Getting it Donne

The thing that everyone forgets, when writing long missives about how easy it is to be away from a loved one, is that it’s all complete bollocks.

This became glaringly obvious to me the moment that I found myself standing in the Halifax airport check-in hall, hung over, wearing my mother in-laws old paint spattered sweatpants, with day-old wedding hair, and a stomach churning from dodgy Thai leftovers.

I was crying my absolute eyes out because I felt as though my heart was being wrenched from my chest with a rusty ice claw.

And one would think that, having done this so many times before, that I would never forget how much this hurts, but for some reason, like child birth (I assume) and the act of running a marathon (I know), I just always forget.

Call it the John Donne syndrome. Some stodgy old British genius pens one poem about how gauche it is to show emotion about leaving your spouse for an extended period of time, and suddenly (okay, like 400 years later) we all want to pretend as though spending months away from your life-long kissing partner is easy peasy lemon squeezy.

And yes, I am aware that I am protesting a little too much. It’s been a cool sixteen hours since I bade farewell to Marc at ye good ole’ Standfield International, and my tear ducts are still a little raw. I know that once I get into the groove of things here in the city, the days and weeks and months will literally fly by and before I know it I’ll be back in his arms, cracking jokes about Elizabeth May and watching Danish cop shows.

And!

Speaking of John Donne – I really shouldn’t be so harsh, because I really do love him and many of his works of metaphysical brilliance.

One poem, in particular, will always hold a very special place in my heart: A Valediction: Forbidden Mourning.

I have a very distinct memory of first hearing it in Literature 12, when Mr. Hill, our teacher, and one of my early great loves, read it aloud for the class. He fancied himself a sort of Falstaff/Leonard Cohen figure, and I am pretty sure he knew that most of the class was completely in love with him.

To this day, I don’t know if it was my crush, or the power of the oral word, but everything that he read that year has stuck with me.

At first, I thought Donne seemed pretty uptight, what with so much of his writing purposefully contrasting that of his Elizabethan contemporaries. Donne found most modern prose too smooth, too easy, and it was his aim to experiment with the concept of “dislocation”, peppering his writing with abrupt starts and stops, metaphors and ironies.

(You know, all of the good literary stuff that keeps us lazy readers on our toes.)

Check the below portion of the poem:

So let us melt, and make no noise,

   No tear-floods, nor sigh-tempests move;

‘Twere profanation of our joys

   To tell the laity our love.

 

Moving of the earth brings harms and fears,

   Men reckon what it did and meant;

But trepidation of the spheres,

   Though greater far, is innocent.

 

Dull sublunary lovers’ love

   (Whose soul is sense) cannot admit

Absence, because it doth remove

   Those things which elemented it.

 

But we, by a love so much refined

   That our selves know not what it is,

Inter-assured of the mind,

   Care less, eyes, lips, and hands to miss.

 

Our two souls therefore, which are one,

   Though I must go, endure not yet

A breach, but an expansion.

   Like gold to airy thinness beat.

I will never, ever tire of the metaphor of the golden thread that ties Donne and his wife Anne together, and my favourite line is: “So let us melt, and make no noise.”

So let us melt and make no noise.

What a perfect image. Such a perfect thought.

It’s one that I think about often as I start a little bit of a new life here in Nova Scotia.

I am melting. And making just a little bit of noise.

I am thinking about healthy ways that I can keep busy. When I spend too much time in my head, I start to think about all of the things that are wrong and bad with me. I think about how much I weigh, or how little I am doing with my life, and why I am not writing more or running faster. I go rope-a-dope with myself as hard as I can until I am left unable to stand.

So last night I wrote out a list of goals that I want to achieve during my time here on the east coast. I found a small note pad of paper and wrote them out on a single sheet, before tucking them away in a chest of drawers.

I figured this would be the closest I could possibly get to burying them in the backyard, like some kind of elementary school time capsule.

(I think about a lot of weird things sometimes. Like, for instance, do you think if someone ran over the person who one week prior ran over their husband that anyone would believe that she didn’t do it on purpose? P.S. This didn’t actually happen and I am not this woman.)

Part of my three-month plan is to go to bed each night having written out a few things that I would like to achieve over the course of the next day. So today saw me signing up for a gym membership and registering myself for two ten kilometer races – one in September and one in October. They are both races put on by MEC and I figure they’re good bets because I’ve loved running their Vancouver series. My cousin David has also started running and he has his own goals of completing a 10k race, so he’ll be joining me on the start line.

It’s always so much nicer to have someone with you on race day.

Another catalyst for these goals is that fact that I don’t have many friends here, and I figure if you don’t have friends, you might as well just get really fit (and hopefully make some friends in the process.)

