Friday, 25 February 2011

good days just happen

Today I had a really good day, which was a bonus after a fairly stessfull day prior. I had a big piece of work to do for my research that I thought would take a long time but I managed to get it all run off in about an hour and a half. I love when that happens. After that the sun came out and I cleaned and dressed and the cats lay on the warm blankets in the pale yellow sunshine, rolling over in bliss due to their sun-highs, showing unbeleivably soft cream coloured bellies with black spots. I went to work to fill in the time sheets to get paid and having not done so the prior month I left with images of my savings piling high with that lumps entrance to my account this time next month. I went to university and printed the work I had done earlier and chatted with Ann the secretary before picking up a brown envelope of marked work from semester one. The results were pleasing and I put my print outs in alongside my marked work and slotted into my bag in that knack I have, the bag being exactly a4 in size already. Then I left the building, picked up some cash and headed to the train in the sun. It's funny how the sun can instantly change everything. It's the smells I notice most. The pvc roofed downward stairway at the station to the platform smelled warm like a greenhouse with out the plants, and of blue paint and plastics. Walking along from charing cross to finnieston I crossed the motorway and looked at all the cars coming in endless streams. Seeing this feels safe to me, for a reason of which I am unaware. The cyclical nature of 'keep the kettle boiling' making the road seem endless and the drivers continual. I like the uniformity of the motorway and the image that is created of it with elevated perspective. I followed a girl in semi-gym clothes accidentally. She walked faster than me, I was early, and enjoying the walk so slower. I kept on catching her up at traffic lights and admiring her hair done in one of those messy but also perfectly precise buns, pinned up with kirby grips and bits falling down in selective areas. I cant remember when she and I parted ways because I wasn't actually following her, we were just sharing the path. Then I went down the lane to the tearoom I was meeting Lesley at. It's a remarkable little place. You go down the lane to what looks like a builder's back court on a broken cobbled street, dank with puddles under the cover. Then you turn left and see a row of little tiny buildings all painted different colours. At the far end of the row there is a little tiny annexe of a building like the backside of another one. Inside is hidden lane. We had high tea. Sandwiches, scones, meringues, carrot cake, brownies and pink iced cupcakes I couldn't fit which were then packaged into a box with a heart shaped window, and taken home for a certain man I love. Lesley told me good news about her career and it cheered me right up, she has had a really awful time trying to find the job/career path for her and it seems that it's all turning round - she's one of the good people, and she is finally getting what she deserves. We mildly shopped at the charity shops on dumbarton road where I picked up what I call a 'granny cart' which is one those shopping trolley type upright bags with handles to pull like a suitcase. Mine is lightweight and folds away. Then I went home on the train and tried the cart out at aldi. I got my workwear jumper finally, a mens large which drowns me and I love and now I am sitting on the sofa, in m giant jumper, with blankets and pillows and hot water bottles and peppermint tea. Stuart has just got home and the cats are milling about, snoozing at my feet, mewing for dinner. I really like that soul destroying days are followed by ones that top it back up and spill over. All that from a little sunshine.

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

red tape

I've been feeling really constrained and kind of flat recently due to all the monotomous, unnecessary processing that is done in the world, and how it kills so much time and rips the fun out of everything. Anything you want to do requires identification, photographs, signatures and forms with all the boring details of your life. I never tried to memorise my national insurance number yet I know it by heart, and the same goes for so many other annoying details. Everything is quantified by codes and usernames and passwords and memorable answers to bargin basement questions. I know it's necessary but it just makes me feel like the noise of someone groaning when it cuts through the good stuff. I can't just be a research student and enjoy the fact that I am doing in-depth, all consuming research. I have to attend pointless meetings and pretend that it's worthwhile. I have to jump through hoops so no-one can think I'll of me. One person reckons I should be doing something to look awesome and another thinks I should be doing something else. I'm signing up hundreds of papers and proposals and creating the names and emails and references for grants and places and positions and before you know it I have to plan my life to the half hour on a phone I'm constantly holding to make sure all the minutia is completed before deadlines. Oh and by the way, there's also that other thing no-one told you about literally the moment before it has to happen, so get on it!

