakeman. I’m in lazy, cozy, easy, soulfood mode.

On the way home today my umbrella got turned inside out and in the few moments it took me to right it I went from vaguely dry to absolutely soaked. I squelched and shivered (it is cold for July - I had been worried it would be too hot!) myself the rest of the way to a hot shower and an hour with my notebook that turned into two-and-then-some. I've been forcing myself to spend at least six hours every day doing nothing but jobhunting. I've also been trying to force myself to get fuller nights of sleep. It's paid off in at least one way: as Eliot once said, having a limited amount of time in which to write leads to discipline in doing so. You don't faff about as much. I'm writing a lot right now. In the evenings, when I come home. A lot of it in notebooks, a lot of it probably never to be shared, never mind published, a lot of it more about experiments in figuring out my writing, my ideas, and my thoughts around it than actually producing something whole, but there is, too, quite a bit that will work its way into other things. Honestly, even if nothing ever comes of it, it's still what keeps me sane, and most days it's enough of a gift just to have this part of my voice back.

things i have learned

No matter how far and how fast you run, you're always going to be right behind yourself. That's just how it works. Stop running.

Relatedly, there's not much point in beating yourself up. Not only will you be battered and sore in the morning, you'll be the one who has to patch yourself up.

(no subject)

ca·thar·sis (k-thärss)
n. pl. ca·thar·ses (-sz)
1. A purifying or figurative cleansing of the emotions, especially pity and fear, described by Aristotle as an effect of tragic drama on its audience.
2. A release of emotional tension, as after an overwhelming experience, that restores or refreshes the spirit.
eu·pho·ri·a (y-fôr-, -fr-)
n.
A feeling of great happiness or well-being.

I'm being crushed against the metal barrier in front of me by the several thousand people behind. The girl next to me's hair is in my mouth, and I am sticking uncomfortably to the leather jacket of the man behind me. (In two hours, when we peel apart, my skin will be embedded with zipper and leather wrinkle marks, but he gets a pass on this because he will spend the evening protecting my head.) The arm that's not hanging over the barrier is stuck awkwardly by my side, my feet are going numb, and I would be literally dripping with sweat if I wasn't too crowded for that to be possible. Someone's arm is around my neck, and another is propped on my shoulder; partway through the concert, someone else will snake theirs around my waste, and I will wrap my previously trapped arm around the back of a French girl's head. We are too stuck together to even jump properly to the music, and so instead we all surge as one, back and forth, back and forth. Six feet away, Jarvis Cocker writhes on top of a stack of amps and peers out at us as we all sing along to every song so loudly it's a miracle we can still hear the band.

I know, I really do know, that amazing concert experiences are not just something that happens to me; that music inspires faith like religion, and that lots of people have had similar moments in their life. This isn't about the uniqueness of my experience. But: five years ago, I went to a concert with one my best friends, a small local band playing outdoors. I couldn't even stand at the back of the crowd, it was too much for me, I was going to have a panic attack - I had to go and sit in the bleachers. Now, compare.

What this is about is healing, and how we do it. It's about realizing something about yourself that maybe you should've known a long time ago, but only just figured out. It's about lightning-bolt moments. It's about growth. Don't get me wrong; I'm the last person to take me seriously. But sometimes I'm forced to.

An important part of any concert experience is the crowd, and this one was the best I've ever been a member of. Pulp have been apart a long time, and they've been around for more than twice as long as that. They've meant a lot to a lot of people, and a lot of those people are here tonight. Everyone knows every word of every song intimately. People shout teases and quips at Jarvis like he's an old school friend. This is pure love of pop music.

The experience shook me so much that it's taken me ten days to write about it. Even now, I don't think I'm properly expressing how strongly the concert touched me - and not just the bands, but the realizations I had that night. I'm having trouble writing about it evenheadedly, as you can see. The adverbs and adjectives are piling up all over this post, and I'm at risk of sounding like some trippy new-ager when I talk about healing.

But the week before last something snapped inside of me. Leading up to it I was the unhappiest I've been since I moved here, I think. I wasn't talking to people much because I didn't have much to report - I was looking for work. I hadn't found any yet. That was about it. And then suddenly I woke up one morning, and went to the National Gallery, where I spent a long time glaring at Van Gogh's Sunflowers as Japanese tourists and a group of schoolchildren all tried to shove around me. There was no reason for me not to, after all. I was unhappy. I needed to do something to be less unhappy, or I was going to go mad. I figured that much out. The next evening I took myself to a performance of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, and laughed so hard my cheeks hurt, and when I stepped out of the theatre into the warm Piccadilly night I felt lighter than I had since February. The day after that was the Arcade Fire show, and then Friday was Canada Day (though I only paid a brief visit to the celebrations.) Saturday was the Pride Parade, and even more dancing in Trafalgar square, and then Sunday was the night described above. So it was all a slow build of experiences, even though the tipping point was singing along to Disco 2000 with everyone else in Hyde Park that night.

