Tuesday, 23 February 2010

What is it to be a "Goth"?

This may seem like a pointless and innocuous question to some, but bear with me, as I think there are elements of this that are relevant to all.

I was in London yesterday, trying to pick up a book for my dad's birthday in Foyles on Charing Cross Road. This is one of the very best bookshops in the world in my humble opinion, and I have been lucky enough in my life to visit many bookshops the world over. It is one of the very last multi-department INDEPENDANT bookshops left, and although it is extremely large (spread from front to back over 4 floors) it has non of that awful homogenised, pasteurised, flourescent quality that you find now in the abominations that are chain bookstores. OK, rant over, back to the story: While I was browsing in the Mythology Department, looking for more books on Norse Mythology in order to continue my son's ongoing education in his family history, I overheard a conversation between two "Goths", a young man and woman around the age of 18-20 at a rough guess. They were discussing what they thought it is to be a "True Goth", and at first I thought that what they were saying was quite amusing, but the more I listened the more dismayed and scared I became for them.

No self respecting "Goth" would ever describe themselves as being one, as none of us like to think of ourselves as being that "pigeon-holed" in any way, however I can tell you that I have had STRONG "Gothic Tendencies" since I was a young teenager, needless to say - that has been for  *ahem* a reasonable length of time now, lol, and I have learned a few things since then.  The boy and girl were basically telling each other that the only way to be a true "Goth" is to lead a completely Alter lifestyle and to totally eschew all things connected to the mainstream. They went on to say that this means that you should only ever wear Gothic Clothing (bought only from Camden), and listen to Gothic Music, and hold down a job suitable for a "Goth", (and the only ones they could think of were: Museum Curators, Funeral Directors and Rock Stars), and talk to Gothic People, and only listen to parents if said parents are infact themselves "Goths" (as Goths are the only people in the universe with anything worth listening to), and visit Gothic Clubs and places of interest that only Goths would find interesting, such as, and I am being absolutely serious - they really did say this: Funeral Parlours and Cemetaries. My guess is that as well as being very young, they are also very very new to the "Goth" scene. I know many people of the Gothic persuasion, but I dont know any Museum Curators, Funeral Directors, or genuine Rock Stars. Infact the "Goths" I know are Stall Holders, Bank Managers and Shop Assistants (it doesnt matter if it is a Gothic Clothing/Alternative Jewellery/Sex/or Bookshop, its still being a shop assistant! No names - you all know who you are!) One Goth I know works for the London Underground and another is a Motor Mechanic.

The point I am trying to make (why use one word when 10 will do the job just as well, lol) is that once you leave home, and "real life" (unfortunately) begins to rear its exceptionally ugly head in earnest for the first time, most Goths learn something REALLY important and REALLY terrifying, REALLY bloody quickly, namely: You have to be FLEXIBLE in your approach to and outlook on LIFE. This can often mean a) Wearing a *gasp*..... (non-gothic) Uniform, b) Having to be (oh - the horror of it) POLITE to non-goths and c) Having to sleep of a NIGHT and be awake during the DAY.  Actually this last one does genuinely fill most goths with sheer terror.  Its hard to erect a stall, sit at a tellers window, sell shoes, be resolutely unhelpful to Tube travellers and fix a car on an hours sleep (which was got on the back seat of the night bus)and accompanied by the hangover from hell!

To me, and this is only my opinion, being a "True Goth", has a lot to do with the following: It is having the wisdom, experience and courage to do whatever you feel is the right thing in any given moment, regardless of what anyone else thinks. This includes your friends and the people you look up to. Sometimes that will be going against the mainstream, but sometimes that will also be going with it, and it is being comfortable enough in your own skin to be able to do either or both, depending on what the given situation requires, with little or no fear of recrimination or reprisal from anyone else. No one else can walk in your shoes, so it doesnt make any sense at all to allow anyone else to dictate the direction in which you walk.

With regards to only wearing "Gothic" Clothing bought in Camden: Of course I like victorian inspired Gothic Clothing, just as I like antiques and all things 'old' and probably for the same reason: Old things are safe, they are tried and tested and have stood the test of time. In Britains case (as it is for most of Europe), Victorian and Edwardian articles have withstood two of the worst wars in human history, and I think that makes them special and worth keeping for as long as possible. Of course I have, and wear victorian corsets, but for me there are a few reasons for doing this.  Certainly it gives me a lovely "hourglass" shape, but it also supports my back and helps with the pain, for this reason I intend to wear one to the HIM concert in March as although I have been given a chair at the front of the stage, I would love to be able to show my support on my feet instead of my bum every once in a while! Also, and this has to be said; there is something wonderfully sexual about wearing a corset, not just how you look in one, but also how it feels to wear one. Maybe this is Alter of me, but there is something delicious in being constrained in such a way, although I have to be carefull not to tight lace too much because of my asthma.  Getting a tattoo has a similarly almost sexual effect, well it does on me anyway! However, I also wear "Non - Gothic" clothing, although I must admit I tend to favour black, red and purple. For instance yesterday in London, yes - I was wearing a corset, my black skinny jeans and studded cowboy boots, but I was also wearing a longish plaid top and smart black jacket - both proudly bought from George at ASDA and worn with panache, lol (if you believe that you will believe anything!) I have to admit though that unless they are unusual in some way I do draw the line at flowery summer dresses! My point is that none of my clothing was bought in Camden and not all of it was "Gothic", but I was still happy and comfortable in what I was wearing, and a few complete strangers were oddly compelled to tell me that I looked good which is always going to be a bonus. A couple of them were Goths (not the aforementioned kids in the bookstore), but a couple were regular people and one was a priest who liked my studded leather boots. Thinking about it that might have been a bit suspect. Err lets just carry on.......

