Swine cold

Or: Blame it on the bogies

Work had been hectic so I’d decided to take a week’s leave, with plans to spend a few days relaxing in Napier. Accommodation and travel were booked and I was all ready to go away for a lovely seaside holiday on Monday.

Then I got a sore throat.

But sore throats, they’re nothing really. All you need is some Strepsils and they’ll clear up, right? Except it didn’t clear up, and I just ended up feeling worse and worse. It was the penultimate day before my holiday started and I realised I wouldn’t be able to go to work the next day.

So I spent that Friday in bed, in a weird mix of blowing my nose, sending a million emails to work with “what to do when I’m away on holiday next week” instructions, and dealing with the news that – WTF – Michael Jackson was dead. Jesus, Michael Jackson, you think you could have picked a better day for it?

I was still optimistic that I’d have my seaside holiday. All I needed was a couple of day’s rest, right?

But Sunday evening came along and I wasn’t any better. I was lying in bed surrounded by a mountain of tissues, feeling awful, and coming to the realisation that I was in no fit state to travel. And even if I could teleport to Napier, the seaside holiday could only involve lying in bed, blowing my nose.

Twitter transcripts show I was falling into a pit of despair:

@robyngallagher Sick and now miserable for bonus emo action! Will I be well enough to go away on holiday tomorrow? Respiratory system says no.
9:06 PM Jun 28th from web

But while looking at a list of symptoms of swine flu, I noticed that depression was a possibility. I figured the same probably applied to whatever was ailing me. Which made me feel better, as it made me feel worse.

My bedridden days were occupied by going through my League of Gentlemen DVDs, including the commentary tracks and special features. Then the gods of television gifted me the first couple of episodes of of “Psychoville”, the new series by Reece and Steve of the League (clowns, dwarfs, eBay). I rounded this out with the latest series of UK Big Brother (Russian ladyman, lovesick Indian, furry-hatted toff). It made up for the human interaction I’d been missing.

Slowly, as the week passed, I began to feel more human. I set myself small daily tasks – walking down to the shops, seeing a movie. I found myself seeing “The Hangover” in a cinema full of other coughing, spluttering people; my people.

Finally I went to the doctor and he said I had a viral respiratory infection, but probably not swine flu. OK, so we call this a swine cold. I was prescribed some bad-ass cough syrup with morphine in in. Aw yeah.

I’m now at the stage where I can keep the runny nose and the cough under control with the help of the coff-b-gone and some nasal spray. But venturing out into the outside world is still a bit weird.

Walking along Cuba Mall today, it felt like I was one of the few the survivors of an apocalyptic virus, returning to the society where nothing would ever be the same. The streets, oh, they were cold and empty. I returned to the comfort of my bed, and blamed it on the opiates.

My holiday has been postponed.

Every day is like Easter Sunday

I was thinking about Easter Sunday, and how most of the shops are shut and there’s nothing much to do. And I wondered what I’d done on previous Easter Sundays.

So invoking the Official Information Act, I pulled out my box of old diaries from under my bed and googled them with my eyes, to bring you this exclusive report, starting in 1992 when I was 18:

Things I have done on previous Easter Sundays

1992: Crank-called that lady with the eyebrows; went to Auckland Zoo.

1993: Totally sick of my parents treating me like a child! Watched “Clue” on video.

1994: Felt a bit sick.

1995: Drove back from Lang’s Beach. Watched “Say Anything” on video.

1996: Vowed to save logs from IRC to create a “cyber My Secret Garden”.

1997: Saw “Jerry Maguire” at the movies. Thought it was ok but not as great as the hype suggested.

1998: Hung out with a fellow sporting George Michael facial hair (gay!), listened to Gene Pitney (gay!) and the Verlaines (not gay).

1999: Ate burgers at Milford Beach with a nice boy.

2000: Slept for most of the day. Wondered what hot yoghurt would taste like.

