Wednesday, January 30, 2013
I’m in love with a windy day
posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 8:30 pm
It’s windy today. Very windy. Crazy windy. I went out on my bike this afternoon –I have a bike now– and I could barely move into the head wind, even on flat land. I had to let go of the handlebars to catch my hat, which didn’t help. I pretty much gave up on cycling after that, and concentrated on drinking coffee instead. The wind was cold –cold but not freezing– and playful, and the sky was brilliant blue. In England at the end of January, this is gift not to be taken lightly, so I sat and gathered wind and sun until I got too cold, and even a while longer.
I walked home a little lighter than I’d been when I left.
Monday, September 12, 2011
posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 8:57 pm
We sat in my classroom on Friday after everybody had left, and we talked about the verses we say with the children. “I say this verse for myself, too,” I said. “A helper of humankind, a server of holy things,” that’s something I can get behind. And you said that so did you: holy things, yes; god, not so much. And I said, talking to myself almost, with the passion I usually bring to these things: but, but — god is an experience. And you paused to think, and agreed: yes, god is an experience.
It was a good moment.
This afternoon I took a small detour so that my walk home would take me down to the river, and I watched the sunlight and the shadows under the trees dance in the wind. There was no other word for it: they danced. I came home about to burst with gratitude — for the golden sunlight, for the wild winds, for September that brings them together, for having been there to witness it, for being here at all.
After that there was nothing to do but sit and read poetry, half-heartedly and absent-mindedly and distractedly, because after all it was that awkward hour between coming home and having dinner, and my attention span for poetry is as short as my understanding of it can be deep. One thing lead to another, and that, in turn, to this:
You are the deep innerness of all things,
the last word that can never be spoken.
Do read the rest of it. It will only take a minute, and it will help you understand what I mean when I say that it is moments like these — like beads on a necklace, beautiful perhaps in their own right but even more so when strung together — that keep me going.
Thursday, July 14, 2011
posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 10:12 pm
I thought of that moment a lot. I thought about it through the flat, exhausted evenings of the winter months. I thought about it in the early hours of March mornings, when the world seemed intend of waking me in good time to watch the light change. I thought about it in April, in Athens, as I looked down on the city where a hundred bells called out ‘Good Friday’ and the night fell. I thought about it in May, on a train that inched its way up the Devon coastline, where I sat and wondered whether my life had indeed changed in the span of a few hours, just as I thought it had. I thought about it in June during the dreamy, sad weekend that followed a conversation that set my world spinning in the right orbit once again. And I thought about it today, at lunchtime, on the first hot afternoon of July.
Today was the next-to-last day of term, the term whose end I have longed for, despite the fact that I am not half as stressed, or as exhausted, as I was at this time last year. I mentally checked my list of things to do and sighed, waiting for the slow, idle mornings and the empty afternoons, for the freedom of summer. I made plans — I’ll cook more; post on the blog every day; visit places. I counted the days down, in the mornings and in the evenings too. But this lunchtime, with one-and-a-half day to go, with most things on my list accomplished, with freedom within reach — something happened.
I looked up from my lunch. The children were spread out on the floor, quietly playing with blocks or reading to themselves, as they always are at this time of day. The the class assistant was glueing a bit of fabric to a book cover. Through the wall, I could hear the teacher of the class next door read a story to his children. And it’s hard to describe what it was, but I’ll say that there was so much love in it all — in the way the children were absorbed in their tasks; in their respect for me, which kept them quiet; in the way they were comfortable around each other; in the fact that Laura was working through lunchtime to finish an important end-of-the-year project; in Adam’s voice — that I felt a pang of longing for what I had right then and there, for what we have created, for what I am about to temporarily lose.
Sunday, April 3, 2011
A moment in December
posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 8:54 pm
It was dark, and cold, and quiet, in exactly the way that you expect the night before Christmas to be dark and cold and quiet, and it was easy to believe that the world was holding its breath and waiting for something to happen, despite the fact that this was Thessaloniki after all, a faithless unbeliever of a place that would never admit to associating Christmas with magic. And I was lost, not entirely, where-the-hell-am-I lost, just which-way-was-it-again lost, but even so that is not something I would have thought possible ten years ago; however it seems that seven years of being away punctuated by increasingly infrequent visits are enough to make you forget something you once knew inside-out.
And so I turned left around the wrong corner, and ended up in an utterly-familiar-and-yet-somehow-strange alley, and there, in the middle of it, there was an open door, with candle light seeping out from it, and I walked towards it like a moth to the light, to find myself in a tiny chapel that I of course have always known was there but had forgotten, and I stood in front the box full of candles and I picked one, and lit it from an existing candle and pushed it down into the sand on the tray, and for all I know I might have made the sign of the cross, such is the power of habits learned in childhood. And since I could not think of a single thing to wish for or a single person to dedicate this to, I stood there in silence for a moment, staring at the new flame with nothing on my mind, waiting, hoping; and then it came to me, and it encompassed all my hopes in a handful of words; ‘let love grow in my life.’
Tuesday, March 15, 2011
On attention, and the sunshine
posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 9:44 pm
I had a perfect little moment today –a moment so lovely that everything was right with the world while it lasted– but I have gone and lost is memory. You see, my perfect little moment was followed by a tiny little disappointment, and my heart got a little stuck on that, as it is wont to do, understandably perhaps but stupidly, too, because all I can taste when I look back now is a subtle blend of embarrassment, sadness, and longing, with none of the happy golden overtones of the magic that had preceded it. And I think to myself, once again: spend your attention wisely and well, it is powerful and precious.
What I do remember, however –what even my fickle heart could not misplace– is the sunshine, the first truly warm sunshine of the year. I was nearly drunk on it, giddy with joy and relief and gratitude, for all winters are long, and I had held my breath for most of Monday, too. And so I sat there, silly, giggling, and grateful, for this life that I have come across and for this job that I have chosen, because although it breaks my heart at regular intervals and it makes me pull my hair out twice as often, it does allow for afternoons spent soaking up the sun and it has, ever so beautifully, filled my life with so much love that wouldn’t otherwise have been there.
Friday, March 11, 2011
Remember the magic
posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 10:22 pm
‘Remember the magic,’ I said, and then I disappeared.
I ran off to Greece, where August was a very different experience. Turning leaves and chilly winds where nowhere to be found. Instead there were flowering bugambilias and sweltering days, and although the nights came earlier there, too, autumn seemed to exist in a different universe. But in spite of the abundance of watermelon, or the sand on my toes, or the salt on my skin, or the stars in the sky that greeted me as I lay on the beach at night something wasn’t quite right. I was glad for the plane ride back, and for the rain that fell in London.
And London, oh, London was beautiful — the river mostly, but also the rain. We argued, and I cried, in the rain at that too, and it felt a little like that day from five years ago; except that this time we managed to find our own way out of it, which, I think, is the least we can do after five years. The rain stopped just in time for the sun to come out for a sunset, and for a moment or two the sky was pink and orange and reflected, upside-down, in puddles, and I was happy to be alive.
September came next, the most mixed-up English September I can remember, with sun and rain alternating as if it was spring and not autumn that was on its way. One afternoon early on I stood in the golden sunlight arranging all the desks the school owns by height, giddy with the pointlessness, the silliness and the urgency of what I was doing, and praying that come Monday it would all turn out okay. (It did.) On another afternoon I had a conversation so honest it was almost unreal in a corner of Exeter that is so ugly it is almost beautiful, and I walked away, once again, overwhelmed by the unlikeliness of this life and of its contradictions.
On a third afternoon the rain felt softly on the puddles in the park, each drop calling forth a perfect temporary circle, and I walked through it –an entirely unremarkable park– as it if it was enchanted forest, because the stars and my heart were aligned just right and everything was alive with magic. I thought of Kyra, who once said that the writing, it only happens when we write; of Ian; and of my own words of wisdom; and I concluded that the remembering, it only happens when we remember. And I vowed to came back and to write this down –for you, for me– and to try harder.
It would be nice to be able to say that October was, as a result, filled with magic –it would make for a nice ending– but it would be a lie. October passed me by. There were moments –the first truly cold day, a warm coat and a new favourite hat, all different kinds of fallen leaves against London pavements– but little that made a strong enough impression to have stayed behind. November seemed like it would go the same way, but then something happened. I left the house to get a haircut, I think, and I discovered the most exquisite autumn fog, and I thought to myself, in an echo of something I have thought before, that Exeter looked like a poem about autumn. And in that moment, just like that, I loved this world again.
PS Am I back? Dare I say that this will be continued?
Saturday, April 3, 2010
Love is the stick you throw
posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 9:27 pm
A week ago I sat in Birmingham New Street station, on platform 10a, looking every bit like I was in a Lucksmiths song — “and though you promised not to cry when you said goodbye / your eyes were bright with wine” — although it had nothing to do with wine and everything to do with too little sleep and too much excitement. I clutched my ipod tightly and listened to Pocketbooks sing that “love is the stick you throw / however far it goes, you’ll find your way back home again,” and I marvelled at how a line that had sounded so awkward the first time I heard it could suddenly sound so right. I marvelled at the fact that, suddenly, I had every reason to believe that this was exactly true.
And so I remembered, once again, that even though this world is one of frustration and loneliness and disappointments, it is also a world where magic and mystery lurk around the corners, about to jump into your life at the slightest provocation. And I resolved to try harder –even harder, as hard as I could– to remember to ask them in.
Thursday, March 18, 2010
I always thought of you as being one of us
posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 8:56 pm
I was going to write about early spring, I really was — about sunshine that arrived on the first of March and stayed for three weeks, about freezing nights and warm afternoons, about pink blossom against brilliant blue skies, about the light that woke me earlier every morning, about the excitement of it all, the contradictions in the weather, the smell of daffodils, the promise in the air. I was going to –I even took a photo— but of course I didn’t get round to it in time and now it is too late because spring proper arrived today.
Not on a warm breeze, not on a sunny morning and not in April like I had expected it to but on the unexpectedly warm and gentle rain of a cloudy afternoon in March. Oh, it won’t last; the best seasons rarely do in England; but I wonder sometimes if that doesn’t make it all the more precious. A few minutes of breathing in that unmistakeable smell of spring while watching my class in a gardening lesson were enough for me to be undone with love and longing, washed over by waves of sadness — the love and longing that run through my life like a thread of meaning, the sadness that is as timeless as it is time-specific, a blessed release after winter’s long inwardness and always, always bittersweet.
All this to remind me of my old maxim, that you can spend a winter (or a lifetime) preparing (or praying) for something and the best things will still come round unexpectedly and catch you by surprise.
Ah, the beauty of the way that we are living.
Tuesday, January 6, 2009
What I have been up to (part 4)
posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 11:59 am
In September it transpired that a lot of things in school were changing. The changes meant that the person they had given the job to might not want it any more. Upon hearing this, the words “I will do it” left my mouth before I had any time to think. So there was more waiting, more hanging on the line, hoping, dreaming, and another “no” at the end of it. At this time my favourite child left the class, and I started to wonder whether perhaps it wasn’t meant to be after all. Even so, I decided to go part-time on the course, just so that I would have enough time to take on the class in case I needed to. Why I would need to I didn’t know, but it did my heart good to feel prepared.
In October school finally started (late), and I ended up being the assistant in that class for the second half of the morning. I walked in, on the first day, with an open heart and an open mind, just waiting to see whether the class felt ‘mine’ or not. It didn’t. By that point that came as a pleasant surprise; to have to walk every day into a class that felt mine and yet was taught by somebody else would have been a nightmare. And so October went by in a happy haze of busyness. Working at that school felt like the right thing to do; still; despite the fact that I couldn’t make sense of what had happened, despite the fact that I had never been wrong about anything so important before and I just couldn’t imagine that I had been wrong this time, either. I just put that whole matter aside for a while. If nothing else, the way things had turned out, I got to wake up at the luxurious time of 8.30 am. I wasn’t too keen to change that.
You can see where this is going, too, can’t you?
It changed. Because after October came half-term, and after half-term came November, and the Class One teacher decided to leave, at the same time as the school’s little world was turning upside-down. And something funny happened then — the moment the class had no teacher, it felt mine all over again. I felt that familiar kick in the gut that meant ‘I have to be there for them’, I had to make sure they’d be okay. There were options, there were opinions, there were concerns, there were secrets, there were doubts; and in the the end, there were some decisions, too. The whole thing got very complicated for a while, and a great many feelings were hurt, many times over.
And at the end of it all came December. When I became the Class One teacher.
Monday, January 5, 2009
What I have been up to (part 3)
posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 11:41 pm
I tortured myself for a long time. I was overwhelmed by self doubt; the desire to do this became stronger. Logic said, again and again, that it was a stupid idea; my heart sang at the thought. I made the grave mistake of turning to others for reassurance — I should have known better: there is always somebody willing to take my doubts and magnify them before returning them to me. It happened again. And yet, I kept telling myself, if I have learned one thing so far, it is to listen to my heart. On and on it went like that.
March came and went, and with it my birthday. I stood above my candles and wished for “a class of children of my very own — but only if this is the right thing to wish for.” Confused doesn’t begin to describe what I was. I was stressed, depressed even. April came and went. I let it go for a while — and it came back to me. May came and went, and the world gave conflicting signs. Some said yes, but some said “I don’t know”; some said one thing one day and the opposite the day after. And yet I became a little surer as time went by, and then a little surer still, and by June I had made up my mind. Given half a chance, I would do it.
I spent June waiting to be given that chance, waiting and waiting. I wished on a bamboo shoot, and stuck it in some water. July was a mess. One day I was almost given the job –I was this close– and it felt like everything was right with the world. I forgot what I couldn’t do and remembered all the things that I could do; I bought children’s books; I started planning my first lessons in my head. But the next day the job was given to somebody else, and my heart was broken. That night –and the ones that followed– I burst into tears when it was time for bed. They were tears of loss, and of frustration, and of disbelief — how could something so right go so wrong? I cried, and I wondered — why did this mean so much to me? What other answer could there be but that it was meant to be? That only made me more sad.
“But my name is written in the stars next to the children’s,” I told Martijn one night. “Can’t they see that?” Well, apparently, they couldn’t, and there was nothing I could do, so I decided to quite wondering and go to Indietracks instead. (This turned out to be an excellent decision, although that is a whole different post.)
And you would have thought this was the end of that, but it was not.
Sunday, January 4, 2009
What I have been up to (part 2)
posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 7:48 pm
February came, and I got out of bed at an ungodly hour and jumped on a nearly empty train to Exeter before the sun was up. In fact I got to watch the sun rise behind the Exeter skyline through the fog, and it was a beautiful thing. I got off the train and found that things at the school were indeed, better, somewhat; and that my assigned classroom corner was indeed cold, as I had expected it to be. Despite that, I did not leave it much. I didn’t feel ready to be a teacher.
It didn’t take long for this to start feeling like a problem. After all the School Experience Handbook stated it quite clearly. I should have been feeling ready. And most other people in my year were, evidently. I sat in my corner and wondered why I was the odd one out, again, and why I just couldn’t do what everyone else was doing already, and why did nobody find it as hard as I did? And did I have to think about everything so much? What was wrong with me?
