I've booked my ticket! I will be flying out of the country on New Years Eve [will see in the NY 35,000ft above Dubai... I hope I get a drink!] What a great way to start a new Year. Feels good.
Of course there's the usual tiresome stuff to do before I leave...
1. Find Passport! Easy - under the bed with all my other important documents.
2. Get visa: Already done! Oh yes, and it's shiney and laminated - mmm mmmm! I do like a Visa that really looks like it means something. I feel slightly cheated with the smudgy stamp one often receives [smile] - it could say anything! How do I show off my global credentials with a blemish?! I'm happy to say, my Filipino Visa looks truly cultivated!
3. Get travel insurance. Ugh - it seems so defeatist to pay for something you don't plan to do. Yes, I understand the logic behind it - but it's giving-in to the inevitability of the Dark Side. I have a sneaking suspicion that if I am not insured, nothing bad will happen to me! [Ha!]
4. Go to the Dentist: ONCE AGAIN! You don't go to the Doctor unless you are ILL! Why do I have to go to the dentist? Huh? Why goddammit?! I last went to the dentist 3 years ago [cos my mother made me!], my previous visit was two years earlier [cos I had tooth-ache - I have no serious ethical objections to this visit, although he did make me watch American cartoons] before that, there was a gap of 16 years [ie. since the last time my mother made me] and you know what? Nothing bad happened! It doesn't make sense, your teeth aren't going be any better just cos some bloke looks at them, are they?
errrrr, what else was there? I'm sure there was more, there's always more... ahhh yes,
5. Learn how to use my camera: this should be easy, after all, the instruction booklet is a veritable epic. The War & Peace of Photography! An Odyssey into Visual Representation! A Saga of Similitude! 1,847 pages of the most intensely boring prose you could ever imagine - o joy. I was going to quote a particularly stodgy bit for effect - but the world doesn't deserve it. Besides, a quote wouldn't convey the sheer scale of it's boringness - pages and pages of it... [sigh]
6. Pack: this is always tough. I have a rough idea. The temptation is to re-pack exactly what I had last time [smile] and to an extent that's what I'll do. But I have to be realistic: quite a few of those items are on their last threads and once I'm wearing them daily they'll fall apart in no time.
Some decisions are easy - I only have 2 pairs of shorts - so they're coming! Some decisions will be hard: there's only room for 1 long-sleeved top. Ay there's the rub. My apple-green hoodie? It's my fave, but thick and doesn't roll up small. My white hoodie? Rolls up small... but it's new - I haven't learnt to love it yet. Or my scruffy blue top - stretched beyond recognition, faded and I adore it, but has no hood! Life is hard.
Now here's a tricky one: I have a favourite t-shirt which I won in a pub [don't ask] in 1996. I love this t-shirt: it fits, it doesn't stretch in the wash and it says 'XLR8' in a tacky-looking stylee on the sleeve - what's not to love! It's been everywhere with me since then... so now it's got 'sentimental value' - which means if it gets nicked I will be upset! So should I leave it behind? But can I go away without it? Yes! These are the things that keep me awake at night!
7. Find out what language they speak in the Philippines. Learn some of it.
I'm being facetious - I've already looked it up. They speak Tagalog, which incorporates some Spanish - which should help me, right? Wrong. The problem is I am not linguistically tuned, but I've been exposed to a lot of languages... and after a while [sorry about this] they all sound the same! My Spanish slips very smoothly into my Franglais! My Greek is remarkably similar to my Indonesian. My Thai - Ha! I actually ORDERED "Cat & Rice" at a food stall. Luckily they realised I'd made a mistake and gave me "Snake on a Stick" instead.
8. Get a plan.
[chortle] I'm joking! That's one thing I'm definitely not taking! The future starts here...
I haven't blogged in ages. Not sure why! I still read lots of blogs [loving you all!] and still regularly remind myself to sit down & write one [smile] but to no avail. I guess I've had lots on my mind recently.
I am leaving the country again soon [not sure exactly when - nothing is booked yet. Not sure exactly where! Although the Philippines is looking like a strong contender] which I am both looking forward to and daunted by!
