Friday, 31 October 2008

Gyming It

Spotted in the gym today - the woman who works out on the cross-trainer whilst munching on a chocolate bar. I kid ye not.

Big Pit & and thanks to Thatcher


I went down a mine the other day. Not that it was a working one. They don't exist anymore, not since Thatcher popped along with her armored handbag, and kindly raped the Welsh Valleys. 

Big Pit is now sadly a museum although a terrific one; you're taken down into the mine and shown around by an ex-miner, themselves becoming rare species alone. You have to wear hard hats, you have to carry gas masks. Everything and anything with a battery or electronics is confiscated. You descend in the mine-shaft, which eerily carries you underground against the soundtrack of the drip-dropping of water, the echos and screeching of the mechanics. Underground you see the cramped conditions, you see the harshness, the dangers. Most of all, you paradoxically see the darkness. It is a black blackness that you can only imagine in your deepest and darkest nightmares.

That's it. 

That's all that's left of the coal industry in South Wales. A tourist museum. There are traces of what was once there, something I touched upon in my Valleys photography project. You see run down towns, now struggling communities; areas that were once bustling and thriving, now dying on their feet. And for what? To save money? Money that now has to go back into these communities for benefits and dole? Thanks Maggie.

Thursday, 30 October 2008

Ow

Yesterday I came here and said,
'Don't let a plank fall on your head'
For it'll get too late
for fixing a broken gate.
Today I come here to say;
When trying to get out the way,
Of a falling saw off the sill,
Don't step on that nasty drill.

Ouch.

A Random Box (of Rubick's Cubes)


Carrying on from the theme of stumbling upon such random things, here is a photo I took in the summer. I was doing a little photography project on the South Wales Valleys, and frankly, it is a hot-bed of brilliant, bizarre occurrences. 
I was walking down a small side-road when I noticed this box just sat on the wall. There was no one else around, naturally. I approached and snapped a pic, and as I inspected the box I realised it was....a box of Rubick's Cubes. Of all things, perched on a scabby wall, a box of Rubick's Cubes in the depths of the Welsh valleys. Why, how, or what? And why do I, of all people, keep finding these things?

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

A Garden Fence

When putting up a garden fence,
Always use common sense.
You're sure to always fail,
If you use the wrong nail.
Try to use your strength and will,
But it's wise to try and use a drill.
And the law books say, I'm sure I read,
Don't get a plank of wood on your head.

Fed Up

I am fed up.

Not the good kind of fed up, like eating a good meal or gorging on my favourite food - ice lollies (washed down with jack daniels).

No, this is the fed up with life feeling, that stuns your brain and engulfs your body with malaise. But on the other hand, there is a burning itch to do something; ants in your pants, you can't sit still. Restless. But I do not know what to do. I am a model aeroplane kit without the instructions, a self-assembling IKEA shelf without the screws, but a similar wooden existence. 

I might become the first person in history to die of boredom. What's the point? I don't use any of my so-called talents for anything. No good, not even eville. It's all a big waste, it's the dripping of a tap that no one can be bothered to tighten; that's my life. 

No one even reads this crap.

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Best. Sign. Ever.


When out and about on my jaunts and whimsical wanderings, armed with only my camera and a bottle of pop, it never ceases to amaze me the very bizarre and wonderfully random occurrences and things I discover. More often than not, there's a great deal to chuckle about too.
I found this sign in Talgarth, Mid-Wales. It is a tiny town in the middle of Welsh wilderness, you can half imagine the music from Deliverance as you stroll down the street. But it houses one or two little gems like this sign, which I have decided is probably one of the best signs I've ever seen. When was the last time the phrase 'car transporter' was used since 1970? I would have liked to have seen a sign on the house next to it 'Car transporter, please hit this house'....

Monday, 27 October 2008

Driving Miss Sian

I love driving. No, I do. I'd do it all day long if I could. 

But parents and cars do not mix happily. It is not a natural union. My dad hates driving with a passion, he treats driving as a battle between man and car - and will not leave second gear. He even went into second gear from fifth doing 70mph on the motorway once. I needed a change of under-crackers when that occurred, I can tell you that.

