Saturday, December 30, 2006


Season's greetings

I spent a very peaceful Christmas with my aunt and uncle in Melbourne. The area they live in is close to the sea and incredibly quiet, with the only sound an occasional bird singing in the garden. On Christmas Eve we carried out a very moving Polish custom: a large wafer of unleavened bread was broken into pieces for everyone present. Then we approached every person individually, gave them a morsel of our bread and took a piece of theirs, and said what we wished for them in the year ahead. It's pretty moving to actually be able to come right out and say "You are a great person! I wish you health and happiness and fulfilment in your life and work!" Yes ... I am English ... although I don't think I'm particularly inhibited. I've thought positive things about my family for a long time, and I'm used to sending emails or text messages containing virtual hugs, but actually breaking bread and saying these things to their faces, followed by hugs, was pretty inspiring. We sat down to eat the magical burgundy-coloured beetroot soup with tiny star-shaped pieces of pasta, relaxed and smiling.

Talking of food, I have been reading the reminiscences of appalling Scots poet William McGonagall, and the many challenges he faced in bringing his poetry to the ungrateful masses. Here is an account of the first time a publican threw peas at him.

On the luxury Firefly Express coach from Adelaide to Melbourne (lots of leg room and 2 movies during the 10 hour journey) I was startled to see the blue skies and heat haze of South Australia give way to general greyness in Victoria. It's a long journey, but I had a lot of music to listen to ... Ararat is a stately place to drive through, laid out by Chinese miners in accordance with feng shui. As you head down the wide main street it is aligned with the Grampian mountains in the distance. Don't get me wrong, I'm not criticising the weather - merely observing that I had to wear long sleeves; jeans rather than shorts; and, shock horror, socks about the house!

Returning yesterday, the heatwave finally broke and we had several hours of tropical downpouring rain. It's something I never really commented on back in the UK, especially when I was in Manchester - I certainly never imagined missing precipitation. Then again, I had no comprehension of thousand-year drought at that time, even though I shared a house with geography students. That's what meteorologists are saying about South Australia - that this is the worst drought the country has seen for a millennium. Apparently, every week at least one farmer commits suicide.

But enough of this depressing talk: the pelting rain, which I really observed for the first time, felt fantastic. The air was cooler, the sky looked relieved, and seeing the drops pound down on the roads then bounce up was incredibly satisfying. Look closely at the picture, they're splotting down and rebounding. Apparently when you stand under a power shower, your body releases endorphins: it felt like the land was getting that rush too.

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Tuesday, December 19, 2006


What a difference a witch makes

It's very strange, but since my time staying with a witch on her farm / animal rescue sanctuary, a lot of things have been falling into place. Perhaps the main thing was that I explained the story behind my greenstone pendant and she didn't laugh, but took me seriously. In New Zealand, you don't buy greenstone for yourself, but as a gift for someone else, otherwise it's bad luck. So when Eric and I had our 2 year anniversary, we bought each other greenstone pendants. I love mine and since then have rarely taken it off. Well, we're not together any more and I was fed up of thinking about him, feeling upset, constantly going over what could have happened differently.

I explained this to Catherine, who is an amazing listener and very wise - rather like Granny Weatherwax in character, although in appearance more like the Morrigan. She suggested that we do a cleansing ritual, to remove his energy from it, and give it positive energy for me. That night I had the best and most healing sleep I've had in months, about 12 dreamless hours. When I awoke I looked at the sparkling morning sun and thought ... "I can do whatever I want." The ritual, though harmless, I'm not going to share, because it was a personal thing. Since then I've been doing my usual absent-minded rubbing and fiddling with the stone round my neck, just like I always seem to, but thinking "This is a positive thing. This brings me good luck." I still have fears and worries and all the rest of it, but I'm doing better about asking for the things I want. After all, the worst that can happen is that I'll get a polite "No, sorry." And things really have moved on!

I have found some really good friends in Adelaide and a paying job so laughably easy anyone could do it, were it not for the overwhelming fumes. My mate Jasmine and I weld vinyl together to make marquees. I also specialise in cranking a vast punch to force eyelets through. We talk all day and take it in turns to listen our preferred stations on the radio: our unspeakable supervisor likes middle of the road soft rock (The Eagles really make him happy). Jasmine likes chart stuff (although SAFM has a pretty limited playlist, and we end up hearing the same tracks at least 4 times over each 8 hour period). I crank up Triple J, the rock/indie station - it's the equivalent of XFM in the UK, and the only one that plays unsigned acts. This is very handy research for my brilliant unpaid position...

I am a published writer! Yeah!

This is something that I've wanted to do for so long, ever since writing for student newspapers in Manchester and Missouri, but somehow I never got around to it. The confidence, I believe, comes from the Goddess energy, but the direct inspiration came from metal guitarist Yngwie Malmsteen.

Let me tell you about Yngwie Malmsteen.

I first encountered him in the lyrics to a Fun Lovin' Criminals song circa 1997, which contained the line "My fingers are moving faster than Yngwie Malmsteen." I assumed this was a sexual reference for something depraved and Swedish, nodded knowledgeably and moved on. One day in an Oxfam shop I was browsing the racks of cassette tapes and noticed "Odyssey," by Yngwie J. Malmsteen's Rising Force. His rampant power metal mullet made me smile, but the brilliant idea of naming your band your Rising Force made it irresistible. 50p later it was mine.

If espresso coffee were music, it would sound like Yngwie Malmsteen. He is the world's fastest guitarist. His "Flight of the Bumblebee" has to be heard to be believed. So I was predisposed to go crazy at his concert, which I attended with my understanding friend Susie. Afterwards, all my enthusiasm had to be channelled somewhere. But I didn't have a guitar. I had to share the experience somehow, or burst.

I offered my writeup to Rip It Up and DB. DB were interested and soon I was interviewing bands and reviewing CDs, books and arts events for them. That Yngwie review was published by The Program here:

I'm so chuffed!

So things are going surprisingly well. I don't answer to anybody but myself right now, and though I still feel guilty over things that I fail to do, dammit, I meet my deadlines!

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