Monday, 26 November 2012

London Calling

2010 was the year of indecision.
2011 was the year of big things.

As 2012 begins to end it is time to reflect on what this has been the year of. To be honest I have not quite gotten around to any reflecting yet. I am too busy trying to finish my brothers birthday present, going to work, reading Twelve, the long awaited sequel to Justin Cronin's The Passage, occasionally going for a walk up a hill, trying to get some writing done and scheduling all the Christmas parties I have to fit in in December.

In between all that I did go to the movies for the first time in an age, and watching Skyfall- the new James Bond flick it became very clear to me that one thing 2012 is -
is the year of London.

Earlier in the year we had the Queens Diamond Jubilee celebrations drawing everyones eye to London.
London Bridge

Then of course London 2012 Olympics bombarded us with tales, sights and sounds of the city at its most jubilant.

Skyfall capped things of nicely – I wont go into too much detail for those who have not seen it yet – but it shows the city off all over again.

Close up of the British Museum ceiling

Houses of Parliament

Luckily though – to ensure that I don't get a complex about living in a place that has not had quite the same level of world exposure, Skyfall did manage to make its way to Glencoe – so perhaps when all is said and done 2012 can be the year of Scotland as well.

Friday, 16 November 2012

Water of Leith walk

The plan for Sunday was a bike ride to the Gallery of Modern Art. Unlike the National Gallery, which is right in the heart of Edinburgh city centre –  the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art is a bit more of a trek to get to. A perfect his and hers plan – some physical activity and some culture.

It was Sunday though so things took a little while to get going, and then we needed a little while to gather our things together. I put on my mascara and the boyfriend made sure the bike lights were functional and we had high vis garments. It is dark here at the moment by 4pm – so even a short-ish day out on the bikes requires lights.
Then as everything appeared to be ready problem one arose. Where was the key to his bike? The search began. Twenty minutes later I found it tucked into a bag buried under this and that hanging from the bed post.
So we left the flat.
Then problem two arose. My bike key mysteriously no longer fit my bike lock. I tried. No luck. He tried. No luck. We frowned. We puzzled. We sprayed the lock with something-or-other. We frowned some more.
Then we took the bike lights and high vis garments back upstairs and went for a walk to the Gallery.

It took us through the Old Town – still wonderful to this colonials eyes.
Crossing The Mound -from old town to new- Edinburgh

Then we passed through the New Town, and dropped down into Stockbridge.
A new neighbourhood for me to explore – and a Sunday Produce market.

Stockbridge Sunday Produce Market

After we dragged ourselves away from the tasty produce – with the backpack a little heavier, we took the steps down to the Water of Leith path.
It was a lovely Autumn day, the sun was out, the sky was blue – but in November the sun does not reach down to the little humans down on the ground. It was still a very pretty walk.
Water of Leith

I loved getting to see this different part of the city along the river – and being on foot rather than on the bikes allowed me to see much more, and dawdle taking photos. Gardens, grand old homes, new homes, historic monuments, the water burbling away, other people out enjoying their Sunday – magic.


Waterside monument - Water of Leith

Autumn sunlight

Dean Bridge

Then we got to the gallery. Housed in two grand old buildings, one on either side of the road, the landscaped surrounds are art works themselves and Gallery ONE and TWO each have their very own Tracy Emin neon light sculpture. I love neon, and I have followed Tracy Emin ever since I saw a video of hers in an exhibition in Sienna in 2005, titled 'Why I never became a dancer.' As with so much of her work – the neon sculptures are in turns uplifting and melancholic.

Tracy Emin - 'Everything Is Going To Be Alright'

Tracy Emin -'There Will Be No Miracles Here' and castle view

My other highlight from the day was seeing Sir Eduardo Paolozzi's studio. Entering a room of still life’s you suddenly find yourself transported into the artist's chaotic, crammed studio. I wont pretend to have ever heard of his work before – but I loved immersing myself into the mind, living space, workspace of this sculptor.