Tonight we went out for a meal. Mum drove us there. Big mistake alone, as she never goes over 10mph (bless her), but that wasn't the main issue. Coming out of the drinking establishment on Caerphilly mountain, mum attempts to maneuver out of the car park space. She wasn't blocked, there were no cars parked next to hers either side but there was a car behind. Easy. Surely.
I think she thought she was driving a tank. That had no windows. Or steering. And that she was blind. And deaf. With her hands tied behind her back. Needless to say, there was a 7,938 point turn, without the turn element. 20 minutes later, I ordered her out of the driver's seat and reversed the car out in about 30 seconds.

Maybe she had had a long day.

Tiger, Tiger

















No, not the nightclub. The animal. Here I am doing my David Attenborough impression....only at Chessington Zoo/Theme Park last week instead. Given I actually sometimes try to be a photographer(!), this is not exactly the best photo ever....
I do wish I could go on safari one day, see the animals for real. Real, real, as opposed to zoo real, which isn't too real at all. Although at least they aren't those (lying) cartoons. And are alive. I found the Natural History Museum in London last August rather troublesome on my conscience. It all sat very uneasy, like John Candy standing on tip-toe on my knee. All those stuffed animals, beautiful animals...yet all dead. If I want to see dead animals I just go to the frozen aisle in Tescos. Perhaps the taxidermy reminds me too much of Norman Bates from Psycho. And we all know about him.
But how wonderful it would be to see the animals in their natural habitat on safari (and also have my own TV show....).

Tigers and Lions are my favourite animals. Closely followed by giraffes. There's nothing more comical than a giraffe, and I do not just mean aging, lanky ex-tennis stars. There's something about those long, impossible looking necks. I am also fond of monkeys. Perhaps I relate to the cheekiness. I like gorillas too, probably because they remind me of my dad. 
Monkeys and gorillas....there is something in their eyes....they are thinking, they contemplate. Hell, if you gave them a laptop, they'd probably write better blogs than me. Their hands are like human hands. They ruffle their brows in confusion, they play and laugh with their brothers and sisters. Now look at those animals and tell me how Creationism is the reality and not evolution?

Overheard in Bristol

Autumn afternoon
A Bristol street
"yeah but no but yeah but no"

October sun
beaming down
"yeah but no she had big wangers..."

Sunday, 26 October 2008

Nick Drake

I love Nick Drake.

Few musicians have moved me quite like the singer who tragically died way too soon in 1974. He was only 26. His music is beautiful, melancholic, rich, whilst the lyrics are often heart-wrenching. His songs haunt you, his voice sounds often weak but yet still the message is strong. The guitar playing is intrinsic and precise, and yet the melodies seem so simple.

Nick suffered from depression, and poured these depths into his songs. They reflect on the sadness of the passing of the time, they concentrate on the evocative way the world is drenched in melancholy. It is the struggle of some in a life that they cannot fit into, they struggle to reach for the surface. Delicate, brittle, fleeting. It is a hopeless fight.

My favourite Nick Drake song has these lyrics.

Place To Be

When I was younger, younger than before
I never saw the truth hanging from the door
And now I'm older see it face to face
And now I'm older gotta get up clean the place.

And I was green, greener than the hill
Where the flowers grew and the sun shone still
Now Im darker than the deepest sea
Just hand me down, give me a place to be.

And I was strong, strong in the sun
I thought I'd see when day is done
Now Im weaker than the palest blue
Oh, so weak in this need for you.


Nick Drake

This is something, I wish I had written.

Saturday, 25 October 2008

Parents+computers= desk rage

My dad has a computer. He bought his first 'real' PC in 1995. When I say real, I mean a modern computer with Windows (which to father, were only contraptions to look through a house wall). I remember the occasion well. It took him approximately 4,9382 weeks to make the purchase, and double that number in visits to PC World. Rumours had it they gave him his own parking space in the car park and suicide rates of PC World workers in Cardiff rose by 98%.

