Archive for September, 2009

cec477bbc5396f6e3fa5a23aa73d50e22Growing older in the midst of a youthful technological era is a curious conundrum.

While one half of your brain has resigned itself  to cynicism and world weariness, the other half  is startled out of all reverie by the daily barrage of images and information spilling from our computers, television screens and mobile devices.

It’s a visual media deluge, which can either confirm your increasingly jaundiced view of life or, every now and then, make you glad that your cells are still functioning in a relatively normal manner.

Confusion has never been this baffling and for me, yesterday in particular, was a day of such conflicting emotions.

In the early half of the day, my faith in human nature took a considerable nosedive when the news sites that I visited were full of images like this,

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with people actually having discussions as to whether this is racism or satire?

Aristophanes, Alexander Pope, Aldous Huxley, Mark Twain, H.L. Mencken, Matt Groening; these are some of the names that come to mind when satire is mentioned.  Tea Party wingnuts wielding inflammatory, disrespectful posters and spouting dangerous bullshit, is not.

Despite heading out to enjoy a semi-boozy lunch with a good friend, this picture drifted around my head for the rest of the day, causing much sighing and feeling of malaise until, later in the evening, an event occurred which lifted the gloom.

In July this year, I joined the social networking site Twitter.  Well, to tell the truth, I signed on in February, but was so freaked out when the only people following me were spam bots and porn bots (and this is before I even knew what a ‘bot‘ was), that I ran away, back to the comforting familiarity of Facebook.  Over the next few months I read and heard more about Twitter until finally, the events surrounding the Iran elections persuaded me to give it another try.

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I knew nothing about Twitter etiquette, retweeting, direct messaging or who saw whose messages.  I felt vaguely uneasy about just jumping in to talk to total strangers and for a couple of weeks suffered from stalking perception anxiety.  I made silly mistakes and probably tweeted inane drivel but ploughed ahead.  Any networking activity involves a learning curve, right?

Maybe I just got lucky with the people I chose to follow on Twitter.  Any error was gently corrected and despite being a ‘newbie’ (ack, I hate that term), I was made to feel welcome by all.  People join social networking sites for a myriad of reasons. For me, the fact that from my small corner of Belgium, I can connect with writers, journalists, scientists, artists, fashionistas, photographers, comedians, musicians, mothers, fathers, nutcases – “the whole gamut of human emotion” – is a mind boggling wonderment.

As humans we live to connect.  It forms part of our makeup.  Yesterday evening, at 7p.m. GMT, in London, I watched and was part of,  a connection which negated the hate images of earlier in the day and raised my awareness as to “the kindness of strangers”.

The Fourth Plinth, Trafalgar Square, London, is currently home to sculptor Anthony Gormley’s ‘living monument’ art project  One & Other .  It is a daunting 3 meters (10ft) high, open to the elements pedestal, where each participant may showcase their point of view of life; their juggling, dancing, oration or ability to turn into a tomato skills, for one hour.  If a week is a long time in politics, one hour on a plinth must feel like an eternity.

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A quiet buzz had been starting to build in the ‘Twitterverse’ as we all became slowly aware that one of the ‘ladies who tweet’ was preparing to be forklifted up and become one of the ‘living monuments’.  Events may move quickly on Twitter but support shifts like the wind.  Within the space of a few short hours, women living in or around London re-organised their schedules, ignored their partners, donated their children to charity and flocked to Trafalgar Square to stand by their girl (women are superb at this).

Henri Hunter’s hour began at 7pm GMT.  Here in Belgium, it was 8pm, the kids put themselves to bed;  no teeth brushed.  In California it was 11am and the girls were coffee primed.  In New York, it was 2pm, work or no work, they were glued. In Rome, it was aperitivo time – online – (yipee!).  All over the UK, the usual routines stopped as the “Trafalgar Sq. Online Crew” (thanks, Nene), tuned in to tweet support and comments.  In the wilds of beautiful Scotland, one woman was looking, listening and helping to direct the web cameras.  Kiz,  Photographer extraordinaire found the best angles for the onlookers and sweet-talked lovely Felix and Zoom (the ‘One & Other ‘ Camera Operators), into pointing out the best spots for close-ups of:

Henri – (@titianred)

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The flame-haired, Autumn Goddess of the Plinth.

