Wednesday, March 31, 2004

Life begins @ ...

Picture this ...

It is the Saturday morning before the ultimate surprise party I'm planning for my beloved to celebrate his 40th birthday. We are lying in bed soaking up the notion that we do not have to respond to the alarm or the phone, just the Saturday paper and a lovely breakfast of fat toast and scrambled eggs.

I was feeling pretty pleased with myself for tonight we were having dinner some friends, Dave & Catherine, who we had been trying to catch up with them for months, at a lovely restaurant in Manchester. This was not the surprise though. Unbeknownst to Ian I had arranged for 20 or so of our friends to sneak into the club downstairs where Dave is the resident DJ and had been a great help at getting all our friend’s names on the guest list etc. etc. Quite a cosy, classy little club and perfect in that it was downstairs from where we were eating dinner.

So as I contemplated whether to get up or read one more chapter my reverie is shattered when Ian rolls over and says ... "I don't think I'm gonna make dinner tonight, I feel like shit".

I looked at him calmly while my mind frantically ran through my options. Did I suggest we wait till later in the day to see how he felt? No. He had been sick for a few days and tended to feel worse towards the end of the day. Did I pretend I didn't hear him and resume reading? No. He knew I'd heard him cause I blanched. Or did I suggest that he just take lots of drugs and bear up? No cause he'd have slapped me. So I did what I'd restrained myself from spilling for over a month ... I told him.

“If you can’t make it tonight I am going to have to get out of bed now and make 15 odd phone calls to let the others know.”

"What others?" he replied coming over all weird.

"The other people who are going to be there". I said.

"I don't get it", he answered.

"Think about it", I said.

The lights came on, he laughed into his pillow and blushed.

I was disappointed that the 'wow' factor would be lost, so were Dave & Catherine as they were so keyed up to blind face lie to Ian all night as well as devise a way to convince Ian to come down to the Basement for a drink and a boogie! All that said it was still a fantastic night!

Jammy came over from Leeds.
Anna & Kev came down from Newcastle.
Jenny came up from London.
& Martin all rocked up from the 4 corners of Manchester.

Sadly, James, PJ, John & Catherine, Stuart & Kirsty, Cath, Paula & Emma were last minute cancellations due to sickness and/or babies who would not let their parents out.

So although some great mates could not make it we managed to enjoy ourselves nonetheless. Vodka Martinis are like that.

We stumbled out at 2.30am and all got on a bus (I must have been drunk cause I don't 'do' buses after 6.30pm) and chortled our way to Withington where again I uncharacteristically agreed to get hot chips from the local chippy still mad enough to be open at 3.00am on a Sunday morning. Very nice chips too if my vodka soaked memory serves me correctly.

The clocks went forward this weekend (Oh God Spring if finally here!) so the sum total of our Saturday night out was 5.30am. And didn't we feel like shit the next day?

We had a lazy Sunday which started with a big, fortifying breakfast followed by the Sunday papers, chatter, 2 episodes of 'Spaced' (you know the one where Tyres takes the gang clubbing - laugh out loud funny!), copious amounts of tea and chocolate after which Jenny & Jammy headed back to their respective cities, I fell into bed and Ian fell into a coma from which he has yet to emerge. When I say coma I mean sick-as-a-dog-barking-cough type deal - poor puppy. Pardon the pun.

Enough said.

Listening to: Songs for Jane, Maroon 5
Reading: The Tin Princess, Philip Pullman

Thursday, March 18, 2004

too many words

I used to be of the 'too many books, too little time' crew but these days I seemed to have slipped into 'too many blogs, too much time on the company internet before they sack me for nothing' gang. Doing nothing that is.

I can't believe what shite, hilarity, food for thought and plain brilliance the internet has spawned lately in the form of weblogs. The trouble is there are just too many out there. And even if you do whittle it down to say, 3 blogs you regularly keep yourself abreast of they have those tempting little side bars with titles like 'other blogs' or 'bloggerage' or 'things I read'. And even if you can resist clicking on the links to other blogs via people's sidebars you then get suckered into reading comments other blogslaves leave which have more tempting little links to their own blogs. Shit.

For example, I love this site. The entries are short, sharp and snortingly funny. But I made the mistake of reading the comments and before I knew it I was reading about a girl's problems with her vagina! That just can't be right.

So take a tip from me, link to a few select blogs, avoid side bar links and comments pages, refine your word intake and go outside for God's sake cause its Spring out there!!

Reading: The Ruby in the Smoke, Philip Pullman
Listening to: Having a Nirvana moment ... Come as You Are on repeat. For now.

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

today the world sucks

I'm feeling rather desperate today. Actually, I've been feeling like the world is a pretty shit place to be at the moment. I seem to find myself aware of more and more injustice in the world and no way of making a difference. I am frustrated, angry, scared, depressed and just plain deflated.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer passed the budget today and of course everyone who has a keyboard or a mobile is moaning about it. The government are lying about low unemployment!! They cry. 1p extra on a pint of beer!! They howl. Please, who gives a shit? If you got off your arse you may see that the unemployment figures might just be correct. If you cared less about how much a pint of beer and a packet of fags is going to set you back a week and more about the fact that 6000 people are dying of AIDS in Africa a week something may change. But nothing does.