But mostly I am really trying to melt.

I am trying to be nice to myself.

I am trying to melt.

And to make good noise.

Who’s the boss?

Picture the summer of 2005.

Where were you? What were you doing? What were your passions? Your obsessions?

Who did you love?

Who did you love?

I was twenty years old, fresh out of my second year of university, and living in Halifax.

Marc and I had been dating (and living together) for just under two years. Knowing that I would be spending the next four months across the country away from the small little home we were building together had left me heartbroken. Although looking back, I am confident that on some subconscious level we both knew that it was these long stretches of time apart that was keeping our young love alive.

CIMG0375

Having just applied to (and been accepted by) the Creative Writing program at UBC, I felt like my whole life was falling into place.

I was reading everything I could get my hands on, exercising too much, and working two fantastic jobs.

The first was at a fair-trade coffee shop where I made adequate espressos and sold delicious pakoras. The second was at a local bar where I worked the door Wednesday through Saturday nights. Basically my job was to flirt or strike up conversations with individuals as they entered the establishment, in the hopes of convincing them that they really did want to pay the cover charge, when really they probably just wanted a drink or dinner. My take-home was determined by how many people I got through the door.

And I was really, really good at this job.

Can you imagine? I was getting paid to talk to people and listen to great music. It was my dream job, incarnate.

I witnessed a lot of really weird things during those four months. There was the man who unscrewed the light bulb from the fixture over his table, placed the bulb in his briefcase, and then lit up the giant candle he had brought from home.

A man once tried to pay me to steal one of the bar’s paintings for him, and even left a twenty dollar “deposit” wrapped around the stem of the white wine glass he had ordered for me on his way out the door.

A young man once careened in the bar and breathlessly asked if he could hide out in our restrooms. After about half an hour he emerged, only to tell me that he had been evading two bike cops who had caught him and his friends drinking up at the Citadel.

Gordie Sampson hit on my underage sister, and I learned that Gordie Sampson is a tool.

I also saw some of the most incredible live performances from some of the East Coast’s most wonderful performers.

Ron Hynes played a beautiful, intimate set, and everyone in the bar sang along to Sonny’s Dream. When he died last year I cried remembering the magic of that evening.

Jeff Goodspeed was always a treat and the week that we played home to the Halifax Jazz Festival’s “late-night venue”, the proverbial roof was blown away each and every night.

But my most favourite part of working this job was Wednesday nights.

Because Wednesday nights meant Matt Andersen.

And Matt Andersen always meant a huge crowd of people who really, really wanted to pay the five-dollar cover.

But even better than that, Matt Andersen meant the most beautiful blues.

I would have worked at that bar for free as long as it meant that I was allowed to sit there for three hours and listen to him play.

Every night, during his cover of Bruce Springsteen’s ‘I’m on Fire’, I would walk over to the end of the bar and lean against one of the pillars that framed the entrance to the dining room. Just closing my eyes now, I can remember so clearly how the music would wash over me.

Run through me.

How the hairs on my arms would stand on end, and my eyes would tear up, and how part of me wanted that moment to last forever but how the other feared that if it did my little heart might crack in two.

Matt was also a gentle giant, who would pick me up and drive me to the bar if he’d see me walking on my way downtown. He would ask me about the books that I was reading and the subjects that I was studying in school.

It never occurred to me to stop and think how that summer was real life (and not the undergraduate make-believe in which I was firmly ensconced). Now I wish I had the foresight to tell Matt how much I loved his music and made the effort to stay in touch.

Tonight my parents-in-law are at Matt’s concert at the Vogue downtown. Marc and I bought them tickets for Christmas and I am so incredibly excited for them to experience his music for the first time. I can only imagine what an amazing show it will be.

For me – I am wrapped in warm blankets and sipping tea, listening to Youtube compilations remembering those make-believe days and warm summer nights.

And I hope I can introduce you to Matt.

And that you will love him. Wednesday nights, and every night.

Double, double, toil and trouble.

Good grief is Canada ever a large country.

Because we have heaps, and HEAPS of space, until we get that teleportation science down, it’s going to keep taking dogs years to travel across.

This morning I was up at the ungodly hour of 4:45 am, getting ready to head back to real life here in BC.

I crawled out of bed, jumped into the shower, and slowly steamed my eyelids open.

I allotted myself as much time as possible to wake up, before heading out to the Halifax airport for my 6:20 departure. My sister Jessi and her boyfriend Adam were kind enough to drive me – he being tempted by the promise of a Tim Horton’s breakfast sandwich, and she driven by her enduring and ever-deepening love for me.