After all that I was well and truly ready for a coffee – and the galleries coffee shop provided the perfect fuel to power us home, good coffee sitting under our very own giant robot sculpture. Now that is a good day out.  

Monday, 5 November 2012

My Trash

I thought I would follow up last weeks Lost Things blog post with a piece originally published in The Mirboo North Times way back in 2007. It continues the theme of the irreplaceable nature of so many of my things.

A little while ago my housemate suggested that we take out contents insurance. On the surface it is a simple and sensible idea: for less than a hundred dollars I could have the security of knowing that if we were robbed or flooded or if the house burnt down, my possessions would be replaced. But when I looked around at my things the idea become a little more complicated.

At first I thought the microwave and CD player could be easily replaced, they are after all practical tools without any particular sentimental value. But then I remembered how much the CD player has been through with me. Hours and hours of essay writing, house parties, private parties…, and the microwave, well my grandmother gave it to me when I first moved out of home, so I have quite an attachment it. And from there the idea of replacing things just got more difficult.

Most of my money over the years has gone on books. I don’t have a car, or a washing machine or a lot of shoes, I have books. They are new and second hand- bought in country towns across Victoria, art galleries in Italy, university book stores, and garage sales. They have been scribbled in by me and earlier owners, stuffed with post-it note’s and book marks and they have grown furry with repeated readings. I value them- but I don’t think I could assign an actual dollar value to them, and I certainly couldn’t go into Borders with a list and just replace the lot in an afternoon.

Aside from my books one of my most favored possessions at the moment is something that would hardly fetch a gold coin at a garage sale. It is my Matisse poster: an enlargement from his 1947 series ‘Jazz’– One half is a colour stencil cut out of a flowing dancing figure and the other half is loopy French handwriting that I cannot read or translate. I love the composition, and it is by no means an irreplaceable image, but the tatty edges and grey smudges from frequent re blu-tacking tell stories that a fresh poster simply would not.

The poster was purchased at the NGV in 1995 when the Matisse show toured. I would have been a fourteen year old, country high school girl when we went to the show, and what a show it was. Capital A Art on a truly grand scale. All those high ceiling-ed rooms given over to the great Matisse. His pattern crammed images, his simple flowing figures, his bold colours have all stayed with me over the intervening years- and so has the poster. It moved with me from home in Mirboo North to the many share houses’ I have inhabited over the years; from high school to university and beyond. Obviously the memories exist without the poster- but still it is not something I could part with easily.

I watched the first episode of Wendy Harmers Stuff on the ABC the other night- so at least now I know that it isn’t just me and my family that have an attachment to our ‘stuff’. The things some people horded on that show were just… well worthless in my eyes… but to their owners I am sure every single thing had its own stories and memories.

           If I or many of the people on Wendy’s show were to divide our things up into two categories, those with monetary value and those with sentimental value you can probably imagine where most things would end up.

The notion that my treasure is your trash was reinforced when we were robbed a few years back. They didn’t really take anything of mine. This tells you a lot about what I think is valuable and what thieves (and possibly the general population) think is valuable. But none of that changes how I value my stuff. I place a future value on my olive tree; yes at the moment it is just a gangly youth that I carry around with me from house to house, but one day- in eighty years or so it will begin to be a spectacular tree. My collection of sewing machines has spilled into the hallway and I have boxes of fabric in just about every room of the house and they may seem like junk to my housemates, but they have the potential to be all sorts of amazing creations just as soon as I have the time to imagine and sew them.

My appliances, my poster, my books, not to mention my photos, diaries, letters and my favorite (completely un-wearable) ripped jeans are all the stuff of my life: my belongings, not my possessions and therefore un-insurable. Which means that the hundred dollars earmarked for the insurance is probably going to be spent in Readings.

Re-reading the above made me a little melancholy – because while the things mentioned are not lost, they are out of reach to me in Australia. And the sewing machines mentioned got new homes in my pre-trip garage sale. Of course new adventures and new collections of things have found me since I packed up the old ones. But I still miss my books and my fabric baskets. 