With regards to only listening to "Goth" music - well, I can only give a personal opinion: I have said this before and I will take the opportunity to say it again: I have been in love with music all of my life, and because I love it so much I refuse to allow myself to be limited in what I choose to listen to and like. Yes, I love The Sisters Of Mercy, Type O Negative, The 69 Eyes, The Cure, The Damned and of course Black Sabbath amongst many other "Goth" groups. BUT I also love Hanoi Rocks, HIM (obviously) Motley Crue, Poison, Kiss, early Guns 'n' Roses, W.A.S.P (still love ya Blackie!) etc etc. AND I love Capelton, Jahman Levi, Damian, Ziggy and Stephen Marley, Buju Banton, "Daddy" U-Roy, Sizzla, The Misfits, The Dead Boys, Rocket From the Tombs....AND I can even admit to loving, and in some cases adoring 80's (wait for it)....POP! - Oh I know - The Horror of it! But I do. Even Limahls "Never Ending Story, and Georgio Moroder/Phillip Oakeys "Together in Electric Dreams", because when you think of the tragic and intensely sexual lyrics of Depeche Mode, (Blue Dress, I Feel You) or the darkly loving lyrics of Orchestral Manouevres in the Dark (Christine, Forever Live and Die, even La Femme Accident,  yes I know: very 80's pop melodies, but listen to the lyrics), the dreamily romantic lyrics of "The Never Ending Story" and "Together In Electric Dreams", or the melancholy of folk music, or the fierce rebellion of Punk or Jamaican Music (not only Reggae or Roots Reggae, but also Ska, Rocksteady, Dancehall and Dub etc), if these ideals are not "Gothic", then I dont know what is!

With regards to parents, I suppose this depends on what type of parents you have. Whether or not you have the kind of parents who are decent kind and wise and who genuinely at least feel that they have your best interests at heart, as I am lucky enough to have. Or if you have the kind of parents who are maybe not so wise and kind and havent learned as much as they should have done about good parenting. In my experience, most young people nowdays are at least clued-up enough to be able to tell the difference. Ultimately it is all about the way we learn - the way that everybody learns which is through the wisdom and experience of others, and it is a very foolish person indeed that cannot at least listen to a wise one, and be clever enough to be FLEXIBLE.

Copyright by Sami-Jane Harris. 2010. All rights reserved

Sunday, 21 February 2010

The word "Artist" as Lie and Armour

I've been thinking about the way that I described myself as an "artist" on my profile page: How self bloody righteous was that!? I must have been having one hell of an ego attack that day!  I know people who describe themselves as "Artists", or actually "Artistes" is more accurate; "I'm an Artiste Darling" usually elicits the same response from me everytime: " Haha, ARE you now?? Well, that's not necessarily the first word that springs to my mind, but whatever twirls your beanie!" LOL. And there I was, in a moment of ego infused weakness doing exactly the same thing, Well at least I have changed it to something a little more accurate now.

What does that word mean anyway? "Artist"?  In most situations it is a word that actually means nothing.  To describe yourself as an "Artiste", or an "Artist" (as I did) could mean that you paint, or draw, or sing, or dance, or act - anything.  My point is that it describes nothing about who you are as a person, it only describes how you want to be seen by others. It is ultimately a part of the mask that we put on to distract the world from seeing who we really are, what we are truly like underneath all the layers of armour that we painstakingly cover ourselves with everyday, to protect ourselves as much as possible from the horrors of the real world outside .

The way I see it there are three main problems with doing that, with putting on "armour" when you are a creative person.  Firstly no-one can see your real face while you are wearing it, all anyone can see is the fierce, impenetrable image it is designed to project and invariably this promotes fear and mistrust in the observer, unfortunately when people are fearful and mistrusting - they dont listen. Secondly the wearer cannot express themselves freely whilst wearing the armour, and thirdly the wearer is seperated from the world around them.

For those of us who consider ourselves to be creative or artistic in any way, this is a very bad position to be in. Surely the main ingredient of our artistic recipes should be the TRUTH.  That is what we endeavour to convey to others: The truth of what we see in the world around us, but how can we possibly even hope to do this when we cannot move and express ourselves freely, when we keep ourselves seperate in any way from the world we are desperate to document, and when others are too afraid of us to listen?

Maybe then the answer is to cast off the self imposed restrictions of the word ARTIST. and even if it is only for a short while throw down our armour and say to the world "This is who I am - vulnerable, unprotected. Either listen to me or not, but I am trying to show you my true face".

So, for what it is worth - here it is; my "true face":

My name is Samantha - Jane Harris, I live in this world with everyone else, but I dont always live in the real world easily. I have never cheated on anyone in my life but I have on occasion lied and will invariably do so again. I sometimes make mistakes which I dont always learn from, I occasionally procrastinate when I should be moving forward, and I move forward when I should be reflecting on the past. I have fallen in love too easily when I should have been cautious, and I have been too cautious with my heart when I really should have been more courageous with it.  I am sometimes fearful when I should be brave, and I am brave when the situation calls for patience and compassion instead.  I am a pacifist, but not all of the time. I have in the past been prejudiced, intolerant and fanciful and although i know this about myself and I will always try not to be, still I wish with all my heart that I could say that I will never be any of these things again. I paint, draw, sketch, write poetry and design, and sometimes I am unfortunately, unavoidably, still an Artist.

