Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Home Alone

This song has been on my radar for days and I was horrified to find that it's not among the 258 Bowie songs (some double-ups, some live versions) we have on the ipod. Travesty. Even on a cruise ship this song could not be wrong.

Vincent is at the basketball and, for once, I'm managing to keep out of trouble quite nicely. I watched Home and Away. I dusted (this took far too long than is healthy for anybody. I wonder that either of us has any skin left). I went to Food Alley to get a Massaman curry (no-one to cook for) and ate too much of it (no-one to try not to be disgusting in front of) while watching Shortland Street (no-one to advocate better viewing choices). I went on facebook twice. I still need to cut my fringe, vacuum, iron, clean the bathroom, mop and tidy, but I'm so full I can't move (plus I'm now watching Biggest Loser - no-one to suggest activities that get me off the couch).
I think you'll agree it's best I'm not home alone very often.

Anyway, yesterday one of my favourite friends - who was born overseas - officially became an NZ citizen. I'm too tired to talk about all the things I love about her and NZ and how they're such a good match (had a cheap celebratory dinner together last night and mine had half the chillies produced in NZ this year - the cramps woke me up at about five. But I didn't poo! My stomach amazes even me, and I've known it for 27 years). Instead I am going to write a list of five of my favourite NZ songs, ever. Vincent and I tried to make definitive lists a few weeks ago, but as always, as soon as it became an official list it became life and death... so this is just a list. Just a list!(?!)

1. Beside You - Dave Dobbyn
This song has me on the verge of tears every time I hear it (sometimes a bit past the verge). I can only imagine what she went through and I know this song can't make up for it, but what a beautiful tribute to someone sticking by you when you don't deserve it. Dave Dobbyn makes me very, very proud of New Zealand.
2. Be Mine Tonight - Th' Dudes
This song is so important to me, it makes me feel a bit sick. I used to play it on Friday afternoons at work, on repeat, and feel so much goodwill and connection with everyone else; there's already something uniting about the Friday feeling, but with this in the background I was almost tu meke. Then the first time I played it with Vincent... I can't actually describe how I felt. If reincarnation is the deal and in a thousand years I hear this song, I know I'll be transported back to that exact spot in Christchurch in 2009. We played it at our wedding, and we'll play it at our next one, and the next one, and the next.
3. Jesus I was Evil - Darcy Clay
This takes me back to my cousin's bedroom in Mt Roskill, his sister and I listening to this giggling at the audacity (we grew up attending a church/time-machine in which this was devil's music, regardless of Darcy's apparent reformation). Why can't all music sound this dirty? Another question for the big guy.
4. 40 Years - The Phoenix Foundation
Man it just about killed me settling on this one (I actually wanted Nest Egg but it's not on Youtube; how?! why?!). But this song is so great and has the best demonstration of NZ mating/dating habits ("I'm your man... so get over here"). Vincent and I have seen these guys in concert twice; the last time, at BDO, they were decidedly average - they were having problems with feedback but jesus, we'd been standing in the pouring rain waiting for them - but the first time, under the kind roof of the Powerstation, they were incredible.
5. Slippin' Away - Max Merritt & The Meteors
I don't remember the first time I heard this song; I feel as if I have always known it. I do remember listening to it at work with a girl I didn't know very well. We were both crying by the end, a bit shyly, and then we played it again. She's my friend now, and it's really no surprise I feel so comfortable confiding in her. Every time I hear this song, I see it all so clearly, and feel his pain and helplessness like it's mine. A few weeks ago I heard a busker sing it and play it on his guitar, and then just before the key-change (which is cut from this stupid video), do the drumbeat in perfect time on his guitar (that might not sound like anything but it's impossible to nail). He made me feel happy to have hearing.

There are at least another five I could add to this but I have to at least vacuum; I joked to Vincent that he might come home and find me on the couch and I think we both stiffened a little.
As for NZ, well, it's having some troubles right now, especially in that little beehive, but it's the best country I know, especially with new citizens like my lovely friend, and excellent songs like these.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Spot of Tea, then?

