Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Ripped From the Headlines, Well, Sort Of...

A few things that occupied my mind for a milli-second today:

1. Why didn't they stay broken up and not release what's certainly to be an album full of the worst lyrics ever written, as OLP typically do: "She wishes she was a dancer / That she never heard of cancer." How can they keep a straight face? Or am I supposed to be deep in thought meditating on the irony in his words? Give. It. Up.

2. Robert Mugabe's Zimbabwe seems destined for civil war or something equally terrifying.

3. Stephen Harper looks like a knucklehead in this picture...and it probably won't help him win the favour of the nation either. Alberta's sweet, sweet "extra" cash be damned.

4. Sadie Frost really doesn't want to have her picture taken, and I don't blame her; it's not like her life isn't hard enough these days. You know?

5. I'm enjoying the blog war between Warren Kinsella and Globe columnist Carl Wilson. Boys with keyboards are funny, and punk, don't forget punk. I don't know if I'll read Kinsella's book, but I'm glad that books like that get written, if only for the fact that they're keeping the dream of punk alive. And not to take sides, but dude calls his blog "Zoilus," that alone makes me think I'd rather side with Kinsella. What does it mean, ohh, how deep, a made up word. Yawn.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Fall TV Whee!

As the leaves start to change, a collective sigh across the city brings out cloistered sweaters, and ladies everywhere hold on just that one minute longer to open-toed shoes, I celebrate by doing some high kicks in my living room for the start of fall television.

Banished from my ever-flicking fingertips are the terrible reality television and schlocky mid-season dumpers because the real fun is about to begin. Now the challenge remains whether or not a) I'll be sick of watching television by October or b) the shows all start to suck in their second (or third, forth, etc) seasons.

So I present a special 5 Things I'm Obsessed With These Days post:

1. My Name is Earl. Jason Lee saddles his kids with crazy-ass names, but I heart him, and I'll watch this show with crossed fingers hoping that it'll actually be funny instead of just appearing mildly comic in the trailer.

2. The return of the WB shows. Although my love for the WB has definitely waned this year, I'll still watch Gilmore Girls. And if Luke and Lorelei don't get married, well, there's precious little happiness left in this cold, cold world. And I'm only mildly embarrassed to admit that I love What I Like About You. Not so much that I'll tape it if I'm going out on a Friday night, but I'll definitely avoid leaving until after the show is over. It's sad, I know.

3. ER. Now, I know the show has lost some of it's vigour in its old age, but I've seen just about every episode over the last five or so years, and dedication like that just doesn't come easily to someone as scatterbrained as me, so I'm in it for the long haul.

4. The season-opener of Alias. Hum, what to say, what to say...okay, just a couple of words: car crash, fake identities, pregnancy and J.J. Abrams—it's a recipe for success (I hope).

5. The Wire. Okay, it doesn't start until 2006, but every month brings me that much closer to my favourite show coming back on the air.

Things That Disgust Me

Stupid spammers—do they actually think that anyone's going to click through from the comments to their ridiculous web sites?

The internet is such a magnificent tool, a way to spread information, a source of entertainment, a place for me to express myself, but it's also a cesspool of the lowest common demoninators of human society.

All I have to say is shut up stupid-ass spammers. F@#k you and your penile enlargements, melon-breasted women, dish networks, strange African communications and everything else I never need to hear about.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

#44 The Hungry Years

William Leith's memoir is a cutting, acerbic, smart, fascinating look at one man's struggle with obesity and weight loss. Recently, the Globe and Mail featured Leith's book in their Summer Reading Series, and then my friend Zesty wrote a very thoughtful post about the book on her own blog last week. Needless to say, the book has been "in the news" (in terms of my small circle of online wanderings, of course).

Ads for Leith's book were all over London when I was there, great big posters with huge letters explaining how it was the "confessions of a food addict." Explaining with a sub-title, how this book wasn't about "the" diet, wasn't about the latest, greatest get-rich-type scam in terms of losing weight, but about one man's struggle to come to terms with his own struggle with the scales.

The very first chapter of the book finds Leith on the fattest day of his life. And, like Leith, I've struggled on my own with extra pounds these last few years of my life; like Leith, I wake up every day on the fattest day of my life. Now for a former girl who wouldn't be caught dead eating anything bad in public, a girl who thought that the best thing about being deathly ill in high school was getting to be super skinny, that "pretty" ex-dancer and/or girl about town, it's really disheartening to wake up everyday knowing that you are a tubby, chubby version of your former self.