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Lost Things List

my pencil case - lost someplace in the house- all paper based craft projects have halted

my watch - last seen on Sunday near Hadrian's Wall, very pink and chunky, still hoping it will turn up.

Hadrian's Wall - October 2012

pocket knife and leather cover, the knife was inscribed with my name and was a Christmas present many years ago from my mum. The cover belonged to my dad. Lost in Wales - this one hurt.

blue crochet hat - sent to Scotland by my mum to keep me toasty, came off my head while I was out running and had vanished by the time I retraced my steps.

replacement grey hat with fur bobble, scavenged by the boyfriend - mysteriously lost someplace between H&M and work. (Mother gave me a replacement blue crochet hat on her recent trip - not lost yet.)

toasty city glove. Bought from MEC in Vancouver, fell out of my overstuffed handbag on Princes Street between Vodafone and the bank.

pink snow glove, Christmas present from the boyfriend - lost from my raincoat pocket on a Lowlands ramble or possibly North Berwick. Guess what I am getting this Christmas...

Scottish Lowlands - April 2012

purple felt mini purse I used to keep my ipod in. Handmade with embroidery by myself and my mother - lost on a night train in Norway.

agate stone from my chunky ring purchased in Kahn el-Khalili, Egypt - came adrift from the ring getting off the Edinburgh to Glasgow train.

Lost Agate stone

blue homemade kimono silk headband - lost someplace in Tanzania

copy of Microsoft Word - lost when I rebooted my virus riddled computer in Greece.

swingy heart earring, bought in New York 2008  - lost on a play day in London 2011. I still wear the remaining earring pirate style.

postscript: On the way home from work this evening I went into the art shop and bought some new coloured pencils and paints because I was frustrated having non. I got different kinds than the ones I lost, just in case the others turned up. Walking home I had a brain wave of a place I had not looked for the pencil case... they were not there unfortunately, but while I was scrambling about under the bed I found it had fallen down beside my bedside table! So perhaps I had to extend my collection of colourful mark makers in order to get my pencils back? 
Still no sign of my watch. 

Thursday, 18 October 2012

A growing pile of rainbows - part two

It occurs to me that I posted a whole blog about knitting a toasty pile of squares - to be made up into an even toastier blanket, and yet I have failed to fill the blogasphere in on the fact that I finished the project. It has actually been finished for quite some time and gets dragged from room to room depending on where some extra cosy-ness is needed.
The blanket was finished well in time for my mum's visit and I was very happy the moment I spread it out on our spare bed for her.  And she gave me a perfect gift to accompany it.
A rainbow coloured cushion cover designed by Betsy Napangardi Lewis and hand chain-link embroidered as part of the Better World Arts, cross cultural project. The design is based on an indigenous dreaming story of journeying women.

Completed blanket with Betsy Lewis cushion cover
To add to these rainbows I recently attended a craft workshop at Edinburgh Contemporary Crafts, and had a very relaxing Saturday afternoon learning to make felt beads. Although my beads did not start out rainbow coloured - once I got home I inevitably ended up going a little embroidery-rainbow crazy.

Rainbow stitched ball necklace

I am still playing with this idea, and my final piece may end up looking a little different - but it is a lot of fun and you can bet whatever the finished product is, it will be multi-coloured.

With our days getting rapidly shorter and colder I was very pleased to unwrap a parcel from my mum containing bright orange leg warmers (originally purchased in NYC way back when) gloves (originally purchased on Gertrude Street in Fitzroy) and a (surprise surprise) hot water bottle cover made by me featuring... clouds and a rainbow. I am saving it for my next lot of Aussie guests.

cloud and rainbow hot water bottle cover

I thought I would also use this blog to talk about a different sort of rainbow in my life, which is the 'somewhere over the rainbow' type of dreaming one does. Some of my dreaming is about my writerly self and I am very pleased to announce a little landmark on that journey. The book, which I have a story in Edinburgh Shorts has been available to purchase online, both as an e-book and paperback for a little while now, but this week marks my own and the Cooperative of Creative Writers d├ębut as writers with a book in a bookshop. Seeing out book on the shelves of the wee bookshop in the lovely Scottish Poetry Library made my heart sing.

