My sister of course. A week of drinking, catching up and being a foreigner, what more could you ask for.
Chasing the sun and wet weather, though of course I will quickly learn to regret this decision, in my sun burnt water logged agony.
Long drives, hot weather, serial killers and dust, dust and more dust. hopefully somewhere a large red rock.
After far too long travelling, I am now somewhere that I want to be, and more importantly wants me to be here too.
As I approach the two and half month mark I have to be honest and say that things have not been so hot here, not really gone the way I had expected, a little rocky of late, a few teething problems perhaps. I have found myself questioning whether I should have waited a bit longer to arrive in Sydney, but of course time was never really the issue. Dependant on who I am with, what their expectations are, and state of mind is, my weight can be minor or the baggage I carry heavy, little of it now my own but all of it seemingly my responsibility as it still directly affects me and my passage through the world. This time has been lonely, difficult and upsetting, but also there have been moments when I have felt beautifully happy, free and in total control of my life. I am not surprised by the negative feelings, they are expected in an endeavour such as mine, but have also had to deal with being the centre of attention, which I am most uncomfortable with and the focus of much gossip, which has been very unpleasant and has significantly clouded my feelings about Sydney in recent weeks.
I have been discussed greatly since the beginning of the year and as difficult as I find this, ask me, don't presume, being my long standing mantra, I appreciate that this is process flow for those of you in Sydney who now have no choice but to separate the 'I' from the 'Us'. And lets not forget, as anyone who knows me in the northern hemisphere will attest, I am a particular fruit and not for everyone's immediate taste. So for the most part I accept what occurred as 're adjustment' and though I am now complaining about it, you all have partners and lives to fall back on, I am still hovering around a precipice remember, one readily accepts that I have had a part in this too as my meditation chant for the most of the last year "show the world love and it shall love you back", makes me far too honest and trusting in my comments about our life.
This has been a toughie, particularly as I am now entering in to the last two months of the twelve and already the "bleed through" from last year has been considerable, in fact this week is a particular concern as it is both my birthday and our wedding anniversary, but I trust myself more than I trust you, so will be licking my wounds and will continue to be just as open as before, only now you will know how much this sort of talk can hurt me.
Now, enough of that and on to the story of late.
Marrickville is a suburb south of Sydney CBD and just up from the airport, this is a relevant comment as, when the wind is in the right direction, it is on the final approach, the planes by this time low enough to cease any attempt at conversation and for the tyre patterns on the wheels and fuselage rivets to be clearly visible and to disconnect the wireless internet in the house. I was warned and though, after living in London with all it's banging and crashing, it is not too much of a distraction, I have gleefully observed a look of fear, disbelief and mild onset of crash panic in both adults and children alike in the back garden and if I too was concerned, the feelings were kept under wraps.
Sydney's inner west, which is the area's proper name is vast and low slung, the flight path making sure that these thirty to eighty year old dwellings don't suddenly sprout into high rises. It is hard to say whether run down, or even up and coming are accurate descriptions for the area, as the architecture and suburban aesthetic of Sydney is still an alien environment for me, sure there are some empty buildings and run down houses, but equally there are some very beautifully renovated period cottages, not the English thatched type, that would be freaky, but small robust one storeys that have seen a great many hot summers and in my opinion share a certain visual similarity to the tiny old Portuguese and Italian Nona's that live in this area. At the end of the main street is a park, which I noticed is opposite the house that John Mayland lived in when he was in Sydney. The main road that must be crossed to get to the greenery rises up the hill into Newtown, which of course in the ways of these things, should not in any way be considered new, it is however the hangout for the city's hip and groovy and if I ever had harboured a fetish for tattooed young ladies (or for those in the know, Suicide Girls) this would be the place to explore it. My beard fits in well here, the freaky hair that I currently have, will still be freaky, I tell myself, no matter where I am and as such falls outside of any definition of cool.
