Friday, May 19, 2017

SAD


As in Seasonal Affective Disorder - I'm actually quite happy, because the weather is beautiful at the moment.  In fact, I can't even claim to suffer from SAD the disorder; if I have a disorder, it would be better labelled HAD - Hemispheral Affective Disorder.  I am on the wrong side of the planet.  Or at least in the wrong climate zone.

I used to be a total sun-child, even here in scorching Perth.  A major psychological issue for me was desperately wanting to be in Europe, and yet being quite addicted to our hot-as-hot, sunny-as-sunny and never-cold-for-months-on-end summer.  When I lived in London in my early twenties, I struggled to "appreciate" the rare sunny days, as English folk do, because I was used to sunshine being the norm.

But slowly, something changed.  The brightness of our sun, so shocking to me on my return, came to feel oppressive rather than joyful.  I had children and I switched completely to HATING Perth summers, once it became impossible to let my very active babes run free in our skin-burning, heat-stroking summer days.  And on a solo return to London-town a few years back, in a surprisingly sunny summer, I understood fully another issue: while our summer sun shines on dead lawns and wilting gardens, the English sun shines on soft, lush, unbearably-pretty GREEN.  My Uncle noted at my observation, that you can have either quality or quantity of sunshine.

And what I've come to feel, is that the seasons here just work wrong.

It's not just that our cultural heritage is English, that one of the many hangovers from Empire is a lingering expectation of Northern-European nature in a clearly very different land - our Christmas celebrations held mid-summer and only partly re-jigged to fit the new time of year; Easter with its pagan messages of new-life (ie. spring) held when the leaves (of the few deciduous trees) begin to fall; and a list of four seasons that simply don't hold true here.

It's also that the progression of the seasons makes sense - emotionally, poetically - in northern Europe.  Winter falls and folk move into hibernation mode; the days are short, we trudge to and from work in the dark, and live indoors, eating heartily and making use of the cosy pubs that have evolved with the history of the land.  Spring comes with all the glory of the poetry written about it, the earth thaws, the flowers bloom, hope rises with the heat.  Summer (when it arrives, I'll concede it doesn't always, at least in England) is more like a Perth spring, the dimmer-switch on the sun in England just doesn't turn up quite as bright as ours.  But that makes it usable heat - both the weather and the mood for walks and picnics, playing in the park, pottering about on bodies of water, even optimistic backyard barbecues.  And then at last we drift into the most beautiful season of all, the one we almost completely miss in Perth - autumn.  A chill joins the air, and the colours come with a delicious melancholy, wistful after the joyous sunshine seasons, preparing for another winter.

Here it is backwards.  The world greens as the days grow shorter; by the time the grass has restored, it is largely too chilly or wet to play on it.  Autumn is not a note of darkness to come, it is a relief from the excessive heat of summer; our fall-season not only lacks the colour that makes the season aesthetically beautiful in colder climes, it lacks the emotional beauty too.  Winter is just annoyingly cold in our suddenly under-heated homes, and when it rains it pours.  Spring, my least favourite season, means still-not-hot-enough-for-the-beach, and miniature native blooms hiding in the scrub.

I know I am biased by my desire to leave this town, and you may say I am simply seeing the grass as greener... (although in this case it is literally greener grass).  My point is not really to say which is better, but which suits me.  And as an intellectual-ish type, a writer of sorts, I have come to need the poetry of a cool climate, over the activity of a hot one.

We had a plan at one point to move to Lisbon.  It was our then desire to keep Perth summers, whilst living in Europe.  But now I crave only Northern Europe.  Four seasons, in order.  And red-flecked, chilly, nostalgia-inducing AUTUMN, every year.

Monday, April 24, 2017

reality-check


I know I have two small children, and only one day a fortnight "to myself", but still I feel that this little time has been a worthy test of my fortitude and actual commitment.  And I have to admit - to both myself and my small, but very supportive, readership here at the Pickled Pear - that I am most likely not going to be a professional writer.

Please, PLEASE do not spare a moment's pity for my making this declaration.  For it is I who must apologise.  Several of you have made a point of openly complimenting me on my writing, and encouraging me to make a living from my talent.  Which has possibly gone to my head a little more than you imagined.  I am afterall, in real life, a reasonably shy and awkward character; you would be forgiven for believing me at least a little lacking in self-esteem and therefore worthy, if not actually in need, of overt praise.  And while a bit of praise has been a welcome antidote to the bullies of the schoolyard and the critical-mother of the home-life of childhood, you should probably now cut it out.  I actually think I'm pretty fantastic.