I'm not fat per se, but I am overweight for my height, like so many "average" Canadians, and like Leith, I have an unhealthy relationship with the food like potato chips, candy and/or breads. I know I'm addicted, but I just don't have the energy to change my eating habits. And on top of that, I'm now commuting to work, so I'm not even biking that much anymore. In the end, I'm afraid the next time I get on the scale, I'll be well above and beyond my fattest day ever.

Annnyyywaaay. Back to the book, it's a really great read, not unlike My Year of Meats or Fast Food Nation, it's a hyper-personal, nonfiction look at the diet industry and its gurus, with the majority of the action surrounding Leith's interview with Dr. Robert Atkins, of the Atkins Diet fame. On the cusp of finishing the book, licking the salt and vinegar off my fingers, remnants of the latest bag of Lays to grace our household, I've decided that I'm going to once again try to change my eating habits.

Every couple of months or so, I try to give up eating sugar, both for the health of my poor, overworked kidneys and so that I can train my body not to look for the insulin jump it's come to consistently crave starting every day at about 10 AM. These days, I'm dying for a chocolate bar barely after even putting a foot to my tiled floor at 6:30 in the morning. It's too much. Sure, I can make all kinds of excuses and, like Leith, can find all sorts of psychological and physiological explanations for my own food addictions, but when it comes right down to it, a commitment to being healthy means so much more than remembering to take my meds every day (which is always a bloody struggle).

I love books that make me think, that give me lots of ammunition to make a change in my own life, but more than that, make me feel less alone when it comes to facing a mirror that reflects a lumpy, dumpy aging version of myself. In the end, it's really up to me whether or not I actually have the conviction for change. So, starting September 1, I'll keep you posted in terms of how well the no wheat, no refined sugar annual attempt at eating better actually goes.

Mini-Break

Flying down the 401 in the hot Sunday sun, makes me think of Bridget Jones, of all characters. When she and Daniel Cleaver take their "mini-break" and naturally runs into Mark Darcy, her whole life sort of crashes into what was supposed to be a relaxing vacation. That's kind of what life is like at my cottage. It's wonderful and beautiful and even a bit magical, to spend even a minimum of 26 hours away from the city is a treat, and you always feel like you've had a vacation.

But it's also family property, which I love, because it means that there are always all kinds of people crashing into my weekend. This time it was the first boy I ever kissed, and I see him at least once a year, but it's always funny to see people you've known all your lives. They seem to understand you so well, despite not seeing you on a regular basis, well, ever any more.

All in all, I'm exhausted, but in a good way. The RRBF's family will be heading up north with us for the long weekend, and I made sure my grandmother's cottage was immaculate, with new bedding, all vacuumed, and completely tidy. Funny thing is, someone else could crash into next week and all the hard work would be ruined. Oddly, if that happened at home, I would probably peak, but because it's the cottage, it's just something I'm used to.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

How I Hate Revisions

The strangest thing showed up in the mail, well, I guess it's not all that strange, but it's an invitation to a university reunion taking place during Homecoming Weekend at Queen's in Kingston.

For the most part, I hate rewriting. In fact, I hate most things that involve going back and re-doing what you've already done. Maybe it's why I've never finished anything substantial in terms of my own writing—I have no trouble finishing up projects I'm assigned to do, so if someone assigned my own novel, told me I'd be graded, I'd probably finish it. But I'd never go back and re-write it, at least substantially, anyway.

And that's sort of how I feel about class reunions. They had one at my high school a while back, and I didn't go because, well, I'm just not all that interested in reliving my "glory days." For the most part, they ended up with me being diseased, half-crazy and quite in need of serious amounts of therapy, which I didn't receive until well after I'd finished university, where I'll have to admit, the same pattern sort of repeated itself.

So I guess, with all the bad press high school and university got in the scope of my ever-longer life, it's no wonder the last thing on earth I'd like to do is re-live it ten years later at a kegger during Homecoming. Am I wrong in thinking that way?

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

The Cliche That Must Not Be Written #1

Here's the thing. Writing a book is hard. Writing a good book, even harder. And finding a good editor, well, that must be the hardest. Because I just took a quick, ahem, break and started to read, The J.A.P. Chronicles. And before I even got past page five, came across the following cliche: "Neither of them slept that morning. First they ate pancakes and eggs at an all-night diner..." oh yes, it gets worse, "They made love until noon, his white hands moving over her with slow, exhilarating skill, his lips finding places even she didn't know could be kissed..."

Blech.