Belinda and Caleb are my hosts, along with Olive their 2 year old and the tba growing enthusiastically within B. Belinda was a school friend of 'Tash's. They made their invite to me on hearing my plans in May and have been true to their word, B' is one of those people who responds to a problem with a positive, a rare gift, and Caleb is a far better cook than I am, as I have been finding. As much as I am fond of the senior Maynard's, Olive is my main focus and I know that I should not have favourites in my position of couchsurfing pseudo-uncle, but it is nice to get home and hear my name called, ...... even if she is only 2 and far too young to be a girlfriend.
There is a rhythm of sorts appearing to this new existence of mine, mostly social. I need not write again, I think, about the subtle issues that I, and everyone else who knew us when we were the "we", have in transitioning me from plural to singular. Most of you are either doing it, or have made the decision or have concluded the separation already. I am finding that I am being warmed to, slowly, and there might not be a more subtle description of this action. Most recent weeks have been spent in almost a different house each day, my god I am happy that there is as fine a tradition for biscuits and tea in this country as in my own.
Somewhere in this new sociality I mentally revisited a decision I skirted around over New Year, it was as I remember, whilst trying to orchestrate the movement of a far too soggy Anzac biscuit from cup to mouth. Curious how on occasion your mind decides to intervene during the most complex of activities, the Anzac was bending about to freefall to my crotch (this was obviously a dangerous situation), with something it finds more important, the moment was similar to having an in flight film interrupted for a cabin broadcast, but without the usual irritation. I have taken off my wedding ring. It had moved from left to right hand late last year, the lower knuckle on my ring finger has always been an issue and then it itched, so I took it as a sign and swapped hands. The thought had emerged whilst standing in the cold in Swanage "enjoying" and I use the term loosely, the final moments of last year, to finally part with it, more of a symbolic gesture of renewal that didn't and then sitting there chatting away on the other side of the world, anticipating a lap full of Arnotts* I knew it was time.
*They make the Anzac biscuits
I was not, I will tell you, very happy about it and my wedding ring is in fact sitting by the laptop as I write, little steps first though and we will see how it goes without it. But it is indicative of this part of my journey, absolutely all of you and there are no exceptions to this, still have fundamentally the same existence that you had on May 3rd, and then May 5th last year; you still went home to the same house, slept in the same bed, got up and went to the same job, mine changed irrevocably and I am still having to deal with its after effects, most significant now is that to get on with my life, or perhaps more accurately to commence a new one, I must leave some things behind that I may not want to and that takes a lot more strength and determination than you might first consider.
In the meantime there is a fair bit of travelling going on of late, I am not fond of sitting around and until my stuff clears customs in a few weeks, find myself stuck waiting for the next bit of the puzzle to fall in to place. It used to annoy Tash, or so she would say, that she deemed me not flexible enough in my planning during the entrepreneurial phase this time last year, I am very house of cards, not in expecting the imminent collapse of any endeavour, but more in the inclination of having to put everything carefully in its place before the true plan can be revealed, it was usually at this juncture that I would point out rather bluntly that she herself did rather little, other than plan holidays and criticise and that perhaps some support would be more appreciated.
My Australian family and I met up at Nelson's bay. The in-laws as I now curiously find my self addressing them seem to have a very idiosyncratic interpretation of the notion of a weekend away; we all stayed in part for all or some of the weekend in three separate houses, Amelia with her boyfriend Scott's family, Jeremy in Natalie’s parents place and Rhonda and I in a weekend retreat of her friend. Though my first night in Nelson's bay was at the majestically titled Nelsons Bay Marina resort, which I can report from my ground floor $100 a night room, could not see the bay, not if you exclude the top left hand tip of the neon sign above the marina bar, was too far away from the sea to be considered anything other than a Morris Marina (this is a English reference, it is a car) and certainly was nothing like a resort. I was regaling Jeremy on the phone with the niceties of the room; it had a disabled toilet with a industrial dimensioned hand rail that I enthusiastically noted ran parallel to the wall and along the cistern trapping the lid of the seat in the forever up position, handy, a bed with casters so sensitive that I woke in the morning to find that my normal nocturnal to-ing and fro-ing had rowed the bed into the middle of the room and most impressively, outside of this sumptuous garden room, was no garden, but the swimming pool, around which I observed, every metal item, chairs, tables and the housing of the water recirculator, had signs of much rust, but this was not the best bit, the couch that sat facing me pool side was the winning master stroke. I am still reading a lot of Hunter S. Thompson and therefore found a strong literary irony in such an environment.
