It’s funny how affirming it can be just to get on a bus and go somewhere new, on a week night, before going back to work a slightly different person, even before the weekend. Somehow, that’s a win, and a reminder that I am active, and interesting, and grown-up, and capable. Because before, I was just stagnating. Monday-Friday, doing “nothing that finishes too late”, taking no chances, gaining nothing, avoiding activity out of a needless commitment to routine safety. In getting on this bus, going somewhere I need the driver to tell me I have arrived at because I don’t already recognise it, I am growing. I am adding to my experience, my repertoire. I am changing, I am moving, I am living.
It was my birthday this week. The inevitable internal stock-take becomes me. The past two weeks, I have mostly been:
Playing Yellow Car
Performing nightly in an original Fringe show, and enjoying it more each night
Wandering the Brighton seafront
Painting myself grey
Trying to read, but getting distracted by good company
Playing tourist at museums and stately homes
Giggling at the names of roses
Sharing rooms and swapping beds
Meeting my friends’ families and loved ones
Watching free live comedy
Having vivid dreams, and apparently grinding my teeth, which is new
And, of course, thinking about a boy. Frustratingly dull, but true, and perhaps a pattern I am destined to follow always.
Thinking about the largeness of life, the wide, open world of opportunity and excitement and new connections and journeys
Feeling inspired and relaxed to a point of meditation, by the sea
Feeling proud of my company and our ideas
Feeling closer to my companions
I said a week ago that I felt “old and tired”. I think this is somewhat untrue since then. I feel refreshed and ready to move on to a new phase of life. My company is taking exciting new steps this year and I am very happy to say that I think we are making personal progress together too.
I am sorry I haven’t written in a while – I had been distractedly working on a series of posts about music, but have been suffering on and off from insecurity, or apathy, with my writing over the past several months. I have neglected a habit which used to serve me very well. More to come, and soon.
An extract from my short play The Games We Played At No. 47. Beware, this is not the most sophisticated or high-brow of writing or sentiments. I produced Games at university under the umbrella of the Drama Society, and would like to put it on again. Most of the characters are unnamed and unisex.
(Lights up/audience walk in to PERSON sat on toilet, who acknowledges them and addresses them directly. May take tissue and pretend to wipe at points, maybe even look at tissue afterwards.)
Person What is hate? Why do we hate? I hate you, because you’re an audience. You’ve come here expecting to sit there for an hour or two (and you’re hoping it’s only one, or less), and watch something beautiful and meaningful, that makes you a better person. More cultured, I don’t know. Well, well done.
(Looks at themselves)
This means you’re cultured. So, being an audience, you have a lot of expectations. As I said you expect to see something beautiful and meaningful which puts a lot of pressure on me, so thanks for that. You expect that if something happens to me, here, over the next however long, let’s say an hour, it’s all part of the show and whatever I say, whatever I do, you should sit there and watch, and do bugger all else, because if you react any more than that, you’ll look… like a twat. Fair enough. I hate you for that. I hate that because you’re used to sitting and watching, you won’t do. You’ll restrict yourself from doing so often and for so long that you’ll forget when it’s appropriate and when it isn’t. And how to do it. Doing, that is. You’ll also assume that because this… piece… wasn’t advertised as a musical, that we won’t break into song and dance randomly, or even if it’s relevant to the storyline. Am I right? It’s ok to nod, you know. And that’s another thing: Who said I’m in charge? Who says I get to tell you what you can and can’t do, just here, just now, and you pay for it? Is it just me or is that a bit…
(Looks at audience as if they’re a bit perverse)
Weird? You sheep you. I hate sheep. What was I saying? Why do we hate? I hate my friends the most. No, really. They do me wrong. They’re gonna. I hate Will, because he reminds me of my dad. I hate myself when I remind me of my dad. As you might have guessed, I hate my dad. I hate Johnny because he’s arrogant, selfish, narrow-minded, patronising, rude, chauvinist, offensive, socially retarded. That’s enough isn’t it? I hate (Puts on pathetic, self-mocking tone) potential love interests. I hate mind games. I hate waiting. I hate boredom. I hate being boring. But then, I never am because I’m bored, which means… I’m too interesting to enjoy boring things? Or something. I hate bad smells ever since my science teacher confirmed my horrific fear that they are, in fact, bad for you. In your body. Badness happening right there. Smell cow pat? That’s poo germs going in your nose. Hate to tell you. True story. Now let’s get back to you. So you have your expectations. Wah. Well I had expectations. I expected a pony at Christmas. I expected a knight in shining armour.
(Checks watch, looks around, looks pointedly at audience.)
I expected not to EVER have to eat All-Bran.
(Moment in thought.) Yeah. Well. Life’s a beach.
