Thursday, September 27, 2007

Toe-may-toe and to-mah-toe

After five years of saving every single bit of paper with my or Matt's name on it that arrives in the post, I'm finally applying for my indefinite leave visa. What this means is that, basically, I pay the immigration people an extortionate amount of money (see 'Why I won't be in Seattle for Christmas', exhibit 1.) to look through about 40 pieces of paper with my address on it and go 'Heh. Look at that. She quit the gym 5 months after joining.' At then end of this, they hopefully tell me I'm allowed to stay here.

Part of this was taking the wholly and completely idiotic Life in the UK test. I had to buy a book (£10) and pay the fee (£35) in addition to the extortion of applying for the visa in the first place. All to answer such riveting questions as 'When you take your dog into a public place, must the dog be wearing a collar with an identification tag?' and 'Which two out of the four ministers, two of whom aren't even ministers, are in the government?'

Wow guys. I don't know how I could exist in British society without knowing the answers to these. I mean, obviously, living here and having gotten my degree from a UK university totally does not show my ability to use the English language. And I never would have known which ministers are in the Cabinet if I hadn't taken the test because it is clear that I a) do not speak English, b) cannot read a newspaper, and c) don't know what this 'tee-vee' is. My life is impossibly better knowing which saint's crosses make up the British flag (in case you care, the Welsh get stiffed again in this).

So. Go immigration! We love the Home Office! Now, as per usual, I'll wait three months for anything to happen even though it's supposed to take 3 weeks. ::sigh:: These Europeans.


Monday, September 24, 2007

The never ending fountain of socks

Due to the deadly enabling efforts of Lime & Violet, earlier this year I finally couldn't resist any longer and subscribed to the Hill Country Yarns sock yarn club. This was back in that hazy time known as 'summer', that lasted for about five seconds this year in London before being eaten by clouds. Since those five seconds, I'd totally forgotten about signing up for the sock club.

Saturday, I dragged my very tired self out of bed. There's never any food in the flat by the weekend, so Matt and I usually head out for breakfast pretty early. Passing by the ledge our post gets shoved onto, I saw the package and grabbed it.

No package can possibly be bad.

Opening it, I discovered the most beautiful, squishy periwinkle-blue yarn. Which I then carried around with me, and squished every now and then through the entirity of breakfast. It completely made my Saturday, especially as from now through Christmas there's absolutely no way I can afford to buy any yarn for myself - it's all going to be for presents. I think I might have to remember this for next year - buy presents for yourself in June that get delivered between September and December. And anyway, I can always use more yarn.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Like a record baby, right round right round

Music has been a major part of my life for the majority of it. I distinctly remember a particular birthday when I was about 12 or 13, when one of my friends gave me a cassette single (yes, I’m old. I know this. Be quiet.) of Salt’n’Peppa’s and I rather anxiously put it on in the car on the way to school one day. I was old enough to get that they were maybe talking about more ‘adult’ subjects, but still too young to quite know what they were actually talking about. My mother listened for the first minute or so, her knuckles getting whiter and whiter on the steering wheel before jabbing her finger several times at the eject button before the song finally stopped. The cassette disappeared, never again appearing.

High school brought new music into my life in the form of grunge – after all, this was the 90s, and I was in Seattle. I fell in love with Pearl Jam and Blind Melon. Long December, by the Counting Crows, arrived on a radio station compliation cd a close friend of mine had, and became a theme for my Decembers. When I was angry at my parents, I played two songs from the Batman Forever soundtrack on my crap little cd player – Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me by U2 and Smash It Up by the Offspring because my mother hated both of them. I also finally understood the stations my Dad listened to, and Fleetwood Mac, The Eagles, Steve Miller Band, and many more groups from the 60s and 70s joined my ever-expanding cd collection.

My freshman year at Western, there was this fantastic noise coming from a room on the guys floor, and when I stuck my head in to see who it was I made a friend that I still talk to. In addition to being introduced to Dave Matthews Band, of course. Pink Floyd’s Division Bell became the background noise at the parties I went to (well, it was Western). These were also the years that I started getting into techno in all its many forms, and none of my friends could understand how I could study French while Rabbit in the Moon pulsed through my dorm room. Techno music was the first I could actually dance to, and I threw myself into the Seattle rave scene hard.