Edinburgh Shorts
And that is quite a pile of rainbows for any girl to have.

This blog is posted in conjunction with Natural Suburbia's Creative Friday

Thursday, 11 October 2012

A Poem I Wrote...

I have lot's of writing projects on the go at the moment, and I have to admit that the blog has not been getting a fair share of my attention. So I thought I would share a poem I wrote this week in an attempt to keep the blog goblin happy.

Traffic Jam

Near the playground
a runner and a cyclist
pause helpless.
Prams clog the footpath.
There is no budging them
from their helter-skelter logjam.

The children have discovered
the Autumn leaves.
And until each leaf is examined
and catalogued,
no one is going anywhere.
The parents are helpless -
against the wonderment
of fallen leaves.

Sandy B.

This blog is posted in conjunction with Natural Suburbia's Creative Friday

Monday, 17 September 2012

Tenement Building Lists

Penned in as Edinburgh is by sea and rock a large part of the urban housing is made up of 'high density' tenement buildings. I use quotation marks because contemporary high density – especially in places like Tokyo and the once upon a time high density of when these were built is a vastly different thing- yes these are multi-story, multi-occupancy buildings- but it is actually a pretty nice place to live and you could probably house a Japanese business man in our box room and he would call it a palace.
I mention this for no particular reason other than to explain that when I use the term tenement building to explain where I find myself living these days I do not wish to conjure up images of slum dwellings/ high rise/ housing estate ect.

Edinburgh tenement buildings and parkland

It is a home day today. A rare day at home for me and a day for packing up to head home for my mother. It is a pottering day of packing, writing notes, returning from shops, opening packages, drinking cups of tea.
Our lunch outing today was with a woman my mother met when she came to their caravan park in Nowa Nowa – she came for a day or two and stayed for ten. The meeting gives a funny circularity to her last full day in Scotland.
We had breezy sunshine when we headed out but now we are home and the rain clouds have come in. The Pentlands appear and disappear in the cloud out the window as the rain falls. Sitting up on the third floor is nice and snug and the wet outside makes ideas of any last minute outings unpleasant. We will not get to the castle today, or up Arthur's Seat, or to the library, gallery or museum. That is just fine.

Sounds in the tenement:
Cars going by on the wet road
a violin
mobile phone beeps
pages turn and a pen scratches
mother packing
hammering across the road
light rain on the windows
crockery clunks

Silence in the tenement:
the plants grow
books gather dust
today the piano is silent
Tenement stairwell

Smells in the tenement:
my thriving mint plant- I am very proud of this weed like plant's big healthy leaves. My best effort so far at putting down literal roots here in Scotland.
spilt oil based house paint in the cupbourd making me a little high this morning.
more laundry drying.
the Spanish boy is cooking and as his pots bubble away and occasionally boiling over fill the house with tasty smells.

Today is the day to seperate out the essentials to be packed from the non essential:
rain bonnets – No
dried fruit – No
new shoes – Yes
books and books and books – Yes
Turkish teacups- Yes
Turkish teapot- Yes

Today is a day for sorting a months accumulated papers, photos, receipts, ticket stubs, postcards, clothes and books. It is for getting rid of the sand in pockets and saying goodbye. 

Rover and mum arting about in Glasgow

Monday, 10 September 2012

In the maddning crowd

A crowd can be a crush, a hassle, a bustle. Someone else’s crowd can be all too much. It can be stuck in traffic, no place to sit. Unknown bodies pressing in and stealing all your oxygen.

My life has been somewhat crowded of late. Throughout the Summer months every room of our flat has been filled with an ever changing array of bodies as rabbits friends and relations kipped over. Luckily my time living in backpackers hostels last year has made me (mostly) much more tolerant to sharing my living space with an ever changing array of folks.

