Storm

Posted in Art on July 29th, 2012 by Becci – Be the first to comment

2 hours, Corel Painter X, Storm

The line-storm clouds fly tattered and swift.
The road is forlorn all day,
Where a myriad snowy quartz stones lift,
And the hoof-prints vanish away.
The roadside flowers, too wet for the bee,
Expend their bloom in vain.
Come over the hills and far with me,
And be my love in the rain.

Robert Frost

On the running trail

Posted in Running on April 20th, 2012 by Becci – Be the first to comment

Tower Bridge -> Canary Wharf - If I can make it that far (I usually don’t). I tend to run along the Thames as much as possible and avoid roads. I wouldn’t run this after 5pm because some lovely areas get closed off around 6pm or so (sometimes earlier). I took this on another run, same route. My phone camera settings were a bit fail.

 

Amsterdam Trip

Posted in Travel on December 12th, 2010 by Becci – 1 Comment

This is a little overdue (as is an update about Kim’s Hong Kong visit!) but since it’s the end of term, I’m happy to procrastinate by uploading photos/rambling about visiting Amsterdam. We were only there for a short amount of time, but we hopefully compensated this by our endless wanderings around Amsterdam.

When we arrived, looking ruffled and tired, we saw this:

One of the endless canals

And we were instantly charmed. We were following an enjoyable 3-hour tour which took us around the big and the more quietly hidden away spots in Amsterdam, such as the floating flower market, hidden churches, local treats, and so on … all while telling us about the rich history of the city. At one point he took us to one small part of the famous Red Light District, pointing to this curious little sculpture on the floor:

Boobs!

It was left there one day a long time ago – right outside the local church – and nobody ever found out who installed it. The church predictably disliked and rejected this sculpture, but the citizens of Amsterdam took liking to it. When it was removed, there were many protests calling back for the famous hand-on-boob sculpture. And after, I imagine, much fighting and complaining, it was reinstalled back onto the pavement. Our tour guide eloquently explained that it was a symbol of the Red Light District: the hand is anonymous, representing a ‘no-judgement’ attitude to anybody who wishes to indulge in its business.

Tour guide: Who wants to rub the boobs?
Us: [silence]
Tour guide: Nobody?
[Kim bends down and rubs the sculpture, looking victorious]
Tour guide: Last week, one of the other tour guides told me how one of his tour participants decided to strip naked in this spot, rub his bum on the sculpture, jump in the canal just over there, swim a few rounds … until he was fished out by the Amsterdam police. Yeah, he was pretty stoned.

Ah, tourists.

Also, obligatory shot of the ‘condomerie’. You can see what I mean. Think of the ultimate souvenir from Amsterdam – the windmill condom:

Condomerie

After the tour, we decided to go to a cosy jazz bar, called ‘Alto Jazz Cafe‘. We managed to snag seats right at the front, sipping our orange juice leisurely as we listened to the fantastic jazz talents. I’ve put a few samples together if you wanted to listen:

Alto Jazz Cafe

We wandered back to our hotel at around 2AM in the morning with jazz tunes ringing in our ears.

The next day, we went to a few museums (including one very inspiring photography one):

Foam Museum

Wandered around the very enticing Christmas market:

Christmas Market

… bought a few treats including a giant marshmallow coated in chocolate (it was amazing):

Mmm. Marshmallow.

… and did some general, uncoordinated walking about:

Crooked Houses

Crooked houses in Amsterdam

'Coffee shop' in Amsterdam. Very shiny.


PRIDE stall right outside the church.

More live music! This time, it was rock music and we had a great time.

Rock

All things considered, this is a less verbose entry than I thought it would be, but I figure there are a few things that are better off explained through pictures or videos. Overall, I really liked Amsterdam and I hope to return someday (for longer, perhaps!).

And on a final endnote, thanks to Kim for doing the map reading while we were there. Couldn’t have done it without you.

How to make a post-break up cheese toastie

Posted in Random on November 30th, 2010 by Becci – Be the first to comment

1. Trudge to the kitchen and notice how your brain is still spinning from copious amounts of alcohol and the way you smell of faded perfume. There are many sad, melancholy feelings clouding your normally clear judgement. You feel like you have been mercilessly crushed like a daisy in a fist. You knock over a pan onto the floor and it clatters, loudly, not unlike your SHATTERED heart. Don’t forget your mobile phone. You will need to periodically check whether you have received a message or a missed call from the heart-breaker/jerk-you-would-take-back/once love of your life.

2. Take out the grater. There are still bits of cheese from the last break-up but you don’t care. The world is a noir, grainy film. Take your lump of cheese and declare that you will have a VERY CHEESY TOASTIE because you deserve it, you survivor. Scrub the cheese with all your anger and your rage. The cheese is his face and you are going to eat his melted face. More cheese is always needed. Replace all the uncomfortable scenes of last night with images of how you’d have liked it to have ended. It will undoubtedly end with him grovelling at your feet because you are SO BEAUTIFUL and SO CLASSY. It may have ended with violence. Either way, you’re the winner.

