Wednesday, December 26, 2012

By scented candle light

This was from ages ago this summer. I love it when Rose gets her film developed. 

My Grandma e-mailed me the other day, reminding me that I never write in my blog (by writing how much she loves reading my BLOG, all caps, indicating the lack of things to read of late), so I said I'd do one this week to make up for it. I do feel bad about this. I really do love blogging: it's a fun, different way of writing than I'm usually up to. I can never be wrong in a blog (at least not in my blog. If I was blogging about Chilean architecture then I'm sure I'd be wrong, whatever I said). I don't have to worry too much about my style and tone and characters not sucking and the all-important POINT of it all in a blog. I can just write about myself, which is far too easy and self-indulgently pleasurable, and relax in the knowledge that a) my mother will send me edits within 24 hours of posting and b) at least my parents and grandparents enjoy reading it, no matter what I write about. There are and will be very few places in life where I can write freely and know that at least a few people will always care about what I have to say, so I should really stop neglecting this space so.

The Covered Market.

Therefore, here I am, writing a blog because I was basically told to, and because I like it, and because I finally have free time. The last two months I've been working seven days a week, with only a few days off here and there, on which I usually end up working anyway, either from home or being called in at the last second. I need to learn to say no. I'm not complaining, as I usually am: I like at least two of my three jobs at the moment, however seven day work weeks and no days off don't really lend themselves to much writing time. But right now I'm in the first third of two glorious weeks off from all my jobs (I basically told them all I would not come back till the second week of January, unless it's an emergency- and I can't imagine any gift-shop related emergencies worthy of me getting out of bed) in which I plan to eat and sleep and that is all. And read and write, duh, but that's basically the same as eating and sleeping in my book.

View from the porch of one of my jobs.
I've got a stack of books on my bedside table (ie, stack of plastic boxes) higher than my lamp at the moment, but half of that stack is The Casual Vacancy, which rivals the length of the thickest Harry Potter book (but much heavier due to all the curse words, and seems bigger because of the obnoxious yellow cover (seriously: ugliest cover ever)) and The Similarion, which my housemate Jonno and I have committed to reading in the new year. It's pretty awesome so far. I wish I could be this motivated to learn the history of the real world.

Roof of The Story Museum from Carfax tower.
In true Keep Your 'Lectric Eye On Me Babe tradition, I shall change the subject abruptly. Here are some haikus (that's actual the right pluralization, even if it looks and sounds weird. I could have just said 'haiku' as well, but that sounds weirder) I wrote this evening, by scented candle light, for a purpose I will not reveal. No titles this time:

It only ever got frosty, no snow yet.

Forest light, clean and
bright, give me strength to fight the
night. And my hiccups.

Fire flickering.
Full- foes from faraway lands,
finding fairer homes.

Everything sucks, but
do not fear- the world will be
yours and more next year.

Natures blessings rain
on rocks and stone: the untold.
Haikus sure are vague.

Rose likes monsters: the
fuzzier the better. Sharp
Teeth for good measure.

Woodland creatures are
good for doing your laundry.
Only if you sing.

Rain hits glass ceiling.
Thick books on blankets beneath.
Tell yours; I’ll tell mine.

Girl in a bottle.
HATE it. Glass smells like gherkins*. 
Beware her escape.

I sigh for you, my
 heart’s true love. You sigh for me,
from the bridge above.

Feathers: what a pain.
You can’t brush them, easily.
My life is so hard. 

Christchurch Meadow in the frost.
I'm also trying to write a sexy poem about reading (it IS possible!), but I like to keep this blog PG, so we'll see if it makes my censorship cut when it's finished.

One last random thing I feel like writing about this fine evening: pipe cleaners. As most of you know, I love pipe cleaners. I used to make my own toys as a child: nothing made me happier in the whole world than a multicolored pack of pipe cleaners. Mom and Dad used to give us a certain amount of money to spend at Zany Brainy (remember THAT place? Best place EVER.) depending on if we got a good report card, and I would spend it all on pipe cleaners. So imagine my glee when I was chatting with one of the directors of The Story Museum one night about a month ago, about pipe cleaners, when she gave me permission to order as many as I could with a certain amount of money (much more than the report card reward) to use as a party game for the Christmas party we had planned for mid December. Over 2,000 pipe cleaners later, we had our very own Make Your Own Storybook Character kit, with me at the helm. 