Edinburgh itself is a crowded place in August. The festivals jostle in upon each other and festival attendees are out on the town en-mass. The city has a great vibe, there is art, theatre, dance, comedy, Shakespeare, dance, writing... the list goes on. Whatever flavour excites you there is probably someone doing a show about it.
My festival crowd

The crowd on The Mound

You cannot go anywhere without having a flyer thrust in your face for somebodies one man- improvised- comic- tragic- dance- choir- circus- lesbian type show. The spruiking itself is an art – the better you do it the more chance you have of luring an audience.

It's great – unless you want a quiet drink or an unobstructed commute from home to work. This has been my first Edinburgh festival season- and I've enjoyed it, seen some familiar faces and some new acts. Comedy and books were my pick this year with a very tasty side of Flamenco thrown in for variety. It was great, except for when I was trying to have a quiet drink and inching through crowds in order to get home from work.

Getting away from the flat and Edinburgh for a week in Istanbul was spectacular, warm, invigorating, but still crowded.

For a start unlike the last time I flew into Istanbul- when I was accompanied by nothing but the memory of friends recently made and left behind- this time I travelled with the boyfriend, my mother and her partner. Quite an intense crowd indeed!

Funny thing I re-discovered when we arrived in Istanbul - the overwhelming crowds mobbing Edinburgh are just a regular Thursday nights promenade down Istikal Street. Re-living the bustle of Istikal with the four of us walking at different paces and getting distracted by different things added a whole other dimension to the crowd. Last time I thought I was lost, this time we had to work on not losing our crowd amongst the crowd.
Everywhere we went, whether it was hanging out at the base of Galata Tower, catching the ferry over to the Princes' Islands, or hunting for a bargain at The Grand Bazaar the the crowds made Edinburgh festival time look tame.

Rover mum at the Grand Bazaar
Rover and mum on packed Princes' Island ferry

Even the usually solitary occupation of going fishing is done en-mass in Istanbul. In the city lapped every which way by the Bosphorus you might think a solitary fishing position would be possible. But anywhere that you could possibly conceive to throw in a fishing line there would be one. Not that anyone seems to mind, the fishermen- and an occasional fisher-woman were quite happy combining fishing and socialising.

Fisher folk on Galata Bridge

Most cities, viewed from afar are a mass of crowded buildings. Sprawling as Istanbul does along the Bosphorus if you take a ferry you get a very clear picture of just how big and crowded Istanbul is. The Princes Islands are about 90 minutes away by ferry- and all the way there the spectre of the city follows you. The horizon never clears of buildings crammed in together.
Istanbul viewed from Heybeliada
Istanbul - European side looking towards the Asian shore

A crowd allows for one of my favourite activities- crowd gazing- you pick a spot and sit and watch the world go by. It is a great way to experience a place, peoples similarities and their differences. One of the things I found myself watching out for on this trip was the way different women dressed and held themselves. The endlessly referred to melting pot of Istanbul gives you plenty of contrasts – singlet wearing hippy girls, hair dread-locked, eyebrows pierced bump along beside demurely dressed brightly head-scarved women, who chat with girlfriends and sisters enveloped in black- whose kholed eyes are the only fragment to reveal what lies beneath.

Crowd watching on a ferry trip my mother and I observed a family playing charades. Younger brother and sister (too young yet for a head scarf) acted while a black burqa-ed woman guessed at their clues.
At the airport the Saudi men were crowded by their wives, what must that be like?

Having your own crowd means you can go for a swim and there is someone to watch your bag and someone to notice if you float away. Unlike my solitary swims last time I was in Turkey this trip allowed for coasteering with a buddy.

A crowd can mean company, familiar faces gathered in a room or on a boat. It can be a party, someone to chat to about your days adventuring, someone to dance with, share a beer with. A crowd can be your crowd. 

Monday, 6 August 2012

Golden roving

The boyfriend is one of those who can remember every sporting statistic that ever was. He is a Brit, so he often recalls in detail a loss in some rugby/football/cricket type sport and more often than not it is a loss to those unruly upstart colonials; he occasional gets to gleefully report a win. In some relationships this might make for fun banter. But in our house it is all a little one sided as I am (in his point of view) frustratingly disinterested in the sporting achievements and disappointments of my nation. 
But he perseveres.
Olympic rings in the shadow of Edinburgh castle

We are midway through the London 2012 Olympic games just now. An event that the boyfriend has been very much looking forward to. I have not been entirely grinch-like about it. I went to see the torch being lit in the shadow of Edinburgh castle and happily made noise with the rest of the crowd.