If you come to my house, you will not find a seat easily. That is partly because we only have two couches and two chairs, and one of those couches is nearly always covered in clothes and bags and anything else I threw there after walking in the door. But it is mostly because anywhere else you might like to sit, including the two chairs, is covered in teacups. I won't bore with you with how I came to collect teacups (oh, why not - accident; all of a sudden I had a number that could be called a collection) or why I like them so much (alright then - they're pretty and they're useful and they're small enough to say to Vincent "It's just one!". (I hope I don't come to rue this; I just had a flashback of my nine-year-old self petitioning my Dad as he set a mouse-trap with "But they don't eat much!".) You know what, I will bore you. I like pretty teacups because they're everyday things that we need that someone bothered to make nice. They make me think of speakeasies, and Dorothy Parker stories, and old ladies, and little girls. I mostly collect Crown Lynn teacups, and they make me feel like I have a bit of NZ history in my hands. They give me a purpose when I'm rooting through shelves at secondhand shops ("I've never seen one like it" is a favourite line. It's true and everything, but I'm twenty-seven for crying out loud, not fifty), and something to talk to other crazies about (crazy people nearly always collect something. I'm no phony newbie; apart from the usual sticker collection, I had a coin collection as a kid which I kept in bubble-tape containers so everything smelt a bit grapey, and a badge collection which I kept in a boiled sweets tin. Clearly my main interest was lollies but they didn't last long enough to even think about collecting. I also had a snot-wall behind the headboard of my bed, for a while, until I couldn't stop myself from flicking it off. Anyway, I'm a collector from way back). I also collect kimono dressing gowns, Crown Lynn, old wine glasses (particularly champagne saucers), and depression glass. See, I'm a completely legitimate nutter.

But all I really wanted to say was: meet my newest teacup. Isn't it lovely?! This is one I plan to use as soon as I've found a teapot that doesn't look like it might have been a public toilet for ants. It was a gift from my best cousin, and I like it so much I can't feel guilty when I look at it, even though if I looked a bit further I would see her Christmas present leaning against the wall, which I still haven't given her... Maybe I will do some baking and invite her over for afternoon tea, and give it to her. Which means I need to buy a teapot, and maybe a couple of doilies. Yussssss.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

More Heroes

Yesterday, between the napping and the snotting and the kissing, Vincent and I watched a couple of movies and another episode of The Human Body; the one about pregnancy, which was equal parts thrilling and disgusting. Robert Winston is a sick, sick man, but also a wonderful one, and I'm not put off growing my own parasite although I wouldn't be averse to the fast development of one of those external wombs either. Apparently scientists got a calf more than halfway through gestation before it died (I can't remember where I read that though and hope I didn't make it up; maybe something for my environmental ethics paper? I can't quite believe I did it either, but I seem to be interested in and kind of good at that kind of thing. A bit like old Robert maybe? Probably not).

Anyway, one of the movies we watched was True Grit (The Coens' version), which was fantastic. I was immediately enamoured with the main character, Mattie, and remembered a list I was making at work a couple of weeks ago headed "Fictional Heroes".

1. Benjamin Braddock. I love The Graduate; watching it for the first time was a bit like when I saw Ghost World and realised some people don't expect you to have answers when everyone else thinks you're supposed to. Benjamin is one of my heroes because he throws himself into how he feels, or doesn't feel. When he doesn't know what to do, he does nothing. When he's angry, he makes a total fool out of himself, and when he's sorry, he's consumed. He puts himself in situations where he is totally out of his depth. And when he finds something real, he is a madman in its pursuit. He fucks up colossally, but he does it in such a genuine way I can only feel for him, and when the movie ends, in spite of feeling nervous about what's around the corner, every time I want to jump up and cheer. And Elaine Robinson is a bit of a hero too... (but I can't separate her character from Katharine Ross's voice and beautiful face, so she has a bit of an advantage).

2. Lily. Every time I watch Eagle vs Shark, I go away thinking I want to be more like Lily. I feel like everything I am - the good things - is so inflated; I don't necessarily always mean for them to be that way, but mine is not a quiet character. Lily, on the other hand, goes about her life largely unnoticed by the people around her; she's completely overlooked by the love of her life, she's rejected at work and initially underestimated by everybody, but she just carries on, being true to herself, and changing people and winning them over just by being her. I think if I had a poster of Lily on my door I would be a much nicer person.

3. Holden Caulfield. The first time I read The Catcher In The Rye, I thought I was Holden Caulfield (along with just about everyone else who read it in their teens, I know). But he was so frustrated and had such a strong sense of right and wrong and valuable and, well, phony, that I felt like he was reading my mind... and then expressing it in a more articulate and funny way. I admire Holden Caulfield because he's so genuine. There's no compromise about him; if something disgusts him, he wants to be sick, and if something delights him, he wants to preserve it if it kills him. It's nearly ten years since I first read it and I still identify so strongly with his character - I have picked out passages to be read out at my funeral - but I'm still a long way off being as consistent in myself as Holden. He's even less equipped to survive in this world than I am, but with the world as insincere as it is, it's a brave and beautiful way to be.

