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Internet connection has resumed. Life can return to normal. Thank fug for that.

As I briefly mentioned, Mat and I have moved into my flat. The ‘my’ in this context means that this is a flat that I actually own (apart from the small matter of a mortgage, but let’s not get too pedantic). I bought it a couple of years ago when I had a lump of money sitting in my bank account (how did that happen?), and since that time I have been renting it out. So, when we moved in here a couple of weeks ago, it was the first time I’ve ever actually lived in a space that I’m not renting from someone else. It’s a grownup feeling, let me tell you. Even if it is a long, long way from being my dream home – and I say that both literally and metaphorically. I have a recycling plant on my doorstep now, rather than glimpses of the Pacific Ocean. Still, let’s be positive here. The glorious Thames is only a 10 minute bike-ride away. A water feature is a water feature, right?

This little flat is my hope for getting back to Australia. Next year, if I can sell it, it should give me enough money to get back to Oz comfortably, rather than having to slink in pleading and penniless. Of course, with all the mumblings and rumblings about a recession and crashing house market, well…my plan may come slightly unstuck. In the meanwhile, I need to do whatever I can to get this place updated. It’s pretty crappy right now, and so this year I will put on a new cap and reinvent myself as Lil’ Miss DIY. Be prepared for boring stories of revamping the kitchen, and the relative merits of bath vs shower in a London-sized bathroom.

In fact, it has begun. Yesterday, I bought a new toilet seat. I even worked out how to attach it to the toilet. All by myself. It took me a very long time to unravel the logic of how to achieve this, but I did prevail. If anyone out there needs a toilet seat attaching to the throne of their abode, I am the woman for the job. I am now an experienced toilet seat fitter. Although, I probably should mention that the seat doesn’t quite fit the bowl properly. Apparently, they come in different sizes. Did you know that? I didn’t know that. I doubt the shop’s return policy includes toilet seats though, so the slightly small seat is going to stay.

There you go. DIY story number one. Be sure to stay tuned.

Oh, my travelling me, it’s a big change from riding around on the backs of camels, and haggling furiously over 50p scarves. I think I miss India.

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Hello! Yes, I’m still here.

This longer than usual silence (and I know, I know, I can be rather sporadic at the best of times) is due to a recent change of abode. I moved into my new flat. Exciting times, no? It would be much more exciting however, if I hadn’t been sitting surrounded by unpacked boxes in an oasis of internetlessness, bobbing alone and scared in a sea of password-secure wireless networks. When did everyone get so goddamn smart and IT literate? I should be surfing on the waves of number 15’s stupidity.

I moved a week ago, and so surely, it should all be up and running by now. Shouldn’t it? May I remind you though, that I live in England – hub of imperial power, seat of the global economy and, most recently, winner of pounds of Olympic gold. With such a glowing CV, one would think that getting connected to the modern world of phone and internetics should be a swift, efficient and painless process. 

Well, let me tell it how it is. Firstly, wade through the quaqmire of British Telecom monopoly and new provider mayhem to work out exactly what you can or can’t sign up to. Then, spend umpteen hours on the phone, flitting through menu options and trying not to scream and throw your phone against the wall as you try to get through to an actual human being who may be able to give you a faint glimmer of understanding. Then, hand over bank account details and promises to pay lots of money in advance to be given the privilege of sitting at home for “5-10 working days, luv” without any internet at all and no written contract. Just the mumbled promises of a bored and overworked call centre employee. 

Currently, I’m at about day 5. I am holding it together for now. Just.

Bricking It

I am sitting here (actually kind of lying on the bed in a very teenagerish pose, which is quite apt actually, as I’m feeling quite adolescent and moody and generally hard-done by), building up to a possible rant of sorts by way of a long, unnecessary introduction composed of very long clauses inserted into unnecessary parentheses (and then using more pointless words to describe it) and making little or no sense.

Let me start again.

I am in my room because one of the children who is staying in the house I am also staying in, has the TV on. Loudly. Watching cartoons. Endlessly. It is driving me nuts. And keeping me confined to this space. Which is also driving me nuts.

