Archive | April, 2013

Z is for Zed

30 Apr

a-to-z-letters-zNow before you think I’ve taken the easy road on the final letter of this challenge, bear with me for a minute.

Remember, I live in America now, where Z = Zee. But for me Z will always = Zed.

I write about this because expats here tend to fall into one of two camps. Those who have embraced the U.S. of A and who say that you must adapt to their customs and those who cannot relinquish “how to speak proper like.” Guess which category I fall into?

I’m sorry can you imagine asking someone to pick a copy of the London A to Zee, or watching Zee Cars or heading to the Magic Roundabout and hearing Zeebedee instead of Zebedee being told it’s time for bed. Of course, if you’re American none of these will make sense to you.

Zebedee - Magic Roundabout

Zebedee – Magic Roundabout

And it’s not that I’m being deliberately annoying, it’s just very difficult for me to overcome a lifetime of doing things one way and then trying to do them another. Why does America have to be SOOO different? Why is it the ONLY country that writes its dates backwards – month, day, year instead of day, month, year. I’ve finally adapted I think but I cannot tell you how many cheques (they’re called checks here  – as are ticks – it gets confusing) I bounced in my time here trying to wrap my head round that.

Why is America the ONLY country that recorded its videotapes on NTSC when the rest of the world used PAL? This means I can’t play ANY of my videos collected over the years. Although, videos are becoming obsolete. And yes, I know I can convert them to CD, but that’s not the point I’m trying to make here.

I’ll also never be able to call a tomato a tomayto (I asked for tomato on my sandwich once and the guy thought I said broccoli!)or basil baysil or herb ‘erb, because as that brilliant British comedian Eddie Izzard (who I’m sure spells his name with a double zed not a double zee) points out quite clearly it’s pronounced Herb because “there’s a f***ing ‘H’ in it!”

And don’t get me started on dinner. Well, apparently an entree is a main dish. What? So what’s an entree? An “appetizer”. Oy.

Don’t get me wrong. I love America. I love being here. And while I will continue to put petrol in my car, I know Americans call it gas; that they have no idea what a fortnight is; that a pair of scissors is called a scissor; that they think a boot is a trunk and that “will call” is a noun.  I have learned these the hard way. I understand we are two people divided by a common language and I have adapted accordingly. But I will never call Zed “Zee” because I love Zebedee far too much. Actually I’m more of a Dougal fan – but that’s another story.

Y is for Yellow Blanket

29 Apr

a-to-z-letters-yI know my Mum reads my blog posts (hey, we all have to have a fan club and Mums make the best ones). And she’s probably the only one who knows EXACTLY what I’m talking about by this headline.

Major confession coming up. I was a security blanket baby (and toddler and small child). Yes. Just like Linus (but I did not suck my thumb). I vaguely remember a pink blanket with a bunny on it that I used to drag around everywhere, but I think that one disintegrated before I could walk. I think my Mum said she cut it up into small pieces at one point. I’m not sure. So my “yellow blanket” was really my second blanket but I still had it when I was very, very, young.

I would go NOWHERE without this blanket. Not to bed, not out the door, not in my pram, not ANYWHERE. And of course there were the horror stories where my parents would somehow wrest the thing away from me so it could be washed once in a blue moon; and of course they’d do it when they were going out one night and the babysitter had a mental breakdown because I WOULD NOT GO TO SLEEP without it. And the poor babysitter had to call my parents hysterical about the fact that I was hysterical. We may have traumatised a teenager for life.

 

Linus

Linus

I remember that blanket well. It was soft, and yellow, with a cream picture in the middle (can’t remember what it was). The blanket with satin edges. Now the satin is what I really wanted. I used to rub my face against it to fall asleep. Go figure. I loved the sensation of the satin on my face and lips as a small child and I found it soothing.

