fluffy!
sqwaaaaak!
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The outdated practice of skilled birowomanship

For the record, to those reading on RSS who might otherwise miss it, I’ve edited the main Snailr Project post below to take the email address out and to change the tenses so that it sounds less like it’s something that COULD possibly happen and more like something that IS happening, next week. Because I have enough addresses now I think, and I don’t want to get to a point where I let people down, because then they would be sad, and then I would be sad.

I have suddenly been struck with performance anxiety. I have suddenly been struck by performance anxiety about the postcard project, not because of a worry that I won’t know what to write…

Just because I hadn’t considered the fact that I’m not sure I even KNOW how to write anymore.

Having realised that with any more addresses I wouldn’t have any cards any more, I pulled up all the emails I’ve received, and started addressing them in advance so I know how many internatational stamps to buy and how many domestic and all that jazz, I paused with my pencil hovering above postcard one and realised a thing.

I have horrible handwriting.

Or rather, I used to. I had horrible handwriting in school, I developed some highly mannered hand in sixth form college, a completely different set of letters and lines when I was working in the craft room in Iona, but since then, my handwriting has disintegrated into two forms:
a) The tiny tiny neat alphabet I use to write plans in my little moleskine diary and
b) The wild unreadable scrawl that covers the big paper desk pad under my keyboard, used when I’m taking notes during conference calls or writing things that I want to refer to quickly while in lots of different programs.

One of these is fine. The other is not. It is like someone has given a pen to a small child, and the small child, who cannot be arsed with it, has given it to their pet weasel, who has proceeded to hold it like a enamored bride and dance a foxtrot with it all over the page.

It is not handwriting. It is inkdrizzling.

I have no solution to this as yet – I have nothing but the sense of alarm that I really, really don’t know what my handwriting is like anymore, and the discovery that whatever it IS like, it isn’t really fit for human consumption.

That I should run into a brainhole in the week approaching this project and this trip wasn’t unexpected: that the brainhole is made out of my inabilty to DO THE THING I LEARNT TO DO WHEN I WAS THREE, however, is not.

First lesson, then: I need to remember what my handwriting looks like before next week.
Or hire a scribe.

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One week and some hours until lift off

Where ‘lift off’ means ‘get on’, and everyone involved in the countdown understands that it is referring to trains and should under no circumstances lead to me being shot into space at 8am next tuesday morning because glory only KNOWS what the postage costs from the wrong side of the hole in the ozone layer, and I’ve postcards that need to be sent.

And cripes, do I have postcards to send. Yay. Double yay. Thanks again to everyone who’s shown interest in this ridiculous and entirely non-sensible project of mine. It’s been, over the last few days, a slow but steady supply of people sending cheerful and friendly messages and addresses and things. I’ve enough postcards to send to everyone who has requested a snailr railmail update so far, and still some postcards left over for the last few people who might, hopefully, email this week.

It’s a lovely spread of people, as well, reflecting web-revolving life as I know it. It’s a mixture of family, ex-colleagues, current friends, friends I’ve not seen in a decade, friends I’ve only ever conversed with online, and people with whom this might be a first contact – what might once have been known as perfect strangers but weirdly aren’t, anymore. I appear to be sending postcards to people in practically every area I’ve lived in, both people I know and coincidental happenstance requests – and sending others to towns I’ll be passing through without stopping, and countries I’ve never ever been to.

In the meantime, I’m trying to stack up on real paid work assignments to keep me busy as we roll, and adding books to My Beloved’s magical new electronic-book-gizbot so that I can steal and read things on it when he’s not doing research for the stuff he’s working on during the trip. And I’ve been printing out confirmation slips and writing down reference numbers.

And in accordance with some kind requests, I’ve put a ‘donate’ button on the side of the site for people who expressed that they would like to help out with postage costs, or project costs, or otherwise just be supernice and generous etc. It’s a paypal thing. I don’t know if it will work if I try and post it here as well as on the sidebar of the site. Let me try.

Anna makes interacting-with-technology noises

*donk*

Oh, bugger, it didn’t.

Well look, it’s on my actual website, and on the sidebar over there ————————–>
and you might have to scroll down a bit.
And someone has already found it without me mentioning it – so thank you, one person already. But for other people who mentioned it but hadn’t noticed, there it is. I state again: I’m not asking for payment in return for sending people postcards, or holding anything to ransom, or expecting anything at all – but as people asked about it, it is there.

And having done that and publicised it, I am going to scuttle off and pretend I didn’t, because it feels weird.

*scuttling noises*

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Some measure past whelmed

Though not, it should be noted, overwhelmed, because that always sounds like a bad thing. But a bit of a flood of emails overnight means I’m about half way done making a list of people and addresses to send postcards to (my mother, in case she comes late to the table, can be assured I know her address and she’s in the book).

I have to do some work and go out for the day, so I’ve not time to personally reply to everyone but to cover most of the most frequently mentioned things:
a) Thank you for being so lovely, you can’t imagine how hard it’s been keeping quiet about this idea while getting all the bits in place, I just find every element of it exciting, theoretically and practically.
b) Yes, I was planning on sending things internationally (how else would I be able to make myself a nice coloured in map at the end?) so don’t worry about that.
c) For those of you worrying about postage, thank you for worrying about postage. I’ll put a paypal donation button up on the side there over the weekend, but I’m not asking people to “Pay if they want a card” or holding anything to ransom, or expecting people to go nuts. Postage will be about 95c (60p-ish) for international postcards, and each postcard cost about 40c (25p) to print up, and then I had to buy some markers and rubber stamps for customising them, but really. Don’t go nuts. Although, having said that, I still haven’t booked a hotel in Seattle, so it’s not like it wouldn’t be handy.
d) If it all works out well – and I’m feeling like it will – then I may look into collecting it all into a thing and publishing it myself, but if you or anyone you know would be interested in getting on board in a more professional way – or want anything writing about the trip in general or any of the stops we’re taking on the way (Los Angeles, New Orleans, Glacier Park, Seattle, Portland) let me know. I have no shame: I need work.
e) Thank you people of the internet for trusting me with your postal addresses. Because, you know, if I can’t find any other way to monetise this trip I can always sell them to an evil spam company, right? I’m KIDDING.
f) Really: Just thanks. Everyone. For being so lovely
And maria, a special mention for the phrase “I’m so excited I might be a little sick”. Me too, my dear. Me too.

x

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The Snailr Project

Update This post has been edited to take out the email address and make the project sound like something that IS happening rather than COULD happen in theory – now that I’ve got more than enough people to send postcards to. Thank you, to everyone who emailed. And also to all who will hopefully follow the project as it happens now, here and/or on the miniblog about it
a
x

As I may have mentioned, I’m going on a train trip in the middle of September. It’s half way between writing break and holiday – using the time to get a lot of work done while watching 7000 miles of America slide past the window, and getting to see some of the country I’ve wanted to see while I have the chance.