Poor dad isn't a natural at technological advances. He struggled to show me how to use the VCR when I was 4, but the most thing I learnt was how to swear; "bloody hell...bloody machine". A year later, I was showing him how to use said machine to record an episode of Dad's Army. This was an important landmark in my life. I realised parents weren't good at everything, in fact, they could be damn awful at things. It was to prove an understatement of the millennium when it came to anything electronic coming into contact of my parents.

In fairness, dad has learnt a lot. When I think at how his caveman approach to computers has developed in about 14 years. Now he has the stone-age approach. I.e. error message flashes up, and he reaches for the stone club from his lair. Since the dawn of the internet, dad has become a fully fledged silver surfer. He would never admit it, but he bloody loves the internet, even if it does take him an hour to type out a web address. But I have seen the love in his eyes when the word 'Google' is uttered.

Problems are minor but nevertheless pesky. Usually he has just minimised 342 windows, and doesn't know how to maximise them. Sometimes he has moved a file (but the "COMPUTER DID IT! I DIDN'T DO A THING!" I love this phenomena. If computers really did do these things on their own, I suggest Scotland Yard arrest a few million machines for all those unsolved crimes that are floating around). Other times he's accidentally changed the layout on screen and becomes convinced the entire hard drive is wiped. Some occasions I am sure he just forgets to switch the something on (insert joke about switching his brain on here).

However, years have been taken off my life in dealing with his 'computerial issues'. Being the youngest sibling is a curse. You get lumbered with parental problems of the technical type that the elders seem to escape. The phone will ring, I will answer. "SianthebloodycomputerisbrokeIcantaccessmyemailsIcantgetontheinternetThisbloodymachineImbloodyfedupofit!" "Hi dad, I'm fine thanks for asking...."
Things can rarely be solved over the phone, no matter how small the problem. Anyway, there's only so long you can listen to your own father's heavy breathing as his blood begins to boil because he can't find 'File' and 'Save As'. You can hear the clicks of the mouse, they sound like he is shooting a pistol against an iron door (perhaps he is). The typing sounds like he is punching the keyboard (he probably is). Subtlety, thy name is not father. Sometimes I think he has swallowed a raging, deranged pit bull, cross-bred with a psychotic steam engine in a genetic experiment gone horribly wrong. "I fucking hate this machine. I hate computers. This fucking thing."

Computer-rage. It can make grown men cry. Although...it is possibly worth it to hear your own dad turn around to his mates in the pub, and with a smile that could only be matched when Wales beat England at rugby, he proudly proclaims much to the adoration of his audience as if he has returned from the battlefield as a war hero; "I learnt how to cut and paste today."

Why is it so?

Why can I conquer the world one moment, and yet cannot barely muster the strength to breathe the next?
Why are there times when I feel 10 feet tall, and others I feel 10 centimetres?
The extremes play with my head.

Some days, the world seems an endless sea of opportunity - stretched out before me like a golden dream; welcoming me with soft hands that beckon me into this perfect existence. Everything fits. The t's are crossed, the i's are dotted. There is nothing in my path, nothing that is, but sunshine, warmth, colours, the possibility.

But.

Some days, the world seems an endless pit of blackness, bombarding me, engulfing me at every angle. Bony fingers reject my every move, my every thought. Nothing works. The pieces are scattered around, but none belong to the same set. Nothing fits. I do not fit. Before me lies a plethora of obstacles, I am paralysed. I fall before I even make my first step.

Is this the same place? How can it be so? But the major question I cannot fathom, I cannot decipher, I cannot solve, remains on my lips. Is the one even worth the other? I am left in no-man's-land.

Friday, 24 October 2008

Sian hath murdered sleep

Insomnia is the disease that has the power to turn sane people loony, and loony people (me) even more insane.

I cannot sleep. It's as if my brain refuses to sit down, it's kamikazee, it's too proud to thrown in the towel. So it soldiers on like a dying horse, determined to get to the finish line. I don't have any comprehension over what this finish line my brain feels it has to aspire to, but something tells me this destination is rather far away in space and time. It's like the 100 Years War, only less fun.