At this auspicious moment in my path towards becoming a teacher it was suggested to me that I might want to take the next Class One. Whyever this suggestion was made to me will forever remain a mystery — I certainly hadn’t done much besides sit in the corner, and think about it a lot. It just so happened, however, that it was made while we were standing in the playground, where the children who were to make up the aforementioned class –they were still in Kindergarten at the time– were playing.
And so I sat there, in the pale sunlight, or perhaps under overcast skies, and I watched them, and then I watched them some more. And then I felt something tug at my heart, and I knew that I just had to do it. I wish I could contain that moment in words. I wish I could describe that for you. It wasn’t spectacular, and it wasn’t like falling in love. It wasn’t like the moment when the band plays your favourite song and it didn’t take my breath away. There just was a small and subtle change inside me, and the feeling that I was called to do this, despite everything.
Oh, if only it was that simple. ‘Everything’ decided to fight back, and a great battle ensued inside me. Who did I think I was? What exactly made me think that I could do this? And what exactly made me think that I should do it? When I was well aware that I couldn’t even do as well as everyone else was doing, let alone better? When I couldn’t sing, draw or paint? (These are a big deal for a Steiner teacher.) When I was the one questioning the system the most, why was I also the one itching to work with it the most?
Saturday, January 3, 2009
What I have been up to (part 1)
posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 5:45 pm
As usual, I don’t know where to start. Because, as usual, the story starts in five different places at the same time.
I could start here, in December 2005, when I first visited Exmouth and the course that was going to be ‘my course’ for the following two years. Because one of the things that happened on that Thursday was that I got to sit in on a session, and listen to people’s accounts of their experiences in the schools they had been visiting. And two of those people had been to a tiny little school in Exeter, and the things they said made me think, rather irrationally –they talked about a mixed-aged, mixed-ability class of about a dozen children operating out of a caravan– that it was my kind of school.
Or I could fast forward a year to the first time I actually visited said school, in December 2006. It had just moved to a new building, so the class had an actual classroom of its own by that time. A very cold one. I spent two weeks largely sitting in a corner, half-asleep, owing to the hour-long commute from Exmouth, and half-frozen, owing to the lack of heating. When the two weeks were over I wrote a long and (I think) eloquent essay about the history of the school and how it affected its every day running. The sentences “you can’t run a school on idealism and goodwill alone, at least not for a long time”, and “you can’t run a school when you don’t know in which direction you are running” stood out, along with a firmly held belief that, were I to get involved in something so messy, it would be years before I looked up again. I resolved to stay well away for the foreseeable future.
You can see where this is going, can’t you?
Fast forward a year and a month, and you’ll find me sitting on my couch, gloomily contemplating my imminent return to Derbyshire, where I had previously spend two sleepy, cold weeks in another classroom corner. This time it would have to be for four weeks, in February at that too. Upon realising that the prospect filled me with dread, and that the thing I would love the most would be to be able to sleep in my own bed after spending long days in yet another classroom corner, I thereby committed myself to another hour-long commute to Exeter and forgot all about my previous resolution. After all I had heard rumours that things at the school were better, and the teacher I would be observing from my cold corner would be someone I knew and liked. It sounded promising. And so I dug out some of my initial love for the school and proceeded to get a little excited about it all.
Monday, December 24, 2007
Fragments of another season
posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 12:43 am
The funny thing is that I still think of myself as a writer. Because I think of writing nearly every day. Because I think of this blog –of the handful of people who read it and the things I want to put into words and the chemistry that occasionally arises between them– and my heart beats a little faster in gratitude. Because I remember the day that I called it ‘a very nice wall indeed’ and I smile proudly. My little corner of the world.
And so I went to Derbyshire and on the way there I saw the sun setting over fields, between trees and factories, through the mist Ã¢â‚¬â€ and it looked so perfectly round and orange-and-pink, a sight ever so unusual and wintery, that for a moment I just had to hold my breath and be thankful for the six-hour train journey from Exmouth to Derby, without which I wouldn’t have found myself there in that moment in time.
And then I spent two weeks walking through Shipley Country Park, one-and-a-half mile either way, twice a day, always early in the morning and often late in the afternoon, and it was mostly a chore, except for the morning when there was frost on the ground and (what looked like) frozen airplane trails in the sky, or the night when we saw the night sky reflected on the waters of the reservoir and for a moment it looked like it was raining stars. And there was also a long conversation under a tree, and Ilkeston market on a windy Saturday, roast parsnips and sweet potatoes, and a ten-year-old that held my heart like no child has done before Ã¢â‚¬â€ a child that felt ferociously, inexplicably mine, and who said “I want you to stay forever and ever” on my last day. Which still breaks my heart when I think about it.
And yet, I left; of course; gladly even. The words ‘Tiverton Parkway’ on the departures board in Derby station on yet another Saturday morning made my heart rejoice, just because Tiverton happens to be on the right side of the Somerset-Devon border, and Devon feels, strangely, inexplicably like home in a way nothing has before. Back in Devon the rain fell softly as I walked through the big park and the big trees in the opposite direction this time, and I got to sit in the middle of somebody’s kitchen while they were cooking and chatting to me which, really, is not far from my idea of heaven.
And then I went for a walk on the beach and I picked up three shells and I came home to put one on my bedside table, one on a bookshelf, and one in my coat pocket, where they proceeded to spend the following month looking and feeling utterly at home. And the sun shone on some days while heavy clouds weighted down on others, and there was even a day when the wind blew and the sea shone in a metallic blue, and the sky was so grey it made the yellow leaves on the pavement look positively bright. And despite the horribleness of the weather and the sleeplessness of the nights before I bounced down the street in the wind and the rain, almost singing that “we’re everything brighter than even the sun/ we’re everything righter than books could plan”, because there was something that glistened and shone inside me too, something like happiness.
And there came rainy days too, and sad days, empty days, and days full of tears; days of feeling lost in the world and wondering what went wrong and whether I will ever get my happiness back; days when I didn’t even notice the weather. But then the term ended and with this a fine mist descended over Exmouth, turning it into a poem about winter. And on Friday night, two days ago, I stood on the edge of Exeter’s Cathedral Green, and said “I’m glad, too,” to somebody at the other end of an invisible phoneline, and then I looked up, at the Cathedral shining in the light and in the mist, and two things happened: Exeter seemed like the most exciting place in the world, and winter started.
Sunday, November 4, 2007
To find poetry in the littlest things
posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 2:01 pm
And with this, my friends, I am off to deepest darkest Derbyshire for two weeks. I wish I was around to do NaBloPoMo like last year, I really do. I also wished I carried my camera on me more — and that I used it more. And I wish that there was a way to capture days like Friday –the sunshine, the company, the perfect joyfulness of everything– or moments like the one yesterday evening, when I walked through the big park amongst the big trees and everything was quiet and misty and simply walking felt like praying. Or rather, scratch that: simply existing felt like praying. Which, I find, is the best kind of prayer.
Saturday, November 3, 2007
The 26th of October and the weather in Thessaloniki
posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 4:55 pm
Friday was one of those few days of the year I spend wishing I were in Thessaloniki. (There are a few more, mostly in the week preceding Easter.) You might not know that, but Thessaloniki is my hometown; and Friday was the day the Greek Orthodox church celebrates the memory of Saint Demetrius. And you probably don’t know that, but Saint Demetrius happens to be the patron saint of Thessaloniki as well as the saint associated with my name. Which means that the 26th of October is not only my nameday, but a holiday where I come from, too. In a way, the whole of the city is celebrating along with me — even if it is only for the fact that they don’t have to go to work for a day. But it is not only that, not really. There are banners on the streetlights, chrysanthemums in the centre’s flower beds, phonecalls for wishes across the city, and the occasional old lady walking down the street dressed in her Sunday best, carrying sweets wrapped in shiny paper.
And the weather. There’s also the weather. If you think of the year as having four seasons, the last week of October is unremarkable; but if you think of it mostly consisting of two, summer and winter, this is as good a time as any to admit that summer is well and truly behind you — just as Easter is the perfect time to celebrate finally having got rid of it. And the weather in Thessaloniki seems to know that, because it usually takes this chance to bring the winter down from Russia, all bitterly cold northern winds, tumbling the sparse city leaves and rubbish on street corners, and occasional foggy days on the seafront that take the edges of things away and make them melt into each other — the city and the sea, too.
Really, these are the things that make me say Thessaloniki is the sort of city that looks northwards more than anything else — that it belonged to the Balkans before it even thought of belonging to Greece, that it still does for that matter. Little old sleepy Exmouth’s sea winds seemed almost gentle in comparison, the town almost Mediterranean at this time of year as I walked down Rolle Street, among the fallen leaves and the blooming flowers, under blue skies and fluffy grey clouds.
This was going to be the first part of a longer post, but I never got round to finishing it and now it is too late. By the way I would like to say thank you to everyone who sent me wishes for my nameday, especially sunbeam. Oh, and another thing. Any resemblance between this post and Wednesday’s XKCD is entirely and utterly coincidental. Stop sniggering at the back, William.
Wednesday, September 12, 2007
The end of a summer
posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 3:38 pm
This post has been so long in the making that I have actually forgotten what I wanted to say. Here it is, anyway. And, erm, sorry for the over-a-month-long delay. I will get better at posting one day. You’ll see. Until then, thank god for RSS and/or patient readers.
Or, too many things to celebrate:
- Seeing Rose Melberg — and seeing Ian see Rose Melberg. You don’t get that look of awe and wonder on people older than five nearly enough these days.
- Bean-and-tuna salads, good crisps, Alexander McCall Smith books and late evening train rides to the West Country.
- And light falling almost horizontally on the fields of Wiltshire making everything look green and golden.
- And the world suddenly looking like a better place.
- Seeing Rose Melberg again, this time on a soft, warm Oxfordshire night, in a smelly, dirty Oxfordshire pub which played some sort of metal on the radio downstairs — the sort of place where I could have sworn nothing magical ever happens.
- Midday train rides to the West Country, with fluffy white clouds and bright blue skies and bright green hills and fluffy white sheep.
- Ten years of twee bedroom sadness, in the form of the Sinister mailing list, which, once upon a time, changed my life.
- The picnic to mark this occasion, which was very much like Sinister Picnics Of Yore used to be: weird at first, fun after a while, wonderful by the end.
- Tales of Jenny songs performed live at said picnic, and me running off (sort of) in the middle of a conversation to listen to them.
- And Pines’ songs, of course. (Always Pines’ songs. Even though I missed the best one by walking down the hill to the toilet.)
- And Visitors songs, too, under the tree, with Tim taking drags off his cigarette between verses, looking all shy and I-wasn’t-ready-to-do-this-guys.
- And staying out alive till the last of the sun.
- And the view from the top of Primrose Hill, with the moon rising on one side and the sun setting on the either.
- Kris‘s writing about it all, which nearly made me cry.
- The realisation that all this was so wonderful mostly due to people I met after I stopped going to picnics.
- The realisation which follows from the one above: that I’ve not only grown out of Sinister but into it as well.
- The fact that this somehow seemed highly significant at the time. It said something about my inner world’s local coherence.
- Staying up after the picnic in Tim’s living room, with the window half-open and April Dreams England on the cd-player.
- And the moment we both started singing along to ‘Service station’, so effortless and sweet.
- Kind London friends who invite us over to their colourful flat and cook us lunchon a Sunday when we are sleepy and hungry and poor and outside it is sweaty and hot.
- The last train of the day to the West Country, even though it was too cold and you couldn’t to see a thing out of the window past Didcot (and there’s not much point in looking out of the window before that).
- A year of Puffin-and-Daisy in England — or, rather, in Devon, our place of sea winds and low rolling hills and wide open skies, for which we have fallen completely.
- Celebrating said year with organic food and pop friends who have also been transplanted to the West Country, some a long time ago and others even more recently than us.
- The Taunton skyline out of Rob’s window, of trees and a church tower against a darkening sky.
- The last train… only kidding. It wasn’t much fun this time.
- The release (finally!) of the Occasional Flickers record, about which I will have to write more one of these days.
Or, in other words: the end of a summer that, just before its end, turned out to be rather lovely after all.
Thursday, August 9, 2007
On loss and longing
posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 12:19 pm
This post has been a long time in the making — since I published the previous one, in fact. And it has been in my head since the beginning of July. And, much like the ‘I won’t grow out of indiepop’ piece, it was excruciatingly hard to write. Words resisted me all along the way. I suppose that’s what I get for not writing more: I forget how to do it. But I have resolved to stop beating myself up ‘over little things the way I do’ – because it stops me from seeing that I’m doing remarkably well at the bigger things– and writing on a blog is, really, a little thing. (A much-loved little thing, of course.) And so I have decided to try writing here in a different way, to aim for a long post every week or two instead of ‘normal’ blog-type posting. And if this reminds you of something I’ve done before, it is not a coincidence. I think that some of best writing came about this way.
1. Sometimes I start reading a blog and I don’t know why. Or, rather, it is that sometimes I keep reading a blog and I don’t know why. I read blogs for all different sorts of reasons –most of which boil down to a feeling that my life and the blogger’s, however different, run on oddly parallel lines at times– and yet sometimes I just can’t find any reason. Until, that is, one day, suddenly –or, perhaps, not-so-suddenly, over a period of time– the blogger unfolds another aspect of their lives in front of their readers’ eyes, and it all makes sense.
A while ago, I came across this poem on one such blog. It struck a chord with me. I looked it up on Minstrels –as you do; and went through all the comments. I soon discovered that I disagreed with most of them. Sarcastic? Putting on a brave face? Flippant? What were those people thinking about?
To me it is simply a poem about how you’d better use the little things to practise letting go, because sooner or later you’ll have to leave behind something big. I happen to find this piece of advice excellent, by the way. I have such an awfully hard time letting go of those small things — the lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
2. A few days before that I found myself sitting in my grandparents’ kitchen discussing death with my fourteen-year-old goddaughter. (She is also my first cousin; we share said set of grandparents, half of whom aren’t doing very well, which is what spurred the discussion.) This really made me feel like a godmother, let me tell you. It also made me feel rather uncomfortable, not because I find my own feelings about the topic hard to deal with but because the kid was twelve last time I checked, and I swear I only turned my back for a couple of minutes. I haven’t had the time to develop the skills it takes to talk truthfully yet age-appropriately to a fourteen-year-old who is going on eighteen — or on eight, depending on which way the wind is blowing. I found myself improvising wildly.
At first she didn’t even want to talk about it and acted as if it was bad luck to even mention it. And yet she was teary. And so I explained as gently and firmly as I could that death is nothing terrible, only a passage into another state of being — a little like growing up is. As soon as I had said it it became obvious that this didn’t seem to mean anything to her. At a loss, I asked her a question. What did she think happened to people when they die? She talked of heaven and god and angels — all things she doesn’t really believe in, things that don’t fit in with the worldview her fourteen years on earth have resulted in, but they were better than nothing, so I let them be. This wasn’t the time for a religion lesson.
