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Archive for the ‘Waiting’ Category

I’m typing this from the security of my flat. I came home from work tonight and deadbolted my bank vault style front door. I then called a friend and asked her to alert me if there was any danger in my neighborhood. I’ve decided not to watch any more news tonight. Absorbing the news on the riots was making me feel like a prisoner in my home.

This smells of terrorism. For the first time in my life I’ve uttered the words at work “I’m sorry, but we’re closing early due to civil unrest.”

“Wow,” said one of my yoga teachers, Gabriella. “The country I grew up in was a war zone. It feels like I’m back there.”

My mind brings up newspaper and television style images of war torn foreign countries seen across oceans. I’ve been so grateful in the past not to have experienced such things.

But now I’m seeing this all differently. I’m cautious, but not devastated. My house is fine. None of my friends are hurt. It’s still a little distant, but I can see it with my own eyes. There’s another shift too. I’m seeing the difference between the truth and the media portrayal.

I took the bus home late last night after working. I was aware of the riots, but oblivious to the level they had reached. The atmosphere around town was eerily quiet. People were being just a touch too polite for this to be London. I checked my Facebook page and was confronted with a steady stream of riot related updates. I decided that I was sticking my head in the sand and that I really should turn on the television. The next three hours were consumed by BBC and Twitter. The BBC kept asking people to check on their kids. I thought it was touching that the British were so concerned about the safety of the next generation, until I finally understood that the majority of the looters were indeed children.

I was so tired but I was afraid to go to sleep without a conclusion. Perhaps that’s a product of our TV culture. We want everything to be wrapped up neatly before we leave it. To be honest, I was more afraid of nightmares than I was of a break in. My neighborhood was still untouched, but the youtube videos were daunting. One moment a group helps a bleeding disoriented kid up off the street, the next moment they rob him. As Gabriella says, we all embody the good, the bad and the ugly, but this is a darkness I just can’t understand. Correction. This is a darkness I don’t want to understand. I don’t want to believe this is a naturally occuring state of humanity, but my eyes are now wide open.

I stayed up until I absolutely couldn’t. It worked- I slept through the night.

As I didn’t have to work until evening time, I knew I had two options on how my day would go. 1.) I could sit at home obsessively watching TV, checking Twitter and damning humanity. 2.) I could pitch in and help with #riotcleanup. I chose the second option. The first choice was never really an option.

How do you pack for a riot cleanup? I don’t know, so I went with water, trash bags, a shovel and garden clippers. The garden clippers ended up being unnecessary. I made my way to Clapham Junction figuring that I would spot the other anti-rioters in progress. I arrived to find about 500 people standing around with brooms and trashbags.

Many had already been to areas like Camden and Hackney cleaning up. They reported that with the sheer numbers of people it only took twenty minutes. Others had arrived at 9 am only to be turned away. Forensic testing needed to be completed before the cleaning commenced.

Typical crowd member: broom, home made shirt (trust me), staying connected through social media

The atmosphere was one of camaraderie. People were making shirts and posters. They were talking to one another and meeting strangers. The attitude was of “we’ll do this everyday if we have to, and we’ll do it with a smile.” I honestly had more fun meeting similar civic-minded people who fight fear and rage with love and grace than I could ever imagine having rioting. And that’s not because I don’t get angry.

Lovely girls with home made t-shirts.

As we waited, a man from Sainsbury’s came out to pass out water. Battersea Art Centre brought over loads of sandwiches. We shared food and stories.

Sainsbury's passes out water

Sandwich boxes from Battersea Art Centre

The crowd was not without it’s diversity. An elderly lady named Brenda came out to join. She had been out the night before challenging the thugs who were destroying her community. “Why don’t you go to a movie?!?” she asked one. “Because there’s nothing on,” he told her.

Brenda

We played the Mexican Wave with our brooms. (That’s just simply “the wave” in the U.S.) We dubbed ourselves the Broom Army.

Broom Army

The atmosphere was much livelier than when I had first arrived:

First arrival: Fire and police men in the distance at work.

I waited several hours in total as the officials carried on. The firemen in the distance are hosing down a party supply store. The looters raided the store for masks to hide their identity from CCTV and police while engaging in their debauchery. Surely that’s the type of clever thinking that when channeled appropriately could benefit our society instead of destroy it.

And that’s the theme that keeps popping up. As adults, how can we direct those who feel helpless when budgets are cut and futures are bleak? How can we help them channel their rage into something productive, good for society AND them? – not just the people at the top. Or at least we could teach them to protest properly. The riots were not a protest. Unintentionally, the cleanups were.

This is not the Big Society - we're just here to clean.