Yes! Me! Daunted! Well it's true, I will be moving out of my flat next weekend and I feel weird about that, I will be giving up work about the same time and most of all, over the next week or so, I will be saying good-bye to lots of friends.
But what really scares me, is that moment [coming soon] when I will be getting on the plane, just me and my [beloved] pack and setting out 'into the world' once again - homeless, friendless and aimless [grin].
Of course I can be rational! I am not an urban creature! I know that! I am a wanderer and when I get moving I will be fine. In fact [if past experiences are anything to go by] I will quickly feel more comfortable and 'at home' than I have done since I last got back! But that doesn't make it any easier...
Recently, I have been corresponding with a good friend who has been doing some soul-searching with regard to his choices and how he makes them. We have both come to the conclusion that happiness is not something that just happens to you. Happiness is something that we must actively choose and pursue. The irony is that the steps needed to pursue that happiness may not be happy ones! That is how I feel right now. I want to leave, I believe that I need to leave in order to pursue my happiness. But leaving anywhere is never easy.
Saw a man in the Bank last week, who made me smile. He was in his 70's, wearing the obligatory OAP-issue beige slacks and matching anorak! He carried a rather nicely carved walking stick in hand, tweed flat-cap and... most surprisingly, peeping out from under his anorak was a bright blue Superman tee-shirt! Stylish! I was impressed!
The tattoo is finished! Ok, so still no pictures... [coming soon I promise!] cos it's still a bit angry & scabby-looking, but it is finished and it IS most, most awesome!
Ibuprofen is a truly wonderful thing [grin] and with it's assistance the final 4 [FOUR! Crikey!] hours actually went quite smoothly. It was quieter in the shop too, which meant I got to be nosey and listen-in to all the work going on around me!
T was in his 40's - he had three 'delightful' tattoos on his arm [smile]: a stunning football emblem [grin] which I suspect may have been a prison tattoo; a very smudgy bulldog ["I was 17 and drunk" he told me, with a wry smile] and the tour de force - an Olde English stylee 'Mum' on the shoulder. He was in for a full cover-up sleeve from Miss N, the Japanese expert! She spent about 3 hours drawing on him in felt pen, before she started [only the outlines this session]. T looked very tense when we first arrived and it was wonderful to watch him visibly relax as lithe carp, delicate water-lilies and smokey bubbles slowly appeared from the jumble of pen strokes.
M had come over from Holland specifically to be tattooed by Mr Z. His design was an intriguingly sci-fi style pattern of interlocking cubes and lightening - sort of M.C. Escher meets Captain Marvel.
Mr Z is an art gallery all of his own - two densely inked black sleeves that met across his chest, facial tattoos across both cheekbones, up the bridge of his nose and onto his forehead and [the one that really made me wince] a curved shape around the back of his ear which spiked down his neck.
It's quite a statement to have such extensive ink work. I was impressed by his commitment: when you decide on facial tattoos you are quite clearly saying you will never be 'mainstream': never work in an office; never do any kind of public or customer service... it's a lifestyle choice that most would not be brave enough to make.
I spent some time trying to imagine what it would feel like to be 'the tattooed bloke' - because that's all that most people will see. I don't mean that in a bad way - but it's true! Even as a tattoo-fan my first impression of Mr Z was a little bit scary, a tough guy, maybe aggressive... those impressions were quickly shattered when he started talking of course! But it must be hard to meet those kind of preconceptions everywhere you go.
Then it occurred to me that [when I show it] I will be definitely be 'the tattooed girl'. I have mixed feelings about this. Obviously I was aware from the start that this is something people are going to look at - and, in all honesty, wanting to be looked-at must be a part of why anyone has a tattoo. But still - even though I co-designed it and knew exactly how big it would be - now it's finished even I am quite shocked by just how big and how bright it is! It's pretty damn hard to miss. I am going to have to find my way of dealing with comments & stares [that's one good thing about having it on my back - I will be unaware of most of the pointing!] and I am not yet sure of how that will be. Also, since the design features some Chinese calligraphy I am going to have to decide what to say when I'm asked what it means. It won't be the truth! I think that will remain my pleasure! But my fave potential answers so far are:
"Chicken in Yellow Bean sauce" - cos it saves time on the way home from the pub! "I'm with stupid" - Te-he! "Nothing is permanent" - oooooh! Verging on smart-arse but that appeals to me! "Made in Sussex" - obvious, but strangely classy! and the best one [courtesy of Mathew] simply "Rudegirl"!