2001: Had a really bad bagel.

2002: Wondered if it was ethical to only hang out with someone when he was drunk because he was more fun drunk than when he was sober; embroidered.

2003: Read Andrew Dean’s review of the previous night’s Sly and Robbie concert – like a 2 1/2 hour blowjob, he reckoned.

2004: Was plagued by sneezing, but couldn’t get any antihistamines or aloe vera tissues as the shops were shut.

2005: Saw “I Heart Huckerbees”. Liked that bit in the mud with Schwartzman.

2006: Came up with a concept for a television programme: Bargain Cunt, where wankers buy second homes, building their cunting property investment portfolios. Discovered someone else had already thought of it, sans swearing.

2007: Thought I’d discovered a fixed outcome of a popular reality TV show, only to discover it was just a dummy script.

2008: Did some packing. Took my postcards down from the lounge room wall.

2009: Watched the Doctor Who special. Noted that Wellington on Easter Sunday felt like Hamilton on any Sunday in the ’80s. Wanted to watch “Say Anything” but the iTunes Store didn’t have it, so I watched “Tropic Thunder” instead.

The only conclusion I can make from the above is that Easter Sunday brings out an urge in me to watch Cameron Crowe films.

25 things

It’s that “25 things about me” list. Back in the olden days, the days of LiveJournal, these used to go around all the time and I’d never do them. But now it’s on Facebook, which is social media and cool, etc, so I’ll do it too.

Incidentally, this has taken me over six hours to write.

1. I can write backwards almost as well as I can forwards. I taught myself how to do it when I was 20, after seeing “The Last Seduction” and being impressed that the main character could do it (among other things).

2. Auckland suburbs I lived in, in chronological order: Parnell, Grey Lynn, Mt Eden, Newton, Mt Eden, St Mary’s Bay, before finally settling (ha!) in Mt Eden. All are within 5km of the city centre. I like to be within walking distance of the city and not reliant on a car.

3. My mother’s mother’s side of the family was dead posh Devonport stock, but my morphine addict great-grandpappy ended up drinking away the family fortune.

4. The first boy I had a crush on was Adam Ant, circa “Goody Two Shoes“. Sadly it didn’t work out – I was 8, he was 20 years older than me, lived in England and didn’t know I existed. I grew up disappointed at most men’s refusal to wear eyeliner.

5. I don’t like beaches. This probably makes me a bad New Zealander. It’s mainly the sand, but also the wind. Sand is, as a wise man once said, just dirt with better PR.

6. I grew up in a rural area on a “lifestyle” section. I don’t know what kind of lifestyle it was supposed to be – all I remember was feeling oppressed by its emptiness, and having an eternal longing to live in a city. I didn’t want a pony; I wanted concrete and public transport and people.

7. I’ve always like the culture of writing and photography around surfer and skater culture, even though I’m a complete outsider to surfing and skating. Dude.

8. I’ve never really had a nickname, possibly because Robyn is itself a diminutive of Robert (ugh!). But someone once called me Bob Marley, which was funny in a not-actually-funny kind of way.

9. If I travel overseas, I want to explore. I could never be satisfied relaxing by a hotel pool.

10. I received news of the 9/11 attacks on 11 September as I was in Melbourne. I was in bed, reading David Sedaris’s book “Me Talk Pretty One Day”, and was actually more interested in reading that than hearing about, woteva, some guy who’d flown a plane into a building.

11. I am a published poet, though under a pseudonym. I have also performed poetry in Newcastle, Australia, and spoken word in Melbourne. I am evidently depriving New Zealand audiences of my talent.

12. I really like living in Wellington. It feels like I am actively living here, rather than it just being where I happen to reside. I should also note that my 11 years in Auckland were splendid, but in a different way.

13. I’m a bit superstitious, which annoys me.

14. Best present – the Walkman I got for my 11th birthday. Suddenly music became more complex, lyrics clearer and so much more enjoyable. I eventually moved on to a CD Walkman, then an iPod. It’s portable pleasure.