Copyright by Sami-Jane Harris. 2010. All rights reserved

Saturday, 20 February 2010

Kaleidoscopic

I wait here in the corner of my life, observing, watching. I can see Earthly angels take flight and people running from the most beautiful and terrible of things. They cannot seem to tell the difference, and so they run from both.

Inside the kaleidoscope everything is safe, upside - down and fragmented; normal, MY normal but not theirs I think. Perhaps that is why they are running? The kaleidoscope turns from beautiful to terrible in one swift movement, barely discernable, but absolutely real.

Reality suddenly fragments and turns on its head. Somedays it makes me feel quite sick, my head spins and spins, but other days I revel in the blood rush and the disjointed visions played out in front of me. Sometimes when reality is turned upside down it is easier to see the world as it truly is: Situations, people, events; beautiful and terrible in one swift turn.


Copyright by Sami-Jane Harris. 2010. All rights reserved

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Universal Love



I was in town the other day and while I was standing outside Starbucks having a cigarette (I miss the days when it was possible to have a coffee and a cigarette in the warm), I saw two elderly couples and I watched them both for a while. You can learn so much from elderly people and these two couples were certainly no exception, but in the most extraordinary way. One couple, who looked as though they were in their 70's were arguing like mad with a black man as the woman thought that he had tried to take her purse out of her bag.  The black man tried to explain that he was a solicitor on his way to work and under no circumstances would he take her purse, but the elderly couple were having none of it, retorting with: "We dont do things like that in this country" and finishing with: "Why dont you go back to where you came from?" The black guy trounced them with "Have you seen the white 'hoodies' that hang about round here?" And then: "I come from Basingstoke", so the elderly couple stalked off, clearly defeated.

The other elderly couple, like me, were watching the first two and shaking their heads. They too looked like they were in their 70's but they couldnt have been more different. Quietly they stood and watched the whole disgraceful scene unfold in front of them, until they walked over to where I was standing so that they could momentarily share the ashtray I had before going on their way. While we were all standing there watching the first elderly couple treat the black guy so atrociously, the second elderly gentleman shook his head, looked at his feet and said: "They just dont get it do they? He (pointing to the other elderly man) and I fought a war so that this kind of bigotry and racism would stop. We were so hopeful for the future when that war ended, where did it all go wrong? Why cant they just accept that we are all part of the same species, and we all live on the same planet?" His wife nodded wearily in agreement, then they smiled sadly at me and walked away.

I thought that was a very good question: "Why cant they just accept that we are all part of the same species?" I could see that it had been very hard for the second elderly man to witness that scene unfolding. God alone knows what he must have seen in the war, while he was fighting for freedom for the oppressed people of not just this country, but also of the world. He, better than most in that street, understood how important it is for us to all treat each other with as much dignity and respect, and dare I say love as we possibly can. Unfortunately he was forced to walk away with a heavy heart.

I sat down at the table outside Starbucks and started to cry quietly to myself, because I wondered if there will ever be a time when all human beings love each other? I mean everyone right across the world, all loving everyone else at the same time? Will "humanity" ever experience Universal Love?  Our capacity for love is totally boundless, so it isnt that we dont have the ability to do it. Then what is it? What prevents us all from living in Universal Love right now?

I think part of the problem might be that not all people know that Universal Love exists, but why is that? When some of us have been granted the knowledge of such a thing, why then have others been kept in the dark? It doesnt make any sense to me. To know that we are capable of such a wondrous act, but also to know that although there is always hope, as human beings we are unlikely to manifest this most precious gift, is equally a beautiful and terrible burden to bear. It makes me hopeful and a little flame flickers in my heart to think of the amazing potential for Universal Love we have, but I also cry because I know we are wasting it. Imagine what we could do if we would only pool our capacity to love as individuals and use it on a world wide scale? Universal Love means that everything is in harmony, not just all humans, but all animals, ego's, spirituality, race, religion, creed, species, and maybe even the plants, everything sharing Universal Love, and in harmony with everything else, right across the world and beyond. Why is that a beautiful hope to some, and nothing more than a silly notion to others?

Why do we fear so? When we open our hearts to even one other person we are at our most vulnerable, because the thought that we could at any time lose the object of our love and devotion is incomprehensible and utterly terrifying to us. But when we refuse to open our hearts to Universal Love, that wondrous love is already lost to us all before we have even begun. So really what is there to fear? I try to understand this dilemma everyday, because in understanding it may lie a beautiful solution, but so far I just can't understand it at all. Can anyone help me?

Copyright by Sami-Jane Harris. 2010. All rights reserved

Sunday, 14 February 2010

Owls and the lady.

Owls have followed me all my life. When I was a child we had a "lightning tree" at the bottom of our garden, a lightning tree is a tree which has been struck by lightning and looks as though it has died. It hasn't, it is just dormant for a while. It can be a month, a year, or 20 years and then suddenly it will spring into life again. Lightning trees are said to have magical properties, some people believe that there is a secret door in the base of the trunk which leads you down into the underground realm of the fairies.I have to say that I never found it!



