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Finding my way

When I first moved to Bristol I could barely get from my front door to the local shops without a map. For a time, everywhere I went – and I went everywhere by foot – I carried with me in my bag a Bristol and Bath A-Z (that’s ‘A to zed’ for the uninitiated).

Someone I work with, a new arrival to Bristol, was asking the other day which of two routes (displayed on Google Maps on the PC screen before us) I thought was the best for getting to a particular location. I thought one would be quicker but might require her to wend her way through a few streets and so I asked, ‘Do you have an A-Z?’ I almost instantly laughed out loud, conceding that she would obviously just use her phone to find her way and would have no need for a paper book of maps. To be fair, it was only 8 years ago that I came here, but I guess that’s a long time in some ways. I’m only just getting my first smart phone this very week (it so happens), so the way I look at such things is probably a bit skewed anyway.

I still have my A-Z and I still use it from time to time. I like how it’s been softened and dog-eared by the years, the corners of certain key pages are turned down and there’s the occasional sticky note on a page with scribbled instructions for getting to somebody’s house. I’ve lived and worked on a number of different pages in this book and I’ve visited many more. People used to stop me in those early days of my Bristol life and ask me the way to somewhere. I’d usually say that I didn’t know…but that I did happen to have a map. Together we’d have a look and find the elusive destination on one of the pages.

I learned this city on my feet. I used to walk off in some direction or another just to get lost and then, when lost enough, I would find myself again using my book of maps. It didn’t always work and sometimes I’d stay lost longer than planned. I once dragged an unsuspecting brother of mine, visiting from the US, along on one of these ‘lost with a map in hand’ escapades. But eventually my feet did, and usually do, (somehow) find their way.

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I like this, from Jeanette Winterson writing in the Guardian today, about the idea of ‘occupying’ Valentine’s Day.

National Love Day could become the secular sister of the Jewish Day of Atonement. Instead of saying sorry to everyone we have offended, we could hug those we love and who love us – and give some hugs to those who don’t get hugged enough.

OMG, it’s The Bachelor!

At the urging of one of my most hilarious friends, I last night watched the first episode of the new season of ABC’s The Bachelor.

In the important pre-show briefing between friend and I (carried out by telephone between a hotel in Chicago and a backyard deckchair in Tucson) I learned that there would be much ridiculousness, high levels of “boy craziness” and that a post-show debrief would be essential.

So I tracked down the show that evening and within moments was scrabbling around for pen and paper with which to capture just a taste of the truly amazing content. Here are some of the sparkling gems…

“I’ll be disappointed if Ben doesn’t eat some cow balls.”

This was from Amber, a big game hunter and a woman with clearly defined culinary views. I think she knows what she wants from a relationship.

“It’s really hard to have a conversation with him when he’s blindfolded and being fed different kinds of…candy!”

From across the room comes this objection from a contestant who probably wishes she’d thought of blindfolding the amazing Ben and feeding him something (presumably not cow balls).

“Rode in on a horse? She makes us look bad!”

Such are the whispers, bordering on outrage, that were to be heard after the entrance of a horse loving contestant on, you guessed it, a horse. How dare she?

“I’m at the point in my life where I’m a model…”

This is a comment from deep thinking contestant Courtney, reflecting on where she is in life. She also makes it clear during the evening that she has no need to feel jealousy as she is – has she mentioned? – a model.

Courtney may be above jealousy, or so she says, but there is plenty of it on display from everyone else. One contestant gets so overwrought that she spends the second half of the episode bawling in the bathroom and is late to the all important Rose Ceremony. The drama!

“He’s so real!”

And we mustn’t forget that our beloved bachelor Ben is from the get-go absolutely adored by each and every of the 25 contestants. No one says “well, he’s cute but I’d like to get to know him first.” No, they are all oozing phrases like these: “He’s so real!” and “He’s so sincere!” (Ladies, I saw the bit after the episode where we’re shown “highlights” from the rest of the season and, well, good luck with that. He appears to sincerely and really like several of you, possibly all at the same time but I couldn’t really tell.)

What a tragedy that I will not be able to watch what happens next, as we don’t have ABC in the UK and I don’t think abc.com or Hulu will let me in from overseas! I’ll never get to find out firsthand whether Ben ate some cow balls.

I think I’m going to have to go away now and cry in the toilet.

Yoga and my bicycle

English: Yoga 4 Love Community Outdoor Yoga cl...
Image via Wikipedia

I guess there are always things you will miss when you travel away from home, even if you’re visiting another place that’s ‘home’. Two things I have been missing while away from Bristol for the holidays: yoga and my trusty bike (whose name I now think is Petal, though she doesn’t always answer when I call her). Ah, to cycle in the warm sun on flat roads! Ok, Bristol isn’t entirely made up of hills and isn’t entirely devoid of sunshine, but you know, it’s December, or January (depending on the time zone) and, well…some people will know what I mean.