15. The first building that thrilled me was the Beehive. On a family holiday in Paraparaumu in 1983, we got the train to Wellington. Straight out of the train station, I looked up and saw the Beehive and I got chills – moderne classical brutalist chills.

16. I left Hamilton in 1997 after I realised I just didn’t want to live there any longer. The last straw was when I was walking home along Clyde Street and someone in a car threw the slushy remains of a McDonald’s Coke at me. That did it.

17. I have Trinity College London’s level eight certificate in choral speaking. This consisted of performing an abridged version of Janet Frame’s short story “The Reservoir” (without the bit about condoms) and Keith Thorsen’s poem “Chit Chat“… for what good it did me.

18. I once lived on Karangahape Road. One night when I was walking home, a crusty old drunk asked me if I’d have sex with him for money. I got a bit depressed, thinking “Is that really the kind of clientele I’d attract if I were a ho?” Cos, you know, I’d always envisioned myself as one of those high-class prostitute types.

19. I’ve been thanked in the acknowledgements for a book that won a Montana Book Award, after lending the author my MC OJ and the Rhythm Slave CD. Though the book I was thanked in wasn’t the book I helped with, because the author forgot.

20. When I was in Paris, I chose to visit Disneyland over Notre Dame. I threw a euro coin into Skull Rock Cove and wished for a messy, complicated love.

21. Growing up in Hamilton in the ’80s, my two favourite weekend outings were visiting the Building Centre – especially for the fountain of taps, the insulation demonstration and the Fanta machine – and going to the liquor store with Dad. Again, I stress “Hamilton” and “’80s”.

22. Someone once described me as screwball. Initially I resisted the label, but then I realised I wouldn’t be resisting it if it wasn’t true.

23. I’ve only wanted to be married at one point in my life: in 1998 I decided it would be good to be married so if a fellow hit on me, I could get all outraged and say, “Excuse me, but I am a happily married woman!” Otherwise, (conventional) marriage doesn’t appeal because it would involve me being a wife.

24. I’ve been to one polytech and two universities, but I never got around to completing any degrees. I have, however, had some of my writing used as course reading for a first-year English paper at the University of Auckland. I’m going to hold out for an honorary degree.

25. I’m a great believer in self-mythology and the ability to alter the past, present or future simply by writing down how you remember your story.

We always hang in a buffalo stance

Simon at The Opinionated Diner posted this old Peter Urlich music video, from a time in 1989 when Urlich was being pop/funk act called B Cup:

The song isn’t really worth listening to, but I found myself strangely drawn to the non-Urlich visuals in the video: shots of downtown Auckland, people drinking coffee, smoking cigarettes, sleek yet full late ’80s hair, hoop earrings, Lycra. It’s all very “Look at me! I am being very urban! I am cool!”

I was about 14 when this video was shot, and this was the life I coveted. Stuck in rural Hamilton, I dreamed of living in a art deco flat in Auckland, with a media job, and I’d get to go to parties and meet interesting people. (It’s that naive teenage thinking that says fulfilment comes from a checklist.)

It’s not like I consciously pursued that, but it all eventually happened. Last year I realised that all my 1989 dreams had come true. As soon as I realised that, I knew something had to change, and that’s one of the reasons I got a new job and moved to Wellington. I mean, who wants to live a 14-year-old’s dream life?

Unbalanced (literally)

A couple of weeks ago I had a really mild cold that just left me feeling a bit worn out. It seemed like it was all sorted, but then when I woke up on Saturday morning, something very odd had happened.

Everything felt… strange. It was like I was detached from the world, like there was a layer of delay between the way things were and the way I experienced them. I didn’t know what was going on, so I went to the doctor who diagnosed me with labyrinthitis, inflammation of parts of the inner ear that control perception of balance (otherwise known as the labyrinth).

