27 August 2009

Panic in the streets of London, panic in the streets of Birmingham...I wonder to myself, could I ever be sane again?

Blimey! It's all go in Blighty! I've been out of action for a while, down in the trenches, face down in the muck. So heaps to catch up on.

We had the G20 and accompanying protest, which was big news. Salette and I went along to a demonstration called Climate Camp which, due to it's peaceful nature, received virtually no press coverage...that was reserved for the violent stuff. All those meddling punk-arse kids with their black hoodies and make-out parties and ping-pong machines! It was quite a bittersweet irony to see nouveau-hippies protesting the pollution of the earth while throwing their ciggie butts and rubbish all over the streets, and anti-war protesters throwing bottles at police. Mind you, people on all sides of the fracas behaved appallingly with bankers waving £100 notes out the window at protesters, and the cops beating some old guy to death who wasn't even part of the protest...he was just walking home from work.

There's been plenty of celebrity sightings recently: Viviene Westwood at Climate Camp; Hugo Weaving (again), this time in Bunhill Fields cemetery just near my work; met The Yes Men (well, one of them) at a special preview screening of their new moofie; met Reverend Billy in a park in west London after he attempted to exorcise the Westfield mall with his anti-shopping gospel choir and was forcefully evicted. But the creme de la creme (of the chess world) would have to be Nick Cave. Yes, I shit you not! Salette and I took the train to Brighton for the arts festival and we sat one seat over from him. He was clearly trying not to be noticed by hiding behind a book and pretending to read. The only problem was it was HIS OWN BOOK. There was a picture of him on the back cover, for fuck's sake! And that wasn't even the weirdest part. Hardly anyone on the train seemed to notice him, apart from Salette and me and a bunch of French goth girls who tried to surreptitiously take his picture, so he pretty much kept to himself even though the train was packed. I was next to the window so could see him reflected in the glass and Salette could see him through the gap in her seat, and at one point in the journey we both looked over to see him hunkered against his window and weeping. Not simply an errant bijoux tear sliding down the cheek, but full-blown shuddering, fist-in-the-mouth pantomime sob wrack job. Just as suddenly as it began it was over and he continued with his reading. I guess that must have been the weeping train...the train in which to weep. I passed him on my way out and asked, "Hey! Aren't you Iggy Pop?" and he started crying again, the big baby. We got to chatting and I was amazed to discover that during his troubled teenage years he refused to respond to anyone unless they called him 'Catherine Nolan'. Who'd've thought?

Brighton was a mixed bag. As a seaside town it's as quaint as it gets in the UK but sadly it's quite touristy and tacky and full of fat drunken yobbos fighting and spewing and pissing in the streets. So basically London with seagulls. I've actually been there before when cycling with Dr Phil but I had no idea it was Brighton. We were there to see Diamonda Galas (whom Salette loved but I didn't care for) but the best part was dinner at her favourite vegetarian restaurant in the world, Terre a Terre, which was amazing. The food was divine, so much so that it's been added to my top 5 best ever dining experiences.

It's old news now, but for those of you who missed it I flew back to Canberra in early June after receiving news that my Dad was diagnosed with lymphoma. It was a huge shock, to say the least. Even after all these years I still imagine him through the lens of a 6 year-old as invincible. We'd had a falling out prior to my leaving for the UK and hadn't spoken for nearly 3 years so I wasn't sure what the reception would be. Imagine all the hoary cliches about a frantic mercy dash from halfway across the world, the tearful reunion, all that. After some initial reluctance he agreed to see me and thankfully we were able to put the past aside and reconcile. I'd like to think that this is a load off his mind and might go some way to improving his peace of mind, if not his physical condition. If nothing else, it's one less thing to stress about and hopefully put him in a better frame of mind to deal with the treatment.

Thanks to all of you who sent me birthday wishes. And sucks to all of you who forgot (you know who you are!). Salette made me feel very special, taking me out to dinner, buying me some cool 50's bowling shirts and even baked me a cake (the first one in years and the best one ever!)..all of which was really nice. Sadly, I didn't hear anything from the kids (the only two people I really wanted to hear from). It's not the first time they've forgotten, but devastating all the same. I guess this is karma for all the times I forgot my parents' birthdays.

Things have been really hectic since I got back. I seem to be constantly working on three separate projects at once, many of which take me out of London to client sites in bum-fuck podunk hicksville semi-rural areas. It's nice to be busy, seeing as a lot of our competitors are cutting staff or closing down, so I'm not taking anything for granted, but that doesn't stop me from complaining. The Holiday Inn at Lancaster is like a cross between an old people's home and Purgatory...only smellier...and the food's worse.

I've been through something of a mental and spiritual readjustment since coming back from Oz. I was in an emotional funk for some time and really feeling a bit lost. I felt like I was able to resolve a lot of issues which have been weighing heavy on my mind since I left for the UK, which was painful and upsetting at times but something I needed to do, for my own peace of mind if nothing else. But now that I've closed off that chapter of my past I feel somehow adrift, cut off from all that defines who I am. I'm a creature of the present: I've closed the door on the past and am now looking for the door to the future.