But me being me, I can’t just leave it there. I have to have a project to give a structure to my trip. And this one? This project I happen to be VERY excited about.

Let me tell you more.

The premise

While being very much a person of the web, I’ve been obsessed with classic travel writing for quite some time. Guidebooks and professional newspaper travel writing and maps are part of it, but mainly it’s the art of the travelogue that I love – a single person perspective on new sights and smells, characters met along the way and experiences particular to that person, in that place, at that precise time.

The thing about these documents is that they were actually very often letters to a family member or a trusted friend – a person who would receive the evocative, descriptive chapter of travelogue days or weeks after it was written, and days or weeks after the person had left that place.

What has been bugging me is how to blend that idea with the way that we are increasingly choosing to convey our sense of place and presence today – through status messages on Facebook, or check-ins on Foursquare or 140-character messages on Twitter, all fired off to a set of people that are often a wildly disparate mixture of family, friends, acquaintances, and random strangers.

I have no problem with this way of communicating. It isn’t a complaint, just a difference I find interesting. I’ve been using Twitter since late 2006, Facebook on and off for as long, and it intrigues me that someone I’ve never met can elect to get a little update about how annoyed I am by someone eating a stinky bag of chips on the train seat next to mine.

So what’s the plan?

I proposed that while I’m actually on my journey (September 7-21) a bunch of people could elect to receive an update on how annoying the person eating smelly chips on the train next to me it.

No, wait, don’t go. It’s better than it sounds (or I think so anyway).

They’ll get it on a postcard.

I’ll be travelling almost 7,000 miles, dipping in and out of mobile coverage, basically without internet, and with only so much battery to keep my electronic devices going. OMG, you’re saying, how will you Twitter?

I know, right? I won’t, very much. So here’s what I am planning to do. I’m going to put the little observations, vignettes, word-snapshots of my trip, and instead of firing them off to Twitter or Facebook or whatever, I’m going to write them. On postcards. That was the short-form travelogue before social media, right?

And I’ll be sending these updates, these postcards to people who have signed up and elected to receive them.

I’ve committed to sending between and 10 and 20 postcards a day*, depending on the amount of updates there are that I would usually make online or otherwise put in a dusty notebook and stuff on a shelf, to an arbitrary 150 people (that’s the amount of postcards I had printed), who emailed me over these last few days, and will now get a little sliver of travelogue in response.

Why?

The idea is that, when pieced together, the messages will form an overall picture of the journey, and have some kind of travel narrative. In actuality, they’ll just be spread across the globe. They are short pieces of a longer journey – updates and glimpses that you would get from Twitter, but more personal and more tangible: an individually just a snatched moment out of context.

I’m not saying I’m more interesting than anyone else, or that the postcards will be ground breaking literature – just that this is part of our lives now, and part of the way we travel and communicate: just thrown together in a blender with the older, more traditional way.

They won’t be super-personalised messages either, of course: I’m not writing ‘weather is lovely, wish you were here’ 200 times. These are very much going to be just little slices over a travelogue which put together might form a complete narrative, but which I take great pleasure in thinking of carved up and scattered all over the world in their initial state.

How?

I’ll take pictures of the postcards before I send them, but I’m also asking people to scan it and send it back to me via email. If they want to do some other artistic depiction on it before they scan it, or take a picture of themselves in their corner of the world WITH it, that will also be fun. Or reply on a different postcard and send me a picture on that. Hopefully, some of them will send me back whatever they want, and/or a copy of what I wrote there.

I’ll be writing longer sections of travelogue as I go, which I hope to slot between the postcards, threading them together and making the short status messages into a more comprehensive whole – but I’ll decide what to do with all that later on. Some will go up here, the rest will be edited and rewritten into something, I think. I’m open to suggestions.

As a way of tying this into the blog, I’ll probably post a maximum of one of the day’s postcards per day of the trip to the Snailr Project website (cross-posted here) along with an extract of the other stuff I’ve written on that leg of the journey. The rest will be saved to be read as a continuous narrative, collated all together and printed up – however that comes about.

So WHY is it called The Snailr Project, exactly?

I’m not the only person by any means thinking of this process of making the dashed-off nature of things slower and more conscious. All round nice bloke Russell Davies and his Dawdlr project, for example, (to whom I will, incidentally, be sending one of my postcards). But though my Beloved keeps telling me repeatedly he despises this word ‘snailr‘, it makes perfect sense to me in a lot of ways.

Why? Because the captured moments and little status message postcards will be rail mails, but sent by snail mail. And because we’re going in a big circular arc around the country. And because I like snails, and the feeling of being a mobile working person inside the shell of the train. And most of all (and this is reflected in some of the other things I’ve talked about recently) I like the idea of leaving a physical trail of where I’ve been, as widely distributed across the globe as that trail might be.

Oh, and it’s got an r at the end because, well, without some kind of kerrrr-AZY spelling, it’s just not Of The Web, is it?

How this progresses:

Well, there’s a site dedicated to the project over here, where I’ll hopefully be able to send things even when I don’t have enough internet access to update this here blog. There’s a brief description and other collected bits about the whys and wherefores over there.

But really, how it progresses NOW is that:

1) People who wanted to be sent a postcard, a status update, a very short piece of travelogue, a tangible twitter or however you want to think of it, sent their postal addresses to me. But no more now, please Because I have more than enough addresses. Any more would be ridiculous.

2) I will go on a train trip.

3) I will send people a card. I think everyone who emailed will get sent a card, though whether they receive them is out of my hands. I’ve only had printed enough postcards for about 10-15 a day. But I think that is good enough, as an amount for this length of project.

) Stuff will happen and be relayed back to this blog and snailrproject.com, and it will be ace.

That’s it.

I’m really really excited about this project. I really hope people are too. Or at least understand why I am. I’m going to shut up now.

