distance

Some side effects are not known until they are experienced; nobody keeps a record, because the list would be too long. The side effects of distance present themselves to the individual as time goes by, and all cases are different.

I sat in Civic Square, after everything was established as being ‘okay’. For the time being. I walked behind a tourist family who chattered away, wondering at their whereabouts. The mother noticed the gulls padding around, screeching at one another, and commented that they must be back near the sea.

They were, of course, and yet all I could think about was seeing a lone seagull in Montreal, several months into my time there. Montreal is on an island, but it’s a long way from the sea. It was a moment not unlike the first rainfall that I experienced while there (rain! this is so exciting! it’s warm enough to RAIN!), but a little more emotionally fraught.

Homesickness is a bitch.

But this isn’t about homesickness, not exactly. It’s about difficulty, it’s about frustration, it’s about being in the wrong place – or someone else being in the wrong place, at least. It’s about distance.

I have already written here about how my dad is in Honiara, in the Solomon Islands. Fortunately, it has been a milder couple of weeks for them since the floods and storms and earthquakes of earlier this month. But the worry still exists – the thought that something even more dire could yet happen, while I sit in my windswept but mostly safe house on a hill in this strange little corner of the world I call home.

Then, closer to ‘home,’ yet still far away, Auckland looms to the north. Last night, I forgot to turn off my alarm, and so I woke up earlier than I meant to. In scrabbling to turn the sound off, I saw missed calls, texts. And so, I found out, seven-ish hours after the fact, that my mum had had a midnight ambulance ride to the hospital, and was still there.

Things like that will really reinforce the distance.

She was discharged late this morning, and I had just gotten off the phone to her when I sat down in Civic Square. I accidentally dropped a bit of my sandwich, and was inundated by gulls and pigeons. After the initial furore had died down, I watched them wait in hope, a couple of them clearly in positions of authority as they puffed themselves up and marched towards others, undeserving of this chance at scraps. I went to the library, I went to work, my head trying desperately to keep everything level. We drank gin and tonics at the end of the day, and I caught the bus home, everything still churning, and all sorts of write this down! ideas came and went, but this one was the most obvious one to stick with.

And so here it is. Distance.

une année sans lumière?

I should be happy.

In the sun, on the street, behind and between pages, there are moments, but they come and go and I have no control over it. Every night, getting into bed, clambering back out to take the little white pill that is supposed to make everything okay. But the pill is to the body like I am to this city, and we both rattle around in this space, not quite sure what we’re doing, not quite succeeding at whatever it is we set out to do.

I feel like I exist in class, at work and at home. That’s it. I have never needed constant social interaction, but to have nothing beyond those three spheres is difficult. The time when I am ‘free’ from academic and work commitments is spent recuperating from life, trying to hold onto this fragile thread of adequate health that I’m depending on. Knowing that I can go (and have gone) weeks, months, without physical human contact is overwhelmingly soul destroying. Nobody to talk to about feeling down, nobody who I can break down in front of and not worry about being judged.

The two months (ish) that I had before I moved down here were the most painful I’ve had. November was the worst I have ever felt in my life, and I don’t say that lightly. I thought I had some certainty, at least in being loved, even if I wasn’t sure what I was working towards in any other facet of my life. Now I am alone, and I am working towards a life in an industry with an unknown future.

The worst part is, that half of it is beautiful. Wellington is wonderful, as a city, and some of the people in it are fantastic, but there are few things more difficult than establishing close friendships from the ground up. My classes are great, the projects I will be working on are brilliant, and my job is the bookstore dream. I have met people from all over the book world, and it has been thrilling – but after every class, every event, every shift, I get on the 14 bus, and go home. The internet, a book, a few notebook scribbles, and bed.

I drink too much coffee. I drink coffee, and then my insides twist and wrench and ache. But I’m tired, because I’m sick, so I need the energy. Hell of a vicious cycle. I eat fruit, because I’m sick of eating junk, and then it hurts all the more. I should be eating low-residue, because everything has fallen to pieces, but it takes a lot of self-control to do that, and when there’s a high chance I’ll be in pain anyway, why would I bother? Like right now. I haven’t eaten anything typically uncooperative, but waves of pain still come. So the tramadol comes out, as do the tears of frustration and pain.