“You see,” I said, “you think so too. We don’t disappear when we die. We just go someplace else.”
“Yes,” she said. “I know.” And then, referring to our grandmother: “But she won’t be with us. And that makes me sad.”
She’s a smart one, my goddaughter. That much I can say about her. Her ability to cut to the point reminds me of myself at her age, and it is about the only thing about her that does. That I would end up with a godchild so different from me is something would never have imagined when, at the age of twelve, I felt compelled to ask to be her godmother. It is unsettling. She keeps pushing my buttons and taking me by surprise, and I keep finding myself saying things before I had any time to think about them.
“Yes, that’s true. It is all about saying goodbye. But that is something we often have to do in life anyway.” She gave me an incredulous look. I wished she’d stop doing that sort of thing when I was trying so hard to find the right thing to say. “You are still little, but as you grow up you will find that we have to leave a lot of things behind. And people, too. Sometimes we have to move on, and sometimes they do. And sometimes they just won’t come along. I had to leave Constantin [an ex boyfriend of mine she adores], and your sister will have to leave her boyfriend too at some point. That’s just the way life is.” I paused. “In fact it is the living I find it harder to say goodbye to…” I finished. She gave me the sort of look that could be taken to mean ‘thanks, godmother, I feel so much better now,’ which was every bit as ironic as you think it was, and the conversation ended there. She doesn’t really like it when I talk about such things.
And who can blame her. I walked away wondering whether I could have said something slightly more suitable — like, for example, that nothing can really separate people who love each other. True, I hadn’t got my hands on Harry Potter yet, but something along the lines of ‘death is but crossing the world, as friends do the seas’ would have been just right. What is it that makes talking to teenagers (or, in any case, to this teenager) so very difficult? In the end I decided not to beat myself up too much about it. I figured that what she would most likely remember about this conversation when she grew up would be my straightforwardness and honesty, and that has got to be a good thing.
3. In April I wrote about a line of trees that join Exmouth and Exeter (a line of trees that I wanted to draw but would never really get round to drawing) and I drew a parallel between those and all the friends I never made (all the people I have met and fallen for yet nothing ever came out of it), and I wondered if the parallel worked. It sounded a bit odd to me at the time. But it must have done, because over time those trees became mixed up, in my head, with all the photos I have never taken, and those, in turn, with all the friends I never had, so that now I feel that characteristic pang of loss and longing every time I happen to have left my camera at home (or the light is not good enough, or I’m not fast enough, or the bus is not slow enough) and I see something pretty, or touching, or sweet. So many things that seem filled with the intent to be lost . Some days it breaks my heart.
4. It is true. It is the living I find it harder to say goodbye to. Because I believe we die out of some kind of spiritual necessity; we make friends (and lovers) out of choice. And with the living you can never be sure if they meant to leave, or if they just never got round to staying.
Tuesday, June 26, 2007
I suppose I won’t grow out of indiepop after all
posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 10:10 pm
This should have been written and published right after the ‘These are the things that make these days worth living through’ entry below. In essence, it is the third, most important, and possibly last instalment in the ‘April dreams England’ series — in other words, the exploration of what this gig meant to me. But life got in the way and so it ended up being written for the Spiral Scratch all-dayer fanzine, which, according to my copy at least (#147), was distributed to 250 people. That, come to think of it, is probably my widest audience ever; but, just in case you weren’t there (say you live in another country or something): there you go. Oh, and the strangest thing? Kieron, who seemed to be the only other non-Spiral Scratch person who wrote for said fanzine, also talked about growing out of indiepop. Go figure.
We are sitting outside the Plant – two sixths of The Visitors, one half of the Pines and the Foxgloves, the boy behind thinksmall.nl and me. The Plant is a cafe in Exeter’s Cathedral Yard –a fine place to be– and the day is strange, hot and cold at the same time. There is a low grey cloud hanging over us and the promise of better weather in the air. We’re theorising about pop music in a way that makes the words ‘High Fidelity’ pop to mind, a way that makes me grin on the outside and giggle on the inside. And then Tim mentions ‘that part of folk that is the closest to pop’ and how hard it is to find it — and that’s when I say it. I tell him I’ve been looking for that for a few years now because “one day I’ll grow out of indiepop, and I’m afraid I won’t have anything to listen to” then. My attempt to explain this controversial statement is very soon abandoned because it only seems to make the questioning looks worse.
The concern that I will grow out of indiepop has been around for a few years. Since 2005, to be precise: the year that answered both my burning questions within the space of a few months, leaving my head spinning and rendering the songs about holding hands and hoping for a kiss irrelevant. (The questions were “will I find someone to spend my life with, and will I deserve them?” and “what can I do to leave a sweet mark on the world?” and, in case you are interested, the answers were “yes, and, trust me, that will be the least of your worries” and “how about being a teacher?” respectively.) I clang on to the few songs that still resonated — primarily the Lucksmiths, Pipas, the Pines, and the occasional song here and there that wasn’t about being young, lost, and waiting for love, along with the occasional song that was about these things but which I seemed to love too much to give up — and I worried. Because even though so much had changed, one thing had stayed the same: I only really liked indiepop.
Later on on that same evening, after Tim and Joe have played a set of three Visitors and ten Pinefox songs to an audience of five Visitors fans, one lonely-but-excited Pinefox fan and approximately fourteen bemused-but-interested kind strangers, I am standing in the corner fiddling with CDs and headphones and buttons, and Joe walks up to me. “Nice music,” he says, “I like it” — or something to that effect. I think I am playing the Razorcuts, or the Siddeleys, or otherwise something equally trademark: “This?” I tease, “it’s indiepop!” Because another thing that emerged from the aforementioned conversation is that those two don’t seem to be the sort of people who will readily identify themselves as indiepoppers. “The one you’ll grow out of?” he retorts and I am left smiling even though you can claim I have ostensibly lost. I like it when people remember what I say — and I like it even more when they use it appropriately.
That night we ride back home on the last bus, a double-decker that we have mostly to ourselves, through surreal-looking empty country roads. In the morning we ride back on a train packed like the beach on a bank holiday Monday because the promise of better weather has been fulfilled, and the day is warm and sunny and windy — in other words, perfect. In fact it is the best day of the year so far, weatherwise and otherwise, inside and out. We wander around Exeter — the boy Think Small, the Pinefox, Alistair Fitchett and me: a cafe, the Cathedral, the Cathedral Yard, Northenhay gardens. We talk of pop music and poetry, Lloyd Cole and literature, and somehow these seem to stretch all day. They blend with the sunshine and the haze, the odd questions and our awkward answers and our sudden, instant happiness.
But it is the evening that changes my mind. Because as it rolls around and Alistair leaves to catch a bus the rest of us roll down the hill, back to the green grass of the Cathedral Yard, armed with three bottles of beer, a bag of crisps, and the aforementioned happiness, discussing the relative sadness of the line “I loved you / well, never mind” — and the bells of St Steven’s begin to ring. They ring and ring all through the evening, as the light changes and the temperature drops and the people go home, the same three-chord song for hours on end. You’d think it would sound boring, but it doesn’t — it sounds heavenly — and the repetition only makes it more precious. I feel elated, honoured to be in the presence of something rare, on such a perfect day at that too!
And so I gather up my courage and look at Joe’s guitar case and ask him if he can play us a Cat’s Miaow song. It turns out that he can, and he can play us a lot more besides. And so we drink the beer, we eat the crisps, we talk about love and our favourite Magnetic Fields songs, and we sing. In perfect harmony for a moment or two — within, and, perhaps, even without. When we finish ‘The luckiest guy on the lower east side’ a random stranger claps. For a while it seems like I am living in a charmed world, where what is around corresponds to what is inside.
The time to dash to the bus station comes too soon, and so we dash. Saying goodbye breaks my heart, and so my heart is broken. But it is happier than it has been in a long while, too — as happy as it was when we stood with Pipas on the rocks overlooking Athens under brilliant blue skies, and I felt like we were about to discover the treasure at the end of the rainbow — because I have found a part of myself I haven’t seen since, and it is the part that I know and love the best. And so, as we walk away into the sweet-smelling spring air, where the bells are still ringing, I make a face and I tell my husband: I suppose I won’t grow out of indiepop after all.
Wednesday, April 18, 2007
These are the things which make these days worth living through
posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 2:23 pm
[You might want to go and read Alistair’s and Martijn’s reviews of this first, if you haven’t already.]
What you have to understand is that I feel responsible for this gig.
I asked Joe (who is half of the Pines and also of the Foxgloves) to come down to play because I’ve secretly been truly in love with his songs since I first heard them. He asked Tim to come down to play with him for reasons that weren’t clear to me until this afternoon, when Tim got off the train full of stories about supporting Talulah Gosh in this very venue and rushing to catch the last bus too many times to count. It was only then that I realised that the Visitors were actually from Sidmouth, the town a few miles east of Budleigh Salterton. They lived here: they wrote their songs and performed them and went to gigs and got drunk and were hangover on Sunday mornings, all right here in Devon. The very idea seems difficult to grasp, somehow. What do you mean the Razorcuts played in the Arts Centre too? I know they probably only played to a dozen or so people, but that doesn’t make it sound any less impressive. Quite the opposite. It gives me hope that the First Division will one day be legendary too.
For the moment things aren’t looking all that promising. Alistair’s C is right when she says that the whole thing has a refectory feel about it. Joe and Tim play to a row of mostly empty tables while all around people walk, talk and drink, casting only the occasional glance our way. The occasional puzzled glance, I have to add. Why are these nervous-looking people playing a gig at the corner of the bar? And why is this small bunch of happy-looking not-quite-kids-anymore looking at them so intensely? What’s the big deal? And so I feel a little bad.
To me, of course, every little bit is perfect, has been from the start: Joe saying that ‘this is a song about roads, the roads between us and the people we’ve left behind, the people we’re yet to meet, the people we love’ at the beginning of ‘Second hand’, for example, or Tim’s smile when he bravely launches into the first song (the Visitors’ ‘Bliss’). But I’m starting to wonder if I’ve only put this on for myself, to hear these songs that I love to bits played live and get yet another chance to sing along to them, and whether I should have put everyone else through the trouble just for this. Surely not. How selfish of me.
And then, wouldn’t you know it, they launch on another Visitors’ song, and as Tim sings ‘all the old songs that I’ve known and loved for years / playing quietly from someone else’s radio’ something stirs inside me, and as he goes on pictures of Devon in the summer unfold effortlessly in my head, and everything starts to fall into place. The song builds up beautifully and the performance is faultless too, even if it is only me thinking that and I’ve never really paid attention to it before, so what would I know? But it does, to me anyway, and as it draws to a close (‘leaning from my window shouting into the dark I don’t love you, I don’t love you, I don’t love you!’) I find I’m leaning forward from my chair, nearly falling over. And suddenly it’s alright. Even if no one else cares, it’s alright.
But of course they do. People seem drawn into the strong imagery of ‘Oil Fires’ that follows and they laugh at the bittersweet wryness of ‘Do you have to stop writing to start living?’ — because, how could they not? It’s wonderful! And I smile. My heart is lifted by the sight of others appreciating the wonder that are these songs, songs that have been major hits in my front room, songs that I keep so close to my heart, the songs that have brought us all here tonight.
And when Tim announces ‘Goldmining’ (‘this song was last performed twenty years ago, in this very venue’) somebody who was actually there twenty years ago cheers and I know for a fact that I’m not the only one who cares. They finish off with ‘We’ll never be cool’ –a song with major indiepop-hit potential– and I sing along like I did those nights in Dorking, back where it all started, convinced of the same old thing. We’re really the coolest of them all.
Thursday, April 12, 2007
Cause the little words say everything that I need but there’s still a thing or two
posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 10:19 pm
As you probably don’t know but perhaps do I have developed an interest in drawing trees this spring. There is a sweet, heart-warming story behind how this happened but telling it is not what I intend to do tonight. Tonight I want to talk about the bus ride from Exmouth to Exeter, or rather about the trees contained within.
The bus ride from Exmouth to Exeter takes a long time: forty, perhaps forty-five minutes to the train’s twenty-five to thirty. The fare is more expensive, too (£4.50 to the train’s £3, which can be reduced to £2 with a student railcard). Still, I take the bus sometimes. Partly because I just like buses, especially double-decked ones (and, even more especially, needlessly doubled-decked ones) and partly because it gives a slightly different picture of the south-east Devon countryside, and it is one that I love.
Another thing to take into consideration is spring, and how fast it has arrived here in south-east Devon; it’s funny; I always wait for it all winter long, and when it does come, it’s always unexpectedly. So, even though there had only been a couple of weeks between the last bus ride and this, the changes were impressive to say the least. Brown trees had turned pink, sometimes even fuchsia — a plum colour, nearly. Green fields had turned yellow — ‘a dash of yellow’ someone said next to me. The flowers in the flowerbeds had changed colours too, hyacinths replaced by tulips perhaps, like in the one I walk by every day on the way home.
All this to try and explain this: there is an imaginary line of trees that I would like to draw, joining Exmouth and Exeter through Lympstone, and Topsham. (It is the line that is imaginary, not the trees; the trees are what I would like to draw.) Sitting on a bus as it zips by past them, even at the not-quite-zipping speed in which it does it, I feel a pang of regret — a longing — and every tree I will never get round to drawing reminds me of a friend I never got round to having.
All those colourful could-be’s but were-nots.
Saturday, April 7, 2007
But it is
posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 11:05 pm
I never knew that happiness could be lying on the kitchen floor on top of a pile of dirty laundry, watching the bubbles that form and burst on the surface of a jam tart as it is being baked.
Saturday, March 24, 2007
posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 1:47 pm
Wednesday, March 21, 2007
My fondest wish
posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 5:05 pm
When I sent out the last Sprinkled Pepper newsletter, I got an email back touchingly entitled ‘there’s always a song playing in the background’, which instantly made me think of Comet Gain’s ‘You can hide your love forever’ and the way it instantly makes me feel like I am standing in the middle of a field in the middle nowhere in south-east Sweden. Ever since that phrase keeps coming back to me whenever I think of a song that distinctly reminds me of someone or something. It sprung to mind yesterday when I came across this ILX thread where someone had quoted a line from a Big Star song that distinctly reminds me of someone (the song — not the line):
“I loved you, well, never mind”
I have to admit that my first thought was that ‘September Gurls’ would never even cross my mind if I was looking for the saddest line. Today, I suddenly see his point.
By the way, I have no idea what I’d say the saddest line actually is. I’ve been thinking about it but I can’t seem to come up with anything. Something off ‘I started a joke’ perhaps? Something off ‘Suzanne’? Dear Nora’s “and I’ll think about it all / including how you never call / even though I sit waiting by the phone on any given night”? Laura Watling’s “what would you say if I told you I always look for you when I’m walking down the street”? Can it be that I really can’t think of anything else?
And what do you think? What is the saddest line?