(more…)

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My Brilliant Plan II: The Brilliant Plan Strikes Back

If you have been reading this a blog a while – say, over a month – and have a memory that is capable of holding information for a certain arbitrary period (let’s for example, pick a month as that period) you may remember that just under a month ago I spoke of a dream I’d had, and that I thought it might just be possible to realise, in a post under the title of MY BRILLIANT PLAN. No worries if you DON’T remember it, you can use it finding the ‘earlier posts’ button at the bottom of the page, the archive links on the right hand side of the page are another avenue to retrieving it (check July 2010 and scroll to the relevant entry), or simply click on the words ‘MY BRILLIANT PLAN’ highlighted above, which should also direct you there. You could also click this link here.
Or alternatively not worry about it, since I’m about to explain it again, but briefer.

I’m a bit giddy, sorry.

See, ever since I was a teenager, I’ve fantasised about taking long train trips. And it turns out, as an adult, that a) I’ve actually managed to land myself – albeit pretty precariously – in a vocation that means I can work from lots of different places, and that b) I’ve discovered that trains are actually one of the most productive and concentrated places for me to get work done.

It was through this somewhat flossy justification that I managed to persuade My Beloved that this was something that we should do, combined with the increasing likelihood of an impending departure from this place.

And Amtrak offer rail passes that mean you can go anywhere on their system for a set number of days and a within a number of connections, and it’s actually very reasonable for the amuont of distance you’re covering (so… maths… less than £250 for a two week pass?) And everything combined, together with a lot of timetable finagling, hotel reservation site wrangling and trying to get work into place to pay for the damn thing (more is very much welcome, by the way, should anyone with the power to fling it my way be reading), means that two weeks right now, as I write this, we will already have been on trains for more than 33 hours, all told. We’ll be somewhere in Southern Arizona, I think, or possibly New Mexico – I haven’t the relevant timetable to hand – skirting the Mexican border.

It’s a trip of around 7000 miles. In a really, REALLY big circle, with a few stops here and there. A couple of people have asked me already why we’re not just doing coast to coast, but for some reason, it didn’t feel right (as well as not using the segments of travel on the rail pass the most effective way). Because a journey from coast to coast somehow makes it about the destination – this way, it’s all about the journey. And also about coming home to San Francisco at the end of it.

And something else, that I’ll get to further down the post.

Oh, AND also I get to collect more states this way. Yes, that’s right, not content with collecting streets, I’ve also been making a collection of States. With some rules – ie: aeroplanes and airports don’t count, nor does passing through without setting foot in the state, and you have to be there long enough to eat a meal or buy something if you’re otherwise not hungry. And because things are only real if they’re physical, I have a physical manifestation of that collection too.

States I've collected (by being to) as of Aug 2010

Which I’m almost as obsessive about, although it’s more expensive to be so. Trust me, the rabbit hole goes way deeper than you want to go. And I’m going to get a BUNCH more states this route.
ANYWAY.

I’m too, too excited.

But the real point of this post is not to say I’m excited about the trip – though I am, of course. It was to say that I’m excited about the project I have planned for the trip, which, if you would like, I would like to get some of you involved in. (Not, for those who’ve been reading a really long time, as involved as folk got in the fluxiness project way back in 2003. Just in a very simple way).

A very simple way that will be explained tomorrow, when I will unveil the secret project.

The secret project known only by its codename: “PROJECT I LIKE A LOT AND WILL TELL YOU ABOUT TOMORROW”

I am not very good at codenames. I am quite good at projects, though.
And I am VERY EXCITED about this one in particular.
Tomorrow.

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RESIDENTIAL: A walk

[Yes, it's one of those long-time-between installments walking posts. Keep up at the back there...]

On how it wasn’t the walk I had intended to take.

Waking up that morning and unfolding the map of streets I have already walked and ones I have yet to walk, I had mapped out a route. The route would, after a Muni ride into the city centre, lead out of downtown, straight down a road I’d crossed a thousand times but never purposefully walked along, and to a neighbourhood I’ve been wanting to explore for ages, but had been saving for such a beautiful day. It’s an interesting place – yet another one of the very self contained and proud areas of the city that, set apart by city planning or ridiculous gradients, manages to feel like a very distinct, friendly small town, even as you turn the corner and can see, barely any distance away at all, the point of the Transamerica pyramid and the rest of the downtown/financial district skyline and… Well, let’s hold off on that, because I didn’t. Go to that neighbourhood, I mean… or explore it (yet). So that’s for another day.

What happened, instead, was that I caught the J from near my house. It trundled down the streets, tucked itself down cut-throughs and skirted the park. It crossed Market Street and plunged into the tunnel that takes it down to the Embarcadero. At Civic Center, I got off the Muni, and started up toward street level.

Civic Center, non-San-Francisco-people, though it sounds grand, isn’t. It is not the most lovely place in the world. It has city hall in it, which is a very beautiful building. It has several excellent museums, a few good touring theatres, and a lot of nice restaurants. But it’s also at the lower extension of The Tenderloin, which is smack (literally) in the middle of the city, and, for reasons that I’m sure people more familiar with city politics and history can tell us in the comments, a very tightly contained area of disarray.

Bordered on all sides by lots of expensive property and ridiculously wealthy businesses – on one side by Nob Hill, the traditional home of San Francisco’s Super-rich (though now more often found in the bloody Marina across town) – The Tenderloin is like a different city to the ones that butt up against it. Look at a crime map and you’ll see all the coloured dots of drug-dealing, street-robbery, prostitution, and all sorts of illegal forms of anti-social naughtiness spread out across the city, for sure, but teaming like a hive in the Tenderloin.

It’s also where a lot of the big tourist hotels are based.

The first time My Beloved came to the city on business, I woke up the morning after his first night there to find a long, poetic, beautifully super-descriptive email about how, far from being the City of Silicon Wealth he had been expecting to visit, this was a city on its knees, crushed by poverty indeed, quietly ringing with the mumble of hard drugs or bad sex offered for sale by every passing stranger and ripe with the stench of broken dreams and all the other descriptive terms that English Lit graduates like my dearest like to squoosh into their letters. It was a work of great travel literature and a historical document to be treasured.

Or would have been, if the next morning I had not woken up to find, basically, a rebuttal. He’d turned left when he’d meant to turn right coming out of his hotel, and ended up in the Tenderloin by mistake. The rest of the city was really nice, he went on, and his jetlag was better, weather lovely, wish you were here, etc.

So coming up out of the Muni, I wasn’t green. I know what the area is like, I used to live just to the south of it the first year we were here. I knew when I planned my route out that morning. It was broad daylight, I was brought up in London, I’m not scared of people or believe that everyone out there is just lurking around a corner waiting to cause me harm or make me dead (well, MOST of the time). But as I passed through the ticket gate, fended off a man hustling for change, another hustling for a bit of my ladylike charm, I started to feel a bit like it wasn’t the walk I wanted to take that day.

