Friday, January 26, 2007

Reading with gusto

My bones are creaking and my teeth have been jangling from the cold, but I've been having a riotous time these past few days, reading Simone de Beauvoir's Journal de Guerre.

In the past I've questioned the merit of recording everything you do, eat, think, every day - there is already so much information circulating electronically and on little bits of paper. Even now I sometimes feel reluctant to post on my blog, to put something else out there in that big junkyard of broken up thoughts and crumpled second hand information.

In any case, in my diaries I've always favoured recording sentiments over - got up. fed cat. blew nose. But I'm so glad Simone de Beauvoir did this.

How well I can see Paris back then in 1939/1940, the first year of the Second World War. She describes the bars and cafes where she wrote and drank and exchanged ideas. Of course there are the obvious ones like Flore, the Dôme, and the Deux Magots, but she also talks about a cafe called Versailles that reminds her of cafes in the provinces, Milk Bar, Capoulade, the Jockey which the owner has modelled on the dance halls of Seville, and on and on. Because she didn't have a telly or the internet she was always pub crawling.

I should of course pause to say that this was a difficult time for Simone (separated from both Sartre and Jacques Bost), tearing open their daily correspondence, unable to work on her novel due to the uncertainty of the war, feeling like she was in limbo.

But she diligently records all. The films she saw, the clothes she bought. She was so proud of her yellow turban. She even mentions when she was in Alsace clandestinely visiting Sartre, that some soldiers noticed her turban and said when they saw her they felt like they were back on Les Boulevards, the turban being the pinnacle of parisian fashion in this epoque. It was also known as a cache-misère because it concealed your head on a bad hair day. The years between us feel so few when she describes in detail the hues and cuts of other women's outfits, when they look good, and more interestingly, when they look moche.

And oh how well we feel we are in Paris when she describes how "no" doesn't really mean "no". When she is trying to obtain a permit to go visit Sartre she well understands that if you push and poke someone a bit "no" becomes "yes", as she found on her hunt to snare the relevant bits of paper necessary to negotiate the French bureacracy. She even notes that her future reunion with Sartre and ultimate happiness are based on the caprice of a civil servant.

Of course she also describes the food she eats, details so often left out in the condensed moments of film, television and novels, and you get the impression she is eating all the time, when in fact it's just three meals a day. She certainly eats with gusto: sausages and ham and eggs and veal with weighty sauces.

However, when it comes to her more intimate life, the adventures in the love-bed, her details dry up. I'm just up to the bit where she goes to visit Sartre in Alsace and they spend a night in a glacial winter bed together. She doesn't comment on this night and I can't help wondering if this has anything to do with what she once said about Sartre:
"a warm, lively man everywhere, but not in bed".

Monday, January 22, 2007

A clowder of cats

Irene Nemirovksy could only have been a dedicated admirer and observer of cats. I refer to the clowder of cats slinking through the chapters of her final novel Suite Francaise. Most noticeably Albert, the family cat, pounces from the pages in one chapter devoted entirely to him and his prey, whereas some of the minor human characters are confined to several paragraphs.

Albert the cat is part of the wartime exodus from Paris in June 1940. Having suffocated between the buildings of Paris for most of his life, under the wary eyes of skanky city rats and hustler pigeons, war brings him the opportunity to lick the country air and all its bounty. Late one night he evades the sleeping wriggles of children and plunges from the window of the house in the country village where the family have stopped to rest en route to the South of France. He is a sensory fur ball, egged on by smell and sound to commit all kinds of savagery.

Later, drunk on blood and feathers he heads home under the eye of the night.
Planes slink stealthily through the beating clouds, sniffing out their prey. Albert is back inside, warm and purring before the night is broken up by yowling bombs falling from the sky and setting the village alight with pain.

Hearing an undecipherable noise which sounds close, I look up from this chapter to study the ears of my cat who is reclined on the couch across from me, one paw placed dandily in front of him. He gives me a bored but loyal look. His powerful ears haven't registered any abnormality - no flat ghoul trying to slither through the crack under the door. I watch him a bit longer to confirm also that the low rumbling sound beneath my bed is just the regular creepy sound of the after-hours metro carrying banshees from one empty station to another, and not the beginnings of an earthquake. But my noise meter gives the all clear and I return to my book.

All the guides on cats that I've read say that cats make perfect pets for children who are afraid of the dark because the warmth and tickle of a cat's whiskers makes you feel peaceful. Since I've had my cat I'm certainly a lot calmer. I now manage to fall asleep before the witching hour
, and if necessary, I can blame the noises on him. Things that bump and scratch in the night are no longer the transparent undead. At least in my own head, those noises are probably just my cat.