Live Update

Between this week's conference, taking care of my aunt, and the change in the weather, it's been a strange couple of weeks. Things are always different when you're not at home, and I was only back from vacation for a couple of days before leaving again. Once you're back, you need to play catch-up with your own life, try to talk to friends you haven't seen in a month, get back into the groove of the regular day, find time to read—all things I haven't done much of since I got back.

Weather changing always makes me slightly melancholy. Perhaps because it's a concrete example of time passing, of things moving so fast that it's important to slow down and breath every now and again. After being forced to leave my last job, a topic I've been over about a bajillion times since I started this darn blog, my whole world just changed. I was no longer the "BMOC" and have sort of started again, sat back and tried to not be so angry that it all happened. It's the bane of my existence, dealing with things in life that are sort of thrown at me, things like the disease, things like getting "reorganized" out of the job I thought I was pretty darn good at, things like losing my mum, that sometimes I find it hard to take control of my own life. Perhaps that's why I needed to go away this summer. In retrospect, it was so healthy to spend some time by myself, even if now everything is back to normal and I'm forgetting I was even gone in the first place.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

#43 An Audience of Chairs

An Audience of Chairs, Joan Clark's magnificient novel, is one of the best books I've read all year. I read it while in Lake Winnipeg on vacation and almost finished the entire book in one sitting. The book follows the life of Moranna MacKenzie, a wild, precocious child who grows up to "Mad Mory", a woman living alone in Cape Breton in her father's semi-abandoned farmhouse.

The novel tells the story of Moranna and her battle with mental illness, in the form of manic depression, although the disease is never qualified. As Moranna falls in love, gets married and has two beautiful girls, her life starts to come apart at the seams. She can no longer handle being either a mother or a wife and slips into a deep psychosis.

Her husband takes the children away and Moranna spends the next thirty years trying to find them. It's a beautiful tale of love, loss, and motherhood, one that made me cry at the end because of its simple message of forgiveness. Joan Clark is a rare gem in Canadian fiction, her writing reminds me of both Margaret Laurence and Hugh MacLennan, both in its richness and its ability to create characters with deep tragic, yet still human, flaws. I read Clark's Eiriksdottir last year and also enjoyed it, and am on a quest now to read Latitudes of Melt, because I think it too will be a wonderful novel.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Thunder! Lightning! Celebrity Sighting!

My RRBF picked me up from work today (summer hours, yay!), as I spent the night with my aunt who just had surgery. We decided to go out for lunch (how decadent!) and went to Utopia, a favourite haunt of mine on College Street. They have yummy, yummy vegetarian food.

The RRBF played Brantford last night at the Ford Plant, but I can't remember the name of the festival. Oh, the life of a rock star. Annywaaay. We sat down and shortly thereafter George Stromboloupolous came in and started talking shop with some fellow sitting right beside us eating a salad.

Ah, to be an artist and to always be able to have a lazy lunch on a Friday afternoon. Oh, but wait, he's actually locked out right now, and it's probably not even his choice to be having a lazy lunch on a Friday afternoon.

Okay, now it's time for me to get back to my aunty. Oh! And did I mention there's crazy thunder and lightning in Toronto right now? No? Well, there is. I love it.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

When Italics Work...

...they work so well.

Bad Disease Day #4869

Today I feel bad. Not just the usual under-the-weather, low energy, tired-beyond-tired way I usually feel, but low-down and dirty bad. There's no reason for it. I don't have a rash (whew!); the meds aren't making my stomach particularly upset; I'm not travelling; I just feel terrible. Instead of trying to make it through the work day, I gave up the ghost and left a half-hour early, which is unlike me. For days like this, I use the all encompassing 'Bad Disease Day' to describe them. When there's nothing wrong except that I have a disease and it's wreaking havoc on my system, it's really all I cling to, a basic understanding of what might possibly be wrong, and a reason to sit around at home watching bad television. Hello Coronation Street!

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Popwatch

I'm addicted to Popwatch, EW's blog. And I couldn't agree more with their take on the latest season of Six Feet Under. That show pains me, but that doesn't stop me from watching it—once I start, I find it hard to stop, and I've seen every single other episode. But seriously, hasn't anyone ever heard of therapy? And Brenda's in training to become a therapist, couldn't she just say to everyone, including herself, "Let's all go on some Prozac until we make it through, it's only one more episode." Sigh.

Say It Isn't So

Shucks, you go away for a couple of days to come back to find that they're making your all-time favourite book into a movie. Now, if there's anyone I might think about sort of maybe trusting into making a movie of Kerouac's On the Road it would be Francis Ford Coppola. And that he's teamed up with Walter Salles, who made the amazingly wonderful The Motorcycle Diaries, I feel a bit better about it, but dream teams have gone wrong before. Cough. Anyone remember the absolutely terrible A.I.?