The problem is, I don't have a clear view of what the future is yet. I know that whatever happens Salette and I will be together...she's the one constant in this complex equation...but it's really hard to make plans because of my financial situation. As it stands, it'll take me about 10 years to pay off the debts I inherited from the divorce and the sale of the house, and I won't be saving anything during that time. I feel like I'm treading water in a deep dark well and I won't be able to get out for a long time. As part of moving in together, I gave Salette the full picture of my financial situation and it's pretty gloomy. It's getting harder and harder to get by: London was already one of the most expensive cities to live in before the credit crunch, and things keep getting more expensive. Half my salary goes in loan repayments and child support each month, and the other half only just covers rent and food, both of which have sky rocketed. I've exhausted my savings, have no capacity to save, and no spare cash for dinners out or trips away or any of the things you're supposed to be able to do in a burgeoning romance. Understandably, she's nervous about the risks of being dragged down with such a huge debt, the limits it will place on our life together, and my ability to share the living expenses...as indeed am I. Jinkies, it sure sucks being a grown up, huh?

Predictably, all of the above manifested in a huge bout of self-doubt and hopelessness, and I imagined that Salette was going to run a million miles just like every one else has when they learned of my messy past. But she didn't run: she gave me a hug and told me she loved me and that we'd figure out a way to get through it together. Just when I think she couldn't get any more wonderful, she continues to amaze me.

One Saturday night about a month ago we were watching a moofie and she ran to the loo, kicking the skirting board and breaking two of her toes. Not the same one as the previous time but on the same foot: the little one was pointing out at a right angle, it was hideous! We went to the emergency room at 11:30pm and spent 6 hours waiting for them to x-ray and set her foot in a cast. What a nightmare: the place was crammed with paralytic teenage girls, stab victims and crazy old people...and that was a quiet night. She needed to stay in to see the orthopedic dude later that morning so I stayed with her until they got her in a bed and finally got home around 5am just as the sun was coming up. An orthopedic consultant finally came by around 12 the next day and without even looking at her chart or x-rays told her to come back in a month, which was Monday this week when the cast finally came off. Hooray!

This past weekend heralded a momentous occasion when we moved in together. That's right, it's a co-habitation, bitches! It's all very exciting but I'd be lying if I said a little bit of wee wasn't coming out, too. But it's mostly excited wee. It's been a long long time since I co-habited with someone (other than flatmates) and she's been living alone for about the same length of time, so even though we're both a little scared, it feels right. My furniture and stuff is currently on a slow boat from Oz and arrives in a couple of weeks, which I'm hoping will bring a sense of permanence to my life, both in London and with Salette. Enough of the feckless drifting, it's time to put down some roots (ooh err, Rodney!).

We celebrated our first official anniversary recently (we've unofficially and goofily counted each passing month as an anniversary) by returning to the underground bar where we had our very first date. I sent her an anonymous card in the mail saying simply: "Friday 14th August. 7pm. Shunt Bar. London Bridge. Come alone. Tell no one." Which is romantic as fuck, clearly, but in retrospect it was quite an assumption on my part that she would realise it was from me, or that she would receive it at all. Thankfully she was right there right on time on and in the exact same spot as we first laid eyes on each other. The whole shebang went down perfectly...it was freakin' magical!

With all the talk of moving in over the past few months, when positing about our life together the topic invariably drifts to the future and where we see ourselves "settling down" as it were. Neither of us feel London is the place for us...despite it's charms and opportunities it has little more to offer in the way of work or lifestyle improvements. The question then becomes: where? Europe is the logical (and most attractive) choice but as neither of us speak the language(s) it severely limits our options. Even if one of us were lucky enough to find a job where being monolingual was acceptable, there's Buckley's and None of finding two. Oz and NZ are both attractive options (burgeoning and respected art scenes, great lifestyle choices) but they're simply too far away, both culturally and geographically, from the rest of the world. For me it would feel too much like a backward step; I've only seen a glimpse of the world and I want to see more before I return (if I ever do). Which really only leaves one viable option: Ummurica. I can pretty much work anywhere so the hunt is on for Salette to find an exciting and challenging job in the US arts scene which capitalises on (and is worthy of) her skills and experience. Given the current state of the States, culturally at least, this is understandably a big ask as the arts are neither supported nor funded at anything near European levels. Add to that the terminal addiction to mainstream mass-marketed brain-dead entertainment tripe gushing from the corporate-sponsored teat, and the options become considerably more scant. Frankly, the only viable option is New York, but there's a whole swathe of hurdles to overcome before we get serious about a move, not least of all figuring out how to live in each other's pockets.

There's been some really nice weather lately, but not nearly enough. Talk of the return of the Great British Summer has been greatly exaggerated as the Meteorological Office revised their official forecast for a "BBQ summer" to "possibly the wettest summer on record." People were miffed, I can tell you. There was almost rioting in the streets and talk of burning weathermen in effigy only it was too wet to get a fire going. It's rare to see British people being passionate about something, and while complaining about stuff gets them close, complaining about the weather really pushes them over the edge. It's a beautiful thing to see...

Salette's off to the Venice Bienale next week, and then I'm meeting her after that in Bologna for a week of wine, food and hanky panky, Italian style. We've been learning Italian from a free CD we got in the Sunday paper and it's actually pretty good. I'm starting to get the hang of sentence structure and conjugation of verbs and such, and I realise just how shit English really is. Mi dispiace! Voglio comprarlo se non รจ troppo caro...


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