3. Check your phone every two seconds. Text your friends about how your life has come to screeching halt. Tell them all the horrible things he has done and they will eventually tell you what a jerk he was. Yell that they just DON’T UNDERSTAND what you had together and you couldn’t believe what they just said. Maybe they will care, but they probably won’t. Go through the text messages, savour the sweet memories and cry in the corner. Keep grating the cheese. Your cheese will develop a salty flavour and it will become damper, but you prefer it that way because it would be like eating your feelings. Send a passive-aggressive text to your ex about how you’ve moved on now but if he wanted to get back with you, you’d give him a second chance oh-so-reluctantly. Regret sending that message. Go on a text-message blitz. Delete ALL the messages in your text box and feel like renewed woman.

4. Toast the bread and it will probably burn. Throw it away, anywhere, and be angry, just like the way he threw away your heart! Check his Facebook and see that he’s changed his relationship status to single. Change yours to IT’S COMPLICATED because your life is so damn messed up right now. Look through his pictures and spit in the face of every attractive girl who posts on his wall. They’re totally coming on to him. You’ll probably burn more toast but you love burned toast, because burned toast tastes of ash and hatred and those sluts will NEVER understand the relationship you and him had.

5. Butter the toast. Pile on the butter and don’t stop. Fall into a dark, deep hole and tell yourself that you’re not pretty enough and so you should be fat. But you would probably put loads of butter anyway, regardless, because you love the taste of butter (and it’s low fat butter, okay). Imagine yourself melodramatically getting a heart-attack and then having to call the ambulance and delight in how GUILTY he’ll feel. He’ll wish he never dumped you now.

6. Generously sprinkle the cheese onto the bread but your hand is trembling because you’re about to burst into tears. He really liked cheddar cheese. And toast. And butter. He USED THIS PLATE too. Curse the world, because it is punishing you for some unknown reason. See cinematic, over-romanticised flashbacks of him in the kitchen and ponder how happy you once were. QUICKLY REGAIN SANITY. You’re a beautiful, smart, successful woman! Happiness is a perspective and it doesn’t come in the shape of a man. You swear off dating men because they’re all selfish, greedy idiots. Reward yourself with lots of cheese for this wisdom. Put the cheesy toast in the oven and wait. Sneakily check Facebook again and post a status something along the lines of how amazing you are, and some people just don’t realise it.

7. When the cheese has melted, quickly remove it and press two salami slices into the cheese. CRUSH THE TOAST together so it melts together into cheesy goodness. As you crush the toast, you will be CRUSHING your sorrows and you should think about all the bad things he has done, how inconsiderate he was to forget your dog’s birthday, his horrible ties, his bad breath, the way he snored at night etc. EAT TOAST. As the flavour sweeps through your tongue, empower yourself to be a better woman and achieve self-actualisation. You will be enlightened from this and all the wiser from this ordeal. Realise that things just don’t work out and that some people just suck, period. That and you make damn good cheese toasties.

In limbo

Posted in Contemplative on September 1st, 2010 by Becci – 1 Comment

It’s always sobering when I think of my ‘to-do’ list and all the things I haven’t yet done. In ten or so days, I will be yanked away from the city back into the peaceful rumination of university life, tucked away in a little campus. It’s all so cyclical and I’m so predictable, it becomes a self-perpetuating system fuelled by all my expectations and worries – but also my aspirations; my quiet, wishful thinking.

I could describe this bridge of uncertainty and choice either as liberating or terrifying. I know I’m at a stage where I can make life choices without backtracking too much, but I’m admittedly wary of being on that conveyor belt, that path of ‘settling’ for this-and-that, slowly ensnaring years of my life away until I wake up one day, mid-life crisis and all, asking myself “What the hell have I done with my life?” And, I know, I would have no answer.

Delayed gratification aside, there are a lot of things I wish I could take the plunge for … but I’m a comfort-lover and a convenience-addict shaped by all things safe and within reach. I was never taught how to take risks – only how to avoid them. I’ve spent most of my life trying to sort out Plan B and account for various contingencies, I’ve never really thought about Plan A. There is so much to be said about being strong and choosing what other people might scoff at – but there’s also so much naivety in believing that it would turn out any differently from the previous millions of attempts people have strived – and failed – for.

In any case, this strange inertia makes me feel like I’m overlooking the canyon edge into a bottomless pit. I lose a lot of focus when I’m in Hong Kong because everything here seems so gratuitous, so indulgent, filled with girly chit-chats and softly-uttered romance by Victoria harbour. There are candle-lit dinners overlooking the sea; giggly whispers as we lean over the balcony of a towering skyscraper, dangling our wine glasses in the glow of the light symphony; there are succulent banquets, plates of sashimi, juicy dumplings, warm custard-filled buns with creamy-soft insides, each engulfed in passing moments that are used and discarded. We live for the next, and then the next. I forget a lot of the things that haunt my mind but I know it is starting to all come back as the flight date looms ever closer.

On a lighter note – Kim’s visit! I will post photos as soon as I get my grubby hands on them.

Untitled

Posted in Writing on May 16th, 2010 by Becci – Be the first to comment

A forty year old man is walking nervously to the polished counter and there is wrapped lock of hair in his trembling hand. He had fished those long trails of chestnut hair, many years ago, from the bottom of the shower drain. He remembered how he often tried to unclog the shower drains with all those stubbornly clinging hairs, tinged grey with the foam of the shower. Now he finds himself coveting every piece: the thin lock of hair is wrapped in a ziplock bag, meticulously sealed and rolled with an emerald ribbon. He washed it and conditioned it last night. He admires the particular curl, its subtle sheen.

