Friday, 26 October 2012

Thursday 25th October 2012 - Ultimate Booknerd 64 2k12

I seem to be spending too much of my time asleep. My body appears to want to sleep until half 12, every day. This is annoying. Losing the 'morning' (between quote marks, because, like a proper Fresher, I feel mornings are a conceptual entity never actually experienced by anyone. That's what I'm feeling like at the moment. Like a fresher. Again) means that most of my days I start from a distinctly 'annoyed' perspective. Last night was great, once again stuck in Falmer bar with lovely people I hadn't seen for ages, then off to Brighton for drinks with yet more friends from way back. At the moment I am writing this (on Thursday afternoon)  from the Sussex Piazza Café (Yoghurt+Muesli+Kiwi = brill, Latte = brill, Cake = meh) where even the spoons are made of fully compostable materials. I approve of Sussex's Sussexiness. From today, I'm also the primary Dutch validator for Brandwatch (Boom! Employment!) which will enable many good things.

Before all that though, my friends Ben and Kristy (with whom I'm staying atm) chucked me out of the house, because I was crashing/falling asleep again after taking meds at half 12, and just as well they did. So I left, and had an amazing Halloumi wrap in the Lanes and then, on my to Brandwatch, went into a secondhand bookshop. Now I'm a secondhand bookshop addict. They're not really around in Amsterdam, which is good for my financial situation. But here, I had a 20 minute bookbuying binge. I just had to give in. The booty is:

Under Western Eyes - Joseph Conrad (to make Gene, my Thesis Supervisor and world authority on Conrad happy)
Orlando - Virginia Woolf (After yesterday, how couldn't I?)
The Awkward Age - Henry James (James is amazing if longwinded. And for me EVERY AGE is the Awkward age. Might name an Edinburgh show after that)
The Penguin Classics edition of The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman - Lawrence Sterne (which beats my cheapo Wordsworth edition hands down*)
Spike - an Intimate Memoir - Norma Farnes (which set off this binge, because it's related to my thesis topic)
When We Were Orphans - Kazuo Ishiguro (which I thought would be a great book for my MA, but according to my friend Sophie it's millions of different kinds of crap. Ah well)
Wolf Hall - Hilary Mantel (just had to)
Requiem for a Nun - William Faulkner (Gene is also a world renowned expert on Faulkner)
The Robber Bride - Margaret Atwood (My second unread Atwood, will have pride of place next to Bodily Harm)
The Mating Season - P.G. Wodehouse (My second unread Wodehouse)
The Longest Journey - E.M. Forster (Ditto re. yesterday. I just had to)
and an awesome paperback edition of White Teeth by Zadie Smith. 12. 12. 12 new, used books. I have a problem.

* Also, I appear to have stepped up a notch in my booknerdery in actually having double-bought a book for a better edition. Hence the title.

Wednesday 24th October 2012 - WHOSE HOUSE?!?!? WOOLF'S HOUSE!

So, I'm writing this in a pub called the Abergavenny Arms in Rodmell, East Sussex, surely one of the most English of places I've ever been. Currently having a coffee froma  caffètière as I'm waiting for the bus to take me back to Lewes, which won't be here for another hour and a half*.

* I have to add, this is written in the present tense, since I was actually writing this on Wednesday afternoon, didn't have my laptop with me then and can't be arsed to put it in the tense it's supposed to be in. Moving on.

They´re playing Miles Dacvis and I'm in a corner, with some books (as ever). Very happpy that I went out and did this V. much looking forward to reading ALL of Woolf. Right, beautiful things about Monk's House: Wonderful, bright (with the weather being genuinely glorious for once) English garden, with two ponds, an orchard and amazing lawns. The kind of garden you'd have liked to get lost in as a child, discovering something awesome round every corner. It's also slap bang in the middle of the South Downs, which are wonderful in general but even better when it's all autumnal, like today. Seriously need to walk those. A friend of mine did it about a year ago and she was ecstatic about it, so I might just slap on some walking gear and get frisky.