The rumor had hit that Boris Johnson was on the way. We instantly read from twitter that he had been heckled while addressing others in the area. As we saw him approaching, the resentment started to bubble. The crowd began chanting “Where’s your broom?” Lucky for him, someone passed him a broom. He stood in front of the crowd and addressed the cameras. I was standing near the front, but did not hear a single word he said. At this moment, I began to feel like a prop. A loving grassroots movement to clean up our community was turning into a PR opportunity.

I kept reminding myself and others “It doesn’t matter. We came here to clean.” Finally we were let go to do the job.

Finally.

The streets were clear at this point and most of the shops were asking the cleanup crew to stay out. Hundreds of people milled around the streets looking for things to pick up, but feeling largely useless. There was some cleaning going on, but mostly the feeling was of community support.

Some cleaning to do

Appreciation.

Some of the stores were passing out snacks and drinks to the clean up crew. Starbucks was there with coffee. Jamie Oliver’s Recipease had cupcakes. M&S had sweeties. “Great PR for you” a woman told the Starbucks crew. A little cruel, but indeed it’s hard not to be cynical.

Coffee

This lack of cleaning left a lot of time for gawking. The reason I hadn’t brought my fancy camera was exactly to avoid this. I did not want this to be a voyeur experience, but I guess some gawking was unavoidable.

T.K. Maxx Store Front

The Curry's was completely wiped out.

It was interesting the stores that were chosen. They seemed to be ones the rioters patroned themselves, like a backlash at their own consumerism. Many of the stolen goods were destroyed in the street and not even taken home.

I left at this point as I was of absolutely no help.

I sat by a police officer on the bus on my way to work. The city is now swarmed with them.

We gave each other knowing glances. He looked at the Battersea love sticker I had acquired.

“I don’t think I was much help, but I think my presence was appreciated,” I said.

“I’ve been working very long hours today. I’m going home to my family now,” he said.

“Get some rest and good luck,” I told him.

He exited the bus and stopped to wave from the sidewalk. I waved back, not knowing how to process this exchange or the past 24 hours.

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It was probably 1994 when my brother popped his head into my bedroom and said “Hey, you know that song by Nirvana? The he’s the one who likes all our pretty songs and he likes to sing along… one?”

Me: “Um, yeah.”

Brother, with a snarky smile: “Do you know what it means? Heh.”

Me: “Yeah, it’s about someone who sings along to a song and doesn’t know what it’s about.”

Brother: “Oh…. Yeah.” He was defeated in his attempt at a dig.

Little did he know that I’d been following his choices in music for a few years by then. He would voraciously read Spin and Rolling Stone and I in return would flip through his CD collection and make mental notes.

These days I still pay attention to what bands he’s listening to. The difference is that we now openly share good music and he respects my taste in return.

So when he told me to check out Group Love, I did. And then when he told me I absolutely HAD to respond to their ad for people to be in a music video, I did.

That’s how I found myself in a house in Dalston on the hottest day of the year hanging out with about 20 other extras and the band. I left with several impressions.

  • Being an extra is really monotonous and only to be undertaken when paid or for a project you really believe in.
  • People who have random Mondays off and choose to spend them as an extra in a music video are an interesting lot.
  • Group Love are really down to Earth nice people who deserve all the success in the world.
  • Listening to a song on repeat for about 8 hours straight is a guaranteed way to get the song stuck in your head. Take me to your best friend’s house, dun nah – dah nah – nah nah nuh…

Being an extra involves being good at waiting.

We were rewarded for our hard work with a private impromptu performance of songs other than Tongue Tied.

Grouplove Private Performance

A few days later, I was already going through withdrawals. Group Love was performing at Bar Fly in Camden. I scrambled up some tickets, called up fellow extra, Holly, and went to check out the sold out show. I love it when bands play small intimate shows. I hope they get really huge, but sadly that will ruin my chances for having a repeat experience.

Click here to see the video for Tongue Tied. If you pay close attention, you can see me pushing through the crowd at about 3:39.

Group Love’s debut album, Never Trust A Happy Song, arrives September 13. Check them out, they rock.

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The night before the Royal Wedding, the Mall and Buckingham Palace were already packed with people who had flown across the world to sleep in a tent in a foreign country’s public park along side strangers. Their dedication made me envious. I knew it was impossible to sleep in a comfortable bed AND get a glimpse of the royal couple on their wedding day. You can guess which option I chose.

The dedicated hailed from many backgrounds with the Americans making a big showing. Also making a big showing were flags and pajamas.

Pajama Party along the Mall

These ladies were making it a Girl's Night Out

Home sweet home

Having a kip. (That means nap.)

This guy offered to trade me a cupcake for a kiss. Thanks, but I'm not hungry.

Country of Georgia, represent!

Texas girls, represent!

