Friday, 30 January 2009

What it is to be Straalian

So it was Australia Day on Monday. It's not a public holiday I've ever particularly rejoiced in above and beyond it being a day away from the desk, what with the whole "oh, oops, we forgot to acknowledge the tens of thousands of years of history and culture that were already here when we arrived" thing. But a public holiday is a public holiday - and when you don't get to have it, being on the other side of the world and all, well it becomes a different sort of phenomenon.

For me, as a student of well, shall we say broadly "culture", it was hilarious to witness the excessive ongoings in Shepherds Bush (aka SheBu aka Little Australia) earlier this week. You know you're someone drenched in Aussies when your shoes start sticking to the floor before you've even finished walking in the door.

The last time I was in a Walkabout Pub was 10 years ago in Brighton with Kirsten. And they are as dodgy now as they were then. All I remember from last time was returning from the bathrooms to find Kirsten ensconsed in the company of two sunburnt English boys in polyester shirts and her leaning over and whispering, "You're name is Jane, mine is Sarah and we're accounting students at Brighton College". You can imagine where the evening went from there...

Thankfully no need for a nom de plume this time around, though if I was channelling anyone it was David Attenborough as I ventured oxymoronically into this completely foreign place. Am I snob? Well, probably yes, but I really hope inherently no. I mean, I burn for you as much as the next person but it is wrong to wonder, even casually, if someone sporting an "I ♥ Penriff" t-shirt is embracing the great joy that is irony - or if it's just that they're missing two front teeth?

It was actually though a really fun night, and a funny night too. Not least of all because when I stopped to buy food on the way back to the tube station only to find myself surrounded by intoxicated, heaving, noisy, smelly Australians from Canberra, well, I pretended to be English.

It's a funny thing being Australian here in London. This drunk but charming old man chatted me up at the bus stop the other day and upon discovering I was Australian asked me why I wasn't in Earl's Court with the rest of my fellow countrymen. I said I wasn't sure exactly but he was pleased that I was in East London - told me I was sure to have an "authentic experience" living in these here woods. I shudder to think what an authentic East End experience might entail but as long as my shoes don't stick to the carpet then it can't be all bad?

Sunday, 25 January 2009

only joe

I keep seeing these stickers everywhere. Now if only they could spell my name right...

Saturday, 24 January 2009

Re-entry problems and an existential crisis of artistic proportions

So I am back in London. Dazed, tired, arguably a tad flat. I almost wept with gratitude for the blue sky that gallantly attempted a breakthrough this afternoon. After a soggy-style London welcome back (read: pissing down, dark and 5 degrees when I landed) staring into the sun today and re-considering my atheist stronghold, I couldn't help but wonder if dehydrated desert nomads ever drown, wandering as they do straight into those palm tree-lined oases because they refuse to believe they're actually real. It was a bona fide crazy lady moment. I see the sun. I feel the sun. But is it really sun?

While I still think flying into London the day school returned was the best idea (no time to mope) it has meant the first week back has been a little disorienting. And foggy. And a little bit stressful. Returning to a pile of readings two feet high and a suicidal flatmate certainly hasn't eased the transition back to London Life. Thankfully she's ok - well as ok as you can be - but it's left our little house feeling a bit fraught.

It's been a worrying sort of week generally really, which is just a pain in the arse. Wading through the jetlag and the weather-induced apathy towards London, the effort of returning to class and having to think intellectually about Stuff has been buffeted by well, just about everything else. Until yesterday. Yesterday we undertook a tour of some of the major commercial galleries in the East End, otherwise known as my part of the world. I don't think the postcode is to blame but really, how can anyone have anything BUT an existential crisis about their future career and chosen field when THIS is the sort of art being peddled as "contemporary" and "interesting" and, hilariously, "saleable"....

Apparently Jay Jopling is no longer dating Lily Allen - perhaps we can put this work by Andreas Golder down to a similar lapse in good sense? And shockingly this wasn't even the worst of it. In a desperate bid to reassure myself that good art exists, that meaningful art is possible, I am off tomorrow to the Barbican Centre, the Tate Modern and the Serpentine Gallery.

There's only one place I'm sadly not going....