Tuesday, March 20, 2007
Sometimes if seems I’ve waited here for half my lonely life
posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 9:04 pm
One thing I love about life: those nights (or afternoons, or weekends) when I get a real, beautiful, deep connection with somebody. When for a while it seems like we are not really as separate as we had thought all along but merely two sides of the same one thing.
And one thing I hate: when in the days (or weeks, or years) that follow it feels like it has never happened.
Saturday, March 17, 2007
Sometimes he is so funny
posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 6:52 pm
Thursday night, and Rob and I are sitting on the beach —or, to be precise, on the steps that lead to the beach. It’s the sort of thing you dream of* doing when you dream of moving to Devon. We’re watching trains go by on the other side of the river and talking about songs about sandcastles, when Martijn calls to say goodnight — quite naturally assuming I am at home.
“Is Rob still there?”
“Yes. He is still here. On the beach. With me. Are you jealous?”
Meaning, are you jealous we’re on the beach in Devon when you’re in your room in Oxfordshire, about to go to bed because you have to get up early tomorrow morning’? Except Rob gets it a little wrong.
“Martijn, it’s not what you think it is!”
“Oh, damn. And I thought you were just sitting there, talking.”
*If, that is, you are the sort of person who moved to Devon because they had been dreaming of it — and not the sort of person who had never given the place a thought before they discovered their dream course was situated there. And never gave it a second thought after that until the find themselves in a soddy ‘holiday home’ on Morton Road. But that’s a whole different story.
Tuesday, March 6, 2007
posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 8:26 pm
I’ve been unwell. Unwell, and buried under a pile of difficult things to think higher than me. And in a way, I’m still under it (in another way, I always am). But today the sun was shining properly –it was warm– and the wind was more playful than cold and I felt alive more than I felt like crying. I wanted to go out and draw trees more than I wanted to crawl under the duvet and hide for the rest of the week. And I wanted to write more than I wanted to stay silent.
And, of course, as it happens in such cases all the things that had been waiting inside me —waiting for a chance to be talked about— rushed out all at once. And, as it happens in such cases, they all got stuck at the door. Currently they are arguing with each other about what I should write about. The way the indiepop community still seems to be the best place to make friends after all these years? Athens and how my memories of it occasionally come back to haunt me? Or that old, half-forgotten project on ‘the beauty of the way that we are living’ and all the things that make me want to pick it up again? The opening lines of the poem Joan gave us and how they describe a land I sometimes visit in my dreams?
Or, perhaps, how sometimes every raindrop that lands on my window feels like a kiss on my soul, and I don’t hate the rain anymore.
Saturday, February 17, 2007
There are three kinds of people in the world, those who can follow instructions and those who can’t
posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 11:10 am
Trevor started our session today by asking if anybody in the room was twenty-two. To my surprise (I thought everybody is twenty-four) two people said they were; he asked one of them to be twenty-three and the other one to be twenty-one. Then he asked all of us to write our age down. Then, to reverse the digits. Then, to take away the smaller number from the bigger number. And then to add the digits of the number we got. As you can imagine, much confusion ensued.
In the end, he went around the circle asking everybody what they have got.
Tuesday, February 13, 2007
I’d like to come out of my shell just for a while
posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 9:53 pm
There are times when I love being me.
Like that moment on Friday night when I finished my set with the Pipettes ‘I love you’ and it sounded perfect, just perfect, and as I handed over the decks to Alistair I wanted to dance and bounce and clap my hands because the elation I felt was unlike anything I have felt in ages. It was like the moment when, after a lot of hard, frustrating work you manage to get your mixtape just right — except with people watching, which made it even better. (That metaphor only makes sense if you are the sort of person who spends ages trying to get their mixtapes just right. Which, as you probably know by now, I most definitely am.)
Or that other moment on Friday when I told our new (and possibly temporary, and utterly adorable) teacher that she seems to be ‘exactly what this course needs at this moment in time’ and we would be very, very sad to see her go; and she hugged me and said ‘thank you for telling me’ — and I felt great for telling her, which made a welcome change from the ‘why ever did it seem like a good idea to say that in the first place?’ feeling I usually end up with.
Or that moment on Saturday morning when Georgie sent me a new song or rather the moment I fell in love with it, the moment I felt it tag at my heartstrings, gently pulling them apart until I was a mess of Athenian memories and pride (because I
used to still mean something to the Occasional Flickers) and the happiness of being someone who can be undone by a song in the space of minutes.
Or that moment today after lunchtime was over, when we all walked from the cafe to ‘our big shed’ in the rain and I felt unreasonably and inexplicably happy, as enchanted as a four-year-old at a funfair, and the raindrops glistened and shone.
But there are also other times: lying in bed, looking back at what my life has been like and not understanding why ever whatever it is that happened happened, struggling and failing to put it into words; being at the verge of tears, upset by something most people would have hardly noticed, unable to explain what is happening to me to anyone and therefore having to put up with all sorts of irrelevant comments; all those moments when, hopelessly misunderstood, I think that for someone who is supposed to be a good writer I am just awful at expressing myself.
There are also times when I hate it.
Disclaimer: The point I am trying to make is not that I sometimes hate myself, even though it probably sounds like it.
Sunday, February 4, 2007
posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 8:01 pm
(The other day, someplace)
“I just wish I knew there was somewhere, a little crack or something, to stick my fingers in and pull and it would turn everything inside out.”
“And what would happen then?”
“I would see all the good in the world.”
(Thessaloniki, August 2002)
I’ve just come back from one of my month-long trips around Europe, which means that everything around me looks depressing. The boy sitting opposite me looks depressed. The late summer heat makes it hard to breath, but if you look closely you can detect the first hints of autumn in the way the late afternoon light, in the way it changes. If you look more closely still you will see the marks the chair has left on my legs, or how I have been biting my straw. Or how I fidgeted and stared at my glass when, in a sudden bout of inspiration, I told him it all comes down to what we think of the world. What we really think of the world, what we think about it in our hearts. Do we think it is a good place, or a bad place? He doesn’t seem to get the importance of what I am saying — but then, did he ever? I’m not even sure if I can grasp it myself. All I know is my answer, a scary little monster staring back at me cheekily: the world is a magical place, where bad things happen all the time, to everyone I know.
(Exmouth, January 2007)
In fact, it is Friday January 19th, the last day of storytelling, and the whole class has had to go out for a twenty-minute walk and come back with a small story about something they had seen. Having done that we are now discussing which ones would be appropriate for Classes 1 and 2, and why. After listening for a while I can’t stand it anymore so I stick my hand up and ask John if what we are trying to convey is the sense that all’s right with the world. John launches on a long, somewhat disjointed story that is as moving as it is besides the point, or perhaps even more so. He is trying to explain how we can do this –how we stand in front of a class of children and tell them that all is right with the world when so many bad things happen all the time– and why we might want to do it when all I asked was whether that would be a good way of putting what he was trying to say into words. I have no problem telling small children that all is right with the world, no problem at all — in fact not doing so seems more and more cruel every day.
(Athens, March 2006)
I’m writing this:
IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve been reading this book, and, on page 331, it says (that Steiner said):
Ã¢â‚¬Å“This fundamental mood [being filled with the Ã¢â‚¬Å“devotion that one develops in the spiritual worldÃ¢â‚¬?, which makes the child Ã¢â‚¬Å“give himself up to his enviroment by imitating the people around himÃ¢â‚¬?] is a very beautiful, and it must be fostered in the child. It proceeds from the assumption, from the unconsious assumption, that the whole world is of a moral nature.Ã¢â‚¬?
It is hard to say, but: if you asked me Ã¢â‚¬Å“what is it like to be you?Ã¢â‚¬? (a question I like asking, though hardly ever out loud; IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m not that brave) IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢d have to say Ã¢â‚¬Å“well, all my life has been a fight against those who wanted me to believe that it is foolish to think that Ã¢â‚¬Ëœthe whole world is of a moral natureÃ¢â‚¬â„¢. It has been a struggle to be allowed to believe that.Ã¢â‚¬?
If only I could go back to believing that. I think then I would be whole again.
You are sitting in front of your computer, wondering what it is I am trying to say. Well, to put it coarsely, what I am trying to say is that when the part of you that existed before you were born left the place where it was to come here –separating itself from god like a droplet separating from the ocean, as Steiner rather beautifully puts it– it was hoping for a place as beautiful, good and true as the one it left. And that, upon not finding it, it got disappointed. Disgruntled. Disenchanted.
And me? Well — I am looking for the spell that will bring the enchantment back.
Friday, February 2, 2007
That’s sorted then
posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 2:39 pm
It’s a beautiful, sunny afternoon; it’s been a week of good moment after good moment at school; I’m happy. And I would quite like to me be out there with my camera, drinking coffee, thinking of my friends, having things fall into place in my head and feeling ready to take over the world. But, on the other hand, it is also the beginning of a weekend and I haven’t had a proper night’s sleep in over ten days now, and I would love to have a nap too. I was going to agonise over that –because I really want a nap but I would also really worry I was missing out on better things– but the weather has decided it for me. In the time it took me to have lunch and write this big grey clouds took over the sky.
Thursday, February 1, 2007
A reason why
posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 5:36 pm
There come moments –like that Monday a while ago when I was designing a website and I got so caught up in it so much even forgot to go to the bathroom– when I wonder to myself: why was it that I wanted to become a teacher, again? And then I worry a little, because there are also moments –a lot of moments– when this being a teacher thing seems very hard. Moments when I feel that I need to stretch and stretch myself and then stretch myself some more, and that all the stretching is almost more than I can bear.
But then there also come mornings like yesterday when something that I has been in my head for a long time suddenly makes sense like it has never before. “Imbue thyself with the power of imagination,” we have been repeating together morning after morning since September, but it wasn’t until yesterday that I realised what that power of imagination may be. That is may be a lot more than the ability to tell stories or introduce the letters of the alphabet in a particular way, which is what I –lazily– associated it with before. That it may be the force by which you reshape yourself, your life, your world. The world.
Or days like today when I realise that while other people are at work, quite probably having an XML overdose (exciting as that may be), I am standing in a big shed surrounded by trees and squirrels and grey light seeping through the windows, singing that winter calls a clear horizon like the sea calls to the port –which is pretty hard to get right but also heartachingly beautiful if you do– and the realisation takes my breath away. I have to stop for a moment and think of how I ever came to be here, and how lucky I am that I did. And all the stretching suddenly seems worth the trouble and the pain.
Tuesday, January 30, 2007
posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 5:30 pm
Once upon a long ago a boy took me for a walk on a beach somewhere in the middle of England, where the sea was brown — nearly as brown as the sand, it was. The rest of the day was blue and red against a grey background of clouds and winds and middle-of-winter blues: those were the colours of the buildings and of my hat and of my heart, and, on the bus ride home, of the blurry world outside the raindrop-stained windows. And in its own quiet, understated way this day became one of the best things in my life — a little like watching the rain from that train station shelter in Kalmar was (what I called ‘the living equivalent of a poem’ back then) but mostly like nothing else in the whole wide world.
Last Sunday I took the same boy on a walk on the other side of the river from here in an effort to bridge the gap that not talking for most of the time in between had created. The sea was a hundred different shades of blue, and, when we came back, my heart was a hundred different colours too.
And so now I am as in love with Dawlish as I was with Cleethropes all that time ago. And, somehow, this is all that I could have asked for.
Wednesday, January 24, 2007
And still, I hate January #2
posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 10:10 pm
And then Martijn left and Pipas came and they played in Athens and 67 people bought a ticket to the show which meant that not only did we not lose any money but we made €15 and had the best weekend of our lives up to then — and, quite possibly, in general. It was really the end of an era even though at the time it felt like a start, and what a perfect one it was too: a dream come true, and one that turned out to be better in reality too.
It is hard to describe, even harder to explain but I remember standing on a rock overlooking Athens in the wind as the sky gently turned pink and purple and blue and the weekend was beginning to end, and the feeling I have about that moment is that even if we had discovered the treasure at the end of the rainbow just then I wouldn’t have been surprised, I would have just bounced or clapped my hands.
Somewhere, I have a brilliant photo of that moment, with all of us standing above Athens under bright blue windy skies and looking very happy, but it is locked somewhere in the hibernating computer so I can’t share it with you. You’ll just have to imagine it.
(Lupe has been remembering it too. — and I think that that boy Pixie must have been doing so too because he finally got round to finishing that video he was filming for all weekend long.)
Monday, January 22, 2007
And still, I hate January #1
posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 9:44 pm
Two years and a few days ago I woke up at 5 a.m. next to Martijn who didn’t, because he hadn’t really fallen asleep in the first place, and he asked me:
“When do you think we are going to get married?”
At that time we had been together for just about three months so it was a bit of a crazy question. Still, it was uttered matter-of-factly, much like one would say “when is your friend Will coming over?” But that’s Martijn for you. Plus, it was 5 a.m. and I was half-asleep and therefore not thinking clearly, so I just replied equally matter-of-factly the first thing that came to me:
And so it happened that we got engaged: completely unceremoniously but still rather sweetly, at an ungodly hour of the day.
Thursday, January 18, 2007
Even if I say so myself
posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 9:30 pm
Martijn has often said that the golden rule of blogging is never apologise for having been quiet — or something like that anyway. It is true that there are few things that are as boring as bloggers’ excuses and explanations, but even so, I want to say something that sounds suspiciously like an excuse or an explanation. When I am not writing it is more likely that I have too much to say than that I have nothing to say. Having too much to say means I need to write a long entry; writing a long entry means I have to be in the right mood and find the right amount of time; and those two tend to not come together very much. Having nothing to say, on the other hand, means I can idly sit down with the laptop and write ten lines about any old random thought that has happened to catch my fancy on any given evening.
On a completely unrelated note, tomorrow we have to go for a short walk and come back with a small story about two or three things that we really saw having a conversation with each other. Things that are alive are preferred but we are not forbidden from using the odd fencepost or bus ticket. My first reaction when I heard this was along the lines of “oh god no, not more stories” and “that sounds hard” until I remembered I have already written one of those:
“Ever since colours have had names, the days of the week have had colours and me, I’ve had a reason to be.”
So I went back and read it and I marvelled at myself for ever having forgotten about it in the first place — and I nearly fell in love with it, too. It’s not as well written as it could have been, by any means (I remember I was in a terrible rush that evening) but even so, it’s pretty good.
Wednesday, January 10, 2007
posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 8:45 pm
I seem to be up to a million things, lately, too many things, and it is driving me crazy, and… you don’t care, do you? Because I don’t either. What I wanted to say is that one of these things seems to be rediscovering the Chills’ ‘Heavenly pop hit’ and listening to it a lot. I only thought of it because I was feeling positive (along with positively overexcited — in fact it seems that overexcited has become my default mood, but never mind that) and wanted something positive to sing along to. And you can’t get much more positive than that:
Each evening the sun sets in five billion places
Seen by ten billion eyes set in five billion faces
Then they close in a daze and wait for the dawning
But the daylight and sunrise are brighter in our eyes
Where night cannot devour golden solar power
Once we were damned, now I guess we are angels
For we passed though the dark and eluded the dangers
Then awoke with a start, to startling changes
All the tension is ended, the sentence suspended
And darkness now sparkles and gleams
I used to feel like this, once upon a time — that “once we were damned, now I guess we are angels”. Honestly. It only lasted a few weeks, two or three or so, but I remember it clearly as one of the best times in my life. Perhaps singing this is going to bring it back. It is true, after all. Daylight and sunrise are brighter in our eyes, and we did pass through the dark and eluded the dangers. It is even quite possible that we have awoken with a start to startling changes. It would explain a few things…
Like why the darkness suddenly seems to sparkle and gleam.