I must have had about three hours sleep last night. Then I was awoken to an apocalyptic wail, that stunned me into action. For a split second I believed I had arrived in Cold War times - this was the four minute warning wasn't it? The world was about to implode, a boom, a flash of light, and then we'd all crumble into dust. O the humanity! For that split second my confused head was half terrified, half contemplating: "I'm too young to die. There's too much I haven't done....like eat a kebab." There was a small percentage of me that worryingly, didn't give a fig. Not that I had a fig to give to anyone anyway, and why would they want one?

Thankfully, I snapped out of my daze. And realised the desperate cry that had filled my ears was just the greedy, fat cat wanting to be fed at 5am.

Thursday, 23 October 2008

Heroes

When I was a wee lass in pigtails, I had so many heroes and idols, it would quite possibly take me a day to list them all down. And then I'd forget some. It would read like one of those gaudy, Friday night-filler TV shows '100 Top Hundredy Hundreds of Hundredy Lists - with Anthea Turner & the cast of Hollyoaks'. (Incidentally, I never had pigtails. Too girly)

It would probably be quicker to list the people who WEREN'T my idols. So I guess that leaves Maggie Thatcher and Will Carling.

But I think it's intriguing to see who I worshipped and adored way back then. Mostly actors, comedians and sportsmen and women. My first heroes were from watching copious amounts of television - step forward French & Saunders, Julie Walters, David Jason and Victoria Wood. I wanted to be French & Saunders and Julie Walters AND Victoria Wood. All in one. A giant concoction of comedy genius. I would act out little plays entirely on my own, invent characters, impersonate everyone and collect accents. With just my Roland Rat teddy as an audience.

Athony Hopkins became one of my favourite actors, mostly because he was Welsh and swaning around being famous in Hollywood, conquering them with his acting genius, wooing them with his charm and ability. As a Welsh person. In my eyes, this was the epitome of cool. I snuck downstairs one cold, autumn night at my Nan's house during half term- a house I was already convinced was haunted, such is the way my foolish imagination worked(s) - I turned the TV on and saw Silence of the Lambs. I was about 10, and became instantly terrified. I had nightmares for weeks. And all I saw was the opening credits.

I was also sports obsessed, and adored a whole host of rugby players, tennis players and athletes. They were Gods. Non-human specimens who I looked up to as if they would solve all world ills. When they lost I would be devastated, it felt a sheer injustice, a terrible crime. I cried many a time after a defeat, as if it was a personal insult, a personal wound. I would try to emulate them. I would spend most of my non-TV watching time kicking my rugby ball around the garden and drive of the family home...and onto the roof (we had to get the window cleaner to retrieve it on more than one occasion). The hydranger bush was my scrum machine. The tree was a defender I could side-step. I was Wales and playing the world. And winning.

During the summer months, I would be playing Wimbledon. The wall was always Steffi Graf, and naturally just like Steffi Graf the wall always won. The kitchen back door would be open and I'd be hitting away against the side of the house, with the sound of mum's 1960s black and white TV blaring as she watched the real Wimbledon whilst cooking the tea. "Game, Becker...." boomed the TV set. Then a *rapturous applause* of which I dreamt was really for me, naturally.
I would confess here I used to also love playing football (must to the distain of my father) and I would admit I thought Gary Lineker was the most wonderful man on the planet. For about a week. But we shalt never speak of that.

When I was a teenager I became interested in film, and in particular Alfred Hitchcock. I saw Psycho, quite by chance on television one night, and I was captivated instantly. It was the filmic equivalent of being slapped in the face. Hitch had reached out from his grave, grabbed me with his podgy fingers and had shaken me senseless. Where had it been all my life? Where had this entire world of insane, black humour and suspense been? And a dead, sex obsessed, fat film director, with an outrageous sense of humour and ingenious macabre outlook on life, became my hero. No wonder my parents looked so bemused. I am still not quite sure what it is so specifically that I adore about Hitchcock films. The atmosphere, the sense of threat, a dark underside to life perhaps. Things not quite being what they seem. It's a theme I've always been fascinated with, something that my enjoyment overflowed into other mediums like my own photography. Or the plays of Harold Pinter. If.
I. Could. Cope. With.
The. Pauses.