HAH!

But seriously though – Timmy Ho’s.

I tell ya. That stuff will take over your life.

It’s interesting – despite the proliferation of Starbucks the world over, Tim Hortons still reigns supreme here in Canada (minus of course several urban centers, of which Vancouver is one.)

I mean, “Double-Double” (the shorthand term for two creams, two sugars in a Tim Hortons coffee) is an entry in the Oxford Canadian English Dictionary!

WHAT.

It can be weird trying to explain this institution to someone who hasn’t lived here.

It’s just SO Canadian.

(Despite its brief American ownership and merger with Wendys Corporation. This is referred to as the “Dark Time”, of which we never speak.)

Just kidding.

Kind of.

It also has the guts to put out the most heart-wrenching commercials (aka ridiculous Canadiana propaganda.)

Let me implore you to check out this ad:

DAH.

THE EMOTIONS!

(I never said that this ploy didn’t work, now did I?)

ONE THING though – if you’re going to bring your family over in the middle of the winter, feeding them terrible coffee isn’t going to make the transition any easier! JUST SAYING.

The one thing that actually does bother me about Tim Hortons is that I have a hard time believing that people actually like it as much as they purport to LOVE it.

It’s like this business has woven itself into our national framework (mythology?) to such an extent, that we no longer know what we actually want in terms of coffee and baked goods.

Or, perhaps that it’s that we’ve convinced ourselves that easy access, trumps quality.

For instance, Tim Hortons jingle used to be: “Always Fresh, Always, Tim Horntons.” And now it’s just “Always Tim Hortons.”

(Or it might be “Time for Tim’s – I’m not sure. Since throwing away cable for Netflix, my ability to keep up with this inane crap has been severely compromised.)

Anywho, if it is indeed “Always Tim Hortons”, that is apt as all get out, because they are indeed EVERYWHERE.

And it’s not like there is anything all that great about the foodstuffs available for purchase at any of these restaurants.

Its hot chocolate is okay, its coffee – as previously stated – is just awful.

Their baked goods run the gamut of delicious (honey cruellers and sour cream glazed) to absolutely dismal (anything claiming to be “old fashioned” tastes of dish soap and will completely destroy your will to live.)

I’ve never been a fan of the Iced Capp, but those that do would give away their first born when a craving hits.

Their bagels are okay, but are always smothered in so much cream cheese you start to wonder what it’s actually made out of that they give it away in such liberal amounts.

What can I say?

I’ve never, ever in my life woken up and thought: I want nothing more than ***** from Tim Horton’s.

But the other night, whilst out with friends and family, what did we IMMEDIATELY do once we left the bar?

Oh you betcha:

1390736_10153502642935179_1552752811_n

What can I say?

At my inner most core, I am Canadian.

(But only when soaked in white wine!)

OH MY GOODNESS I CANNOT BELIEVE I JUST WROTE AN 800 WORD POST ON TIM HORTONS.

Yeesh.

Please dear readers. I blame it on post-travel nackeredness. Eight hours on a plane will do that to you!

I really must be off for (another) shower and sleep.

I’ll be back to our regular scheduled program in but the (40) winks of an eye.

In the meantime, tell me your Tim Hortons stories.

We’ll see if we can get them made into a commercial.

Always.

(Tim Hortons.)

Tis the season

I’ve been thinking.

It’s funny the memories that stick.

No matter how hard I try to focus on one single moving, sentimental, emotionally wrenching moment that my sisters, mum, and I have shared, the first thing that always pops into my mind is this: a snap shot of us sitting on our the living room floor, parked in front of the roaring gas fireplace, Christmas day eve.

My little sister is eating a bowl of bran buds cereal.

She sits cross-legged on a lavender and brown floor rug, her roomy sweatpants covered in cat hair.  What is left of her Christmas day finery is swamped by a large, black hoody and the thick, knit scarf she received in her stocking earlier that morning is looped loosely around her shoulders and neck.

A Christmas cracker crown sits on top of her head, lopsided, sagging slightly to the right side, like the droopy smile of a dreaming child.  Her back rests up against the steamer truck my mother uses as a coffee table and she is laughing so hard, tears repeatedly spring to the corner of her eyes; one after the other the come, each taking the place of the others that are now streaming down her cheeks and dropping to the floor.

Her face flushes deep scarlet and as the trill of her giggles descends in pitch from high heehees to low hohos, I catch an eyeful of all the freshly masticated bran that sits dead square inside of her mouth.