Labyrinthitis is a pretty cool name for an ailment. In order to explain how it works, I have created this handy infographic:

labyrinth

So basically it means that the part of my inner ear that senses balance isn’t functioning properly. If I turn my head quickly, I get a woozy, spaced-out feeling. In fact, I’m pretty sure how I feel all the time is the sort of experience some people try to get when they use certain kinds of drugs – out of it as, bro. But I like to be in control of everything, including my senses. I do not like my inner ear telling my brain LIES.

The other annoying thing is the vocabulary I have to use to describe how I’m feeling: I feel spaced out, unbalanced, dizzy. But all of these terms can also be used metaphoricially to describe states of mental health. So I feel the need to say “I feel unbalanced – literally! I’m not mentally unbalanced! I just a bit wobbly!”

Fortunately it hasn’t all been motion sickness and misery. I’ve read Dana Thomas’s book “Deluxe: How Luxury Lost Its Lustre” and feel validated in not owning anything designer or blingy. And I’ve watched season one of the unexpectedly charming Psych on DVD; a slightly depressing documentary on the consequences of peak oil, The End of Suburbia; and the very first episode of Gloss (awesome!) and the documentary Architect Athfield on the brilliant new NZ On Screen website.

Now all I need to do is wait for my immune system to confidently say to the Virus of Disorientation, “You have no power over me,” and I can go back to just being metaphorically wobbly.

How’d my dance card get so full?

Oh, hi. I’m living in Wellington now. I’m rather enjoying it.

I was planning on writing something earlier, but I got all sensitive artist about where I was going to write. I realised Virginia Woolf was right about needing a room of one’s own to write. And it took a while to get the interwebs connected.

I flew down on a rainy Auckland afternoon. Now the awful rainy weather has been seared in my memory as “Auckland”, alternating with a blissful, tropical summary image that somehow has palm trees and white sand around Queen Street.

For the first three weeks I stayed with Jo and Stephen, who were kind and lovely and let me use their spare room, which is really all one needs. I shall give a naive 1990s R&B/pop-album-note-style shout to them: “Yo, peace! Thanks for the spare room. Say no 2 drugz!”

Then I found a flat, centrally located, and have managed to figure out where the nearest awesome coffee place is (Schoc, 11 Tory Street).

I’m not exactly sure what I was expecting the move and settling in to be like, but it’s turned out to be surprisingly easier than it seems it should. It hasn’t been without a few hassles or emo interludes, but it’s gone rather well for the whole ‘moving to another city and starting a new job’ thing.

Oh, but I know what you’re thinking. “Robyn, tell us, wot r some of the differences between Auckland and Wellington that you have noticed so far plz?”

All right, here you go:

Weather
I never had to pay attention to the weather in Auckland. It was usually grey and overcast, sometime a bit more sunny, other times a bit more rainy. But in Wellington, I’ve started reading the weather report. I know now what a southerly feels like. I’ve also had the unusual experience of coming indoors after some extremely windy weather and discovering that the wind appeared to have opened a wormhole to 1987 and brought back my hairstyle from when I was 12 years old.

Public Transport
I used buses quite a bit in Auckland, and I noticed that most of my fellow bus-goers were students or people in lower socio-economic groups. In other words, they were taking the bus because it was cheap. Whereas in Wellington, I see business people taking buses and trains to work. They look like they could easily afford to drive to work but choose not to.

Trains
I’m living in Wellington but working in the Hutt Valley. The quickest way to work is the train. Trains are still a novelty for me – it’s all a bit Thomas the Tank Engine, wahey, toot-toot, etc. I’m lucky that I’m travelling against the rush hour so I can enjoy the luxury of near empty carriages. When the full trains pull into the station in the morning, I don’t envy the sardine-like commuters.

