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Archive for June, 2008
Talking with a friend at lunch today, she described herself as a luddite. I had heard the term but could not get the context and did not know what she meant.
Apparently it was out of context, and the wrong use of the word, but she said it was a group of people who eschewed technology. She was describing herself that way, too. When did these people exist, and where?
In the time of Oliver Cromwell.
So what technology did they eschew? The wheel perhaps? Or the Bible? Printing presses or thumb screws? Chastity belts? My mind has been meandering around this for a few hours now.
On a lighter note, it is sunny and I am pale. The joys of travel and work. I met a delightful woman the other night who had just returned from her honeymoon in India, well, three weeks ago. She was brown. Wow. What colour she must have been when she returned denies thought, but I was pale and wan in comparison. My children are a lovely honey colour, my husband is healthy looking and I, I am not. What to do? Move the till outside is an option. Or hold my breath until August and then madly work on catching up. I think it is the best and least risk based plan.
And then of course I have to confront the joys of body image and the beach. A depressing ride through figleaves.com, their fuller figure section filled with 15 year old thighs and bellies and hidden away in the size guide it will tell me that the style I like does go up to a 16. But will I really look like a 15 year old? No. Damme. Do I want to? No. But I wish that the larger sizes were shown on the larger sizes. If I had nothing else going on in my life I would design swimwear and underwear. And I can assure you none of it would be a vertical stripe across my hips. Oh, so unflattering and oh, so uncomfortable. But I am enjoying other pursuits right now, and underwear designing is not on the list. So I will treat myself and try to buy a bikini by imagining my pneumatic and curve based body with in it.
On a slimmer note, I discovered that a Luddite ignores or rejects new thinking.
There have been several moments recently where I have felt like an ant. An unusual experience, not entirely pleasant at times, and at other moments, rather glorious.
The less than fantastic times are when trying to stand up to beaurocracy and be heard as a voice, amongst millions, by a Government or Council who are just not listening and want boxes ticked, I’s dotted and T’s crossed. Then it is easy to feel small and insignificant and on a treadmill. I can also was to rebel and start revolutions, but then I get distracted by the treadmill and forget my lofty ambitions.
But on the glorious front, I had to go to New Covent Garden Market this week. I buy flowers for the shop there. It is wonderful. A massive fridge filled with men selling flowers. Strangely bizarre, early in the morning, usually in the dark, the experience of such a profoundly laddish environment where the product is divine.
I bought my plants then headed out of the car park for a run. The sun was up, it was warm and glorious. I drive around the Vauxhall area every day but running it is quite different. I headed for Lambeth Bridge and ran past huge buildings and felt so little, so small, it was quite wonderful. Usually I run past houses and they whiz by comparatively quickly. But on the Embankment everything is enormous. I loved it, over the bridges, in the sun with the river wind. I wished it was my route every day.
The Jaipur to Delhi Highway is water soluble, and being driven along it in a monsoon since 5am this morning was a trip.
Huge holes gouged out of the Tarmac with dark, mangled trucks littering the side of the road, their axels twisted and wheels sheared off by the sudden impact
Of a massive crater taken at high speed.
I have found a great way to deal with the stress of high speed journeys where it is easy to imagine that all drivers have a death wish; I do my favorite meditation, the one for the Neutral Mind. It is discrete and highly effective. It allows me to totally let go of any control over my current realty other than complete acceptance of what is currently happening.
So I can close my eyes and relax into total bliss. Every now and then my curiosity gets the better of me and I glimpse sodden monkeys sitting watching the traffic pass, dogs at the side of the road waiting to hurl themselves across to the other side the moment there is a gap in the relentless wall of trucks, damp, solitary figures standing tall and still under huge, dark umbrellas.
India has an extraordinary effect on me, every time. It is never the same experience, but a relentless unpeeling of all my assumptions about the way things are and how I think they should be. I am always set against myself and endlessly forced to reconsider my assumptions about me, other people, and the Universe. It is not usually a completely pleasant experience, but one I would never pass up.
On this trip I have spent a lot of time watching how my mind is not an ally. Watching how my thinking can descend into h’ll in an instant, and endlessly I have worked to stay the watcher rather than indulge the notion that my feelings have any reality behind them. It has been arduous and uphill but ultimately worthwhile.
So now I am half way to Delhi and the sun is about to shine.
I am not going with the flow. It is true. I am resisting reality and want things my way. Like, for instance, the internet. Why is it always so hard? Somewhere I feel I am owed a connection. It could be because so many places here say they have it, the internet, high speed broadband and computers. It could be that there are minute windows in time where I can slip in an email and it does get to the recipient and so I feel that I should be allowed more. It may be because of all the wizzy advertising for shiny phones and high speed connections that are smeared rather haphazardly on random walls all over the city.
For 24 hours now there is a lack of a green light on the router and it is annoying me a lot. I want it to be different. But it is always like this; endless connection problems, endlessly trying to run a mail order and internet business without internet, endless sitting under screeching fans in sweaty, dirty rooms lit by flickering florescent tubes, mosquitoes lingering with all their inherent threats in the low shadows and interlopers trying to read my work over my shoulders. When am I going to get it? Not today, it seems.