Moving to Wales in 2002 changed things. Almost every radio station in the country plays pop, of the sugary-sweet kind, and my huge collection of cds and downloaded music was what I listened to exclusively. It’s only been in the last year or so that I’ve started getting an influx of new music again, and it surprised me how much I missed it.

I’ve been discovering new bands, with new songs, and I’m loving it. I’m also rediscovering bands that I wasn’t very aware of when they were big, and getting to appreciate them more than I would have before. My youngest sister has surprisingly good taste (most of the time) and, although it makes me feel old to have a 15 year old point out bands I should be listening to, am enjoying having something in common with her for the first time I can remember.

I’ve noticed that the songs I like on particular cds seem to evolve with me – there were some that I loved when I was 16 that I’m not a big fan of now, and other songs that have taken on an entirely new meaning with experience. I’m looking forward to finding a new soundtrack.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

A day late

One of the things that occasionally whacks me in the ass about living overseas is dates. I have no idea when Labor Day is, the 4th of July slides by in the haze another frantic work week, and Thanksgiving ambushes me when I'm getting frustrated trying to call someone in the States. Most of the time, I have to look at a calendar, do some counting, and go 'Oh. Well. That would be why they're not picking up then.' It's slightly disconcerting, like if the sky was suddenly lavender, and everyone around you was saying that it was still blue. It's not much of a difference, but still. It's not the same.

So about yesterday. The day my brain went, 'Wait, I think there's something I'm supposed to mention' I never know what to say on September 11th. Or about it. I'm sure it's supposed to be this uber-patriotic day, with flag waving and sadness for the loss of life and all, but it's difficult to be patriotic when you're living in a different country (or this could just be me).

Living over here has given me a very different view of the States than I had before. I see the broken bits, the tarnished parts that America tries to cover up, the school-yard bully aspects of my native culture. Most of what you hear about America when you're living outside it is...not good. The rest world doesn't really like us, like how you didn't like your idiotic, brainless younger sister when all she could talk about was boys and GOD GET AN OPINION OF YOUR OWN ALREADY. I know there are good bits, shining examples of humanity and caring in there too, but you don't get to see them when you're not living there. You just hear about the screw-ups, the meanness, the stupidity of our nation's leaders, and the mistakes made.

No one deserved to die, on those planes or in New York in 2001. What those people did was wrong, and misguided. I will never be able to understand why they did it, or how anyone could consider doing sometime like that in any circumstances, at any point in time.

But the rest of the world can't dislike us just because. There's a reason there, whether we agree with it or not. So maybe we should start trying to find out about it.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The smallest space in the world

My flat in London is small. I don't think that I can describe just how small it actually is, without drawing the layout and the possible use of photographs. My camera died and I haven't been able to get my new one yet, so here is my attempt to explain why asking to stay at my place for any length of time is just...well, not the best idea in the world if you don't want to go insane.

This is my flat:It is not to scale, as I'm a crappy drawer in Paint. The green bits are all doors, with the one on the top left being how we get in. The two right next to each other on the right are sort-of French doors leading to a small, paved hole in the ground that is our 'garden'. The one in the upper right is the door to a small closet. All the brown bits are furniture or fixed objects that we can't move because they are all in the only space that they will fit in, like in the L-shaped bit sticking off the top of the main room - that's our kitchen. It has a stove with 2 hobs, and an oven that you can't use if you're using both hobs. That tiny blue thing is our shower (the toilet is outside the flat, in the hallway. We share it with our neighbor.) Black is the pointless radiator that is in the worst possible place, and the purple is our bed.

Now. I share a basement studio flat with my boyfriend. In this flat, the furniture consists of a bed (purple), bookshelf (top left), fixed wardrobe (bottom left), 'entertainment centre' (upper middle), and desk for computer (lower right). The bed is a sofa-bed that folds up so we can, you know, move around. When the bed is down there is about 2 feet of space on the right hand side by the bookshelf, and maybe 3 on the side with the desk. There is just enough space to squeeze by, carefully, between the corner of the bed and the telly. 2 people in the kitchen is a no-no, especially as that apparently clear space against the wall is actually full of things like rubbish bins, and ironing board, and the drying racks for our clothes. We don't have a washer or dryer, we have a fun total of 2 whole cupboards and one drawer for all food and food-related items (pots and pans and such).

