The Dolder Classic car show

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Over the weekend, my brother and sister-in-law were in Zurich and since he’s a big car guy (and proud owner of an awesome Valiant Charger) we thought we’d check out the Dolder Classic vintage car show.  I think this is the first vintage car show I’ve attended and I really enjoyed it.

It was a nice scene – people just cruised in with their cars and would stay for a few hours (it seemed) then head off. Some of the vehicles were for sale, others just for show. Afterwards we checked out a few more beauties in the car park as well.

There were lots of muscular Mustangs, curvy Stingrays, a Delorean, some real golden oldies and, of course, many Porsches — I think Porsche must be Zurich’s favourite marque, you see so many on the streets here. My favourite was probably the superb Amilcar Pégase from 1936 – the workmanship and details were exquisite. It was an Amilcar that caused the death of Isadora Duncan (her scarf got caught in the wheels and broke her neck) so that’s an interesting bit of historical trivia.

As well as drooling over all the pretty motors, the people-watching was lots of fun too. I enjoyed seeing a family of six emerge from a two-door Mustang, some elegant old dudes in an elegant, convertible Bentley, a stylish matron driving her zippy, royal blue 60s Porsche and a pair of rockers with face tatts, a vintage jalopy and a baby bump.

Anyway, I haven’t done a photo blog in a while and this really lends itself, so enjoy!

Occupying France

 

Lac Leman

Sometimes feels like

everyone’s saying it’s

Nazi Germany

But in fact we’re in

the Weimar Republic

with the internet

and superfast broadband

and actually no wars

in living memory … almost

nearby.

And I read about

the wartime occupation of France

on holiday in France

And my brain only

forms German words

and I live in that neutral land

between the two countries

and it hasn’t even been 100 years.

And I wonder what it all means

Are we

cursed to live in interesting times?

or are they so dull

we’ve overlaid reality

with Pokémon cartoons

and Trump and Brexit and terrorism and guns and refugees are just…

flotsam of news

jetsam of state control

And politics.

This sordid mess

still looks beautiful

from Lake Geneva

And I just don’t know

what to make of it all

Overblown

Summer heat

And old friends

drift out and in

shimmering, floating through my life again

carrying currents of warm air

caressing my skin

loosening my brain

Happiness, basking

in gentle-fierce friend-fire

banked round my heart

shored up for colder times

And we swim together

spraying drops of clear water

quenching a soul-parched dry

refreshed and clarified by

your shining eyes

seeing far below the surface

soul-deep, I gaze fondly back

But passing fast and lovely

vibrant summertime blooms

fleeting, beautiful, bounty

against blue, blue skies

And silvery moons…

Your tongues speak treasures

licking my loneliness

clean as a groomed feline

As worlds collide, combine

enfolding my family in kindness

While two little boys delight

in simple joys of a new friend, who’s an old one

Held in sweet stasis, so brief

the heady, overblown, ridiculous emotion

of high-summer moments

Paranoia, old pals and Pokemon Go

BFF

Last week I said goodbye to one of my best friends in the world. It wasn’t goodbye forever. Don’t panic, no one has died. But Goodbye physically, for probably quite a while. We live on opposite sides of the world and have 5 kids between us. It’s amazing we could even spend a week together, really. But we did, and it was magical. Not fakey, stupid glitter-princess Disney magical. But the real shit. The kind of contentment and coming home feeling you get from spending actual quality time with a true friend.

My friend is one of the cleverest people I know and does not suffer fools. She is frightening, powerful, wickedly funny and capable of extreme good. We talked a bit about our respective struggles with anxiety, workloads, kids, mothers and all that. Maybe unloaded a bit of baggage. We didn’t talk about everything ever, that would have taken another lifetime. But we got through a fair bit and, well. I don’t even know how to talk about how great it felt seeing her every day without just sounding hokey and ridiculous.

Our friendship always felt important. It was one of those where it seemed like we knew something – even many things – that others didn’t (and isn’t that the hallmark of all great love affairs?). As someone who struggles a lot with self-doubt, occasionally tipping over into self-loathing, I think having my friend here helped make me feel important. Like I mattered.