People were tentative at first: I can't just expect everyone to immediately want to partake in my childhood obsession, after all. However with a little coxing and lots of demonstrations, everyone got really into it. I can't tell you how happy it made me to sit around a table full of adults, making princesses and mermaids and aliens and villains and heroes out of pipe cleaners. It was magic. 

If you know me, you'll probably recognize which ones I made- I think I have a pretty distinct style. It was really interesting to see the different ways people went about making them, which showed all the different ways our brains work. And no, I don't mean different as in ugly, or bad, I just mean different. Everyone was so impressed with the things I was making (which is unfair: I've been doing it my entire life!), but honestly, I don't think mine were any 'better' than what everyone else was making. Did you see Babar up there? Genius! That's what I mean about different ways: some people went for the very 3D approach, while others were flatter, like a drawing rather than a sculpture. Some stood up on their own, some needed propping up, but they were all beautiful. We used them, as you can see, to decorate our window ledges, and they are now in the windows that face the street, for all of Pembroke street to see. 

One of my childhood dreams has always been to do something large-scale with pipe cleaners. Either making something life size (like a person. OR better yet, a dinosaur!), illustrate a book with them, or, and this would be ideal, covering an entire room and making a small-scale landscape encompassing an entire room, like you're walking into a whole new world. That would be amazing, but expensive. If anyone knows where I can get pipe cleaners in the exact colors I want in VAST quantities, let me know and maybe I can strike a deal. Doing the Make Your Own Storybook Character game was sort of like my dream coming true, because really, wanting to do something large-scale really just means sharing my weird little crafting talent with people, which is exactly what I did. My parents always said that it was a shame I couldn't make a career out of pipe cleaners: well get this- at least for a day, I sort of did. It was such a success that we might pull them out for future events. I am in love. 

There is a lot more I could write about, which I will, but not right now. I hope everyone had a great Christmas, and that everyone I sent cards to got them (drop me a line if you did; I hope none of them got lost in the mail!). Start making those New Years resolution lists now, folks, you're running out of time to imagine the future, better you! Or at least a consistently awesome you, if you are currently at an optimum-awesome state of being. Either way, 2013 looms ever nearer, and with it hopefully everything we didn't get around to this year will be realized! High five for optimism!  

Wishing it would stop raining,

Maria xoxo

*Gherkin is just what British people call pickles. However, 'pickle' is something entirely different, just to make things needlessly complicated. I used gherkin instead of pickle, although most of my readership is American, just because the word gherkin, especially with it's weird silent H, is funny. To me anyway.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Tick Tock

My Time is not my own.
But when it is, it tries to run away, 
over vast fields of corn, 
coarse and soaring stalks, slicing skin.
(I never notice. Till the shower.)

a small house at the end of a long drive.
 Yellow porch
the color of dying grass, 
protective bark of a dog.

But Time always gets in. 
Pats the dog. 
Throws her a milk bone. 

Inside, it dries flowers and hangs cobwebs 
in silvery circles on door frames,
backs of rickety chairs and window sills. 
Very pretty. 

Time likes to knit, as we all know. 
Stashing yarn in small spaces,
spilling out of hidden doors, open closets. 
Half made baby clothes. 
Sleeves of sweaters.
Poor color choices, all.

Maybe I should unfocus my eyes in another direction. 
Next time.
I'm not looking at you. 
But Time is.
Learn to knit: you'll get along fine. 

Don't be afraid; the mistakes make it.
So make it. 
And stop wasting Time.

Going slightly mad.


Monday, November 5, 2012

Rex Manning Day

Meeting one of your heroes is a stressful thing. You get so excited, you run through your head a million different things you want to say or not say or how to act or what to wear (as if any of these things matter in the end). But it's anticipation that bites, because you want your hero to be exactly how you imagined them to be. You don’t want to be disappointed, or let down, because that would crush your fantasy image of them. You don’t want them to be real people; you want them to stay giants. But what could be scarier than meeting a giant?

I assume many people will disagree with me about this. Many people like meeting famous people and realizing that they are just people too, which I also get. But in this case, I was so completely star struck, on such a high cloud, that nothing would have gotten me down anyway. 

What am I talking about? Only that I got to meet Neil Gaiman the other day, who I affectionately referred to as Rex Manning, in my head, all day (not in the whole, ‘Oh Rexy, you’re so sexy’ sort of way, I’ll have you know). He came to visit The Story Museum, and I’m still pretty sure I made it all up in my head. It was one of those kinds of days, those days that are just so good, they can’t possibly be real. 