Saturday, January 6, 2007
posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 2:36 pm
I was walking down Portobello Road this
morning afternoon, moaning under my breath about the tourists. Apparently, I am not a tourist anymore. And the proof? Not only did I, without having to think about it, say ‘sorry’ whenever I so much at touched a stranger, but I felt offended when they didn’t say ‘sorry’ back.
That is from the same girl who found all this sorry-ing a little ridiculous three months ago. You’ve got to laugh.
Thursday, January 4, 2007
posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 10:31 pm
What do you do when all you want to do is lie on the floor, with all the lights out, and listen to music, but instead you have to write an essay on the implicit and explicit values of science? It it wrong of me to want–to expect– to be able to forget about the essay and do what my heart is asking for? And, if it is not wrong, how does one ever achieve anything?
I understand we can’t always get our way, of course I do, but then there’s a lot to be said about following your heart and what it needs. And right now I need a lot of quiet, space, and time.
Wednesday, January 3, 2007
The big things, the little things and happiness
posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 12:09 am
A while ago a girl I know split up with her boyfriend of six years. They did it amicably, deciding to remain best friends and give it another go after he had sorted himself out and become a little happier about things. That lasted a few days: until he got a drunk, that is, and came round in the early hours of a Sunday morning, breaking her door and a neighbour’s window while shouting some less than pretty things about her and her friends, who live in the flats above. I met a few of those people a couple of days after that, and they were, understandably, sad and shaken. They were also really and truly shocked, amazed that such a nice boy could do that sort of thing. Which made me realise something: I was not. Of course I was sad. It is always sad to hear how people can mess up their own lives because they can’t control themselves. I was also angry — the words ‘stupid’ and ‘bastard’ came to mind immediately, as they do in such cases. But I was not shocked.
And how could I be, really. I’m rather used to this thing. Not that anyone has ever broken my door but I’ve seen plenty of emotional outbursts of this sort, in fact I have grown up with them. Not only my childhood but pretty much all my life up to now has been punctuated by this sort of incident. Whose main recipient I often was. First my dad, then my brother, then the boy Constantin (also known as the Previous Significant Boyfriend) and now, of course, Martijn have made sure I wouldn’t forget what verbal violence is. Or how angry a man can be. Or how nasty he can get when angry, and how stupid. By this I mean how many things he doesn’t really mean he can say— and how they can become true after a while if he says them often enough. I have to say that I am all too used to this. By now (I am twenty five, nearly twenty six) it has become something I deal with rather than something that comes upon me like a thunderstorm. Something that, upsetting as it may be, exists outside me not inside me. Something that, in time, will stop, go away. The sun will come out again. But I digress — or, rather, I am jumping ahead of myself here.
That thought hit me hard this summer. I am used to this — and what this is, what it is called these days, is abuse. ‘I’ve been abused’ is a hard thought to accept, even when the reality of it is glaringly obvious, as it has always been. It becomes harder when it hits you at the same time as ‘this is happening to me again, it is still happening, it has always been happening, what is going on here?’ I am still not sure I have the answer to the question. What I am sure about is that I am going to shoot the first person to imply that this is a choice I am making, and that I am making it for a reason. Extra bullets thrown in for anyone who implies I don’t know better (one bullet), I don’t love myself enough (three bullets) or that I must have done something really nasty in a previous life and now I’m paying for it (too many bullets to count). I do believe in reincarnation, by the way. And in the fact that we make choices. And that there is a reason for the things that happen. I just think that sometimes these things are beyond our reach and understanding. And that they’re not as simple or straightforward as some people seem to think. And –finally– that we’re not as much as into punishing ourselves or teaching ourselves lessons the hard way. But I really do digress. I was saying that it is hard to accept that you have been abused. And it is, perhaps, harder still to understand how you can feel both that, and a princess.
It is hard. But it is also comforting, reassuring, and, well, inspiring. Because while anyone can abuse you no one can make you a princess if you aren’t one. And while my fears could have come from outside there are other things that could only have come from inside, from me: my faith in the world, in its inherent goodness, regardless of everything; the fact that I fought back, fought for what I believed in even when I was tiny, refusing to believe my dad when he said that everything and everyone was horrible; my ability to bounce back, and, occasionally, eventually, and truly, be happy. It made me proud of myself to realise all that, and it makes me prouder still to write it down. I was a magical child. I brought these things with me and kept them alive through some really dark times. And now that I’m all grown up I only believe in them more.
But I digress again. This post was supposed to be about happiness. I was going to talk about something that all this bouncing back has taught me, something that watching that girl trying to pull herself back together in the days following the breaking of her door, and that is: there are two kinds of happiness, the inside one and the outside one, and they are both important. (The inside one comes from knowing that all is well in your world; the outside one, from experiencing things that make you feel that all is well in your world.) Just as are there people who have told me “if you are happy with yourself, nothing can put you down” and people who have told me “living in a nice flat is not going to make me less sad” — and, much as I could see where both of them where coming from, I disagreed with them both. Knowing that all is well in your world (or some sort of more realistic approximation thereof) is indeed a very powerful thing, I have discovered that as I slowly approach it. But I have also discovered that it won’t help you if it is 3 am and your husband is shouting all sorts of things he doesn’t mean, and he can’t seem to stop himself for hours. And the only thing that will help you get through the next day when everything seems shattered to pieces is the sunshine, a new book and cooking your favourite dinner. The little things. I am an expert at bouncing back. Two days and one good night’s sleep later I could smile again. Three days and two nights’ sleep later I was bouncing around the flat, singing along to the Fairways. (The Fairways are great, by the way.)
Some days I wonder if it is good to be like that. Some others I know I wouldn’t have survived –emotionally– had I been any other way. Sometimes I wish I didn’t have to be this way. Others, I think it is a priceless skill which might help me achieve great things one day. But I digress. All I am trying to say is that you should take care of the little things. Do not disregard them, they matter more than people give them credit for. If you can’t have the big things, if the world is –temporarily or otherwise– looking like a menacing, unfriendly place and nothing seems right, keep the faith and focus on the little things. And the big things will come along.
It works. I tell you.
Monday, January 1, 2007
posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 4:30 pm
When other people make resolutions, I demand.
[I don’t see the point of making New Year’s Resolutions, and that’s not only because nobody sticks to them. Not even because they tend to be a reminder of what you don’t like in yourself, and I think we could all do with liking ourselves a little better. It’s just that January is such a random time to place the beginning of the year. My years start around the third week of September, a time ripe with plans, ideas and resolutions; alternatively, Spring Equinox would be an acceptable time for new beginnings too (not least because it is three days before my birthday). But January? What were the Romans thinking of?]
- A glockenspiel
- More books
- New shoes
- Stripy socks
- Some new clothes would be nice, too
- The perfectly-titled Magic Whispers new album
- The Pines compilation
- A little more money, so I can buy all the ones above
- A new friend or two, preferably in the area
- Better sleep
- The sun to come out
- To find out why my cake failed
- To find my voice
- Some sort of indiepop action in Devon
- To redesign this blog
This, by the way, is a mix of things I want now and things that I realise might take a little more time to happen — in which case getting them within 2007 would be nice, and much appreciated. (The sooner the more appreciated, of course.)
Saturday, December 30, 2006
Today the sun came out for a minute or two
posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 5:10 pm
And what did I do but grab a camera?
Some people say that Christmas Trees look their best in the dark but I quite liked mine with the blue-sky background. It started to rain again soon after that. In fact “pissing down with rain” would be a more accurate description of what is happening outside our windows… And, try as I might, I don’t think I can bring myself to like winter.
Feel free to tell me how wrong I am, and why. I’d like to like it, honestly, I would.
Monday, December 25, 2006
So this is Christmas, and the grass is greener
posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 10:54 pm
As you probably know, Martijn finally has a job. (In Oxfordshire. But that’s another story.) As you probably also already know, we have a newly-arrived Christmas tree, and it looks great. What you might not know is that after three days of ‘shop till you drop’ with my mum (where she did most of the shopping and I did most of the dropping) we managed to stay in for three days of preparing for Christmas, and, well, Christmas. It definitely made for a good change.
Late last night was definitely my favourite moment of the whole week: the cake was baked, the chicken prepared and in the fridge, the house nearly tidy, and we were out on the street on the way towards the church. (I wanted to see what it was like.) For a moment I knew what “god’s in his heaven, all’s right with the world!” means. (I know there are people to whom this is anathema, but I think that if only more people felt all’s right with the world, more would be right with the world. I once was a Friend of the Heroes, after all. That’s the sort of thing we
preached believed in.)
Now all the food has been eaten (and I have received a fair number of compliments for it), a fair bit of alcohol has been consumed, the friend we invited has gone home and Martijn is playing random selections off my 7″ collection while composing a blogpost with pen and paper (we have only one computer). And I have, to my surprise, realised and feel compelled to admit that I seem to be having the sort of time I always thought I would have when I grew up and settled down. I don’t know why most people seem to dislike growing up, around here we are finding it pretty great. As I have always said (once Architecture in Helsinki said it): the grass gets greener once we get to the finish line.
Wednesday, December 6, 2006
It’s a good think I’m pretty sure about these things
posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 8:50 pm
I didn’t mean to be silent. It’s just that the things I have on my mind are rather hard to say. The amount of thought that can go into teaching eight 10-to-12 year olds for an hour is mind-boggling, as is the fact that the way you handle even the simplest of the things that come up with them comes down to philosophy. Not developmental psychology, not pedagogic principles, not accumulated experience, not even blind faith — it comes down to what you think life is all about. Where do we come from? What is the essence of a good life? And why ever did we find ourselves here in the first place, anyway?
Friday, December 1, 2006
Temporary pop envy vs Monday morning
posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 10:23 pm
I’ve just spent an hour looking for reviews of our gigs on Google. It is not a healthy way to spend the time, I know, but sometimes you just can’t resist it. I found a couple of reviews I hadn’t come across before: one of Jens, one of the last ‘Flickers gig and a mention of the Clientele too.
[Honestly, why would anyone compare Lupe to Isobel Campbell?! I don’t see whatever it is they possibly have in common. But what to you expect from the nation that consistently uses the words ‘Sarah records’ when reviewing the Occasional Flickers? Really, if anything, they sound more Matinee or Shelflife. But then again in Greek ‘Sarah records’ seems to mean ‘indie-pop’ and ‘Pale Fountains’ equals ‘trumpets in a song or two’ — and ‘Isobel Campbell’ translates into ‘female vocalist in poppy band’. Sigh.]
And then I listened to Jens, and I missed him. I regretted never having written anything to commemorate the one year anniversary of his gig in Athens, and felt a pang for nostalgia for that old pop life of mine. In fact for a moment I missed the excitement of doing gigs so much I could cry.
But then the moment passed. Because I know that on Monday I will walk into the classroom (for the second week of school experience) and all thoughts of ‘Jens’, ‘indiepop’ and ‘gigs’ will be have long disappeared. (In fact they are already fading fast.) They will be replaced by thoughts of things like ‘soul’, ‘spirit’, ‘so much noise’, ‘growing and learning’, ‘sweet lovely smiles’ and ‘a lot of fun’. Because –did I mention?– I really do love Class 5. They’re making me think I was right to want to be a teacher. And, you know what else? Deep down, they’re more exciting than Jens.
A little more exciting.
Wednesday, November 29, 2006
Things I did at school today
posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 7:38 pm
I was late.
I went into an empty classroom.
I looked around an empty school.
I looked across an empty yard.
I found someone to tell me that Class 5 was in the old school.
I found them trying to bring down the shed-sort-of-thing they had build when they were Class 3.
I took a screwdriver and unscrewed a lot of screws.
I pulled big heavy wood beams down, breaking parts of the plastic roof. (I was supposed to do that. Don’t worry.)
I got wet in the process. (There was water on the roof.)
I saw a double rainbow!
I sat and had a snack while listening to the teacher read from the Gnole.
I watched children play on the swings in the sunshine.
I had a few very interesting conversations with the teacher.
I watched a German lesson where some children didn’t behave all that well.
I admired the German teacher’s sweet smile.
I had to stand in front of the class and get them ready to say grace for lunch.
I didn’t even know the verse. (They did.)
I had lunch.
I practised switching the lights on and off for the play tomorrow.
I watched the rehearsal.
I helped move a very heavy desk.
I carried chairs and put them in rows.
I laughed a lot at a certain scene gone wrong. (You had to be there.)
I said “see you tomorrow” quite a lot.
Tuesday, November 28, 2006
Goodbye and thank you, dear Class 5
posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 7:43 pm
Second day of school experience, and I find myself falling in love with the class, hopelessly. (I am already thinking I’m going to miss them at the end of the two weeks.) They’re the sweetest bunch of 10-to-12-year-olds you could come across, I promise. And it helps that at the end of the day their teacher has them say this, all together, in an awesome rhythm:
“Brave and true
I will be
Each good deed
Sets me free
Each kind word
Makes me strong
I will fight
For the right
I will conquer
And you’d be amazed at how great eight 10-to-12-year-olds can make it sound. Even though I know for a fact that some of them don’t even realise what they’re saying. And then she has them say that:
“Goodbye and thank you, dear Dimitra.”
And I tell you. It made me melt yesterday. It made me melt today. And it’s going to make me melt each and every one of the eight days I have with them. I promise.
Monday, November 27, 2006
Raindrops and rainbows
posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 7:32 pm
Sunday, November 26, 2006
Long lost tape III
posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 6:01 pm
[Long lost tape II]
I wonder if I’ve been making this sound like a bigger deal than what it is. There’s not much suspense to it: Rachel convinced me to write Joe an email telling him how much I missed the tape and asking him for a new copy of it, and I did just that, even though it took a fair bit of courage and a couple of hours. Once I had done it I wondered whatever had been holding me back from doing so all this time. It wasn’t that hard. Joe wrote back, and so did I, with another story; he sent a tap complete with sleevenotes, and that made me very happy; then he sent another one, which I wasn’t expecting, and that made me even happier. I listened to the first one nearly all the time until I got the second one, and I’ve been listening to that ever since I got it, three days ago. I’m listening to it now, for that matter: singing along, wondering what it is that makes these song speak to my heart in a way very few others do, and – dare I say it?– feeling blessed to own a copy of these recordings again.
Needless to say, I’ve broken off the write-protection tabs already.