Stepping onto the escalator, the bottom half of which was in the shade of the Muni station, the top half in the bright sunlight of Civic Center, I started rising out of the ground, and into a world that smelled very strongly of piss. There was a man shoving another man around by the wall at the top of the moving staircase. Gruff voices laughed that laugh that’s half way between gurgle and cough. The smell of piss got stronger.

As the escalator neared the top, I saw a woman with wild eyes catch sight of me, and turn to walk my way, and realised just how much I just couldn’t be arsed with any of it. I held on to the handrail between the escalator and the stairs, swung myself into a U-turn and headed straight down again. My muni transfer was good for another couple of hours: I’d get whichever tram arrived next.


On the actual walk that I took

Due to works that would have meant getting off the Muni and on to a hot, stinky bus anyway, I stepped out at West Portal.

West Portal. If there’s anything that can make a girl feel like she’s just walked into a science fiction novel, it’s alighting at a station called West Portal. ‘Beyond the West Portal, my child, lies the outer edges of the galaxy of Ublubblubblytron FIVE, and your mission…’ they would say – but beyond the West Portal lies the suburbs of Sunset and Parkside, and beyond them, the Pacific Ocean, and the only mission you accept in arriving there is either to live a quiet settled life for the rest of your days, or walk a very long, very straight road for the afternoon. I chose the latter.

I bought a tourist map of San Francisco at an antiques fair a few weeks ago. It was a free giveaway from a city bank in the early fifties to their new customers, presuming they might be new to the city, and pointing out some of the more notable and attractive landmarks in their new home. It’s in black and white, with flags planted at the appropriately exciting places with pictures on describing just how exciting each one is, and just how. There’s a flag planted at the Powell Street turnaround, with the words CABLE CARS, and a cartoon of some smiling people hanging out of an old streetcar and waving. There’s a flag planted on the northern edge of the city, with the word MARINA and a cartoon of some smiling people hanging out on a sailboat, and a flag planted in the North East Corner with the words FISHERMAN’S WHARF and a cartoon of some disproportionately happy crabs hanging from the rough hand of a fisherman and about to be smacked with a pointy hammer and turned into happy chowder in a happy sourdough bowl.

In the west of the city – west of Twin Peaks, west of the great fog divide, and west of the West Portal that I’d just stepped out of, the area was mainly clear of flags. There were, in fact, only a few scattered around the outer neighbourhoods, or ‘the avenues’, as people refer to them generally (and generally, depending on where they live, with a sneer in their voice). The words next to each flag planted on the map that time simply said RESIDENTIAL, and then a cartoon of a man with a porkpie hat and a pipe mowing the lawn. Or a picture of a man with a pipe in a car going off to work, and his family fondly waving goodbye and the word RESIDENTIAL. Or a scruffy-haired child and a friendly-looking dog with its tongue hanging out. RESIDENTIAL, said the flag. RESIDENTIAL, RESIDENTIAL, RESIDENTIAL.

Not much has changed.

I passed through a brief shopping area on Taraval of a few streets where the most muni lines cross and connect – with a small supermarket, some dusty looking estate agents offices, and many dentists and doctor’s offices that were either really bold in their design choices or just hadn’t felt like changing them since the mid-70s.

Lovely letteringness

And then, not wanting to walk next to the buses that could otherwise hoik me straight down to the beach without all the pesky walking, I turned left at 17th avenue, and right onto Ulloa.

The avenues are the ones that run north to south along this side of the city. The streets that cut through them east to west have melodious names, exotic (to my ear). While many of the downtown streets are named for the mayors, city founders, captains of industry, the streets of Sunset and Parkside are different. Ortega, Pacheco, Quintara, Rivera, Santiago, Taraval, Ulloa, Vincente… it took me a year and a half of walking to click that they were alphabetical. I know, I know – I’m just not used to cities having such ORDER imposed on them. I’m from a land of jumbled streets and gradual city-growth, not ones that sprang up and exploded in size from zero to enormous in a hundred years.

I wandered down Ulloa, pausing to take pictures of pretty flowers I cannot name but will probably end up using as laptop screen desktops on dark sad wintery days.

Wall paper for desktop The lovely rednpurple bush

I passed a set of children, out on some urban summer camp treasure hunt. A jogger. A man being walked by eight dogs. At 19th avenue I waited for the lights to turn a block down, then scuttled across the eight lanes of road in case they started again and every decided to take me down at once.

The rest of the way down, though, I was mainly by myself. Thirty-one blocks, in all, down to Ocean beach. I caught up with a UPS man, making his rounds, and though he took off just after I passed, he stopped at another house half a block in front, and I caught up as he tried and failed to deliver his package. I passed just as he was jumping back in his van and throwing the undeliverable into the back. He drove on, another half block. I caught up. He drove off. I caught up. By the end of four blocks it was getting a bit embarrassing, but then he flashed me a big grin, and I smiled back, and it wasn’t odd any more.

Down through the avenues, each quiet, each more unremarkable than the last, as if someone had banned fun, or individuality, or, in fact, anything that might suggest the last century had ended and another began.

On many blocks, there were examples of the beautifully manicured lawns, shrubs and driveways those flags marked RESIDENTAL had promised me.

La la la la, something dogs tonight, In Suburbia

I imagined them being tended at the weekends by men with antique lawnmowers and porkpie hats and pipes hanging out of the side of their mouths, before being waved off on Monday morning on his way to work by his perfectly coiffured wife, small tousle-haired child and dog with a tongue-control problem. Then they’d go back into the house, shoot up some protein-shake-style mixture of chardonnay, pedigree chum and marajuana and pass out until he got home because god knows there is NOTHING ELSE TO DO on this side of town.

At the beach, which falls after 48th avenue and on the other side of the ‘Great Highway’ at this point, I turned left, walked two blocks, and walked straight back up again, away from the sea, toward the mountains in the middle of the city and my house on the other side of them, up Santiago, past neat little houses, cars in a middling state of repair, and the same UPS guy at least three times more.

Detail is unnecessary. It was ALL THE SAME.

Well, save for the point where – and I should have mentioned, on long flat walks where I’m unlikely to overhear other snatches of conversation or unusual things, I plug myself into walking music and think, or into podcasts and lose myself in those as well. So I was listening to a bunch of This American Life podcasts that had had me giggling out loud at some points and smiling at many others, but suddenly, in the middle of one of the stories, there was moment that made me cry. A lot. I can’t remember which, or why particularly on that day, but somewhere between 14th Avenue and Portola, as I walked down a quiet side street with no one on at all, I was fighting back the desire to stand still and bawl like a baby.