At this point I should probably mention that Matt and I are not tidy people. We're clean, certainly, but not tidy. It's not uncommon for piles of paper, books, or clothes to build up at various places in this room. Recently he's been fiddling with the computer, so there is electrical-ness exploded in the desk area. I knit, and yarn takes up space. There is enough stuff on top of the bookshelf to require another bookshelf, but we don't have the space.

Does anyone see any room for two people in this space, much less more? I love you, my wonderful friends. I miss you. I want to see you.


No, you cannot stay with me. No, not even just for a weekend. One night, if you're arriving at stupid-o'clock, yes. Because I miss you. But seriously guys. Look at the place. It's just not gonna work out.


Friday, September 07, 2007

The life which bounced

In my new-found bento obsession, I've been eating a lot of rice. And when I say that, I really mean that white sticky rice has begun to dominate my lunches. Onigiri, or rice balls, with all sorts of fillings, fluffy rice pressed into the bottom of a container and then covered with flavoured sprinkles both make up the majority of my lunch these days. Along with some miso soup, the occasional hard-boiled egg (sometimes a tea egg) and some vegetables or fruit, my lunch has become one of my favourite parts of the day. Strangely, I've never felt better. It's great - I'm never hungry until about 7 or 8 at night now. I used to come home absolutely starving after having eaten at least one packet of biscuits at work. So the bento-style lunches are definitely a winner. ^_^

The obsession with them is also growing in leaps and bounds. Last weekend, while dragging a friend from Cardiff two the two Japanese-food markets that are within walking distance of my flat, I saw that they were having an odd sort of yard sale (odd, because it was really kind of a sidewalk sale. In Piccadilly Circus. Where there is barely space to walk to begin with.) in front of the Japan Centre. Walking up, my eye was immediately caught by the four small-looking bento boxes they had for £2.99. My inner Japanese 5-year-old kicked in, I grabbed the hot pink box, and clutched it to my chest while digging in my bag for my cash. I felt like running home to immediately make lunch, just so I could put it in the box and then eat it. I also bought a pair of small chopsticks with penguins on them. They are not pink, and they also do not fit into the chopstick holder in the bento box. It was a very sad moment. I've been rubberbanding them to the top, which is working well.

Now all I need is to start cutting out star shapes, and hearts, and making faces on my eggs, and I'll be full-fledged into the obsession. Maybe I can knit a holder for my bento box?

Hmmm...this will take planning...


Monday, September 03, 2007

Gonna be a bright, bright sunshiney day

I woke up slightly before my alarm this morning. For most people, this might not be unusual. After all, when your alarms always goes off at the same time every day you start just waking up then. However due to the earlier presence and now absence of the alien in my throat, this is something that hasn't happened to me. At least in the last year or so.

For the last few months especially, I have been tired. Not the kind of tired that a few extra hours of sleep on the weekend can cure either. Tired like you haven't slept in three days, and you've been out dancing every night, and you think that if you have to stay awake and try to function any more you might actually fall over dead because you just can't do it. So life has involved a lot of me making excuses to friends because I just don't have the energy to meet up for a coffee, or a chat, or go to my Saturday dnd sessions. And it sucks ass.

Waking up today, I felt...okay. I felt awake, as you should do after a good night's sleep. I didn't feel like getting out of bed was trying to extract myself from the stickiest substance available. And I remembered that this was what waking up in the morning used to be like. It didn't used to be a struggle of epic proportions to wake up early enough to take a shower, make my lunch, and have breakfast. I used to have the energy to meet up with people, and maybe do some exercise (if I was feeling really ambitious), and not walk through my day missing things because my brain just wasn't functioning properly.

I miss this. It feels fragile, like it's going to disappear any second. And I don't want to go back to the bone-numbing tiredness. I don't know what to do.