Saturday, November 25, 2006
posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 10:20 pm
Today we went to the South Devon Steiner School‘s Advent Fair, where we saw and did some wonderful things. We got a bit lost on the way, and saw a bit of Newton Abbot. We took a long time finding a place to park because there were so many people there. We wandered around the grounds a lot. We chased the two toddlers around a lot, too. We admired the lovely and expensive things at sale in the classrooms. We bought a book, and roast chestnuts. We had Indian food. We got rained on (again). We admired some more things on sale. We saw a rainbow. We had coffee and wheat-free, sugar-free apple buns. (They were lovely. No, really.) We bought two raffle tickets. (I had a feeling. I don’t usually buy raffle tickets.) We took some photos. We wandered around the grounds a bit more. We sat down for a while. We met so many people we knew that we started to feel at home. We had more apple buns. (I told you they were nice.) We chased the toddlers a bit more. We got a bit more wet, and also cold. And then I went and won what could be desribed as the second prize: a basketful of organic chocolate and art supplies, complete with a voucher from a toy shop, a mandarin bath fizz-ball, a handmade honey-tangerine-and-calendula soap, a candle, and a teddy-bear. (I told you I had a feeling! I had two tickets out of four thousand, and there were thirty prizes. I was seventeenth, just as I was beginning to lose faith.) I walked away rubbing my eyes in disbelief, handing out chocolate. (It’s not sugar-free.) On the way back we stopped at the aforementioned toy-shop (where I exchanged my vouchers for sixteen beeswax crayons), the toddler fell asleep clutching the teddy bear and we didn’t get lost. It was great.
Friday, November 24, 2006
Long lost tape II
posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 8:23 pm
[Long lost tape I]
In the months that followed I played that tape a lot. (They were rather happy, intense, creative months, while also being long and dark, and they changed my life.) And then, one crazy April night while it was snowing and I was talking to a friend who had suddenly rang my doorbell after months of not being in touch, I accidentally taped over it.
Oh, the sense of loss when I realised. I got over it, of course, over time I even forgot about it; but every now and again I thought back of that night and quietly cursed myself. Damn. Damn. Of all the tapes in my bedroom, why did I have to pick that one? I had asked David to make me another copy, of course, and he had said yes, but then he never quite got round to it and then we lost touch, and that was the end of that. I gave up on the idea of getting hold of those songs again and I started telling this story instead, and the tape acquired legendary status in the story of my life.
And every now and again a phrase or a picture from these songs would come back to me, like a flashback from a different life, and I would feel haunted for a minute or a day, and long to listen to them again. Three and a half years and the intensity of that feeling still surprised me. It was clear that I had to do something.
Wednesday, November 22, 2006
Three weeks in November
posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 9:04 pm
Tuesday, November 21, 2006
posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 9:32 pm
Monday, November 20, 2006
Long lost tape I
posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 9:29 pm
David and I walk down a dark street in Dorking singing “we’ll never be cool, we’ll never hang around in the right place / we’ll never be cool, not with your mind, and my face”. Even though, to be honest, we thought we were quite cool, in our own, uncool way.
That was the autumn of 2002: on retrospect, one of the happiest times in my life. (One of the very few trouble-free times in my life.) David was my boyfriend, and he was sweet. Dorking was, and still is to the best of my knowledge, a town in Surrey (and not something English people do). The song was (surprisingly enough) called ‘We’ll never be cool’. David had it on tape, a tape given to him by someone, possibly the person who wrote the song or perhaps a friend of his? I can’t remember. What I do remember is that after he played me that tape once, he had to play it again and again because I fell in love with it. We made a copy of it before I left for Greece, on flight with a long layover in Prague. Back then I had a walkman, which explains why I ended up listening to the Foxgloves on a bus though Czech suburbs. The bus was supposed to take me to a metro station, from where I could catch a train to the centre, where I would walk around for an hour or so. Except the whole town had been flooded just a few days before, the metro wasn’t running, I couldn’t find the replacement bus service, I was tired, and I decided to go back to the airport and wait. Thus, these are my only memories of Prague: the grey, run down buildings in the twilight, how poor everyone looked, the songs.
My other memory of that night is of the plane flying low over Thessaloniki at 2 am. The streets were empty, the streetlights were flickering in the mist and the whole thing looked gorgeous. We nearly flew over my flat. I took a taxi from the empty, deserted airport back into town and crept into my room, then crept out to carry the stereo back in. I set it up on some cardboard boxes, connected the speakers hastily and went to bed, the images from the songs moulding into my dreams.
Saturday, November 18, 2006
Meaning vs fate
posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 10:16 pm
I’m not quite done answering Dawn’s question (of sorts).
We held a dinner party last Saturday. It was nice to see our house filled with lovely people. I took the chance to show some photos from our wedding, and answered some questions about how we met (on the indiepop list); which of course was followed by more questions. To most people meeting your husband on the internet still sounds like an outrageous idea. We explained that we had been moving in the same (indiepop) circles, and we had common friends, we’d been to the same festival twice, in fact we’re pretty sure we once stood on either side of the same person (Ally Cook of Dot to Dot fame) who, however, neglected to introduce us to each other. Not wanting to sound like I regretted not having met Martijn earlier (I don’t) I quickly added that it was best this way. Had we met earlier we would, most likely, have become friends and never thought to fall in love with each other.
That made someone comment that “it was meant to be”. Which made me stop for a moment, and think to myself. “Hmmmmm”. (A particularly deep thought, as I am sure you will agree.)
Perhaps I would be fine with saying that (in fact I used to say it myself) had we lived happily ever after the day we met in London, as we thought we would. Except it didn’t work out that way. A couple of months later Martijn came to Athens, stayed for a week, and got absolutely terrified of the future before he left; while I got a flu I never quite got over for a year and a half. Martijn was stressed, unsure of himself, scared and breaking down more and more often while I felt vaguely or not-so-vaguely sick for months on end. There were terrible arguments. The screaming of ugly things. Sleepless night trying to make up (often on the phone). Endless one-sided conversations trying to understand. And more breaking down. The throwing of objects. More breaking down. The shouting of even worse things. And more breaking down. (I am not exaggerating one bit.) Sometimes it seemed as soon as we made up Martijn would start sulking again, closing the world off, pushing me away. The two months following our wedding contained some of the worst moments of my life (and there is considerable competition). It often looked like it was never going to end, and the breaks between the bad spells became shorter and shorter, almost non-existent. And then, miracle of miracles, we moved to England and it suddenly, surprisingly, got a lot better. It hasn’t stopped, and it still needs to get a ]better, but it is decidedly, unarguably, very much better.
But was it meant to be? Was Martijn meant to shout at me that I should go away and die because I deserved it? To throw soy milk all over the kitchen floor? To hit his head with the iron and come to me with blood running down his face? (It was only a tiny scratch, by the way.) Were we destined to a year and a half of intense unhappiness following a short spell of profound happiness? Were our hopes meant to be dashed, our faith in each other and ourselves and the world tried through and through?*
I don’t think so. What I do think is that people confuse “meaningful” with “meant to be”. Meeting Martijn was meaningful in very many ways, and the events that led up to it only made it even more so. The way we met, the way we got closer and closer, what we felt for each other, how it made the world look, the things that it made happen, even the dismal ones I have described above: they are all fraught with meaning. They contain beauty waiting to be seen and lessons waiting to be learned and messages waiting to be carried off into the future. They say a lot about me, him, and the world. Each one of them happened for a reason. But they were not meant to be. Either one of us could have made a different choice somewhere along the way.
*(Most stupid thing I have heard as a reply to a description of this situation: “it keeps you appreciating what you have”. To be fair, it was a well-meaning comment by a nice person who just happened to be having a momentary lapse in brain functioning. There’s no other explanation, is there?)
Friday, November 17, 2006
Archetype, universal, personal interpretation, living, impossible, feeling life
posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 9:43 pm
We have been exploring the concept of an image at school lately. (As you may, or may not, know Steiner education has a lot to do with imagination and teaching through pictures.) Trevor asked us to resist the urge to groan while he unveiled the question he wanted us to think about.
“What are the essential ingredients of a picture?”
It takes a good teacher to know what you will want to do before you want to do it. I was impressed, and I did my best not to groan to honestly it was rather hard. It was made easier from the fact that he was groaning himself. A good sense of humour is also rather essential, don’t you think?
Neither not groaning nor laughing made the question any easier to answer, however. I spent some very frustrating twenty minutes trying to come up with some way of approaching something that looked like an answer. Did I say it wasn’t easy? A picture is such a basic thing you can’t quite define it. Can you define a thought? Can you define a thought without thinking? Can you define a picture without using a picture? Doesn’t that half-defeat the point?
In the end me and the girl I was discussing it with ended up with this: A picture is something you can perceive, something that you can retain in your memory, something that you can pass along, something that appeals to feelings rather than the intellect, and, finally, something that has a life of its own. It was pretty good even if I say so myself. Other people seemed to have approached it from a different perspective so in the end we ended up with a very interesting list of words.
Sometimes lessons make me want to cry, like songs do.
Wednesday, November 15, 2006
On singing again
posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 9:49 pm
Thanks you to all the kind readers (three in total) who took the time to tell me that I can, and should, sing. I really appreciate it. Except I think you might have got the wrong idea here: I never said I don’t sing! Never! Ask anyone who knows me, I sing all bloody day long! I sing at concerts! And I sing at school, because everyone does! It is great! And I love it!
What I was saying is that I’m not particularly good at it –sometimes my voice does what I want it to do and sometimes it falters– and I sound like a ten-year-old quite a lot. Which is sweet, I grant you that, but it’s not quite me. I’m not ten any more, in fact I haven’t been ten for quite some time now. And it might be interesting (especially indiepop-interesting: “whoever said you’ve got to sing well / has never heard Stephen Pastel”) but when it comes to this I don’t want to be interesting, I want to be good. And that might sound terrible (I feel like I have got 26 out of 30 for an essay, and I’m sulking cause I wanted a 27); but it is not. It is not, because what Marc said is true, there’s more there –more of me– and it has been forced to go into hiding and that wasn’t good, it wasn’t fair and it wasn’t right, I want it back. I want it back now.
On a different note, some people seem to be having a mid-NaBloPoMo crisis. I am not. Quite the opposite: writing has been getting easier, it feels natural again, I don’t have to think about it very much! This thing is working!
Tuesday, November 14, 2006
posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 9:02 pm
There’s one thing I have to say today, and that is that writing about something that depresses you is very hard. I’m still working on that damned music biography (and I’m not done yet, either) and it is sucking my energy away. Even something so seemingly innocent as why I never learned to play an instrument can bring up thoughts about the special way in which my family was messed up, and the feelings that go with it are surprisingly deep. I’m at a bit of a loss as to why that is. Anyway here’s an excerpt:
If I had joined this course a few years ago, I would have said [when we were talking about our music biographies in class: My name is Dimitra, and I can’t play any instruments.] And I can’t sing, either. I think I used to be able to, but it got lost along the way.” But, by now, I’ve changed my mind about it. I may not sing very well, but I can sing, and I am getting better (slowly, with the occasional leap thrown in).
Instead of saying this I told the story of the summer I was 5, when we went camping every weekend, and my parents always played the same tape (of old Italian songs) on the way back. I loved that tape. Driving back was my favourite part of the weekend because of that, and I remember looking forward to it. I never, however, told anyone about it; and, even though I just couldn’t help singing along, I tried to do it quietly, so that no one would notice. Except I suppose some night I got a little carried away because my mum heard me and exclaimed to my dad, “Hey! This one is singing!” She didn’t say it unkindly but she didn’t say it kindly either, and it was mortified. I didn’t dare sing along to anything in front of them for years after that.
Do you see? Do you? (It’s okay if you don’t.) The thing is that I can sing, and I can’t, at the same time. Marc, our teacher (who, however, has only been down here for one day so far) seems to think “there is more there”, which is an upsetting and a comforting thought at the same time. Comforting because I know it will be better, and upsetting because I wish it was better already. I used to be rather good as a child, I’m pretty certain of that, and I hate the fact that it went away. I’m not one to blame other people for what happens to me, but when it comes to this I feel like something was taken from me unfairly, and I wish I didn’t have to put up with this sort of thing, or its consequences. At least not any more. Enough! I have had enough! I want the good stuff, and I want it now!
On a more cheerful note, here’s more Nixon, live in Athens. It is rather brilliant, if you like that sort of thing. And you can hear me sing in the background.
Monday, November 13, 2006
A passing shower or two
posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 10:10 pm
I’ve been trying to do homework today. (Monday is a non-contact day at my course, which we should, apparently, use either as day to visit schools, or as a ‘welcome study period.’ I seem to use it to lengthen my weekends and retain my sanity, except for the times when deadlines loom close and a study period does indeed seem welcome.)
Can you can tell from my tense of choice how well it went? I have to write ‘my music biography’, which is, I’m sure you’d agree, a lovely idea (as is the teacher who asked us to do this); except an appropriate title for mine would be ‘A not-so-short history of disappointments: why I can’t play any instrument whatsoever and I can’t sing all that well, either’. It has been surprisingly hard to write, and working on it has proved to be rather depressing. It’s a necessary step to get to a better place, I know, but combined with yesterday’s post, the composition of which had similar effects on me, it has left me wishing for a day out. Oh, how I long to go shopping in Totnes! (Exeter would do just fine too.) Or walk along the Thames, watching the leaves twirl in the autumn wind! (Except that involves four hours on the train either way, which is a bit too much.) Or have a fun day at school, that would do too: a bit of school experience, art, a long talk on something interesting, a sunny lunch break…
Instead, it seems that it will be cloudy tomorrow, with “a passing shower or two” (doesn’t that sound nice?) and we have double anthroposophy. I need to think of something nice, and fast. And drink a lot of coffee tomorrow.
Sunday, November 12, 2006
posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 9:39 pm
Last Sunday Dawn wrote a post on adoption, faith and the concept of something being ‘meant to be’ that made a lot of things fall into place for me. An awful lot of things, which is why I don’t know where to start from. And Dawn always throws the ball back at the reader at the end (a quality I don’t come across often enough in this world) which got me wanting to write about it, even though, obviously, I have not been involved in any adoption whatsoever. I just think that, when you get down to the essence of things, it doesn’t really make a difference whether it is adoption you are talking about or something else. (In this case, of course — not in general.)
Now that I’ve made a start, let’s get two awkward facts out of the way. One, my dad is a bastard who has been emotionally abusing the whole family in general, and me in particular, since he first got the chance to. And two, I have always had some issues with the concept of reincarnation. Not the idea itself, mind you: it seems (feels) reasonable enough, that is to say it makes sense, and I’m pretty sure the fact that a lot of religions point in that direction is not accidental either. All in all I am rather convinced that we do go through multiple incarnations on this planet, as much as I think one can be convinced of such things. (Which is quite a lot, but not entirely, as I will, I hope, make clear.)
Are you with me so far? Okay. Let’s complicate things a little more.