 
There was a tawny owl who sometimes roosted in our lightning tree, and occasionally he (I always assumed it was a he) would land on my bedroom window sill and hoot until I woke and went to the window. I was afraid of practically everything when I was a child, but I was never afraid of him. He would sit on the sill and just quietly observe me watching him. Occasionally he would preen himself and settle back into watchful guard, and I would return to my bed secure in the knowledge that "Ollie" the owl was watching over me. My parents had bought me a stuffed owl when I was a baby and my grandma had an owl money box which she saved pennies in to give to me when we went to stay in her caravan, so somehow I knew there was nothing to fear from my night time friend.

Ollie would sometimes go away for a while, but he would always return to the tree and my sill. Year after year, Ollie (or maybe it was one of his chicks) would return. It was a sad day when we moved from there, as I knew I would never see my friend again, and friends were scarce for me in those days.

I was a child who for some reason just didn't make friends easily at all. I never seemed to know exactly how to do it, at the time it seemed to me that I never said the right thing, never listened to the right music, never wore the right clothes. The funny thing is when I look back on things now I can see that I listened to the same music and wore the same clothes as everyone else. I didn't start to develop my *ahem* "individual" taste in those things until I was older. The real problem was I was a very honest child, and my family were a little different to the families of the kids I went to school with.

We are from Scotland, the Hebrides and the Isle of Skye, and in these places to this day, the people there still live what is primarily a Scandinavian way of life. From elements of the language, to the place names and more importantly the attitudes, the way of life on the Hebrides and Skye has more in common with the way of life in Denmark, Finland Sweden etc, than with England or even Wales and Ireland. Unsurprisingly this also includes the attitudes towards sex and sexuality. Although we are basically a reserved people, sex and sexuality in the Highlands and Islands are considered to be completely normal, natural and not at all taboo. Nudity in the home is not something that embarrases us, neither does talking about sex and sexuality as a family. In the "Highland and Island Way" the relationship between parents and children is incredibly open and honest, which I consider to be a good thing and was something that I took for granted as a child. I naturally assumed that all parents were that honest and open with their children, so I thought nothing of telling my friends that we didn't go to church, that we spoke about sex, and that although my parents didn't flaunt themselves gratuitously, they also didn't have a problem with us seeing them naked when they got out of the shower, or when they were getting dressed or undressed. Unfortunately the other parents didn't see things this way and in their ignorance, they saw our way of life as being somewhat deviant, and promptly stopped their children from playing with me. As the children in our street all went to my school and my brother wasn't born until I was seven, this made for something of a lonely childhood. I promptly responded by developing a few obsessional behaviours, necessitating being referred to a child psychologist, who diagnosed me as being lonely! Well duh!! So Ollie, and then eventually our dog Sam became my friends (more on Sam in a later blog).

Leaving Ollie was therefore very hard, but I was overjoyed when, on the first night in our new house, I heard a familiar "hoot" coming from our garden. I peeped out of my new bedroom window, half expecting and fully hoping to see Ollie, but of course it wasn't him. Instead, in our new plum tree I saw the outline of a smaller owl with almost completely black feathers. For some reason I thought this owl was a female, and because she was black I called her Charlotte, after the black widow in Charlottes Web. It took Charlotte a couple of weeks but soon, just like Ollie, she started to land on my window sill. After about a year of her sitting by my window most nights my mum and dad rescued our dog Sam and although I kept looking out for her I didn't see her again after Sam came into my life.



I left home when I was 22 to move in with the man who later became my husband. Sure enough, on our third night in our new flat I was laying in bed awake, in the early hours when I heard an owl hooting outside. I looked out of the window to see what looked like a barn owl. Again I thought it was a female, so I named her Dolly after my grandma who's nickname was Doll, and who had died a couple of years before. Dolly lived in the old disused garages on our estate and although I didn't have a window sill for her to land on, she settled in the tree beneath our bedroom window every night for the two years we lived in the flat.

After Dolly came another male Tawny I named Midnight, not because of his colouring obviously, but because it was midnight when I first heard him. We had just moved out of our flat and into a Victorian conversion as we had got married and had just had our son. I was standing at our kitchen window and looking out into our back garden while I was feeding my son. There was Midnight silently watching me from the far end of the high wall at the bottom of the garden. He was there most nights for the time that we lived there.

The strange thing is that our next house, which was the last house we all lived in together, was also one of the two houses I have lived in where I wasn't visited by an owl. Not for the whole 5 years that I was there. It was in this house though that my son and I suffered the most at the hands of my ex, and was one of the times when I have felt the most alone in my life. As lonely as I had been in the past, there really is nothing that can quite compare to the loneliness that engulfs you when a relationship is dying and there is nothing you can do anymore to stop that from happening. When you have spent so long fighting to keep that person with you, and then just fighting,  it finishes with you not knowing who they or who you are anymore. That is a peculiar kind of loneliness. I wasn't surprised that my owls stayed away from that place.

When I finally found enough strength to grab my son and run, we ran away to my friends house in Scotland. It was the only place where we could feel truly safe. It was remote, and my ex doesn't drive, and we were with good friends. One early morning, about 3 weeks after we ran there I was, as always, unable to sleep. So I went to the kitchen to make myself a cup of hot chocolate, and standing there at the kitchen window looking out into the beautiful inky blackness of the Highland night, I heard a sound that I hadn't heard for 5 years. I was the most beautiful owl hoot I have ever heard. I stood there and cried because I knew we would be ok now. The owls were back. I never really saw him but I heard him every night, Archie stayed with us all the while we were there, in a tree by the river at the side of the house.

