I had an opinion piece published in The Local today: 12 things that surprised me about moving to Zurich.
I had an opinion piece published in The Local today: 12 things that surprised me about moving to Zurich.
Green, green, green. It ripples and intensifies as I tumble and float down, ever down towards the bottom. Silvery light winks off my surface as the last of precious air bubbles leave me stranded to my fate, coming to rest on soft, subaquatic mud. Far above me, the constant crack and crash of bodies breaking the surface, churning and frothing as they flail and move. The sunlight pales to shades of clear green-glass up there but down where I now reside, the colours are deep jade and juniper, yellow-brown, kelp, burnt carmine and darkest black-brown.
A wavering blue sky can be seen in the rare moments of calm. Are those clouds? I’m swimming with the fishes but I’m stuck, staring upwards, as they, uncurious glide by. The edge of the pier is a fixed thing, noir wood, grooved and channelled with age and the erosion of the current; weeds and algae both etching away and adding layers; old metal, the blood-tinge of rust and the dull shine of it as the water slops and curls, constant.
Cheerful yellow bodies of blow-up hippopotami smack down and float, accompanied by red buoys of waterproof bags and pale – mostly pale – legs as they kick and drag. The current takes them all away. Occasionally a companion piece makes its way down to me, spinning lazily – a sodden pink sunhat, a ring of keys that could open bank vaults. Maybe. Our real-world value counts for naught now.
Eventually, after hours of commotion, the boil and scramble of bodies and spume calms and the white, barnacle-speckled hulls of three boats move away. I’m left here, softly blinking my messages to the fish. As night falls, the light changes, winks off and on, shafts shining through floorboards. I think I hear music, laughter but it’s another world away. I have words to impart but my Barbus companions cannot or will not read them. Later still, a deeper hush falls and the moon dapples softly on liquid contours above. Asleep still-moving fish float while weeds drape and sway, crustaceans go to work. Cold and quiet, but never quite silent, nor still.
Dawn breaks and it’s overcast: soft grey light barely penetrating the surface. The webbed feet of ducks and swans, an occasional myopic eye searching only the warm upper layers for prey. Sun breaks through, piercing down to us nether-dwellers occasionally on a lucky beam, but not often. I sit and blink, feeling my life’s energy draining away. Rain dimples the meniscus. I think. It’s hard to tell. Almost certainly, all is lost.
But, what’s this, a flippered foot? In a single plunge, her sleek dark shape streaks down to pluck me up, hesitating only to acquire a second prize – a shell-encrusted pair of sunglasses that had made this ground its home for far longer than I. And then I am restored. Heat. Light. A babble of voices. The touch of human fingertips. Warm breath on my skin. Alive!
My smartphone spent a night at the bottom of the Limmat River in central Zurich after I stupidly lost it jumping in for the annual Limmatschwimmen on Saturday. (I wrote about the Limmatschwimmen event last year). The phone has now been restored, fully operational, thanks to the hardy diver-women who work at the Frauenbad. Vielen Dank! #LoveZurich
Having only just discovered the re-blog – here’s another one of my stories that was published about a month ago I forgot to mention! oops… enjoy!
We weren’t supposed to end up in the bath. It was one of those intense blue afternoons where it’s almost too hot in the sunshine but disconcertingly dark and shivery when you step indoors. The kind of afternoon you get in Melbourne in early spring. But this was Sydney, autumn. I was sitting out on my balcony, eyes closed as I soaked up the brightness when he stopped by. I had other things to do. But he was far more appealing.
Joel was a taxi driver so I always half-expected him to visit anyway. He’d knock on my door to use the toilet when he was passing by and had a spare fifteen minutes. Toilet breaks are the bane of a taxi driver’s existence. I’d learnt to listen out for the engine’s wide hum as he pulled the cab onto the concrete slab in front of my block of flats.
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Another one of my stories has been published! Please chuck it some love 🙂
“This is the place”
“Yes, I remember.”
Her seventy-nine-year-old eyes were large and ripply behind her thick spectacles. Her face a mass of ridges topped by a puff of grey-white hair.