I don’t remember when I outgrew the blanket. But thankfully I did.  But because it was part of my childhood I held on to it. And yes, I still have it. It sits in a bag wrapped up in my linen closet. The satin edges have long since frayed away from the edges and it’s more a dirty mustard colour now than any shade of yellow. I haven’t looked at it in ages until now, when I pulled it out to take a picture of it and post it here. So here it is… my trusted yellow blanket!

My yellow blanket (old, frayed, tattered, but still mine)

My yellow blanket (old, frayed, tattered, but still mine)

Did you have a security blanket? A teddy bear? Something?

X is for Xerxes

27 Apr

a-to-z-letters-xThat’s Xerxes I to you. NOT Xerxes II.

Golly, I feel like I’m being a complete snob just mentioning him. But  come on, you come up with a letter X to write about?

So, no, I’m not some mad academic historian (with apologies to mad academic historians, some of whom are very good friends). I just happened to study Ancient History for my final exams in High School and let me just say as an aside to everyone who ever took an Ancient History class with Mr. Peter Crilley at Moriah College, aren’t you glad you did? Truthfully, he treated us like adults (even though we were in fact teenagers). He believed the best studying was done listening to opera, drinking red wine and eating excellent cheese. And he is the one who introduced me to Xerxes and the battle of Salamis et al. And he’s the one who taught me the meaning of hubris (courtesy of Xerxes’ colossal arrogance).

Xerxes of course, spectacularly lost the battle of Salamis in 480 BCE (Sorry. I went to a Jewish Day School, which is why we say BCE and NOT BC. But I digress). And, tying Persian/Greek wars into my Greek Tragedy drama school training (who knew at the time the paths would cross?), we learned that dear old Xerxes’ defeat was at the hands of his own hubris – very Greek tragedy. So much so, Aeschylus wrote a play entitled The Persians about the Persian attempt to invade Greece, which, as fate (very Greek) would have it, we did indeed study in drama school. What goes around, comes around, I guess.

220px-Xerxes_I

Just think where Greece and/or Persia (Iran now) would be today if Xerxes didn’t have such a huge ego and could have won the battle of Salamis? And with a link back to my Ophelia theme, may explain why I’ve also never met anyone who named their kid Xerxes.

W is for Writing Contests

26 Apr

a-to-z-letters-wFinally, I have bitten the bullet and actually decided to write about what I actually do for a living… writing. It seemed a “case of the bleeding obvious” to write about writing so I thought I’d write about something specific to writing: ie/ writing contests.

Up until now I really didn’t feel my novel was in good enough shape to submit to writing contests, but the month of May is going to change all that. These contests don’t require you to submit your entire manuscript. How would the judges get ANYTHING done? No. Each contest is very specific about word count and submission guidelines. Some just want the first X amount of words; some want chapters: some want specific scenes.

And so, on my magnetic board on my office wall I have 7 contests I will enter for the month of May.  The entry fees aren’t that exorbitant (and yay, they are tax deductible anyway), but I feel it’s time to put my toe in the water and see how my bits and pieces of work will be received.

Now, I have heard all sorts of horror stories about contests. You can get awful judges who rip you to shreds while others praise you to the skies. I’ve heard of great stories too, where it’s helped people land an agent or a publishing deal. Either way, in order to tell my own stories of  joy or horror, it’s time I take the plunge.

 

2012-06wwfc-lettinggo-v2-600

The truth is, I’m excited to enter the competition world with this novel. At the end of the day, like most things in life, you have to be willing to put yourself out there. For me this is really about taking that step and entering. I’m tough enough to handle critiques. I’m also seasoned enough to know that these things are subjective up to a point and to be able to stand by my own work.

Also, by stating it here, on this blog, that I am entering SEVEN (gulp) competitions in the month of May, I’m now beholden to my word. Please kick my arse if I don’t stick to it.

V is for Velvet

25 Apr

a-to-z-letters-vFor me, velvet is the equivalent of sandpaper or nails running down a chalkboard.  Just thinking about running my hands over velvet (right AND wrong direction) sends shivers down my spine. Why is that? Does anyone else have the same weird sensation when it comes to velvet?