I am working hard at finding it funny.
I suppose it is amusing from afar. I know I am spoilt and lucky, but travelling in India is somewhat different to working in India and now I work here it is rather like being in the film industry. Fascinating form the outside and relentless from the inside. There is no connection from the cash machines to the satellites so I have not been able to with draw any money for my buying. I am now down to the equivalent of 2p in my wallet and it is not enough to get a rickshaw to take me to get cash. So I am sitting here, looking at the failed green light on the router next to the very grubby cables that are hotwired into the wall wondering where I can go to use the internet, how can I get cash and how will I send all my stuff back to London.
You could say these are high class problems, that I am away, it is lovely to travel, how can I complain when I am so lucky.
I will not answer, but at least I have got it off my chest. The issues are still there, but the screaming frustration is now resting silently in the ethers and I can move on.
I am having wildlife issues here. Funny, because usually it is ghosts, but this time it is other creatures.
Something was flying around my room the other night in a clumsy and ungainly manner, but every time I looked for it, it was not there. I fell asleep with out too much thought about it eating me in the night but a little worried that it might land on my face. (I once woke to a very large spider walking across my face. It was extremely argh and put me off sleeping on the floor, forever. I woke another time to find a very large, armoured cockroach sipping from the accumulated sweat in my belly button. I was under a mosquito net at the time and again, it raised trust issues. Trying to catch the thing was another game entirely. When I finally chopped it in half, it’s friend came and ate it. But that is no where near a friend’s experience who was woken by another armoured cockroach drinking the dribble that was trickling from the side of her mouth as she lay snoring. )
This may be revolting to read, but it is highly amusing to write.
So I slept without too much fear of this thing but was jerked awake in the night by the most appalling noise. It took me a while to work out what it was and I then thought it was a badly played, out of tune violin. Oh, my, it took a long time to find the thing because every time I got near, it went silent. But finally I trapped a thing. I put it in the bathroom under a glass and went back to sleep. In the morning I was told it was a zinger. Some kind of cricket with orchestral ambitions.
This morning I pulled open my curtain to find a monkey looking in my window. A little one that jumped, screamed and fell of the window ledge, hence no picture. Sweet, from a distance, but once you know they are around, nothing is safe. They are violent and mean, carry Hepatitis C, HIV and rabies. At the moment there is a troupe of them terrorising the other side of the road, but a Nokia N95 cannot see that far. I have two bananas in my room and keep eyeing the door in case I get raided by a screaming, rabid monkey wanting brekkies. It would not be the first time. The only thing to do, when it happens, is to scream and shriek at them extremely violently. It trashes the vocal chords for the day. The strange thing is that despite all of the horrors they carry, it is a delight to see them in the distance, and if you harm them, (not that I could or would, but the locals have attempts with air rifles) it is jail here.
Otherwise Jaipur is hunkered down. This is what I was told yesterday. I had an amusing time annoying a woman retailer here who has decided she does not want to sell to me. I have no idea why, but she was causing me problems a few months ago. But I can get annoying and did my best yesterday, mainly because she screams hideously at her staff (you would think they were monkeys) but does not have the courage to face me personally. So I bought all that I wanted in a whisper with a smile and even got a wholesale discount from the courageous woman who served me after her dressing down. Gosh I can be such a child.
I lay awake for hours last night, worrying about being eaten by a giant rat. I knew I would. I watched my mind make up all sorts of stories about what this huge creature would do to me and I watched my adrenalin levels rise at the thoughts.
Eventually I started to force my mind to think about all the places I had slept knowing there were rats in the room, the ceiling, under the bed etc and finally I fell asleep. This morning, all my machinations to stop the rat entering my premises had worked. These included sticking all my shoes under the door. It looked pretty wild when I went to bed, a long row of shoes all higgeldy piggeldy along the floor, but I triumphed and live to tell more tails.
A friend came to see me last night. He is a jeweller, someone I had come to berate for not sending lots of silver that I had paid for. He was charming and hopeless and there did not seem much point getting cross. In the course of talking he turned to admiring my hair.
I have had lots of things said about me over the years. Some of them kind, lots not, many different projections draped over me, some possible others highly amusing, but I have never been told I look like a doll. It fair stopped me in my tracks. I burst out laughing, but as he thought it was the highest compliment (I could tell from his face) I swiftly turned my amusement into a girlish giggle so as not to offend. But there we are, I currently look like a doll. And that is a good thing.
The stories of life here are hard and surprising. 6 months ago it was a booming economy. There was no stopping the building, the tourists, the money was apparent everywhere. Now, not entirely due to the bombings, there is nothing happening at all. I am the only westerner I have seen so far and usually they, we, are all over the place. The petrol hikes have caused financial havoc, wages have risen, orders have fallen. The manufacturer I saw yesterday was in dire need of medication, he was so gloomy. His financial state was appalling and the issue with me was peanuts and he was not even going to argue the toss. Business had fallen by 11%, huge orders had been returned and he had closed one entire factory.