All I'm saying is studying history sometimes feels more like studying how to be a secretary who reads historic fiction on her lunch break. It's not only that though, but everything. Does anyone else feel like sometimes they don't want to answer the phone or check their emails or read the mail because they know there will be something there that requires the dragging out of old lever files of past letters for numbers and details to sort out whatever new anomoly is stopping things from just ticking over? I feel like that right down in my core and it's like a freezing sensation that you can't just do what you were going to do, you have to do the job of a civil servant, again. It all comes at times and it gets to the point where waking up thinking, 'right, today I will do this and this and this and come home feeling like I have accomplished something' to 'aww man I have to so to the f-ing post office to find out that I have undoubtedly written 0.01mm outside of a white box and have to fill the form out all over again, and therefore can't change the name on my driving liscence, or anything else for that matter, until I can fill a replacement form and find the slot to get there and do it'. And you know what? It n e v e r s t o p s. Just there, as I was typing, I remembered a thing from the bank I have to sign and send back, literally so the woman has the legal right/protection/whatever to call me. That's right, to call me, not to arrange a remortgage or purchase my kidney.

I guess I better just go and do that because hey its getting dark and that means there ain't much time left of this day to get all this crap done.

Friday, 18 February 2011

there are things which we have seen with our eyes, heard with our ears, and our hands have handled the word of life

Do you live in the real world? Or is your reality a fanatasy spun by your mind to make you feel at ease or in touch with your desires? Do you think that where you live your life and how you live it is indicative of your own view of the world? Of what is right and what is wrong? Of how people should live, or of how people shouldn't? Do the tasks you accomplish, the hobbys you keep, the job you work or the friends you make fit into this view you have of yourself and your place in the world? Do you think that you, and everyone else, are living a lie? Because the truth is unattainable?

Sometimes I feel like that. A lot of the time I think other people are like that. I mean, who are we? How do you ever know that people are being truely themselves? People lie and act differently to each other all the time. How do I know that I am being myself? When you are with someone you have to act to you usually are aware of it. You have to put on an act of being who they desire you to be, or who you are expected to be. That's life I guess. And usually the problem is being yourself and not what others want you to be. Is there anyone in the world you can be 100% yourself with? Probably not, but at least you can be yourself with yourself.

What if the problem isn't who you are though, what if the problem is knowing who you are trying to be? If it's accepted that most are not content with life exactly as it is and aspire to something they are not, or no longer are, then what happens if you feel yourself straying off the path? Is it okay to feel like something has changed you without you even knowing it? Or should you strive even harder to reach what you thought you wanted, and who you thought you wanted to be? When faced with the vision you had for youself and the new you that is becoming, how do you know if the new you is acceptable? Is ditching the original giving up, or worse, becoming something less valuable? How do you know that the new idea isn't just a lazy one or a bad one?

I live in the city. I live in the city centre. I work literally 500 metres from where I live. I study 1000 metres from where I live. I also can study from home. If I need something (anything really), it is at most about 6-8 blocks away from me. I need never use a car, or any transport other than my legs. I shop at Aldi. I live in a flat. I need not take my shoes off at the door for they are never dirtier than dust or petrol rain water. I sleep through sirens. I sleep through shouting. I sleep through broken glass and car crashes and drunken arguments. I don't really know my neighbours and I don't care to. For exercize I go to the gym 2 blocks away and run on artifical moving ground. There are three different take aways within 100 metres of my home. There are numerous willing to deliver and all within 2 minutes. I am used to streetlight, helicopters and tall buildings and I no longer know the stars. I could easily spend a whole month without going out of a one mile radius and probably not notice. My life seems like a city, the length measured upwards, a column with multiple layers, rather than the tumbling extensive, horizontal lengths of the country.

I don't know if this is a good thing or not. I never used to think about it. Before I was 18 I lived in the country and was fairly happy with it. Apart from poor transportation to get to the things that are spread so wide, I liked the country. I liked being able to go for walks. I liked the quiet and the darkness and all there was to see. I was sure I could return with a big house and a bigger garden and all the space to roam. I still want this, but now I feel like it is somehow alien to me. Like somehow the city has brainwashed me.