I could, of course. In this neighbourhood there was no one to hear me. In Civic Center, meanwhile, there would have been everyone to hear me, but no one would have looked twice.

I skirted the bottom of twin peaks, up a busy road I’ve been driven along many times, but never quite realised the tedium of until I took it on foot:

Little boxes

And as soon as I could, I ducked into the side streets where I could see from my map that there was a slight gap where roads didn’t quite match up which, I hoped, might turn out to be a shortcut or a stairway that would get me moving toward home.

Of course, it turned out to be a cliff, but the long way round meant I got to see a more interesting, individualistic kind of RESIDENTIAL. The kind that has houses with both driveway and front garden covered with beautiful, classic American cars in a state of repair that makes you quite sure they’ll never be driven again. Or little glimpses into a sunny home through the kind of entryway that I love more than any reasonable person should love an entryway.

Porch

And cars filled with coconut shells carved to look like decapitated monkey heads.

Freaky coconut heads

Or at least I hope that’s what they were. Decapitated monkey heads spruced up to look like coconuts was the other less likely but still plausible option. Because once you’ve become the kind of person that decides to put that in your car, who knows what else you’re capable of?

And then toward home. The long way round due to the pesky cliff (I should have realised it was called ‘Glen Canyon’ for a reason), knees complaining at 8 miles so far of pavement pounding, stomach joining in and throat drowning out both of them when it realised there was one more massive hill to go and I’d run out of water somewhere the other side of the crevasse.

It was worth it, though, of course. At the top of the hill, almost at the road that would take me home fast – and faster if I rolled down it, which was starting to look like the most tempting option – a perfect view over the downtown skyline and to the Berkeley hills beyond, way over the other side of the bay.

City from Diamond Heights

And then I limped down the hill to be RESIDENTIAL.
My kind of RESIDENTIAL, that is. The one on the Eastern side of the city.
RESIDENTIAL, rock’n'roll style. With tea.

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The walking map

I have a map. A cheap small, slightly untrustworthy map from a car rental company in the middle of San Francisco that, for the last year or slightly more, I have plotted my walks on. I may have mentioned it before, I can’t remember. I may have meant to, but shied away in the knowledge that it displays some of my more obviously compulsive tendencies, but really, it’s not that bad. It’s not every street I walk on a daily basis, catalogued and annotated. THAT would be completely nuts. This? This is just Anna-level crazy. It only has the walks that I’ve purposely taken as WALKS – the urban exploring, and stairway-finding and hikes around the city that I’ve been doing, on and off, since I got here.

I only started recording them on a map halfway through being here, of course. Before that, when we were having lots of lovely visitors, and taking them exploring around the city, I walked the same routes several times over – the easiest way from here to that particular tourist attraction, the fastest route from that tourist attraction to the hill with the great view over the city, the gentlest way from that hill home again, these sorts of things.

Once I started drawing on my map, I found myself purposefully making sure that each time I wanted to get from this X to that Y, or that A to the same old B, I would turn a different corner, walk a different street to get there, and find yet another on the way back.

It gives a purpose to my route. Not just one of seeing a certain thing, or reaching a certain destination, but making the individual parts of the exploration just as important. Setting foot on each street and saying “I’m almost certain I have never, ever set foot on this street before” makes each individual part of the city a place of constant newness, no longer how long I stay or how familiar the whole becomes.

When I get back, I plot out my route – first usually on this google-maps pedometer thing, which lets me know how far I’ve gone, how high the hills, how many calories one might burn doing such a thing, all the statistics, and I save that somewhere, and then I take out my map, and draw the same thing onto it – a real, physical evidence version – on paper – of the thing that just happened in the real, fast-moving world. I like physical things, as little as I want to clutter my life with them.

But little things like this are ok.
This is my map.

The walking map - streets covered

It’s changed since I took that. It’ll change again in the next week, most likely. I like the way it marks out the places in the city I walk the most, and the ones I still need to cover more purposefully. The patchiness of North Beach, Nob Hill and Russian Hill (top right corner of the city) bothers me. I’ve walked all over that part of town but often on the same well-trodden roads, and simply walking it to cover the rest in purple would, trust me, just mean slogging up, down, up and down the same three or four hills over and over and over again.

It’s most purple in the area where I used to live, and even more so around the neighbourhood I live now. I love the way you can see the ridiculous loops of where I’ve, usually in an extreme of good or bad mood, taken myself off for a dozen-mile pounding of pavement and not come back until my knees were begging me to stop (or generally a couple of miles after they started requesting quite urgently that I think about it).

I know without thinking too hard, which areas will be more covered by the time we decide to leave the city, and which ones will remain basically empty. I like having it as a record – and mostly, I like the patterns it makes.

Trying to think what to do with it the other day – it’s only a thing, after all, it’s only worth keeping if it’s useful (or beautiful) I think when we do leave the city to live somewhere else for a while, I’ll trace the pattern of the roads walked – just those, with none of the rest of the business around it – and use the pattern as the basis of a screenprint, or an embroidery, if I could get good enough to do it.

That way, you see, it’s like a snail trail. Like one of those time lapse photographs of car headlights and taillights blending into long streams of colour and painting a map of city streets just by moving through them.

Or sort of like that, anyway. Just much, much slower.

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I’ve been considering buying a monkey called Marcel

We live in a perfectly respectable quiet neighbourhood of San Francisco. Far too respectable for this side of town, some people think – all nannies and decking, more manicure salons than grocery stores along the busy little high street in the middle of the ‘hood where, every saturday morning the farmer’s market means that the pavement is too packed with tiny yapping dogs and enormous 4-wheel-drive-strollers to get anywhere in a hurry.

Our back windows look out over gardens, and across to the backs of other, more traditional San Francisco houses, covered in clapboard, and painted beautiful pastel colours, with large sash windows that are designed to make the most of whatever light there is, reaching further up the wall than you would expect, and further down toward the floor than you realise … until something makes you realise.

Something like walking into your kitchen and snapping on the light at precisely the same time as your tall, chubby neighbour on the other side of your block walks into HIS back room and snaps on the light in there, and the remote flash of light makes you both look up. And one of you is completely naked.

Things like that will make you realise soon enough how damned big the windows are. Especially when the naked half of the equation jumps back in surprise and it’s like watching a tiny elephant doing a jig.