As where we were living was so remote, we unfortunately couldn't find anywhere of our own to live and in the end we had to return to London. Where we are now is the second home we have lived in since returning, my ex's behaviour forced us to secretly move once more from where we were to where we are now. We are safe here, and unlike our last house where once again there were no owls, here we were greeted by a familiar hoot on our very first night. I named him Lazarus, which has proved to be more fitting than I could ever have imagined.

My son decided not to take any chances anymore and he bought me an owl necklace, which I never take off. The strange thing is the pendant is made of pewter, and normally I am allergic to all base metals, but this one necklace has never hurt me.  It is of an owl with outstretched wings, clasping a pearl in its talons whilst flying under a crescent moon. The pearl represents the search for wisdom, the owl represents knowledge and the moon represents the search for the self, it couldn't be more fitting.

Many cultures all over the world believe that owls are the harbingers of doom. My mothers family for instance came from a place called Tara Barsei, which although once a part of Hungary, now belongs to Romania, and they certainly believe that owls are very bad luck. My fathers family originally came from either Denmark or Finland before settling on the Isle of Harris, and for them it was the same: Owl hoots in particular foretold of death and destruction. I don't believe that owls are bad luck, for me owls are like angels, they watch over and protect, or at least that is always what they have done for me.

Friday, 12 February 2010

EXCITED! EXCITED! (I'm Excited!!)

Sorry Guys - I drafted this yesterday but forgot to post it. For the record my son is coming home tonight so I only now have that long to wait - you will see what I mean:.....

Ok, this is where I have to try very, very hard not to sound like a 16 year old girl:

MY HIM CONCERT TICKET ARRIVED YESTERDAY!!

And........

MY HIM CD (with limited edition silk screen print) ARRIVED TODAY!!

YAY Whooooo YAY!!!

Damn! - Failed!

As you may be able to tell, I am a little bit excited, bet you couldn't guess could you?! LOL.

Anyway, now I have a dilemma - I cant open the letter with the ticket, in case a photo of the group is printed on the ticket, and I cant open the package with the CD in case there is a photo of the group on the CD, but I need to check the ticket, and I have itchy fingers for the CD, and my son isn't home until tomorrow having spent the last week at his dad's.  This time I really dont know what to do. Do I wait for my son as I promised myself I would? OR do I throw caution to the wind, open the letter and the package and HOPE that there isn't a photo of the group on either? Now that I have the ticket in particular and I know that I am definitely going to get to see the group in March anyway, it is getting harder and harder to stick to my resolve.  The thing is I have never seen what a HIM CD actually looks like, having had all of mine given back to me as copies (see previous blog - you will see what I mean). So I dont know if HIM usually have a photo of themselves on their CD's, or in the liner notes.

The liner notes are another thing also.  I sometimes have problems hearing lyrics, so it is often easier for me to read the lyrics as I am listening to the song for the first time, and as I said I dont know if HIM put photos of themselves in the liner notes. What is a girl to do??

I think I will wait for my son, I have waited this long after all and at least this way he can check everything when he gets home. If there are photos of the group in the liner notes (if this CD has them of course) I will just do what I have done previously which is check out HIM's lyrics online.

I have to say though that I really cant wait for next month, for lots of different reasons.  Firstly I will get to hear the new HIM CD live which is a totally different experience to listening to it at home, and although I havent heard the CD yet, I am just beside myself with anticipation.  Secondly, I am a mum to a teenage boy, who in a couple of years or so will be off my hands so to speak, so there are not too many moments in life that are purely just mine, and the concert is going to be one of them. Not least because I have booked myself into a really nice little family run hotel for a day on either side of the concert. Although seeing HIM is obviously my reason for going there in the first place, it isnt the only reason I am so looking forward to the trip- it is the whole experience. Having a few moments to myself in the hotel, being able to relax in the bath without a desperate teenager suddenly banging on the door because he needs to sit on the loo - "right NOW mum!" Taking a leisurely stroll around Bournemouth and walking on the beach.  The last time I strolled around Bournemouth Town and walked along the beach there, I was married and with my ex husband and things were already very, very bad. I spent the entire walk desperately trying to make sure that all the evidence he had left on me yet again of his so called "love", was completely covered up by my big overcoat, so the people we were with couldnt see anything and didnt suspect what was really going on. It was a beautiful sunny day as well.

Given that I have spent the last 6 years repairing myself from the effects of that marriage, I think now is a very good time indeed to lay the last couple of ghosts to rest, especially now that I am finally ready to go forward in my life and hopefully even find love again.  I have spent some of the last 6 years re-visiting the places that my ex hubbie and I saw together, making good memories to stand alongside the bad as I dont think it is possible, or even a good idea to try to replace them, and Bournemouth is the very last place on the list. Then after doing that - I get to go and see HIM live and listen to Ville Valo singing about Love. I dont think I could have imagined a better ending, because finally (and it has taken a long time), and even if its just for the night, the love will be for and of myself.

Sunday, 7 February 2010

Insulting camels with V.D. (and why you don't do it).

This is a bit of a long one folks, but it's funny and there is what I consider to be a bloody good moral at the end of it, or at least one that has served me well throughout life. So if you have the time (and the inclination), grab a cup of something hot, find your cigarettes and settle in for a while.