It got me thinking about real connections versus the internet. Then Pokemon Go happened and I feel kind of disturbed by it. I’m not much into video games myself and I’ll readily admit I’m paranoid about these opiate-for-the-masses type things. Hey: don’t sit still and quiet and think of things, don’t have real conversations, don’t make trouble – just play this inane game that will take up All. Your. Time. It would be horrible to be bored or unoccupied for even one moment, right? Or to just walk around the world without being plugged into a super-reality, or music or a portal to your mates’ current statuses? In a time when we’re all gnashing and screaming about gun violence and rape culture, how is anyone not making the connection between that and an augmented reality game where it’s fine to capture and/or battle any random creature you come across on the street? I can only shudder to think how this will escalate once the Grand Theft Auto augmented reality version comes out. Maybe I’m living in the past, but isn’t GTA the one where you can steal cars, bash hookers and waste passers by? As long as they’re the superimposed game characters, not people in real life of course… because no one will ever confuse the two. Ever.

Oh and then there’s the thing I heard that all the photos and videos you take with your phone in PokeGo are sent back to Google / internets HQ. So now they’ve got Google Maps and images and video of inside your house and all your stuff, and a nice little record of your daily routes as you go about your usual business as well. I’ve got friends saying they’ll ban other friends from playing it in their home. But my mate visited me in Zurich recently and played Ingress (basically the same game, but with aliens) almost constantly so I guess our place is already on the servers. Whachagonnado?

It terrifies me though, and makes me sad. I worry that, as a society, we’ve all cashed in our warm, living, breathing life-giving cows for handfuls of magic smartphone beans. Sure the beans might give us access to a fantasy world in the clouds of unimagined wonders. But it’s a dangerous place up there and, ultimately, does it help us live well when we spend all that time out of the real world, listening to magical harps on Spotify and hoping to steal a goose that lays golden Pokeballs?

I just finished an excellent book, Mullumbimby by Melissa Lucashenko.  It was set in and around the eponymous town near Byron Bay on the north east coast of New South Wales. My brother, his wife and their kids live there so I know the area reasonably well. The book was from a modern aboriginal woman’s perspective and I loved the connection to the land, this idea of sitting still – meditating in a way —  to really hear what nature and the universe is telling you. Pretty much the opposite of Pokemon Go. Don’t get me wrong, I’m addicted to my smartphone. But I do yearn for a less connected/more connected life. And that Byron Bay hinterland area is so special – last time I was there, I sat by the Brunswick River and cried and cried all over my wonderful sister in law. She helped me feel better, but so did just being there on that sandy, scrubby ground by the water. I’m not aboriginal but, even for me, that feels like a sacred place. And I think that can be found almost everywhere if you pay attention to really observe and absorb – probably not via the medium of a little glowing screen.

Back to spending time with real people and hanging out with old mates visiting Zurich (two so far this summer…) . Spending time with them was wonderful and soul-satisfying in a way I don’t really get from social media. Seeing my friends in the flesh, it’s obvious to me that physically being with someone must light up a bazillion more brain synapses than just talking on Skype, Facebook interactions, letters or emails does. Don’t get me wrong. I totally rate these methods of communication and would be all the more lonely without them. But it’s not the same. It’s. Not. The. Same. Just feeling the breeze on your face, then seeing it touch your friend’s hair… feeling the same air temperature… even subconsciously, this must say “we’re here, we’re experiencing the same things” and that’s so important. Humans’ ability to quickly travel so far from (and back to) their childhood home, friends and family has surely evolved far faster than our lizard brains’ capacity to have relationships with people. I guess that’s why we invented social media in the first place: to somehow bridge that yawning gap.

I feel like I need a grand conclusion to this but I don’t know what else to say. I don’t want to preach to anyone. I don’t have any answers. I’m a smartphone-addicted sad old goth who wants to feel connected to my friends and is miffed by Pokemon Go. Tomorrow we welcome another old friend to visit us Zurich. Can’t wait.

A funny thing happened on the way down Bahnhofstrasse…

Ok so it's not Bahnhofstrasse...

Ok so it’s not Bahnhofstrasse…

I’ve lived in Switzerland for 2.5 years now. Things have got easier.

I had this feeling a while ago when I had a random hour or two to spend along Bahnhofstrasse and I ended up chatting to a stylish shop assistant in one of the fancier places for 10 minutes – we had a basic conversation mostly auf Deutsch just about our kids and that my eldest is almost perfect in Schweizerdeutsch and how when she lived in Lausanne for a few years, she wasn’t much good on the French but her kids were experts etc. I didn’t buy anything (it was all Moschino-level stuff, eek) but I left feeling like I’d gained an extra layer of confidence.

