Friday, 29 October 2010

Room 101

Made famous by George Orwell's '1984', Room 101 is the place that contains your worst fear or nightmare. On a slightly lighter note, according to the BBC TV show of the same name, it is where you can send your pet peeves.

With that in mind, what would you condemn to Room 101?

I've spent some time (mainly commuting hours) collating a short list of items or actions I'd like to throw into Room 101 and lock the door.

- People who wear sunglasses inside
I don't know why this annoys me so, but it does.

- Wheelie bags on the streets of London
I have almost lost my little toe numerous times when people have decided to suddenly alter the trajectory of their bag

- Massive umbrellas
They seem to have something to prove and do their best to embed their legs into the side of your head. And they can get you when they're both up and down. The other day I just about lost my eye and my foot simultaneously from someone walking up stairs with an unruly wheelie bag and a massive umbrella which came swinging back and came within inches from my face.

On the telly version, Michael Parkinson put the small piece of cotton which holds a new pair of socks together in Room 101, and Stephen Fry sent in Australian Questioning Intonation. Other gems include: bad editing in film musicals, eating in the cinema, the skin on rice pudding, and novelty underpants.

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Autumn affairs

It can be a depressing time of year, these autumnal months. Clocks going back, days getting shorter, central heating going on.. So it seems necessary to fill as many of the days with amusing events as physically possible. Halloween, fireworks, Thanksgiving and then of course Christmas. Cram in the festivals of both darkness and light in an attempt to get us all through to spring.

Monday, 18 October 2010

My Dad

My dad is one of the greatest people in the whole, wide world.

He's mathematical and musical all in one, and he'll go and build things from scratch like sheds, boats, vege gardens and even a swimming pool once.

Photo albums weave their images with early memories, making the young dad I can picture, really cool. Aviator sunglasses, and a droopy mustache, listening to Dire Straits on tape.

During my entire childhood, dad spent an inordinate amount of time on the side of a soccer field, cricket pitch or netball court. Day in, day out, he would watch his athletically mediocre daughter, in the wind, rain or frostiness. With no complaints.

He's done countless oil changes, replaced car parts, and rescued me one night from the side of the road when my clutch cable snapped. Dad taught me to use the Internet, do long division, swim and ride a bike. And the extent of my chemistry learning came from helping dad with swimming pool maintenance. But one of the biggest parts of me that comes straight from dad, is my love for the sea. Not much was ever better than sitting in the cockpit of Hibiscus II with my dad.

We've shared many an evening or weekend afternoon over a pack of cards attempting to reclaim or retain the 'gin' crown. Dad can beat me hands down on a crossword (I once brought him back a bunch of half done ones when I'd been travelling around India) but we're pretty even when it comes to cards.

As the years go by, my dad just seems to get more talented, funny, thoughtful, and even though he's now without the aviators and droopy mustache, still very, very cool.

Saturday, 9 October 2010

My family

I often think that I must surely be one of the luckiest people in the world to be born into such a wonderful collection of people. So I thought I'd write some about them. Starting with the women who immediately surround me.

A letter to my matriarchy

My grandmother, mother and sisters, so much of what I now am comes from each of you.

My granny, who, if I squeeze my eyes closed, I can just see your outline in a doorway; a kind shadow of my history. You are the soft toy rabbit I still have on my now-adult bed, bearing the scars of constant love for thirty years. You too are the faded recipes handed down to my mum, which we were all reared on. The Christmas pudding with its foil wrapped coins, and one 'bachelor' button. After a long stretch when mum thought she was going to have three eternally-single daughters on her hands, one Christmas she changed it to a 'baby' button. Footloose and fancy-free, we picked through the pudding very carefully that year.

To my mother. You, of all the matriarchs make up the most significant portion of me. My fingers which crave to be covered in soil and watch things grow. My hands that try to sculpt fabric just as you do; unsuccessfully. The three of us girls grew up wearing the products of your labour and skill; finely smocked dresses which undoubtedly ended up covered in dog hair and grass stains.

You and I have exactly the same Irish eyes, which you share with a sister; as I do. A pale sky blue like the bottom of the town lido where you'd sometimes set me free in the summertime.

And my trail-blazing big sister. You are my itchy feet. I grew up receiving your postcards from far-flung places in our rural mailbox where starlings nested. All the way from Pakistan, Iran, and Iceland you'd write. I didn't recognise you when you returned. Skin tanned from travel, your rucksack years older and full of trinkets from the world. At seventeen, I could feel my wings wanting to flap right then.

As a small child you would gather stones from our driveway, carefully putting them in mum's preserving jars and keeping them under the bathroom sink. Now I find myself on beaches and islands, on the other side of the world, picking stones to add to my collection. Next to my bathroom sink.

And I can't forget my other big sister who I spent so much of my childhood looking up to, my neck now aches. You are the ever-limber dancer's muscles that act like strings, keeping us all together. The constant and reassuring hand on my shoulder which props me up when times are hard.

And now this family has two tiny girls who join this feminine history. With the same big blue eyes, they learn from each of us. Wearing the beautiful flowery smocked dresses that inevitably end up covered in dog hair and grass stains.

And breathe...

It's done. At about 2am on Tuesday morning I clicked 'send' which signalled the end of Masters year one.

It's been a bumpy but enjoyable ride. My textbook collection is substantially bigger; not so sure about my knowledge of management theories though.

Now I'm going to enjoy that feeling of not having the small academic gremlin sitting on my shoulder always saying "you really should be studying you know".

Saturday, 2 October 2010

My world

This is my world right now. 3,500 words to go until the end of the school year.

Surrounded by wads of articles and textbooks stretched open on my bedroom floor, I type in fits and starts. Waves of inspiration coming either side of long periods of nothingness.