There are some allotments in the garden, but the best bit by a mile is the writing shack (it's tiny, but it's the real thing). There were windfall apples from the orchard, of which I partook and enjoyed one. Woolf's actual chair, table and the small Persian rug that these previous two stood upon were all quite magical. It wasn't that much of a stretch to imagine her bashing her brains out over some seriously difficult bit of prose, nor authoritatively laying down the law in her critical writing or to spread out her daily experiences in her many diaries. The house itself is left  in pretty much the state it was in when Leonard died in 1969, meaning the furniture and all of the decorations were still very much in the 1890s-1920s style, established by Woolf. In her (small) bedroom, she had a brilliantly beautiful, specially made bookcase, just for Shakespeare, which, after a bad bout of depression, she chose to give her own designed covers.

Apparently, quite a lot of the Woolf collection had been stolen; at least, that was implied by the seriousness of the National Trust workers- by Sussex University. All of them, ladies in their sixties and seventies, terrified of me seriously injuring myself against the low ceilings e.g. cracking the beams of the house. There were pictures of the Bloomsbury lot in the shack. Maynard Keynes, Roger Fry, Vanessa (her sister, beautiful woman), Thomas Eliot, Morgan Forster, Vita Sackville-West, Elizabeth Bowen, Lytton Strachey; pretty much all of the Bloomsbury set. Also, there were pictures of some of the pets owned by the Woolfs. There were two Spaniels, one of which was called Sally, I forget the name of the other one. They also had a spider Monkey called Mitzy for about five years.

A man from the National Trust told me about Woolf's schedule, writing in the mornings (those electrical heaters wouldn't have been there for nothing), having a nice lunch, then doing correspondence and critical writing, as well as reading in the evenings. And that she used to scare the living daylights out of the housekeeper when, during her morning bath, she used to shout out whatever she'd written the morning before, to feel the rhythm. I approve.

I cannot stress sufficiently how teensy the house is, full of 1920s beautiful stuff, especially the chairs, which seem to have been made especially with a pattern by Vanessa. Also the beautiful portrait of Woolf's by Vanessa that is used quite a lot as a cover for The Years and The Waves just hung there in the lounge. Of course, none of this actually brings one closer to Woolf herself, walking around the garden as she must have done, pockets full of stones, in the direction of the river Ouse, shortly after finishing Between the Acts. None, apart from a lavatorial break in the outside loo., which I can't imagine having changed much since, where she would be sitting and coming up with the secondary plot for Dalloway, or the best critical insights. As I turned to wash my hands and the cold water hit me, I imagined Woolf, deep in thought, doing exactly the same, all those years ago. Apparently, they rent out the house during winter. I might go on honeymoon there. Any takers?

Monday, 22 October 2012

19th-22nd October 2012: Lower Back Pain, Buses and Zombies

Hello, I'm back!

Since it seems to be an unwritten rule that I can only blog when in the U.K. I'm starting again. I'm in Brighton for a week and a day, and so far have done very little of note. I've woken up, thrice; seen some friends and had coffee. But since all these things happened to occur in Brighton, that made me very happy indeed.

Ok, why I love Brighton. a. It's a selfconsciously silly place. Even when it's cold, rainy and uncomfortable, Brighton's a town that's content and confident in what it is. Saturdays in Brighton may be busy as hell, it's never terrifyingly packed. When I moved here two years and a month ago, I had no sense of what I was going to be doing here, apart from the facts: I was going to study here, and I was going to do stand-up. b. The stand-up scene is amazing. Everyone I met through doing stand-up, as an arrivée from the great big ol' foreign, with no confidence in my own abilities, was endlessly lovely and ended up actually being pretty fucking instrumental for my continuing stand-up at all. c. The city is absurdly beautiful. When I arrived on Friday night, after sixteen hours on a coach, I have to admit: I had a little cry. It almost didn't seem real, especially since part of me never really thought I'd ever make it back (For the reason of this, either ask me, or watch my 2015 Edinburgh show Can I Be Honest For One Moment (And Never Again After That)). But I have. Hooray. d. The ocean is there. I like the sea. e. The University of Sussex is a really cool place. One of my favourite places in the universe actually. I'm going to be there for a number of days from Monday, working on my BA dissertation (finalement) and meeting up again with old friends.