Today I overheard a conversation in a hotel where the lady asked for a black tea and the maître d’ said it was available at the breakfast buffet. Small, basic exchanges but I am understanding them.

My own German is still pretty bad – I lack confidence so I say things quietly and tend to mutter, which doesn’t help me OR the person I’m talking to. Then there’s pronunciation problems – I requested Ibuprofen in a pharmacy yesterday, saying it in my Australian way: “Eye-buprofen”. The assistant looked puzzled, until my friend chimed in with “Ih-buprofen” – A-ha! Then telling the same friend (who is Swiss-French) about a feature I’m writing that mentions Crans-Montana there was a moment…. “oh Crhuns-Montana!” (put on your best French). I will amend my pronunciation of this one from now on. Although there’s a certain appeal to Craaaans maaayte!

Anyway, here’s 11 things I am loving about my life in Switzerland right now

  1. More German conversations. Despite the fact I’m still pretty crap at German, more people seem to continue speaking to me in the language now (rather than switching to English), which must mean I’m improving.
  2. I’ve often theorised that the Swiss are the goths of Europe – rebels who like rules, smart, stylish (in their own way), intellectually arrogant, frugal but willing to spend where they see value, difficult and snobby-seeming (which can be basic shyness) but generally worth it when you get to know them. In this respect, I am not intimidated (mostly!) and I kinda “get” Switzerland/the Swiss
  3. My mum and my best friend who visited recently both said as an aside – “You should stay.” Women whose opinions I value.
  4. Wellness – a revelation. I used to think the whole idea was a bit wack but I’m a total convert.Wellness is a big thing - there's even a permanent sign directing you to the wellness hotel district in Baden.
  5. Frühstück / Brunch. They bring coffee then you go help yourself at the buffet. Ticks so many boxes.
  6. Swimming. There’s sooo much swimming here, and there’s water everywhere! Lakes, rivers, fountains. I love it. Although I do miss the ocean…
  7. Mountains. Also a recent conversion. So pretty and picturesque. I still have to pinch myself sometimes. I’m living in a postcard.
    picture-postcard views
  8. Church bells and shopping hours. After you get used to the bells ringing every quarter hour and the shops being shut on Sundays, it’s more a case of why doesn’t this happen everywhere? Shopping as a leisure activity is kind of horrible (although I do enjoy it and miss it). I like the enforced family time of Sundays and the bells… well… you do get used to them and I appreciate quaint old-fashionedy things.
  9. The sky. There’s these beautiful skies in Switzerland… after the grey of London, the skies here are wonderful.
    mountain
  10. We’re mostly happy here – the kids like their school and daycare, Himself is getting into hiking and cycling, the politics are OK (not that we have any influence), the pace of life is less hectic than London or Sydney.
  11. On a similar note, it feels like there’s time to explore some creative pursuits. I really want to see where this poetry thing might lead and I think I have the space to do it here.

 

I really hope we can stay.

Me diving into the Zurichsee. Photo: Katy Albany

Me diving into the Zurichsee. Photo: Katy Albany

More postcard views...

More postcard views…

20160525_155046

… and pretty skies

The Unicorn and The Lion

Royal Coat of Arms of the United Kingdom / wikicommons

 

When I moved to London town

I saw unicorns all around

Trotting, prancing, showing off

Their silky manes, both street and posh

Amy Winehouse with her hive-horn

Too quickly turned to crown of thorn

The gorgeous, lovely and the torn

Who’d bring it on the Tube each morn

And outside London, thought I found

Unicorn habitat all around

The ancient magick of the land

Emerald glades and pebbley sand…

I didn’t spot the British Lions

Sitting noble at their pints

Wanting to protect their pride

Gath’ring power, biding time

Shaking out their mangy fur

Memories of what they were

So golden, graceful, deadly, sleek

King of the jungle is not meek!

Claws were sharpened, teeth bared

Lies were told, tempers flared

Fighting, snarls, self-righteous rage

Ugly beasts who won’t be caged

Cruel attacks from either side

Barbs that puncture both their hides

Boris, Farage, Cameron: cowards

Rich men turning lion’s gold sour

And finally the ivory spike

Overcome by fear and might

A heavy blow, ruthless, loud

And unicorn lies in a shroud –

A silly, worthless mythic creature

Dreams slashed of charm’ed future

Now I hear the lions roar

And nothing will be as before

Goodbye old friend?

Phone

 

How do I speak about you as your twilight approaches

The way you fit so smoothly

in the palm of my hand

So many times I’ve held you

My fingers caressing your surface

A reassuring presence in so many ways.

Have my eyes dwelt on your radiant face

More often than on the sweet heads of my children?

I hope not, but I fear

You’ve been with me, so near

In almost every moment these past five years.

Have my fingers moved across your surface

More than they’ve trailed over my husband’s body?

Undoubtedly. How unfortunate.

So how do I say goodbye

To one who’s been so intimate

So close

And yet, also, tethered me to tough times

a symptom? or a cause?

when the wet rope of anxiety

wraps round my wrist

cutting, painful, trapped

dragging down, suffocating

in your glowing depths.

But you were a beacon

on those long, long newborn nights

A conduit of joy

upset, rage and the mundane

So many Moments: captured!

A modicum of comfort in exhaustion and despair

A window to the world, it sounds so trite!

Friends spoke, smiled and sobbed through you

And now, my most ardent hope

Is that your stuttering, failing light

Doesn’t flicker out before I fickle find

Your replacement

(A new galaxy awaits!)

It seems absurd to eulogise a machine

But, my smug little Smarty

Mirror of a thousand selfies

You’ve been with me through such a time

It feels silly-sad to lay you to rest

without some remark

before you go to gather dust in a drawer

is it fitting to bid you

Goodbye old friend?

 

Rain

Roses in Zurich

Last time it rained like this

Rain, rain, rain

It was spring? autumn? In…

my share house in Newtown

the same rain, same, same

Some days it would stop

Then it’d start up

again, again, again

Uni textbooks damp and curling

lank hanks of velvet curtain

on my sliding bedroom door

over my barred window, hiding

the pane, pane, pane

Blocking out my hangovers, oh

the pain, the pain, the bane

Of my existence.

A lover called my room “the pit”

But I had a red rose

outside on the covered balcony

A little flame, flame, flame

One night another suitor

Left a small china dog on my doorstep

Racked returning from the pub–

a tender campaign, campaign, campaign.

I’d go to my beautiful friend’s house

Try to ease her sadness

with pizza, throwdowns, hairdye–

We’d laugh, tho her heart was

in twain, twain, twain.

I did my work, I felt sad and happy

I got drunk all the time.

It rained and rained and rained

Sometimes wonder how much has

changed, changed, changed

Missing my mother

The same steak knives in Zurich that my mother has in Sydney

The same steak knives in Zurich that my mother has in Sydney

 

Is it any surprise

We have the same knives

When our lives

Are so easily connected

By flight?

 

But complacency’s unwise

Because not all the ties

Are strong and it’s night

In your world, while in mine

The sun shines

 

And tho the lines

Of communication open lie

The sight of those knives

was a cutting remind

You’re not by my side

I am a feminist

 

I have been on a bit of a blog hiatus. My parents were here all through May and it all just got too much – the blog was something that had to slide. Been feeling a bit burnt out these last few weeks. But anyway. Here I am again.

I’ve been reading some feminist and female-focused stuff lately. Well, I guess I’m always reading this but somehow it’s all come together, as things tend to do. I read Viv Albertine’s autobiography, Clothes, Clothes, Clothes, Music, Music, Music, Boys, Boys, Boys. And Roxanne Gay’s Bad Feminist (followed by her novel An Untamed State). And a million online articles (headlines at least) about the Stanford rapist, the Cincinatti gorilla, Johnny Depp & Amber Heard’s breakup and the fucking US election. All of them seem to relate to the topic.

I don’t know. I feel a bit hopeless and helpless with all this stuff. We’ve come so far and yet we’ve come barely any distance at all. I look at my two little boys’ willies in the bath at night and think – how can these mini-Elephant-head-looking bits of the human body be responsible for so much crap in the world? I don’t even need to say “Why do men think they have a right to women’s bodies?” because I sort of know why – because it’s been like that for a very long time.

Why do we tend to believe the male story over the female? Because we’re so much more used to male-led stories, it’s familiar. It’s the authority we know. The norm.