The Shoes –

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Sister, I would SWIM to Finland to pick up a pair of those….

The Tweet Support Gang –

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Jeez girls, aren’t you supposed to be looking UP..?

See what I mean?  It’s an addiction, I know.

The male support were keeping quiet in the background.  The ‘Silent One’ proferred the champagne  and goodies for the ‘après-plinth’.  Cheers, O Silent One!

The other male had to run off to Somerset House for work, but as he said to me once in my earlier days:

“It was a good thing”.

Yes. Yes, it was a marvelous thing.

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All thanks for the screenshots in this post go to Kiz (@deililly).  Check out her superb photography by clicking on the link above – if it works – God, when am I going to GET this stuff…?

Even more thanks to Henri (@titianred) for allowing me to use her magnificence for this post.  Will you finally adopt me now?

To the ‘Twitter Girls & Boys’: too many to name, but you are all there, in my heart & laptop, until some virus wipes you all out. Thanks.

To my paren….all right, already….

cec477bbc5396f6e3fa5a23aa73d50e22There are times when you simply cannot avoid overhearing other people’s embarrassing conversations.

No matter how much you desperately shuffle around in your handbag, pretend to frantically text or hum nonsensically to yourself while avoiding eye contact at all costs, the very air you are sharing seems fraught with humiliation.

Banks, post offices, hairdressers, supermarket check-out lines, public transport; we are assaulted daily by a constant barrage of misfortunes.  Most are instantly forgettable or serve as amusing anecdotes over the dinner table, but if you are lucky, you may find yourself rooted to the spot

Such a conversation was overheard this week.

LOCATION:

Visa & Immigration Dept., U.S. Embassy, Brussels.

THE SCENE:

A large room with eight or nine individual, bullet-proof glass booths.  The interviewer communicates with the applicant via a microphone, thus causing the interviewees to bellow out their replies.  Excellent.

THE APPLICANT:

Frumpish, elderly lady (early 70’s or so); blue rinse needing a touch-up, Aldi eco grocery bag, undetermined European accent ( maybe Swiss).  Possibly like this, but minus the pearls.

smallgranny

THE INTERVIEWER:

Passably handsome, mid-thirties, American male; gelled hair, small shaving nick on chin, pen twiddler.  Obvious boredom with Civil Service job hugely alleviated by the encounter.

THE CONVERSATION:

INT:  Good morning, Ma’am, (ruffles through sheaf of papers).  You are applying for an Immigrant Visa to move to the United States?

APP:  Yes sir, yes I am.

INT:  And you are retired; no longer working?

APP:  For five years now, yes.

INT:  Ma’am, (leans forward to glass, twiddling pen, staring intently). I see you have checked the ‘yes‘ box of the ‘Have you ever been arrested or convicted for any offense or crime‘ question.  Is this correct?

APP:  (Slight glance around, nervous shuffle).  Well, that would be correct, sir.

Everybody in room concentrating HARD on cracks in floor tiles.

INT:  How long ago was this?

APP:  Umm, about…oh, about seven years ago. *cough* (Nervous fiddling with hair).

INT:  And you were convicted for how long, Ma’am?

APP:   Five years.

INT:  Of which you served?

APP:  Two and a half. (Brightening), I was released on good behaviour, you know.

INT:  And what, exactly, was the nature of your crime?

APP:  Um…embezzlement, sir.

INT:  I see, (visibly excited but trying to remain stern).  How much did you embezzle, Ma’am?

APP:  Oh, let me see, um….about 91,000 Euro, I think…

INT:  *Pause*  (increasingly rapid pen twirling and seat shifting)

Even the flies are agog:

tinyfly

INT:  *Ahem*  Ma’am, the Government of the United States of America generally do not take kindly to convicted embezzlers looking to move there.  Do you have relatives in the country?