While living in Athens I spent time with the people I called the crazy psychologists, who seemed to believe that there probably is no such thing as reincarnation; or, at least, that believing that you chose the circumstances in which you were born “weakens you”. That is a little hard to explain; let’s just say they consider your strength in life to be directly proportionate to the respect you have for those to whom respect is due. By thinking that you chose your parents you put yourself in a position “above them”, which, according to them, is one of the worst things you can do. (It goes without saying that saying that your father is a bastard wasn’t considered a very good idea, either. Let’s say I didn’t quite agree with everything said there. Too many things to respect, not enough thinking, I thought.)
While living in Exmouth, on the other hand, I spend a lot of time with Steiner people. Who, as you may know, hold the idea of reincarnation pretty close to their hearts, or at least to the centre of the world view. They talk not only of life after death but of life before birth too (an idea often neglected in the rest of the world, it seems); of choosing the people we are born to and the school we go to and the people we meet in later life. (And, somehow, I don’t quite agree with that either. Too much thinking, not enough respect for those things that are beyond and above us.)
While in Cornwall (for the course’s “residential induction”, or whatever staying in a farm in the middle of nowhere with the people you are going to spend three years with was called) the course tutor mentioned reincarnation as linked to the fact that everything is meaningful. I protested. (I protest a lot.) I am more than sure that there is a reason behind most things, if not everything, but I don’t think this has to be linked with reincarnation. He tried to explain, but he only made it worse:
“So if I, as a teacher, am I a pain to you, it may be because you have been a pain to me in a previous life”.
Which is precisely the part I have issues with. I think that if, as a teacher, you are a pain to me, it is because you’re not trying hard enough to be a good teacher. And if you are an abusive father, then, well — then you are a bastard in my book. It may be true that I chose to come to this family (in fact, I think it probably is) but I didn’t chose other people’s actions, and neither did God: they chose them themselves. Also, these choices weren’t all made and set in stone when I was born: they were made day after day after day (those days that make up twenty-five-and-a-half years). They could have been changed at any given point in time.
And the reason why I heart Dawn is because she managed to put all this into place with a handful of words, like this:
[Note: Madison is her daughter, and she is adopted; Jessica is Madison’s birth mother.]
I believe that our soul/energies get a lot of options outside this planet and that one of them is coming around here and trying on different ways of being human. I really feel that Jessica, Madison and I have known each other before and that this is the way we’re part of each other’s lives this time. It’s the only way I can explain the profound love/familiarity I feel when I’m around Jessica.
This doesn’t excuse all the things that made Jessica create an adoption plan – it’s not a shrug-your-shoulders excuse for injustice – it’s just how I feel our family manifested itself. And it doesn’t let me off scott-free either. Like I can’t blithely say, “It was meant to be!” and skip along my merry way ignoring the human consequences of my actions. It’s more complicated than that.
You know Judaism says it kinda doesn’t matter what happens past this life – heaven, hell – it’s not up to us to worry about these things. We have to make our best possible efforts here, now. Our job here is to repair the world.
So there you go, it’s all clear now! We make choices. They are not directly, linearly linked to what happens to us in this life. They do not constitute an excuse, or –dare I say– even a reason for anybody else’s actions. Most importantly: whatever happens before or after this life is better left alone, or, at least, approached with great humbleness. That’s not to say we shouldn’t think of it. It just means I wouldn’t –I don’t– use it as a compass on how to live my life. While we’re here, our task is to concentrate on being here and doing our best at it: being true to ourselves, loving those who touch our hearts, being kind to those who don’t, and trying to make our little corner of the world a better place.
And for everything else, well — there will be a season.
[The soundtrack to this: Vashti Bunyan and, near the end, the Byrds.]
Wednesday, November 8, 2006
The sort of thing I once called ‘the living equivelant to a poem’
posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 9:41 pm
We stand in a circle in a room that can be described as a cross between a shed and a dance studio. There are seventeen of us, the circle is perfectly sized. There are trees outside the window, and grass, and falling leaves; there’s filtered light inside, grey skies above. We’ve sung a song, played around with a poem and we are about to sit down at the other end of the room and discuss the meaning of authority; but for the moment we’re standing in that circle, throwing balls around.
There is a strange pattern to this madness — you throw to the person standing on the right of the person who threw to you. The description is enough to throw havoc in my mind –telling right from left is not my strongest point– but somehow it is a little easier than it sounds. It’s the second time we’re doing this which means there’s something akin to a flow, and not much hysterical laughing, and I’m starting to get a feeling for how this thing works. (It involves watching the people on either side of you and being ready to take a turn after them, and something else that I haven’t quite figured out yet — figuring out patterns in space is not my strongest point either.)
And for a while it is all rather perfect. No, wait, scratch that: it is perfect. I’m happy to be here.
Tuesday, November 7, 2006
A very nice wall indeed
posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 10:07 pm
Oh. And do you know when you know the whole NaBloPoMo thing is worth it?
(Because, let’s face it, it did cross my mind that it was silly, especially when it took me three hours to write a three hundred word entry that three people would read. I know I only have myself to blame for this predicament for starting this blog and never really sticking with it, but still. It made me long for my Friends of the Heroes days when I knew I had an audience. Not that it was all that big, mind you, but at least I didn’t feel like I was scribbling on my own on a wall in a dead-end street that no one uses apart from the people who live there. And I felt that I have driven myself in that corner, too. But never mind — because today I decided it is worth it.)
When you get such a lovely comment from a lovely reader. When you hear that it means something to someone, even if it is only for a moment.
Monday, November 6, 2006
posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 8:59 pm
My first thought when I first set foot on England, in the summer of 2001, was “it’s just like in the books!”. It was so much like the books, actually, that I felt I had stepped into one. It’s a funny thing, visiting a country whose culture you have been studying while growing up. The feeling faded with time as I got used to things, and I had in fact completely forgotten about it. (These days, when people ask me how I find moving to England, I don’t know what to say because it all seems so natural, exactly like what we were expecting it to be.) I remembered it yesterday for a moment when I caught myself thinking “so this is what a Bonfire Night is like!”, comparing descriptions from books to my own experience.
After the fireworks, we went to a beach party.
Sunday, November 5, 2006
Cooking and thinking
posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 6:37 pm
It seems that we don’t get on well with weekends. They tend to go wrong a lot in our house. I have to say I’m not very fond of them just now: they’re too full of bad moods and not full enough of all the things we have to be doing. (Homework, cleaning the house, emailing people — that sort of thing.) Apart from sulking, arguing, and being upset, I seem to have done only two things: cooking, and lying in bed looking back at the week.
That last one is definitely my favourite. I love having the time to go over what happened — rethink a thing or two, focus on a detail I have missed, dwell on the happy moments, figure out what was important and hold on it, get rid of what doesn’t matter any more. I don’t think I can get enough of this sort of time. That is how I grow up, how I get to know myself, how I find my way through life — it’s priceless. (Perhaps I do like weekends a bit after all.)
As for cooking, well, since Saturday afternoon, in attempt to get through as many vegetables from the box as possible, I have made: cauliflower soup, beetroot leaf salad, beetroot pasta, pancakes, a no-name-in-particular salad, sesame and pumpkin seed bars, and cabbage with bacon and onion sauce. Out of these I had only tried the pancakes before. No wonder I feel like I’ve spent the weekend in a kitchen!
Friday, November 3, 2006
The essence of certain things
posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 11:49 pm
The last thing I want is to turn this into a month of diary entries. Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing whatsoever against (good) diary entries; this site is (supposed to be) a sort of diary anyway. It’s just that I think that telling you that today I got up at six forty five even though I didn’t have to be in at university before ten or that I had a lovely conversation with one of my classmates during lunch break is hardly the point of this months project. Even though that conversation was really lovely –a calm, quiet, fleeting moment of togetherness, dappled in sunshine– and the memory of it brings a smile to my face. Even though it is one of the reasons why tonight I think I like my new life. So I’m not going to tell you much about the early mornings or the sunshine and the mist, the vegetable box, the missed buses, the boring sandwiches, the puppetry workshop, the toddler, the walk home, the ring around the moon or the stories about fireworks.
Because I’ve just told you all there is to say about them, haven’t I?
Thursday, November 2, 2006
The best thing about England is the weather
posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 10:03 pm
Nobody had warned me about it. Really. They all talked about rain and the wind and the humidity, and did I mention the rain? Somebody said it rained every day for a month after they moved to Exeter. It wasn’t the most exhilarating of concepts. I was prepared for a lot of greyness, for being miserable and missing the sunshine and do you know what I got instead? I got the loveliest autumn of my life. Not that it doesn’t rain, it does, and sometimes, like last week (and the week before, and part of the week before that too) it rains a lot; but when it doesn’t the air is crisp, the sunshine bright and the colours on the leaves brighter. The sea glistens and the chill in the air makes me feel alive in places I had forgotten I owned. I thought only spring could do this to me; and yet the realisation that autumn can do it too feels more like remembering than like a discovery. For years I’ve said that we used to get autumn in Greece when I was young (back when we had four seasons instead of the two and a half
we they seem to get now) without really knowing what I meant, but now I do. Autumn used to be like that, sharp and beautiful and distinct. And, somewhere in the back of my mind, I remembered that.
I nearly cried tonight, walking home from university in the last light of the day. There was a fine mist in the air and the way the shapes of the houses seemed so clearly defined against it and the sky made my my over-tired, over-excited and vaguely frustrated soul turn somersaults in delight and amazement. Somehow, it felt like a miracle. A quiet, understated, yet utterly remarkable miracle.
Wednesday, November 1, 2006
posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 9:47 pm
It’s been a funny day. I’ve been feeling slightly out of place for most of it. A funny feeling, a sense of something not being quite right. To be honest it makes me want to cry but then again I think I’m just a little too tired. My days are so full of thoughts and impressions and people and impressions and words and did I say impressions? From the morning walk to university, full of sunshine, to the three lessons (they are too hands-on to be called lectures) full of ideas and things to think of and things to feel and things to work on and from the two breaks full of people I care more about every day, to the walk home, cold and full of swirling yellow leaves, my head is full of pictures, conversation fragments, and impressions — did I say impressions? I have to admit I’m more than a little overwhelmed.
Such a strange thing to be me, really. I’m overwhelmed by things most people don’t even seem to notice, and the things that linger in my head, the things that come out of my mouth — they always seem to be that little bit out of place, not quite aligned with what everybody else seems to be thinking of or talking about. And, sometimes, that gets me down, and I start wondering what I am doing wrong. And then I to sit and stare at a screen for hours on end while I try to make sense of my thoughts and play the same song over and over again when really it would be best if I just went to bed and closed my eyes and told myself stories until I fell asleep. Which is what I am about to do.
(This is not exactly the tone on which I had intened to start this series of posts, of course, but it’s okay. I’ll be back soon, and I have a lot more to say.)
Thursday, August 17, 2006
All the things that make me keep on trying to be good
posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 1:22 am
That’s a line from a song my friend Georgie wrote, by the way. (A talented boy, that Georgie, even though he won’t admit it.) It’s called ‘Coastal ride’ and it has that Fairways feel about it, with just a dash of Belle and Sebastian. I just love it to bits. But anyway, that’s not what I was meaning to say. I was meaning to say that I didn’t know what to post about today, and then I thought I wouldn’t post, because we have been to the pool today, which was dysregulating fun and also made me feel very tired, so I was very tired, and I didn’t know what to talk about. But then, very late at night, and while I should have definitely been in bed, I came across this (via this). You have to go read it, but I also just have to quote this bit:
“What am I raising my kids for? For the love of it. For the gift of loving them so that they can share that gift with other people.”
(Aaaah. Those post-midnight revelations, they’re second to nothing — and one of the reasons why I don’t like going to bed. But I digress.)
I sighed. Because isn’t this why I’m doing everything? For the love of it. The writing, the indiepop clubnights, the wanting to become a teacher, and, in a way, even the putting-up-with-a-lot-of-Martijn-crap. (Trust me; I do; he thinks so too.) So that someone, somewhere (a reader whose day I accidentaly brighten; a stranger who will discover a new favourite song; the children; Martijn) can share that love with other people.
That is probably the single most wonderful reason for loving anyone, anything, ever.
Thursday, March 30, 2006
What is it like?
posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 2:02 pm
I’ve been intending to write about what, in these parts, is known as The Cake Story, but it just isn’t happening. Here’s something else, instead. I’ve been reading this book, and, on page 331, it says (that Steiner said):
“This fundamental mood [being filled with the “devotion that one develops in the spiritual world”, which makes the child “give himself up to his enviroment by imitating the people around him”] is a very beautiful, and it must be fostered in the child. It proceeds from the assumption, from the unconsious assumption, that the whole world is of a moral nature.”
It is hard to say, but: if you asked me “what is it like to be you?” (a question I like asking, though hardly ever out loud; I’m not that brave) I’d have to say “well, all my life has been a fight against those who wanted me to believe that it is foolish to think that ‘the whole world is of a moral nature’. It has been a struggle to be allowed to believe that.”
If only I could go back to believing that. I think then I would be whole again.
Tuesday, January 17, 2006
But he should have come out and talked
posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 5:01 pm
Huffy Henry hid the day,
unappeasable Henry sulked.
I see his point, — a trying to put things over.
It was the thought that they thought
they could do it made Henry wicked & away.
But he should have come out and talked.
I came across this poem today. My head was cloudy when I did, it was late morning, early for me, lonely, sad – my first reaction was this doesn’t make any sense. I was straining my eyes to read it, my mind to accommodate it, and it wasn’t giving me anything back. What a waste of time, I thought. At the same time, somewhere within me was moving, shouting: I know this! I know it. You know it. It is this.
And yes, it is this: a metaphor for life with an autistic boyfriend. (Or, as I first typed: a boyfriend on the spectrum. One of us has been reading about this a lot, and it isn’t him.) Martijn hasn’t been diagnosed, so I’ve no idea how severely affected he’s supposed to be. Definitely not much, not much at all; and at the same time, quite a lot. Then there’s also the question he asked: “what do they measure? How well you can cope, or how hard it is for you to do so?” Which is a good point. He appears to be coping nearly perfectly; he isn’t. It is simple as that.
Equally simple is the fact that took me a year to realise (daft, daft me): autism, even a mild case of Aspergers, is not something that occasionally causes some problems. It is something you live with through every day, every minute. It’s not something that might cause the odd misunderstanding or ignite the odd argument. It is always there. Behind every thing I say or do and how it is perceived; everything he says and how it is expressed; everything he does and how it comes across. It defines how much he feels he is there, present in his own body, in this world of ours. It defines how much he feels there is a world out there.
(I’m not saying he doesn’t know it is there; but knowing and feeling are two different things.)
All the world like a woolen lover
once did seem on Henry’s side.
Then came a departure.
Thereafter nothing fell out as it might or ought.
I don’t see how Henry, pried
open for all the world to see, survived.
You shouldn’t explain poems, and you can’t, or I can’t, so I won’t. But I wanted to tell you how the idea of a “huffy boy hiding the day” is all too familiar. And I see his point. God knows I do. (Usually; I do run out of patience sometimes; in fact, I usually end up running out of patience, but that’s a different story.) I’ve no idea what “trying to put things over” is supposed to mean, but, to me, it means “tried to change the world, rearrange it, so that it fits him better.” And yes, yes, it is the thought that this is somehow possible (if I only knew where he got it from) that makes my Henry “wicked and away.” (‘Wicked and away’ is the best possible description of the other side of that sweet sweet boyfriend of mine.) But he should have come out and talked. And then things would have got so much better. Like the always are, when he does. But somehow he just can’t seem to do it.