I must first of all apologise for the lack of my own personal photos in this piece: My ex husband still has my decent photo albums, and after 6 years I am still waiting for him to give them back, so I am afraid that I have had to use some "stock" photos from the internet and also make do with some of my own "extras" that I had in a box. Hope they are ok.

I should perhaps also say here that I have been extremely lucky in my life. I have been able to lead a truly extraordinary and surreal life, and I have seen and done things that most people wont ever get to see or do.  Let me begin to share some of those things with you all:

The Camel and the 14 year old

(DONT trust the smile - it's a diabolical lie!)

I think it is generally accepted that it is an uncommonly bad idea to insult a camel who is infected with V.D. as doing so generally results in any combination of the following:

1) Being chased by said camel with VD.
2) Quickly learning that THEY are designed to run along on sand, and YOU are in fact, NOT.
3) Even more quickly realising that if you want to escape said camel with VD, instead of running along you, well, lets just say that the only way is UP.
4) Finding yourself desperately clinging to the side of the Great Pyramid, on the Giza Plateau and continuing to advance up it until the VD riddled camel spit starts to land beneath you.
5) Being 14 (and stupid), deciding that as you are already some way up the Great Pyramid, you may as well climb to the top.
6) Discovering that the top is *ahem*, marginally further than you thought.
7) Discovering that you are now in fact stuck, about three quarters of the way up the Great Pyramid.
5) Finding yourself being dragged off the Great Pyramid by Egyptian officials, who although desperate to arrest you for desecrating one of their most treasured national monuments, also turn out to be the kind of guys who would sell their Grandmothers for 20 Marlboro and a case of The Famous Grouse, and so after being bribed with a couple of thousand Piasters, mercifully decide not to arrest you.
Unfortunately when I went to Egypt I was only 14, and hadn't yet learned this valuable lesson. Let me explain:

I had visited Alexandria the day before (more on this later) and was looking forward to seeing the Pyramids on the Giza Plateau, as well as going on to visit the Cairo Museum in Cairo itself, so at Giza I alighted the bus we had travelled from Alexandria on with a sense of excitement at the coming days activities. Just as I had in Alexandria, I learned a couple of valuable lessons this day, and one which will stay with me for the rest of my life. The first big shock came when I stepped off our bus and immediately realised exactly where the Giza Plateau is; you think (or at least my 14 year old, pre internet self did) that the Pyramids are going to be in the middle of the desert somewhere, whereas in fact Giza is a suburb of Cairo and the Pyramids are virtually on the edge of the City. Well OK, maybe Cairo is a couple of miles down the road, but the point is visiting the Pyramids to a Cairoan is the same as you and I taking a quick trip to IKEA.


A couple of the pyramids taken from our Tour Bus.

The first place you visit when you get off the bus is the Pavilion. This is a modern building built to accommodate the needs of "soft" westerners, who have decided to die of heat exhaustion in the 20 steps between their air conditioned tour bus and the darkened confines of the Pavilion. It is here that you can freely purchase your own body weight in Coca Cola (seemingly the only soft drink Egyptians think westerners drink), and also toilet paper. Yes - you have to pay for the toilet paper - each sheet, so if you are planning a visit take plenty of loose change, especially if you have foolishly decided to sample the local "cuisine" instead of doing what your tour guide tells you to do, which is to ONLY eat in the hotel!

You have to go through the Pavilion to get to the Sphinx and the Pyramids, so most people stop off at the toilets anyway. Once inside the toilets you are greeted by  "Mohamed, the Toilet Paper Gestapo" who will whilst smiling at you, force a couple of sheets of paper on you with one hand, whilst diligently holding out the other for obligatory payment. Take some advice: even if you have bought your own paper with you (and lets face it - who remembers to do that,) PAY HIM. Unless of course you want to spend the rest of the day buying papyrus from the gift shop and using that. As papyrus is made out of reeds - this is not something I would especially recommend.

After we had purchased the toilet paper and Coca Cola, we were taken outside to meet our tour guide, who's name escapes me now. Well it has been over 20 years! Like most tour guides on the Plateau he only spoke Pigeon English, but it was enough for him to be able to communicate where we should and shouldn't go for safety reasons, and also to tell us a little of the history of the Sphinx, Pyramids and surrounding tombs. It has to be noted here that when I went there they had not yet discovered much of what you can visit there today, for example they had not even discovered the chamber between the paws of the Sphinx, which has since been opened and supposedly contained nothing - Yeah right!

From the Pavilion it is only a short walk to the Sphinx, and there came my second surprise - namely the terrible condition it was in. Most of it had actually eroded away and although we could see the basic outline of the statue, its features were barely definable at best. The nose of the Sphinx, we learned, had been used as target practice by Napoleon's troops and was missing due to the fact that they had aimed a cannon at it and had blown it off! But the worst erosion damage was to its paws, which at the time were virtually non existent. All that remained of them were two, vaguely cylindrical masses of eroded stone, which had no clear markings or carvings at all. To his credit our tour guide seemed genuinely embarrassed by its condition, however I am happy to report that it has been carefully restored in the years since.

From the Sphinx we walked the short distance across the Sahara to the Pyramids. It was here that we learned that each of the three pyramids have three names, actually one of them has a fourth although the reason for only one of them having been given a latin name escapes me now. Probably I just cant remember what the other two are! The names are in Greek (Cheops, Chefren & Mykerinos), Egyptian (Khufu, Khaf - Re & Menkaura), and Pharaonic, the language of the Pharaohs (Khnum - Khufu, Kauf - Re and Men - Kau - Re). The single Latin name is the one for Mykerinos (GR) which in Latin is Mycerinus.

