friends

The Spinning Ones

Photo: http://bookdome.com/fiction/Grimms-Household-Tales/The-Three-Spinning-Fairies.html#.WQXN7PmGPIU

once again I rally them

my shining ones, my friends

she tells me that in twenty years

we’ll still be laughing til there’s tears

and magicking the world aright

like we did those moonlit nights

she says that I can let it go

permission to go slow

something I can’t grant for me

but when she speaks, I obey

she sometimes tells me I’m still Jerry

always missed, do not worry

invoke me with my name

on lips, in heart, the page…

and so we go around, around

casting spells and hauling found

fortunes, jokes and sparkling things

while endlessly the earth does spin

 

Today’s prompt was to write a poem about something that happens again and again (kind of like NaPoWriMo/GloPoWriMo). When I get down, my wonderful friends pull me up again tirelessly.

This is the last day of April and the final day of GloPoWriMo. I made it! I’m going to take a short break and get back to you shortly with a poetry-month wrap-up! 🙂

Photo: http://bookdome.com/fiction/Grimms-Household-Tales/The-Three-Spinning-Fairies.html#.WQXN7PmGPIU

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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.

The Moon and the Stars

Another Australian Women's Weekly special birthday cake

Another Australian Women’s Weekly special birthday cake

We’re into the swing of 2016 now. Although, in some areas of Switzerland, there’s an oldskool New Year’s Eve – Silvesterchlausen – today!  So I think it’s still appropriate to discuss my New Year plans (they’re not really resolutions), which involve some incremental changes that will (hopefully) make a significant difference to our lives here. Don’t get me wrong, things are pretty good. But I think they could be great. And I’ve given myself a 12-month window to achieve this.

So far I’ve made steps to do three new things – one involving work, more German lessons (finally!), and some exercise – so I think that’s a pretty good start. Now I just have to put in the hours and wait for the payoff. In the way that things suddenly become clear: after all that time last year agonising over work vs. German classes, I just kinda realised that what I really wanted was to do both, so I need to make that happen.

In other news, wir machen party… We had a little party on the weekend because it’s my birthday and the baby’s birthday soon. Plus the two daughters of a friend also had their birthdays around this time. It was so lovely! My local mummy mates surprised me with a present and it kinda pulled me up short. I’ve been bemoaning my loneliness and yet I have made some good pals here already. Not that the two necessarily cancel each other out but I do want to take a moment for gratitude and to say that I know I’m very lucky (or do you make your own luck when you make your own friends? A blog for another time maybe!). They sang me Happy Birthday in German, which felt like a small victory, and we all tucked into the cakes.

Back on the theme of Ch-ch-changes (Ok so Bowie died this week)…. At the end of last year, I read a post by this self-help dude Mark Manson that made a lot of sense to me. It basically says that, rather than pursing an idea of generic “happiness” to achieve your goals, you should instead ask yourself: What kind of pain do I choose to endure to get me where I need to go? Or, as he puts it: What flavour of shit sandwich do you want to eat? Because everything good involves sacrifice. And it got me thinking  that maybe one of the pains I’ve chosen is that of loneliness. It’s the tradeoff for living somewhere exotic that’s away from what you knew. There’s advantages to my path, of course. But the downside is being away from old friends and family. The people who know who I am and have forgiven me. The people who know I used to be this girl:

I used to be the organiser, you see. The eye of the storm, the centre of the wagon wheel. I got people together and I made stuff happen. Not entirely of course. But I was a little star, with my own gravitational pull. Here’s the thing, though: I actively stopped myself from doing that when I moved to London. Because why? The pressure got too much? It started causing more anxiety than it was providing enjoyment? It got too boring to be the one everyone would call to ask: “what time does the party start again? What’s the address?” Read the invite, lazybones! Or maybe life just got in the way? Once you’re no longer a self-absorbed twentysomething uni student, you actually have other shit to do than organise everyone’s social life. Anyway… who’s to say I could have recreated that sort of influence in a new country anyway, especially somewhere as full of Alpha Centauris as London. Who’s to say I would have even retained that status if I’d stayed in Sydney, as everyone got on with their own lives, wives and families.

Today I was stuck at home with a sick child (again!!!) and I spent a while looking through old photos of all the fun I had back in my 20s. I really did have ALL. THE. FUN. So much dressing up, so many parties, goofing off around the house or down at the pub with my mates. Soo many good times with all the wonderful creatures I called my friends, most of whom, I’m pleased to say, would still answer to that description. I even lived with the late, great David Bowie for a time during this period. He was on our wall. And he came to a few of our parties, dressed up as my pals.

David Bowie died on Monday.  End of an era – he was the (Goblin) king, an inspiration and a permission to all us misfits to let our freak flags fly. Showing us that you might even be hugely successful by exploiting your own special brand of weirdness. I do feel a lot of nostalgia for my Golden Years… But, just as Bowie’s not really gone, neither is that part of me, because that kind of magic endures.