I've somehow grown into the type of girl that dances, and screams, and has emotional breakthroughs rather than breakdowns in a seething crowd of strangers.javascript:void(0);

paper journal paper journal

some excerpts. a l'expédition francaise.

03/04/11 -- Paris, France

There is a strangeness to learning how to lose someone that you already missed. How do you deal with grief and loss when you've gotten so used to living with the absence of loved ones? Right up until N. cried in front of me for the first time, I didn't really believe that he was gone. It felt untrue, like a badly-told story, like an infinitely cruel joke. But he's gone. And I'm not confronted with the shock of that every day because I've already been practicing missing him for eight and a half months.

05/04/11 -- Paris, France

I didn't notice last time how many cats there are in Pere Lachaise. Feral little things the lot of them, but oddly charming. There's one black one in particular that's been following me around the place. I'm sitting next to Oscar's tomb right now, and he [the cat] keeps peering around graves to watch me, disappearing for a bit, and then checking in again. It's almost like he wants me to follow him.

06/04/11 -- Auvers-sur-Oise, France

The song might be about Paris, but it feels like spring for the first time here. Everything is golden and bright, and flowers are blooming everywhere. I got up early this morning and caught the train here, changing at Pontoise where I basked in the sun for half an hour, soaking the heat into myself like a cat. The train ride here was charming, in a carriage I shared with a raucous group of boys on their way to school. When I walked out of the station onto the main street, the bells of the Eglise were chiming 10 in the morning, and I knew instantly, the way you do, that this was the right place for me to come.
...
On the hill about the Musée Daubigny (where Van Gogh lived and died), there is a concave cliff. It is clay-coloured, but wreathed in the green of the surrounding forest, and dotted with the reds and yellows of wildflowers. In a shelf set into the cliff near the top, there is a small white statue of the Virgin Mary.
...
(written on the train back to Paris) The last place I visited was the grave of Vincent and Théo. It's in a graveyard just outside the town, past the Eglise. It is not a famous Parisian graveyard; there are no markers on how to find certain of its inhabitants, and despite being clear of weeds the graves themselves are mostly badly upkept. I was the only one there. I have visited a lot of dead people here, and I do so again tomorrow in the Catacombs, but none of them have moved me like this. The brothers' grave is on the edge of the graveyard, and the simplest but strangely beautiful thing: two white headstones, and a thick patch of green ivy rather than stone. Even in death, even as one of the most famous and important painters of all time, Vincent is modest and practically uncelebrated. I stood at the foot of it for a long, long time, and cried.

08/04/11 -- on the bus ride back to London, primarily the Chunnel

Last night I drunkenly wandered the streets of Montmartre at 2am, looking for crepes. Paris, Paris, you will always hold a piece of my heart. Maybe one day I will even live inside you. For now, though, it's London that's home.

autobiography through popular culture



my face is unappealing, and my thoughts are unoriginal. i did experiment with substances, but all they did was make me ill. i used to do the i ching, but i had to use the meter. now i can’t see into the future but at least i can use the heater. it doesn’t get much better than this ‘cause this is how we live our glory days.

and i could be a genius, if i just put my mind to it. and i? i could do anything, if only i could get round to it. we were brought up on the space race, now they expect you to clean toilets. when you’ve seen how big the world is, then how can you make do with this? if you want me, i’ll be sleeping in. sleeping in throughout these glory days.

&

strange little girl.

There are a hundred things she has tried to chase away the things she won’t remember and that she can’t even let herself think about because that’s when the birds scream and the worms crawl and somewhere in her mind it’s always raining a slow and endless drizzle.

You will hear that she has left the country, that there was a gift she wanted you to have, but it is lost before it reaches you. Late one night the telephone will sing, and a voice that might be hers will say something that you cannot interpret before the connection crackles and is broken.

Several years later, from a taxi, you will see someone in a doorway that looks like her, but she will be gone by the time you persuade the driver to stop. You will never see her again.

Whenever it rains you think of her.