We walked up the familiar lane – barely wide enough for two cars to pass on the metalled road in the centre, and streaked by tyre-tracks of dirt in a wide pattern from countless passing tractors. Or maybe one tractor passing countless times. It was damp, as it usually is in North East Scotland, but it hadn’t rained properly for a while. I looked at the fuzz of sticks and straw and bits of grass embedded in the lines of light-brown dirt from the tractor tyres and sighed. Somehow the messiness of it annoyed me.
The laneway was familiar to me, as was the approaching garden gate. I’d visited here several times on my various trips to Scotland. But…
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Thoughts churring, whirring, lines of text unspooling
that god damn Irvine Welsh story stuck
again in my head when will it come right
no one cares about a Sydney goth take on
Trainspotting anyway you idiot but
everytime I try to put it down, I can’t
When will I, when will I… stop
Sad and anxious and my clothes
are getting tight and I thought
exercise! But the wrong lane in the pool is
an elastic band of swimmers pulled too taut
or bagged out loose and saggy like the fat guy’s
stomach as he churns by making me
panic and there’s nothing so much like
drowning as not swimming well
When will I, when will I… stop
Walking home I wondered
If I can story and drink and poem
and retain my sanity. I don’t mind telling you for a minute there
(OK maybe several minutes) I considered
I’d better pause the poetry but the obvious answer
is to thirst myself more carefully
When will I, when will I… stop
My heart sank at today’s prompt: The Bop (see below) because it seemed too difficult and I’ve been struggling with my poems and my other writing lately, on top of various other life-happenings! But I read the examples and the Ravi Shankar one reminded me of my old fave, Frank O’Hara: Poems about the desperation-but-ordinariness of everyday life. And I found, as I did in last year’s NaPoWriMo, sometimes the best poems come from what seem impossible prompts! I really enjoyed this one. It’s nice for me to step away from rhyme and go with rhythm sometimes.
The prompt: the Bop. The invention of poet Afaa Michael Weaver, the Bop is a kind of combination sonnet + song. Like a Shakespearan sonnet, it introduces, discusses, and then solves (or fails to solve) a problem. Like a song, it relies on refrains and repetition. In the basic Bop poem, a six-line stanza introduces the problem, and is followed by a one-line refrain. The next, eight-line stanza discusses and develops the problem, and is again followed by the one-line refrain. Then, another six-line stanza resolves or concludes the problem, and is again followed by the refrain. Here’s an example of a Bop poem written by Weaver, and here’s another by the poet Ravi Shankar.
I’ve been on a slight hiatus this past week or so. With Spring arriving, it feels like time to pause and check in with myself. I’ve had a bit of success with my writing. But I’ve also made a few rookie mistakes and started grappling with that learning curve. Basically, I found that I really wanted to submit my work to a bunch of literary journals because I’m used to the Shoot! Cut! Print! mentality of working in media and I find it really hard not to have a “finished” product for my work. I’m trying to wean myself off this feeling as I think it means I sometimes send stuff off a bit half-baked in my desire to be done. That said, completion is no bad thing. DONE IS BETTER THAN PERFECT is a bigtime mantra of mine.
I wanted to talk a bit about WordPress as well. For those who don’t know – WordPress is the blogging platform I use here for Clairevetica. Around Christmas time, I took Facebook off my phone which has meant that now, instead of noodling around on the ‘book, I tend to read a bunch of blogs instead, which is nice. Although I do find the WordPress phone app does some odd stuff with its feeds. So, if I followed you but it seems like I never ‘like’ your stuff – it might be because I never see it? My feed seems to be full of the same 10 or 20 blogs even though I follow a few hundred. Oh well.
In writing news, I’m doing two things in the next few weeks. One – I’m starting an online writing course, which will be interesting and hopefully valuable. Two – I am planning to participate in GloPoWriMo again – the Global Poetry Writing Month that last April kind of kicked me into a new dimension of creativity. If all goes according to plan, both these things should help consolidate and advance my writing. Or it could all fall in a screaming heap because how tf do I have time for both these things?!