Annnywaay. It's hard to make road movies at the best of times, Easy Rider being the obvious exception. And as of 2001, when the project was first tossed about, Brad Pitt was attached to star. Um, he's the hottest fellow in the world, which means he's too hot to play Dean Moriarty, and I have a hard time thinking he could pull it off—not to downplay his talent at all, but you know what I mean, he's too pretty. And how would the hip-jazz loving language of Kerouac's book translate to the cynical age we live in now? The idea of the beat generation, with their constant craving for that sweet spot that's almost impossible to define, being captured on the big screen seems almost the opposite of what should happen.

Who knows. Maybe it won't suck. And maybe I'll lose 20 pounds by tomorrow.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Um, No JCrew, They Aren't

Aren't these the ugliest jeans you've ever seen? And they are so not worth $275.00 USD. And this is coming from a girl who reads the JCrew catalogue the second it arrives in her mailbox. All I can say is "Ew": these jeans are as smelly as the dirty hippie who sat upwind of me my last night in Ireland, ruining my only drink with his bad BO every time he lifted up his arms to embrace his equally smelly, dread-locked hippie girlfriend.

And before you say anything, I used to be a hippie-type myself. I have a totally embarrassing tattoo of a peace sign lying on a bed of daisies. No, I'm not lying. How could anything that embarrassing be anything but true?

The Bionic Hip Kicks Ass

Yes, I'm swearing a lot in these posts I'm plowing through tonight, but it must be said exactly this way: my new bionic hip kicks some serious ass.

I walked for three weeks in Europe. That's 21 days of traipsing through cities, peering at ruins, standing in front of art at galleries, and finding my way around foreign places. And I had no pain. There was a bit of a struggle because my muscles aren't in the greatest shape, but no joint pain.

In the months after surgery, I have resumed normal activity in the sense that I've recovered so much of my mobility. Things I never thought I would or could do again, I'm now doing on a regular basis: enjoying an 8-hour walk, sitting cross legged and chatting with a girlfriend, dancing to Irish music at the pub, jumping up and down at my RRBF's show, enjoying a weekend at Hillside, and feeling normal, even if it's just until the rash returns or my stomach churns up the last meal, but it's something anyway. And I'll take the small victories for now.

Heh.

Couldn't someone in Paula Abdul's camp update this photo? It honestly looks like it's from the mid-80s, which isn't so bad considering the amount of plastic surgery I'm sure she's had in the last decade or two. But then again, it makes me laugh every time I read a fake "news" item on the imdb and the use it.

Jet Lag

When I had jet lag in Paris, I slept on Tina's couch for an entire day. But now I don't have that luxury of being on vacation any longer, and so I spent half my day today trying to stay awake, thinking about how many truly strange and wonderful things happened when I was away, so here's my top 5 weird and wonderful things I noticed while on vacation:

1. You can develop crushes on all sorts of people.

Endearing love for my RRBF aside, I met a crazy British ex-pat journalist for about five minutes in Paris on my birthday and developed a total crush on him. He's not all that tall, not particularly attractive, and covered in a serious amount of attitude, but it restored my faith in the fact that if, and it's a big if, something ever happened with my RRBF, I could still find real people attractive. The "real" is an important distinction because my crushes on Ethan Hawke and Jeremy Piven so don't count.

2. Life goes on after the hub cab falls off.

Tina and I hit the curb so many times in our Irish rent-a-car trying to maneuver the car on the other side of the road that when it finally fell off, we laughed and then freaked out, instead of the other way around. And then a completely nice man at a Toyota dealership in Limerick gave us a free cap, and then never noticed when we took the car back that one of the caps was certainly not like the others. In fact, the fellow that looked at the tires inspected every single one except the one we replaced. HA!

3. Live theatre is both thrilling and boring at the same time.

Honestly, I think it's the fact that the lights make the theatre so hot. Both plays I saw were equally good in different ways, but I yawned during both, and not because I was bored or tired, just because it's a hot stuffy place where old men with hairy ears sit down beside you and fall asleep. Honestly, just that kind of old man sat beside me in the theatre in London, and that's what happens when you go places and do things by yourself: old men sit down beside you and fall asleep.