Speaking to a friend the other day she was saying how she doesn't particularly like living alone.
I love living alone! I said.
Well, that’s because you have a cat.
And it’s true. When you have someone who sleeps on your head and drools in your lap there is no sense of being alone.

It’s not the first cat I’ve had. There have been others. But those were family cats. In my diary I’ve duly noted that my last cat died at the same time that one of my formative relationships disintegrated. Two great loves dead in one searing week.

My current cat arrived in my life heralding the birth of a relationship. I’ve posted the relevant post from my old blog below.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Tools of love

How did your parents meet? This is generally a safe, cross-generational question (most people have parents who met at some point, even if it was just to fleetingly rub noses) which I like to ask people and which I am genuinely curious about. Among my generation more often than not the answer is either at work, I dunno, or it was arranged by their parents.

Nowadays when I ask new acquaintances of my own generation how they met their current partner/squeeze, particularly expatriates, quite frequently the answer is online. Whether they were actively seeking love/friendship via an online dating service or in a more passive way (she saw an online advertisement from a guy who dog-sits and asked him if he could look after her pups while she took a package deal to the Dominican Republic. It turned out that he was the [re]incarnation of Solal des Solals so she cancelled the trip to help him look after her puppies who were, after all, still quite young and a bit of a handful).

When people ask me how H. and I met I’m reluctant to say online. It's not that I'm embarrassed about online meeting. Gone are those Sydney days when the internet was still quite new as a tool for meeting people - those days when my sister in-law was saying that internet thingy is never going to take off. Back then the internet was predominantly the domain of deception. Those were the days when, although I never photoshopped my nose (mainly because I didn't/don't know how to use photoshop), short boys didn't do me the courtesy of refraining from standing on chairs in their photographs. They were the carefree days where the people I met via the internet omitted to tell me before our first meeting that they just had a recent brain explosion or that when they said they were an artist they just like painting those little toy soldiers in army greens, and that's all they like doing.

Lately at least I've found the internet to be a little more honest - ofcourse people are often a slightly off-kilter version of their online persona, but they are generally only a mildly dirtier version of the spade they said they were.

I moved to Paris when I was christmas cake, that is, past the age where I could walk out on the street and toss a ball to someone and their act of throwing it back to me meant that we were friends. Working from home I didn't have the platform of a parisien office in which to meet people and, being far from where I studied, I didn't have the backdrop of friends from school or university. As I don't even have a decent horse and carriage to go from house to house leaving visiting cards, here the internet has been a useful tool for widening my circle of friends.

One English friend who moved to Paris before the days of the internet and was freelancing from home says: "You don’t know what it was like Pinochiette. Those were dark days. I was forced to treat the Champs Elysées like Les Rambles in Barcelona, strolling up and down hoping to make contact with another form of life. I used to meet American boys who were pretending to be French, and I used to pretend to them that I was American. It was all very confusing. Much more confusing than now with the internet when everyone is much more upfront."

Technically H. and I may have met as the result of a random click and add on his profile as part of a `recruitment' drive - back in the days when my English comrade-in-fun and I organised Funster Fridays. These were bubbly nights where we invited a whole lot of strangers from our online community out for a drink, and we sat back and watched as their profiles were flooded with light, and names and vital statistics became circles of flesh standing askew in a bar.

But I think that H. and I really met through my cat.

When I was thirteen years old I begged my mother for a pet dog. But although my mother was very giving and allowed me to have enough rabbits and guinea pigs to fill a barn, I could not, must not, would not have a dog.

For the most part, I didn’t really want a dog. I just wanted a prop for meeting boys. Trapped behind the walls of an all girls catholic school it was clear to me that my only way to meet boys would be dog walking. He might be walking his dog too or he might be just walking along feeling the lack of a dog. He'd be drawn to me by the light of my golden retriever. This loveable pedigree would be a mere tool for ensnaring a boy.

In the best of all possible worlds, after the boy had taken the bait and petted my dog (presuming my dog was the friendly type who didn't frighten the boy away by gnawing his hand or Cujo-style drooling), he'd be forced to enter into conversation with me where I'd finish him off with my wit. Like lassie or the littlest hobo, the dog would be be free to go and aid another lovelorn catholic girl.