Anyway, I have at least one more story that’s being published but not until end of April so I’ll wait and tell you about that when it’s live. And I’m planning to keep submitting stuff but it takes ages – not just the actual submissions but reading the journals and trying to work out if my stuff will fit (usually, I think yes? But it’s hard to know for sure). And then you get into this weird rabbit-hole of all the short story and poetry competitions – most of which you need to pay to enter. So it becomes a situation of do I put my money where my mouth (or pen) is? And, although the rewards could be huge (comp winners often find agents and book deals come knocking), it’s also stressful and a bit distasteful. Like – what an indication of privilege to be able to enter stuff and pay… and the other entrants will surely just be other rich first worlders so where’s the diversity in that? But, if I CAN afford to enter a few things and I really believe in my work… argh… you see the dilemma. Maybe once I’ve done this course and got some genuine feedback on if my stuff is “ready” I will be able to judge better whether it’s worth entering competitions. Anyway, hence the attempt at another author selfie. I don’t know about the sunglasses. A bit too closed off, no?*
PS: Do you guys want to read some flash fiction writing prompt stuff on here? I’m not sure if it’s really worth publishing but trying to ‘keep the hand moving’ and, as stated above, I feel the need to cut, shoot print.
*Sometimes my inner voice goes a bit Karl Lagerfeld
It’s now been a few weeks “full time” (which means approx 1.5 days / 12 hours per week) into my Writing Thing. I have created my own home-based Werkstatt (workshop) – a space to write. And despite the to-be-expected wobbles and mini crises of confidence, things are going pretty well.
I’ve been bashing out lots of poems and submitting them to various journals and also trying my hand at some short-story writing. I think short stories are the hardest so far for me, compared to poems and even the novel. Although it still feels like early days on the novel.
Anyway, I just had my short story “Mark’s Funeral” published at http://www.quailbellmagazine.com/the-unreal/fiction-marks-funeral-by-claire-doble
Hopefully more good news to come in the following weeks and months. Watch this space / Lueg die Werkstatt!
Well this is exciting. My first spoken-word-poetry collaboration!
I came across Kate Duff’s poems through the blogosphere a while ago and they really resonated with me. I approached her about doing a reading of one of them and she was kind enough (and brave enough!) to say yes.
I enjoyed reading someone else’s work and -ahem- it may have even provoked me to try a bit harder and do a few more takes than my usual slapdashian approach!
I’m really pleased with this one. Have a listen (it runs for about 1.5 minutes). And throw some blog-love towards Kate over at https://athousandbitsofpaper.com/ Thanks Kate!
Link to original poem: https://athousandbitsofpaper.com/2016/12/01/thinking/
Although it’s against popular opinion, 2016 has been a good year for me. Maybe one of my best! It’s been a great year for this blog too. In fact, a lot of my joy in 2016 has been directly tied to Clairevetica so it seems appropriate to write this post.
This is the year that I randomly decided on 30 March to participate in a month-long poetry writing challenge: NaPoWriMo/GloPoWriMo. I feel like that spur-of-the-moment decision has changed my life! A month later, I’d written 30 poems in 30 days, I had a bunch of new followers and was following heaps more blogs myself. It helps that it coincided with a friend/local blogger starting a Switzerland blogger group so I simultaneously followed a bunch of local blogs as well as all the poetry stuff. Clairevetica has gone from having around 50 followers to having 200. Impressive. And I really thank you all for following, liking, commenting and supporting (both on the blog and elsewhere) – hell, even just bothering to read all the words I write! Fittingly, as I was writing this post, I just got a notification from WordPress that I’d achieved 1,000 likes on this blog altogether, w00t!
However, stats aside, perhaps the most important thing about the poetry month was it meant poetry went from being a thing I occasionally dabbled in to a Thing I Am. Alongside my various other jobs and titles, I’m now “Zurich-based poet, Claire Doble” and fuck that makes me happy.
My most popular poem was The Earth / His Purpleness about Prince and Earth Day. Which seems even more appropriate since this year is ending on a media storm of all the famous people who’ve died, as well as there being ongoing worries globally when it comes to ecology and politics.
Other current affairs poems I did included The Unicorn and the Lion about Brexit, Stars and Stripes about America, Over Heard and Cincinatti about Johnny Depp’s breakup and that Gorilla grabbing a child (remember?!) and Landfill – deploring all the waste. Other poems I wanted to mention again included Alison, which I’m humbled was read aloud at the funeral, Morning Song, which really evoked something about my life here and Rollins Rules, trying to capture the give-no-fucks spirit of the man. While I’m thanking people and noting poems, I should give a shout-out to my ever supportive husband, Himself: Respect! (and love)!