It is raining. In a drizzling sort of way. I just spent an hour driving in the rain (so that SOMEONE can have a nice afternoon in the pub with his mate), narrowly avoiding collisions with cars, bicycles and – heartstoppingly – a small child. What is it about the rain that turns everyone into irresponsible maniacs who insist on darting out into the road in front of my car? While a big, yellow van sits on my arse because clearly he feels I am going too slow? The rain makes it all slippier and harder to see and more dangerous and I need to take it easy. I know I’m a granny in a Rover, but really, people should SLOW DOWN, not speed up. And take an extra second or two to check before running out from behind that parked car. God. In my mind’s eye, I can still see that small person cartwheeling in the air (do you think that would actually happen?) and landing with a sickening thump on the road.

The next door neighbours are drilling. This drilling has been going on for weeks, often accompanied by banging. DIY on the weekend? I thought that was illegal. It should be illegal. They also have baby twins who take it in turns to scream in that bloodcurdling way in which only very young babies are capable.

For the love of all things precious, SHUT UP DRILL!!

(Oh, it stopped. Yay.)

Speaking of the neighbours…

(hang on…drilling is back)

SPEAKING OF THE NEIGHBOURS….all the banging and noise-making is because they are building an extension onto the back of their house. Which is fine, I guess. But in this case, the extension is an enormous, concrete monstrosity that they have clearly designed themselves and roped their friends into building. There are about 6 inches between the 2 houses now, and they built it right up against one of our bathrooms. So once where we had a window opening into the fresh air and letting in lots of natural light (which is the function of a window, if I’m not mistaken) we now have a brick wall a couple of inches outside the window, and a bathroom in perpetual darkness. Seriously, I trotted off to work one morning, and when I returned in the evening, this extension had been cobbled together and my bathroom was bricked in.

Luckily, this is not my house, because if it were, I would be self-righteously knocking on front doors and having loud and obnoxious arguments peppered with words like ‘planning permission’, ‘inconsiderate’, and noisy brats’

Captain Hook

It was a random Friday in August. The sun was setting. The sky was pink.

My boyfriend lost his hand. It just fell off. The dog next door jumped over the fence, grabbed the hand and ran off with it.

My boyfriend grabbed a garden fork from the flower bed.

‘I don’t need a hand, I have a miniature pitchfork,’ he cried

My boyfriend now thinks he is a superhero.

He insists I call him Captain Hook.

He insists I worship his Pitchfork of Power.


Back when I was contemplating The Big Adventure (ah, the good old days when it was all to look forward to), one of my leading worries was the undoubted overflow of young, skinny bitches floating round The Asia and The India, flaunting their perfect skin and stick-like bodies and thereby making me feel old and frumpy, insecure, and just plain nasty.

I thought I was being overly sensitive. That it was a side-effect of entering the paranoid 30s. I told myself I was better than that. Older, yes, but wiser. I worked on being free from resentment.

Oh, but I was right. I was so very, very accurate.

May I present Exhibit A:

Young Skinny Bitch

All through South East Asia, it wasn’t so much that you wouldn’t see local girls swimming in the rivers, and waterfalls and sea. But, they always swam fully clothed. Seriously. Jeans and T-shirts. Possibly even shoes. But swimsuits? Certainly not. I’m sure they struggle with the concept of a bikini.

Being conscious of local customs and not wanting to reinforce stereotypes, I embraced the Asian way. Sort of. I had a pair of black shorts that basically became my swimsuit. Combined with a modest stomach-covering variation of the bikini top, I frolicked and splashed feeling confident that I was going someway towards showing that we don’t always wander around half-naked in the West. Unlike young Exhibit A up there.

Carefully and conservatively dressed, Fearless Leaping Lady made her debut.

Jumping Off the Rock

Jumping Off the Rock

Splash!

Splash!

Who looks like she’s having more fun? Huh???

Is there anything more frustrating than an expanse of white space which is demanding, supplicating, daring you to fill it? Well, yes, it is possible that there are many things more frustrating – waiting for a London bus, for example; drunken idiots who belt out Abba songs at the tops of their lungs, for an even better example; Radio One DJs, as a supreme example – but blogging sans ideas can make one want to throw things at walls. Heavy things. Expensive things. Even more so for the poor readers who have to soak up the drivel.

I’ve been coming up blank. Without the raw material of travel adventures to draw upon, my writing brain has gone into retirement. Or at least, on an extended holiday. Without me. Brain, where have you gone? Are you having a nice time? Anything happening that you want to tell me about?