He is looking at the woman at the desk, and she is smiling comfortingly – he wonders if she pities him. She is dressed in a bleach white smock and there is a badge pinned smartly to her left hand side. There is a smiling yellow face and a speech bubble protruding from the toothy grin: We are here to help! It is all artfully done – quietly euphemistic, jarringly neutral. He carefully empties the ziplock bag onto a metallic tray on the desk and watches the woman’s slender fingers re-arrange the lock of hair on the tray, eyes darting towards the computer screen as it blips into life. Her fingers flit across the touch screen for a few minutes and he is watching her in breathless silence. He is studying her every move, his hands gripping the edge of the counter, snowflake white. The seconds that slip by make him wonder, briefly in panic, what-the-fuck-am-I-doing-here, should-I-just-leave. I am weak, weak, weak – but he is inexplicably rooted to the spot before he can turn away from the counter. Numbers dance on the touch screen and cranes his neck to see it, almost desperately. The woman finally looks up, signalling his quiet resignation towards it all: let it be, he thinks. He wants this – yes he does. Her voice is forgivingly even:

“Good morning. Welcome to Reviva. How long would you like the simulation for?”
“2 hours, please.” His voice is strangely croaked.
“Very well. I will lower the helmet down and you can select your preferred location and memories.”

A pane in the ceiling, a painfully sterilized white, opens as a small helmet is lowered down to him through a mechanic arm. Numerous wires protrude from the top of the helmet and there is a smart twirling Reviva brand stamped to the side. It promises everything to him. He quickly places it on his head: his eyes are covered by a black screen and a sudden, startling smooth female voice echoes through the helmet like a soft breath: Good morning, sir. Thank you for coming to Reviva. We are calibrating the memories of your sample. A slight pause. Calibrated and loaded. Please select a preferred location.

A number of scenes appear on the screen. He recognises the restaurant where they went on their first date. She wore a red dress and it blushed her skin a magenta pink. It fades as the second location appears: he sees the mountain top they used to hike on during the weekends, in all its balmy sun-soaked earth. Then: the park where he saw her for the first time, sketching the ducks on the pond as they squabbled for stale bread. In a flash, it changes to the supermarket they went to after the first day they slept together: they argued over skimmed and full-fat milk. Finally – his room. He remembered how they both sat on his bed and found themselves staring at each other in the lukewarm dark, without a word. The slits of moonlight cut through the curtains like glass, and he remembers how, that night, his hand slid down her back, moonlit one second and in the darkness the next.

“The bedroom, please.” There is a terrible yearning in his voice.
Very well. Loading significant events. Please select the appropriate memories.

A list appears on the screen, each one with a ticket check box next to it. It is in chronological order, starting from Meeting Event, to First Date, from second, to third, to fourth date, to the times where they were no longer considered counting dates, but all measured in each absorbing, fleeting moments they spent time together. There is an item highlighted in red: First serious argument. He unchecks the box with a flick of his hand. And the second: Argument with threats to leave. That too, he erases. Argument culminating in a- he can’t bear to read it. He asks for all the reds in the list to be de-selected from the list – divorce, separation, new partner, car accident all disappeared from the screen. He was left with the moment in time where he was only 23, where he honestly believed – as he would do, as a student – that he was in love and all he wanted to do was spend the rest of his life with her. He stares at the list and wonders if such a thing should be manufactured. He haphazardly considers apologizing to the counter woman and leaving the building in blind panic. Yet, he finds himself mindfully confirming the selection, as the voice rings: Thank you for your selection. Please remove the equipment.

He slowly removes the helmet and it feels like a thousand heavy seconds as the helmet is raised back into the enclosed platform in the ceiling. He wonders if he should have changed the environment, the memories; a part of him was afraid it wouldn’t be perfect. The woman at the desk motions towards him and he feels limp as she hands him a glossy key card.

“You are in vault #40492. The bill will be collected upon exit. Thank you for shopping at Reviva. The simulation will appear in 5 minutes and simulation will end at 1PM. Thank you. “

The vault opens and the bedroom – as it was in his early twenties – is exactly how he remembered it to be: clothes strewn along the sides, files of university work propped on the table, the photograph of him and his sister balanced on his desk. There is a guitar case leaning at the foot of his bed and his socks are placed on top of the radiator to dry. It is darkening and the curtains are the same intruding canary yellow as it was many years ago, but now tinged deeply orange in the sunset. He sits on his bed and he is impatiently waiting as the clock on the desk ticks by with every unforgiving second.

His mind is chaotic. He recalls what it was like when he was with her those years ago in this exact room. He wonders if he can be as tender, what he could possibly feel. He wonders whether it would work, even. He is afraid she will emerge deformed from the process, or something else terribly wrong – but he calms himself down. Memories, in all their intricacies, blended into the body of a woman with the same skin and flesh – how far it would be from reality, sweetened by the gentle nuances of time and nostalgia. She would be the softened version of herself, the blurred and smoothed image of her in his mind. He can barely remember her anger and her spitting words. He only remembers her beauty.

The door at the back of the room gradually opens and he can make out the shape of a woman’s body as it steps away from the door. He recognizes her dress immediately: she is wearing the flowery dress with its chiffon layers, the same dress he used to run his hands through. She is now stepping towards him; the orange of the sunset dyes her skin into a peach glow and the brightness of the light unveils her face like silk on flesh.