So – for the sake of propriety, and out of respect for my mother, who will undoubtedly read this post, I will continue on, because it led to the kind of conversation that is had often in this house – an interesting dissection (no wincing intended, boys) of the prominence of surprise genitalia appearances in modern life – but difficult to relate in a polite fashion. So I will replace any words pertaining to a particular anatomical apendage with ‘cheese grater’. Should any other parts of the human body crop up in conversation, I’ll do my best to replace those also with random kitchen implements.

ME: “… And then he ran away. Not in a ‘flash and run away’ way, just in the way that suggested he wasn’t expecting a fully dressed woman to be using her kitchen at 9.30 at night and to catch him in the altogether.”

HIM: “I’ve just been and checked. He’s still wandering around the flat, but he’s put some boyknickers on now. So his cheese grater is no longer hanging out.”

ME: “Yes. I was a little surprised, I must admit. Went in for mouthful of orange juice: got an eyeful of cheese grater instead.”

HIM: “I have no doubt he was as surprised, if not more so. Poor chap. Only wanted to air his grater, ended up airing it to the world.”

ME: “Do you think if, in the middle of the night, you walked into the kitchen in the buff, and he happened to walk into the kitchen in the buff at the same time, and similarly caught each others eyes, you would both be equally surprised and jumpy?”

HIM: “No, I think we would nod to each other in a manly fashion, and make no reference to our dangling dairy preparation devices whatsoever.

ME: “Do you think living and working as a person active on the internet makes random cheese-grater sightings more frequent in modern life than for previous generations?”

HIM: “I think it depends where you might be looking”

ME: “Our friend on IM was just showing me this chatroulette map thing….”

HIM: “Oh HELL yes, in that case.”

ME: “And it seems that now you can not only go on chatroulette and increase your chance of seeing real live cheese graters on mystery people in mystery locations, but now you can go to this map, look up particular locations of people on chatroulette, and look at their cheese graters that way instead.”

HIM: “Yes.”

ME: “I don’t really get Chatroulette”

HIM:“No. I know, baby. It’s been warmly embraced by the cheesegrater community, meanwhile”

ME: “No kidding.”

A Pause…

ME: “Did you have YOUR cheese grater out when you went on Chatroulette?”

HIM: “No.”

ME: “Oh good.”

HIM: “Mainly – if not solely – because I was spending time on it in order to write a news feature about it for a national newspaper, and I think it would have changed the timbre of the piece a little.”

ME: “I understand”

HIM: “It would be all: ‘In the time this reporter spent on the service, two people held a conversation, six used their blender, eight passed immediately on seeing him, three waved in a friendly but dismissive way before similarly moving on, and twelve simply stared in a bored fashion. But then, this reporter did have his cheese grater out at the time.’ – I’m just not sure it was the angle we were going for at the time.”

ME: “They didn’t really require you to do that much cheese-grater-out work while you were still working at the newspaper, did they?”

HIM: “Not really, no. It was mainly ‘cheese-grater-in’ stuff.”

ME: “I was always waiting for the day when your editor would ring and say “Aye-Aye, Editor here: Love where you’re going with the piece, can’t wait to see how it ends, but I think what it needs is just a bit more cheese-gratery-outty stuff, know what I mean?” I just think it would make sense as someone working in the tech and internet field, that being such a free and easy cheese-grater-waving web of communities.”

HIM: “I can see where you’re going with that, but I think the conversations with the subs would have taken the spirit of the digital age out of it all. You know what they’re like, you’dget pernickerty emails in the middle of the night saying: “Hello, it is the sub here, just a couple of points I need to clear up before we put this one to bed: when you say your cheese-grater was out, do we need to say how FAR it was out? Do we need to push the cheese-grater stuff up to the first par or so in order to make the whole thing more identifiable for the reader earlier on? And was it JUST your cheese grater that was out for the duration of this story? Or were your measuring cups feeling the breeze as well? Get back to me soon as you’re up – The Sub.”

ME: “It’s true, I suppose that’s why citizen cheese-grater-hanging-out-ness is on the rise.”

HIM: “So to speak”

ME: “Yikes. Yes. So to speak.”

There is a pause

ME: “Can you top up my juice if you’re going near the kitchen? I’m not sure i can take the excitement.”

This would be so much quicker if we had a podcast.
Also, you’d never know who had their cheese grater out.
Apart from the fact it wouldn’t be me. I’ve only got a slapchop.

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Tales of an incompetent hausfrau, no.865 in an ever growing series

ME: I cleaned up the house today. While you were working. I got bored and I don’t have any work on, so I cleaned. I cleaned really thoroughly and mopped and stuff.
HIM: Ooooh, thanks.
ME: And I made a curry for dinner. I learned how to make chapati, and I made some.
HIM: Wow. You’re awesome.
ME: I also cleared up all the clothes in the bedroom that were in big piles. And the ones that were on the floor. And the ones that had come up from the laundry but were in piles. But I was a bit bored by that time, so I made a unilateral decision, and all the shirts of yours I found I hung up, and all the socks and underwear I found I put in the dirty laundry basket. All of them.
HIM: Wait, what? Um?
ME: What did you expect me to do, smell things? Jeez….

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“ONE”

I’ve been meaning to take a picture of this for ages. My landlord’s signs are a lot more threatening than my landlord, who is a very gracious chap.

"WILL NOT"

I presume that the “ONE” recycling bin is mentioned particularly because there are actually two, but for the purpose of talking about it, that only counts as one. Or something.

Also I like the quote mark in the middle unattached to any other.

But what I’m most impressed about is that he’s managed to convey the *feeling* of capitalising each word, even though it’s ALL in capitals.

Well done, Jim.

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My favourite grocery clerk of the week

I was at the checksout till thing of the horrendously expensive organic supermarket which is our nearest grocery place, having picked up a few things to make My Beloved feel at home.

It is, it should be noted, impossible to leave this particular shop without spending $40. Whether you’ve popped in to buy some milk and bread, or whether you’re getting some supplies for a barbeque, or whether you’re just planning a simple dinner: there is no way you can leave having spent less than $40. It’s WEIRD.

Anyway, I popped in, and at the checkout, had the following conversation, which now ranks among my favourites:

He:[scanning] hmm. [scanning again] Oh. Free cheese for you.
Me: What?
He: Well, they’ve not labelled this properly, so it doesn’t have a barcode.
Me: You, sir, are a gentleman and a scholar.
He: No ma’am, I’m just a guy who doesn’t care about his job that much.
Me: That’s enough for me.

Still cost me $40 though.
But god, I love it here.

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America: Full of the bumlurgy, apparently

I’ve been living in California almost two years now, and there’s one thing i still don’t understand.