But first: I've been having lower back pain for a couple of weeks, ever since I first did boxing. Boxing, Jorik? You may ask? You don't seem like the violent type? I know, I'm a wuss. But I tried it out one evening, and I enjoyed it massively. It's the best workout possible, and even though I was clocked in the nose 5 times, I really enjoyed it. But I do think I may have pulled a tendon in my lower back. What you need to know is that I'm quite a tall man, 6'4'', so I usually am hunched over something or other anyway.  Usually a book, often a laptop. Which is not good for one's lower back anyway. Thirdly, I'm on the way back from being really quite fat indeed, and most of me is packed around the waist-area. I admit, I'm a great hug, but it's not as erotically powerful as one would wish. Fourthly, I spent most of Friday on a coach, which isn't good for anyone. Meaning that by the time I'll get back to Amsterdam, my back will be fucked and I'll have to hire a prostitute to just stand on it for four hours, whilst I read Balzac.

Secondly, I'm really enjoying rekindling friendships and just chatting to people I mostly haven't seen for over a year. I've changed significantly, and mostly, so have they. What I appreciate most is the capacity for kindness that seems to exist, even when you've been away for such a long period of time. And the chats are really good. Like you'd expect adults have about their lives, you know. It's genuinely empowering and I feel that friendships are cemented and I even have found people who were allright with chatting for an hour or more with a strange Dutchperson. This can only be described as a good thing. To those people: endless thanks, you know who you are etc.

Today (the 22nd) I was to make my first foray back onto the Sussex campus. I bought a ticket for the train, but chose the discounted ticket, thinking my 16-25 railcard would still be valid. I was wrong. An incredibly friendly ticket inspector (I know, it's an oxymoron. But he genuinely was) kindly informed me that I was travelling on the wrong kind of ticket and in the friendliest possible manner told me I had to pay a 20 pound fine. I then told him I a. didn't have an address in the U.K., since I was just over for the week and b. my working bank card was a Dutch one. He then sighed and said: ok, this is probably going to cost us more in the end, and let me go! All of my ideas about ticket inspectors changed. I think I may be in love.

Sussex campus was a bit dreary. I expected to be hit by a deep sense of belonging and emotional connection as I had on Friday night, but it wasn't like that. I did of course remember everything about it, I saw the ghosts of my past selves swerve past (metaphorically, I am NOT psychotic) and it felt sort of right. But without the entire emotinoal hoo-hah that I initally expected. Sussex is still, you know, Sussex. I couldn't find a wifi connection either, since I'm now officially a past student. Ouch! The rest of the day was spent chatting to friends in and around Falmer bar. I tried to read some Beckett but I couldn't get through it. I just wasn't in the mood that I thought I would be. And so many of my friends from back then had, of course, already left. The Sussex I was at in 2010-2011 didn't return to me, as I vainly expected it to. Not to say it wasn't worth it. Going back tomorrow.

P.S. Oh, balls! I forgot about the Zombies! On Saturday, I spent most of the day in a Starbucks in the centre of Brighton, trying to read and failing. What surprised me in particular was that, after a while, people in zombie outfits started to walk past. There were people just walking with bits of their faces hanging off in a theatrical fashion, there were others who were more into it, shuffling in and out of view. One guy really went for it and started to attack the front window to get to girls who were sitting on the other side. But my favourite has to be the zombie in the banana suit. Gave a whole new meaning to compost. Amazing. Gotta love Brighton.