He cannot think. She is there in, in warmth and blood, and there is something surreal about this. He can see the mole she had on her chin, the shoulder-length of curl of her hair. The way she moved in all her exact mannerisms – her arms swinging, slightly – and the cheeky, unreadable smile on her face. He sits motionless on the bed as she stands before him, and he is paralyzed in the rush of ache – god, the yearning and the tired stretches of time, years and years of longing with every penny saved until this moment of heaven on earth – of dreaming the day he would see her again after the angry separation and the accident. He last saw her alive in the hospital, merely a body covered with wires weaving back and forth from her arms, her face. She stands before him in this untainted version of herself. He stares and admires and loves and absorbs this flesh reincarnate of her. He can’t remember anything more beautiful. There is a vibration in his voice and he raises his arm weakly scrape his fingertips along her soft inner wrists.

“I’ve missed you. Fucking hell, I’ve missed you. So much.”

He sees her in the crevices of his memory. She walks closer towards him and wraps her arms around him. He can smell her scent in her hair and he can do nothing but hold her back, the rush of emotion pouring back like angry waterfall. His lips are pressed against the flesh of her arms and he just can’t understand how real they are, the softness of her flesh, the tiny freckles lined across her elbows. I have aged, he thinks to himself, but just for today, I want to pretend.

“How – how have you been doing?” He asks her as he holds her hands tightly, “I can’t wait to talk to you about everything.”

She is laughing at his reaction now, the way he knew she would.

“I saw you barely a day ago, silly! You’re so melodramatic. I’m fine – though yesterday, Professor Hugh gave me far too much reading to do. I don’t want to read-” she grins, almost mockingly, “when I can spend time with you.”
“Listen-” his palms fully enclose hers, settling her down next to him on the bed, “I know this isn’t going to help, but I have to say this. You won’t understand this, but – just, listen.”
“What’s going on? You look like you’re about to announce that you’re pregnant.”

He pauses, regaining his breath and control over his shuddering body, “Just – ten years down the line you’re going to be in a car crash, okay?” She looks sceptical now, but he continues on: “It will be my fault. I’m going to be in the car with you, and you will have swerved into a truck. You’ll do that because I will have told you that I have missed you for years. You will tell me you’re with someone else and there’s nothing I can do. There will be a throb in your throat and I’ll reach forward to touch it, just like that-“ his finger lightly touches along the hollow of her neck to the sides, trailing gently until it rested on a weak, pulsing beat – “and your eyes won’t be on the road. You’ll crash.”

She is staring at him, wide-eyed – and then bursts into laughter, “I didn’t know you were clairvoyant-” she is cut short by his pleading look.
“I’m sorry. I’ve wanted to say this to you for a long time-”
“Fine. Apology accepted, if that’s what you want.” She leans into him and her hand is on his shoulder. He wonders if it is all futile, in this moment of quiet realization. This was never her, was it? What the fuck am I doing?

His hand on her pulse is now searching the rest of her face, the contours of her chin, the spans of her eyelashes. She is a lifelike doll, saying all the same words she would say – in his mind – in the way she would pronounce them, perfectly in time to the words in his mind. He is deflated and leans forward to her lips in their eternal moue, but is suddenly stopped by her firm, locked hand on his chest.

I’m sorry. You will have to purchase an additional Reviva Physical package to gain access to intimate gestures.” It was said in an oddly robotic way; it seemed out of place as it escaped the lips of the woman before him. Her eyes were glassier at this point, transfixed on him.
He looks jolted and confused: “Excuse me?”
You are currently subscribed to Reviva Basic. The terms and conditions can be recited-
“No, no. It’s – it’s alright.”

He is mute as he stares at her body with the sadness and the longing of a young man. He wonders about the memory he has of her – the ones not polished and buffed by time and tenderness, but glimpses of the way she would act after a particularly tiring day, her lipstick protruding away from the edges of her lips. He savours her tiring, irritated words brushed away like a cobweb on her sleeve, the way she would leave the milk on the table after she used it. He would have to tell her to put it back in the fridge and she would yell back I-will-do-it-later-for-god’s-sake, encapsulating those exasperating mornings together. He recalls way she would kick him in his sleep and how she left the shower floor wet every morning. And her hair, the way it would form a soft nest in the drain and he would moodily remind her to clean it up. She never did.

“What’s wrong?” she is still close to him, watching him intensely.
“Nothing. I was just thinking why you were always messy when you showered. I never could figure that out.”
“I don’t know what you mean, either.”

She would only know what he knew, because her memories would have been formed entirely from his, in all their gaps and unanswered questions. He decides that he only wants to sit near her, his hand resting on her lap, the chiffon layers running through his fingers. All he wanted to do was to spend time with her. When she sat in the half-darkness, she seemed the most real to him – in all her unsaid words, in a physical form not tainted by the carbon-copy of her words in his memory. He remembers how she would be an impetuous, spontaneous woman in her early twenties. As she sat before him, it struck him how she seemed like a pretty pull-toy with the string attached to her back, saying each sentence over and over again like an over-used motto: entirely, perfectly predictable. He knew the words to her poetry before she would write it.