Monday, 19 January 2009

The joys of free wifi

Otherwise known as Welcome to Hong Kong.

My head hurts, my ankles are swollen and my eyes are a tad bleary. It's 1.27am in Sydney, 2.27pm in London and 10.27pm in Hong Kong. I have no clue which timezone my body thinks it's in, all I know is that it aches all over and just wants to be home already. If home is where the heart is - Sydney! And don't spare the horses. If it's where all your crap is kept and you do your washing and attend to general life and studies, well then London here I come. Just not for another two and a half hours. Oh, and then another 11-odd. Good times in economy.

Leaving was crap - I fucking hate it. Hate saying goodbye, hate having to try not to cry, hate thinking how long it will be until I see everyone again.

I had THE best morning before I left. Mum and I walked to Avalon and had the most beautiful swim. The water was blue and clear and just the right sort of refreshing temperature and there were perfect waves to dive under and jump over. Heaven.

Anyway. This is rubbish. I am tired - too tired even for tears - and looking forward to getting to London. I am slightly concerned though - if the air conditioning on a Cathay Pacific jumbo leaves me with chattering teeth, what the hell is London going to do me??

Saturday, 17 January 2009

There's no place like home

How in god's name has the last month gone as quickly as it has? Fucking hell - that's all I have to say. And please, don't make me go...

Am back to London tomorrow and feel a curious mix of excitement and utter desperation at having to say goodbye. It's truly a case of, well, I would be excited to go if it didn't mean leaving.

In the interests though of 2009, hopefully The Optimistic Year, and of making it somewhat easier to walk through the departure gate tomorrow (Mum's Crying Is Only Permitted Between the Hours of 2pm and 3pm rule will no doubt also help) I think a list is essential. A list of Things I like about London. So here goes...

1. It is highly unlikely that the temperature will ever soar high enough to make my eyeliner smudge to the point of two black eyes
2. A non-existent UV rating means less vigilante-like behaviour when it comes to the factor 50+ sunscreen and vampiric-like hunting for shade
3. There are good museums and art and "stuff"
4. It is close to Europe - Greece for Easter, school trip to Venice, weekend in Barcelona - it does have a certain poetry to it
5. No screeching psychotic cockatoos in the backyard

There are probably others if I really thought about it but five seems like a solid kind of number so I might just leave it there. The point was in the exercise surely and not the outcome?

In truth I am looking forward to seeing the girls at home again, and my school chums and to school generally though I'm feeling slightly overwhelmed at the prospect of how busy the next nine months are going to be, especially in light of the last month - which has been glorious in its nothingness.

Days on the boat....

Nights on the harbour....

Early evenings on the beach...

And the lovely weddings of lovely friends in the lovely sunshine...

And all while in the bosom of the family. I can't tell you how I've missed the boisterous madness that is my nearest and dearest. Juvenile dinner table conversation, serious discussions about how to spend a hypothetical $30 million lottery win, laughter, swims, cheese and wine and a front verandah with sit-in-me-forever chairs under a starry Sydney night. It's been so, SO good.

What I've realised most about being home, and what I love so dearly about Sydney is the space - the geographical space, the airspace, the head space, not so much the parking space, but just the general sense of freedom and ease that comes with living here. Something desperately absent from Encroach Upon Me London. How to remedy this when I'm back I'm not entirely sure - yoga perhaps or an amble through Hampstead Heath once a week. I don't know. But I do know it's something I'm going to have to work out because I don't think I can justify a fornightly weekend in Portugal. Though goodness I'd like to try...

Strangely I haven't spent as much time as I imagined I might at Bondi while I've been home. I think in some small part because when it looks like this - drowned in people....

Well, it reminds me of London. And not just because most of those thousands of people are themselves English.

It's late here so I should probably go and finish packing. My frigging suitcase looks like one of those ridiculous sandwiches you get at trendy gourmet cafes - splayed open and piled high with too much shit to actually be able to close, thus sending the goats cheese and baby spinach straight down the front. It's a good look. Right up there with the public re-pack at the check-in desk when said sandwiched suitcase hovers 5-10kg above the weight restriction. Something to look forward to tomorrow.