Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Halfway Home

I've been trying to remember how long it took before uni felt like home to me when I first moved there.

This is a pointless exercise on two fronts. One, because moving away for uni was completely different to moving across the globe for shits'n'gigs, and two because thinking of uni is in itself a destructive behaviour at this point in time.

For the past week or so I have been brutally homesick. I would even go so far to say this bout of homesickness is worse than the original. Because there is no real reason why, three months in, I should suddenly start to long for the motherland. And while I've not been reduced to awkwardly holding back tears over the dinner table, I have had serious trouble finding the motivation to do anything other than lie in bed and watch internet re-runs of The Animals of Farthing Wood. Not to mention I had no warning for this one. It was just...BAM. Out of the blue.

Well, no. That's not strictly true. About a week ago I finally got around to telling my student liaison officer I wouldn't be attending my graduation ceremony. Those of you paying attention may notice this email was sent around the same time I decided hibernation was the best idea, like, ever.

I've obviously known I wouldn't be at grad since I decided to move to London last year. And I figured travelling trumped a testamur. But I hadn't told uni because some small part of me held out an illogical hope that maybe I'd get to do it anyway, which kind of implies I was kidding myself. So now I'm wondering: did I make the wrong choice?

On the one hand, Europe is pretty much guaranteed to be here for at least a little while longer. Grad is something I'm only going to get to do once. Even if I do another degree later on, it's not really the same. Is missing the ceremony something I'm going to seriously regret?

But then again I can't pretend that I haven't been loving being here. If I hadn't moved when I did I would never have met any of the people or done any of the things I have in the last few months.

I don't know. Right now all I want to do is basically get so drunk I forget I'm in England, which is always a bad option because it inevitably leads to my making terrible life choices (something I don't actually need any chemical help with), and also because it's depressing and shit. Nobody wants to be that person. But I still have the degree. And going to grad would have effected me for a day. I'm fairly confident moving to England will have further reaching effects.

It's not all bad, though. What I can gather from the similar experiences of other au pairs I've met here is that it takes roughly six months before London really feels like home. So I'm halfway there.

Monday, March 21, 2011

The Average Voter

I like politics. Like, really.

Ugh. Making statements like that make me feel like I'm at a kind of AA for the incurably pretentious. And while I don't mean it in a "I've memorised the names and personal details of all the members of Parliament in an attempt to better KNOW MY ENEMY for when I take my God-given place at the helm of my country, because I can totally run this shit better than Jules" way, it is true. I think politics is equal parts important and interesting, and if you can deal with the inevitable outpouring of bullshit, political conversations are often some of the best.

Because of this I love election times. I love the campaigns, I love Anthony Green, and I really, really love election night. Hosting my own "Don's Party" remains one of my greatest dreams. Honestly, sometimes I forget how much of a nerd I am. Then an election rolls around and I remember how excited filling in the the boxes under the line makes me. (For the record, it's embarrassing amounts of excited)

Which is why I was really depressed when I finally got around to casting my vote for the NSW State election today.

I probably shouldn't be surprised. After all, I'm half way around the globe, so the effect the election result will have on me is literally non-existent. I barely know who the candidates in my area are, let alone what they stand for, and state is my least favourite branch of government at the best of times.

Still, I wanted to have my say. I am lucky enough to come from a country where the elections are genuinely free and democratic, where I can casually destroy the character of candidates I don't like (I'm looking at you, Pauline) in conversation and not fear for my life, hell, where if I wanted badly enough I could form my own party and run for my life. There are people all over the world who are literally dying for those rights. And I don't even know when the election is on.

Aussies in Britain can vote from the 14th until the 24th, and I had every intention of going out last Monday and casting my vote. But then I just...didn't. Other things kept seeming more fun (which they were) and more important (which they weren't...probably). By Wednesday I'd clean forgot I even had to vote, and I only remembered yesterday because I didn't want to be fined. And this morning when I did finally make it over to Australia house and filled out the 311-odd boxes below the line, I did it with none of my usual flair.

Then I found out I wouldn't even be fined if I hadn't voted at all.

Then I felt bad.

It'd be easy to say the reason I'm not fired up about this election is because I'm so far away, but I don't really care all that much about UK politics either. It's pathetic how fast I've lost interest in something that used to captivate me so fully. And it's not mildly disturbing that my loss of interest has basically relocated me to the realms of the average voter.