I want to be happy. I know that I have ups and downs even when things are ‘good’, but being lonely drags the downs deeper, and keeps them there. I want someone to cuddle me and tell me my hair smells good. I want to have people to hug hello and goodbye. I want to have stories to write that don’t all peter out because the protagonists are either trapped in a room and it depresses me, or their lives are more cheerful than mine and I find myself jealous of my own creations. It’s easier to sit, watch, occasionally read. Trawl through the internet in the hopes of finding some spark of inspiration or light, or just to pass the time until sleep or the final hope of interaction for the night has been extinguished.

I write this because it is all that I can do. Words are all that I have, because I don’t want to rely on my unpredictable emotions anymore, worrying that the wrong/right Nick Cave song will come on at work and be an emotional trigger, because it represents when Things Were Good. I don’t need to have exactly what I had before, I realise that now – most of the time – but I need to have something. I need to be able to love my life, and not just the city and the books inside it.

wholly bagels & pizza – a review on the fly

baby bagelsmall but perfectly formed.

This is actually sort of a three part review, because I have had Wholly Bagels & Pizza thrice since my arrival. Oops. But I’ll focus on the first time, which was the best experience. Cuba Mall is probably my favourite of the branches that I’ve visited, and the coffee was on point – long blacks are always a good way of gauging an establishment’s coffee-concocting abilities, since it’s coffee sans any flourishes. Short blacks would be similarly useful, I imagine, but their potency is just a little much for me to handle. My mum assures me that their flat whites were good too – she prefers one that isn’t too ultra milk-heavy, and it did well on this matter. I had a jalapeño cheddar bagel with sun-dried tomato cream cheese, and it was fine indeed, though a little too much for my tender stomach to consume all at once. Would recommend this particular combo.

Time the second was at the new Willis Street branch, and consisted of a cheeky bit o’ pizza, in part because I was having Sal’s cravings and it was the closest I could get to in this part of the country. Not bad, not bad, but no Sal’s, at least not overall. That being said, their pepperoni was better than I’ve had elsewhere – but it’s never my flavour of choice, so I feel it’s a little unfair to draw significant comparisons until I’ve had a flavour more to my tastes, but one must make do with limited cabinet offerings in the mid-afternoon.

And time the third was a mixed bag. Customhouse Quay, and empty except for me. The bagel I had was delicious (bacon and egg, with cheese and relish, on a mini plain bagel) but the coffee was just awful. It tasted salty, which at first made me wonder whether I’d grabbed the wrong sachets, but I double checked the residue, and it was definitely sugar. Very strange, very unpleasant. I probably should have mentioned it to staff there, but I was in a bit of a rush, so just downed what I could stomach, before moving on.

The moral of the story? Their bagels are gorgeous across the table, but the coffee can be hit-or-miss. The Cuba Mall location would definitely be my recommendation, especially on sunny days when there are magical buskers outside. And the $7 coffee and bagel special is hella good in a world where half the cafe sandwiches cost that much or more. Go do it. Just make sure you say something if your coffee tastes a little funky.

This Wellingtonian Life™ (not actually trademarked) – in which I talk about many things, including serendipity, words and coffee

Kia ora, readers!

Before I forget to mention it, I first need to mention I HAVE A REAL PROPER WEBSITE. www.rawlibrary.co.nz. Please do check it out. Rest assured, this is still where the blogging shall happen.

It has been a bit of a lull, I know – I’ve had intermittent internet coverage, and all sorts of things on my plate. But today, I have set up camp in the lovely Wellington Central Library, and am mooching off the half hour of free internet before I succumb to paying for more. February 2nd – the day I move into my flat – cannot come soon enough. Nice view here, though.

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So, This Wellingtonian Life™. I’ll be more attached to it once I have an actual room to call my own, and can access my books and external hard drive (foolishly packed into my storage stuff – I’m down to GoT, Sherlock and Hannibal on my laptop), but despite the wind attempting to carry me away, or at the very least, making me regret wearing sandals and/or full skirts, it is still proving most delightful.

Let’s have a bit of a photo introduction, shall we? All of these, and more, can be trawled through on my Instagram account.

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Not the warmest of welcomes. Wellington is one of those places that, I was already most aware, the beautiful days are virtually beyond compare, but the rest of them… a little more grim. Still, good to arrive without any delusions as to what I was coming to, right?

Day One (first full day – let’s call that grim rainy day Day Zero, since I only arrived part way through the day) was beautiful, and busy. I introduced my mother to Wholly Bagels* (delicious) and positioned myself in front of the Doctor Who lifts in the James Smith building, as evidence below shows.

