Thursday, November 13, 2008

Love, love is a verb, love is a doing word

Matthew Eastmond's wonderful 'Commuter Ignores Lovable Bear', which is too perfect for words for today's post. I would love to think that we are all sometimes that lovable bear. You must - and this is not a request - take time immediately (even if the dinner will burn) to look at Matthew Eastmond's website, and at his online art exhibitions. Even better, buy something from him at once.

On the train home from London. No one speaks to anyone. People are even fearful of making eye contact. I challenge this by exuberantly greeting those on the morning or evening train who choose to take the seat next to me. Generally, they look afraid, then pointedly retreat behind books, Blackberries (I don't even know what a Blackberry is, but the chicks dig it...), Metro's or mobile phones. The exception to this rule - which I have noted consistently over the past two weeks I've been travelling to and from London - is Anthony, my seat companion yesterday from Waterloo all the way to Portsmouth and Southsea. It is ironic that on the one journey where tiredness had discouraged me from venturing beyond my usual smiling 'Is this seat taken?', it is Anthony who strikes up conversation with me.

"You read very quickly," he comments after half an hour in which I have been immersed in Rabih Alameddine's book, Koolaids - which I heartily recommend, and which has a great opening paragraph:

Death comes in many shapes and sizes, but it always comes. No one escapes the little tag on the big toe.

"You have nearly finished that book in half an hour!" he continues.

I beam at him, nearly sliding from my seat in surprise, and delighted that someone else has broken my observation of non-communicative travel. For the rest of the journey, Anthony and I chat about the benefits and disadvantages of speed-reading (he reads slowly and retains the details of every book he has ever read; I read very fast and cannot remember many details within the same week, though I can always tell you if I have enjoyed a book or not and rarely forget one entirely), and our respective jobs (he is an internal auditor in Gosport and very interested that I make my living writing).

It is a pleasure to listen to him talk; he has the delicious accent of Africa I have not heard since my days with the African Women's Choir (anyone who mentions my appearance on the Big Screen of the Guildhall Square will be struck off my Christmas card list for now and all time).

As the train pulls into Portsmouth and Southsea station, we exchange warm goodbyes. I wonder why these encounters are the exception rather than the rule?

Over the last few weeks, I have made a determined effort to speak to my fellow travellers during my train journeys, with varying results. Some people welcome contact with such warmth it borders on gratitude, as if they had been longing for someone to speak, whilst others respond with a hostility that may denote a fear of my self-evident insanity at speaking to them at all.

I don't mind too much how people react; the exercise is as much for my benefit as theirs. On Radio 4's Thought for the Day yesterday morning (Radio 4 is one of my closest and best informed friends) Giles Fraser said:

The more you give away, the more you have; the more your focus in life is outside of yourself, the more you will flourish.

In a world where our similarities by far outweigh our differences (should you doubt this, try comparing humans with frogs for a contrast), and in which many of us increasingly feel isolated and alone (Ah, how I miss you Kate!!!), the temptation to 'protect' ourselves by turning our focus ever inward (or, as the great philosophers John, Paul, George and Ringo once said - it's a fool who plays it cool by making his world a little colder), I'm all for bridging the gaps between each other, even at the risk of being considered crazy (what's new, I hear you cry, gentle reader).

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

I've been running around always looking down

I'm taking a leaf out of The Youngest Indie's blog (see what I did there?) for a while and using song lyrics as my blog titles. If you have time, check out The Youngest Indie, one of my favourite blogs in the 'osphere, and featuring some mighty fine images, as always.

I'm delighted to find in my image search for today's post, a comic strip called 'Angry Sarah' that captures it all perfectly, by the outrageously talented Luke Pickett - clearly a genius. Turns out Angry Sarah is a recurring character of his, and I love the by-line 'An Angry Sarah Adventure' which just about sums up my life to date.

I spent yesterday in London, up at 6am and back at 9pm. My days in London are weird. The city used to terrify me but I must confess it grows on me more and more. The things I hate about it are also the things I love: the cool anonymity, no one having any interest in you or yours and the way that I never, ever really know what's going to be around the next corner. I'm also becoming increasingly accustomed to sleeping on the train. Snoring amongst strangers should be an exercise for self-confidence.

I had a great opportunity to practice patience on the way back when sharing a carriage with a group of middle class teenagers. Say what you like about young people (no, really, do - I'm no longer in that category and genuinely don't care) but the irritating type are the middle class ones, for me. All sound and banality, signifying nothing, today's uniformed emos will be the 2.4 suburbanites of tomorrow.

There were several moments when I wanted them dead, several where I just wanted them maimed and several where I just wanted to grab and shake each one of them in turn whilst screaming:

"I don't care how posh and fucking privileged you are, or how fucking hilarious your repetitious ego wank fest seems to you right now - I need you to SHUT THE FUCK UUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUP!"

Although it took a lot of work, I decided against this in the end: partly because it's against my personal code of ethics and I know that such moments really are an opportunity to practice patience, and partly because after my last commuter trip, the judge said that another offence would result in a prison sentence (I know, call that justice? It was a public service and I only did what the other commuters did not have the nerve to do)....

So, yes, I've got a few issues right now. Missing Kit Kat is making me short tempered and intolerant. Yes, even more so than usual. Someone 'accidently' called me a narcissist earlier today and I actually found myself considering throwing him through the window of his shop. Seriously.

I think I should have some kind of public health warning - Danger, this girl has recently lost her best friend to Antipodean Travel. Do not approach her. Do not upset her. And for the love of God, don't provoke her temper.

In other news, The Magic Pixie and I were recently discussing the need for us to have t-shirts reading 'What would Kate do?' to get us through the next 12 months. Turns out, someone got there ahead of us. Truly, Kate is a human miracle.......As the Pixie says, Everyone should have one.

Until next time.......Stay patient.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

It's been a long, long time but I want you to know

Farewell for a year to the Kit Kat!

Well. It has been a while, hasn't it? It seems longer than just February since I wrote, but perhaps that's because so much has happened since.

My best friend Kit Kat has just left our fair climes to travel for a year. We set up a blog for her before she left so that she could keep in touch with everyone. You can find it here:

Home Thoughts from A Broad

Seeing Kate's blog made me think that I miss my own a little. This year has seen a huge amount of change for me - just when I was thinking that nothing could beat the wild changes of last year. But last year's winds of change were gentler, born of sunshine and novelty. This year's changes seem slower, cooler, like the onset of winter in all its inevitable, indifferent beauty.

So here I am, back in the land of the blogger once more.

It split my heart a little to see a couple of posts back in February that mentioned James and I moving in together. Alas, as life would have it, this was not a state that lasted long. We have since both moved on to pastures new: he that way, and I this. As the lady Alanis once said, 'Life has a funny way.'

Indeed it does. Bloody hilarious.

I've got that sinking Sunday feeling: cleaning the flat, catching up on work-related reading, typing invoices and listening to the Kings of Leon's new album (you can always rely on the Followills to keep you holding on).

I'm needing the sound of Use Somebody each day since I bought it. I've no doubt this will change as I have a tendency to fall in love with each one of their album tracks in turn, until I'm wearing the whole album under my skin like a singing insulation against the cold. Check out our boys on C4: