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Liquid

Liquid

in a bottle or pooled

in the sink

limpid

wet eyes

drink the sight

of vast lakes and

muddy puddles

curl of an ocean wave

jaunty froth

a spill of lace

jabot at the throat of a Victorian gent

dried red creek bed

and electric green ferns

tiny glints

water winks

guarded carefully by leaves of sword

fishtank in a bar

with a shark

there’s protests

unheeded, pouring wine

into bodies

getting tanked

watching creatures swim

become one with fluid

gasp for more

return to primal states

float in ultraviolet bubbles

while lodged in our collective hippocampi are

ancient memories

of drinking air for the very first time

Photo: https://unsplash.com/@sharonmccutcheon

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2019 goals – writing and otherwise

It was with some trepidation that I looked back on my “writing goals for 2018” post this week to see if I’d achieved what I set out to. I somehow remembered that I’d been too ambitious and I really hate and fear failure. But I was pleasantly surprised to see I’d known from the start that this year was all about finding paid work and that would mean my own writing would suffer.

I guess it’s fair to say, I’m pleased to have achieved what I set out to do – get a job. But I’m also sad that this meant, as predicted, way less creative writing for me. However, despite saying I wouldn’t manage it, I did end up doing most of GloPoWriMo2018 global poetry month in April, so that was a bonus. I did submit a few poems, short stories and creative non-fiction but all were rejected and I didn’t have time or the jive to revisit/rework them and keep submitting. Rejection stings. Then some family issues mid-year, combined with starting work really diverted all my energy to survival-mode.

I’ve been on somewhat of a journey this year (forever). My birthday falls in January and 2018 was a significant one that made me reassess a lot of my ideas and habits. It’s a process that is ongoing but I’d also like to acknowledge here the hard work I’ve done throughout the past 12+ months that’s along the lines of trying to be my “Best self”. This has involved mental and physical undertakings.

I’ve been trying really hard to shed some outdated beliefs / habits / addictions and insecurities. I’m not 100% there (is anyone, ever?) but I think I’ve made progress. And it’s part of the journey to take a moment to congratulate myself. It has not always been easy or enjoyable, although sometimes it has! Well done, Claire.

A big part of this year has been my running, too. It’s funny, when we moved to Zurich five years ago a friend here mentioned “there’s great running trails here,” as a selling point at the time. To which I scoffed dismissively “not interested, that is NOT my thing. At all. Ever! ” Well never say never.  In 2018 I clocked up more than 1,000km of running. I’m stupidly proud of this. Not just because it’s a big number but because it means I was consistent. In rain, hail, snow, sun, heat, blahblah I kept on jogging all year. I went for runs in Zurich, Rome, Sydney, Porto, Perth, Ocean Shores, Dübendorf and Venice and I completed my first-ever Half-Marathon. And, to tie it back to my previous point: running has hugely helped my mental health.

It’s been an interesting year. When I look at my blog stats, they’re way down on 2017, which was a wonderfully flourishing period for my writing AND I did the 26Cantons52Weeks to boot. I wrote some decent stuff in 2018. I was going to say the quality had suffered, but I just read everything and… well… I like it! But I also know the difference it makes to write regularly, as I was doing in 2017. So I hope to get back to that in 2019. However, I am going to err on the side of sensible because I don’t want to set myself up to fail. So what are some reasonable goals…

  • Short stories: I’d like to focus on short stories a bit more. I had some success in placing those in 2017 when I was really working at it, and I think it’s a good way to go. If I can write or hone 4x short stories I’m happy enough with to attempt to place them in 2019, that will be a good outcome. (Actually I already have one on the boil)
  • THE NOVEL: I keep saying how I must get back to this. Maybe 2019 will be the year! I think if I can dedicate a few months of evenings / weekends to focus on it, it could happen. Maybe another NaNoWriMo?
  • Running: I would love to run another half-marathon this year. Maybe even two – one in Spring and one in Autumn. I don’t have the bandwidth to train for a full mara. That’s a goal for 2020!
  • Poetry: don’t think I need to put goals around my poems anymore. They can just come and go as they please.

 

Happy (almost) new year! What are your goals for 2019?

 

Photo: a wicked angel my son made at school

what was that again

all the white horses were spooked today

under a cloud-scudded mackerel sky

cows sat down in the odd warm wind

waiting for autumn to arrive

knowing nothing more

than studded stones and asphalt smooth

step, step, stepping stubborness

running blind in forest-dark groves

could not remember

as boots pulled up to knees

back to summer, and a paper-bag skirt

what

how

who

I’d decided to be

Glimmers

keep getting glimmers

of the before feelings

I can

double take

recall

somethinglike

the way

it was going to be and I thought

thoughttried triedthought so hard

didn’t I

I guess that moonflower

still exists because

look

they’re still reaching for it

The meat of time

I’m threading chunks of time on a string

bloody purplish gristly cubes

they slip sinewy and slick on my fingers and

stain the sheets

spatters of strawberry red

give off the sexy-filthy intimate smell of beach coves away from the wind

where it’s warm and protected and the ocean’s sweat lazes in postcoital gentleness

while the sound of the breakers booms a satisfying distance above, beyond

seagulls cry and tease the ragged exciting air up there

but we’re safe here

except for

those grisly bits of meat, the bits of time I want to eat

stick in my teeth

and taste of

juniper berries and suncream and peanut butter and aged reisling today

tomorrow it’s salted caramel, meat pies, prosecco and lonelieness

so beautiful that

I want to spew them back up and taste them fresh, yet

on each regurgitation they’re more grey and flavourless

senseless time, and time rotting on my plate

Skipping ahead to day 26: a poem that includes images that engage all five senses.

In response: Money

One of my poems was published in a local literary magazine, The Woolf. I’m pretty chuffed …

The Woolf

Two Woolf readers respond to the theme …

The Burning Question

Short work of nonfiction by Marie Hélène Prosper

It is alarmingly dark in my dream.

I try to grasp the blackness before me when all at once bills of money materialize, in tens, twenties or more, and come flying towards me from all directions. All the money I possess. I reach out and grab handfuls from all around, piling the bills on the ground. I strike a match and throw it over the whole thing, onto this heap that contains my material worth, my life savings, my security. I watch as fire catches; a small piece crackles, sparks a flame and sends tinsels flitting about in the air. I am astonished by the finality of my act as I look on and it all burns to ashes.

I feel emotions rise and swell then, as my night-world of dreams recedes and vanishes along with…

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Tips for Not Drinking

Snow Martini, tea or water

So it’s a new year: 2015! And lots of people will be keen to cut down on the alcohol. But I’m way ahead of you… because I’ve had nine months’ practice of trying to avoid one of my fave activities.

I may not have been entirely successful at cutting out drinking (ahem!) but I have learned a few tips and tricks, which I’ll happily pass on to you – and no doubt to my future self! I read this guide to Women Cutting Down on Alcohol in the Guardian today but I don’t think the tips are specific or practical enough. So without further ado…

Claire’s tips to stop or cut down your boozing

  • There’s a peak-craving time. If you get through it without taking a drink, you’re in the clear. Eg: I often start thinking about wine around 5-6pm and I’m stinging for a drink until 7 or 8ish (usually while preparing dinner). After the meal is eaten and I’m into the evening, I don’t care anymore. So the trick is: get through the craving period, perhaps by…
  • Fake it. I’ve recently discovered that putting a non-alcoholic drink in a wine glass really helps! I wish I’d realised this at any point in the past 9 months because I could have avoided many cheeky glasses of wine but hey ho, better late than never. Fizzy apple juice is working well for me right now but even water will do. However, if you’re like me…
  • Water is boring. Don’t get me wrong, I drink loads of water – definitely 8 glasses a day, sometimes up to 2 litres of the stuff – and it’s probably my favourite drink. But by the time I reach the evening, I’m pretty sick of water. At dinner time, wine feels like a reward, a treat, and/or a nice marker that the kid’s in bed/work has finished and I’m finally “off the clock”. So when tucking into a meal, particularly if it’s a special one, there’s there’s usually nothing fun about guzzling down YET MORE H2O. Therefore it’s worth getting yourself something different – cordial, juice, fizzy drink, milk, coconut water, tea, whatever. And…
  • Buy up. Even if, in general, you think of fancy waters or silly juices as an indulgence, at this tough time, it’s not. Treat yourself to San Pellegrino, Voss, coconut water, almond milk, Innocent Smoothies or whatever you want. Spend the money you’ve saved on the wine you’re (supposedly) not drinking!
  • Don’t tell. If you’re out at dinner or the pub, get yourself an alcohol-looking drink (eg: a short glass of lime & soda or pint of ginger beer) and let everyone assume you’re drinking vodka or Real Ale. This is something that works particularly well in early pregnancy before you want to announce it. But it would also work for people going dry, quitting or taking a break. I’ve found people in general hate to see you not drinking when they are (or maybe it’s just my friends, family and work colleagues ha!) so it’s often easier if they don’t notice. Once again, there’s a crunch-time involved. Buy yourself the first few drinks of the night and make them softies-that-look-hard and no questions will be asked. After that, people are too drunk to notice or care.
  • Sober socialising is hard. You get tired quicker and – surprise! – drunk people are boring. A bonus is, it’s easy to slip out early, especially if you’ve been drinkfaking it as advised above. Here’s a good blog by a Scottish woman Rachel Black with some tips for socialising sober.
  • Beware the enablers. Unfortunately, I seem to find myself often reading Modern Drunkard as well as being around people (my husband included) who are constantly reaching for a bottle, which makes it difficult, if I’m honest, for me to cry off the sweet stuff. I’m not saying it’s their fault, I’m conscious I have to “own” my own behaviour. But you have to be strong to resist a glass or two when you see others merrily quaffing away on a nightly basis. I don’t really have a good solution for this but you can employ…
  • Short pours and Water into Wine. If you feel like you simply can’t say no, you can try to negate the effects a bit by watering down your wine (note: this does not mean you can have twice as much!) If you’re making cocktails, give yourself the short pour while being extra-generous to the other drinkers. Yep – throw those dirty alcos under the bus if it protects you!
  • Tea is good. If you do find yourself drinking and craving more… or if by some miracle you’ve been good all night but get a sudden late urge, tea is an excellent “cap-off”. For me, a cuppa in the evening sends a message to myself of: that’s it, booze-time over, warm drink and bed is next.
  • Brushing your teeth can have a similar effect to a cup of tea.

Good luck, enjoy not being hungover and HAPPY NEW YEAR!

PS: Got any more practical tips for laying off the sauce? Let me know in the comments below…

Winter Wonderland

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It’s been snowing for four days straight in Zurich and it looks so pretty! Wow, the huge picture-windows of our apartment really come into their own right now. We can laze around in a post-Xmas haze watching the snowflakes fall, float and flurry from all different angles. Which is pretty much all I’ve been doing. At the risk of sounding lame: it’s quite magical.

Despite living in Europe for 8 years, I’m still a relative novice when it comes to snow. This stuff is light and fluffy but DEEP now: 20-30cms where it sits undisturbed on top of fences and cars (including ours, which seems to be the only one in the street that hasn’t moved since the snow started!) What I didn’t realise is how it also piles up so tall on tree branches; it looks like a scene from one of those soft-glitter Christmas cards. Whatever divine designer sketched out winter trees to be dark and leafless during snowfalls really had the right idea. Very stylish in black and white! At night it’s not as dark because of all the whiteness around… maybe that was part of the idea too. To brighten up those long winter evenings. heh.

Even the snowfall itself – so much gentler than rain. The flakes hang softer in the air, tumbling downward but also sideways, circling and eddying about. They’re bigger than raindrops – pure-white dust bunnies or feather fluffs -and it feels like you can almost see each individual one. Sometimes a gust of wind will throw a thick white shower off the trees, it’s like powder or dry ice skooting along the pavements and gusting past street lights.

Snow is weird though – because suddenly there’s all this extra… stuff… in piles around the neighbourhood. Like, how can the world produce all this additional substance coated over everything? And when it melts it’s just kind of … gone. Maybe I’m not making much sense. But what else is like snow?

Part of me feels as though I should be making more of it. Taking P out to build snowmen and go sledding (HI just bought a sled so we’ll ride the hills of the chuchgrounds opposite our place over the NYE / weekend break) but the snow is still falling, it’s slippy out there and my centre of gravity’s completely thrown by the baby bump right now. (I’m not just being paranoid about snow danger: even trams are coming off icy rails and careening into our local supermarket!) So I think we’ll just stay put and enjoy the spectacle. The pics really don’t do it justice.

 

Toucan time

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We got our new (second hand) car last week so there was only one thing to do on the weekend: Road Trip!

We drove about 2 hours to Papiliorama – a slice of Belize Rainforest located just south of Switzerland’s capital city, Bern. It was great. The outside temp was about 1 degree Celsius but inside the geodomes it was a toasty 20-27.  So actually quite a worthwhile winter jaunt!

There were several different sections. First we went into the Jungle Trek bit – it’s a recreation of a 10,000 hectare piece of rainforest the Papiliorama Foundation sponsors in South America and contains exotic birds, lizards (chamelions etc), coatis and peccary pigs. The toucans were particularly impressive. I don’t think I’ve seen one in real life before and I kind of expected them to be bigger. But they’re a good size, similar to a Kookaburra and with that fantastic beak. I mostly hate birds but Kookaburras and Toucans are awesome.

Next we did a circuit of the outside bit – maybe not as successful in winter. Particularly the Swiss Highland bug dome, where everything was dead or hibernating. The farm section was good though – cute baby dwarf goats and the large hairy pigs were excellent grunters: SQUEEEEHHH!

Next we visited the butterfly dome, which was really enchanting. So many colourful and beautifully patterned butterflies flitting about. P wasn’t wildly impressed by this, he is a man after my own heart – seen it, move on! But it was warm and somehow quite peaceful to be there among the floating insects and stinky fruit they feed on. Speaking of stinky, the final bit we visited was the Nocturnarama dome – and I’m glad we did. It was almost pitch black and had an excellent musky stink from the nocturnal beasts housed within – mostly monkey / rodent type things – like tree racooons. Tiny bats were flitting all about and in the centre they had a big pool with freshwater stingrays (P LOVES stingrays) and big Amazonian fish. There were also Ocelots but we couldn’t spot them, and Caimans, which looked completely freaky in the UV lights – like glowing dinosaurs.

The whole place was sweetly un-crowded in the way of many Swiss attractions (not sure if this was due to the season/Christmas being so close or just the usual Swiss thing of less people, less craziness: I am still getting used to good things being “easy” and not rammed after London!) and also sweetly dinky with a crappy, expensive cafe that was exactly what we wanted after our drive. Definitely worth the trip and looking forward to exploring more Swiss family attractions in 2015!

PS: Thanks to everyone who contacted me after my last Sux Baby post. I really appreciate all the support and I am feeling a bit better. x