And for those interested in how script transpires on stage, here it is being performed for the first time by the fantastic Polly Harford:
1. I’m a good girl. I can’t lie, steal, trespass, or anything else ‘naughty’, without panicking and getting caught.
3. I care about the spines of books.
4. I was meant to be foreign.
5. I have lost people I’ve loved, that will never even know who they were to me.
6. I don’t do seafood. Keep the slimy, non-air-breathing aliens away.
7. I get about as much of an orgasm from hearing minor notes on a piano as you’re said to get from sneezing. Maybe more.
8. I love to sing, and desperately wish I could do it in front of people. This is not an option.
9. I feel a bit behind in life; I was always top of the class till I got told in year nine that your intellect plateaus at a certain point. Now I feel stupid, slow and clumsy. This upsets me, as I have always taken pride in being graceful, dignified and clever.
10. I wish I could remember more. One of my earliest memories is of climbing over the wood chippings pile behind our shed, past the big tree we made a swing in, to play with Charlie, the boy whose garden backed onto ours, where we made sand castles and watched Andy Pandy videos with his mum, Gay, who taught me there was more than one meaning to that word.
11. I was a loud, vibrant child who talked to everyone, until I started school. Thus marked my gentle decline into the recluse that I am now. I am still the one who replies to group messages, hosts unsuccessful parties and calls you first.
12. Language is important to me because it’s one of the few skills my parents passed on.
13. I always forgive once. I am learning to be stronger, whatever that means after the first mistake.
14. I believe everyone has just as much right to be in the world as anyone else, to have all the good things in life, to achieve whatever they want, to be loved, without hindering others in their own. Whether they choose to do these things is up to them.
15. I try not to take life too seriously, although I panic about the smallest things. There’s got to be some balance. If you took the big things seriously, surely that would be too much.
16. Deep, deep down, I know I’m worth it.
17. I like holding hands and hugging. It makes me feel whole.
18. I want to see as much of the world as possible, excepting the Middle East, which just doesn’t appeal as much.
19. A part of me wishes I’d been Catholic, some for the rosary beads, some for the drama of confession and sin. However I am not religious, though I see good in Buddhism.
20. I hate being unable to solve a problem, or help my loved ones.
21. My brother fell down the library steps at Haringey when he was two, and now has a scar on his eyebrow which makes me jealous because it looks sexy. The same year, he dropped a toy gun out of a window at our mum’s friend’s new house; for some reason that also stuck with me.
22. I am actually, honestly, not lazy, and my ideal wake up time is 8am. Unfortunately my job on lates at the cinema disagrees.
23. I can’t hold my drink, and I can’t take drugs. I don’t have the physical withstanding. Party pooped.
24. I would like to live in black and white.
25. I have a lot of love in and around me.
Recently I went on my first holiday without family, and with friends. Specifically, two fairly new friends whom I didn’t know a whole lot about, but knew I liked them enough to want to know more. Being at this sort of mid-twenties crisis of wondering who I am and where I should be laying my priorities these days, I figured this was a solid foundation for just what I needed – new experience. And I was right. It was totally refreshing.
We went to Prague. This wasn’t even my idea, and I wasn’t even initially invited. I just hopped on the wagon spontaneously, (I say spontaneously; my heart has been dying for something like this for years, and I was actually promised a trip to Prague about two years ago, which then fell through along with the boyfriend who had promised it – so I had been waiting for Prague for a while) and I’m so glad I did. It was ultimately satisfying to just let go and say ‘why the fuck not?’ for a change (from my usual bedroom-bound, cat-loving, Pride-and-Prejudice-fuelled comfort-zone-feast of a dwelling.)
One of my pet hates is waste. Wasted food, wasted paper, wasted time, anything. It gives me the willies. Also being a bit slow (I promise I’m not lazy or arrogant, I just have a kind of echo-effect going on in here) and lethargic a lot of the time (pray gods this is temporary, or I’ll never find my real self – I refuse to believe this is it because who wants to never get truly excited…?) I think I am a bit of a paradox, like the OCD sufferer who’s also “bone-bastard-idle” from the Smack The Pony dating videos… This makes for a balancing act between getting everything I want to do done, and giving myself the time I need to do it in to feel a) not worn out and b) like I’ve not wasted my time. I impose a sort of trap on myself that is likely to set off, at my own hand, if I ever fall short of these meticulous rules.
Anyway, I think I did a pretty good job this time. Being three very different young women, all quite independent and comfortable in certain aspects, we formed a complementary kind of coup that meant we covered a lot of ground in very little time, and each got a rather varied experience out of a short trip and saw things that we might not have if we’d been making all our own choices. Being respectful, free and open-minded, we managed to ‘cram’ (although we managed not to wear ourselves out, but only carried on until we felt we’d taken in a satisfactory amount for the day) in a fair bit of culture and viewing before our time was up. I sawalmost as much of Prague as I wanted to; I came home happy, and I would definitely go again.
What struck me overall about Prague was the conjunction of beautiful and diverse architecture with the evidence of living history about the place; there was a kind of gritty-pretty air about it. According to our Bohemian Walking Tour – a six-month-old project we heard about through our fantastic hostel, and through which we gained a Bristolian (of all things, given my background) tour guide for a day – Prague has been through a lot, and the economy has only started to pick up with the tourism boom in the last few years. The evidence is on the face of every building. Grand classical structures stand in the fantastic landscape, almost defaced by the appearance that the city bears a great weight on its shoulders. Not only dirt and dilapidation but graffiti are a staple part of Prague’s aesthetic, making it no less fascinating but instead adding character to an already quirky and established place.