Further witty suggestions on a postcard please!
So now I have the itching to look forward to [nooOOOooo!] and then lots of showing off to do! Hurrah!
It has started! I went in yesterday and spent a joyful 3 hours having a needle repeatedly punched into my back... not for vanity you understand! Oh no, I did it for Art [ha!]
It hurt! I had forgotten how much it hurt! Boo! My last [proper] tattoo was 12 years ago! And since then I have been oh-so-blasé about it: "oh no," I say glibly "it doesn't really hurt, it's just uncomfortable!"
I take it all back: uncomfortable my arse, it hurts!
As I lay there, hurting [did I mention it hurt?] I can't help but wonder what on earth I am doing! The truth is, I'm not sure. Is it a need to be scarred? Is it individualism in extremis? In the 21st Century uniforms are still prevalent - but I don't think many take pride in them anymore. These days real kudos is granted only to those who look 'different'. But there's only so far most of us can go - I don't design my own clothes - so even if I visit lesser known shops there will always be someone wearing the same t-shirt. There will always be someone with my haircut or my trainers... but now perhaps I can be certain there will be absolutely no-one with my tattoo! Is that why I spent 3 hours gritting my teeth?! If so, I feel slightly ashamed at my own vanity!
Although, I wasn't completely jesting earlier when I said it is also about Art. What better canvas than the human form? What more can you do to demonstrate your loyalty to the Aesthetic than to have something beautiful etched into your body? [smile]
Or perhaps it is nothing more than glorified make-up. Just decoration - a grown-up version of face painting!
Either way, I have three weeks to think about it, before I return for my next bout of Kafkaesque redemption!
"HELICOPTER gunships thudded over the dusty streets of El Fasher in North Darfur this weekend as the Sudanese government stepped up its latest offensive in defiance of a United Nations resolution.
Hundreds of thousands of people have been killed and 2m displaced since African rebels took up arms in 2003 to protest against perceived bias from a government dominated by Arabic-speakers. Sudanese government forces armed and organised Arabic-speaking tribes into the Janjaweed militias, which raped, tortured and murdered countless civilians.
“They (the rebels) are not seeing us as partners in the peace process but as legitimate targets,” he [General Collins Ihekire, the Nigerian head of the African Union’s (AU) 7,000-strong peacekeeping force] said by telephone from Darfur. Two AU soldiers were killed last month in an ambush, and more attacks were expected, he added. Most of the peacekeepers had not been paid since May."
WAR AND SOCIAL CHANGE IN THE TWENTIETH CENTURY by Arthur Marwick
"While recognising the essential uniqueness of historical events, Professor Marwick argues that these changes can be best explained by developing a 'model' which breaks war down into four meaningful components. Throughout the book [...] there is discussion of wars as DESTRUCTION, of the way in which war TESTS EXISTING INSTITUTIONS, of the manner in which PARTICIPATION in war-time benefits underprivileged groups, and of the PSYCHOLOGICAL REPERCUSSIONS of war."
UNDERPRIVILEGED [adj.] Lacking opportunities or advantages enjoyed by other members of one's community; deprived.
adjective: Economically and socially below standard: backward, depressed, deprived, disadvantaged, impoverished. See rich/poor.
noun: A person living under very unhappy circumstances: loser, miserable, underdog, unfortunate, wretch. See rich/poor.
Origin: 1897: The notion of privileges for favored people - the wealthy, or those in the know, or those connected to the government - has been around as long as civilization. But the democratic notion of privileges for everyone came into its own in America with our adoption of the word underprivileged. To say someone is underprivileged is to imply that there is a standard of privileges to which everyone is entitled, privileges that have been unjustly withheld from the underprivileged.