Prior to arriving in Giza we had been warned that the Giza Plateau camels are infected with VD, and we should not therefore do what their handlers do - which is kiss them on the mouth. Yes, honestly.  I lost count of the amount of camel handlers that I witnessed actually tongue kissing their camels. I am sure that there will be some kind of internet site dedicated to that sort of thing, but let me tell you that "up close and personal" it is one of the most revolting things you will ever see, and most of us in our group found ourselves pressed up against the base of the Pyramids and feeling extremely ill, whilst being treated to this overt display of "camel love" by their handlers. No wonder most of the handlers didn't have any teeth.

It is at this point that the handlers approach and start to ask if you want a camel ride. Some of us were brave and decided to chance it. I went back to the Pavilion for yet another Cola, which I didn't actually want. We had already been told by our Guide that he was going to take us into the burial chamber in the pyramid, and as I have asthma, and am somewhat claustrophobic, I decided that being in an enclosed dusty space was probably not the best idea. I didn't want to offend our tour guide by telling him that I wasn't going inside, and I knew that his English and my Egyptian were not good enough for me to be able to explain my health concerns, so instead I felt the only solution was to just make myself scarce for a while. It was not to be however, as on the way back from the Pavilion, I bumped into our tour guide, who, oh joy, offered to walk back to the Pyramid with me.  I was desperately trying to explain to him why I couldn't go in the pyramid with him, using a complex system of hand/face gestures, whistles and the odd Egyptian word that I had picked up, (which later transpired to be swear words, I did wonder why he kept laughing), but getting nowhere I resigned myself to having to go in the pyramid, hoping that I had bought enough medication with me to treat my asthma AND the inevitable panic attack!

Suddenly I noticed that he was carrying a medium sized, battered old cardboard box. Unfortunately curiosity got the better of me, and pointing to the box whilst gesturing at him like a spider with a nervous complaint, I asked him what he was carrying.  "Candles" came the answer. 5 minutes of manic gestures later, I managed to ask him why he was carrying a box of candles.  "Ah" he said, "the lights" (pointing to the pyramid) "sometimes they go out, ha ha ha". Cue the human breaking system.... screeeeech! "WHAT!? No, wait - WHAT!?" Then: "What lights??" Then "WHY do they go out!??" and finally; "ABDUL (or whatever his name was) WHY. do. they. go. OUT!!??"  He turned and smiled at me and then carried on walking. I stopped for a moment, and thought "Right, That. Is. It!! The final straw.  Screw being polite, there is absolutely no bloody way he will ever get me in that thing now!" True to my word, I sat outside and watched my friends single-filing through the door halfway up the pyramid, armed with their backpacks, cameras, and.....candles! I have to say that despite what happened to me next, I have never once regretted that decision as the lights did indeed go out, and most of my friends exited the pyramid at warp speed and paler than I am now.

So there I was, sitting on my own quietly reading one of the books I had taken with me, when suddenly a shadow descended on me.  I looked up to be greeted with a sight remarkably similar to this:


It was something of a shock.

"Bloody Hell" was my first exclamation, and then "Shoo", which obviously did absolutely nothing, and necessitated a "Go AWAY!" Again, the animal just stood there staring intently at me, so I tried waving my book at it, which only made it take a couple of steps back.  If I knew then what I know now, at that point I would have just got up and quietly walked away.  However, the only thing in life that is ever truly 20/20 is hindsight,  and so I got up and yelled at it; "Will you please BUGGER OFF you dirty, disgusting, VD riddled THING!!"  It stood stock still for a couple of seconds and then "MOOOOarrrrghhh". It shouted back. I staggered backwards until my back was right up against the base of the Pyramid that I had been sheltering under, and the camel started to walk towards me. "MOOOOarrrrghhh", it yelled again, and again, and again. Then it changed to a sort of "GrrrrrEEEEEEEEEhhhhaaarrrgh" sound (forgive the spelling-I don't actually speak "camel") and started walking faster, then much faster, then much much faster. I on the other hand, got the message, and broke out into a flat out run. I managed to look around just long enough to see the camel handler having to let go of the rope that the camel was tethered to and diligently start to run, full pelt, after his wayward (and probably *ahem* much loved) camel. Unfortunately he was also waving a bloody great stick at it and swearing at it in Arabic, which only served to make the animal more determined that his handler wasn't going to catch him, meaning it went faster!

So, there we three were; myself, an extremely pissed off camel, and his very upset handler, all running around the base of the Great Pyramid. Cue the Benny Hill music! It took two complete circuits of the base, and the camel getting closer and closer by the second, for me to realise point No 2 above, but a whole lot less time for me to figure out point No 3. So I made a sharp left, and headed directly for the side of the pyramid.  Now, I should point out that climbing a pyramid is no mean feat.  The blocks on the base in particular are around 4ft - 4.5ft tall. Let me illustrate with one of my own pictures:

(This is me at 14 at the base of the Great Pyramid, when I still had blond hair. Note the book I am clutching!)