I loved Viv Albertine’s book because it was a female perspective on a time and movement I’ve read so much about (the London punk scene circa 1976-79). I loved her insights on music – that women often focus on the lyrics rather than the instruments because you didn’t see many females playing instruments (still don’t, really) but words are relatable – I totally get that. It’s something often said in feminist and anti-racist discussions but I’ll repeat it: it’s so much easier to do something when you can see an example like “yourself” already doing it. I was somehow disappointed when Albertine disappeared into motherhood and domesticity – someone so obviously talented — (although she’s back on the scene now).. And that she was so concerned with appearance – clothing, her weight, hair removal – but then that’s also me. Completely. So I appreciated the honesty. And it’s not like being a mother or doing domestic stuff is non-feminist… is it? I guess maybe a part of me kind of does believe that. Probably a post for another day. And don’t even get me started on the struggle between motherhood and artistic endeavour…

This leads me to why I read Bad Feminist. Because the synopsis struck a chord – about how the author, Roxanne Gay, strives to be a “good feminist” but lives with the contradictions of things that are considered anti-feminist, such as wanting someone to look after her and loving music that’s horrible to women. In her case, rap à la Robin Thicke and the Ying Yang Twins et al. In my case, hair metal à la Aerosmith, Guns & Roses, Motley Crüe etc. (I’d say Steven Tyler is a feminist in many ways but that’s a whole other blog post again). I liked that she was so articulate about not having to be a perfect feminist to still be part of the cause. And how there’s still this lack of… stuff… for women — so few examples where you see “yourself” as I mentioned earlier — so we kind of want everything to tick all the boxes and fill all the gaps, which is impossible, of course. I was also enlightened by her words about how women of colour have so often been excluded from the feminist movement over the years. The book takes the form of a series of essays. Some of her arguments, particularly early on, were a tad patchy, but towards the end, some chapters are searingly on point: concise, cutting, powerful. Her essay on reproductive freedom, The Alienable Rights of Women, nailed it. Really worth reading. You can also watch Roxanne Gay’s 11.5-minute TED talk.

Heard/Depp and Gorillas. Well… you read my poem Over Heard and Cincinatti (didn’t you?!) We enjoy judging, feeling superior, BEING superior. Watching and jeering from the sidelines. It’s human nature. It’s nature-nature: survival of the fittest, red in tooth and claw. I guess that feeling of superiority and entitlement that’s so appealing is something like being a top-of-the-foodchain white, heterosexual alpha male? Maybe I’m oversimplifying. Maybe I should just stop reading my Facebook news feed. All this stuff really has nothing to do with us – it doesn’t really change my life one iota knowing, or not knowing, that, on the other side of the world, a child was endangered and a zoo animal died, or the state of two strangers’ marriage.

The US election probably does affect things. Although maybe not as much as America, or the world’s news organisations, might like us to believe! This week it officially became about Hilary-first-woman-everything and Trump the bigoted alpha male. It will be both fascinating and, I fear, horrific to see how it plays out.

In some ways, feminism, and perhaps even the wider equality movement (if you can call it that), is trying to do something completely radical, get us to go against the grain. Use our brains first, instead of our bodies. Ignore and/or embrace difference rather than fear it and/or seek to oppress. But then we’re too much in our heads they say, we need to live in the moment, be instinctive, feel ourselves breathe.  I wonder if that Stanford rapist was “in the moment” for his 20 minutes of action? Ugh. I feel sick thinking about it.

When I break up playfights between my boys, I’ve been trying to explain to my five-year-old that it’s not cool to push or take advantage of someone younger / smaller than you. In fact, that it’s not OK to physically take advantage of anyone ever. That disputes can be solved in different ways and that violence and using your larger body to push down a smaller body is not one of the acceptable methods. But he is still small (except compared to his brother).  I want him to be able to defend himself. I hope I can give him non-violent tools to achieve this throughout his life.

I’m sad. I’m not writing this very well nor expressing all the stuff I want to say properly. I don’t have any insights, others have said it better (see above). It’s a statement that will surprise precisely nobody but I still feel the need to say this: I am a feminist. I am a feminist. I am a feminist. Everyone should be. I’m not sure I even want to know you if you’re not one. I don’t feel a lot of joy in the world right now. I really hope things get better.