It rained the entire weekend, not such a big issue for an Englishman, my god it actually felt like the summer I have grown to know and love, but for the locals it was cause for many apologies. The Saturday followed a big night out for Jeremy, Nat's and I, quite a bit for Scott and less so for Amelia, who was driving, I find the need to mention that it even involved some dancing on my part, well more like pogo'ing in the finest punk tradition and I still have that special something, the ability to clear a dance floor. After checking out of Fawlty Towers my main aim was to get the weekend paper, drive somewhere quiet and get a couple of hours sleep before Rhonda arrived with the keys to the next night's accommodation. Nelson's Bay is kind of like a mini, but much more sparsely populated Swanage, so after some driving the banana shaped road that follows the headland along the bay, my mini quest was rewarded with the car park at Soldiers point, in which my trusty little Yaris (number 2) was sailed, no really, it was really raining by now, the paper was summarily consumed and a significant proportion of the afternoon given up to the pursuit of alleviating my hangover with sleep. After a comfortable hour of two the slumber ended with the realisation my circadian rhythms had confused themselves and now I was awake again, the thing that usually happens after rising and before anything else required revisiting. Now, usually Australian public toilets, of which thankfully for my peanut bladder, are many, tend to be simple brick spider traps, but I discovered, after running across the pond that was once the car park, the Soldiers Point toilet had a bit more going for it. In the UK we have so called super loos, they take money from you and then frequently, in my experience, refuse you access and frankly are mostly used for the purposes of fornication by prostitutes and City folk alike. This digital dunny was something else entirely; The EXELOO 1000 as it vocally introduced itself on entry was the future of toilet functionality. It's voice, all 1970's male future father and it even had a cheesy electronic echo for added spaceyness. This bellowing god like toilet deity also informed that I had 10 minutes and should enjoy my stay, which I did and in fact went back again later as my business was serenaded with a Bontempi keyboard muzac rendition of the Andy William's classic that goes "what the world needs now is love sweet love, that's the only thing that there is too little of.....", this is to say nothing of, and perhaps nothing should be said, apart from maybe "a little bit overkill" of the electronic toilet roll dispenser, finger over the button for one sheet, hover a bit longer over one side of it for three sheets. I though that I had found the sweet spot at one point, nearly got enough to do the job, the paper being the standard council fare, but my enthusiasm was short lived, as was the paper.
The weekend ended with Amelia calling to say that she had found Rhonda's car keys in her bag, this might not have been a problem had Amelia not been two hours away, back in Sydney, so the little Yaris (number 2) came to the rescue and the highway between Newcastle and Sydney was pounded again.
Two weeks later and myself and Yaris (number 3) were facing the same stretch of road again, this time heading back in to Newcastle to see my niece, Michelle, who has now adopted the nom de plume of "Kitty", a Little Britain reference, one needs to take things from home to make ones life on the road more bearable. Curiously and completely unconnected the trip started with one of the most serious hangovers I have ever encountered, due in some part, but not all, I take responsibility for my own actions, to Jeremy and the gang who I saw the night before, the first time since the story above. How the car got there I cannot say, except in the last eight months of couch surfing I have learned that having a hangover is bad, but having one in someone else's house is far, far, worse, so took my sick stomach and its ever threatening vomit attack upwards along the Pacific Highway. In true rock and roll fashion my day ended with checking into the first hotel I found in the town and going to straight to bed.