4. Mattie Ross. More self-possession at fourteen than I have at twenty-seven; sharp as a tack, funny, brave, determined, and tough as hell. She sleeps in a room with dead criminals, for christ's sake! She sells a pair of ponies back to the vendor and then buys one back for $10, tears shreds from a vain Texas ranger, rides the aforementioned pony across a neck-deep creek, and sleeps under the stars in the freezing cold in the company of the ranger (who has already expressed a desire to kiss her and later given her an old-fashioned spanking) and a drunken marshal. Mattie bucks up when she's scared, sharpens her tongue when she's angry, cheers for the others when they shoot well, and doesn't shy away from what she thinks is right.

5. Lorelai Victoria Gilmore. How do I love thee? There really isn't time to count the ways. Suffice to say, when I have been watching Gilmore Girls, I am happier, brighter, even funnier. Lorelai is unfailingly positive, interesting, loving, and hilarious; this might sound ridiculous, but she truly is an inspiration. If I there was one fictional character I could be like that would make the most positive difference to the people around me (without superpowers), it would be Lorelai. And who knows but that I might be an even bigger fan after I've kicked. (Sorry Elizabeth.)


And so it hit. Against my better judgement, I yielded to temptation in the form of two beautiful women, and I went to the pub on Friday. I was already half-pissed after one glass (my concession to sickness; no pints for me) of beer but trucked through four more, bounced home for dinner and was out for the count by ten o'clock. I think that was the last time I bounced this weekend. Yesterday the floodgates opened and I have been snotting, aching and sneezing ever since, napping and being fed and watered in bed by Vincent, who is also sick but is never hit as hard as I because exercise for him is more than jumping on the bed. Outwardly my sickness has looked like the above, but inside it has felt like this:

When I was little, being sick usually meant being wrapped up and taken to the library where, instead of just the usual books, I was allowed to get books-and-tapes - probably Berenstein Bears - to enjoy in bed. I have a distinct memory of vomiting off the side of the ramp leading to the library door in the rain during a tummy bug before being carted home. For years I thought vomit had to be orange because mine always was; now I realise it was because breakfast at our house always included grapefruit in one form or another. When I had colds, Mum would bring in black tea on a little tray and I loved it; the grown-upness and the sophistication of not having milk. (This kind of affectation stayed with me for years; ordering things I liked the idea of eating or drinking, when really I like my tea sweet and fairly milky, like an old man's.)

We had the perfect local library; we spent enough time there to feel very comfortable, and I have funny little memories of it, like when I was about four or five and they called to tell me I had won a colouring-in competition, and I went and got my little handbag and Dad drove just me (feeling as rich and important as Lady Penelope in the backseat) to collect my prize of a bookmark and a library bag (plastic with a bear on it) and probably a couple of other little things, but what they were didn't matter. I had won something at our library, and been called at home by a librarian. Madame Curie never knew such triumph.

I didn't make it to my friend's thirtieth last night, and I was really sorry to miss it. But being sick in bed when I have Vincent just across in the spare room sitting at his desk, occasionally coming across to check my drink is going down and always kissing me properly, even if I've just shown him what I just blew out of my nose... is really just a holiday, and exactly as I wish.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Thursday Morning Coming Down

But I didn't have any debaucherous fun first. That must be the difference between coming down on Thursday and coming down on Sunday. Vincent and I are both getting colds which are making us tired and our throats sore, and me worried that I'm not going to make it to my good friend's thirtieth on Saturday or my standing date with a jug of beer (or four) at the pub tomorrow. On the other hand, the prospect of bed with movies and lots of drinks is not an unattractive one at all either... But I could do that without the sore throat and runny nose too.
I have to get to bed; it's already getting late and we just got home from another movie (Tucker and Dale vs Evil; bad for the first fifteen minutes and then pretty good), so I'll just tell you some things about my day.

Something cool I saw today: two badminton racquet handles sticking out of someone's backpack.
Something I wished I hadn't done today: follow the second chocolate chip cookie with a caramel slice.
Something I listened to today that I will have heard before but didn't remember, and liked: The Apples in Stereo - The Silvery Light Of A Dream (Part II).
Something that annoyed me today: a dumbarse laughing too loud at unfunny bits in the movie.
Something I've been looking forward to all day: going to bed.
Something exciting Vincent told me today: the set-lists from Bob Dylan's last few shows.

