Monday, 30 January 2012

Reading - not the town

As it's just about the anniversary of my reading my first proper book (Jane Eyre, I was not quite 5 and a half and just a smidge precocious) I thought I'd do a little blog about reading.

I love Reading. Have I ever told you that? It's my number one hobby - no wait, it's more than a hobby. It's so much a part of me and who I am, that it's more like a part of my DNA than a thing I do. I have to do it, like breathing, to stay alive. It was and is my first love. I'll be reading until my eyes stop working or I die. In the case of the former, then I'll learn me some braille and get that shit on! In the case of the latter, I won't be around to mind much. I'll be too busy being stardust. I'll have a go at reading pretty much anything. Noir, SF/F, Romance, Horror, Biographies, Religion, Philosophy, Art, whatever. It's all reading to me and I need it in my brainpan. I want it all. That said, I have finally learned to put something down when it's just not doing it for me. You know, the times when you look at a book that's been sitting there for a week and you feel like your fingers will snap off from its sheer weighty not-for-youness if you so much as try to pick it up? Some books are just like that for me, but I used to make myself finish them regardless. Now, however, I'm not so sure there's enough time left for me to even get through all the books that excite the shit out of me, so why would I bang my head on that brick wall of book just because I "should finish it" - yikes, I can hear my mum's voice saying it to me! She's the Evil Queen when it comes to books; that woman cannot let a book go unfinished. She's a word sucking machine (and that's just one more reason why I love her) I'll give a book a fair go, but I'm not finishing it if it looks like it'll finish me first.

As with any great love, however, there are problems. Books make me panic. I have a lot of books. I mean A LOT - I confess that I tend to judge my friends on their attitudes to reading - tell me you don't read and I'd really rather you left me in peace. Sometimes I look at them, the books not the philistines, and I get palpitations. What if I can't get through them all? What I've read in my 33 year reading history is still only the tip of the iceberg anyway, so what if I can't finish the ton I have here in my apartment and can never even get onto the next step of "everything else"? The panic flutters in my tummy like exam morning anxiety and I know I'm going to fail. I can't read everything. No way ... but then that little voice, the one that so often gets me into trouble, pipes up. "No," it says, all sweetness, " but you can try". And so it goes.

Then there are other times, when I look around my rooms (there are books in every one, except the bathroom after a most unfortunate incident) and think, "this is it. This is how life is supposed to be. For me. Look at them all. I'm going to read that one, the cheeky minx, and you can smile at me all you like over there, you big black spined gorgeous, because you know I'm not going to miss out on you either."

I dream about books, I smell them, flick through their pages, touch them with my fingertips and sigh.

This is why I spend the majority of time on my own.

Monday, 16 January 2012

Skiiing - an aside

At the ripe old age of 38 and after living in Switzerland for nearly 6 years, I went skiiing for the first time yesterday. I only fell over twice, a result, but I have to confess that at times in the first hour or so, I would happily have poked the ski poles where the sun does not always make itself known and stomped off in a huff. But I had forgotten how stubborn I can be when it comes to these things and kept on going. I wasn't ready to ski on the slopes in the afternoon (Yates gave me the stern face before telling everyone no, I should say) so I spent an hour soaking in the sun in the freezing cold on top of a mountain in the middle of the Alps. It was a beautiful thing. I was so tired when I got home that I only managed to make it through twenty minutes of Sherlock before dribbling a sufficient amount to wake me up and send me off up the little wooden hill. 

I woke up this morning to find that my chest had clearly been stamped on by a giant. It soon became apparent that I was never going to be able to sit myself up again because my arms appeared to have been subject to the same gigantic mistreatment. The same story sung itself from almost every inch of my screaming flesh, except the bottom of my feet which are peachy. All in all, it was brilliant! One of the best feelings I've woken up to for years. It's easing off now, stretching exercises seemed demented but boy were they worth it.  The serotonin stimulated by my day of sweating, swearing, skiiing and sunbathing has left me slightly high and very determined. I'm going to run later, in training now donchaknooo, and I'm going skiing again at the end of the week. In the meantime, I'm reading some skiiing advice and watching videos, because I'm going to become a proficient skier, baby. Oh yes indeed. BOOM!

Friday, 13 January 2012

Love is Not All

Love is not all: it is not meat nor drink
Nor slumber nor a roof against the rain;
Nor yet a floating spar to men that sink
And rise and sink and rise and sink again;
Love can not fill the thickened lung with breath,
Nor clean the blood, nor set the fractured bone;
Yet many a man is making friends with death
Even as I speak, for lack of love alone.
It well may be that in a difficult hour,
Pinned down by pain and moaning for release,
Or nagged by want past resolution's power,
I might be driven to sell your love for peace,
Or trade the memory of this night for food.
It well may be. I do not think I would.

                                                            - Edna St. Vincent Millay

This is my favourite poem. It addresses something that is very important to me; it sets forth an idea of Real Love™ It's not the ridiculous hearts and flowers of impossible expectation, but the kind of love that lasts, grows, strengthens. The kind of love that you don't know you want, or know that you should expect, until you have it. It's flawed, sometimes angry, sometimes confusing, sometimes it is the most tender feeling you will ever know, and it is able to grow because of the very flaws that would make many turn their backs on it.

Love is a funny thing. We all want it (or mostly all) and yet it seems so elusive and delicate that our clammy hands can never quite get hold of it - not without breaking it anyway. To many, it's a dream, a hope, and it often ends in disaster and heartbreak.

Here's my theory. Something smooth and perfect has the tendency to be brittle. Something flawed is often hardier. Love works when you understand that the person you love is not perfect and never will be - and that you yourself are a thing of imperfection should not be ignored. Love is the deal you make, the point where you decide "you know what? I don't care if you X, Y, or Z, I still want to be with you, even though that X,Y or bloody Z keeps coming around like a scheduled train. I can live with it. I have to live with it, otherwise it would mean being without you and that just doesn't sit well with me. Sometimes I do want to cave your skull in with my shoe, but those times pass and when they're gone I remember all the reasons why your skull is beautiful just the way it is. When those jolly old chips are down, I might fight to save myself, I might tread on you to get to the surface or sell you out to make sure I'm okay. It could happen, I'm not perfect. Neither are you. But I do not think I would."


It's been a week since I saw it, and I have to say that I'm very glad I did go to see Shame. Cracking acting. Really cracking, from both Fassbender, who's getting all the attention, but also from Carey Mulligan. They both actually "acted" and for the first time in a while I was watching people on the screen, not actors pretending. I hate when you watch a film and you're distracted by who's in it, rather than being taken along with the story or situation. There was none of that pretty tying up of loose ends; McQueen doesn't even try, and that's part of what impressed me - that and that there was no attempt for a bad ending either. Hollywood these days seems to try to establish credibility by replacing a trite happy ending with a "dark" ending ... which ends up being every bit as trite most of the time. In some ways it has a cathartic end, but, on the other hand, one does wonder if this isn't simply how the obviously damaged brother and sister carry on, that they're stuck on this merry-go-round.

It did keep going round in my head, however, that this might have been a much different film if Fassbender's character had been female. It might not have worked with a female protagonist as its reception would certainly have been much different. There likely would have been more than a few "Cor blimey's, she gets her tits out, cracks one off in the toilet every five minutes and goes around nobbing all the time, fnar", and the amount of cellulite on her thighs would have been red circled in every publication with crayons.

Shame is an observation. I can't say that I liked it, but it did stay with me. Made me think. Gads, I might actually have loved it, but I'm still not sure I liked it. Which is a result. A good film doesn't have to be liked. It just has to be watched.