After my click and add, H. and I remained acquaintances. Perhaps when, on a whim, I emailed him to say I was looking for a cat, I was subconsciously harking back to these days when I saw domestic animals as a means of tying the bonds of love. But I think I really did just want a cat. I described briefly, but exactly, the kind of cat I wanted: it must be a boy, black with white paws.

H. texted later: "My friend who lives on a farm has some kittens looking for a home. One is a boy. Black with white socks and a stamp on his nose."

When I went to collect the kitten from H. it was as if with the force of having a little bundle of fur depending on us, we were seeing each other for the first time. As I held my loveable mutt with his overgrown ears and big look-after-me eyes, he looked back and forth from H. to me and it's as though we were being introduced for the first time: H., meet Pinochiette. Pinochiette, meet H.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Can't repeat the past old sport? Why of course you can!

I don’t like the sounds cricket makes - the love signals of the bat attracting the ball, the click, the clop, dead airwaves filled by the noise of the sun, and then, worse, the low murmur of the commentator. But these sounds are linked with my childhood summers, the background soundtrack to hot days running in and out of the house.

I learned the rudimentary rules of the game from front yard cricket. I was invariably the fielder, my brother - the batter, my father - the bowler (when I questioned my father recently as to why I was only ever given the role of fielding, he said without a pause: well we probably let you bat once but we saw you weren’t any good). In any case, I had the riskiest position as my brother batted from the top of our sloping driveway and I was stationed on the road, dodging cars while I waited for the ultimate howzat! I'd always been quite good at Frogger.

Although the word cricket might come from the old French criquet, living outside the Commonwealth I certainly don’t hear it talked about much anymore. And as for the summer clips and clops, probably the nearest sounds in France are those of petanque, and they don’t even come close.

But holidaying in Australia in December it was hard to escape the hoo-ha over Australia’s win against England. Despite all those expert, bare-handed catches of my childhood I still remain fairly ignorant of the terminology and rules of the game, as well as about how to hold a bat and bowl. I’m generally quite curious about many things, but a combination of the sounds cricket makes and the wedding-whites worn by the players – I've always been a fan of off-white, leaves me listless.

When I complained to one of my male friends about too much cricket, he recounted that when he was at his new girlfriend’s place recently he turned on the tv and was aching to switch on to the cricket. She said "you can watch the cricket if you like". But he didn’t want to dent her with a bad impression at such an early stage in their relationship, make her think he was just one of those cricket guys. In the end, after he'd been ogling the ballroom dancing for half an hour she said "actually I'd prefer it if you watch the cricket".

This reminds me of early in my relationship with H, when my shadow would pass over the computer and he'd quickly flick away the open web page. I found this a bit disconcerting, after all, search engines can lead us all kinds of places. Later I saw that it was just an online Portuguese newspaper. I assumed it was like most newspapers – with news, entertainment, sport. It’s only when I was diagnosed with World Cup fever last June and H found out that he has a girlfriend who, as well as liking high brow dresses and pretty literature, also likes talking football, that he came out and admitted that the newspaper he looks at every day is dedicated solely to football.

Then he lamented that unlike Portugal, France has no culture of football and that the French only talk about football when France is playing and mainly just during the World Cup. Point taken – when I was in Portugal out of the season, nearly every bar had a television playing a match, and if there was no match on in the world they just showed re-runs of the matches of the 1970s or beach football or ice football or snow football.

Since the World Cup I'm afraid H has found me to be rather French in my relationship with football. Although he tries vainly to keep me updated on the moves and shakes in the European football clubs, for the moment I remain as listless as I am with cricket. Without any countries to support I can't re-find the passion I had in some of the posts from my old blog, which I've re-posted at this juncture.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Choreography of sharks

They have been letting off the shark alarms in the Australian press. For the last few days I've been reading culture of fear headlines which gasp about the increased sightings of sharks in the waters just off the coast of Eastern Australia, with Harry Mitchell of the Australian Aerial Patrol in Sydney saying there has been a "clear increase" in shark sightings over the past five years. There are claims that the sharks have been lured to Sydney not by its reputation for the best seafood restaurants in the world, but by the over-heating planet's warmer waters, a claim disputed by some marine researchers.

Since the late 2006 coup in Thailand and the recent bombings there, we've had story upon story aimed at convincing us that Thailand is the most dangerous place in the world - for example the other day in breaking news we heard that a random boy accidently electrocuted himself in a Bangkok hotel. In the same vein, since last weekend's shark attack when a 21 year old girl was killed by a bull sharks in murky waters off North Stradbroke Island's Amity Point (murky waters and the name Amity would keep me out of the water), the shark space in the newspapers has been escalating.

