Maybe I’m Sweet Enough?

March 4, 2010 at 12:21 pm (Uncategorized)

It’s after 10:30 pm – I got home about half an hour ago from a girls’ farewell dinner for my friend M who’s moving to LA (hubby’s already over there and M and the kids are flying on Saturday), and I’m now blogging from a near horizontal position. A new approach for me but I’m sure Hemingway would approve. The English tenant from upstairs is sitting on the back step smoking and talking to someone from home. I’ve already gathered that the person on the other end is in an abusive relationship, and our girl upstairs is plaintively begging ‘Katie’ to get out. Katie, wherever you are, I agree. Problem right now is, I can hear everything really clearly without listening, which is extremely unfortunate.

“Do you love him? Do you really, really love him? You do? You want to stay with him? No, no, you’re not, not at all, all right? You’re a strong, independent woman, you’ll be absolutely fine, but you can’t stay in an abusive relationship. I know, darling, I know…”

I could go on. It is going on. And she’s making good sense, our girl upstairs – “Don’t stand for it, don’t you stand for it, you just say ‘I don’t know who the hell you are speaking to me like that, you can start treating me properly or pack your bags’ – oh, what, what? Darling?” – I just feel like an unwilling voyeur.

So. Let’s try to block our ears and la la la our way into a different topic. There was something I was planning to tell you… perhaps it was about my ability to attract people to my seat on an otherwise near-empty bus. In one trip to Crows Nest tonight, I shared my seat on three consecutive occasions. Whenever someone got on, they’d march down the bus and make a beeline for me. I’d drag my bag onto my lap and keep reading, we’d go along for a bit, they’d get off, someone else would get on and head straight for me like the last person paid them to do it, and on it went. I’d like to know why me, because what I need you to imagine is the rest of the bus, full of solo travellers. One commuter a seat, except not on my seat. No, by the end I didn’t even bother taking my bag off my lap. There really wasn’t any point – or time – before the next person ran right up the bus to cosy up beside me. I suppose part of me feels gladdened that I could safely deduce that I was not the scary person whom everyone avoids on the bus, whose happy fly-catching-and-eating ritual is guaranteed to make others deeply uneasy. Nope, no flies on me.

Everything at dinner was sweet. We went to a place called Waqu, Japanese fusion I suppose, where there’s a set menu. I dislike set menus as a general rule – it usually means you’re all about to get shafted – but they’ve become very popular as a way of showcasing a kitchen’s talent, and this aspect I do quite like. Lots of things on this 5 course ‘degustation’ sounded pretty good, and there were two things – a big marinated tuna rice ball (called a sushi ball but looking more like a very attractive edible tennis ball) and my venison (seared, served with a sauce cassis, mandarin compote and kuri puree) – that were excellent. Unsurprisingly, the desserts were also very good (coconut blanc-mange and a deadly gateau chocolat). Actually, so was something right at the start: the spicy softshell crab taco. Sounded rather regionally conflicted but tasted a treat. But pretty much everything else was sweet – much too sweet for me. I don’t want a sweet potato mille-feuille for dinner, and in general I do not want fruit with my meat. Or my seafood, for that matter. It’s not that I don’t like contrasting flavours – I get it, and I do – it’s that there wasn’t sufficient contrast. By the time we hit the dessert course, I felt I’d been eating toffee snaps all night.

Nice place, though. Ambient. Comfortable. Impeccably polite and smooth as only the Japanese can be. I often idly wish I were Japanese. So much style and finesse and beauty and rocking good taste – so why was everything overly sweet? Perhaps it’s because their cuisine is traditionally not known for desserts… yes, maybe that’s it, maybe there’s an over-compensation or actually just a determination to master Western desserts and indeed a Western sweetened palate. Well, to that end they have royally succeeded, but my own tooth is simply not that sweet.

Now I’ve crashed and burned and have slid further beneath the covers. It’s also now quite a bit later and we have an early morning (you want to see a pound of flesh? Come look at Llew’s raw behind: he’s not even home from work yet), so I’ll be saying sayonara for now.

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Going Over the Wall

March 3, 2010 at 1:43 am (Uncategorized)

Last night I did something I didn’t think I’d ever do: I met two of my DoctorDi virtual friends in real life. The degrees of separation turn out to be few: one of my freelance chums, D, is friends with the lovely and funny Woo/Norwich Rocks of Curiouser and Curiouser, and Woo is friends with the sharp-eyed wit Fugitive Pieces (who doesn’t blog but is an active presence in the blogosphere nonetheless). Fugitive Pieces, I discovered last night, is also ‘real life friends’ with our very own Litlove of Tales from the Reading Room, who’s all the way over in Cambridge, and Woo is an old friend of Piereth’s, whose pastoral Watership Down-style life I greedily follow at Castle Green Days.

Are you still with me?

Anyway, my freelance friend D put it together – she saw a comment of mine on Curiouser and Curiouser – and suggested we all meet, and in the interim she met the Fugitive (who promptly volunteered to help D move – clearly the woman is certifiably insane), so only my introductions remained to be made. After finally resorting to an Excel Spreadsheet to find a time that suited all four of us (I wish I were exaggerating even slightly, but you’ll be pleased to know I couldn’t figure out how to use it, so just waited it out until everyone else had blocked off their slots before picking a time we could all do), we met at the Guylain Café last night.