While I’m waiting for that postcard from my mind, I’m going to go back to concentrate on the photos, which is where all my attentions have been focused for these past days and days. Just so you know. I have been busy. I haven’t only been sitting around drinking wine. Well, I have been drinking wine, but not exclusively. There’s also been beer, and vodka, and gin. Ha! Turns out, photo editing and drinking are pretty complementary activities.

Can I ask a favour? I’ve put an image up for consideration for JPG magazine. If enough people (and the right people – editors and their ilk) find it worthy, it may stand a chance of being published. If you vote for it, it may help to push it forward to their attention. Here’s the link. Thanks.

I promise to try harder.

Photo Maddening Madness

While I was off scooting around the planet, and doing all that fun traveling stuff, I found myself spending big parts of entire days wandering around with my face mostly obscured by a camera lens, sporadically embarrassing Mat with unsubtle photo pokes into all sorts of others’ daily lives. I couldn’t help it. Once you’re viewing the world from behind a glass peephole, it’s disturbingly easy to forget the restrictions of a 50mm lens. If a person’s face is tightly framed in your shot, odds are pretty high that you and your camera are probably more than politely close. Still, no-one yelled at me or chased me down the street. I feel encouraged.

So, I have returned with loads of photos. Shitloads, if I may be so uncouth. It’s been a month, and I’m still trying to edit them down into some sort of comprehensible order. Yesterday, I was shouting and swearing at my laptop because it was taking forever to copy a set of images into my photo library. I eventually realised that it was a folder with 1,200 photos in it – which probably goes some way to explaining the churning up of the Macworks – and that folder is just one of many, many folders. So, yeah, I took some pictures.

Now, here’s the thing. I studied photography at university – an experience that left me feeling alternately elated and depressed, depending on the whims of my tutors – and so while my interest has fluctuated somewhat over the past couple of years, it is an interest that has been with me for quite some time. And this trip made me realise something that has probably been shouting and banging on the closed doors of my preoccupied mind for quite a long time – I like to travel; I like to take photos. Can I put the two together and produce a side-career of sorts? It’s a challenge that I want to run with. It tickles me. Imagine, someone paying me to go to far-flung parts of the world to take lots of nice photographs.

So I’ve been investigating, and researching. And decided that a good place to start is with stock libraries. But it’s all new to me, so I’ve got to teach myself lots. Not least of which is how to use Photoshop meaningfully. And if you only have rudiments of Photoshop-ability in your brain, it takes quite some time to even just track down ‘How To…’ guides that are relevant and readable. And then there’s working out technical specifications. Searching for the ideal level of contrast. The perfect exposure. Deciding if the colour caste you think you see is red or blue or green or bloody what – and if you think it should be blindingly obvious to distinguish between opposite colours, you have clearly never spent time inside a colour darkroom. So there.

Finally, however – finally – hours later, you decide that you’ve done all the work you need to do. You are ready, your image is ready. You look at it one last time, ready to let go and move on. Cue the arrival of a particularly nasty little monster – a squirming, slithering, slimy bundle of doubt and loathing – that’s been surreptitiously scurrying around behind the scenes waiting for its moment in the limelight. It launches itself in full attack mode onto the flimsy facade of confidence that you’ve been working behind. And that nasty doubt monster whispers silkily, ‘Do you really think THIS image is good enough? Hah!’

Actually, I’m getting much better at punching that monster in the face and telling it to politely retire to some other place. With strong language.

And so, between plugging gaps in my techno-knowledge and wrestling with slimy doubt-creatures, today I produced a whopping final product of five edited images. Count ’em. Five. And that was a full and proper eight hours worth of ‘today’; not a half-hearted, couple of hours here and there version.

As I’m sure you’ll agree, though, five photos are better than none. So I registered to my chosen site, prepared to upload and submit them to a quality check system, and take my first tentative steps down the road of probable rejection. And, more importantly, to at least feel that I had something concrete to show for my day.

The rejection will have to be saved for another day. I discovered that my computer’s operating system is too old for the new-fangled website uploading tool thingey. I can’t submit them*. Really, I’ve only got myself to blame. It is a whoppingly archaic Macbook from the dark and dusty year of 2004. Clearly, only an idiot would expect their computer to stay abreast of technology for more than four bleeping years

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*OK, yes, there are other ways, but that is so far from being the point. The point is that this is just typical, and I have square, bloodshot eyes and a chronic case of Photoshop fever, and no images in a library.