&

"Let me guess. My theories appall you, my heresies outrage you, I never answer letters, and you don't like my tie!"

since no one wants to hire me anyways, i should start sending out honest cover letters:

Dear Sir or Madam,

I am writing to apply for whatever the hell position you’re willing to give me. As a foulmouthed two-time college dropout (from Canada, no less), I believe myself to be the perfect candidate for your team, since we all know that people want underlings they can look down their noses at.

I am detail-oriented to the point of obsession when it comes to things I actually give a shit about, motivated by the need to make money, and an excellent team player because I am generally too polite in a working environment to let people know what I really think of them. I am too intelligent and too aware of my intelligence for my own good, and I don’t like being told what to do by people I don’t respect. In my last place of employment, I was regularly praised by superiors and customers alike for the speed and quality of my service, because for some reason no one else seemed to realize that the work was so easy an especially slow four-year-old would be capable of doing it.

Also, I make a mean apple-rhubarb pie, possess an encyclopedic knowledge of song lyrics and pop culture trivia, and believe that every hour should be happy hour.

Thank you for your consideration, and I look forward to hearing from you. (Oh god please let me hear from you.)

Sincere regards,

Dee.

(no subject)


“Y’know, all the rich people… all the rich people that live around this park - every year, they try to buy out the rights... so you can’t make a little noise.
EVERYBODY SAY AAAAAAAHHHHH!!!

 

So I  don‘t have many photos from last night, because from the moment Zach Condon opened his mouth to sing until I stumbled up my steps and cracked a beer, I existed in a state of extended rapture.

(Don’t get me wrong - Owen Pallett was amazing (I am pretty sure Owen Pallett is amazing when he’s doing nothing but breathing.), although his performance was a little wrecked for me by the obnoxious dudes a bit behind me who were ‘only there to see The Vaccines’ and were - forgive me if I sound snobbish but it’s true - of a certain breed of (predominantly male, though there’s definitely females too) obnoxious indie-rock fans who think tight jeans, a leather jacket, and a bad attitude are the be-all and end-all of cool, and who probably still think Pete Doherty’s the messiah. I also had a moment of profound culture shock, in that I was literally the only person in my area of the crowd who knew who Owen even was. The Vaccines themselves were fun and danceable and I enjoyed them, but definitely the weakest band on the setlist, and, even though I was a big Jay Jay Pistolet fan, I really think they’re just another in a long line of good but not all that original or memorable London indie bands.  Maybe it was just the wrong venue for them, though - I definitely think they would fare better in some sweaty club than Hyde Park.

Beirut, unfortunately, had a moment of almost being wrecked, too: by a group of completely wasted girls who were pushing forward to try to get nearer for Mumford & Sons (and can I just say: I FUCKING HATE THAT. If you are the type of person who rushes the barrier at gigs instead of getting close at the beginning and appreciating the entire line up? We will never be friends. In fact, I will happily punch you in the face. The rest of us like these bands, too, dickhead. That’s why we got here several hours early. This, of course, does not count in instances of moshpits, and moving/dancing crowds. If you are alone I am also slightly more likely to be forgiving.) who started shouting at me and the girls around me for not letting them past. One of them proceeded to pee in a cup, which she then spilt on one of the poor girls near me. They moved off pretty quickly, though, and my bliss at finally, finally seeing Beirut live won out.

It was the next two bands that really rattled me, though. Mumford & Sons are incredible live. They feed off the energy of the crowd like nobody’s business, and the amount of joy they put into every instant of their music is contagious. I screamed and sang myself hoarse, and danced all my troubles away. They have been one of my favourite bands since 2008, and the only time they ever played Vancouver was the evening before I moved to the UK, so it was such a joy to finally get to see them live. I cannot wait till they drop their next album and start touring again. I spent the entire gig one deep from the barrier, a bit to the right of the stage, and was lucky enough to have really amazing people around me for the most part - the aforementioned girls behind me and to my right who were just as blissed out the entire time as I was, a man and his two young sons who were obviously having the time of their lives to my left, and a three girls and a guy in front of me who threw themselves into the music with so much abandon; they were wonderful to dance with.

And so that was the act that brought me the most joy in the simple sense of the word. But the one that brought me to tears was Arcade Fire. I’m ashamed to say that despite being a fan since Funeral, and a Canadian to boot, this was my first time seeing them live. But as the sun went down, someone released a wishing lantern, and the crowd sang along to their joyous cacophony, it didn’t matter in the slightest

stark raving sane

Just a very quick note, on something that deserves a very long, rapturous ramble, and will probably get one:

I saw Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead starring Jamie Parker and Samuel Barnett at the Theatre Royal Haymarket tonight. (It has been - and will continue to be - a week of excellence, and of treating myself. I am giddy with excitement over the concert tomorrow! And then I think I will go to the Canada Day celebrations on Friday.) I am probably going to see it again. It was incredible.