Among the panic pieces, I read that last weekend at my old beach - Bronte Beach in Sydney - they let off the rusty shark sirens and everyone had to flee the water because someone spotted a shark, which they described as resembling a seal.

The hunt for the killer of the girl at Amity Point reads like the hunt for England's Ipswich murderer, with headlines such as that of ABC's news online: "Three sharks suspected in fatal attack". Inspector Peter Harding is quoted as saying that they are trying to find the sharks, and then, rather frankly although with a hint of uncertainty, he says: "If we found them I suppose we would try to retrieve them and to see if they could have any body parts I suppose."

There are in fact quite a few people who have theorised over the years that sharks have serial killer tendencies, such as shark expert Hugh Edwards:

"How do you explain, for instance, that prior to 1934 there were no shark attacks on Sydney beaches north of Sydney heads. But in the next two years there were five attacks, four of them fatal, between Manly Beach and South Steyne?"

It's true that Australian attacks by Great Whites, especially in South Australia, seem to run in series.

When I read a comment in the Sydney Morning Herald today that, in view of the recent influx of sharks, politicians "were united in saying something must be done about them", I had a sense of foreboding, knowing full well what threatened politicians have been capable of in Australian history. Looking back I saw the headline "yellow peril" with its consequent White Australian Policy, and then the headline red peril flashed before me - Australia's fear of an influx of attacking communists which led it to the futile war in Vietnam.

Then I remembered what could perhaps be seen as the grey peril - the mistaken fear during the 1950s and 1960s that grey nurse sharks were dangerous and so large numbers of these sharks were massacred by spear fishers making these sharks a critically endangered species today. For the record, despite their menacing appearance, these docile, raggy-toothed sharks mainly feed on what I like to feed on in Sydney: fish, stingrays, other sharks, squids, crabs and lobsters, and like me, they are not known to attack humans.

Marine biologists dispute that there is currently any increased risk from sharks. Marnie Horton, the curator of fish and sharks (I like her job title) at the marine park Seaworld said to the Sydney Morning Herald: "There's huge pressure on sharks these days. If anything you would expect that sightings would be decreasing."

There is a lot of data that there are far fewer sharks than what there was 10 or 15 years ago. Also with the demand for shark fin in the Asian market, and the increased value of this product, a lot more people are targeting sharks, particularly the larger sharks.

Peter Benchley's book Jaws, which was made into the 1975 movie of the same name, is the story of a Great White shark. It plays on the idea that sharks actually enjoy eating humans, although research shows that shark attacks on humans are more likely a case of mistaken identity - such as mistaking a human for a seal (in the same way that people mistake seals for sharks) - than an attempt at genuine dining. Humans are hardly considered to be haute cuisine. Benchley later said of his novel: "What I now know, which wasn't known when I wrote Jaws, is that there is no such thing as a rogue shark which develops a taste for human flesh."

I know that there are 180 species of sharks in Australia and of these only 10 are potentially dangerous to humans - and most of the time, as with stingrays, this if only if you go around poking about in their affairs. However, a few years ago when I went snorkelling on the Great Barrier Reef and someone in the snorkelling party gleefully sirened: "reef shark!" and everyone swam in her direction to spot the shark before it shied away, I swam in the opposite direction, treading above the well lit coral floor, feeling nips and tugs at my feet whenever I accidently passed over a dark, sea cellar.

Last time I visited Sydney Aquarium, after coo-ing to Tiger sharks and Lemon sharks and positively cuddly Port Jackson sharks, I made firm plans that should I ever find myself standing next to a child at an Aquarium who I could teach things, I certainly wouldn't be scaring them with shark attack anecdotes. No, instead i'd be giving them neat little facts and shark conservation kits with I love rubbing sharks' bellies badges.

But then I reflected and thought that one of the most thrilling parts of childhood was being scared - of the eery eye of a cyclone, of the possibility that the Virgin Mary may look back at you from the bathroom mirror, that the the upstairs telephone might ring when you are home alone, or of what may lie beneath the surface of the ocean.

Along the coast of New South Wales there are apparently shark nets on 551 of the beaches. However, nature Conservation Council marine networker Megan Kessler says: `an aerial patrol is much more effective than shark nets. And up to 40 per cent of sharks are actually caught on the inside of the net, so it's a common misconception that the nets physically prevent sharks from approaching the beaches. What they do is catch sharks and unfortunately, they also catch harmless sharks and other animals such as dolphins and turtles.'

