Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Two Tree Thieves

Icy snow crunching underfoot and plumes of excited breath a-huff and puff. We hide in the shadows at the sight of headlights approaching, protected by the too many frozen stars in the vast darkness around us. The sky is magnificent this winter night. Our getaway vehicle is parked just outside the tall gate, the trees still and ominous and waiting. We spot our target: it is obviously too big to fit on top of the rinky dink company van, the bosses phone number plastered all over the side panels. But that's the whole point. Do something silly, laugh, reap a new story. And here it is.

The easy Japanese blade slides smoothly through the soft wood. Sticky, pungent, prickly on face and hands, nostrils flare, resin and needles. Conifers always remind of maleness. It falls with ease, then over the rabbit fence and pull: feels heavy. Two of us tug at the drag and quickly get to the gate. Lights off backing the van and flip the beast over gate and onto roof. Now I miserably fail as a well equipped tree surgeon: I only have a bundle of prusik loops, a bunch of cut ends of climbing rope and an unwieldy 40 meter length. Nothing very useful for a quick tie up and escape. After much faffery, bad knots in the dark, jumping at the sound and sight of cars approaching, overexcited and paranoid Peter, the burly and easy to irate land owner should show up and catch us in the act, after all, finally, we manage to string him up. Two ropes through the windows, a series of ends tied to each other to secure the other end. The tip of the tree is overhanging the back of the van by as much as the van is long. Adam climbs out of the window to check for left ropes and unnecessary evidence. I hear a dull thump, he laugh then comes back with a big scratch on his nose. Giggle, huzza and take off.

We pass a few cop cars on the way home, but none chase us. After all we are nicking stuff in the spirit of Christmas!

Getting the big papa up the stairs is tricky. He's 1 and ½ times as wide as the entrance hall and way too long to turn up the tight corners of the three flights of stairs. Luckily spruces are flexy and with a bit of bending and lifting, yanking and falling, he squeezes inside. He doesn't exactly disappear in the corner: Adam and Nicoletta's living room is not small but the tree occupies a good deal of it. The tip hits the ceiling 5m above and, bent sideways, carries on for a further meter. Little Rumi has placed a multitude of tiny gift boxes all around the plant pot.

Unfortunately we set a precedent: every year from now on the tree will have to be bigger.

Saturday, 19 December 2009

Outside Our Window

Sunday, 6 December 2009

Catharsis in Motion

Culture is built upon stories. Oral transmission shapes much the world, and written knowledge relies on the reputation of the writer or the social standing of the preacher. Travel is the gathering of new tales, thirst for fresh thought, movement as opposed to stagnation. We spoke about this before: narrate your own mythology. This because I can see values not my own subtly encroaching when alternatives lack. From diminutive sand castle to vast ramparts of ice crumbling into the ocean. I am an unwilling accomplice. Maybe because of dysfunction, repetition nauseates instead of reassuring (don't talk to me about Christmas!). Despite a non-theist education, guilt affects a normally positive outlook: fall from grace, original sin. Lack of care, aggression, deceit and denial, sadden and burden and yet daily this is what I am presented with, when my screen lights up and the machine lures me from the world of the living. Collective guilt weighs heavy upon my conscience so I seek purification in motion, as well of course as reassurance:

"What I have learned on my travels is that 99.99% of the world's people are kind, honest and helpful - much readier to give than to steal. And as for that .01% of a killer or a rapist, the one who always hits the headlines in the media, he's just as likely to pounce on me outside my own front door as he is in Zonguldak or Timbuktu."

Anne Mustoe (May 24, 1933 – November 10, 2009)

People out there are good: this is the tenet of the journey. Fear cannot save us (or you): it is crippling and ultimately an imploding principle. Thinking we are safer by staying where we are is just a mild form of agoraphobia. I know I have been raised in a protected, loving environment: this journey seeks to demonstrate that this environment is not limited to our small privileged bubble (and what an ephemeral reality we would be living in if it was so). I do not believe that generosity is necessarily linked with abundance and by contrast malevolence with deprivation. Travel is a search for core values, laying oneself bare, stripped of distractions, letting the rain gently wash away the blues..