In the politically correct 1990s, underprivileged sounded too condescending, too accepting of a privileged point of view, and needy is now more likely to be used.
THE POOR HAVEN'T CHANGED - WE HAVE by Linda McQuaig
"In recent years, the word "underprivileged" has fallen out of use.
Too bad; the word was helpful. It captured the fact that what separated the poor from the rest of society was mostly just privilege - the advantage of being born into the right family. In other words, luck had a lot to do with where one ended up in life.
This fundamental realization helped foster an attitude of sympathy and generosity towards the poor. After all, they were seen as being just like everyone else, only less lucky. So it seemed fair that society should provide them with some support, to make up at least partly for the headstart the rest of us got.
This sort of approach has been brusquely pushed aside in the last two decades, replaced by an aggressive new right-wing ideology with a much harsher attitude towards the poor.
According to this new ideology, the rich are rich because they've contributed more to society, and they therefore deserve their big fortunes. (Many rich people find considerable merit in this theory). Similarly, the new ideology holds that the poor are poor due to their own shortcomings, perhaps laziness or some other character defect.
Thus, the role of privilege - while more pronounced than ever in the lives of the rich and more lacking in the lives of the poor - has been airbrushed out of the picture. Our willingness to embrace this new ideology explains why our streets are increasingly filled with homeless people. The poor haven't changed; we've changed. Egged on by this new mean-spirited ideology, we've kicked the supports out from under them."
"So why did you break-up?" "I left some CDs in his car and he didn't tell me." "What?" "He didn't mention it." "You broke up for that! What do you mean?" "I left 3 CDs in his car. They were old ones so I didn't realise until a couple of weeks later. It took me a while to work out where they'd be, but eventually I remembered I'd last played them when we went away for the weekend" "and what? He denied having them?" "No! When I asked him he just said, 'oh yeah, they were in my car.' I said 'where are they now?' because, you see, I've been in his car a few times since then and I hadn't seen them. He said 'they're at my flat,' I said 'oh!' I was waiting for an explanation, you know? For him to say 'oh sorry, I completely forgot I had them' or 'I've been meaning to bring them over' or 'I took them out of my car so they wouldn't get nicked.' I don't know - something!" "So what did he say?" "Nothing! Nothing at all! I said I'd pick them up next time I came round and he said 'ok'" "So what happened? He wouldn't give them back?" "No! It's just that I was expecting, since I'd reminded him, that he would make the effort to return them to me. But he didn't. A few days later I went over to his place and he didn't mention it. I really thought he would say something! But he didn't. So finally, as I was leaving, I asked about them. He said they were on the shelf, so I went and looked - two of them were amongst all his CDs, the third was in the stereo!" "So he'd been playing it?" "Exactly! Which means he hadn't forgotten he had them! He knew he had them! He liked them! And he was trying to keep them! That's theft!" "Theft?! I don't know about that! It's a bit rude..." "It's Date-Theft!" "Theft, is a little strong!" "Date-Theft! I haven't seen him since."
The most common space-making tactic on the tube is very simple: hold the newspaper up, open it wide and extend the arms to form a half-cell which lulls the commuter into believing he's not actually stuck in an overheated carriage with 458 other pissed-off, sleepy people. To carry it off properly the commuter has to look superior - as if he is above all this. As if he is only on the tube because the Rolls broke down. Yeah right.
This winds me up. It's denial of the worst kind. It is rush hour - now deal with it! I want to karate chop the newspaper - down the fold line. Not in a cool, Chow Yun-Phat, Kung-Fu kind of way. Oh no, more in a loud, camp, Miss Piggy kind of way - complete with 'ha-aaai-ya!' sound effect. Just to see the shock and fear on said commuters face. Lovely. [smile]
But some people - usually men [cos you boys like your ceremonies & rituals don't you?] will develop more complex, combative patterns. The lean fully forward in your seat, legs stretched-out, newspaper folded and held flat in front of you, is a favourite, I notice. I watched two young fellas duelling the other day: one would shake out his newspaper in a manly fashion - in doing so he would touch the newspaper opposite. So then the other guy had to shake his newspaper out and manoeuvre it so it ended-up resting lightly on his opponents. Cue a vigorous shake-out from the red corner and so on... yawn.