He says, sleepily: “Sit here with me for the next few hours, okay? That’s all.” He leans against the wall and she is climbing over to sit near him, tucked under his arm. He can feel her breath against his wrist and the prickle of her flyaway hair on his shoulder. Time moves like a sliding leaf on the surface of the water, with each meandering moment meeting the next in perfect synchronisation. He can see the light outside gradually deepening until he can only identify her silhouette against the window. He knows she is not going to sleep – she blinks casually but otherwise remains entirely still, a warm mannequin. His eyes close and open again, each moment of closure lengthening as he grips her body with his arm, determined to enjoy every breathing moment with her. He eventually allows sleep to wash over his mind like a tender rinse, and murmurs to her in half-fatigue: “Good night. I’ve so missed you.”

And she replies, with a delicate hitch in her breath: “You know I miss you too.”

He wakes up on the floor of vault #40492 and the edges of the room are harshly sharp. There are a number of metallic chairs and tables scattered around the room, obligingly impartial, utterly antiseptic. It is the same bleached white as the main counter and there is a screen raised above his head with the bright marquee blinkering: Simulation Ended. Please Return the Card Key to the Front Reception. Thank you for experiencing Reviva.

The vault of the door slides open and his ears throb as the world’s noise had turns up threefold. A sudden burst of fresh air enters his lungs. He sees the streaming front reception and it is noticeably busier than it was earlier. There are numerous men and women queuing up, some chattering animatedly to one another, others with babies and children, a few looking pensive. He drops the card key in the return slot, recovers the lock of hair and – just as he is about to pay for the bill and exit the building – he briefly examines each of them, with their own stories, their own aching desires to make memory into flesh. The lonely, ragged man carrying a tail of blonde hair, licking his lips in anticipation. The stubborn child with traces of cat hair in his cupped hand. A woman who lost her sister to cancer. He turns away from them, ungluing himself from the world of lost opportunity, of humans hopelessly grasping what had already slipped through their fingers a long time ago. Time moves and it leaves us all behind. It leaves us choking in the midst of the storm, the bile that rises in our throat when we realize the loss is there – but the memory retains like hot coals searing your skin. We will feign it as best we can. It is a tantalizing opportunity to trick your mind for a few brief hours, the compulsion to unroll time and run our fingers back to a world of difference. We want to believe that mistakes can be washed away with a few well-placed bills. Loss, they said to themselves, is stifling. They need a reprieve.

He leaves the building into all its pure, undiluted white. He allows it to disappear behind him without a second glance back. The walk back to the office is languid, and he remembers the curves of her shoulders, the shape of her limbs, leaning against his. Holding her felt like two puzzle pieces joining together in perfect harmony. He can think of nothing else.

His co-workers lazily greet him as he makes his way back to his cubicle. A part of him is ready for the return to normalcy. His tea mug is now cold on his desk and he makes his way to the rickety tea machine at the back of the office. There is a deft numbness to his actions, but he is absolutely nonchalant. He sees his friend, who jovially slaps him on the shoulder while giving him a secretive wink. “How did the Reviva experience go, eh? Most people go for one thing.”

“Actually, I didn’t go. Went for a long fag break instead.”

He sips his tea delicately, and contemplates his answer. His other hand grips the lock of hair in his pocket with a new-found ferocity.

And he quietly concedes to the weeping child within him.

——

2 hours, free-writing.

On childhood and sun.

Posted in Writing on April 25th, 2010 by Becci – 1 Comment

You would give me a bruise and it would remind me of Wednesdays. It usually came from a swinging punch from the left, quickly following a carefully coordinated feint to the right. It was in those summer days, afterschool, when we would fight – when the monkey bars seared to the touch and the sun was unbearably pressed on our foreheads. And while the others found themselves basking in the cool shelters of the classrooms, we would rule the whole playground for ourselves. We loved the way the sun glinted, unforgiving, on the painted sheen of the slide and we screeched with delight when the heat pulsated in our palms, burning like charcoal. It was our game: when the heat waves rose from the pavement, we saw it as an opportunity. The first to climb to the top of the bars wins, you’d say. It was game on from then. I knew it would hurt – but we would burst through the doors, our shoes scrabbling at the bars, determined to climb to the very top. I saw your silhouette framed against the sun and I recall how I found myself always looking upwards at you. I would hold my hands to your face, in defeat. It’s your fault that they’re all swollen now, I exclaimed. And you would hold yours up in reply, in all our matching reds.

We became tired of our playground antics after a while, of climbing onto various objects, battling the heat of the summer. It was a Wednesday of ’98 when your hand crept over to pinch me on the wrist, hard. I almost swore, pinching you back with as much ferocity as I could. The hell did you do that for? I yelled, flicking him again with my fingernail. You only laughed and pushed me to the side.

Let’s fight! I’m bored of climbing things! You said this with an odd triumphant smile on your face, as if it were only natural that you should. I vehemently objected and said that fighting was bad – that I didn’t fight – that my dad wouldn’t like that and nor-would-you-okay-please – only to be interrupted by a series of further pinches on my arm. I remember cursing and launching myself at you, telling you to stop, my hands pinching you right back, nails digging into the flesh between your fingers. And I remember, five glorious minutes later of constant bone and flesh meeting bone and flesh, finally standing up with scratch marks down my arm, angrily rubbing away an irritating patch of your sweat on my face. I pretended to be angry, I really did. I told you I didn’t want to be friends. You shrugged and said that you found that fun, didn’t you? And I told you that I don’t fight, not at all, how-could-you, and that it really hurt. Right, you said, even if slightly sardonically, see you after school. I screamed back and told you only in hell would I see you, you crazy. I almost did. But on the dot, 3:15 in the afternoon, I trailed towards you in indignant reservation. You never noticed – you were there with your school bag, and you had forgotten about my outburst earlier. You told me that you wanted to go somewhere else. I have an idea, you said, with hushed fervour, let’s go to the rooftop place.