Olympic flame in Edinburgh

We listened to the opening ceremony on the radio as we drove down south from Scotland last week – and both enjoyed the unfolding spectacle, arriving at our destination in time to watch on TV as the athletes came out into the arena and the torch was lit by the athletes of tomorrow.

Day one we were out on a river splashing about on canoes – so despite his desire to be constantly checking developing sporting statistics on his phone he had to curtail the urge and paddle about in the thin British sunshine instead. But tiered out after a day of accidentally on purpose falling in the river we happily spent the evening in the pub and watched the days highlights. Swimming gold for the Australian swimmers seemed to suggest that all was as usual in the pool.

non-Olympic rowing on the river Severn, Shropshire

As the first few days went by though all seemed to have turned on its head. Australia was loosing everything in the pool to China, France and South Africa- And the boyfriend couldn't even rub it in with Team GB gold. Things in the UK (and in my house) were a little tetchy in the first few days of the Olympics as we waited for team GB to win their first gold medal.
After the glow of a great opening ceremony subsided the country began it's anxious wait. Putting on a world class event is not enough – there needed to be gold for the Brits to feel truly good about their Olympics. - Nobody wants to throw a party and spend all the time in the kitchen – you want to be out there doing the limbo with all your friends or what is the point.
Oh how the world can change in just a few days!
more pictures of Scottish hills

We had a day out walking on the West Highland Way (with so much phone checking of Olympic statistics that the phone battery died early in the day) and then the next day the drought broke - Helen and Heather won their gold medal in the rowing and since then there have been smiles all round as GB piles up more gold than Gringotts goblins.
Not quite so much gold as the US and China but far and away more than Australia – or as one friend on Facebook commented: 'Yokshire wins more medals than Australia. Cracking.'

Despite what I imagine is many Australian's existential crisis - If we are not winners what are we?? Even without a haul of gold for my motherland the excitement all around me is infectious. I find it hard to switch off and do anything other than think Olympic based activities. Even as I sit here just now I am listening to the Team GB jubilation over the gold medal won by Jessica Ennis. The Olympics creates hyper excitement over things that most of us don't usually give the slightest thought to – heptathlon? Gymnastics? Archery? Horses stepping daintily over things... and yet the Olympics brings it all together and each sport becomes more than the sum of its parts – because it is part of a bigger more spectacular event.

The athletes themselves are (in the kindest possible sense of the word) freaks – but what draws us mere mortals to them is not the freakishness of their achievements but the glimpses of humanity along the way, which lets us see something of ourselves and our own struggles and encourages us as we strive for our own dreams – whatever they may be.
I am not a sports head – not competitive, and not into flag waving, but there are a lot of admirable things within the games culture - participation, challenging yourself, being the healthiest, strongest version of yourself. I also really like the moments when we see behind the individual athletes to the support networks they rely on. The families, friends, coaches, schools, workplaces that make the end result possible– whether it be gold or simply being able to turn up. That is one of the many good lessons the Olympics has for us – that we all need to give and receive that support.

For all my 'it's the journey' philosophising I am still very much hoping that the Aussie women's basketball team storms home to a gold – because I may not be all that 'Aussie Aussie Aussie,' but I am all out in yellow and green with a southern cross painted on my face for my home town girl Belinda Snell – she of that spectacular 3 point shot at the start of the games. And so is the boyfriend.

Friday, 20 July 2012

Red Paper Packages

The Edinburgh Cooperative of Creative Writers launched our anthology, Edinburgh Shorts on Tuesday night amidst much wine and applause. It was great to gather writers and readers together to mark the occasion and there were some great readings and musings on that tricky question of why we write.