Kitty and Myfanwy, Michelle and her travel companion, Estelle, who is a friend of my sister, met up in Bali and have passed through Darwin, the gold coast and now Newcastle like a tropical storm, not that I suggest that they leave devastation in their wake you understand. In meeting them we found that Newcastle, New South Wales has a very strange feature, there are many roads with the same name, Kitty texted me her address of Bull Street and there I stood looking up and down the road for the niece I haven't seen for over a year to appear, whilst at the other end of town she did the same. We counted three Estell streets, for obvious reasons and it seemed that every other street we were on was called Maitland. The tomtom was given a work out. Kitty and Myfanwy being impoverished backpackers have scored a gig being live-in part time cleaners at a newly renovated student dorm, or Halls of Residence (HoR), through the owner whose girlfriend Estelle has travelled with. The place has been renovated from being a retirement home and I found it odd that the it immediately smelt like student accommodation (I reasoned that I was the only person resident who had already been through the mill), all fresh clean and new, with a hint of disinfectant and paint, but could not work out if it was aroma of the old place coming through. In the finest tradition of these things, the builders were still building as the twenty of so yoof's were moving in that weekend, rooms weren't finished and doors were locked, which led to another problem, one that has added another event to my "wrong-directional" new life list.
I have shared a bed with a woman!
Sadly I report that it was my niece; we top to tailed, it was a very odd experience, obviously! and due to some sinus issues, she snored like her mother all night. I recognise as this list grows ever longer and further away from where I imagined my life to go, that I will now have to start being careful, there is not a lot left to happen that I can be casual about and am becoming hesitant over any trips to Thailand for fear of having to report a confused BJ to the list.
(I can further report that I have now been kissed by a boy, Evan, Christine's son, who's name she can readily remember, decided he wanted to say good bye properly the other day. After receiving a dribble covered peck on the lips I wiped my face only for us both to hear him exclaim "no, don't wipe my kiss off", so I have actually been kissed by a boy twice. This situation is getting silly!)
The girls have been settling in and despite its reputation in the country Newcastle is a beautiful town, now. One can easily see how it lumbered for most of the last century as a dirty old coal port but these days the city has a clean, arty feel backed by some of the most glorious civic architecture and really defines this odd Australian part colonial, part American mid Western aesthetic I found in Bendigo. The people though, from admittedly the smallest cross section that I saw, may take longer. We spent my last night in town in "the local", international terminology for the closest pub to the HoR. I don't remember its name and will never care to, but have had enough experience in rough pubs of Basingstoke, the Midlands and London to be easily able to cope with the pub's low level ninja hip hop drug dealer and his coke bottle spectacled drug mule side kick, the resident loonies at the bar and the massed throng of under aged drunk emo, indie and casual school kids, but we all had to draw the line at a group of three "ladies at lunch", the clue being that we arrived at nine at night. They were keen to press on, these once smartly dressed girls at the opposite table to us, not the copious amounts of wine they had obviously consumed over the course of the day, nor the obvious physical signs that they should have gone home long ago could stop them trying to work their way through the food on the table, not even, and yes this did happen, did they miss a beat when one of them let out a small cascade of vomit onto her plate, oh no and much to Kitty's dismay, as she was in direct line of sight, the gal just cut off the piece of meat that caught the flow and tried to carry on. Not to be out done, a short time after another of the trio let a bit go onto the floor, before the last of them had enough self respect left to go to the toilet. Surpassingly they were asked to leave.
Hmm Newcastle eh!, must be something in the name.
Finally and with great pleasure I am happy to write that Nate and Marisa are now parents to Archie, all 4.2kg's of him. I saw them today for lunch, a curious cyclic event, considering that they did the same for me when Tash was in hospital last year, but this time the opposite in so many ways (and yes it is the longest I have spent in a hospital since she died and yes it was not a totally pleasant experience for me, but one must move on). They are beautiful parents and thankfully Archie is not ugly. I have spent most of the week communing with Madge their Bulldog, who, though is astute enough to know that Marisa was pregnant, Madge is a mother herself, but one wonders if she really appreciates the maelstrom that is about to arrive. I feel that the new Ringold trio's journey will be of a similar flavour as Ben and Johanna's, a brave and honest push into an unknown world and seeing as I have just instinctively cleaned their house prior to their arrival from hospital, one that certainly will be supported by the rest of us.
Good bye for now.
I eat cannibal, feed on animal
Your love is so edible to me, I eat cannibals
I eat cannibal, it's incredible
You bring out the animal in me, I eat cannibal