The rooftop, prominently placed on the 17th floor of my apartment block, was a place that smelled of laundry and looked like the sails of a ship. There were pieces of thin rope stretched across the patio, white linen strung along them, gently billowing in the wind. We used to enjoy running through the linen until we got told off by the caretaker, but for me it was a never endless cascade of bright white against white. I would press myself against the sheets and almost willed myself to fall into them, but I was afraid they would fall to the ground – I wasn’t tall enough to put them back over the ropes.

When we got there that Wednesday, you told me you wanted to fight again. I said that the sheets would get dirty, but you only shrugged. They can wash it again, you told me. You asked if I was afraid. I retorted that I wasn’t – it just seemed like the wrong place to be fighting. We would have mooncakes here and play with lanterns, I explained to you, wouldn’t it be weird to fight here? It seemed almost like sacrilege, but I couldn’t tell you this. I remember you laughing at me, telling me how you knew I couldn’t go through with it. I became riled up and I gave you a cursory shove. It cut through your laughter like a cold knife. Then – as if unlocked – my reluctance to fight was no longer there. I suspect a small part of me was hooked. I was more voracious this time – I punched you, on the arm, and you retaliated by clocking me near the waist. The pain would make me stumble, but I would lash out again to cork the angry outcry of my nerves. It followed that we edged closer and closer to the crisped sheets, until we found ourselves fighting against the bleached white, our fists curled up against the cotton, a clashing of jarring movements that sometimes met an opposing force, others into thin air. Punch after punch, returned and thrown, blinded by the linen veils, feeble – but excited – flailing of the two of us, our laughter breathless when we both realized we had never felt this free. I remember telling you how much fun I was having, because I had never been in this kind of fight before. We were giggling, slowly losing control as we hit harder, pinched rougher. Your punches were getting more aggressive in those minutes, and – for a split moment – there was that tinge of uncertainty as I stepped back for that brief second. You sensed it, I think, that quiet pause of mine: your fist suddenly impacted on my mouth, and with all the force of an uncontrolled swing, it caught me off-balance. I gave a panicked cry and recoiled away from you. I remember stumbling across the rooftop, wrapped in a sheet and falling clumsily onto the cemented floor. I lay there, clutching my face. The laughter was brutally torn short, and you attempted to unravel me from the cloth. I was holding my hand to my mouth, my lip swollen, my teeth feeling oddly out of place – and something that looked like the juice of a dark cherry flowing from my fingers. It dripped onto the sheets, that stark red darkening against the white. You asked if I was okay, if I was okay, Rebecca, Rebecca, if you should call someone, I’m-so-sorry, are you okay, talk to me- I just lay there, squeezing my eyes shut, as I tasted metallic and pebbles in my mouth.

*

It was about two days later when I saw you next. You were sheepishly standing near the gates, and I had a large, angry scratch across my lips and gums: it was like someone had taken my bottom lip and inflated it. I remember you telling me how sorry you were, and that we wouldn’t need to play that game any more. I looked at you haughtily and told you not to be silly. Next time, we’ll go somewhere else. How about the beach?

From then on, we would mark our territory like carefree animals. The first time was in the playground, and then it was the linen rooftop. The beach had us fighting along the shore, gritting our teeth against the sand, pushing one another into the water in a satisfying splash. You gave me my first bruise on my left arm, and I nearly cut your skin with my scratch. I think a part of us derived joy in imagining the old caretaker slowly reaching his aching, shaking arms to the linen and folding them with careful, slow precision – the very same place where we were fighting each other, rolling against the sheets, impacting against the floor. We would laugh about the couples who would go to the beach in a romantic hand-in-hand walk, languidly strolling over the very same space I landed my palm on your shoulder, the thick red hand print still blotchy on your skin. Then it was the car park, the park, in the stream, the garden. From my window, I could see that particular patch of grass I pulled from the soil, trapped underneath my fingers, which I had flung at your face on one Friday evening. We’d grin like conspirators when we saw it.

Our skin would heal over time. It formed tender flesh rivers on our arms, only to be reddened again in a later escapade. Our parents would never know how I got that odd red scruff on my elbow, that scratch on your knee. We treated them as marks of our freedom – in some strange and pseudo-liberating way – but I always recall the way we would walk back home after our fights: arm in arm, like quiet champions. We would look at our reflections against the stream. We liked the way the magenta streaks blushed our faces, the spaghettified version of us. It was the perfect parody of us.

-

1ish hour quick writing. Fictional.

Copenhagen (Part 2)

Posted in Travel on February 1st, 2010 by Becci – Be the first to comment

(Not that it particularly matters as they’re both disjointed and flow in no particular direction, but for chronology’s sake – read Copenhagen (Part 1) here first, if it piques your interest.)

After a long stint of not updating and people rolling their eyes and claiming “you’re never going to update on Copenhagen, are you?”, here it is. Hand-rolled and clumsily written, I’ve done it at last.