I need to find myself a protest to attend.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

A Canterbury Tale

Isabel and I visited Canterbury, of the Chaucer Tales fame, on Sunday. And along with the Cathedral and the Norman ruins we also visited the graveyard and a second hand bookshop. I have a mildly morbid love for places like graveyards, because they have so many potential stories. One of the reasons I was so taken with the idea of moving to England is because it has such a romantic history. Australia's post colonial history is interesting and all, and it is a pity I have such an incomplete knowledge of the Aboriginal history, but England is the stuff novels are made of.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The modern age

Today a friend and I went to the Tate Modern art gallery, as part of our shared crusade to see as many culturally and/or tourist-ly significant London landmarks as possible. While we were there we saw a lot of really fantastic art.

We also saw a great deal of Art.

Modern Art is a tricky subject. It's easy to stray to one end of the love/hate spectrum or the other. So, before I get too carried away, let me say there were a great many pieces in the gallery that I really think were fantastic, both asthetically and artistically.

But there was an equal amount of absolute wank.

Maybe it's because I'm a total philistine, but I can't see how a metal cot, a paper cut out of an irregular octagon stuck to a wall, or a pile of dirty (and very smelly) clothes can be considered high Art. Honestly, there were Artworks there that I could have created, and I am the first to admit the limits of my visual arts capabilities.

I'm sure if I took this attitude to a proper Art Appreciator I would be shouted down with cries of "originality!". Sure anyone can paint an entire canvas red, but - and here's the crux of the matter - nobody else though of it. So, upon reflection, I have come up with a list of reasons why I have yet to make my fortune as a Modern Artist

1) I am not an artistic genius - This would seem the most obvious answer. However I have too much faith in my own abilities to simply accept this and move on. I'm talented, bitches.*

2) My parents stifled me - In one of the rooms there was an Artwork that took up most of one wall that looked basically like the kind of collage most people create in kindergarten. I suspect the difference bewteen most people and the Artist is that when he took his craft home, Mummy showered him with kisses and love and home made deliciousness before pinning the "masterpiece" up on the already overflowing fridge, instead of cooing for the requisite half a minute then sending the craftwork on it's way to the great recycling centre in the sky.

3) I'm trying too hard - Everyone know that in order to be an Artist you need to be completely true and open to your feeling, both good and bad. Without real self knowledge, how can you create real Art? Some kind of emotional voyage of self discovery is clearly called for. Just let go.

4) I'm not trying hard enough - Art is about structure, dedication, technique. You have to understand concepts before you can make them your own.

I seriously doubt there is any deeper meaning behind a video of rubbish being blown around in the breeze that hasn't alread been explore in American Beauty (so much for originality, huh?) (postmodernism, yo). Who decides what is and isn't Art, anyway? Whoever it is, I want that job.

*Side project: In order to prove I can be just as ridiculous and pretentious as any Artist(e), I have come up with a Modern Art project. Every day I'm going to take a photo of my friend, Isabel. Every single day. For a year. (Promise). It will be called 365 Days of Isabel, or actually something much better and more meaningful when I think of it.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Real Love

People say it's easier to make friends if you're walking with a dog than if you're walking alone. Generally speaking, I think this is a lie. True, if you have a dog you will probably to come into contact with other dog walkers. This does not mean you're going to find your new BFF at the local park. The reasons for this are twofold. Firstly, you're much more likely to swap boring details about your dog and the weather than strike up an off the cuff D&M with Molly the terrier's elderly owner. And secondly because, while some strangers are in fact the friends you're yet to make, I have both read and watched American Psycho, and I know that others are Christian Bale.

So, for the most part, the few conversations I do have while walking the dog are less than memorable. Today was the exception.

There is a woman who works as a dog walker in my area. She looks middle aged (what even is middle aged? 30? 40?), but she made several joking references to her increased age during the course of our conversation, so if I had to guess I'd probably put her somewhere in her mid fifties. Originally from America, she's lived and worked in Britain for many years, and today I was lucky enough to be talking with her and a sometimes-client of hers when she started telling us about her husband.

They'd met at school, before she left at thirteen to learn a trade, and didn't really see each other until she moved over to Britain some years later. When they ran into each other again they were at a pub in Richmond, and when he saw her he jumped over the garden wall and took her on a spontaneous adventure around the town. They were separated again when she moved back to the US, but when she returned they started up where they left off without a hitch.

Throughout her 20's their relationship fluctuated between romantic and platonic until they moved in together and finally got married four years later. Which is all lovely and heartwarming, but nothing particularly special. The thing is, he died very suddenly just two years into their marriage, and she's been single for the twenty odd years since.

I found this woman's story really touching, mostly because she was so (I'm loathe to use the word average, but...) normal. She wasn't noticeably rich, or strikingly beautiful, or outstandingly smart. But my god was she in love. It's refreshing to find out Hollywood wet dream style romance can thrive in suburban London.

Listening to this woman talk also reminded me that people are often far more interesting than they appear. One of the reasons I want to be a journalist is that I really love people's stories (read: am super nosey). This story kind of made my day.