You may think that living in the city is dangerous. Without regard for statistics, I venture that all that is dangerous is what you aren't used to. When I first moved here it felt like rapists and muggers were every solitary man walking up the road. Every car parked over night was bound to be smashed into the next morning. Every clean wall graffitti-ed, every clubber in hospital poisoned or beaten on the corner. I suppose that is still the case but you become used to such things. And it's not like I even see them. Learning to live within the pre-exsisting timetable of the city, and forming your timetable around this means enaging with such dangers happens rarely. The worst will be a drunken fight on the corner or a cosmetic shunt as someone jumps the red light. To be honest I am more safe here than I am in the country now. Singular cars following as you drive put you on edge. The air is colder, stiller, and everything achingly silent. The darkness is immense and overwhelming, you feel like you have jumped into a dark pool and sunk to the bottom to drown, with only the stars watching it happen. Going for a walk seems fearful; if someone were to attack you the nearest place to seek refuge may be miles away. In the city, even in the dead of night, somewhere will be open within a few blocks, of that there is little doubt.

I suppose the point is that it feels like I may have lost my way in life a little. I never meant to live here for this long. I intended to be out of Glasgow within four years and back to grass and trees and bungalows. Living here is the sensible and logical option, but I fear that it is far more than that now. I love my flat and it's dingy carbon monoxide poisioning gas fire, tall heating-bill ramping bay window, and fruity wallpaper. It's a stylistic challenge. I like living in the city where everything is everywhere and there isn't ever a question of everything moving on. Progress is rife here. It's like I've been institutionalised.

Maybe the idea we all have of the life we want to live is always merely something to aspire to. Maybe we know deep down we would never really want it in its entirity as it would be too much, and too foreign. Maybe we just grasp at little whispers of it and adorn our lives with these to show such aspirations. Perhaps if we got everything we dreamed of it would be the worst thing in the world to happen, for then there would be nothing left to wish for, and our days would be dull indeed. I think the word of life is a fantasy, one which colours our real life endlessley.

Thursday, 10 February 2011

I could watch you forever...

I went to see the Hold Steady last night, and before I say anything else I have to put down that I really don't want to be one of those people. One of those people who gush about the music they like and the bands they have seen and brag about what they like and how it's the new big thing. I don't want to come across all tween-scream, gushing 14 year old girl about it. But at the same time, I can't deny greatness. You see last night was brilliant, and for the first time in a long time I feel like I have music again, like it is something forming an integral part of my life and I can enthuse about it. The short of it is I am back in love with it. After last night I had this warm and unbelievably comfortable feeling in the core of my stomach like a really perfect warm dinner after hours of coldness and hunger. I feel all fuzzy-like on the insides, you know? But how can this be because of seeing a bunch of guys playing guitars on a stage? Why does this good feeling come that way? It seems like the world wants me to value solely human interaction. Loving your friends and your family. Don't get me wrong I adore my family. My Families. My friends? Not so much, due to lack of good ones it seems. I think I'm now happy to refill that gap. When I was at high school it's what I did, where people sucked and I just popped in the earphones and zoned it all out. There was some great music then, and of course I was educating myself with the past and all that had happened prior to my existence. But for so long there was a musical drought. Two factors impinged on this; firstly my finding the one person who is like me and the inability to think of anything else other than him; and secondly the lack of music that warrented such love. But now I have a few bands to love once more. Last night's gig was so good. I can tell because it went so fast, and there was no point in checking the time or thinking about how long they had been on. For once the pointless ritual of an encore seemed more meaningful than anything outside of that dark, sticky floored venue. One more tune! Or why not ten! or FIFTY! I could watch you forever...

Like I said, I don't like gushing about music. So many people do it. How many people do you know who say "music is my life"? I tried to distance myself from that in a desperate attempt to not be the same as these people I did not value. I'm not going to hold out anymore. There was something about that gig which transcended the basis of it. It wasn't just music being played for people to listen to. It was a performance. And for the first time in a long, long while I actually felt part of it. For the first time in a long, long time I actually felt part of a crowd, music or otherwise. Maybe I'm just getting all sentimental over a lack of interaction. Maybe nostalgia for days past plays a role (it almost certainly does). Either way last night I stood in the big family, full of understanding and connection, soaking every drop up like a sponge into my pores. Now it rests in the middle and it makes me feel happy and calm and safe and worthwhile as I do the mundane things in life. It rests so well with domestic bliss and it continues to warm me, long after the heat is gone.

theseand theseand theseand theseand theseand also these

Thursday, 3 February 2011

mary-anne, and resolutions willfully broken

If you have read my blog on my new year's resolutions you will be aware that I have a horse. You will also be aware that the resolution that refers to my horse dictates my need to see her and ride her more, as it is something I have not been doing enough of in the last year or two. So, I've been trying to do these resolutions and see her more but recent events mean that I no longer can and part of this post is to lay this out. The larger part of it though is to talk about her.