And aside from Alannah Myles’ 1990 song Black Velvet, I can’t think of a single instance where an adult has worn velvet. I remember velvet dresses and velvet headbands as a kid. They seem to go hand in hand with patent leather shoes (also something adults don’t wear – unless you’re a hooker IMHO).

So what is it that makes velvet an “un” adult material? Do I need to check  Project Runway  to find out why grown women don’t wear velvet? I bet Tim Gunn would have an answer. He’d probably be able to “make it work,” too.

 

U is for Uncoordinated

24 Apr

a-to-z-letters-uYes, ladies and gentlemen, that would be me. One of the most uncoordinated people you’ve ever come across. In Australia if you’re uncoordinated you will be forever dubbed with the taunt “Unco!” Helas, that was me in school (probably still is).

The plain, unvarnished truth is that I have ZERO hand eye coordination. Maybe my kindergarten teacher should have spent more time teaching me to build lego. I don’t know. What I DO know is that you’re odds are better of winning the lottery than betting I’ll catch something you throw at me; be able to hit a ball with any form of bat or racquet, and forget my ever being able to colour inside the lines or even cutting out a shape along the line.

If I close my eyes I can recall the horror of being the Wing Attack during netball (Americans, I know you don’t play this game so please go Google it) and knowing I wouldn’t be able to catch it when someone threw it at me. Same horrors with hockey in England. I was also usually on the wing (what IS it about P.E. teachers always putting me on the wing?) and usually made sure I was running in the opposite direction to where I should be going. Have YOU ever been whacked on the shins with a hockey stick? Much better to run in the opposite direction.

In primary school I was much fought over when it came to picking teams. Oh the squabbles and the fights over me, which went something like this:

“We don’t want her. You take her!”

“No way. YOU take her!”

And so it would go.

Now apparently there is a logical explanation to why I am so UNCO, and it stems from the fact that I had childhood epilepsy. Because that supposedly REALLY screws up your brain. Or maybe it was the Dilantin that screwed me up? Who knows. I don’t think it matters in the grand scheme of things because it’s not like you can yell in the playground: “Hey, don’t throw that ball at me. My epilepsy will make me unable to catch it!” No. Best to remain silent. And suffer the scars.

Because, let’s face it, when you’re in school (especially in high school), nobody cares if you were on the winning debating team (I was); or if you were the best at drama club (according to the teacher I was); or if you won a Public Speaking Eisteddfod (I did). No, what was important was the sports you played. You should have heard the cheers when the boys or girls teams won their basketball/cricket/netball/football matches. Not a peep for us swots.

And of course there was the ritual humiliation of school sports carnivals – both the athletic and swimming carnivals. There  we’d be, divided into our Houses (Americans, thank goodness Harry Potter came along to explain houses). I’d be with Hillel House wearing our House colour (red) and dreading my turn on the field or in the pool. Unfortunately, one of our House teachers would rally us before the meet and bellow at us that we’d jolly well better sign up for every race we could because “YOU GET ONE HOUSE POINT JUST FOR JUMPING IN THE POOL!” The pressure to support your House (especially from this particular teacher) and win the carnival was immense. And that is how I came to have my terrible results listed in the local Jewish newspaper. They listed the 1st, 2nd and 3rd place winner. I came in 3rd! Me! Of course there were only three of us in the race. Hence my abysmal time printed in the Jewish News. And we won’t even mention that the other two finished WAY ahead of me and the entire school was standing around and waiting for me to finish my laps so that they could start the next race. The horror of it all! No wonder I became a writer.

people-falling-down

And it extended beyond sports. I have spent my life tripping/falling/walking into walls/spraining limbs and collecting bruises. My Dad once came home when I was little and said “Kelly, I have a present for you.” My sister protested that wasn’t fair. But Dad said she wouldn’t want the present. He was right. He’d bought me a box of bandaids because I was always getting into some kind of scrape.