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This Day One was better known as The Day Of Interviews. I chatted with Wellington band City Oh Sigh for my next NZ Musician piece, while consuming coffee #2 of the day. They were lovely, their music is lovely, and I will be sure to post a link here when the piece (and their album) comes out. For now, suffice it to say that the record is beautiful, and you should all listen to the first single, Sometimes.

After Interview #1 came #2 (which was really more of a chat, but still. It fits with the feeling of the day), with the lovely Kelly of the NZ Festival team. Care for a story of serendipity? Let me tell ya…

ImageIt all starts with Neko Case.

I fired up my laptop once I got back to the motel after some wandering in search of food on Day Zero. Opened Twitter, and saw the most recent post was a competition question from the NZ Festival feed, to win the new Neko Case CD. Well, I like Neko Case, I thought to myself, and it’s just been posted, so I have a chance, wahoo! The question was regarding how many days until the festival started, and I knew that it begins the same day as my course, so it was easy peasy. I replied, got in first, won the CD. Emailed Kelly to ask if I could collect it rather than have it sent out, since I was yet to be at my official address. All fine and dandy, I arranged to pop into the St James Theatre sometime in the next few days to collect it.

Then I had an email from Kelly the next day, while I was on my way to meet up with City Oh Sigh, asking if we could perhaps grab coffee because she had checked out my blog and had a couple of projects she’s like to chat to me about.

First real day in Wellington, people, and I felt like I was being hit with the WTF-IS-GOING-ON-THIS-DOESN’T-HAPPEN stick. Someone with pulling power reading this here blog, and having it actually lead to something?

So I turned up to the St James, met up with Kelly for Coffee #3 of the day, at Jimmy’s in the lobby of the theatre. Turns out she’s been looking for a book-blogger-type to do some write-ups of NZ Fest Writers Week events. And she saw this here blog linked from my Twitter after I won the CD. And the stars seemed to align, on some level. So I said yes, of course. And will be going to the Writers Week launch (where all of the guests will be announced) this week. The likes of Alison Bechdel, Tom Keneally, Jung Chang and Elizabeth Gilbert have already been announced, so no matter what it is going to be pretty damn excellent.

So thanks, Neko Case, you’re a fricking pal.

But I digress. Interview #3 of the day was yet to come – the most important, ultimately, because it was with Unity Books, for a part time job. And as much as I love writing about music and books and everything of that nature, at this point in time it doesn’t exactly pay the bills. Unity is basically the indie bookseller dream – and I had fortuitous timing indeed. I sipped water from a champagne flute while harping on about Margaret Atwood and Iain Banks and my finally having read Gatsby and all that jazz. And I guess I did something right (well, admittedly, I do have a fair foundation in bookshops), because to days later I had the call to say ‘you’re our gal’ – well, in different words, but still.

So naturally, I had to reward myself with book related paraphernalia. Found at Rex Royale on Cuba Mall. ❤

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Since then, my days have been filled with riveting stuff like buying towels and leggings, and going to see Catching Fire again. Though there have been higher points, like playing Cluedo and Alhambra with some old friends and new ones way out in the Hutt. That’s where I ‘befriended’ this Bird Of Many Names (so we will just call him Bird). I quickly became mortal enemies with him after realising that I had managed to get bird poo on my t-shirt and jeans. We had a moment, though.

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Other exploits have included many coffees, market-wandering and harbour-view-appreciating. Here are a few more pictures to tide you over, until the next installment of This Wellingtonian Life.

ImageGorgeous if a little Other-Mother-esque Katherine Mansfield sculpture on Lambton Quay.

ImageNew library card. A sign of true belonging.

ImageRagtime piano playing on the waterfront.

ImageWise words from Vincent O’Sullivan.

À bientôt, mes amis!

* I will be lining up a bunch of cafe/restaurant reviews to post in the coming days, just to keep things going here even if I’m not constantly plugged in. Watch this space.

on the streets of another place (3/4)

some people feel entitled
to bucketfuls of glory
but perhaps they do share
and share alike
and the splendor spills over
and is felt and owned by all
and again it rises
and is captured by creatures
of many colours
faces
walks of life
dreams

and together they
inhabit this place
perhaps sitting
on an upturned bucket

the cuba street bucket fountain