The single out-stretched leg is very popular with young blokes: throwing just one leg out to the side - not only claims half of the seat next to you, but it also demonstrates just how much of a man you really are. Yeah, course it does sweetie.
Women have a different way of dealing with it - look around you next time your tubing it - most of the women have their eyes closed. It works too - eyes closed and some loud music and you can almost kid yourself that you're still in the bathroom...
I saw love-at-first-sight happen this morning and it was a beautiful thing. I was sitting on the tube, in my usual semi-catatonic state, just vaguely people-watching. A seat came free, but the man standing in front of me didn't want it. A girl behind him, however, did. She said "excuse me" and started to manoeuvre around him. He turned, their eyes met and it was as if a jolt of electricity suddenly hit the carriage...
Seriously! It was quite amazing! And I'm pretty sure I wasn't the only one who felt it. You could almost feel the focus of the carriage shifting onto this central point between them. She started to smile and so did he, neither of them broke eye contact and everything seemed to slow down. As she tried to move past him she was also turning towards him, away from her seat and he turned with her - keeping her directly in front of him. It was like a dance, they were less than a foot apart, rotating slowly and neither could bare to look away from the others' eyes.
At some point she remembered where she was and what she was doing and moved away to sit down. He couldn't take his eyes off her. She was trying to play it cool - but she was blushing furiously and kept sneaking little glances over her newspaper. A couple of stops later she got off... and he visibly swayed towards the door. He actually moved one foot - I could see him thinking about it... should he follow her? I noticed several other women in the carriage were also watching him intently. I had to bite my tongue to stop myself from shouting "Go on! Go after her! At least say 'hello' and she'll offer a phone number - trust me! She will!"
She was moving slowly, with the crowd, towards the exit. I knew the doors would close any second and that would be it. Millions of people travel on the tube every morning, even if they both use that same route everyday - it doesn't necessarily mean they'll see each other again.
She was nearly gone and the doors HAD to close soon... then at the last moment she turned - for one last look at him. That did it: as the doors started closing he squeezed himself through them and the last thing I saw, as the train pulled away, was him reaching over to touch her shoulder.
Phoned my mate last night, he said "Can I call you back? Someone's just set light to a car outside my house!" "Oh my god," I said, "that's awful!" "I know," he replied "I'm worried it might burn my fence!"
It's 8am and I have to leave the house right now to be at work on-time. No time for breakfast, so I grab a banana to eat on the way. I'm ready at the door... but I feel like I've forgotten something... I stop & try to remember what it might be...
My MP3 player - grab it and head to the door. Keys? Where are my keys, damn. They're not on the table; not in the pocket of yesterdays jeans, damn, not fallen behind the table; down the sink or... they're in the door. There they are, right in front of me, hanging quietly, in the door, all the time. Bastards.
8.09 - I really have to go now. Pick up banana, pick up music and out of the door. Lock the door, down the stairs, out the front door, step outside and have cold feet. Look down - I've forgotten my shoes. Damn Damn Damn. Back up the stairs, unlock the door, inside, sit down, put on trainers, curse. 8.12 - now I'm late. Have keys... stop... I know I've forgotten something... think... pick up banana, pick up music...
Damn, I was going to take the rubbish out. I haven't got time to take the rubbish out! Damn. If I don't take the rubbish out, by the time I get home my place will stink. Damn. Tie-up and remove rubbish bag, pick up banana, pick up music, have keys, have shoes, do I have my travelcard? Check in bag: have travelcard and have phone, 8.16. Pick up banana, pick up music, have keys. Out of the door, lock door, curse, unlock door, go back inside, pick up rubbish bag, out of the door, lock door, down the stairs and into the street.