We also won’t mention when I got my foot caught in the Ferris Wheel at the school fete when I was 9 and tore the ligaments in my foot. From then on Dad called it the Fete Worse Than Death. Sigh. My mother was afraid to send me off to camp because every time she did it usually landed up with a phone call home saying “Meet us at the coach with a pair of crutches for Kelly.”

Today, I wear my Unco badge proudly.  I still fall and bruise and scrape and walk into walls.  I politely decline tennis matches with friends and many laugh when I say “Oh no, you DON’T want to play sports with me. Trust me.”  They don’t believe me. But now, you – just like me  – know  better.

T is for T. S. Eliot

23 Apr

a-to-z-letters-tNot too long ago I was having dinner with some people when somehow the conversation turned to that great poet and playwright T.S. Eliot. Well, not all of the conversation. I think other people around the table were talking about other things, and though I can’t remember how it happened, I suddenly found myself spouting lines from The Lovesong of J. Alfred Proofrock with another person at the table. There we were exchanging great lines:

Let us go then you and I

When the evening is spread out against the sky

Like a patient, etherized on a table

Oh do not ask what is it

Let us go and make our visit

For those of you who are Eliot lovers, the conversation continued with Proofrock’s eternal procrastinations and observations including measuring out his life in coffee spoons, wishing he was a pair of claws scuttling across the floors of silent seas and of course, talking about the women coming and going and talking of Michelangelo. Oy!

Until that night I  really had not come across anyone since high school that could spout Eliot the way I could – and still can. Now, this is because as part of the HSC (Higher School Certificate – which is the equivalent of A levels or matriculation exams) – required us to cram two years worth of learning for each subject. And Eliot (along with John Donne – who is my true favourite), was one of the poets we had to study. And we studied a lot of his poems. As we had no idea in the exam which poem we’d be asked questions on and as we also had no idea if the poem would be printed on the exam paper (yes examiners can be bastards), we had no choice but to learn these poems by rote. And clearly they have still stuck with me. Or, should I say all the T.S. Eliot poems were stuck on my ceiling and bedroom walls (along with John Donne’s poems). That way I could see them, learn, them, memorize them and imbibe them. They were the last thing I saw when I fell asleep and the first thing I saw when I woke up. (Yes, I know, I had no life).

T.S. Eliot

T.S. Eliot

But think of the tradeoff? It’s a great party trick. I can spout poetry at the drop of a hat. Of course, nobody was really interested in all those poems I memorized in Sydney, until almost 30 years later at a restaurant  in Los Angeles. And I still have no idea why HE can spout Eliot, either. Nonetheless, I found a kindred Eliot spirit. I’m okay with Proofrock although the man is far too introspective. If I ever met him, I’d scream at him: “Oy! Just eat the damned peach already! You will NOT disturb the universe.” I hated The Wasteland, not a big fan of Journey of the Magi, but ADORED Rhapsody on a Windy Night (which you’ll recognize parts of if you see the musical Cats). Of course I imagine T.S. Eliot might be turning in his grave at what Andrew Lloyd Webber did to his work but that’s another story.

Still, Rhapsody has one of my favourite lines of all time. How can you not conjure up an incredible image in your mind with this simple sentence: Midnight shakes the memory like a madman shakes a dead geranium. Yes, the man could write. Even if, as teenagers we all giggled that T.S. Eliot is an anagram of the word toilets.

So, do you have a favourite poet/poem/line from a poem? Can you spout poetry at dinner parties? And has it improved (or destroyed) your social life?

S is for Serendipity

22 Apr

a-to-z-letters-sLike the word nonplussed, serendipity is one of those words that is often misused and misconstrued.

Today, it seems to have been watered down to the point well people employ the word to mean a case of good luck or good fortune or when something happens unexpectedly and the result is a positive one.

