In need of a redesign since 2011.

Saturday, 24 August 2013

Did you miss me?

Sometimes you don't know what you've been missing until you're in the middle of it.

Tonight I caught up with a lot of very good friends. Many of us apologised to everyone for 'being antisocial lately.' It happens so easily sometimes, doesn't it; you're busy for a bit, or fancy some alone time, and the next thing you know you haven't seen some of your favourite people for months.

I've been very lonely and I don't think I saw a way out of that until tonight.

A couple of weeks ago I went home to visit my family. We did the usual Cowes Week things - beach barbecue, fireworks, catching up with my oldest friends - while thinking about how it might be very different next year. Dad's retiring, so a lot of things might have changed when I next go back.

One moment stands out though: it was so wonderful to swim in the sea again. It was the first time I've been swimming since... maybe over a year ago? Could be two. A long time. As I squeaked about the cold and inched my way deeper in, my sister said the sea had missed me, that it had been waiting for me to come back.

The thing that surprised me, both tonight and back on the island, was being reminded that there are other people who think like me. Whether it's my friend Zaru encouraging me to perform my poetry soon, or my brother Michael chatting to me about quantum physics, it's been a blessed relief to be around people who are interested in things that interest me. I don't get that at work.

I work with good people, kind people, but I don't have much common ground with them. I know nothing about football or reality TV, and am too scared to go digging for something real to talk about. So I've felt alienated. At first I thought they were a bit weird, but in the absence of anyone with whom to talk about that, the thought gradually became "I am completely abnormal."

Well, normal is all in the context. These people, my family and friends, are the context in which I make sense. They are my normal. They are my home.

Monday, 29 July 2013

My left hand is spasming. I don't want to be resting up for work, I want to be writing. I want to spend every minute working on outliving myself. There are caves where you can hear and see the northern lights sing. I know this is true. Just like I know that if you hold your breath and step sideways, if you do it at just the right angle, you can go somewhere different. People at work keep telling me how intelligent and creative I am, and I keep telling them it's a shame that doesn't matter here, it's a pity that doesn't help. The surface of the moon and the ocean floor are the same place, and both have deep and heavy lakes full of terrors. I was tired five hours ago. I should have slept then. Instead I want a pen and paper bedsheets, instead I want to keep going until something worth saying falls out of my hand, until I can fall asleep knowing I'll respect myself in the morning, until I can tell the imaginary Neil in my head what I've come up with and imagine him smiling in imaginary pride. "Not a bad start," I imagine he'd say. "Now actually write it, and you'll really have something." Damn you, imaginary Neil. You're always right. My last resting place will be beneath a willow tree. I know, but don't know how I know. I hope there will be a bridge at least, and someone to lead me across.

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Hipster fashion

I don't have a problem with hipsters, first of all. I long ago realised that 'fashion' as a concept wasn't for me, but I don't want to intrude on anyone else's fun. Or what passes for fun when you're too cool to publicly emote. If you want to wear skinny jeans, leggings with elaborate prints on them, thick-framed glasses, t-shirts featuring animals that also wear thick-framed glasses – well, fair play to you. Well done on the impressively swoopy hair.

It is bewildering, though, isn't it? The way one particular style starts to pervade the media until an entire era has a definable Look. In the same way that some photos are instantly recognisable as being from the seventies, the images we're churning out in advertising and posting online all scream “I was taken in the twenty-tens!”, and there's nothing you can do about that. The very cut of your fringe betrays you.

I think what bothers me most is that people don't realise how temporary it all is. Twenty years from now, when aesthetic circuitry is the big thing, you'll still have a moustache tattooed on your index finger. Forty years from now, when fabric can be programmed to display whatever you dreamed about last night, you will still have a moustache tattooed on your finger. That doesn't bother some people, but I like the fact that some tattoo artists will only ink unique works. If you already know three people with a particular design, like it or not, you're joining a club. What would the club of people with moustachioed digits look like, I wonder? Would you want to be a part of it?

There's been a lot of debate over what exactly makes someone a hipster, and because humans can't cope with there being more than two kinds of people, I've helpfully decided where the line is. You're welcome. The schism is as follows:

Anyone who gets conspicuously, publicly excited about their interests is a geek; anyone too cool and reserved to do so is a hipster. There's a distancing from the moment in that attitude that's actually pretty sad, and more held back than laid back. If you're tempted to say that you preferred a band's early work because the alternative is to appear happy or unhappy at the music entering your earholes at that exact moment, you've detached too much.

I think you'll find a comments section below, if you want to say that I don't know what I'm talking about, and lord knows you'd be right to. I'm no expert. I'm just a victim of the times, like everybody else. It wasn't intentional - I'd been looking for non-skinny trousers for months, and eventually gave up. I bought the first tolerable item that looked like it would cover my legs, only to check the label after purchase to find that I was now the ashamed owner of a pair of jeggings.