When I was a child I'd heard people speak of that - that sharks are often found inside the shark net, that is, on the side of the net where we were swimming! For me that was the ultimate delicious fear. It corresponded with my childhood fear provoked by the film When a Stranger Calls where the police trace the prank calls for the young babysitter and the man who has killed the kids has been making the phonecalls from upstairs, inside the same house as her.

I watched the film Open Water last weekend, based on the true events of an American couple who went diving in January 1998 off Port Douglas in Australia. They were left behind by a tour boat when the diving operator miscounted the members of the dive party, and no one realised they were missing until two days after the dive. As their bodies were never found we can only speculate as to what went down exactly.

What I liked about the film is that although it emphasised the terrifying vastness of the sea and the little mysteries beneath its surface, unlike films with blood-hungry, unconvincing sharks like Jaws, the sharks were portrayed realistically. Although the sharks made their presence felt after the first couple of hours that the couple were stranded, it was only after twenty hours or so of the couple floating at sea, when they had become so dehydrated and weak, and in a sense they had become fixtures in the ocean, that the sharks did genuinely attack. They were now de-humanised and just part of the food chain. The film destroys the myth that all sharks have a malicious intent but keeps alive the delicious fear of potential danger.

Even better was that the film used real sharks. The sharks were choreographed by the film-makers throwing a group of them meat - this way, then that way - to get them to move through the water in whichever direction they were filming.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

A fuzzy pumper Christmas and other tales from the South

'twas the first Australian Christmas i've had for five years...

My first Christmas away from Australia was spent getting drunk on drinks I never drink: shandies, and sherry, and eating an inebriated trifle. It was at the family home of my English friend Lara, a converted gamekeeper's lodge in the south of England. After watching some ladies in the local pub try to stuff other people's husbands into their christmas stockings, Lara and I sat before the twinkling television, with snoring mothers and dogs, listening to the arfing of the neighbours in the manor house and badgers scrambling around in the network of tunnels beneath the lodge. We were weighed down with drunkenness, too drunk to laugh, eating a dessert of bananoffee (the trifle - one part trifle, ten parts sherry - had been more like an apero than dessert).

The year after that I had yet another family Christmas in Tunisia, and then for the last three years I renounced the extended family Christmas, in favour of quiet Christmases in Paris.

In Europe Christmas is flipped upside down for me. Here we speculate as to whether it will be a white Christmas whereas in Australia we hope against a scorching Christmas of bushfires and drought.

Although it's different for my Australian friends of other backgrounds, my English grandmother and vague family claims to castles in Cornwall dating from the Norman conquests, mean that my christmases have indeed been very English, with an Australian twist.

During my childhood and still today we harked back to old England by exchanging cards with snow covered houses and angels draped in winter coats. Australian Father Christmas (Santa) is based in the North Pole, rather than say Antartica or somewhere more local like the Pacific Islands, and persists in sweltering into town in his camp, wintery get-up - although of course you do see funky Santas wearing thongs (as in flip-flops – what you may call thongs we call strings).

In 40 degree summers we were summoned from the swimming pool to drip inside and sit before a steaming table of turkey and cranberry sauce, red hot hams and puddings. Everything hot to match the temperatures outdoors.

When I was a child the Christmas period signified the end of the school year and week upon week of summer holidays. And of course there was the glorious moment of present-receiving: Les cadeaux! Les cadeaux! I have one early memory of receiving the fuzzy pumper barber shop, a dream fulfilled, only to have the dream blackened that very same day when I received a second barber shop kit from a much loved uncle. Tears came smashing down my face, and all the world, so ready to judge me, was convinced that I was brattish and greedy, crying because I wanted another present, not two of the same thing. But the real reason I was crying was because I didn't want dear uncle to feel sad, and what followed that was twenty odd years of feeling misunderstood. My psyche was clearly damaged then.

As I got older of course Christmas changed for me, less excitement over the presents although my uncle’s annual fifty dollars to get wasted on New Years Eve was always a treat

But then uncles died, children grew up and moved away to Paris, and now there’s a new generation of kids to be misunderstood.

Although the turkey stays put, my mother has started introducing food to suit the climate: seafood and salads and pavlova.

While Australia may not have a santa equivalent of its Easter Bilby, at Christmas we are visited by a native Australian beetle, appropriately named the Christmas beetle, mainly because they emerge from hibernation at this time of year. They then hang around until about February, during which time they mate, lay eggs and then die. And according to my source they can strip whole trees to a ragged mess in a feeding frenzy, not unlike the feeding frenzies of humans during the festive season.