Spoon Cafe and a loitering writer

Launching Edinburgh Shorts

words and wine to celebrate the book

I wrote a blog a few weeks back about some of the behind the scenes busy-work that was going on to get the book out there – and it is very exciting to have a stack of books (all sold) sitting next to me in a box.
Before they can go in the post I have a little more writing to do – this time in the form of thank you notes – to be sent out to all the lovely folks who pre-ordered a copy of the book.

The real live book 

Once my notes are written I am wrapping the books up in red paper and sending them off into the world. Feels a bit like Christmas – and I hope the recipients at the other end find some stories between the pages that they love.

my red paper packages

There are many tales to choose from – poems, musings, snatches of history and moments of horror. There is star gazing, an Arthur's Seat haggis hunt, a tale of what happens to pickpockets in the old town of Edinburgh and from the pen of yours truly – a story of how an unsuspecting Aussie backpacker ended up living in a medieval city.

As well as contributions from around Scotland – from writers who have resided around the world Edinburgh based crime writer Joyce Holms has written a lovely forward.

Now the party is over and I am off to the post office to send the stories out into world, and then it is back to my pen and paper and keyboard to write the next instalment. 

If you want a red paper package to find its way into your mailbox let me know – or go to holyrood book and follow the links – though I cannot guarantee the colour of Amazon’s packaging. 

Plotting the next instalment

This blog is posted in conjunction with Natural Suburbia's Creative Friday 

Monday, 9 July 2012

On loving Paul Simon's Graceland

Graceland, Memphis - Tennessee

When I was in America in 2008 I visited Graceland. I am aware of Elvis Presley and his music, but the real reason I was excited about going to Graceland was the Paul Simon song. In the hotel car park in Memphis, on the morning of our visit I put Paul Simon onto my ipod nice and loud and had a little over-excited silent dance party, because - I was going to Graceland!

Elvis image - one amongst many at Graceland

'...following the river down the highway through the cradle of the civil war. I'm going to Graceland... poor boys and pilgrims with families we are going to Graceland...'  

I have loved the Paul Simon album Graceland for as long as I can remember. The title song evokes a legend of music, it is about a journey and it literally bounces you along the road. It was released twenty five years ago – which (if my parents bought it when it was first released) means that I would have been about six years old when I first heard it. There was politics around the making of the album in South Africa and his fusion of sounds was ground breaking, but as a child I did not know a thing about any of that.

All I knew was that the loose limbed sounds were joyous and different, and there were evocative words like cinematographer, diamonds, delta, Memphis and bat-faced-girl, mingled with energetic whoooops. The music reverberated with a beat that made you want to move and then snatches of stories would burst through - conjuring up images of people and places far away from my world in regional Victoria:

'people say she's crazy she's got diamonds on the soles of her shoes...'

'there is a girl in New York city who calls herself the human trampoline...'

Of course I can only glimpse that child through the sive of my current self. But I know how the music touches me still, and I have no hesitancy saying that that little tape was from the beginning of our intimacy a precious object holding a special magical energy.   

My trip to America was not particularly a Paul Simon pilgrimage, but the man, and his music touched various legs of my trip. Early on, I had an overnight bus ride from San Fran to LA, arriving in the pale empty city very early in the morning, hassled on the bus, with no sleep, already missing my new San Fran friends and my boyfriend terribly. I sank into a rather deep hole. With four hours to kill before I could get into my room, have a wash and a sleep I turned to the only thing I could think of to lift me out of my funk- I sat down with my ipod and listened to Paul Simon – and the magic worked. He pulled me out.

There is a Graceland 25 year anniversary tour going on in Europe starting this week, and I came very close to buying myself a ticket to go and see the man, but the stars were not aligned properly for me to go on that particular journey.

New Orleans - 2008

I did see him once, not in a concert hall, or at a rock concert but in a bookstore in New York. Weeks after he helped dry out my tears in LA, and I had visited many many iconic locations (including Graceland) I was scanning the street press for New York things to do, when I saw that the man himself was speaking at a bookstore.  