Actually, that’s not even vaguely true – the amount of things I don’t understand are as plentiful and multifaceted as ever, and occasionally get more, or less, depending on the time of day and phase of the moon and whether I’m trying to figure out that something and chew something particularly chewy at the same time. But this is something that I can’t understand, and that I can’t find anyone who can give me justification for it either.

So if you’ll excuse me for the bluntness and toiletcentric basis of my query: Whyfore disposable paper toilet seat covers, America? Why-theverymuchfuck-FORE?

For those who haven’t had the pleasure of visiting this great and friendly nation, or perhaps those who have, but somehow managed to not need the the toilet for the whole time they were here (and you should probably see some kind of doctor about that, or at least introduce a little more fibre into your diet), the “disposable paper toilet seat cover” is a kind of cover that you find in public bathroom cubicles. It is a cover that is made out of paper that you would use to cover a toilet seat. It is also, and I think some of you might be able to guess where this is going, disposable.
The clues were sort of all there in the name, now I think of it.

They sit there, neatly sanitised and folded in their clinical-looking holders on the back wall of the toilet cubicle, a thin paper layer that women – I’m guessing it’s mainly women, I’ve not done that much research into men’s public lavatories – can carefully place a tissue thin layer between the skin on their arse, and the plastic that might previously have touched the skin of someone else’s arse.

When the toileting is done, the person then presses the flush – waves their hand at it if it is in a fancy bathroom or, if it is not, presumably kicks at it with a foot with a plastic bag wrapped around it to make sure they don’t catch anything from it, and the toilet seat cover is pulled down into swirling water and the germless toileteer is free to leave the cubicle. Not sure how they do that without touching the handle. I assume they bring some kind of rod and pulley system they can set up using the coat hook.

People seem to be very keen on these toilet seat covers – that, frankly, I don’t remember having seen anywhere else in the whole world – to the extent that if they are left without the power of that tiny tissue thin piece of paper to protect them from the dreaded plastic-someone-elses-skin-might-have-touched-once, they will quite often spend a long time pre-toileting, unrolling toilet paper and placing it in a protective cushion ALL THE WAY ROUND THE SEAT.

And you realise this when you come into the toilet cubicle after one of them and find it unusable as it’s covered in streamers of bogroll that didn’t get sucked into the crapper as the water swirled. Which is a moot point since, often, the loo’s been so overloaded trying to pull the rest of the improvised bottom-condom (or “bottomdom”, as it is almost certainly known) into the flush that it’s now completely blocked.

That’s what made me really start trying to figure this out, actually. We went camping and kept finding that people kept blocking the toilets while trying to protect themselves from…

…From what, precisely?

Now, seeing as it’s fairly well proven that you can’t actually catch Sexually Transmitted Types of Diseases or Infections from being on a toilet seat unless you are actually having sex with someone while on a toilet seat who happens to have an STI, then it can’t be that, right? And the only way you could easily catch something from this situation is by someone who is infected with something actively rubbing an open sore onto the seat, and you then touching that exact spot and somehow conducting it to your nose or mouth or a similarly open wound… And I don’t know, maybe it’s just me, but I’ve never been in the habit of licking toilet seats, so I generally assume I’m kind of safe from that kind of free-spreading of infection.

Since there aren’t disposable rubber gloves for the touching of all other surfaces within the bathroom (not that I’ve noticed, anyway), is it just that there is something very odd about the skin on people’s backsides that I don’t know about? Something delicate and unspeakable that is ONLY about the circle of skin that could possibly react to the plastic seat beneath it?

Because it’s not as if any other part of the public bathroom experience is that precious. Honestly, given that you’re presented with a line of cubicle doors that start three feet off the floor, end three feet further up and have about an inch gap all around so you can wave to the people in the ones that ARE occupied, the idea that you might be trying to kid yourself that this is somehow a private reserved, noncommunal space is a complete joke.

And given the fact that public bathrooms in shops and transit places and restaurants and everything else the US are cleaned from top to bottom on an insanely frequent basis anyway, it’s all insane anyway.

So what IS it happened in American history that reflected so badly on the nation’s bumsurfaces? What is it about the national psyche that chooses this symbol of protecting yourself from the filthiness of your fellow human being’s skin any more than any other? Does anyone know?

Or is it all just a rumour started by disposable paper toilet seat manufacturers?

It’s that one, isn’t it?
Yeah. I bet anything it’s that one.

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Home Alone 2: Alone in the soupy

I have now entered the second stage of being home alone – which is nice, because it’s the stage I always forget about in the initial sulk after My Beloved goes away on business type travel somewhere.

It’s the bit where I suddenly remember how much I like being on my own, get super-productive, make great resolutions, develop cunning schemes, have lots of ideas, and make soup.

Not all of those bits, of course, and not always in that order, but always: the soup. Soup is very satisfying to make. I like soup.

Today I made a very basic tomato soup – though with some white cabbage and carrots thrown in for extra vegetable points (you can’t tell when it’s blended, and it makes it a bunch more filling). That way I can get a bunch of meals out of it for the rest of the week, adding chilli sauce to it one day and some roasted peppers to it another day and it’ll be lovely. Soup’s brilliant.

I’ve been bouncing about all day, in fact, getting things done, knocking things off my to do list left, right, and centre. Real proper things too. Not just ‘wear hoodie’ and ‘appreciate soup’.

And maybe, possibly, I think I’ve even come up with a way that I can utilise – properly utilise and get a really interesting project out of – my epic train journey, as well as using it to catch up on writing projects I’ve set aside for the eleventy-billion train hours it will involve. So I’ll be explaining more about that soon.

This is stage two of HomeAloneness. At least how it works for me. The point at which I still crazily miss having my Beloved and my best friend hanging around all the time, but remember how much I get done with nothing but myself to provide amusement. Well, myself and soup.
Soup’s brilliant.

Stage three of HomeAloneness – I won’t bore you with it when it arrives, probably, because I’ll be too grumpy – is the grumpiness that sets in about 10 days into the situation, or 24 hoursish before it is due to end, when said Beloved will be back soon, but not soon enough. Plus it coincides with the part where I have to clean the flat properly so it’s nice to come home to, and not like I’ve gone feral in the meantime.

The fourth stage of Homealoneness, of course, is the point at which you suddenly aren’t homealone any more, and it is wonderful and overwhelming and very exciting. And then the fifth stage is when everything gets annoying because suddenly someone is eating REALLY LOUDLY in your living room and opening big smelly suitcases of unwashed bags all over the flat that you grumpily tidied.