Just on a small tangent, while I was reading about Christmas beetles I also came across the rhinocerous beetle, Xylotrupes ulysses australicus, which grows up to 60mm. I'm now officially a fan. As the information says:
From late December through to February, the males aggregate in huge masses on poinsiana trees in the suburbs of Brisbane - perhaps one in every 100 trees will be targeted. As the males do battle and try to push each-other off the branch, they scare their opponents by making loud hissing squeaks.

If you've spent any time in the suburbs of Brisbane you may find this description applies to humans as well.

There's also Christmas bush – bright red trees that blossom at this time of the year. According to official government sources:

There are many native Australian plants in flower over the Christmas season. A number of these have become known as `christmas plants' in various parts of the country, including christmas bells, christmas bush and the christmas orchid.

When Europeans first arrived in Australia they were delighted that they could pick wildflowers resembling bells and bright green foliage covered in red or white flowers to use as Christmas decorations. This was a huge contrast to the bare trees and dormant gardens they had left behind in Europe.

Clouds of Frangipani dust drifted over rain washed streets this December in Sydney, and after five years away I appreciated the natural decorations more so than before. My mother was startled by my level of excitement when I spotted a noisy miner nesting on the hills hoist on Christmas day.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Remind me

I've been reading other women's diaries for years - the fluorescent life of my teenage sister in the 1980s, the fleshy, pink pages of Anais Nin's lifetime of journals, the depressive, literary recordings of Sylvia Plath and Virginia Woolf, or, as is currently the case, Simone de Beauvoir's Journal de guerre. But on my recent visit to Australia, I read my own diaries.

When I left Sydney five years ago I entrusted my diaries - commenced at the age of eight - to a friend, not so much because I had confidence in his high moral standards which would prevent him from having a peek, but rather I trusted he would restrain himself due to complete and utter disinterest.

December 2006, Sydney, we arranged to meet up in one of our old drinking bars. He was late and from my second-floor corner of Oxford Street I watched the nightly migration of the flying foxes in the grey-swept sky as they made their way from the trees of the Botanical Gardens up to Centennial Park (apparently there are better night clubs up that way). After the one-kiss greeting Sydney style, my friend handed me a backpack full of diaries which had been catching mould in his family bathroom for the past five years. Are you sure you'll be able to carry that home? It's rather heavy, weighed down with neuroses.

Back in my suburban bedroom in the family home where lots of those words were written, I began to read.

Sometimes it was like reading the diaries of a stranger as characters in the pages had been forgotten and I had to text around to friends: who was this? what was that?

Sometimes it was like watching a film or reading a book with an unconvincing character who can't see something which is bleedingly obvious to the audience. There were pages and pages about someone buried in my first year of university called Andrew (a veritable cherub if we are to believe the descriptions of his cherry-stained lips and crown of ringlets) who was so clearly in to me: "He was waiting near the fountain at uni and he said to me `I thought you'd come past here - do you want to have lunch?' But I don't think he likes me". "He said I looked really pretty today. But I don't think he likes me." "He said he likes me, but I don't think he does."

Needless to say, nothing ever happened between us. I was straight out of an all girls catholic school and apparently new to the workings of the male mind, as well as very insecure. But there was something refreshing about this innocence. Going back to my first years of teenhood I found an amusing entry:

"I had a slightly spooky experience on the way in to the city today. I was sitting alone in a train carriage except for a man sitting across from me with his front teeth missing. He kept looking at me. I don’t know for sure that his look was sexual, but I guessed it was."

And? And that, apparently, was the spooky experience.

Naturally the diaries change over the years, with the latter diaries of my mid-twenties more closely resembling the me of today, but there seems to be a recurrent theme in them all. I was always fat (just quietly: I was never fat), a crop of pimples was always threatening my sanity, I longed to be prone to vigorous exercise (to lose the fat), and I often said things along the lines of: I am a pile of dirt and I must clean myself. Apparently my psyche was also damaged.

Sitting in my old room among florals and bears I started forgetting who I am now and started to feel that the characters waking up on the pages still exist for me now as they did back then, that I could walk out the door and find them all again. I started sending sentimental texts to anyone I could still contact. I was determined to construct a time machine. It reminded me of that Royksopp song:

"It's only been a week,
The rush of being home in rapid fading.
Prevailing to recall
What I was missing, all that time in England

Has sent me aimlessly,
On foot or by the help of transportation,
To knock on windows where
A friend no longer live, I had forgotten.

And everywhere I go,
There's always something to remind me
Of another place and time"