Central Park and two mad hatters - 2008

I went along to the packed event and took a spot near the back. My hero talked about song writing, his long career as a performer and New York, and every now and then he sang. The legs of some must have tired, because as the evening wore on I was able to make my way closer to the man sitting on a stool with a guitar at his side. And at the close of the evening, while others had given way to the fatigues of standing upright, neck craning for a view- I did not have to crane my neck at all to be able to watch Paul Simon sing the Only living boy in New York right in front of me.

Paul Simon New York 2008

I have always felt blessed to have been lucky enough to see Paul Simon in his hometown... and although I am sad that I won't get to see him perform for the 25th anniversary of Graceland I carry the music with me in my heart nonetheless.   

Friday, 29 June 2012

The Flip-side

The flip-side of dedicating yourself to creative projects, gritting your teeth and getting them into some semblance that can be called 'finished' - is working out how to get them out there. This often takes just as much hard slog as getting the thing to exist in the first place. And it's more depressing.

Hand embroidery flip-side, the mess behind creating

 While you’re working on something you have plenty of moments of doubt, but there is a lot of hope in there as well – otherwise how would you keep going? While you are writing there is a feeling there that you are creating something – something whole and real and maybe even beautiful, that might stand up by itself. But then it comes to getting it out into the world all that hope can slowly get chipped away. Leaving you with nothing but the knowledge of all the time you spent working on this thing that nobody is interested in, when you could have been at the beach or eating pancakes or having sex or drinking beers or... well the list of other things you could do rather than go to the library is endless!

Anyway, that is one pathway your brain can go down when you get a rejection letter – but to be honest I am still in my salad days and I do try to stay optimistic. I take every project as a springboard to the next and learn as much as I can because you never know what is around the next corner.

While most of my writing projects are bubbling along in my head, and a few of them are out (hopefully ) being looked at in the world one one of them is getting close to actually existing.

It is very exciting to be able to say that I have a story between the covers of a book that will be published soon!

The actual book! With a cover and pages and everything.

 I am a part of the Edinburgh Cooperative of Creative Writers  and as well as having a story chosen to go into their current anthology I have become part of the team putting it together. It is all hands on deck at the moment as we polish, publicise and get towards publishing.  

It was with much excitement that I went along to our fortnightly meeting and saw the proof copy of our book, but I have to do more than pat it. My project today has been line editing the proof. This is a rather laborious task which requires not cartwheeling creative performances, or grim determination but a whole other subset of skills.

The big surprise – to myself and probably every teacher I have ever had - is that that particular part of my brain actually works. I have known that I have a creative brain for quite some time, and I've also known I have the capacity to bounce back from rejection (thanks boys!). But as every report I have ever had in my life has said that I am a decent student, engaged with my work, but that I must watch my spelling and punctuation, it is a surprise to find that I have any capacity at all for editing.

And I am not saying that I am good. I still struggle, but perhaps all the struggling has paid off a little. That and twenty five odd years of reading books that have been professionally edited must have taught me something, because line editing the proof copy I have found myself confidently able to pick up my own and other peoples mistakes.

And I actually enjoy the work. Ok yes there were moments when I found myself stomping around the room saying -
'Does nobody know that a question mark MUST be followed by a capital letter!'

All the while quietly aware that I must have caused similar tantrums in tutors, lecturers, teachers and glorious friends and family who have proof read for me over the years.
But I stand by my younger self – the story must come first. What is the point of having all your apostrophes, commas and em dashes perfectly tweaked if there is nothing on the page worth reading?

It is nice though to be getting around to what comes after, if only because it means the story exists.

Many stitches later and ta-da! 

P.S I will be loudly and excitedly spruiking the book itself when it has been born, so do stay tuned!

P.P.S Adding an extra postscript one week on. Received this email from the hard working Andy from the Co-op and just had to share it...

'Hi Sandy, 
That was exhaustive and excellent work, you're good at spotting grammar
errors and I'm glad I didn't have you marking my exam compositions. :)

This blog is posted in conjunction with Natural Suburbia's Creative Friday.