And then it all gets back to normal, and that, also, is nice.

Just in case anyone was worrying about me, though, I’m not wasting away for lack of human contact or crippling loneliness. I’m not locked in an attic, bawling.
Just in case it sounded as if I was.
Not sure it did, now I mention it.

However: soup is very nice. That’s point enough for a blogpost, right?
On the sliding scale of pointfulness as relates to blogs?
Yes, it is.
I am Anna Pickard, and I endorse soup.

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What I did on my Saturdaynightidays by Anna (aged 33 and a third)

On Saturday, I had one of those kind of evenings that can, I’m sorry to say, only be described in the breathless, punctuation-dodging terms most usually used by 9-year-olds writing essays about the way that they spent their summer holidays, or a person trying to describe all of the sights, sounds, and smells of a circus (all at once) to someone who had never even seen a stripy tent before, or a teenage girl of limited intelligence and the world’s largest scrunchie collection basically saying anything, ever. It’s the natural brain reaction to having an enormous amount of new experiences and unexpected things all at once, and only a certain amount of words to explain them in.

I apologise, this post is going to sound like those things.
I’m letting you know in advance, at least. If I can’t stop myself from sounding stupid, it’s the most I can do.

So anyway. My friend S, who is lovely and who I was planning on meeting for a drink on Sunday suddenly emailed and said that one of her colleagues had dropped out of a thing that a group of her work-friends had been planning, and did I want to take her place? And although I had already got plans, and was meant to be going to see Ferris Beuller in the community movie-in-the-park inflatable screen in our nearest local park, I decided that I was a lame enough friend to cancel those in favour of a thing I would never make the effort to arrange any other time, even if I knew about it, which I wouldn’t have. So I did.

We got in the car and drove an hour and a bit out of the city. And then I had a sammich. It was lovely. It had lamb in it, and pepperoncinis, and feta cheese. And then we went to a different place, and we went Kayaking.

It was here, and it’s lucky, because I happened to take a picture of the exact place we were from the plane a few weeks ago.

The point of Point Reyes

It’s the bit in the top right quarter of the picture. Where you can see a little island in the middle of the inlet/bay? We were there. Literally there.

We went Kayaking.

S was in the front of the kayak: I was in the back, which meant that she set the pacing for the paddling, and I was in charge of steering the rudder. Actually, it also meant that she occasionally wouldn’t notice if I stopped paddling for a while, and I mainly seemed to be in charge of ‘going in a wildly non-optimal zig-zag pattern due to oversteering HARD’, but she didn’t seem to mind because she is nice and we got to the place we wanted to get to, and didn’t die, so it all turned out ok.

We paddled. You have to paddle with your tummy, and not your arms or your wrists so much. I was good at paddling. Which is weird, because it is offically a ‘sport’, and I am not good at those.

We paddled out into the bay. Herons flew over us. The man guiding us pointed out a fish, which I want to call a ‘bat ray’, because it seemingly had wings, but mainly I want to call it that because of the cartoon Bat Fink, and I’m quite sure he wasn’t a fish, so that’s wrong. He was a fink.

Anyway.

We kayaked through some islands that were called the Hog and Duck islands – mainly because (though there are several stories) as far as I could tell, they were covered in cormorants and herons and seals that, between them, make a collection of grunting and squawking and quacking noises that sounded like a mixture of hogs and ducks. The other stories made up about the name are much more ridiculous.

We kayaked over eelgrass, and a thousand tiny jellyfish, and a few hundred big orange/red jellyfish as well. We kayaked around the side of the Point Reyes land spur, into a smaller bay, and looked for starfish and sea anemones on the rocks. In the back of the tiny bay, we met an enormous herd of elk. They did not like us.

This is my best picture of an elk. It is rubbish:

My best elk photo

Seals liked us more. One in particular came close to the boat of me and Suneeta. Alex, it was called. Not the seal. The boat. This was a disappointingly dull name. Everyone else’s boats were called things like Persephone and Ariadne and other names from myths and legends. Ours was called ‘Alex’. That’s rubbish. Alex is a nice name for a person, a brilliant name for an author, and a shitty name for a boat. Still the seal liked Alex. He popped out of the water, we stopped and said hi, he disappeared under water again and then popped up twenty yards closer. Either he liked the boat, or me and S are red-hot seal-eye-candy. Works either way.

We also kayaked past some people kayak-camping by the shore. I “shore” wanted to be them, right at that moment.

A ha ha ha. Sorry.

Then we stopped on a beach for tea and hot chocolate and cookies and brownies and cake and things.
Yes yes, I know, it is a very hard life, I lead. It is very tough to be me.

The magic, as if it had been missing, fully took hold when we set off from Tea and Brownie Beach.

It was dark by then. The sun had completely set, the fog was creeping over the tops of every mountain and hill around the bay, the moon was not yet up nor the stars completely out. It was dark. Proper dark-dark.

This picture was taken in the dark and then lightened afterward just for curiosity’s sake.

The picture was black - this is the exposure thing changed afterward

The cloud had rolled in overhead, and there was no moon, no stars, just the lights of the jetty we’d set off from a mile or more across the water, and the tiny l.e.d lights fixed to the back of our boats.

Until we got back in the water.

As we got back into the boats and pushed off into the water the real magical thing happened. I’ve seen bioluminescent phosphorescence before, but not in such a dark place, and – GAH, there is NO WAY to describe this to people that doesn’t sound ridiculous or like being trapped inside a sensory deprivation tank with a hoard of rampaging cartoon disney fairies for company – there are these plankton, see, in the water, and as the water gets disturbed, they glow, or more accurately, they glitter. They both glitter and glow.

So as you move something through the water – whether a paddle or your hand – the plankton stick to it, and glow, and glow and glisten around it. It’s like moving a sparkler through the air, except through water. And not like moving a sparkler through water, either, because it would go out and that would be stupid. And a waste of sparklers.

It’s simply the most magical thing. And that is all. Like an explosion in a fairydust factory, or the trail that would be left if you gave a room full of teenaged girls free access to body glitter and told them to use their judgement.

We paddled, slowly, magically, and in a somewhat zig-zag fashion, sparkling through the water, back to the jetty. And then we got out, and we took off all our unflattering waterproof things, and got into a car and drove an hour back to the city to go to bed.

And I think I will be doing this again, quite soon. And I will take all my friends.
I also think I might spend all my holidays in kayaks from now on.
And maybe live in one. With my seal husband.
Yes.

Next Page »
This is a little red boat. Little, red, and boaty.

I still post. Occasionally. Honest, I do.