Turn on music, put in pocket, plug in. I am now shielded by the protective powers of Desmond Decker *and* The Aces. Nothing bad can happen to me for the next 2 minutes and 12 seconds. Relax. Then I remember I'm late for work and start walking.
Walk as fast as I can to the tube station. Arrive 8.37 and approach the stairs. Am reminded, as always, of Gandalf leading the fellowship into the Mines of Moria - "what new devilry is this?" Underground it's 5 degrees hotter and 2 minutes till the next train. I walk to the end of the platform, everyone is in my way. I see the same faces daily, but never acknowledge them: the fat girl who would be really pretty if she lost a few stone and scowls at the world as if she knows that and it pisses her off. The tall man who is only good-looking from a distance - from far away he's Billy Zane, from up close he's Phil Mitchell. Scary - how can it be? The stylish girl who dresses like I wish I could, the loved-up couple, the man who always falls asleep...
The train arrives, I get on, no seats, the man next to me smells. I forgot to grab a newspaper - damn, damn, damn. Two stops later and I can feel the early symptoms of Tube-induced Coma: my limbs become heavy, eye-lids start to droop, a vague thought of sitting on someones lap, brain shutting down, doors closing... please... stand clear... of the... closing... and slipping... into... a coma...
Damn! Bounce around on the balls of my feet for a moment. Feel better, sweat more. Get funny looks from a middle-aged woman wearing footless tights. A crime against fashion! The best style-advice anyone ever gave me was never wear anything 'retro' that you were into the first time round. Those of us still scarred by leggings & the Soup Dragons in the early 90's, should never be induced (or seduced) into going there again. She should know better. Decide not to accept the funny looks. I make eye contact, and maintain it - benign but steady... she looks away and starts reading adverts. Ha! She's terrified! Victory is mine! Yes indeed, don't mess with me madam, you will find I am a force to be reckoned with! I am invincible! Give me any grief and I will LOOK AT YOU!
Yeah! Take that!
Feel slightly foolish. Arrive at stop. Head towards escalators. Start feeling fierce again. Can't get to escalators - why not? The rules are simple: stand on the right and walk on the left. Not complicated! And yet there are those who can't grasp it. And I wonder - do all these people have stair lifts at home? Why not use your legs to walk up the stairs? Or just stay out of my way! [grin]
Finally up the escalators, through the barriers, up the stairs - Daylight! Sunshine! Air! Space! Joy!
Remember I'm late for work and start walking. Arrive at work 9.04. Exhausted. Have a cup of tea.
This is my first ever posting on my first ever blog and I suddenly feel considerable responsibility to make it worth reading. What a scary thought! To decide to publish random thoughts on the internet is one thing, to feel obliged to strive to be worthy of the worlds attention is quite another.
Habitual nomad finding a home. In more than 14 years of haphazard wandering I've visited 28 countries on five continents. I've climbed five volcanoes - they smell awful. I've dived with sharks - they're beautiful. I have never seen a badger. I've lived and worked in Australia, Canada, the US, Mexico, Honduras, Guatemala and the Philippines. I once spent four months at sea working on a fishing boat. I have successfully bribed a customs official. I can't sing in tune. I have witnessed an animal sacrifice. I have seen a bear shit in the woods. I am a stranger in my own country. I am an atheist. I don’t believe a civilised society should be tolerant of ignorance. I like people who can spell. Dark chocolate makes me weak. Crowds make me nervous. I have principles. I am a Graphic Designer. I am a Yoga Teacher. I am a Dive Instructor. I loiter without intent. I can, quite happily, watch paint dry.
"And the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time." — T. S. Eliot
"Don’t go off sightseeing. The real journey is right here. The great excursion starts from exactly where you are. You are the world. You have everything you need. You are the secret. You are the wide opened. Don’t look for the remedy for your troubles outside yourself. You are the medicine. You are the cure for your own sorrow." — Rumi
"It is to be remarked that a good many people are born curiously unfitted for the fate waiting them on this earth." — Joseph Conrad
"You don't get reformed - you just run out of wind." — Carlito's Way