4. Carrying your own sh*t is hard.

Life as an independent lady travelling around is way, way different than life as an old married lady travelling around. People talk to you differently when you are two women, they hit on you differently, they treat you differently, and they certainly don't help you with your mega-knapsack when you've bought two books and are carrying three others. Ah, life as an old married lady still has some benefits. And it makes me appreciate the sheer, brute strength of my RRBF. Sigh.

Oh, and feel free to treat the above as completely metaphorical as well.

5. Strange cities are always fun.

Simply because you don't have to get up, cook yourself some breakfast, find your way to work, sit all day long, and then get up and do it again the next day. Therein lies the true beauty of a European vacation.

I'm sure I could come up with 5 more, but I'm sort of tired from watching 7.5 hours of Coronation Street, 3 hours of Six Feet Under and four almost-straight episodes of Entourage. Ah, to be back to the grind.

Things That Make Me Go Grrrr

The hardest thing about going away is coming home to some extent. It's wonderful and fun and amazing to be in a different place every day, seeing different things, meeting new people, but then you get back to the grind. On my daily travels through cyber-space today I came upon an article about Posh Spice, who, on the cusp of publishing her autobiography, announces to the press that she's never read a book.

Ever.

In her life.

Never.

Not once has she picked up a book, cracked the spine, smelled the wonderful ink on the pages, and then eaten up the words like a morning pastry. But low and behold, she's written an "autobiography."

What the f*ck? Has the line between writer and celebrity really become that smudged? Are there people out there who will actually buy this book and think that she even had a hand in writing it? Because honestly, would you believe someone who has never read a book could actually write one?

Oh, and does that mean she never reads to her kids? Because that would be a crying shame, strange geographical names and all. Silly Posh Spice, shut up, I mean really, shut up.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Ahem, Poetess

One of my poems was accepted by Taddle Creek. I'm not sure when or even if it'll be a print vs. online edition, but I'm excited anyway.

Home (Sweet) Home

After a few mistarts (including having to book a whole different flight), I got home yesterday afternoon, tired, cranky and probably a bit smelly.

Tomorrow it's back to everyday life. Upcoming this week, my vacation top 10, things I'm obsessed with and why I have a huge crush on Jeremy Piven, which may or may not threaten my feelings for my RRBF.

Just kidding.

Postcards certainly not to follow.

Friday, August 12, 2005

A Terrible Sense of Direction

Perhaps the problem isn't the lack of road signs. Perhaps the problem isn't the maps. Perhaps the problem just simply comes down to the fact that I have one hell of a terrible sense of direction.

It took me forever to find the Victoria and Albert Museum yesterday, which feels more like your great-grandmother's colonial attic than anything else. It's a marvelously complex and convoluted place with art and design in every nook and cranny. After it taking me over two hours to make my way there after buying my theatre ticket, I walked around in circles for a while before finally landing in the William Morris rooms I wanted in the first place.

Victorian literature has always been the bane of my existence, from high school to undergrad to my glorious mistake to take it in graduate school. But Victorian art and design? I love them, can't get enough of the grand and pretentious manner of it all. There were two William Morris chairs that were absolutely beautiful. Then I wandered around the fashion section, saw some truly fascinating old instruments, then bought my RRBF a small presents, and left.

From there I had dinner by myself (for the first time ever!) and went to see Neil Labute's Some Girl(s). David Schwimmer played the lead, with Saffron Burroughs as the girl that really makes the difference in his life. With any play or film by Labute, I feel as if the ugly under-belly of humanity comes out in funny, witty and acerbic ways. The play was interesting; it's about a man who seeks out four of his ex-girlfriends to have a final heart-to-heart talk to settle everything before he moves on and gets married. He chooses the four women (of a long, long list, so he says) because he feels particularly responsible for their heartbreak. The four women are recognizable stereotypes: the high school "typical" girlfriend you could marry; the hippie, pot-smoking artist; the older, married influential woman; and the one that got away.

I sat there wondering how different the play would have been if it had been told from a woman's perspective. If she was the one travelling back through the annals of her past relationships and wanting to make peace with men she screwed over, and I think it would be a very different play.

It's funny as well, to see Ross up there trying to act his way through a different sort of character he played for how many seasons on television. It was all anyone was talking about around me, whether or not they liked him on friends. He plays to the audience a bit too much and doesn't really have a theatre voice per se, but he does a good job and has wonderful comedic timing. As the woman who sat beside me said, "That was just tremendous!", and it really was. Funny, I saw the opening of A View From the Bridge in Dublin, and then now I saw Some Girls two days away from its closing. A nice bookended theatre experience over my vacation.