I started reading The Secret Country by John Pilger last weekend. I had to stop after 3 chapters for I was faced again by the inhuman injustice metered out by white Australia towards her indiginous people over the 2 and a bit centuries since Cook landed. Did you know that if white Australians died in police custody at the same rate that black Australians did 8,000 people would be found dead in their cells each year? That was one of the less harrowing truths John Pilger brought to light in his book. I read this week here that Mr Pilger should apologise for commenting on national telly in Australia that American, Australian and British troups are illegally occupying a country. Tosh as my British friends say. Bullshit in other words. He is speaking the truth. The war in Iraq was illegal, immoral and insane. Why in Australia today should an Australian not be able to speak his mind? And if I read right, it is not only his own mind he speaks.

I guess I just don't know what to do to make a difference. Do I give more to Oxfam? Do I give up my well paid job and find a cause to fight for? These are not rhetorical questions by the way. I really don't know what to do anymore.

Reading: The Ruby in the Smoke, Philip Pullman
Listening to: Nothing at present as the silence is nice...

Saturday, March 06, 2004

Gigs in the UK

We saw Paul Kelly at the Academy in Manchester last week and are seeing Powderfinger, also at the Academy next Thursday.

I don't know if Aussie bands who tour the UK know how much their predominantly Aussie audiences need them. I don't know if I speak for most but the few Aussies I've talked to at gigs both here and in London just love the experience of seeing Aussie bands live in the UK.

For starters the gigs where Aussie bands play tend to have a much better atmosphere. I've been to loads of gigs here in the UK, mostly seeing British bands and I can safely say that at each one I have felt a subterranean quiver of aggression. People at gigs here don't really tend to talk to people at gigs that they have not come with. You get shoved and hassled if someone tries to get past you and if they happen to be a whole foot taller than you they don't stand to one side to leave you room to see. I am not generalising here - this has been my experience every time.

I saw Underworld at the Apollo a couple of years back and that was probably the friendliest 'Brit' gig I've been to here. The only hassle I had sadly was when I managed to make it to the front of the stage and this fuck wit kept deliberately crashing into me as he wanted me to vacate the space I'd found. After ignoring him for the first dozen times I turned around quickly, grabbed his arm, pulled his face to mine and said as menacingly as I could 'If you want my spot, just fucken ask me, don't shove me' and I pushed past him and let him have the space. I could tell from his face that I'd shocked him but I did not care. He pissed me off beyond belief not just because he was shoving me and ruining my Karl Hyde experience - but because for me he typified the average Brit gig goer. I don’t dare begin to delve into the mindset of the 50,000 Oasis fans who pissed in their beer cups and proceeded to fling them around the audience at Old Trafford the summer before last…

I tested my ‘Aussie Audience’ theory when The Whitlams played the Shepherd's Bush Empire in London a couple of years ago. Ian and I went with Paul who is also English. I told Paul how much I loved going to gigs where the Aussies outnumber the Brits. He wanted to know why. I elucidated. I said that I felt 'safer' in a crowd of Aussies than in a crowd of Brits. I said people talk to one another, they seem more conscious of giving people space and their aim for the night is not to get paralytic but to enjoy the band and the vibe. Of course you get the odd exception like the bozo in the front row of the Paul Kelly gig last week who felt the need to couch his many song requests in (not so) clever riddles i.e. Hey Paul, how many hours is it on a bus between St Kilda and Kings Cross? The entire audience groaned out loud.

So my experience at The Whitlams gig at Shepherd's Bush lived up to my explanations. I asked a guy at the bar where he got his shirt that was covered in prints of 1940's Arnotts biscuit ads and we had a laugh over the fact that his mum had sent it to him from Brisbane. I spent most of the first set talking (between songs) to 3 girls who at first told us they were from Sydney as they were not terribly proud of their hometown of Newcastle. And Ian and I had a competition as to who could could the most Mambo shirts & t-shirts in the crowd. The overall atmosphere generated by the crowd that night was one of fun, an appreciation of the band, a pride in our shared collective as Aussies overseas but was everso slightly tinged by a tangible feeling of homesickness.

I guess this is what makes Aussie gigs here all the more special. When I see bands here in winter I search the faces on the stage for signs of sunburn and warmth. I want them to bring me a little bit of what I desperately need in the depths of a British winter. I want the sun they felt on their skin not 2 days before to warm mine. I want to hear them speak of MelbourneVicBitterBigMsSydneyManlyFerryThe EspyBrisbaneSouvlakisAdelaidethatfuckwitHowardStKildaBeachGunamattaandwaitingforthesun. I not only want them to bring me a bit of home but I need them to make me feel like I'm still a part of home. That I am still Australian and that they recognise that in me. That I have not lost what makes me feel so different in this place so far from my Melbourne Town.

That is why I love it when Aussie bands and artists tour the UK. Especially when they make it up to Manchester.