The outlook is good.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Mighty Mice

Vincent and I just got home from watching Waiting For Superman and I'm a bit worried about our children. Not just the ones we spawn, but our nieces, and if I think about it longer, every kid. It's funny to think a few years ago I really didn't have much time for children; they were just people, so if they were horrid or stupid I hated them as much as I do horrid and stupid adults. Then something changed a couple of years ago; I think a combination of my niece and meeting my person, and now I don't just like kids and want some, I feel responsible for them (to be fair to myself, I did always care about the poor ones, I just didn't care to hang out with them).

By a funny coincidence, I was thinking about this stuff today already after I found a playlist that I made for my niece on the ipod, and spent the afternoon listening to it. She was five when I made it for her and it was a heavy load for a kid; a call to arms, an education, an apology, a challenge (and then a roundabout message of hope), and I cried buckets while I made it, thinking about the shitty world we've made that she and her cousin (for whom I also made a playlist, but a little more welcoming; she was only 3 months old) have to try to live in. I truly believe that they will change it; she is doing so already, which was why I could give it to her when I did. I know now that once we've taken things as far as we can, we have to let go. I realised a few weeks ago that with all of the hurt and baggage I have from things that have happened to me, the world will be better when I'm gone too; when all of us who lived through any kind of discrimination will be holding the next lot back and we have to leave. It was a really sad thing to admit; that as hard as I try to escape things I didn't choose, they shaped me, sometimes in a way that makes me afraid or angry when I don't need to be, and that I can only do so much. And it means I'm not even close to the superperson (how had I not even thought about Nietzsche's ubermensch in all of this! I'm still just an ancestor!). Anyway, this is the playlist.

A Call To Arms For [her name should be here but I can't put it in case you're a paedophile]:
1. Bad Reputation - Joan Jett & The Blackhearts
2. Career Opportunities - The Clash
3. Maggie's Farm - The Specials
4. London Calling - The Clash
5. I Won't Back Down - Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers
6. He's Misstra Know-It-All - Stevie Wonder
7. The Guns Of Brixton - The Clash
8. Redemption Song - Bob Marley
9. Sunday Bloody Sunday - U2
10. Born In The USA - Bruce Springsteen
11. Reason To Believe - Bruce Springsteen
12. This Land Is Your Land - Woody Guthrie
13. Blowin' In The Wind - Bob Dylan
14. The Times They Are A-Changin' - Bob Dylan
15. America - Simon & Garfunkel
16. Peace Train - Cat Stevens
17. Nest Egg - The Phoenix Foundation
18. Enjoy Yourself - The Specials

I haven't put links because if you're going to listen to this, it needs to be one song straight after another, and without the distraction of a video; it's a serious business. So are children, in case you didn't know. Even if you don't have any, don't want any, don't know any or just hate people in general, you owe them. As good as you can try to make yourself, they can be better. And even though it's depressing to think of what they're facing, it's pretty fucking exciting to think of what they might do.

Oh and PS Waiting For Superman starts off badly but stick with it; it's very good and makes you think noble things and then end up talking to your spouse about whether or not private school fits into your beliefs and how much easier it could be to have stupid children.

(Image from

Monday, April 4, 2011

Please please please Mr Dylan!

Vincent and I have been listening and trying to put together five requests and it's nigh impossible. Firstly, he's just written too many stand-out songs. If John Bonham came back from the dead and Zeppelin played a show of one of their albums, as much as I love Babe I'm Gonna Leave You and Tangerine and Ramble On, I would have to choose IV for the obvious reason. With Dylan, however, there are so many crucial songs; how can I compare Blowin' In The Wind with A Hard Rain's Gonna Fall? Then there's the company and venue; I'd love to sway my arms and spill beer all over the place to Just Like A Woman at a bar, but surrounded by rich old people (apparently there are drawbacks to our wicked seats) at a huge arena, it just wouldn't be the same. We've been humming and hahing and coming up with ones the other had forgotten, and even though I know last time I said a list like this can only reflect how you felt at that particular moment I don't want to read over it the next moment and want to change it...

Nonetheless, here are Vincent's:

And Mine:
1. To Ramona
3. She Belongs To Me
4. Like A Rolling Stone (Imagine these two guys in a room together. Ridiculous.)
5. All I Really Want To Do

And my bonus cover: Mr Bojangles (I can't find Bob's version on youtube anymore, but look it up on Grooveshark or something; it will break your heart.)

I can't believe we're really going to see him.

(Image from