He was around for most of the day, getting to look around and chat with various people, and for most of the day I was around doing other things. But I did get to shake his hand, which set a permanent smile on my face for the whole afternoon. Then Phillip Pullman came by, as he sometimes does, to meet Neil and chat, just to make sure my day was about as unreal as humanly possible. As many times as I’ve encountered Phillip Pullman since living in Oxford, I still get excited. I brought them tea (someone else made it; I was in too weird a state to do it myself), and thankfully I didn’t spill the tray or trip over my own shoes. I left the famous people alone to be all famous and fabulous and carried on with my work, still smiling. 

That night, once everyone was gone and the directors were giving Neil one last look at the building, I went up to ask him to sign our guest book, which we always forget about doing. He talked to us about his trip, about having dinner with Andy Serkis the night before (you know, no big deal), and about where he was going next. He told us how much he loved the place; how he can’t wait to see it in its finished form. It was all so normal and nice, in the dimly lit passageways, underneath our story stars, but be was still a giant (although, surprisingly, he’s not much taller than me). We all went down stairs and chatted in the hallway. I sat on the stairs, just listening (every word that came out of my mouth besides, 'could you please sign our guest book,' was incomprehensible nonsense, so I kept it shut), feeling very much like a little kid peering through the slats in the stairs, peaking at the presents under a Christmas tree. I let the grown-ups talk, and was quite happy to do so. 

I didn’t feel the need to ask him for writing advice (I’m already following it- write a lot, and just pretend) or praise him on his body of work, I was simply happy that it was all happening and that I had a small part in the happening. The badger he drew in our guest book saying ‘yay stories!’ is lasting evidence that I was there, at least for a little while, working at the most magical place on earth.

Maria xxx

Ps. Happy Halloween!  

Pss. Welcome, 60th follower! You make me very happy. 

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

No one really knows who they are, maybe we never do.

I have been following the musical career of James A. Goodson for quite some time. In his early years, this was by default, for the fates had destined us to occupy the same bedroom. Shared clothes (when we were young enough for that to be socially acceptable), shared space, shared recreational accessories (although Barbie was never allowed to date GI Joe), but not always shared taste in music. I watched his preferences morph from only the soundtrack to A New Hope, on repeat, all day long (I admit I also shared this niche obsession for John William’s musical masterpiece) to Green Day’s Dookie, which upon discovery I swiftly swiped and then ratted him out, a decision I fear he might still hold a slight grudge about to this day. Putting that minor incident aside, I did not deter the rest of his musical career one iota. Certainly, the classic Moulin Rouge vs. The Misfits battle never did cease (Teenagers should never share rooms, ever), I watched him pluck his first bass with interest and was only a tiny bit grateful that I’d moved out by the time he got the drum set. I dragged friends along to his shows, all my friends who were not really into punk music, and took many pictures, gaining the extremely useful skill of capturing the artist in question in mid flight off his amp, legs striking a dramatic pose. I wished I could be so cool. 

But this is not about me.  Weird, I know. This is about Hold Tight!, and their new album called Blizzard of '96. It tells the story of young boys figuring out how to grow up, who they are and what they are doing. And let me tell you, it's rad. '96 perfectly encapsulates what it feels like to be that age, to be 18 going on whatever, realizing your own mortality and trying not to mess up too bad. It's a slice of life, a slice that most people wish they could forget, but the same slice that matters the most, which makes it suck so much while it's slicing. Being a teenager isn't the best. You're young, but too afraid of growing old to appreciate it, you're free but too worried about what's next to see it. You feel like you can do anything, but know you 'should' be doing something else. For those of you who weren't blessed with any practical career path, for those of you who always wanted to do something out on a limb, being a teenager can suck sometimes. But as '96 says, 'it sucks sometimes, but I know it could be worse.' 

However, while '96 paints this dire scene of youth with simplicity, clarity and beauty, ('we were invincible, that slowly burning summer') it also conjures something entirely different. This album doesn't make you want to slit your wrists, it makes you want to DO something. Everything that makes life hard in '96 is tinged with hope, friendship and even love. Puke, I know, but it's true. These songs are about figuring things out, but not being alone in the meantime. There is not a solitary moment in the entire album. To me, the whole message is that as long as you have your friends, as long as you're surrounded by people you love you and get it, everything will all be alright in the end. You can't help but be happy listening to this album, or at least I can't. If you're young, it speaks directly to you, if you're a bit older, it reminds you how far you've come and how much further you still have to go. If you're even older still, I hope it will remind you of that piece of you that will always be there, trapped in indecision and insecurity, because I've always believed that our past selves never leave us. They stick around, watching you form new identities and world views, chillin' in the back of your mind and waiting for that moment when you need them. Because you will.
The album opens and closes with these words: 'this is a secret, for when you need it.' And it's true. The entire album is a secret, for everyone who's a little lost, who's a little unsure, who feels afraid, and I for one really needed it.