I had been talking with another retailer in London who manufactures in Delhi and he was surprised that I was coming in June. For me, it has always been a good time to do business, despite the heat, because there are usually fewer travellers, less manufacturers and wholesalers and so for the traders here money is tight and the prices are better. Well it seems that this year it is very much the reality.
But I am an India and I just have to get over it.
I woke this morning to a trail of rat shit around my room which means that whilst I sleep they play. Yuk. Yuk.
In the cold light of day it is fine, but in the dark, with the fan making strange noises and all my mental games I will not enjoy the thought.
But on a positive not, I am safe and well, the journey to Jaipur was made with a driver who had a death wish so I slept. It seemed the least stressful route through the experience. And now I am safely, bar rats, installed in my usual room and it is hot. Not as hot as I expected, which is great, but the monsoon is looming. It has reached Bombay and is on it’s way up the country. Huge puddles, black and fizzing with creatures, that I prefer not to meet, are lying around the streets, inflation is rampant, petrol prices have risen hugely and the talk of expansion is not quite so expansive.
My first meeting this morning is with the clothing manufacturers. They decided that I had not ordered enough and so sent £7000 worth of clothes to me, unasked. I did not know it was coming and only heard about it when the customs office wanted several thousand pounds in duty and import taxes in London.
I see it as a kind of extortion on the part of the factory. They see it that I owe them the money. I wonder how it will end?
I have organised for the rat access to my room to be blocked and have had an excellent mango for breakfast along with soggy cornflaks (their spelling) and tepid tea. All the crockery was as hot as if it had just come out of a dishwasher and there is no staff so I am being looked after by the wife of the owner. She is charming and kind, so it is a nice change. She does things as she would like them.
Life feels sweeter today.
What has changed? I have no real idea, but the foul blackness has light falling all over it, and is receding. For how long, I have no idea, but it is a relief.
I go to India tomorrow for ten days of making clothes in extreme heat and humidity. The winter clothes. Heavy velvets and wools. I do enjoy it, I really do, and will do my best to stay as relaxed and positive as I can through the entire experience.
But I wish I could run. I wish I could run in India. I imagine it would be such a trip, jogging along the dusty highways at 5am, in all my fabric that wicks. I love the word wick. It means that the fabric pulls the sweat away form your body. How on earth it does that is a mystery that I am nowhere near solving, but it intrigues me, the technology of exercise. And then, at the end of a fabulous book on women’s running and all that goes with it, how to start, what shoes, what wicks, timers, heart monitors and scientific drinks, she ends by saying that running barefoot is the best. But coming back to India, maybe at Christmas I will try it, when it is cooler. Now I would be a damp pile by the side of the road in a moment. The heat, searing heat, and the humidity are huge. So I will leave my beautiful red shoes at home and do yoga instead.
I went to Essex yesterday. To a very beautiful garden filled with sculptures. I did not personally organise the outing. It was my 5 year old daughter’s first modeling job as a professional. She did well, so did I. Gosh, it was strange to be quite so far outside the circle of interest. My ego tried somersaults and subversive assaults upon me, but I stay true, as discrete as humanly possible for me, and kept quiet. So quiet that I eventually became the centre of attention as various bells went off in the photographer and the editors’ heads and they realized that they had seen me. But even then, I wanted to see if I could give Isadora the space and I did back right off and out to the edge again. Nice to know I can. Done that.
I have bought myself a great pair of ecological platform shoes that remind me of pattens from the 17th century. They are German shoes that have a hand carved sole that you sand off when it is dirty, and when the leather top wears out you, I, send the shoes back and they get a refurbish. Thrilling and fab. I am 6ft 2” in them and I love it!
I have spent some time, recently, falling deeper and deeper into a pit that feels as though it has a crack of black tar, shiny and viscous, leaking out of it. I have not enjoyed the experience at all, but at least it has not been a permanent state of being. It comes and goes, flinging its arms around me when I wake in the night, and as I step out of bed in the morning it seems to lie in wait under the bed, grabbing my ankles to be dragged across the floor in the darkened room.
I have been through it before, and know where it can go, or rather, where my mind let’s it go, and it is never a welcome journey, but from there I also know that it passes. I know how to deal with it; A long, solitary embrace of the despair is the first step sitting pouring out the painful tears in a darkened room. Talk is the next part of the healing along with exercise. All of these steps have been taken and gently the wall is coming down, the blanket is lifting and the stranglehold on my thoughts is releasing.
. The running helps hugely, and I feel better today and it is a huge relief, but
I don’t know why I have always avoided running on the road. I have lived near an awful park for the past 16 years, yet I still run around it and I do not like the place, but find myself unable to run on the road.
Yesterday I left the dog behind and went the other way out of the house and ran along the streets of Camberwell. Wow, it was great. I was so surprised. I ran so easily, there was no pushing effort, it was calm, quiet and as I ran past some of the houses there was the smell of breakfast or a fresh show, coffee and the occasional cigarette. I am so pleased with myself.
I have also been working on smashing every negative thought with a positive one and it is working. Slowly, slowly, the steps are climbing upwards and the light is falling on my face again.