The rest is a lot less straightforward, less appropriate even, but it still rings uncannily true. The world did seem on his side when he was young, and his family tended to put the blame on everyone and everything else when he couldn’t do something, never on him. Until he grew up, that is, and things inevitable changed, and he found himself in adult world that worked in ways he didn’t quite understand. “Nothing fell out as it might or ought.” How he survived through this, confused and alone –and unaware of this– I do not know.
What he has now to say is a long
wonder the world can bear & be.
Once in a sycamore I was glad
all at the top, and I sang.
Hard on the land wears the strong sea
and empty grows every bed.
But then one happy day he met me, and I was in love with the world. Desperately, passionately so. I got excited about everything from maple syrup on pancakes to clouds in the sky. I lived in my senses: a change of weather had the effect drugs allegedly have. The world was my lover. (“Once in a sycamore I was glad all at the top, and I sang.” My, did I love singing up there.) And so, through a long, long and confusing, confusing and disheartening, disheartening and occasionally desperate year it suddenly downed on my Henry. There is beauty in this life, and it’s worth being in love with it. And what he has to say now is, indeed, a big, “long wonder” on what “the world can bear and be”.
I’ve no idea what “hard on the land wears the strong sea” is supposed to mean, but perhaps it has to do with the tide, and how it comes and goes. Like morning comes, “and empty grows every bed.” Which means that things happen in time. And, in time, we will get through this.
Now, I’m sure John Berryman had none of these in mind, and would probably freak out were he alive to read this, but I don’t mind. So: thank you, John Berryman. And thank you, Clock’s Loneliness, too.
Friday, January 13, 2006
Say yes to everything
posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 1:30 am
I made a Friends of the Heroes cover today. It was the first one I’ve done in a while, and it took a very long time, but I’m proud of the result and it making it made happy, and that’s all that matters sometimes, right? I also made the contents page, and, while doing so, listened to St. Christopher’s ‘Say yes to everything’ at least a hundred times. (It wasn’t really a hundred times, more likely twenty or so, but they felt like a hundred.) Each time the drum beat sent a shiver down my spine; each time the chorus made me want to cry.
‘.. and, surely, you will say yes to everything”
Really, the song is not much more than a love song — though a great one at that: there’s a good description of it on ‘Little Hits’ (and I think you can download it from there too, by the way)— but the reason it brings me close to tears doesn’t have to do with being in love.
At least not with this sort of love.
The line ‘say yes to everything’ brings me back to a spring morning when I was fifteen or sixteen. I was standing at the schoolyard during an all-too-short break. Trying to read some photocopied notes the teacher expected us to have studied by the next period, walk down some steps and enjoy the glorious weather at the same time. It was sunny, and windy, and that wind was just soft enough and strong enough to make my soul turn somersaults with happiness. In fact it was distracting me a whole lot but still I managed to read on. I think we were studying Odysseas Elytis and that the notes were meant to be analysing the main themes in his poetry. Then again, I’m not too sure, which goes to show how much I learned: not much at all. But that doesn’t matter.
It is hard to say what matters, that’s why I keep going off in tangents. It is hard, because there’s not much to say. I just read the phrase ‘a constant affirmation of life’. That’s all. And perhaps my heart missed half a beat, and perhaps it didn’t. And the wind kept on blowing, and I walked down the steps with my friends, probably moaning about something or other. It could be homework, or teachers being stupid. (They were.) And something in the back of my head whispered, quietly: Yes. Yes. That’s it. That’s what you do.
You say yes to everything.
Now I am older; wiser; and I spent half my evening looking in books, my Minstrels folder and the back of my head for a quote to use on that contents page. It was frustrating and I couldn’t find anything, because that’s what happens when you already have an idea in your head. Nothing else fits. Except I couldn’t use that something, because the book that contained it was in my parents house, 550 kilometres away, and you can’t quote someone on what you more or less remember they said, can you?
You can’t. But I wanted to quote Bert Hellinger. He had said something about how he can stay calm in the face of everything, because he accepts the bad things he comes across as a part of life. And then, when he sees something beautiful, he acknowledges that as a part of life too.
(I did find a quote in the end, by the way, but that’s a story in itself. Perhaps some other time.)
Tuesday, December 20, 2005
Anniversaries, autism and the kindness of strangers
posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 9:50 pm
And then Monday came, and I woke up way too early. Again. I tried to fall back to sleep for an hour but it obviously wasn’t working, and it wasn’t much fun either. The sun was threatening to shine (again); Lupe was about to walk into the room smiling (again: she’s great like that); and if we got out of bed, into the shower, out of the house and into the bus to Waterloo early, we’d probably have time to go on the London Eye. Which, if you asked me, was an excellent idea.
“Boyfriend! Wake up! It’s Monday!”
Except boyfriend mumbled something grumpily, turned around sulkily, and the day went out of the window. It wasn’t as simple of course, nor as straightforward. I don’t abandon my intentions of having a happy Monday just because Martijn doesn’t feel like getting out of bed when I want him to. Most of the time, I don’t even mind. On the other hand, it’s pretty hard to celebrate an anniversary if you don’t have a boyfriend. And what I’m trying to say is that on that day, I didn’t.
Now, for you to understand the tides that shaped our London weekend –that shape our lives– I need to tell you something. And that is: Martijn is –as I put it– somewhat autistic. By somewhat I mean he is pretty mildly affected; so mildly, in fact, that it had gone unnoticed until recently. Or, well, almost unnoticed. He was considered strange, but no one thought it was a big deal (and then he went on to become a mathematician, and so he was surrounded by people who were often even stranger). And, well, really, it wasn’t a big deal. Except if you started adding all the little things up, joining the dots. Or looking under the surface. Or asking hard questions. Especially, asking hard questions under stressful circumstances.
Then it slowly became apparent that there might be something missing. A deeper understanding of things perhaps. Confidence in the ability to make sound decisions based on feelings and judgement. Instinct. The boy himself sometimes. I’d ask a question and get an answer that corresponded to another question. Or an answer that sounded right but somehow wasn’t. It’s not hard to tell when someone’s heart isn’t in what they are doing, is it? Martijn’s heart wasn’t in being here in this world a lot of the time.
It was frustrating as hell.
It still is, for that matter. Especially if it is 365 days since we first met, and I like celebrations. Even more so since approximately 300 out of said 365 days have been long, and hard, and I still like celebrations. I longed for something to celebrate. I wanted to look back at it all –the train station story, the year– and say yes again, and again. But the sun was shining, we were in London, off work on a Monday and we had a bit of money to spend — and I didn’t have anyone to say it to (metaphorically, but still very tangibly so), even though I tried. (Believe me, I tried.)
So I shouted. First on a bus that went to Old Street instead of Liverpool Street, then, soon afterwards, on a street in Shoreditch. Then, later on, on the empty upper deck of a double-decker bus through Oxford Street. (Oddly, that was kind of fun. At least, it felt like we were in a film or a book.) Then on Oxford Street. I ended up (later on still) crying desperately, unconsoleably, against a pillar just off the corner of Oxford and Orchard street, wishing I could find a way to stop. Find something –anything– that would make that wrecked day, that trying (beautiful, but trying) year seem a little better. Something that would rearrange things in my head just enough to make them look a little brighter.
So I cried. Until some random driver who was waiting for the lights to change shouted “excuse me” out to Martijn (who had been standing uselessly on my side, at a loss for something to do) and handed him some napkins. It was so unexpected, so sweet, so touching, and so much like a television commercial, that I just had to stop crying and start laughing. Which did the trick: it got the day going again. We looked around a shop or two, caught a bus for a long bus ride, had a panic attack in an organic supermarket (when I discovered I had to come up with a new idea for something to cook in 15 minutes – and it had to be greek, sweet and vegan), and ended up baking a cake at midnight, which was crazy but fun and made my memories smell of cinnamon and cloves and orange peel.
It didn’t save the day. It definitely didn’t save the year. It didn’t change the fact that what we have is not exactly a relationship but rather fragments of one tied together on a string, with lots of empty space in between. It didn’t make it any easier that there doesn’t seem to be much I can do about that. But it kept me going, and there must be a reason for that. It might be that I am, by definition, an optimist, constantly thinking that things will get better tomorrow. It might be that I am stubborn, and I don’t like to take no for an answer. Or it might be because those fragments of a relationship are just about perfect, and it would break my heart to let them go.
Or it might just be that I do believe in love.
Sunday, December 18, 2005
Will you marry me?
posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 11:29 am
If the rest of Saturday (the post-phone call part) was a roller coaster, Sunday was just plain nice. (Even though I felt sick for half of it.) We had breakfast with our hosts in a diner, went to Spitafields Market with my cousin and to a free gig in a pub with the “aforementioned boy” from Wednesday’s post, and Martijn was impeccable through most of it. The perfect boyfriend I used to think I had. It felt so great that I joked I’d send his dad a Christmas card, thanking him from the bottom of my heart for helping my boyfriend grow up.
It felt particularly great because it promised that Monday –the day of our ‘anniversary’– would be as great. I suddenly felt I had a lot to celebrate.
I say ‘anniversary’ because it’s not, technically, the first day of anything. We fell in love gradually, over the internet: it took longer than a month, and even though there are a couple of day –nights– that stand out in the process, they never felt the right days to celebrate. We first met in London, on a Friday –December 10th– and the world stopped turning for a few seconds on that day; and yet that didn’t feel like the start of something either. I settled on the following the 12th –the following Sunday– because it was a day we spent entirely together (riding buses and wandering around, mostly) and it was as happy as fairy-tale ending, as easy as playing out.
And because at the very end of it –at 3 am on Monday morning, in fact, but let’s not be too strict about it– in a very cold and nearly empty Victoria station, while waiting for my train to Gatwick airport, Martijn told me about his grandparents: how they were over eighty, still together, and still in love. How his grandad wrote his grandmother notes saying “you’re the sweetest of them all”. And how he wants to grow up to be just like them.
I could see what he was saying but I could hardly believe it.
“I can’t imagine what that is like”
It was true. I couldn’t imagine it. I had no idea what it could be like.
“I’ll show you!”
I still couldn’t believe it.
“I mean, I will show you my grandparents, at least. If you want to.”
That was all he could say to stop himself from blushing wildly, and it didn’t work.
Sunday, December 18, 2005
posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 12:25 am
Saturday morning. I woke up in London once, and I was happy. It felt like such a perfect morning: a long day of leisure stretching in front of us, the sun almost shining, perfect company sleeping in the next room. Martijn gets out of bed for a while, and on the way back I notice him looking at his phone.
“Did anyone text you?”
“Yes, my sister. She asks me if I can call them urgently.”
Uh oh. That doesn’t good. I don’t have time to worry about it though because he calls straight away — and starts crying soon afterwards. I don’t speak Dutch, so I spend the ten, maybe fifteen, minutes of the phonecall holding his hand. Staring at the blanket and wondering what has happened. Who has died. How I will ever console him — and how I will ever console if it is the baby. Then he hangs up.
“My dad has left my mum! He has a girlfriend.”
“Oh that’s good then!”
I didn’t really say that, but I was close enough. It did feel very good. Not for all the sober reasons with which I came up later (it was time something changed, and they will all be better off in the long run, find themselves, become stronger, learn to rely and believe in the right things — believe me, I know: my dad’s a lot worse) but for the mere fact that they were all alive. Healthy. No one had accidently run over an old lady while driving home, no one’s house had burned down and the baby still intended to join us in a few months.
Disrespectful as may sound, I still think it’s good.
Friday, December 16, 2005
posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 2:43 pm
Friday morning. I wake up after a night of dreaming of children, too excited still, and I’m in London. Or rather, in Hackney — on the wrong side of Stoke Newignton High Street. Grey light is slipping in through the window and I’m starting to realise what everything that has happened on Thursday means.
“Boyfriend! Wake up! We’re moving to Exmouth!”
It sounds as if we’ll be moving today which, for the moment at least, I wouldn’t mind. As everything slowly sinks in I start feeling intensely homesick. I can’t believe everyone I met yesterday is still there, discussing schools and children and reading, and I’m not. But then a smiley Lupe enters the room and my homesickness soon dissolves on a warm room, tea, bagels (with olive oil spread and vegemite) and the company on some of the loveliest people in the world. On second thought, being able to stay in bed all morning isn’t half bad either.
Later on we wander around this Hackney – Stoke Newington place as the sun sets (the sun sets very early), which proves to be very charming indeed, and when we get home we meet the one and only (very sleepy but even more charming) Mark Mononne, who smiles the best smile ever and makes us some of the best coffee I’ve ever had. By that time I have forgotten to be homesick. I’m just in love with the London-ness of it all.
Ps By the way, here is a photo where Exmouth looks like it looked to me last week. Thank you, Richard Clarke, whoever you might be!
Thursday, December 15, 2005
The place I want to be
posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 1:04 pm
Thursday morning. I wake up at 6.17 or something equally crazy. The alarm isn’t due for another hour, but it doesn’t really matter. I am in Exmouth, I am nervous, and I am excited. More excited than nervous, in fact. Outside it is dark.
Fast forward a bit. 9.15. Me, Martijn and an inordinate amount of luggage are all standing at the entrance of the Owen Buidling of Rolle College, where someone called John is supposed to be looking out for me. Except, there’s no one who could be him around. Time passes. I get shy. Everyone stares discreetly. Martijn is convinced to go up to reception to explain the situation, but no one has seen John, who is not in his office. Neither have they seen Trevor, who is supposed to be teaching a session with him just now. Everyone is very sweet and kind to us so we take seat and wait patiently. This is much aided by the discovery of a plug and a network plug next to the seat. I am quietly checking my email and beginning to find the whole thing fun when someone arrives to take me out to the classroom where John and Trevor and the level two students are. Said someone is very nice and informs me John is a bit forgetful sometimes. I find this rather funny.
When John sees us approaching through the windows he suddenly looks very embarassed. I’m nearly giggling, very happy not to have to answer any serious questions and just to be able to say “it’s okay, don’t worry about it” instead, even though I still say this rather nervously. We slid in quietlly. Everyone stares even more discreetly and I feel very conscious of everything for a while, but it ends before I have time to think about it: what’s being said is too interesting, and I’m drawn in. I forget myself.
Four hours later I head back to where Martijn is sitting, cuddling the laptop with headphones in his ears, and the first thing he says when we’re out of everybody else’s earshot is “you look so happy” — which says more than I can say about those four hours. I was really happy, because I had felt at home.
There’s more to the story: lunch, an interview (but talking about that is almost showing off), Exmouth’s seafront, a couple of delayed trains (you’ve got to love England), darkness, cold, London, Lupe, but the point is this: I loved them, and they loved me back. And so I will become a teacher. And I have a place to be.