And, of course, I had a good dose of soul searching and attempts to find my way – Time Out of Mind and Writing for My Life/ Fighting for my Life (which is my second-most viewed post of the year) . It’s nice for me to take a look back at these and see how things have worked out (mostly well).
I also started and finished writing my first novel – which I should mention as it’s pretty huge. Although it doesn’t have a lot to do with the blog…
In the midst of all this, we had an amazing summer of international visitors to Zurich. It was so great to introduce our adopted home-city to friends and family from near and far and to spend time exploring more of this gorgeous country with them.
As I said in my previous post of New Year’s Resolutions. I’d like to do some more travel stuff in 2017 with our 26 Swiss Cantons in 52 Weeks challenge. I’ll do more poetry of course but hope to get stuff published above and beyond Clairevetica. And you can follow my spoken word stuff on Soundcloud.
Happy New Year everyone – I’m so delighted to be writing so much and to have all these Clairevetica followers old and new. I appreciate each and every one of you. Here’s to a rockin’ writing 2017!
A few short weeks ago I was riding high. I’d had a couple of poems published and a story up in a local newspaper (43 Habits You’ll Pick Up Living in Switzerland). I’d just completed a rough draft of my first novel and poems and even a few short stories were falling out of me all over the shop.
And now… I’m the kid after Christmas. It all just feels a bit jaded and useless. Where’s the confidence-bordering-on-arrogance? The joie de vivre for this writer’s life?
A few things I was looking forward to got derailed. After a few months of little to no drinking, I got a bit festive and the wine intake has crept up again. I kicked Facebook off my phone and I feel better, but it’s created space for loneliness — amazing how social media sort of causes but cures that. Which basically proves it’s yet another addiction. David Foster Wallace (yes, I am that wanker today!) gave what I think is the best description of addiction. Or, if you prefer, Homer Simpson – “Here’s to alcohol: the cause of, and solution to, all of life’s problems.”
I think I’m tired, it’s been cold and dry and dark but without the joyous surprise of snow. I think a few months of sitting still at my computer tapping out the words finally caught up with me physically and I’m feeling heavy, unfit and yuk. I miss my friends and my family. Even those who are nearby. I think finishing things and achieving things, while wonderful, does result in a bit of comedown afterwards. It can be hard to keep the momentum going, especially at this time of year when things are winding up.
But anyway, it’s inching towards 2017 now and I’m trying to look forward. Play it forward.
Last year’s New Year’s resolution was to make some small, incremental changes that would hopefully make a big difference to my / our lives and I think I’ve achieved that. (Interesting to look back actually – in 2015 it was about surrendering to my fate and a year or so before that it was Don’t Rush In Where Angels Fear To Tread… something I may have to re-examine given my furious forward-pace of work recently. Ha!)
So I think 2017 is going to be all about consolidation and possibly realignment – shaving off the excess to concentrate on the main game. I’ve put in some amazing groundwork in 2016 and I want to build on that. This means not getting distracted by stuff, no matter how important it may seem. And this is going to include saying no to paid work if need be, which is slightly terrifying when I think about my bank balance! Hopefully it’s all to the greater good though and the fact I’ve made this commitment to this Writing for My Life thing will eventually start to pay off, literally.
So I’ve come up with some more ideas – why not. And because this has worked for me in the past, I’m going to make it into a statement of intent. With SMART goals even (yes, I’m that wanker too today)…
In 2017 I would like to
PLUS – I’ve also had an idea for this blog that I’d like to reclaim some of the travelogue stuff and so Himself, the kids and I are going to do a 26 Swiss Cantons in 52 Weeks challenge where we’ll visit all 26 cantons of Switzerland throughout 2017. I’ll aim to take at least one photo (if not a whole gallery) of each and do a writeup of something we saw or somewhere we went. We’re planning to go alphabetically but we’ll see how it pans out.
Phew – that should probably be enough for now. I’d better go get some rest before NYE ! Oh, and I’m hoping to do a year-in-review of this blog at some point in the next week or so as well… stay tuned. 🙂