My favourite History Boys (Pos & Scripps for those who don’t recognise the actors’ names) in my favourite play by my favourite playwright. The culmination of so much that meant everything to me in my high school days, the development of my literary loves and tastes. And, just, not only was it so good - I have seen Parker on stage before, at the Globe as Prince Hal, so I knew going into it that he’d be amazing, but his Guildenstern is perfect, radiating helpless confusion compounded by his startling intellect. And Barnett’s Rosencrantz is oblivious but also perfectly arch and occasionally withering with scorn, in a way people who know the film probably wouldn’t be expecting, but which works very well indeed. And that’s just the two leads - the Player & his men, Hamlet, the costume designs, the direction, the stage design (oh god, the stage design) - all of it is so good.

And this is rambly and gushy and emotional and uncritical and probably pretty mushy because I just got home and haven’t had time to think it through and I came into this production with an already strong love of the play and its leads, and I will take the time and effort to write a proper review later. But for now I just wanted a record of the glowy feeling I came out of the theatre into the warm London night with, because I have been very very sad these past few weeks, and I’ve spent this week using art as a healing balm, and I laughed a lot tonight, but I was also touched, and challenged. Because this play (and it has since I was 13), and now this production, means a lot to me.

(no subject)

I am slowly but surely getting myself back into the habit of blogging around here. It’s been a bit of a push to do so. I have been so tired. When I am sad, I react like a turtle; I retreat into myself and let the thick shell that has had years of growth keep me safe. I can go for days without engaging or interacting. And that’s okay as a primary defence mechanism - though I know there are people who’d disagree with me - but it’s definitely not okay as a way of life. And so I’ve been focussing most of the energy that I’ve not been using on just getting through the days on doing my best not to succumb to the instinct to be a zombie.

Saying that I haven’t been writing is not completely true, either. I have been writing quite a bit, but it has all been for myself. It’s the sharing that has felt like effort. I’ve a thick black notebook I bought myself in Oxford that’s been slowly but surely filling with diary entries and notes to myself and quotes I like and lists and all sorts of assorted other jottings, even the odd drawing. There’s a daisy from the field next to Christ Church College pressed between the pages, and an odd greeny-grey mark from where I dipped my finger in my absinthe and drew it down the page in Auvers-sur-Oise. It smells of the leather of my satchel and a faint hint of my perfume - though I may be imagining the latter. It’s the first time I’ve kept a proper diary - not a notebook, not an online journal - in a good long while.

I’ve written before about how I lost my voice for a while, and how I got it back, and how important honesty and writing are to me. The practice of keeping a diary varies for everyone, both in approach to and want of doing so. I think it works for me, not just because it means I keep a far more detailed record of my life than I had before. I am, in essence, having an extended conversation with myself in those pages. I was so so scared that I was going to stop writing completely after my father died, because I was pretty sure that if I lost it again I wouldn't have the energy to fight to get it back. Instead, words have become more of a necessity for me than ever before; they are my solace and my distraction (I have read more and faster this year than any since I was still in elementary school), but they are also my filter and the way through which I approach the world. That is, I think, a good part of the reason I have been copying so many quotes down alongside my own writings:

Why does tragedy exist? Because you are full of rage. Why are you full of rage? Because you are full of grief.
— Anne Carson

I don’t want to have the terrible limitation of the person who lives only by what can be made to make sense.
— Clarice Lispector

She wanted a story, a narrative; she wanted to be whole, not broken. She believed it would keep her “from flying into black bits.” — Carole Maso

Here is our problem, Sylvia: how to feel enough anger to survive and yet not to soil one’s ability to love, how to love, open oneself up, be free, and not be destroyed. Is love always a body climbing over a forbidden wall with a spotlight & machine gun on it? Is honesty always suicide? Would we all die like you, if we were honest? — Diane Wakoski

Bravery and submission are far closer than one realizes. Each is risk, each receives its own reward
. — Anne Quinn

(What I most need is to record experiences, not in the order in which they took place – for that is just history – but in the order in which they first became significant for me.) — Laurence Durrell



I always planned on coming back to this blog. Sometimes you just have to let things happen organically, and it feels like time. I have such things to tell you about, too! The rest of my time in Paris, my Van Gogh pilgrimage, adventures with friends from Canada, stores for monsters, my exploits in jobhunting and what I do in between...

I'll do my best not to disappear for so often or so long any more.