I tried to describe to my friend how '96 makes me feel, and I said that I didn't know if I just really, really loved it, or if it was partially how intensely proud I am of my little brother for making something that touched me so powerfully. He said, 'does it really matter?' He's right, it doesn't matter. It's art, and art makes me happy. Sometimes I can't say why, but in this case I know why. Because it's really fucking good.

I'm starting to gush so I'll stop. You can download all their sounds for free at the links at the top, but you can also buy them, which I'd recommend. Go forth and get good music. 

xoxo Maria xoxo

Saturday, October 6, 2012

I'm a rock star.

 It’s October, and you know what that means. Halloween! The best day of the year! The day you get to be someone or something new, different, and if you live in the UK, scary. It’s Imagination’s favorite holiday, if you do it right. And by 'right' I clearly do not mean wearing as little clothing as you can in public, just because you can. Imagination hates nothing more than girls wearing just their underwear and bunny ears and calling themselves a bunny. Bunnies are cute; that’s just dumb.
I bought these today. 34 of them. All older than me.
The reason I love Halloween so much, which I’m sure I’ve written about a million times before, is because it’s the one day a year where it’s universally, socially acceptable to pretend to be someone else. For one magical day you are whatever you want to be (again, in the UK that can be anything as long as it’s zombified or at least involves fake blood) and no one can say anything. I’m sure I’ve blogged these exact same words before, but I’m not about to go re-read my own blog to find out. Heavens no. 

What I don’t believe I’ve blogged about before, however, is the power of pretending. I’ve discovered something amazing, something I’m sure most adults do every day. I’ve realized that it can be Halloween every day, that everyone can be what they want to be as long as they just pretend. It’s like ‘you can do anything if you just believe!’ but more practical and active. Wishing upon a star and all that jazz is all well and good, but wishing never got anyone a job or wrote a book. Pretending, however, sort of did.

Speaking of Halloween.
I’m basically ripping this advice straight from Neil Gaiman, whom you all know I love a great deal (Who’s seeing him talk about Fairy Tales with Phillip Pullman in London this month: THIS GUY!). He said in a commencement speech at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia this year that some of the best advice he ever gave was to just go into a job interview as if you are the perfect person for the job, weather you actually believe this to be the case or not. Just pretend it’s already your job and that you know what you are doing 100%. Ever since I saw this speech I haven’t been able to get that out of my head. He said a lot of other great this too, like how nothing he ever did for money was ever worth it, and how you should always make great art, even if your cat explodes, but the thing about pretending stuck with me the most. I mean, it’s pretending! That’s my thing. Why didn’t I think of that myself?
So this is what I’ve been trying to do ever since. Just pretend I know what I’m doing with my life, that I know how to write a book and apply for jobs and get those jobs and talk to people and all those grown up things that, as a child, I always assumed I’d just know how to do when I reached a certain age. It’s brought me success so far, I managed to get my dream (albeit short) job this summer, and before that I got to read in that showcase, so I think I’m going to keep it up. I’ll let you know when it fails, but I really don’t think it will. It’s all about confidence. I know I can do any job (as long as it doesn’t involve math or astrophysics), it’s just convincing other people that I can do the job that matters. So we’ll see.
I'm at the beach right now.

All I know is that pretending has always been my favorite thing, so that’s what I think I’ll continue to do. So right now, I’m a rock star. Not a real one, not really in a singing mood at the moment, but a writing rock star. I’m going to write the best cover letter I’ve ever written, and the jobs I’m about to apply for are going to gasp when they read it and say, ‘that’s it; we’ve found her. Ready my jet.' Because, yes, the jobs I’m applying for are that cool. At least I’ll pretend they are.

Peace, love and sandy feet,


PS- Minor point, but would someone PLEASE throw me a bone and ask their friend or family member or dog or landlord to follow me already? I've been sitting at 59 followers for ages and it's just a knife in the gut. Ok, that's a bit extreme, but still, I'm just asking for 60, just one more, that's all. I realize that I don't offer much, I hardly ever post and when I do it's of little substance, but still. Let a girl dream of being worth reading, and tell a friend.