When I was young I loved animals. We had pets, our black and white cat called posie, then our very own starting with our fish (cheesy and eggy) and then our guinea pigs (babybel and cilla) and then more and more guinea pigs. Being me though, I always wanted more, and I always wanted a dog. I remember writing about dogs and drawing dogs and playing with 'puppy in my pocket' constantly. It was all I wanted. It has become a little bit of a weird legend, which my Dad highlighted in his speech at my wedding, that instead of upgrading from cat to dog, I upgraded from cat to pony. I suppose it has always irritated me that there is some view of people who have horses as being the elite; that I was constantly parading around arenas in tweed speaking the queen's english. It was far more like getting covered in muck, riding around anywhere like a nutter for hours and then getting recovered in muck. I did love it though.

I started horse riding when I was around eight years old at Charmichael Visitor Centre. There was a woman called Theresa, who had long, messy ringletty strawberry blonde hair and can only be described as buxom. Two hundred years ago she would have been a side in a Jane Austen but in the last 1990s she was round, course and chain smoked. Strangely she was friends with a girl my age who was "bad" and they seemed to make eachother's lives more dirty as it seemed to me at the time. The eight year old girl was Christina. She called her T-Guy. I only realised recently it was because her last name was indeed Guy. Anyway we rode the horses there for a few years, my brother, me and sometimes our neighbour Sarah. I only have good memories. My favourite horse was called Jazz; and 13hh dapple grey. Jamie rode Kizmet, a hairy old man of a dun 14.2hh horse who was so the plodder. My Mum rode Vienna who seemed idyllic and Theresa the extatic Gi-Gi, who pranced and rose as she jittered along. Later on Theresa stopped working there and the yard stopped doing horse riding. My Mum and Dad tried to purchase Jazz from the owners who refused and presented me with a grooming set for my birthday and the affirmative decision to purchase a horse, just not Jazz. Inbetween times I remember the love of yard chores as Jamie and I were permitted to visit the horses alone. Without Theresa guiding us we mixed up feeds, deciding what we thought each horse should get, brought them in from the feild and groomed them, and mucked out as if we owned the yard. It was the end of an era there and though I visited Jazz probably three more times once I had gotten my own horse, and vowed into his mane to come back for him eventually, I have no idea what became of him.

And so I got Mary-anne. I had been having riding lessons at Haynses since Theresa left Charmichael and the nearer riding school in Lanark was a shambles, sitting Jamie on a 17hh shire and my on a pony that would only turn left. In hindsight we bought Mary-anne not because she was the right horse but because she was a horse. She was stabled at Haynses and she was then ours, and the struggle commenced. While I never regret any of it, and am indebted to my parents for allowing me to have a horse, Mary-anne was a handful. She was head strong. She wasn't the best schooled. She was liable at any moment to change and do something ballistic just for the hell of it. She was moody. She was trying. She refused to hack out alone. She wriggled and bounced when you tried to wash her. She was female. I was watching the news recently and the police horse people were talking of there only being like 1% of police horses who are mares. The difference was all too apparent when I rode a girl called Kim's horse, Dylan, one day. I took him in the arena and glided round in glee, popping over fences without exploding into a gallop afterwards, and hacking out down the road to cool off, feet out of the stirrups, cool as a cucumber. I suppose if I could choose now I would have chosen that we were given a horse like that to buy from the start. But once Mary was ours she was the family, and you can't pick your family.

I did have a lot of fun with Mary-anne, and I think as a character builder, she is an everest. But it just feels now that all of that is over. I had dreamed since I was old enough to care of what my future was after I left home, of a modest country house. There was a well kept garden and a drive and behind a perfect wooden stable with tackroom, feed storage and boxes that open to the stable and to the feild behind. I had a feild and a smaller paddock for exercize. I would have Mary and I would have one more horse, my dream horse, much like Dylan I suppose. This dream had never altered. It has always been my long term plan. It hasn't ever been seemingly feasible or fitted with everything else but I have just taken it as a given that it would be accomplished. I guess that this has all changed too now.