I think this so much, that it is not to my 30-odd fans to whom I feel an apology is owed, but to the world.  I actually believe in myself so very much, that I think it is a shame for HUMANITY, that I will be squandering my incredible talent as a writer.

And there is one simple reason that I will be denying the world my brilliance: abject laziness.  It is the reason that both my house and my children are cleaned with far less regularity than is generally suggested; it is a major reason that I am currently so fat that people just assume that I am pregnant again; and it is THE reason that I doubt I will write for a living. 

I tend to think of laziness as inate, perhaps even genetic.  Some people are natural-born go-getters, and some of us would really just rather have been born rich enough to live on the sofa.  Forever.  With wine and cheese brought to us on a regular basis.  I have always, against my politcal ethics, quite fancied the idea of a sedan chair, with a group of burley males to carry me about the place.  (I am sure that if I DID have a sedan chair, I would be even fatter than I am today, so it is probably just as well I am not insanely wealthy.)

Anywho, as far as I can tell, the key to success in anything worth doing, is a combination of: innate-talent, a fair dose of luck, and a good dose of GRIND.  And while I have no troubles with the first two, the major ingredient is lacking.  I love to blame my star-sign (yes, yes, an atheist shouldn't even entertain the notion of star-signs... whatever!)  My favourite book on the subject by Mystic Medusa, the Surreal Field Guide to Astrology (now sadly out of print... and no, you can't borrow the THIRD copy of it husband has acquired for me) states that "duty does not call to these people, duty carps at them in a low and grating monotone."  Sigh... so true.  Star-signs being accountable or not, I totally feel that way.  Fuck duty; bring on hedonism!

So while I may have decided that the most enjoyable thing to do with a slightly tipsy evening with family early-to-bed is to write this post, it's not something I'm ever likely to do with any stamina.  Yes, I will keep writing this thing (with exciting upgrades and expansion of audience planned for the future!)  And yes, I even have a wee book on the go (it may well take YEARS).  But I once read a poignant suggestion that if you don't do it ("it" being WRITING) while you're busy with work and life and what-not, you won't actually do "it" anymore by having loads of time.  You either write, or you don't.  I am 36 and haven't done it.  I am 36 and have an entire day off a fortnight and am not doing it.  I would rather spend occasional days pottering, daydreaming, and occasionally getting high... and pay for it with an easy, uncreative, salaried day-job.

Which, dear reader, is what I (currently) intend to do.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Festival


Today is St Patrick's Day; hence I am decked in green, have cooked up a Guinness-based meal, and am looking forward to a decent indulgence in Irish whisky tonight.  I have never been to Ireland, and am only one-16th Irish.  All I know about my Irish great-great grandmother (despite living with her grandson, my granddad for over two years) is that her name was Alice, she had red hair, and she was Irish.  I could have learnt more about my history, but despite being given the advice AT THE TIME to do that very thing, I did not.  Which just goes to prove that you can't tell young people anything.

So I am celebrating a religious, nation day which I absolutely cannot claim a right to, and reflecting on the sadly commercialised nature of all of our holidays.  I am clearly guilty of participating in this nonsense, but I believe that really, it is about craving something more meaningful.  As a committed atheist, I am not specifically sad about the religion being taken out of formerly religious festivities; but I would rather join in religion than in capitalism.

I do not believe humanity requires gods, but I do believe it requires celebration.  And I am not just being hedonistic.  No really, I'm not!  Pure hedonism is empty, unfulfilling, and frankly, dull.  Societies create festivals because we need an outlet for hedonism, but we also need meaning, and we need each other.  A festival is more than just a party; it evokes a shared consciousness, a connection with our fellow-man, and yes, a spiritualism, that we all need to feel.  Festivals bring a desirable check to hedonism - by giving it set outlets - as well as a purpose.

I am anti-capitalism for moral reasons - the requirement for continuous "growth" (of profits) in a capitalist system creates the requirement to continually find new workers, markets and environments to exploit.  Most importantly to me, it is an inherently unfair system; and I cannot accept preventable inequality in my world.  But I am also anti-capitalism for aesthetic reasons.  There is something just so grubby, so anti-social, so un-beautiful about taking a human celebration, and using it to sell stuff.

Despite an interest in my heritage, I am not particularly nostalgic: I look to the future.  And in my fantasy future, in our anarcho-socialist-eco-feminist-utopia (yes, I am a crazy optimist), we will figure out a way to celebrate properly; without recourse to imaginary higher-beings, but with depth of feeling.  (And still, as tonight, with plenty of the consumable type of "spirits".)

So, happy St Patrick's Day all!  May you celebrate with friends, family and feeling.