Foods
It boils down to this: more Malaysian satay, fewer Chinese and Middle Eastern. More Japanese restaurants, but hardly any takeaway sushi places. And cafes are more likely to have affogato on their espresso menu, which is just fine with me. Also, I highly recommend the Kiallas Greek cafe in Newtown – especially their pancakes.

48Hours Film Competition
I sadly couldn’t take part this year with Fractured Radius, my old team in Auckland (not that they needed me: they just went ahead and make a totally brilliant serious film – serious! – that’s scored them a place in the Auckland finals!), so I volunteered to help out with Wellington. This involved handing out ping-pong balls on kick-off night, marking off completed films on the Sunday night, and helping with the judging process. As always, hard work but tons of fun.

The main difference between Auckland and Wellington 48Hours films is that the landscape seems to play a greater part in Wellington films. It’s harder to pretend that Lambton Quay is downtown Chicago, or that Lower Hutt is Central Park. Auckland is dirty streets, Wellington is hills and flats and harbour and sharp shadows.

By the way, the Wellington final is on Wednesday at the Embassy theatre. You should come. It’s going to be good.

Closeness – Things
Everything is close in Wellington. I like that I can walk places and go to things without having to work out some sort of elaborate transport plan. If it’s not a little walk away, it’s a pleasant stroll away.

Closeness – People
I’ve lost count, but it seems that about half my workmates know someone who I also know. I’ve already had the experience of walking down the street and running into people I know. This might seem ordinary, but it barely happened to me in Auckland, and only seemed to happened frequently to hugely social people.

Now, if you will excuse me, I need to figure out how to unpack three rooms worth of stuff into one room without it looking like the abode of a crazy Trade Me lady.

Nothing better

bFM’s music documentary series Inside Track recently looked at the Hamilton music scene. Yay.

It was interesting listening to it, because it sounds like things changed quite dramatically around the time I left Hamilton.

Back in my Hamilton gig-going days (1993 to 1996), there were two main venues – the Wailing Bongo at Waikato University, and the Exchange Tavern on Victoria Street.

The Bong’ could comfortably accommodate popular touring bands (Supergroove, Shihad, various Flying Nun artists), but also worked for local bands. For example, Mobile Stud Unit’s Superstar Extravaganza packed out the Bongo bar with all local bands in 1995.

The Exchange was a much smaller venue, decorated in ye olde Hamiltonia style. It suited local bands more, but I remember Garageland packing the place out in 1995.

There are other venues like the Hillcrest Tavern (more mainstream) and the Downunder Bar (bogans) and Governor’s Tavern. And the vile Outback Inn was rumoured to host bands, but the only music I ever heard there was cheesy European dance music. And Kenny Rodgers’ “The Gambler”.

Anyway, according to the people interviewed on the Inside Track doco, the Waikato Student Union was taken over by a group of right-wingers who promptly sold off the Wailing Bongo and student radio Contact FM. Without a venue and a means of promotion, the scene took a few blows.

But despite this, there are still a whole lot of really good bands coming from Hamilton. In the documentary, Geoff from the Shrugs says that because Hamilton is so small and everyone knows everyone, you can’t be a rock star – everyone will see through it all – so the only thing left is to be a musician.

Another thing that comes up in the documentary is the feeling that some people look back at the live scene in the mide ’90s as a golden age, and wish things were like that now.

But back then, there weren’t always good bands playing. Sometimes all there’d be to see was some lame bogan rock covers band. Sometimes staying at home was a better option than going out.

My main complaint with growing up in or near Hamilton was that it was so boring. There was nothing to do. But the good thing about this is that rather than relying on some vibrant arts and culture scene to entertain me, I had to learn to make my own fun.

I think this is situation is still around in Hamilton, and it’s still one of the reasons people get together and form bands and create music. Because it’s Saturday and there’s nothing better to do.

Packing

I got a new job. It’s still in the fast-paced world of television, but whereas my old job was the feel-good public service side of telly, the new job is more commercial – a different kind of feel-good. And while it’s about the telly, I’m going back to my roots, as the job is all about the interwebs.