Now Elyssa and I are going to take her Wapping Walk, a theatre in sound experience of a neighbourhood. I'm quite looking forward to it. Then I might do some more sightseeing or pack it all in and go to the movies. But I loathe to go back to Leicester Square -- I've never been bothered so much on my trip as the few moments I either sat there or walked through.

T-40 hours until I come home!

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Back In London: The Last Leg

We toured around Limerick and saw the big sites there, King John's Castle (which was never occupied by the very king that commissioned it in the 13th century), the Hunt Museum and a beautiful church called (if I remember correctly) St. Mary's (something or other). We ate some mediocre but incredibly over-priced food, and decided to do road trips the next day to the Rock of Cashel and the Lough Gur, both of which were lovely.

Driving around Ireland is so frustrating. First of all, it's the whole, how to navigate the car on the other side of the road thing; secondly, it's problematic that there are no road signs; and finally, even the locals aren't necessarily aware of what the road is or what the road is called. Inevitably, when we were out driving trying to find a site that wasn't necessarily right off the main road or in a city centre (which was most of the time), we would get lost, sometimes for hours. The roads wind and bend all over the place, and they seem to have no cohesive narrative in terms of leading to one another -- and you wish the maps would help, but they don't really because there are no signs telling you where you are or which way you're going, so it's really like looking a pile of sqiggles and lines that make no sense in terms of the map. Are we here? Who knows! Are we there? Maybe! Which way do we go? Who's to say!

In a way, I'm so glad I went to Ireland because it's a beautiful, magical, historical and fascinating place, but as with anything in my life that I learn about, read about, think about, there's a tendancy to romaticize it. It's important to remember that life goes on in Ireland just like it does in Canada, in France, in London, and it's just as regular as anywhere else in the world, only with a different accent.

After a long day of travelling, I'm back in London (sitting at the airport, taking the rental car back). I've read three more books since I've been on vacation, one not even worth mentioning and two others that I enjoyed (The Perfect 10 by Louise Keans, terrible chicklit to waste time at the airport; The White Lion by Henning Mankell, which I loved; and Carolan's Farewell by Charles Foran, which I thought was pretty good. What does that make now? No.s 40-42? I think so).

Today I'm going at a leisurely pace, being in Brixton at the library using a computer, then off to Marks and Sparks to get some lunch for later. I'm off to see if I can get a ticket to see Neil Labute's new play and then go to the Victoria and Albert Museum.

London Ho!

PS.

I'm feeling quite homesick, and I miss my RRBF terribly. There was a flight out of Shannon airport yesterday going directly to Toronto, and I considered just buying a ticket and going home. But then I wouldn't get to see my friends in London and with only three days to go, it would have been a shame not to see them. And there's a lot to occupy my time in London, which is an awesome city. Okay, end of feeling sorry for myself!

Monday, August 08, 2005

Galway and Beyond

We stopped in Galway for a couple of days to put an end to the mad travelling around by car—the crazy driving for hours to get to the city by dinner time, eat, walk around sleep, wake up, walk around, drive somewhere else, and then repeat the pattern of the last few days.

It's an interesting city: on the water, lots of cute shops, tons and tons of tourists, and really bad food (with the exception of the Indian food we had after we drove down from Derry). On the way to Galway, we stopped at Donegal Castle and walked around. It's so awful to use adjectives that barely contain the full definition of how something actually appears, so I hate to say that Ireland is quaint, with it's small coastal towns full to the brim with B&Bs, signs in both English and Irish, wee men riding their bikes wearing tweed, but it is, and we drove through about a hundred little towns that all seemed lovely and amazing, but small, rural and strangely full of tourists.

The rain continued the two days we spent in Galway. The first day we walked around the city, saw and amazing old medieval church, the Spanish Arches from the 1500s, and a couple of other sites. There are 'authentic' shops in Galway, and one that sells Claddagh rings (stamped "original" because, well, it's where they originated), so I bought one, and I also bought my RRBF a cute, jaunty tweed cap (I just hope it fits his head). Then we went back to the B&B and slept for a little while (car-lag), got up, had Chinese food and went to the pub. The nightlife in Galway is astounding: there are tons of bars, pubs, nightclubs, smartly dressed boys and fancy girls. I felt downright old and dowdy! But of course, I was wearing a huge, smelly raincoat, the same grey sweatshirt I've been wearing the whole trip because I didn't bring enough warm clothes and my everyday jean skirt. Ha! There goes fashion, right out the window.