I had a flight back to the UK that afternoon (emissions offset!), and so we only had time to visit a place that was enthusiastically recommended to me by a kind volunteering partner at Klimaforum. She said: “Visit Christiania! It’s … something else entirely. Copenhagen’s worst kept secret.”

Here’s a nice shot of what I mean by Christiania:

Christiania

It’s easy to fall into misconceptions. Graffiti. Low-rise buildings with a ruffled look about them. Barrels with naked flames on the street with people huddling around them. No cars in sight. Sleepy cafes, sparsely decorated.

But I think it’s a place of rich history. Known as “Freetown Christiania”, it claims to be autonomous. According to the fascinating Wikipedia page, some portions of the law behind supervision have been transferred to the state (under the Christiania Law of 1989). There are some regulations and rules of Christiania, created independently of the government. Razi affectionately commented, later on, how such a place demonstrated how true democracy could potentially work. Major matters in Christiania were apparently decided by voting, and it enforced its own sanctions.

I cannot remember exactly, but there has been a long history of conflicts about the supposed tolerance of cannabis in that region and numerous episodes of governmental authorities trying to regain control of the region. Christiania stood for freedom, liberty and art: it was a focal point for gay activism, for example, and it was (at times) belligerent and bellicose to government authorities. But of course, the tensions have somewhat settled down into a comfortable status quo. We found it a lovely place to walk around and it was obviously one of the biggest tourist hotspots. There were small stalls selling Christiania merchandise and I suspect the massive thrusts of tourism to the area brings welcome profit.

Just outside Christiania.
Just outside Christiania.


The outer regions of Christiania.

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We had a quick walk around the area and encountered a formidable (?) looking building with very interesting looking chairs:

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We were tempted to put our own signature on one of the walls, but decided against it. It was a lovely little place though, even though everything was closed in that building that day.

At that time, there were also small, independent art exhibitions held in Christiania pertaining to the climate change summit. They were largely activist in nature, with some very striking models – almost caricature-like, even. Some of them seemed solemn in nature, while others grieved for a world already ‘lost’. Some seemed to gleam with a sense of hopefulness, depicting children holding hands together to protect the earth. A few of them were satirical in nature, criticizing the ‘greed’ of green capitalism with grasping hands and painted bank notes. All in all, an interesting viewing, even if I remembered only to take a few photos of them:

Forgive me, but my memory is quite fuzzy. I remember taking the long tube ride back to Copenhagen airport (after making a few wrong stops) and just hanging casually with Razi. The planeride back to the UK was pleasant enough, and it all left a sweet taste in my mouth. :)

If I were to give Copenhagen a flavour, it would be hot chilli with potatoes and leek. It would sound like a bamboo flute and smell like clovers. I really enjoyed it, and even though I arrived in Copenhagen with no real noble agenda, it was really interesting to taste the culture, meet amazing people and be part of such a well-organized academic forum. I liked the organic food and all the bitterly cold nights, even. I enjoyed speaking to the funky people on the bus, and I will remember those moments where we all held our baited breaths as the police stopped to examine our bus. I adored the confusing train ticket dispensers, that funny Cantonese-speaking restaurant owner, the crowds of protests, the strength and solidarity of it all … it was what Morshed would call a perfect ‘hippie-venture’. Also, I thank Razi and friends for accompanying me (or did I accompany them?) on this. Couldn’t have done it without you.

Next stop: Sahara! Just kidding. Somewhere a little closer – Edinburgh, maybe? ROAD TRIP!

Paper-stranger #14

Posted in Paper Stanger on December 23rd, 2009 by Becci – 1 Comment

Well, this looks to be the last paper-stranger entry of the year. And seeing the deluge of university work coming my way in January, it’ll probably stick for a few weeks after the new year. Thanks for visiting paper-stranger weekly (i.e. you strangers and that one yappy dog) and have a good holiday.

Copenhagen Trip (Part 1)

Posted in Travel on December 16th, 2009 by Becci – 1 Comment

Taken on the bridge heading to Copenhagen
Taken on the bridge heading to Copenhagen.

How can I be swayed by something so trivial as personal failure?” – A line from a poem read on the coach on the way to Copenhagen.

I’m not really sure how to start this, other than the fact that I’m disappointed I wasn’t able to stay in Copenhagen for any longer. It was so interesting to meet many new people and do so many things in a short period of time: get stuck in a coach ride for 24+ hours (a few spent on border checks), walk somewhat lost around the north eastern parts of Copenhagen only to encounter a fellow Cantonese-speaking restaurant owner, volunteer at Klimaforum09, eat (free) 100% organic home-grown food, accidentally get on the wrong side of the police, wander aimlessly around the streets of Christiania, fumble clumsily at the confusing train/metro system at Copenhagen, huddle around a communal fire … all that and more, and it was only magnified by travelling with my dear friend Razi, whom without his excellent map reading skills I would still surely be in a ditch somewhere in Copenhagen (or trampled. I am completely serious about that).

I guess it would make the most sense to start from the beginning: Day 1.