However, serendipity really means to stumble across something positive when you are not looking for it, or when you’re actually looking for something else.

I love the sound of the word and to be able to say that something was/is serendipitous would be wonderful. I love that there’s an ice cream parlour in New York (never been to it but have heard about it) called Serendipity. Even though it was completely sappy I also thought that movie with John Cusack called Serendipity was quite sweet. Of course I’ve never met a John Cusack movie I didn’t like.

But the truth is, when it comes to serendipity I’m not sure if I’ve ever been able to employ the word in its correct form. I’ve scanned my addled brain and can’t recall a time when I was actively seeking something else and stumbled across something else instead that turned out to be wonderful.

serendipity

So, while I like the word, the sound of it and the concept, I’m still unable to employ it myself. Have any of you had a serendipitous experience? If so, please share it. Maybe it will jog my brain and remind me that at some point in my life I did indeed have a moment of serendipity.

R is for Runcible Spoon

20 Apr

a-to-z-letters-rOf Edward Lear’s The Owl and the Pussycat of course!

They dined on mince and slices of quinceWhich they ate with a runcible spoon…

How can you not LOVE this word, or even try and conjur up what a runcible spoon looks like? To me it appears to be wooden with oddly shaped slotted grooves and lacquered black lines running through it. It just makes you want to eat something with one, no? Anything, really.

As a vegetarian, the mince wouldn’t work for me – unless it was a mince pie that is such a big hit in England. I think that’s just minced fruit. Not a fan of quince either – also a fruit. But everything must surely taste better for having dined with one, no?

I love Edward Lear’s gobbeldy gook that has the extraordinary ability to appeal to us as small children and stays with us as adults. Now that is a true gift.

I also love that my spell check keeps telling me with its angry red, hiccoughing lines that runcible is NOT a word. Ha!

Doing some research, I found that there’s a cafe in Bloomington Illinois called The Runcible Spoon and here’s the sign outside its door:

Runcible+Spoon+Cafe+&+Restaurant

Sweet, no?

So. What does a runcible spoon look like to you? And what would you eat with it?

 

Q is for Quinoa

19 Apr

a-to-z-letters-qThe super food!

I’ve decided that I need to alternate super heavy posts (like PKD with lighter fare). Hence the super food, quinoa, grown in the Andes.

As a vegetarian, I was delighted to stumble across this high-protein, high-fibre food. The fact that it is also considered acceptable to eat at Passover because it’s technically a seed and NOT a grain,  (don’t ask) is another blessing.

It’s also a blessing for those with wheat and gluten allergies. Quinoa contains none of these.

Like many vegetarian products (tofu anyone?), on its own, quinoa is rather bland. It doesn’t have much of a taste. But it’s wonderful because you can add anything too it. My favourite recipe is a quinoa citrus salad with lots of lemon and lime juice, chili peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers and cranberries. Delicious.

Plus, not only will people think you are hip and trendy eating this super food, it does in fact have fantastic health benefits.

Did you know that 1 cup of quinoa  (according to Mother Nature Network) has the following benefits:

  • 220 calories (70 percent carbs, 15 percent fat, 15 percent protein)
  • 40 grams of carbohydrates (13 percent daily value)
  • 8 grams of protein (16 percent of daily value)
  • 3.5 grams of fat (5 percent daily value with no saturated fat)
  • A glycemic load (blood sugar spike) of only 18 out of 250
  • 5 grams of fiber (20 percent of daily value)
  • 20 percent of daily value of folate (various forms of Vitamin B)
  • 30 percent of magnesium daily value (beneficial for people with migraine headaches); 28 percent daily value of phosphorous; iron (15 percent); copper (18 percent); and manganese (almost 60 percent)
  • all 8 amino acids
quinoa

quinoa

Google quinoa recipes and you’ll find a myriad of them. Easy to prepare, quick to cook, great to experiment with, good and good for you. What more could you want?