The pub was fun. We met a couple from Roscommon, a lovely girl from Florence, a fellow doing a PhD in 17th century Irish economics who said, "There's an old Irish saying, 'God gave whiskey to the Irish so they wouldn't conquer the world.'" We were having some conversation about colonialism or the like, it was very funny. And then Tina met a funny fellow we called "Bob the Builder" because he was a bricklayer who talked to her for our entire pint but never introduced himself.

We got up the next morning and drove to Clifden, well actually a small town outside of Clifden called Cleggan where we went horseback riding. Tina did a lot of riding in her youth and beyond, so she's totally experienced. It was only my second time on a horse, and I was terrified. His named was "Duggie" and he was lovely. We walked, and then trotted a bit, back and forth on a beach in the Canemara. It was a fun experience.

But then the driving began, again. After a false start, we were on our way to the Cliffs of Moher. We drove through The Burren, a geological wonder, an area where time and prehistory have evolved into a fascinating and spectacular karst (a limestone region). You come around a windy, bendy corner and then all of sudden the landscape changes and it's one of the most interesting, beautiful things I've ever seen. Before we got to the Cliffs, we had dinner in Doolin, and it was a meal to rival the restaurants in Paris. Surprising that the best meal we've had so far was in a tiny town with only 200 residents where we almost didn't get a table after being lost for a couple of hours earlier in the day. I guess that's what travelling is all about, happenstance and circumstance.

We landed in Limerick by around 11 PM last night and are spending the day looking around, maybe walking over to Frank McCourt's infamous neighbourhood.

Friday, August 05, 2005

L'Derry

I forgot to talk about the most hilarious part of Tina and I watching the show at The Gate in Dublin. After it finished, I wanted to take a picture of the front of the building, but what we didn't realize, is that the actor's dressing rooms face out onto the street above the entrance. So the flash goes off and they all look outside because they think I'm taking pictures of them, which I wasn't (but then I did because Tina giggled and said, "There they are!"), so Christopher Meloni saw us and waved, and then I gave him a thumbs up. Yes, I am the biggest geek in the entire world -- I gave the cool guy from TV's baddest, baddy-ass show (Oz) a thumb's up.

Anyway. We were in Belfast yesterday morning, and went to see the West end where there's still a military post on top of a high rise where people live. Barbed wire covers most of the fences, and there are cameras everywhere. There are murals depicting Gerry Adams and all kinds of other messages, and people just get on with their lives. And now that they're at a de-militarized point, I couldn't imagine what Belfast was like at the height of the Troubles. It's hard to put it into words.

We drove out of the city to Giant's Causeway, another Unesco World Heritage site, large rocks that look like people with very big hands set them all just so, and then got back in the car to drive to Londonderry. It's a smaller, working class-type city, from the very small impression I have of it. The women all sort of dress like they're from New Jersey, but the bar we were in had a lot of tourists, so they could have very well been. We listened to traditional Irish music, watched the cute bartender, tried to avoid Tina getting picked up by men, and talked to some people around us. There was a frame of tiny letters beside us on the wall. One fellow's wife told us that when men were in jail, the women of L'Derry would write the letters and then fold them up under their tongues, passing them with a kiss--isn't that a wonderful story? Makes me want to write a poem.

We're off today to look at the walls (from the 1600s), a workhouse museum and then to see the Bloody Sunday memorial. Then it's on to Galway, which always, always makes me think of the Pogues: "And the boys from the NYPD choir were singing Galway Bay, and the bells were ringing out for Christmas day."

Thursday, August 04, 2005

The M1 to Belfast

We didn't end up going to see the show at the Abbey Theatre the other night. Instead, after I saw a number of posters up around town, decided to head over to The Gate Theatre and see if we could get tickets to Arthur Miller's A View From the Bridge. They kindly informed us upon arrival that there were no tickets, but we could wait five minutes until seven and see if there were any cancellations. Luckily, at about two seconds to, we got two tickets. Little did Tina or I know, but it was opening night and the play starred Christopher Meloni from Oz and Law & Order: SVU. Needless to say, it's Arthur Miller, who has such a gift with words and bringing the life of the comman man into great introspection on the stage, and the play was marvellous.

We got up early the next morning, stopped by the tourist office because I had lost my copy of Lonely Plant: Ireland and had to buy another one. A quick bus ride later we were at the airport and picked up our car. On the road we stopped to see Knowth, one of Unesco's World Heritage Sites, which was amazing -- it had been standing since 3000AD.

Then we arrived in Belfast after a frustrating drive through the middle of the city. Walked around, saw some great buildings, had dinner and then a half-pint at White's pub, the city's oldest, in business since 1640.