That's how fashion works. It gets everywhere, until you have no choice but to succumb. I have girl boxers with bowler hats and monocles on, and I'm not sure I could tell you why; only that it seemed the least abhorrent option at the time.

And so the symbols of our time continue; repeating, duplicating and mutating, until every surface in sight is covered in owls with moustaches.

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Why I Selfied

For Jill, because she was interested.

"And I'm a million different people from one day to the next" - The Verve, Bittersweet Symphony
Between the ages of 17 and 22, I took a lot of selfies. Hundreds. Probably thousands, although a mere few hundred ended up online. How very restrained I was. (Of course, they weren't called selfies then, and all this was fields.)

Why was I so obsessed with my own image, and with other people's reactions to me? I've given a lot of thought to this, because that is the kind of person I am. I do very normal things, then give a lot of thought to them, as if that somehow makes them worthy and important.

Many would say that it was vanity; the more perspicacious might say it was insecurity. I think it was both and more. I think that those years, late teenage and early twenties, mark the baffling, peculiar, and mercurial stage in which one looks like a different person every day.

This is undoubtedly true of one's childhood, too, but now the world is treating you like an adult. Suddenly you're considered ready for responsibility, for attention, for catcalls and compliments. When two different strangers can, within the same week, shout that you're ugly and beautiful respectively, we should not be surprised that people want to know what's happening that could provoke these responses.

So, we document. We try new hairstyles, new outfits, new angles; but instead of waiting for the opinion of a random on the street, we put them online and mentally chart the likes.

My peak of selfie-taking was probably age 19. My life got suddenly fuller, days packed with new experiences, and I never felt the same from one week to another. This was reflected, it seemed, in my reflection itself. Every time I got the camera out, I found that I looked less or more grown up than I expected, sometimes slimmer, sometimes lonelier, sometimes happier. I was in a long-distance relationship, which provided the perfect incentive (alibi?) to send photographs, and every one was a surprise to me as much as my intended. I was an adult now, who knew?

And why was it that I never saw what I expected? What is the strange dance we do with our self-esteem that prevents us from getting a reliable read on how attractive we are? (That's a whole 'nother blog post, I suspect.)

I still look like a different woman every day, but as the woman in question is merely getting older and fatter, I forgo the photos. That era has passed, for me. I'm done taking selfies. I don't see that changing, as I don't want to see myself changing any more. Maybe one day I'll be glad to have these to look back on, but they're not exactly things to show the hypothetical grandkids, are they?

Who knows. Maybe by then I'll be too old and too wise to be embarrassed of my fascination with my own changing self.

Thursday, 2 May 2013

"Today I accidentally let a meth addict use my ukulele as an ashtray."

Fairly self-explanatory? No? Ok, apparently this one needs further elaboration.

Jenny Lawson, wonderful and strange, offered a copy of her book to a random commenter on her blog. "What should you comment about?  Anything.  Your favorite toe.  The pet names of your body parts.  How many glass eyeballs you think a normal person uses in a lifetime.  The number of bodies you can fit under your bed.  It’s totally up to you," she said, and so...

I was showing a friend around Cardiff yesterday. She's recently moved to this fair city, and I wanted to show her everything exciting and good that it has to offer. We swung by the Cardiff Fashion Quarter to introduce her to my lovely and talented friend Laura Pickering, who recommended that we wander around Bute Park, seeing as how it was such a lovely day.

It was such a lovely day, guys.

At some point, I got my ukulele out in a quiet area and started strumming one of the few I know by heart. A woman approached us. Now, I'm woefully naive at the best of times, but even I know that someone who's walking unsteadily, missing teeth, and alarmingly thin is either an addict or a zombie. (From that perspective, this story could have gone far worse for me.)

She opened with "You can't play." I smiled politely and said something self-deprecating, probably "I know I'm not very good, but -"
"Let me have a go."
So, I took a gamble, thinking she'd take refusal as an insult and hoping that she'd get bored fairly quickly. Above all, I hoped she didn't smash it. (Spoilers: if she'd smashed it, I wouldn't be writing this - I'd be cackling madly on the news while a man in a suit said "my client has no comment at this time" to the cameras.)

She twanged the A-string, pulling it out of tune, and shakily tapped her cigarette ash into the body of the uke.

Now, my friend, as she's pointed out to me, has lived in London and dealt with worse. God bless her, I don't know how she had the fortitude, but she stood straight away to ask for - and then take - my uke back. And she had to fight for it, too.

The woman struggled with her and called her a fat bitch a few times, while my friend said "would you please leave us alone," politely but firmly. She eventually did walk off, and I went to a music shop to buy the uke some strings as an apology. I should have known better. I am sometimes, as I said, woefully naive.

So, that's that! I apologise for the long period of silence. I got scared away from my blog because of something I can't talk about, and in all honesty I only came back because this one was too long to tweet. But there it is, Tony. She left, everyone's fine, and my friend reassured me that I should forget about it, so I think I will.