And after this weekend’s party and feeling the love from my local buddies, as well as seeing my plans for 2016 start to creak into action… Well, maybe I am starting to create my own universe over here in Switzerland. These are also golden years.  Let all the children boogie…

 

Dancing

Missing You

TAMARA DE LEMPICKA (1898-1980) LE TURBAN VERT

I miss her funny fingernails

The way her hair sits over her ear

The angle of her head when she laughs that shows the gap in her teeth (you don’t really notice it other times)

Her slightly protuberant eyes

Slim fingers that look like they could bend all the way back

Soft brown freckles that dapple her entire face

Non-symmetrical stains on her teeth and a hint of lazy eye (both add to her prettiness)

The skin-tone mole to one side of her cleavage

The way the makeup collects in the corners of her eyes because she laughs until the tears come

Nose rings – when will we give them up? Circles and sparkles

The lines around her mouth that have deepened but her skin looks finer

The red patch of excema on her arm, half hidden by a sleeve

Smooth, thin hair in a shiny black ponytail with a sparse fringe

Curly, thick hair that needs an undercut to be manageable

Eyes of aquamarine, true blue, dark blue, liquid brown, chestnut, greeny hazel

The slight lisp, enhanced by a tongue piercing

Her little feet in wedge heels. So busy!

Sometimes I think her hair is blonde, other times quite brown

The thin-etch of her teenage tattoo

Steady gaze from behind sparkly spectacles (but they aren’t glitzy)

Her compact competence

Have I ever seen her without eye makeup? Otherwise her face is bare, but it looks right

The angle of her chin, somehow like a lizard (not ugly)

Strawberry blonde hair, cornsilk, straight

Eyebrows

The cluster of her earrings

Her chubby cheeks: that expression when she grins but looks a bit unsure

She wears eyeliner flicks always. Except if she’s really tired or has a cold

Her gums above her teeth

The pout and curve of her lips, no longer pierced but you can still see the divot

A sibilant emphasis when she says certain words

Those teeth

Her nostrils

Her voice. All their voices. The words they use. Their accents

I ache to be in the same room for an hour with even one of them

My beautiful friends

 

 

Poor kid, Rich town

Coogee Beach, Sydney Australia

Coogee Beach

I’ve been back in my hometown of Sydney for a week now and it’s really got me thinking about relative riches/poverty. There’s many ways to be rich and/or poor of course, and possibly even more ways to feel or perceive those states of being.

But I’ll start with the obvious – financial. I’ve read studies about whether people prefer a higher income but to be less well off than their neighbours/peers or a lower income but feel better off. And it seems that many people are happier feeling slightly better off than those around them, regardless of actual income. I tend to agree. (Google “relative income satisfaction” for actual info – I might be projecting here!)

When we lived in the UK, we were in a fairly gritty area of North London by dent of buying the best house we could afford without taking out too sickeningly large a mortgage. Anyway, we were certainly part of the new wave of gentrifiers in our particular street and subsequently, we felt quite affluent in our surroundings. Of course, in London, it’s very easy to feel poor too, almost no matter how many ££s you have. Just spend an afternoon around St James’s, Mayfair, Chelsea, Notting Hill, Primrose Hill, etc. and you start to despair that you’ll ever “make it” in that way. Give up, go home… or move to Tottenham.

In Zurich, it’s kind of the opposite for us. We are the poor kids in a rich town. Not that we’re doing badly. But there’s so much wealth there with all the bankers, lawyers, watchmakers (!) and millionaire playboys and playgirls (playpeople?) about. Plus everything is so expensive, even just normal groceries. And you need to take out a small personal loan if you want to eat out regularly. It doesn’t really worry me that much, although it’s a bit depressing to think while there, we won’t get ahead and, if anything, will slowly leach our savings away, particularly if we want to Take Advantage of All Zurich and Being In Switzerland has to offer – eg: holidays, skiing, eating food. I guess that’s what you get for moving to one of the world’s most expensive towns in the world’s most expensive country (depending on which survey you read).

Unfortunately in Zurich at this stage, we’re also poor in other ways. We don’t have much of a social life, we have very few friends so far, no family, we’re not particularly sporty and we have a toddler so adventurous hikes or suchlike are out of reach for now. Plus we’re mostly illiterate, which is horrible. Even health-wise, I’ve been suffering morning sickness and HI’s latest bout of 2 months hard yakka averaging 5 hours sleep/night has put us behind the 8-ball on that front. Thank goodness we have nothing seriously wrong and P is healthy at least.

So I’m holidaying in Australia. The world’s fourth-most expensive country. And I have to say I’m enjoying it, but it’s also making me sad. I’m loving it because I feel so rich here in the best ways: I am a wealthy woman in terms of friends, family, beautiful city, lovely living conditions (thanks to mum & dad and my in-laws), amazing beaches, birdsong. Easy shopping (and groceries seem so cheap after Switzerland!), in fact, easy everything with my own language, really. Don’t get me started on the relief I feel dealing with authorities, shop assistants, anyone when for once I know all the words and have the right accent!

But… and I hate to say this because it upsets me to hear so many people in Australia moaning and cyring poor when they have it SO GOOD… but but but… the house prices here are insane. And I think I’d like to move back. Seriously. But I don’t know if we could actually afford to. Of course, that is ridiculous. We could absolutely afford to – except we wouldn’t be able to come back and live the lifestyle I fantasise about. Which is not to say some incredible 5-bedroom villa overlooking Coogee Beach, but just a nice, proper house in a decent suburb. Our mortgage would be AUD$1 million plus for this. Insane. Or we could rent, which would be fine. And it’s not gonna happen anytime soon anyway – we need to give Zurich at least another 12-24 months. And by then, we might truly love it and have gained some wealth where it counts – in friends and good experiences.

But right now, I feel a little bit stuck between a rock and a hard place. I’m not where I want to be and I do not know quite how I can get there, or even if I can get there. And feeling like a poor kid in a rich town sux.