And with me, my lover.

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Our home has arrived

Yesterday we received a special delivery from the States and good old e-Bay: the tent we are going to spend a lot of nights in has just arrived. I reached Isla and Lyn at St. Ann's Well playground and despite the ominous looking weather we decided to pitch it up. Little Elfin loved it. She was running in and out of the tent smiling and singing away. It was great to see her having fun. And of course it was great to see the tent up.

It's a Hilleberg Nallo 3GT. Hilleberg because they have a reputation for being some of the top tent makers; Nallo 3GT because it has a very large vestibule and we decided that for an additional 200g the extra internal square meter (compared to the 2 person GT) was justified. After all this is going to be our home! The only issue I can see is that this is not a free-standing tent, and if we ever need to pitch on solid ground we are going to have a problem. Other than that, the build quality is obviously superior: from pegs to poles' manufacture, from air-vents to door position, it all shows consideration and attention to detail.

As soon as the tent was up it started raining. It was lovely to hear the sound of the droplets on the flysheet, and of course this amplified the desire to go... five more months, hang in there.

But really, we are ready!

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

It all starts with a party

We spent the last week-end cleaning up Pop-Up Studios. Two of the rooms we want to use for our fund raiser New Year bash were stuffed to the brim with all sorts of junk, mouldy carpets, rusty scaffolding poles, broken file folders, shattered glass, wet cardboard boxes, smashed toilets, etc. We filled a skip, and after the skip we started filling up a tat room. We pulled down the false ceiling of the top room to create a more spacious dance area, while stuffing the gaps between walls and tin roof with the rock-wool we had just extracted from above our heads. COUGH COUGH what a nasty itchy job. The 2kW sound system will get here on the 20th, and that should be plenty big enough for that size room for a good stomp (thanks Karn). Downstairs, in the Control Room, the job was a little easier, although here too we had to shift a lot of junk. Matt also managed to sort out the electrics so there are many plugs we can use all around the walls. Maybe we'll put together some withies and papier mache lanterns to create a bit of ambiance.

It's good to see the space coming together. When I first saw it I confess I did not feel too enthusiastic about it: the trash clouded my vision. This is odd as usually I get excited about the potential that places show (flat 5 being an obvious example), but for some reason the amount of work needed here kinda made me feel like I did not want to get involved. Instead, with some help from our friends (thanks Bex, Charlotte and Matt) the space is starting to really take shape.

It's difficult to let go of wanting to control everything that's going on in the place, where things are going to be, and how they are going to happen, but when I stop and listen generally good ideas are thrown my way. Lexy suggested we move the bar inside the chill out / live room so that people serving drinks can also participate and enjoy the shows rather than being shut away in a separate space. My gut reaction was to say nonononononono, I know how I want things and things are going to be this way. Instead I shut up, and realized Lexy was right. So now we've got a spare room to do things with.. maybe we'll use it a jolly well organized cloak room (wink wink Charlotte).

I am both worried and excited about this party (and I know Isla feels the same). Part of me wants to make sure this is a damn good event: good turnout, good entertainment, good times for all (and hopefully a decent amount of funds raised for the trip, but socially that is secondary). I would hate for people to not enjoy themselves and feel it's my responsibility to ensure they do. It's funny to think this is important: I know on this trip we will be faced with realities that make all this sound a bit.. inconsequential? But this is where I am now, and “socially” plays a big part in our lives here.

I am also very much liking working on a project with friends. That was the best part of the Sauna days and I really miss it. It's often surprising to see what a group of people on the same wavelength can pull together. I am looking forward to see how this one turns out.

Oh, and if you are reading this and have not been invited.. well, consider it your invitation to the party.