7 April 2008
Upper Clapton is quite a lovely area to walk around in when the weather's nice. There's lots of parkland and waterways and open green spaces where the birdsong is louder than the carsong and the people are few and far between so you can be alone with your thoughts. Charmingly, there was a festival a couple of weeks back at the Hackney Town Hall to raise awareness of TB. Yes, you heard right, a tuberculosis awareness festival. Of all the life-threatening respiratory diseases TB is defintiely my favourite. But even cooler than TB (hard to imagine, I know) was I managed to scout out a couple of original Bansky pieces on my travels, which was super exciting, so I've put new pics up in the Clapton Pond photo folder.
There was a particularly bizarre fashion trend in the mid-18th Century centred around this area, called the Maccaroni. It was a bunch of poncy foppish young dudes who wore outlandishly garish clothing and ridiculously massive wigs upon which was perched a tiny little hat that could only be removed with the tip of a sword. It wasn't just a look, either, it was a lifestyle. They partied like t'was 1899 and ate and drank and gambled and "wenched" with complete abandon and zero respect for societal norms. Understandably they were mocked and derided which, of course, was the whole reason they did it in the first place, one imagines. The song "Yankee Doodle Dandy" was a joke by the Americans at their expense: "...stuck a feather in his cap and called it maccaroni". And all these years you thought it was about pasta, didn't you?
Having not ridden on public transport for some time, I'm constantly astounded at the staggering inanity of the conversations people have on their mobile phones. I think the reason the English were so determined to spread out and conquer the globe back in the days of the Empire was because they couldn't stand the brain-wrenching banality of each other's endless prattling.
I know I slag off the English a bit, most times deservedly so, but I have to confess that I failed to appreciate the effect the Tube bombings had on people here. As well as the deaths and horrible injuries suffered by the victims, they inflicted a great deal of fear and pain and shock on everyone else, so it's not so surprising that a lot of English people started to question the open door immigration policy and wonder just exactly what sort of people were living in this country. I think they felt they'd lost a sense of identity and what it meant to be English so their reaction was to band together and be somewhat mistrustful and wary of strangers and foreigners, and though I don't necessarily agree with them, I can't really blame them either. Unlike America, British foreign policy in recent years was never particularly invasive or destructive so you can perhaps forgive the average Brit when they ask in dismay, "What did we ever do to you?"
Another jamais vous moment on the weekend that reminded me of the little differences: icy poles and ice creams are not called icy poles and ice creams...they're called ice lollies and choco softies (otherwise known as Joe Ceddias...HAH!).
Had a couple of interesting work do's recently. The ghost walk around London's most haunted streets was pretty cool, if a little amateur vaudeville, but got to learn a bit of history about some of the lesser-known landmarks. Perhaps the spookiest moment was standing on an open landing with the icy London wind picking at our coats with invisible gelid fingers, staring at the dark grimy facade of an old haunted church and being chilled to the bone by the ghostly moanings of the homeless guy around the corner yelling at us to "Fuck orf!" Afterwards we had an awesome curry at this place called Tiffinbites which serves your food in little metal tins just like the tiffin boys in India, who collect food from housewives and grandmothers and cart it around the city to office workers for lunch. Apparently there's a big controversy in London at the moment because people claim that the Indian food served here is not actually all that authentic. It's been anglocised much like chinese food was in Oz in the 70's and 80's, but it's still pretty kick-arse. I've not sampled anything from Brick Lane yet, but apparently that's the Mecca for Indian food, and they even have their own curry awards.
There was an experienced hire night at the Tate to view Duchamp/Man Ray/Picabia exhibition, which unfortunately I'd already seen, but which meant that fortunately I could concentrate on drinking more free booze and networking. Swings and roundabouts! On the whole it was a good night but the low point was when I was unlucky enough to get stuck with yet another example of that perculiar and increasingly common creature called the London Aussie. I don't know if something happens to most Australians when they arrive in London or whether their type is naturally drawn here, but the vast majority of them, I'm ashamed to say, are the most insufferable wankers imaginable. Oh wow, aren't you, like, just SO amazing! You mean to tell me that you got on a plane and flew all the way from Australia to London to work for The Company? That's incredible! You must be, like, Mozart or something! You're SO exotic, just like the other 2 million of us that did the same fucking thing. Get over yourself, you pretentious egotistical twat!
I went to an awesome party at Dr Phil "Chuck Slavakia" Well'Ard's place on Saturday night. It was a surprise birthday party for his friend Clara and I was the only person she didn't know...SURPRISE! I had this elaborate mind-fuck routine worked out where I would pretend we'd known each other for years and totally embarrass her when she couldn't remember, but then it turns out I had met her and I'd forgotten so she fully turned the tables on me. Well played, Birthday Girl...you win THIS round.
When you're single all you seem to hear is hoary old platitudes from people in relationships about how "there's someone special out there just waiting for you" and "it'll happen for you one day" and "it'll come when you least expect it" and blah blah blah vomit. Well the one thing more annoying than having those platitudes spewed into your ear is when they turn out to be right. Just when I'd decided once and for all that girls were smelly and poisonous and horrible, out of nowhere comes Staci from Boston and goes off in my face like Fate's unexploded fireracker. Her story is very similar to mine: she moved over here in June last year, is divorced, works in financial services, and likes raging, windsurfing and having a good time (not really...but that sentence seemed like it was heading into 'Perfect Match' territory). She's got a degree in biology, which she never uses, but you can bet your arse she knows her way around an uvula. We've dated a few times and spent the day on Sunday walking in Hyde Park with her friend's dog, Guinness, talking and making fun of tourists and slagging of English people and basically just goofing off, which was awesome. Things seem to be going surprisingly well so, given my previous stance on girls and all things girly, this may well be one instance where I am quite happy to be proved wrong. And if I play my cards right I may just finally get to seranade someone with 90's Phillipino songster Danial Fantasy's haunting classic: "You...are...my...AMEHICAN GIRLFLEN! AMEHICAN GIRLFLEN!"
My life has changed so much in the last year and I've realised how much time I used to spend looking ahead and planning for the future and working towards something. Because of that, I wasn't paying attention to what was going on in front of me and probably missed out on a lot. Nowadays I'm not thinking about the future much at all and am completely focussed on the present, on the day-to-day, on life. John Lennon once said, "Life is what happens when you're busy making plans" or some baloney, but I think I know what he was getting at. We're so obsessed with what we don't have, and making plans for how to get it, that we totally ignore what we do have, the things that are right in front of us. I took a lot of things for granted before, especially my kids and my friends, and I really regret that. But I realise how lucky I am to have been given the opportunity to do what I'm doing right now, and I don't take that for granted. This degree of freedom is exceptionally rare for anyone, let alone for a parent, but, like anything valuable, it comes at a cost. Like they say, freedom isn't free; there's a hefty fuckin' fee. I've sacrificed a lot to be here so it's important to me that I make the most of it and get some return on my investment. And if that return means a brighter and happier and more secure future for me and Lily and Calvin then it will have been worth it…but only just. I don't feel I can I be a better dad until I can be a better person, and I have to believe that all I learn and discover and experience over here will help me achieve that. I just hope that when the day finally comes the kids will understand why I had to leave and will forgive me for going away and will still want me to be their dad.