We started off at Victoria Embankment where we caught a coach. I think it’s important to specify that our particular coach had mainstream media on it – Danish TV2, and some other main channels that were following the journey of the Climate Campers on the coach ride. This meant that there was a strong possibility of getting less hassle from border control, as having three different cameras pointed at you as you search the bus is – if not just subliminally – slightly unencouraging. But at this point, we were all anticipating the worst. We were clearly briefed by a legal observer as to what our rights are as we crossed borders from the UK (Terrorism Act 2006, right of silence etc.), to France, Belgium, Netherlands, Germany and then to Denmark. Denmark had tightened border security due to COP15, and if we were detained we would have to give our name, address and date of birth – but nothing else. We were given telephone numbers for legal teams assisting on border support and it was constantly expressed by our legal observer that regardless of our views on direct action, border control is not a good platform to express your viewpoint. There have been stories of people being turned away from the border for having vaguely suspicious items on them (or indeed, any items that could be construed as part of a plan for ‘direct action’, including brochures mentioning direct action). Three activists were turned away the day before, and many had their things confiscated. Nobody on the coach wanted the journey to be over even before it truly started. It probably didn’t help that our bus did actually have quite a few radical activists – a few people had chained themselves to a polluting power plant a few months back, some others are pending multiple law trials … but then again, these are the very people who would have wanted – more than anybody else – to get through border control

I think we all held our collective breaths as the border control came abroad after taking our passports and suddenly – unexpectedly – asked: “Who likes Liverpool?” A hand shot up and the he pointed to the man who put up his hand “OK, Mr. Liverpool, we’ll search you first.” He then pointed to the back row of the bus and said “You guys too.” There was an appreciative laugh throughout the bus, but we scrambled and pressed ourselves at the windows as we saw the policeman pat them down and look through their bags. One man (who was not searched) admitted to having a Swiss Army Knife on him (and this is compliant with knife standards in Denmark, such as how it cannot be lockable and cannot be opened with only one hand) – but he was allowed to keep it. A few people on the bus felt that while the border control seemed friendly enough, felt like he was asserting his authority in an unacceptable and arrogant way. Overall, it took a total of maybe just over an hour for our particular bus to be checked, but we noted it was exceptionally fast and very smoothly done. We sped past the other coaches and rode our way successfully to Copenhagen.

It was well into the night when we arrived at Copenhagen. We arrived in the emergency convergence center where people could crash on the floor if they had no other accommodation. However we had to get to Jægersborg as we had planned to stay with Razi’s friend, Peter, who kindly allowed us to take over his couch and his floor. We walked around first, quite lost, for a while until we asked a kindly Cantonese-speaking woman where the nearest train station was. We eventually found it, but our first encounter with the train system in Copenhagen was not a sweet one. A few very lovely strangers explained how the clipping system worked after we puzzled over the ticket machine for a fair few ten minutes, and getting to Jægersborg was (strangely enough) problem-free. We met up with Peter and after dropping off our things, we headed to København H. The venue for Klimaforum was split up into the actual academic talks with all their polished grandeur, while the other part seemed to exist for activists and volunteers to get free/cheap food and drink, or attend the more radical meetings of the moment. We walked around the volunteer areas amidst the soup kitchens and cafes; we saw people playing flutes and strumming guitars, reciting poetry and huddling around campfires. I really liked the atmosphere of the place.

Soup kitchen

Soup kitchen


100% organic food

One showing at the Klimaforum venue:

I volunteered at the information point for the duration of the evening. It was a little difficult as I had no working knowledge of Copenhagen itself and all the events that were going on at Klimaforum were also news to me as well. But over time (and much nagging) I found out what was going on when, where the internet cafés were, where accommodation could be found, where all the parties were at, where the protests were happening, and so on – I really enjoyed it, not to mention the wonderful people I had the privilege of working with.

Razi and I … we tried to get an early night. I’m still not sure if we did, but we arrived home maybe just before 1AM. Razi set his alarm clock for 7:30 in the morning (ha), as I intended to work an early shift the next day.

Day 2: Hit The Production

We woke up late so we decided to head straight to the demonstration/protest at Østerport. I should probably make it clear that I don’t hold radical beliefs nor am I particularly an ‘activist’ in that belligerent sense – I largely attended this particular protest because we had missed the ‘family friendly’ one before (with over 100,000 people walking the streets) due our late arrival at Copenhagen, and I thought it would be interesting to see this one in any case. This protest was organized by more radical members and was in a direct action booklet advocating social justice. And because I am quite lazy, I won’t say too much on this subject. I compiled video clips I managed to take at the protest and I put them all in a shoddily-made Youtube video:

Along with a few pictures that I hope will speak more than a thousand words.

Protesters were told to sit down on the floor.

To be detained.

What I will mention, however: it had potential to be pretty messy. I remember us being shoved incessantly into the corner (where, incidentally, there was no opening) as the police tried to get us away from the protestors, but they didn’t know there was nowhere to move. So I was pressed against the rear of the car until Razi shouted out “there’s no room to leave!” – only until then did the shoving relax. We were told to leave the other end, in which case I was only glad to oblige, but the policeman was roughly pulling and pushing people away one by one. I was pulled aggressively out as my leg came into (painful) contact with the person behind me. In retrospect I should have probably fallen over and made a big deal over it, but nevermind.

After that very tiring and cold event, I volunteered more at the Klimaforum – my role that night was more of a bin-emptier and a signpost more than anything substantial, but it was still really fun to meet interesting people I was volunteering with. Not to mention: free cake and tea at the volunteers cafe! I think I am overenthusiastic about little things.


(Hm. Day 3 will come some other time … too tired at the moment)