First things first: why was this something I never thought I’d do? Well, when I started blogging I hadn’t known there were ‘blogging friends’ to be made. First I was completely ignorant of this phenomenon, and later I was initially ambivalent. I suppose I have retained quite a conservative suspicion of the web even though I use it daily, and although my and (to his increasing chagrin) Llew’s real names have always been readily available on this blog, I’ve still had an arm’s length hesitation about ever ‘crossing over.’ Exactly as though that would be taking an interesting experiment a step too far. Don’t leave the gate open! Man the hatch! Arm the perimeter! Good grief!

What on earth, one wonders, was I so afraid of? If D had simply brought two friends along with her last night, I would have had none of this odd psychic disturbance around dismantling an imaginary wall. I wouldn’t have thought twice about it. So why was I ever so slightly nervous meeting two people who have already invested a good deal of their hard won time and energy getting to know me, and I them? It’s weird, don’t you think, that this collapsed boundary line would trouble me so? It’s a synthetic barrier, finally, one that I constructed when I began blogging and have not properly interrogated since. And last night exposed these ramparts as being fundamentally misplaced.

Because of course we got along like the proverbial blazing house.

Two hours passed so quickly, I missed the last fast ferry home, and then Llew turned up to collect me so there was another series of introductions. He already knows D, but he only remembered the other two girls were my ‘blogging friends’ having already spent several minutes talking to them, and admitted later he probably wouldn’t have joined us had he remembered whom I was meeting – even though he simultaneously acknowledged enjoying himself. It’s just that he finds it all very strange, and I feel a bit bad for having dropped him so squarely into my blogging life, because as he said on the slow boat home last night, he’s become a character in my blog and he’s got no control over it. I don’t know what to do about that now…I guess this is what comes of not knowing what would happen when I started DoctorDi.

I didn’t know naming names would prove at all contentious – it didn’t even occur to me to write using a pseudonym. And being anonymous, well, I’m already that, aren’t I, being entirely unknown?! Seriously, how much more total obscurity does one writer need?! Trust me, I’m languishing, I’m languishing! The upshot is I was pretty naïve. I used to use my friends’ first names too, until it came to my attention that they universally despised and resented it. I think I just figured – erroneously, as last night demonstrates – ‘Well, it’s not like anyone reading it is ever going to meet us, it’s not like they’re ever going to know who I’m talking about…what does it matter? What harm could it possibly do?’

And yet people I care about have definitely been aggrieved finding themselves named here. I’ve already offered to go back through each and every post turning references to Llew into ‘L,’ and I offered again last night, but he declines and I’m left wondering how to manage this so that he doesn’t get hurt or feel violated or experience my writing life as an invasion of his privacy. I don’t really have an immediate answer, but I’d love to hear any ideas you guys might have.

The final thing is that at some point, my position on meeting blogging friends completely changed. I don’t recall when this shift occurred, all I know is I’d love to meet you, every single one of you who I only know through my blog and yours. You’re friends of mine, and my once comically barricaded door has, in truth, been wide open for a while now. How I manage this fact against the needs of my husband remains to be seen, but if last night was anything to go by, we’ll have a lot of fun figuring it out.

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Enduring Mateship Keeps Me Afloat

March 1, 2010 at 9:08 am (Uncategorized)

I keep restarting this year: today marks my third attempt. Happy New Month, everyone, so let’s shake off February blues and focus all our attention on March. Lovely March, one of my favourite months, traditionally a beautiful time in Sydney, although frankly it’s a bit of a shocker today. We’ve got sheets of rain, we’ve got wind and we’ve got unexpected cold – this must be the weather gods’ idea of payback, because they kindly held off over the weekend while our darling friends from NZ were here. Indeed, the weather broke only as we were driving them to the airport, and aside from that conditions were pretty bloody good.

Now I have a serious case of Friend Withdrawal. I really needed to see a couple of friendly and beloved faces after the bleak sadness of Thursday, and there they were, dear ones, so familiar and all unchanged between us though we only ever manage to clap eyes on each other every few years. Such is life for Pearson College and indeed all UWC alumni – students from around 75 countries are thrown out after two years of the IB, and in many/most cases return to their country of origin. I sure as hell did – once my scholarship ended in 1991 I had absolutely no choice in the matter (I’d made sure of that good and proper with an extraordinarily lack-lustre scholastic performance – socially, however, I was on fire…). Anyway, here we are, C and I, more than twenty years later, still mates.

It’s a very good result, especially given I get along famously with his wife, and C gets along terrifically well with Llew. The friendship might easily have ended up on the slagheap, it certainly had its ups and down during those long ago years of turbulent adolescence, and plenty of friendships fell, but this one’s endured, it’s gone the distance and become second nature to me, something I don’t ever question and which sustains itself unchecked though a year or more may pass in which we don’t exchange a single word. C is enduringly important to me, I love him, and so it’s been wonderful getting to know his gorgeous wife – also a C – in the years since they arrived for our wedding (Llew and C met many years before that, 1997 I think, but unfortunately we just couldn’t get to their wedding six months before ours), and then later in Auckland when we went to meet their two beautiful kids a couple of years ago. I don’t know when we’ll all see each other again, but we’ll manage it somehow, because it’s always seamless, it’s always so easy and so companionable and so uncanny. So natural it’s unnatural. Just what I needed, and if timing is everything, then they smashed this one right out of the park. Thank goodness for friends, and I don’t just mean mine. Thank goodness for all friends everywhere. They’re just lovely, and mine save me all the time (thanks, guys).

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