However, trooper that I am I was determined to do it. Actually I didn't really have much of a choice by this time, so I hooked my right leg up and over the top of the first block, grabbed hold of the top of the first block with both hands, heaved myself up until I could just about get some purchase with my left knee and was making a grab for the second block, when all of a sudden, "PfffffTHOOOO......Splat!"  I turned to look in the direction that the sound had come from and to my horror, hanging off the stone block about 4 inches from the side of my face, was a huge disgusting glob of VD riddled camel spit! I just about had time to think "WHAT THE HELL???!!" when "PfffffTHOOOO......Splat!" This time it landed about 2 inches from the side of my head.  I took this as my cue to exit the scene as rapidly as possible, and so panting desperately and with the word "Shhhiiiiittttt!!" still hanging in the air I made a desperate grab for the block above and hauled myself up onto the second block.  From then on it was a bit like "Cat and Mouse": Pant, Haul, "PfffffTHOOOO......Splat", "Shhhiiiittttt", Pant, Haul, "PfffffTHOOOO......Splat" "Shhhiiiittttt", Pant, Haul............. and I didn't stop panting and hauling (or saying "shit") until the camel spit started to land beneath me, actually I didn't stop panting until much later, but less of that.

Anyway, there I was, clinging to the side of the Great Pyramid, with a now extremely irate, VD riddled camel, his absolutely incensed, stick happy handler, and now a couple of official looking and very angry Egyptian men circling the base all waiting for me to come down. Getting down therefore wasn't an option. I find it interesting that under certain circumstances, what would normally be considered to be the most sensible option, actually turns out to be the worst, and the worst option then becomes the most sane. Well, I was "all dressed up with no place to go" so to speak, and it didn't look too far to the top (this notion was very very wrong as it turned out), so I decided to make a bid for the summit and started to climb. The further I climbed the easier it got (for a while at least) as the blocks get considerably smaller the higher you go, but eventually I discovered that I had, errrrm, "miscalculated" the distance to the top of the pyramid and had to stop.  To cut what is already an extremely long story a little bit shorter, the people I was with had by this time persuaded the camel handler (financially) to remove himself and the original reason for my climb from the scene, and had bribed, sorry, persuaded the officials to not arrest me, and I was finally able to get down (with the help of the officials).

Now for the moral I mentioned at the beginning:

While I was clinging to the side of the pyramid, waiting for the camel handler and the officials to bugger off, sorry, go away, I suddenly got the feeling that I should at least try to look around behind me.  I don't know what it was, but it was like someone was saying to me "turn around, take a look". So I did, and what I saw made me catch my breath, made me cry, and was something that I will never forget for the rest of my life: I hung there, on the side of that pyramid, at 14 years of age, and watched a perfectly blood red sun begin to set behind the Sphinx, with Cairo in the distance as a backdrop. Me, a kid from the wrong side of the tracks, who was only up there witnessing this incredible thing because I had fouled up once again, and it suddenly occurred to me that something so devastatingly beautiful and moving can indeed be born out of something that starts as being just plain devastating.  What I learned on the pyramid that day is something that I have carried with me ever since, and when times get really bad, as they have a habit of doing sometimes, I close my eyes, look back and remember that day with gratitude.

Copyright by Sami-Jane Harris. 2010. All rights reserved




Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Prose: "Twin/Karmic Questions"

There is something, someone?
Bleeding into my life through
The cracks in my existence.
My heart sees and feels
This other person,
But although drawing ever nearer,
His image is blurred, still held from me.
My senses reel and emotions implode
With the feeling that he is near
And yet so far.

I am sometimes inexplicably joyous
When all around me there is no joy,
Or equally I am plunged into
The blackest Pit of Despair,
When there is only happiness about.
I am taken on a rollercoaster ride with someone,
Beyond my control,
Beyond their control I think?

Am I sensing them and they me?
Can they also see a blurred me
Through the crack in the Two-Way mirror?
Do they know I am here?
My heart tells me they do,
And I have finally learned to trust my heart
Over the worlds Nay-Sayers.

Am I sad when they are sad?
Am I happy when they are too?
What does it mean to be so inextricably connected
To someone I have never met, and
Know nothing about,
Except what is in their heart, their soul?

Where do we go from here?
How do we each break open
That infernal wound
And step through it and into each other?
Are we abandoned or are we being shown
The way?
This feels too important for the Universe
To start this and then abandon us
When we need it the most.
And yet I am unsure of its intentions.

What happens next?
I think it is fine to ask these questions now,
But why not before?

Should I just trust that this person
Will simply be put in my way?
Or should I actively seek them out?
And if so, then how?
Are they too looking for me?

Where are the Gods and the Angels??
Pan - You do not keep your promise!!
And Cupid abandons us now that he has his Psyche!
Lohengrin does now defend Elsa, and
Penelope no longer tends the fire to
Bring Ulysses home -
Because he came home!!
Romeo sleeps eternally with Juliet
And Hiawatha walks the celestial meadows
With Minniehaha,
But, WE are abandoned!!
Tristan! Isolde!
Gods, Angels, Saints and Sinners -
WHERE  is your guidance??!!

It is awful to be left with such feelings,
Yet be unable to do anything about them!
Must we be left so impotent
When it comes to the welfare of our hearts??

What is the Universe planning for us?
Why doesn't EVERYONE feel this way??
Endless questions and few answers!
I am ANGRY!!!!
And yet I am also filled with Joy.
Joy in knowing that he is here, somewhere.
We are blessed to have each other,
And we are cursed to know of each other's existence.
Equally.

Copyright by Sami-Jane Harris. 2010. All rights reserved