This morning we walked past Queen's University Belfast, strange because I went to Queen's U in Kingston, and strolled through the absolutely beautiful Botanic Gardens...the weather's shit, but my spirits couldn't be higher!

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Dublin Days

Tina and I have spent the past two days doing miles and miles of tourist activities in Dublin. Yesterday we walked down to St. Stephen's Green, saw some interesting buildings, visited Oscar Wilde's house, and then crossed the street to see a Huegenot cemetary from the 16th century.

After lunch, we made the huge mistake of going to see Dublina, a "medieva museum" of Dublin, which is more like a Canada's Wonderland history tour. It was kind of brutal, but then we went to the lovely Christ Church Cathedral and walked around there for a while. The monument for Strongbow was particularly interesting -- the original one had been destroyed and only a small part still exists; it sits right beside the current one.

We ate our traditional fish and chip dinner in a pub in Temple Bar, that's after we had a half-pint at the Stag's Head, which is a really cool old pub.

Today we got up early, went to Dublin Castle and took an amazing tour with Tom. He was an awesome guide, the perfect mixture of humour and history. After that we toured around the Charles Beatty Library, which is full of marvellous old books, parchments, and other book-related objects. On the second floor, it's full of amazing religious books, representing all corners of the Earth. Finally, it's got a roof top garden that gives a nice view of the Dublin Castle grounds.

We ate at "Juice" (it seems that many restaurants in Dublin have one-word names, how shee-shee). Then we went to the Dublin Library and saw the James Joyce exhibit.

Now we're on our way to the Abbey Theatre to check for tickets for tonight! Wish us luck.

Whew, the running commentary has run on long enough as I try to give at least a small idea of what we're seeing, if not what we're actually experiencing which is sore feet, constipation and a lot of frustration over how quickly the weather changes.

#39 Incendiary

Chris Cleave's novel steams along from the very first page until the end. It's cutting, truthful, raw book that looks at the life of a woman who lost her son and husband in a terrorist attack on a football stadium in London. The book's been in the media a lot because it was released, and all the marketing started, on the day of the London bombings.

Written in the first-person epistolary format, the narrator write a letter to Osama bin Laden about her life and her experiences pre- and post the attack. Her little boy was only 4 when he died, and her husband had the ironic job of being a bomb difuser with the London police.

It's a poignant novel that I think has the potential to become a classic like 1984 or Farenheit 411, it's hard to imagine what it's like to live through the vivid, destructive, and downright emotional scene she lives through—and there's an urgency to the writing that remains with you long after it's finished. All in all, an excellent.

I had written this post a while ago, and now that I've actually walked around parts of London, taken the tube, and seen a section of town where a major part of the book is actually set, it's even more relevant. Or maybe just more relevant to me, to my own reading experience and my thoughts about tragedy, how people deal with the awful things that can happen out of the blue and the maudlin feelings that often crop up after one hasn't had any sleep.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Life in Eire

We spent the last day in Paris getting ready for Dublin. I packed while Tina ran errands. The flight was delayed for an hour, so we sat in the hilariously Jetson-inspired airport for a couple of hours eating homemade sandwiches and cherries.

It was late when we finally arrived in Dublin, having passed the time on the plane reading The White Lioness by Henning Mankell. We took the bus into town and walked around trying to find our hotel. I'm telling you 90 Euros a night doesn't go too far, but at least we have our own bathroom.

That night we had a pint and a half at the Celtic Lodge. They had a traditional band playing, complete with strange tuning and a mic that kept cutting out. There were some crazy people at the pub, including a really drunken Russian man who tried to pick up Tina, who told him her name was "Sue." I automatically became "Barb." We walked around tipsy-like to The Spire, a large phallic monument meant to celebrate the millennium. There we ran into some kid from Idaho who thought it was quite funny that Tina didn't have a French accent, but she was from Paris. Heh. Being a little tipsy in Dublin was actually kind of fun.

We got up the next morning and went for a tour of Trinity College, saw the Book of Kells and then walked around. I bought a lovely woolen sweater because Ireland is cold! Not unlike the trip the RRBF and I took to California, thinking it would be super hot, we didn't pack any warm clothes and froze our asses off.

Today we're off to see Christ Church Cathedral. And then another church with a crypt in the basement with real mummies. Oooohh!

Dublin's lovely, a real mixture of old and new, and parts of it feel like Yonge Street on a Saturday afternoon. I'm excited to see rural Ireland next, lots to do in the next 10 days!