APP:  No.

INT:  Anyone who can vouch for you at all?

APP:  Em, no.

INT:  *Perplexed sigh*  Why do you want to move to the U.S., Ma’am?

APP:  Sir, I feel that Europe no longer has anything to offer me….

INT:  (Large stamp in hand) – APPLICATION DENIED.

Overcome with incredulity and mirth, my trusty eavesdropper made her way directly to the nearest Brasserie to knock back several kir vin blancs and reflect on the amount of ‘crazy’ in the world.

Me, I like degrees of crazy in all their variance.  We are, each of us, well equipped with it; only the way in which we choose to display our crazy differs.

And, between you and me, I think embezzling lady had balls.

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cec477bbc5396f6e3fa5a23aa73d50e22…The Twelve Year Anniversary Edition

“A husband is what is left of a lover, after the nerve has been extracted.”

Helen Rowland: A Guide to Men (1922)

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It’s Sunday morning, 6.00am, Belgian time.  Twelve years ago it was Saturday morning, 6.00am, Irish time, with a low Atlantic mist comfortably settled on the grounds of our chosen castle.  There, six hours later, The Drummer and I would glide ceremoniously into the next phase of our lives together.  Suckers truly are born every minute.

Symb07It wasn’t the most conventional of weddings. Our cake was flat and black, in the form of the Celtic Triskele.  The Celts believed that the essence of life was tripartite; earth, water, sky; past, present, future; birth, death, rebirth; sun, energy, motion.  Looking back now, I think we were both just raving, hippy fruitcakes who preferred sponge.

The Drummer had recently returned from touring in Japan where he had been presented with the ‘traditional’ Japanese bride and groom wedding cake figures, representing the whole “until death do us part” thing.  The perplexed guests snapped more photos of our ‘Death Cake’ than us and Great-Aunt Maud was so visibly shaken, that we had the Red Cross ambulance service on stand-by for the rest of the night.

weddingcake

It was a crazy day of love and laughter, music, dancing, camaraderie and excessive alcohol consumption.  The omens looked good for the future.

So came the Anniversaries.  The closest we ever got to exchanging the customary ‘by year’ gifts was on our 1st Anniversary when I taught the Drummer how to change a toilet-paper roll in the bathroom.  It was a seminal moment in our relationship and probably the last time we have actually been together to celebrate this day.

Even as I write, I is here and he is rehearsing in Dublin, (back tomorrow). But that’s OK.  After twenty-one years of being in love with the same person, it’s not about the fake ‘Hallmark’ phrasing in a hastily chosen card or the tension that comes with a wrongly chosen gift.  It’s all about waking up again tomorrow, in the same bed, with the same person, grafting out the daily, repetitive routines and trying to make it work for both of you.  It’s about finding the ‘common ground’ in which to live, so that you don’t impale him with a skewer in the ear when he mixes his coloureds with the whites and he won’t plunge your head down the toilet when you transform into ‘Were-Mama’ with every full moon.  It’s about being able to argue ferociously and love ferociously in turn.

So, I’m keeping my gifts simple for tomorrow:

  • Have sewn on two missing buttons from that white shirt which he loves; (not the same buttons, but chances of him noticing are slim).
  • His gift to me of the fascinating “Puppetry of the Penis” book two years ago will be reciprocated by my surprise find of  “The Ancient Art of Labia Pleating”. Now we can both find solace during those long weeks of absence.
  • A T-Shirt printed with “My Dad Is A Rock Star!” from the kids, because he is.  To them.
  • For one night only, I will refrain from bitching about…anything.

As an extra bonus, I am including this image of us in all our insanity, taken on this day 12 years ago.  For some bizarre reason, it formed part of a series of portraits taken about the city in which we lived, the whole of which later became a book.  Probably well out of print by now.  My Mother hates this picture.

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And although I do kind of feel as though I looked like something out of a 1980’s John Landis horror flick, this one somehow sums up that day for me. Plus, both of us had more hair. Lots.

Happy Anniversary, dear Drummer.

Happy Birthday too, babe.  xx

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