*pause*

But it was a discovery in a particular music artist that has had the biggest impact on my adult life. Step forward, Rufus Wainwright. Words cannot fully describe how much I love Rufus' music. It is textured, layered, gorgeous. Caviar for the ears. Listening to Rufus is often like bathing my head in velvet clouds, his beautiful voice massages my brain as I get swept away on little musical journeys. And his lyrics are poetry. Heart wrenching, intimate at times, there is a beauty so great it often makes me want to melt away with the sadness and exquisiteness of it all. And yet his songs can also be hugely uplifting, they fill you with so much raw joy it makes you glad to be alive. Right at this moment, I cannot imagine the world without this music. And I wouldn't want a world without it either.

Like so many things, you discover one genius and it can often lead to more. Since I found Rufus, it has lead to more beautiful musical discoveries. Like his wonderful sister Martha, a fantastic singer-songwriter in her own right. Charismatic as ever, just like Rufus, that pair should be taking over the world. The talent of the Wainwright family never ceases to amaze me.

But just some of these artists that have touched my life since the Rufus infection include: Jeff Buckley, Ben Folds, Elliot Smith, Nick Drake, Belle & Sebastian, PJ Harvey, Beck, Air....and possibly my favourite (non Wainwright) artist - Kate Bush. And when I read that Kate likes Hitchcock and films, it all seems so amazingly circular and beautifully RIGHT, which in a world that seems so random and bizarre half the time, is a joy to behold.

But there are many, many more. They have given me a soundtrack to my existence, have lifted me when I am down, have sometimes fed a need in me to hear soulful sadness and internal pain...and most of all, have given me such rich enjoyment that has changed my life.
This is, essentially, no different to my heroes as a kid. It illustrates to me, how much I have grown, and how much in some ways, I haven't actually changed...I still love French & Saunders and Julie Walters, after all. How much have I changed, from that 10 year old who lived for imaginary rugby matches in the garden, or who dreamed of being on the stage dressed as a battleaxe old granny with a northern accent and comedy crooked false teeth. To rapturous applause. The things may be different. But the emotions are not.

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Random Beginnings....

I struggle to determine my earliest memory. My head is swarmed with cloudy scenes and flashing images, that have no timescale, no sense of coherence or purpose. All things considered, it somehow seems apt.

Yet there are several particular scenes that spring to mind when I close my eyes and let my mind drift. My childhood seems a random concoction of 80s bad clothes, wonderful games with my sisters, Lego, Neighbours, my mother’s huge Owl-esque glasses, my Nans, my impersonations of just about anyone, my dad’s random rages over innocuous driving occurrences, and political tensions on television.

But if I concentrate really hard, and I mean really hard now, not like in school - when 90% of my brain switched off and dreamt of fame and fortune, 5% thought of impressions I could do of the comically attired teacher parading in front of me in orange pantaloons, while the remaining 5% concentrated on sleeping with my eyes shut – certain memories begin to stand out, they begin to form and play out again in my head.

One is watching Wales beat Australia on TV in the very first Rugby World Cup in 1987. It was the third place playoff; small red-shirted mullet-wearing men running around on screen colliding into a load of yellow-shirted mullet-wearing men, also scampering around the park. There were possibly some moustaches in there somewhere, but definitely very tight shorts. Arms and legs were everywhere. Absolutely nothing makes any sense, naturally. It seems trite perhaps, yet this was the first stepping-stone towards the brainwashing on my small unaware, developing brain, something that can only be described alike to a cult or religion. It has remained in my life ever since. Rugby: a nerdish and obsessive ritual that has, at times, completely and utterly dominated my life and moods. And probably seriously affected my health too. In fact, there is no ‘probably’ about it. I know it has.