Anyway, no bike here. But yoga, yes. My brother and his girlfriend wanted to find a class while in town and thought, correctly, that I might be similarly inclined. They researched what was on offer and I awaited their findings. The class they turned up was a 90-minute Bikram Method class. Was I still interested? Now, I had never been to a Bikram class before, though I’d heard tales from those taking up introductory offers in Bristol. Lives being taken over during the introductory month! Sweat and money pouring out everywhere! Was it strangely regimented or something? If I tried it, would I keel over and be expelled from the class (like so much student sweat)?!

Ah well, nothing ventured, nothing gained. Reviews of the studio in question suggested that there would be “no shouting”. This we found encouraging. In fact, not only was there no shouting, the place we went to, Yoga Vida, was really welcoming. There was a lot of sweating, of course, but there was also encouragement and humour. And I felt great doing it and felt great afterwards. Yoga, I said I’d missed you!

Awww, a happy ending to this tale. How nice. Another thing I’ve missed of late is writing this blog. So here I am again. Watch out.

A rule of my universe

I cannot find tahini in the supermarket unless I am not looking for it.

I have learned this from long experience. However, long experience has also led me to know that it exists on one of approximately two aisles. To locate it, one then has to – and I say this as if this is a general rule of the universe when in reality it likely is not – walk down the approximately two suspected aisles (where I know it will be on my right if I walk towards the back of the store) and – this is important – move in a  nonchalant manner, never looking  directly at the suspected shelves within the approximately two aisles.

If you think I’m making this up, allow me to tell you this strategy, newly unveiled, worked perfectly today and I had tahini in my basket within one pass down the approximately two aisles. And no scowling or muttering. Just calm, sidelong glances at the shelving.

Tahini and apparent sanity – a good day in the supermarket.

The kind of conversation you have with your expat American friends

Upon entering the corner shop, a mild confusion sets in. To the mobile.

“Hi, was it chips you meant, as in chips, or chips like crisps?

“It was chips! Like french fries.”

“Ah ok, I thought that’s probably what you meant. But suddently wondered if you were speaking American. Thought I’d check.”

“Well, whichever you want, but chips.”

“Yeah, yeah, chips are good. That’s what I thought you meant. Oven chips. Got them.”

Dear Brown Boots

Dear Brown Boots,

I miss you.

I can’t remember where or exactly when I bought you, although I know it was in a secondhand shop in the southwest – either of America or of England. I sort of think it was around five or six years ago, and I know for a fact that you were once with me in Arizona because my sister was there too and thought you were pretty groovy. (I think you and I were both a bit pleased about that.)

Dear Brown Boots, you zipped up the side and looked good with jeans.

Dear Brown Boots, you helped me feel brave.

Dear Brown Boots, can you remember, did I buy you when I left England for half a year, to spend time in the desert, to take a hiatus in the city of my birth? I know that you were there around that time. I believe we used to sometimes go to gigs downtown together. Did you come out that night the Kissers, from Madison, played at Plush and I danced and danced? Do you remember Rasputina at Club Congress?

Dear Brown Boots, you know, I could have used your chunky heels the other night at the Anson Rooms. I still enjoyed the band but everyone in the crowd seemed very tall.

I think I have given up looking for you. I know that you travelled with me to Bristol and we settled in first one place, then another, and a third. That last time we moved, I know you found a spot to safely perch. I remember you were here. And I know we continued, as we always had, to go out from time to time together. But now I cannot find you.

Dear Brown Boots, I hope wherever you are you are happy. I hope you are not being held prisoner, covered in dust.

I hope wherever you are, you still sometimes dance. I do.

 

Dear Brown Boots,

 

I miss you.

 

I can’t remember where or exactly when I bought you, although I know it was in a secondhand shop in the southwest – either of America or of England. I sort of think it was around five or six years ago, and I know for a fact you once were with me in Arizona because my sister was there too and thought you were pretty groovy. (I think you and I were both a bit pleased about that.)

 

Dear Brown Boots, you zipped up the side and looked good with jeans.

 

Dear Brown Boots, you made me feel gooood.

 

Dear Brown Boots, so did I buy you when I left England for half a year, to spend time in the desert, to take a hiatus in the city of my birth? I know that you were there. I believe we used to sometimes go to gigs downtown together. Were you there that night the Kissers, from Madison, played at Plush and I danced and danced? Do you remember Rasputina at Club Congress?

 

Dear Brown Boots, you know, I could have used your height the other evening at the Anson Rooms. Everyone seemed very tall.

 

But I have given up looking for you. I know that you travelled with me to Bristol and we settled in first one place, then another, and a third. That last time we moved, I know you safely found a spot to perch. I remember you here. And I know we continued to go out from time to time together. But now I cannot find you.

 

Dear Brown Boots, I hope wherever you are you are happy. I hope you are not being held prisoner. I hope you are not covered in dust.

 

I hope wherever you are, you still sometimes dance.