Weekending my life away?

It is Saturday again.

It seems it was only Monday yesterday when I was telling my friends at work about my last weekend.

Another week of my life has flown by and it seems I only look up and notice on Saturdays.

Surely Saturdays are meant to be good days, days when I don't go to work and I do all those tasks you spend all week telling myself I will do on Saturday.

Saturdays are when I get up later, have brunch instead of breakfast and experience what 8.30 am feels like from the comfort of my bed rather that a crowded, stifling hot bus.

Saturdays are when I bake, see my friend's kids, have lunch at 4.00 pm and have a glass of wine at 5.00 pm.

Saturdays are when I strip the bed, scrub the bath and talk to my friends and/or family in Oz. Or when I wake up and realise I should have called my friends and/or family the night before but forgot because I had a second, third and fourth glass of wine because it was Friday.

I love Saturdays. I always tick Saturday when asked what my favourite day is. Saturdays are a day from the last working week and a whole 2 days from the next one. As a kid I woke up to 'Hey, Hey its Saturday' and an adult I watched the whole 3 hours of its new evening slot (cause it got too racy for Saturday mornings) before I went out.

Saturdays are ace! Saturday papers, The Age or the Guardian - it does not matter cause I only ever read the colour magazine and do the crossword. Lazy summer Saturdays by St Kilda beach or in the back garden here in Manchester. Or the cold, wet Melbourne ones or ragging up against the cold of an English winter.

Saturdays are great in any season.

The day you long for before it arrives and the day you hate to be over come Sunday.

So why was I a little disconcerted last night when I realised that I was standing on the crest of another Saturday again so soon from the last?

Does my getting older mean that I am finally hearing the march of time pad by my life? Am I becoming more aware of its passing the older I get? Is it because I am leaning backwards to avoid the days racing rather than headlong into my future as I did in my twenties?

I don't know the answer. What I do is that I crossed the road last night outside my office and beheld the last of the sun's rays tickling the facade of the glorious Manchester Town Hall, I was suddenly conscious of time and its passing. And it scared me just a little bit.

Listening to:Ways & Means, Paul Kelly
Reading: The Amber Spyglass, Philip Pullman

Monday, March 01, 2004

The next day... Year!

Gosh! How on earth did I leave posting here for such a long time. I'm sorry!!

Well, I guess the last post was a little terrible really and I was in no mood to wax eloquent so I guess the space between is justified. In my mind anyway.

December, January & February in a nutshell (I seem to do this each year - write a synopsis for the Dec, Jan & Feb, discuss) well. Here goes:

December was far less mental than the lead up to Christmas 2002. I made a decision that I was not going to fret, freak out or panic buy simply because the shops closed for 2 days!! I enjoyed the German markets, the mulled wine and the constant aroma of frying bratwurst and cinnamon than permeated the air in Manchester city centre for the entire month. I have to say I was very sad to see the market's pack up and leave on December 21. Christmas time was lovely and quite with Edith (mum-in-law) gracing us with her presence for Christmas Eve, Day and Boxing Day morning. We shuffled her off after breakfast on Boxing Day so Ian and I could enjoy our one and only day together before he went back to work. And you know what? I can't remember what on earth it was we did...

NYE was a quite one with our good friends James & PJ. Quiet because PJ was due to give birth to their first daughter on New Year's Day so we took in the doco-drama 'Touching the Void' (if you've not seen it - see it), a curry and a bottle of champagne. Good company is all one needs for a good night out methinks.

January rushed in and before I knew it I was at Stepping Hill Hospital with the aforementioned James & PJ standing in as their 'birthing partner'. I won't go into details but let's just say that after 18 harrowing hours Trinity Margaret Mack joined us and has made our lives a brighter place in the depths of another northern winter.

February is now over - a fact I'm still processing - and our much awaiting two week holiday in Andalusia was upon us! I had been planning this trip for months and months for Ian's 40th birthday and it lived up to our expectations. I see now that part of my utter fed-up-ness with all things UK was a desperate need to feel the sun on my face. We basked in temperatures racing into the early 20's (c) and actually saw the sun high in the sky - for this Aussie it was almost orgasmic! Until I saw the ocean ... Or should I say 'oceans' for we drove down to Tarifa, the southern most tip of Spain (Europe I think if you don't count Malta) where the Med Sea and Atlantic ocean meet. Magical...

March is here and today is the first day of what in Australia would be Autumn. The seasons are not split that way here in the UK but in my head it is Spring for there are blossoms on the trees in our backyard, the magnolia tree a few doors down is slowly flowering and the days are drawing out. I can't tell you the thrill I get when I leave the office of an evening and the sky is hanging on to the light. God I need a trip to Melbourne - now!

I read my brother's blog yesterday and was shamed into updating mine in the hope that I can, once again, keep a daily (weekly?) record of my time here in the motherland. Maybe my kids will one day find it interesting. Maybe.

Listening to: A self made compilation which I title Kitchen MusicCD, it is a kind of soundtrack to my life.
Reading: The Subtle Knife, Philip Pullman