Even the fact that Prague was home to Franz Kafka is enough richness of character for me, and the Kafka museum is certainly something to write home about. I think, aside from the British National museums, this is probably my favourite and I would highly recommend it for any fans of his writing. The creativity that has gone into the design or the building and the presentation of concepts and history is brilliant. It was a toss-up that one of my friends even came with me, but afterwards she was so moved as to buy herself some of Kafka’s works, and to post several quotes on her own blog. Not that that’s surprising, of course, because he was an amazingly intricate, provocative and beautifully clever writer. I have trouble even describing its effect on me, but for want of better words; what he does with language is beautifully precise and precisely beautiful. It is ultimately satisfying and articulate.
Anyway, enough praise for the already-discovered; in my naive, sheltered literary existence I am easily overwhelmed and ill-equipped to discuss.
Apart from the Kafka museum, we saw lots of the city on foot thanks to the tour on our first day, including (only the outsides of, which was my only disappointment) many landmarks – several castles, some hills, a giant monk-ridden library, and some other stuff I’ve already forgotten. Oh, and Bohemia Bagel. A reasonable, ok bagel cafe that one friend got obsessed with, probably because they had average veggie options (unusual in Prague, where salty meats and rich sauces run riot.) The food was one telling sign that I couldn’t live here. Although I eat like a teenager, I aspire to a healthy life, and I think my mind, in its soul-searching mode, said no to the tastes it encountered out in Prague. I’d like to remain open-minded and think that if one made the effort, one might supermarket/home-make their way into a healthy eating, plain-tasting life here, but I’m lazy, and this city would not make it easy for me.
We made a point of finding the giant faceless crawling babies, said perhaps to represent the artist’s (the same genius who erected two men pissing into a pool shaped like the Czech Republic) views on communism, perhaps communism in a certain context. Perhaps just some giant motherfucking faceless crawling babies. Seriously, like, the size of elephants. Nailed to the TV tower, and dotted about other areas of the city.
There were also lots of dogs, apparently there’s a much higher dog-person ratio there than the UK, and that set off my slathering obsession just a little bit more. One thing I am ashamed of is that I didn’t make the time to learn the language before we went. Although we didn’t need much of it at all in our three days, I really would have liked to have it in my toolbox anyway, not only because it sounds more mature to actually know something of a country you have visited. We did learn one word that we liked very much, and that became our motto for the whole trip: děkuji (“thank you”.)
And along with all the tickets, boarding passes and other mementos, I still have Google Translate on my phone, and it’s still set to ‘English > Czech’.
… Suffering from one. Recent chats with my boyfriend and a close friend have pushed me to question my habits, predicaments, behaviours, thought processes. Even my self-perception, which is pretty unchanging. I’ve been wanting to do a sort of re-evaluation of all things that make me me for a while anyway. Scrubbing away the debris of old likes and re-instilling my excitement for what used to make me tick. I cleared out all my old homemade compilation CDs. Rearranged the piles of Have/Sell/Empty DVDs. Gok-Wan-ed my wardrobe. Am trying to make more time to rediscover the joy of reading. There are lots of things I have forgotten about or neglected somehow. Now I am trying to bring them back. But only what I need.
This recent quandary is to do with who I am in a social context. Up until a few years ago, I was a very quiet, solitary, independent woman who had a favourite colour, a favourite meal, and a lot of alone time. Then a relationship hit. Things got serious and I got paid a lot of attention. It’s been hard to shake the feelings of manipulation and subversion I was left with. I think I felt suppressed for the first time. My feelings were out of my control. I was not allowed what I considered basic freedoms without a garnishing guilt.
Now, in a much freer position and circumstance, I have been taking advantage of my born-again teenage status. I am allowed to network, have active friendships, invest time in various areas of my life and relationships; whatever I feel like at the time. I have a very accepting boyfriend. My problem lies exactly here. He is the kind who loves me unconditionally, farts and all. And I worry that I am swaying too far in the opposite extreme from where I was before. Am I being too selfish? I have been most disconcerted (in a constructive, pensive way) by how my friends see us in comparison to themselves. Which has been merely solid food for thought. I understand that our own life has to be determined by what we find works best for us. That’s just it. Getting the balance right so that it serves both of us well. An unhappy him makes for an unhappy me, and vice versa.
I am starting to see myself as a grown up. He and I are alone in our world. When we live together, it will be me and him vs the world, using our tools, our habits, our vocabulary, to make sense of the day-to-day and to reach a new kind of harmony together. Alone together.
With that in sight, I think I have been trying to cram friend time and social activities in as much free space as possible, making the most of this ‘freedom’. Sometimes forgetting that the freedom also allows for me to choose to spend time with the boyfriend, should that be my first choice. Which it is. I look forward to him being around in my space full-time. Maybe I can distance myself from these presuppositions enough to gauge exactly what it is I (we) need, to fit in the necessary alone time and also the together time.