Last Sunday I went up to Mary-anne to ride. The week prior I had wahsed her tail and clipped her legs and ridden. She was an angel. Ok, she was out of practice and fitness but she did her best, I had fun, and it was a good visit. I came up on Sunday to do the same and felt myself ready to enjoy riding again, enjoy and look forward to going to the yard, being outside and outside of the city and relaxing the way I used to. I figured five years in Glasgow hadn't changed me in the slightest. I rode Mary and she was fine. Granted it was a little more windy and the horses in the feild were running a little, but Mary seemed not to care. She cantered around at a steady pace, no need for pulling her up. I decided to give her one last whirl round on the right rein and call it a day. Mary cantered calmly up the longer side of the rectangular school. As I rounded the top corner of the arena to the A marker though it was as if someone had planted a firework under her tail. I am used to Mary. I am used to her quirks. I am used to her suddenly bucking or bronco-ing. I stick to her like glue. You can read a horse as you ride, you know my the slightest twinge of a muscle that they are going to change. Every other time, I have felt it. 90% of those times I stuck on. In the instances that I fell I knew it was coming, and I could plan a gentle semi-dismount accordingly. That day there was none of that. I don't know if it was my own complacency, or being out of practice, or Mary not even knowing it herself, but she moved. All I remember was a bronco type movement, where she seemed to launch herself up with her back arched. That is like a still shot in my head and then I remember seeing rubber. Chopped rubber, grey fuzzy stuff, and sand at point blank range as I fell to the arena floor over her left shoulder. Then there was an almight thud on my hard riding hat.

I know I didn't pass out. Infact, I leapt up immediately, and went for Mary. A horse running loose can step on it's reins and break a leg easily. Of course I went for Mary, it was ingrained to do so. But as I did I could tell in the back of my head that I wasn't right. My shoulder was killing, and my head felt like a balloon. Still, I was the logical idiot who took the pony to the stables and untacked her. I was the methodical moron who put her rug on and her in the feild, before tidying up all my stuff. I then started to drive. I said to myself, "I don't feel so good, but if I get the car home I can deal with it then". I did. My vision left a lot to be desired. At first it was fine, then there was a big blurred fuzzy spot which followed me. Like when you look at the sun then a spot appears when you blink. This gradually eased. At one point I felt excessivley sick, then it passed. I drove to my Mum's and parked and went in. I sat down and my vision was now just a blur. I called Stuart then I called 999.

It turns out I was fine though. Concussion. I was sick and very tired. The ambulance journey was worse than the fall itself. There was a long wait at the hospital. It was all a bit surreal. It wasn't very nice.

The point is though that when I was getting up from the ground I remember a clarity that shouldn't really have existed after a horse's iron-clad hoof collides with one's skull, in my mind. I remember thinking, 'Okay, it's okay, it's all over. That's it. It's done.' As I walked towards Mary-anne, who was standing with a foot over her reins, I knew that was the last time I would ride her. As I made her lift her foot and fished her reins out the image of the modest country house with the stables and paddock carbonated, fizzling away into nothing. I didn't feel sad, I felt like it was meant.

I still love the idea of horse riding and having my own yard but I know it will never happen now. I suppose for how many people does it happen. Can you become a different person without realising it? Now I am sitting in my city flat and every day it seems more and more like home. It smells like home. I don't mind the lack of space. The paved back court will do without a garden. I grow things in pots, tidy and clean. I like the smell of linens and central heating drying them. Every day this flat seems less like a compromise and more like my destiny. I go to my Mum's house and I feel lost in the vast empty darkness of night as I walk to the car. The stars are beautiful, but they are like strangers. As I drive home, the closer I get the safer I feel. I fly along the M8 knowing just when to change lane and just what speed to go at and it fits. I suppose you can get used to anything and I have gotten used to this. A quasi-city life style.

I always thought I would get back into the horse thing, and I would be there again. I no longer think that is true. It couldn't feel more like the end of a chapter in a book. The saddest thing is the way Mary-anne called to me last Sunday. Oh, long missed friend, still recognised after all these years. Yet we are no longer the same.