We all know why the souvenir shop owners are smiling.

Prepared for the big day.

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789 Wandsworth Rd
Lambeth SW8 3JQ

020 7498 5630

Has anybody noticed the glut of car repair shops over in Wandsworth? It seems there’s an entire row of them. I took the car to Wandsworth to have the oil changed. The man told me it would take an hour and a half. The hour and a half ended up being three and a half hours. I stopped into The Roastery in North Clapham to kill some time and manage the extreme appetite I had not initially planned for.

The sign outside promised brunch and coffee good enough for a Clapham coffee snob. The small cafe is fun and welcoming with free wifi and really great music. The barista was friendly as she let me down gently. Brunch is only served Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Panic, then acceptance. “Well, what is that girl in the corner eating?”

The barista pointed to the most lovely looking bagel sandwiches. She described what was in them but all I heard through my hunger was “deliciousness, deliciousness, deliciousness.” Context clues told me that one was vegetarian and one was smoked salmon.

“Great, I’ll take that one. And one of these baked goods? Afghan cookie made with cocoa and cornflakes? Yes, please. Oh and a Latte.” I was fully aware that my eyes were much bigger than my stomach but I was beyond any notions of self control.

I found a seat and relaxed into it. No telling how long the car was going to take at this point, but this was a place I could happily chill at for a while.

Afghan Biscuit

Interesting enough, Afghan biscuits are not from Afghanistan at all. They are a traditional New Zealand treat. The menu and condiments at the Roastery subtly incorporate  the owners’ Antipodean heritage.

 

Latte served with brownie treat

Bagel sandwich

The barista brought out sample Spirulina smoothies to try. The other patron looked at the glass of bright green with curiosity but I dove right in to the algae laced drink. The sweetness of banana overpowered any flavor that might be mistaken as slightly too healthy. I slurped up my tasty and refreshing smoothie while eyeing the price board. For more than £4 a smoothie I hope it is a large serving size.

Afghan biscuit + bagel sandwich + latte = £8. A little pricey for Clapham, but for a cozy place with wifi and friendly staff, I would definitely come back.

The Roastery on Urbanspoon

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Photo not mine.

I have two modes when it comes to making it to the airport for a flight. I am either extremely early or barely make it. The other weekend I happened to be extremely early.

Husband and I went to our usual Gatwick pub for a pre-flight beverage and sub-standard reheated frozen snack. I approached the counter and made my order. The bartender squinted. “Um, can I see some I.D?”

The legal drinking age in the UK is 18. I am no longer anywhere near 18. I call bullshit on anyone who wants to tell me I look younger than 18. Nonetheless, I’ll take this as a compliment. I know bartenders in the UK are trained to I.D. anyone who doesn’t look 25. I like to believe that I can pass for 25.

I go to retrieve my passport and make it back to the counter. “Ah, American” he says when he sees it. “You know, I love some American accents. Some of them are really nice. Yours is really nice.”

“Thank you,” I reply. This is a nice surprise. I usually get told that American accents sound like a British person with a mouth full of bubble gum.

He feels the need to go on. He’s compensating with friendliness for having asked for I.D. “Some of them are really bad. Like Texas accents. I hate Texas accents. They are awful.”

I thank him again as I grab my beer.

“Where in the U.S. are you from?” he asks.

“I’m from Texas,” I reply as I prepare to walk away.

His face goes blank and he lets out a stutter.

Awkward.

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picture not mine

Sorry for the lapse in posts. I’ve been in the U.S. waiting on my visa and it’s taken much longer than expected. I spoke to an immigration lawyer before I left to find out how to streamline the process. Frankly he didn’t know what the hell he was talking about. There goes a wasted 100 quid.

I’ve had a great time in the U.S. but it’s gotten quite frustrating as I’ve been doing some couch surfing and the visa office does not provide you with any kind of status update. I don’t think my friends that said I could crash with them realized it would be 2 months, and 2 months in the U.S. without a car or job can start to get pretty brutal. I’ve gotten really good on the road bike and I’ve gotten to travel around a bit via train, hitching rides with friends, borrowing cars (and wrecking them – oops, sorry M) and cheap airlines. I had to. Otherwise I was going to go crazy wondering how long this was going to take.

Well lo and behold I return to Austin from a week in New Orleans and my visa has finally been approved. I guess all I needed was a touch of the voodoo. For those of you wondering, I got off light. Only 34 working days to process instead of the predicted 50. I’m now a filthy immigrant on her way home. To her new home. Well, her old home that is new again. Confused? Yeah I’m having a bit of an identity crisis too.

I’ve been told I’m lucky to apply now, that the immigration environment in the UK is changing very rapidly. I’ll take my breaks where I can get them.

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