My mother, my older sister and I are all laughing as well.  Jessi has been complaining for a couple of days that she hasn’t had a good “go” in almost a week, and is worried about the lack of fibre in her daily diet.  After a solid twenty-four hours of hearing about our sibling’s lack of progress in this sensitive, intestinal department, we’ve decided that the digestion of one big bowl of roughage should not only help her out, but should also be a family affair.

At first reticent to the idea, as clearly emphasized by her emphatic “don’t-look-at-me!” pleas, Jessi eventually wholeheartedly embraces this experience, and even acts the color commentator to her progress, using her spoon as microphone.

(All of this happens in-between her bursts of gut-busting laugher.)

As Jessi slowly makes her way through her late evening snack, she pauses a moment, dries her eyes, and lets us know, unequivocal in her sincerity, that she really hopes that this endeavour will work in her favour.

We let her know that we too, are rooting for her.

And she’s set off again, laughing so hard we have to give her a swift whack on the back.  Little flecks of bran that originally flew down the wrong tube are quickly assigned a new trajectory, and their landing pad sits clear across the living room.  A bedazzled reindeer get the worst of these food fireworks.

Our cat Simon, skittish on a good day, beetles quickly under the nearest sofa, spooked by Jessi’s demonic half-cough, half-cackle.   His increasingly whacko behaviour has me more than certain he is only half-cat.

After a few sips of water and a more tempered back rub, Jessi picks up her spoon and takes another bite of her now soggy, limp buds.

“That was a little scary, she says.  She pauses before continuing.  “I would never want to die constipated, full of bran.”

Oh how we roar, alongside the flickering flames of the festively-decked fireplace, on that Christmas day in the evening.

CIMG7917

Take me home, country road

Do you ever get homesick for the different places in which you have lived?

I do.

Edinburgh 226
Marc’s and my hostel in Edinburgh.

Last week I was chatting with our interim receptionist, a lovely young lass named Louisa. She being a native-Londoner, and myself a self-professed anglophile who lived in Jolly Ol’ England (BAH) in 2009, it was natural that our conversation turned towards the things that we missed most about life in the UK.

That morning we lamented about how much we missed GREGGS, a British chain bakery (and the place to procure the BEST 3 for 1£ egg tarts you will ever sample in your ENTIRE LIFE.)

As I walked back to my office I thought about all the things that I miss most about the different cities, that at one point or another, during my short twenty-eight years, I have called “home”.

Here are two of them:

Birmingham.

Cheap groceries.

Oh how do I miss thee! Three big blocks of (GOOD) cheese for five pounds? A massive box of cereal for ninety pence? A dozen free-range eggs for one pound? Organic veg for all but nought?

WHY ARE YOU SO BAD AT THIS CANADA?

Ease of travel.

Oh hey! Want to go to Bath today? How about Edinburgh next weekend? What about Switzerland for Christmas?

“Hmmm, I don’t know…”

“It will cost us next to nothing, and we will be there in a matter of hours.”

“LET’S DO IT.”

All the candy.

Seriously, walk into a Tesco and IT IS EVERYWHERE. Aisle, after aisle of just the most amazing junk food you have ever encountered.

You can buy different flavoured marshmallows.

And if you like marshmallows as much I do, THEY WILL CHANGE YOUR LIFE.

And it is glorious.

Rugby.

I sure do like me a professional sportsman with cute bum.

Birmingham Adventures 125

Or as Marc was one to say, “Could you stop taking photos of that guy please?”

Classic.

Halifax.

Friendly people.

Seriously, the nicest people you will ever meet (I should probably say SOME of the nicest people) live on the east coast of Canada.

Sometimes I miss the easy, everyday interaction with people who just want to really, truly find out how you are doing.

Bars that have live celtic music.

This point needs no elaboration.

Also this:

Halifax and Anniversary 048

Ease of travel.

A little different from Birmingham, in Halifax proper you can pretty much walk anywhere (weather permitting, of course.) In the dead of winter is it unlikely that you want to be on foot going anywhere, lest you freeze to death, trapped in a massive snow bank, or get carried away in a hurricane.

But in the summer?

It’s glorious.

On a completely different note, I feel like I’m going slightly mad from watching so much MI-5.

I was taking the skytrain yesterday, and there was a half-drunk frappacino under my chair, and all I could think was, “I’M SITTING ON TOP OF A BIOLOGICAL WEAPON.”

Yeesh.

I should probably give it a rest, and allow my life to be influenced by other things.

Although I sure do want to be spy.

I also find it weird how just watching this show totally ramps up my homesickness for the UK, despite the fact that it regularly rips out my heart, and gives me massive anxiety over the course of both episode and series’ arcs.

What about you dudes?

Do you folks watch MI-5?

And what cities do your hearts call out for?

I want to hear all about them.