A small memory that springs to life in my head is one of my Nan and I sitting in the front room of her house waiting for mum to pick me up. I do not know how old I am but it was before I started school. I am sat on her lap, her arms wrapped around me tightly but affectionately. Her bony arms and hands look thin and weak but are deceptively strong. There is an overwhelming sense of warmth, her clothes are so very spongy and colourful, and there is a powerful not unpleasant smell of perfume and washing powder. She talks soothingly and rather randomly, while I just listen tiredly sucking my thumb. Her white haired head bobs around as she natters away, her brightly coloured big jewellery clunks at every movement. That warmth is so strong.

The image suddenly leaps to being home, and an overwhelming sense of sadness. Sadness that I have left my Nan, alone, while I return to the mad-house of children’s voices and games and my parents’ political discussions. I just feel so sad. It seems so unfair. I worry my Nan might now be sad and lonely, and it hurts so much but I am not aware of where. But I know the pain is there.

I do not know how old I am in this memory, but I am small, and dressed up as Charlie Chaplin including the little false moustache and bowler hat. It is my cousin’s birthday party. Who decided that I was going to this party in cross-dress, as a dead silent movie star who resembled ever so slightly Hitler, is a minor mystery. The party was certainly not fancy dress…I suspect my parents thought it would be a hilarious idea and I, ever loving the excuse to dress up and perform, be someone else for the evening, was only too glad to play along. It was probably my idea anyway. I am met with plenty of attention and love it, but am terrified at the same time. The torment of wanting to be the centre of attention and thriving on it, yet at the same time also feeling terribly shy is battling away inside my tiny body. But at least, I feel, I am not me. I am pretending. It feels better that way. People can laugh, and it’s nice, an instant approval. And I am not me.

Another recollection is sitting in the back room floor of our family house, eyes glued to the TV (again), sat next to both my sisters who were also riveted to the small colour television on the shelf above the huge box of assorted and multi-coloured Lego. On the screen was the Space Shuttle, flying up into space, huge plumes of smoke bellowing from the rockets majestically. Yet the news had just been broken. Tragedy had struck. The shuttle had ‘exploded’. And now we watched the footage. The shuttle suddenly seemed to break up violently in front of us, smoke expanding everywhere, debris springing off, large balls of fire and the rockets jetting off on their own. But mostly white smoke. So much of it! Thick, white and grey clouds engulfing the image. It seemed to engulf my mind. The camera pans out and there’s no more Shuttle, just a bizarre giant Y shaped smoke stream against an ironically beautiful crystal blue-sky backdrop.

The sense of shock and terror still bites my stomach, even now. I was four years old, an age where everything was big, everything was loud, but everything was also exciting. Yet the security of the world around me had suddenly been thrown into disarray. The TV coverage cut back to the astronauts walking to their shuttle, smiling, waving to the crowd. But now the crew were dead. My lasting memory is of my sister Anna, two years older, and along with our eldest sister, newly obsessed with anything Space and Shuttle related. A teacher was onboard, a civilian, one of us. Anna turned to our mother and asked if the astronauts were dead. She refused to believe they were. Maybe they survived? Maybe they could be rescued? I didn’t understand. One minute the astronauts were walking and smiling and now they weren’t? How was this so, how could this be. It is something I have struggled to comprehend, even to this day.

I guess I could continue reminiscing about random memories forever. But these are the main ones that seem to stick out most vividly and frequently. It intrigues me what I can and cannot remember.

Are we not made up of memories? I have certainly often thought so. They are, essentially, all that we have - a never-ending DVD of our lives, and occasions. A permanent photo album of moments passed. Not much can wipe them from our hard drive brains. Not much can determine, consciously, what we remember and what we don’t. But on our death beds, we will lie back and let the images flood; close our eyes and suddenly the backs of our eyelids become small cinema screens to what we have done, what we haven’t, who we have met, who we have lost. Who we are.

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Why?

I am not sure I know either....