So that’s all new and exciting, but what’s even more new and exciting is that the new job is located deep in the Hutt Valley, meaning I’m going to have to move to Wellington in a few weeks.

Fortunately I like Wellington and its fine citizens, so I’m excited about the move. But my knowledge of the city is nowhere near as great as my knowledge of Auckland (or Hamilton!). I don’t know what kind of reputation different suburbs have, what sorts of areas I should live in.

But that’s a way off. At the moment I’m in the process of packing. I’ve been living at my current flat for over six years now (six years!), the longest I’ve lived in a flat, so it’s been a bit of an archaeological expedition as I’ve gone through all the stuff in my spare room.

At first glance, it looked a bit like the work of some crazy lady who buys things off TradeMe but just biffs the unopened boxes in the room. But even though there was a chaotic mess, I knew where everything was cos, like, it was all organically arranged, man.

But still, I managed to find a few things that I didn’t realise I had:

  • A sticker reading “UTBNB: Up The Bum No Babies”. (I assume you can stick it anywhere you like.)
  • A teach-yourself book on Irish Gaelic.
  • A vast collection of postcards. I knew I had quite a few, but I didn’t realise how many until I gathered them all together.
  • A badge from the ’80s saying “Telecom – I ♥ my customers”. Yeah, they had to get badges made as a reminder.
  • Too many bags. I would not consider myself a bag-loving’ gal, but yet there they were – too many bags. How did this happen?

I suspect I’ve been throwing out more than I’ve been packing. It’s easy to pack obvious things like books, CDs, DVDs, but then I’ll find and old notebook or a folder full of interesting bits of paper and I’ll want to keep it, but wonder, as it’s been in a drawer, untouched for the last six years, do I really need to keep it?

This is why nuns are content and crazy TradeMe ladies aren’t.

Seven, Eight

At the stroke of midnight I was walking with Morgan and Andy in the grassy bit behind Maclaurin Chapel at the university, talking about the benefits of protein bars (?!). In the distance people started cheering and fireworks started spewing out of the top of the Sky Tower, so I figured that 2007 had smudged into 2008.

Ol’ 2007 turned out to be quite a good year. As far as this goes, the thing I’m most pleased with was finally ditching LiveJournal and moving back to using WordPress on my own website. It’s a bit more work running things here, but I enjoy it.

So, yeah, that was fun. Let’s do it again this year.

MMVI

So that 2006, eh. It was a rather good year, yes?

I took a lot of photos.

I travelled a lot around the North Island, getting as far as Waitangi in the north, Napier in the east, New Plymouth in the west, and Wellington in the south. And Whangamomona. (I suppose this means next year I’ll have to go to Gore.)

I don’t want to pick favourites, but I had such a lovely time in Napier that I want to go back soon, and New Plymouth surprised me with its sophistication (even though the local cinema was sticky).

I survived the power cut that plunged Auckland into Third World poverty for a few hours. Boohoo, no latte, I’m an Aucklander, etc.

I had Lasik, which was a somewhat unpleasant experience, but being liberated from the need to wear bits of glass, metal and plastic on my face is just the best thing ever and has enhanced my everyday life in so many different ways.

I celebrated the 10th anniversary of my www cybertron web page thing. Actually, not celebrated. Maybe I’ll leave that for the 25th anniversary or the book launch.

I made another short film along with the talented and completely rad Fractured Radius team.

I cut a demo with my folk/industrial/grindcore band Protest Pyg, but it needs work.

I was part of an interesting discussion panel with Danah Boyd and others on the subject of MySpace and online communities. And later I shared what I learned with some people at work.

Ryan published some of my stuff in Craccum, and apparently someone complained that it was condoning date rape, which made me feel like it was 1998. I also told a story or two.

And some other stuff which I refuse to immortalise online.

Hey, that was fun. Let’s do it again in 2007.

MMVI