Friday, May 6, 2011

Pure Movement

Remember when I first came to London, and I decided that I would have a blog to tell the world at large about my wonderful (and highly entertaining) travel experiences? Well that fell sadly flat now didn't it?

However! I've been re-inspired - in part by all the reading I've been doing of late, and in part by a truly horrific exhibition I attended on the weekend (and I don't mean the Royal Wedding, although that yellow outfit worn by HRH was truly a shocker) - which I will tell you about. That is, You, my readers (ie myself in 10 years when I want to remember the joys of youth and London).

So, this exhibition. On Sunday morning I decided I would take advantage of the sunshine and my freedom and one helpful search on the Time Out website and two strong coffees later, I headed (via the Northern Line) to the Barbican Centre where, according to Time Out, I could view the stylings (read: artwork and possible performances) of dance related material. The website was a little vague, but since I tend to think of myself as one who loves all things dance-related, I knew I was on to a win.

Alighting the tube at Barbican, I was somewhat daunted by the absence of crowds (who I assumed would be flocking to the exhibition in question), but reminded myself that that part of town is always quiet on weekends (since it's mainly a business area, shops stay closed). Entering the Barbican Centre, I first found myself wandering through a hall called The Curve - which, as its name cleverly suggests, is a curved hall. That much was plain at the outset. What, however, was at no point clear to me, was why the artist who's work was on exhibit, felt the need to employ cinema-sized screens to display games from the 80s (think pacman) complete with sound effects at full volume (presumably to equate with the screen-size). Not surprisingly, I was the only viewer of this particular calamity, and my viewing was speedy. What IS surprising is that I felt no concern at this point, no apprehension, about what was to follow.

Parting with ten pounds in the next room (which I entered rather like a bullet hurrying to leave the barrel of a gun), I proceeded up the stairs and to the right to watch the dance show which (I was informed) was about to start. I was immediately baffled. Four adults in shapeless clothes hovered about the re-creation of a roofless house (overhung by the viewing deck). They wandered about, and through the house, calling out to each other in rather an aimless fashion. Initially I was determined to read intent into their behaviour, but when one of the chaps got out a ball of string and attempted to throw the end of it over the outside wall (I say 'attempted' because his apparent lack of co-ordination or practice got somewhat in the way of success), I realised I was dealing with a very different type of 'dance' to that which I am used to. A 'dance', in fact, that requires neither skill, not finesse. One which need not be entertaining to watch, difficult to perform, or beautiful to the audience, or even understood. (Or planned. Or practiced!)

After ten or so minutes, I decided that perhaps I might find something more worthy of my attention if I took a stroll through the surrounding gallery rooms. I wish I could say that the overall experience improved, but I became steadily more confused by what I saw. I finally found a definition of the type of dance on display about halfway round the gallery. 'Pure Movement' (it said) was dance involving movement with no intention. No aim. The style is not intended to achieve beauty, to impress, to attain. Movement for the sake of moving. I gazed in awe at such a concept, then re-evaluated the items that I had seen at the gallery. Poorly executed pencil drawings of a person moving across stage, old black and white photos of a woman holding herself in strange (and doubtless uncomfortable) positions, pieces of flooring cut from various New York apartments from the 70s. All of it intended to achieve nothing. But then not nothing. To challenge, to subvert.

Dance that I would (generally) choose to watch involves skill, purposeful movement, it is performed within the confines of a beat, and the dancers' ability to keep to that beat is part of the skill involved and the joy of watching. Some dancing excites me, some saddens me, sometimes the grace of the dancer is so beautiful it makes me cry. When I watch a beautiful dance, when a dancer performs a perfect and seemingly effortless pirouette, it feels like they have transcended reality if only for a moment, and shown me a world that is above and beyond even that of my dreams.

But amazingly enough, despite the fact that I deeply resent the expense of ten pounds (which could have paid for a bottle of wine and perhaps a nice cheese to go with it), I'm still thinking about Pure Movement. I'm still wondering and questioning myself on my concept of what dance is. And so I can't say that the exhibition was a failure, because it didn't fail in perhaps its only intent - to challenge. But on the other hand, I also can't say I would recommend anyone (that I like) to do more than stay far far away, and perhaps to have a nice cup of tea at Harrods.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Sophie's Night Vision

I'm getting that feeling like it's time to start writing again - if I can only remember how...

Sophie wandered around the house, afraid to return to bed, and her dreams. The house remained in the dark. She paced from room to room, willing the very walls to speak to her, to give her the clues that eluded her. In each room she went to the window and peered out, looking for - she knew not what. The figure from her dreams? Her mother? A sinister clue, a glowing hope? The moon was hidden by clouds, but she could see the surrounding yards and there was no figure, sinister or otherwise lurking to worry her.
Finally she went up the stairs to her mother's room. But rather than entering she put her hands gently against the door as though it could perhaps tell her something. She leaned against it, facing first away from the room and then turning towards it, and finally sliding against the door to the floor and placing her ear to the door, listening, always listening. Afraid to enter, and yet afraid to leave it alone.
Sophie tried to clear her head and think only of her breathing in an attempt not to miss any clue, any message, any suggestion that might come to her. As usual, her attempt to clear her head failed and instead she became overwhelmed with all the thoughts from which she tried to escape. Her mothers absence, her own growing powers and her constant, nagging fear that the two were connected.
Taking a deep breath, she closed her eyes and tried again to be empty. Six days had elapsed since her mother's disapperance. Six days and nothing to show for it but a few unsettling mind skills. And then, like a flash, a memory hit her, only it was more like a reality that she was surrounded by but unable to influence. Her mother sat on her bed, the same bed, but a different room, a different house, and a much younger mother. Her eyes looked light as though she had not yet encountered trouble. As Sophie looked at her mother, she saw her put one hand on her stomach and hum gently to herself. It was then that Sophie noticed the slight bulge and realised her mother must be pregnant. Her mother suddenly gasped, grabbing her stomach with both hands. She stood quickly up and then just as quickly sat down again as a look of joy lit her face. "You are going to be a wonderful child," she said softly. "My darling Sophie."

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Before moving to London, it was impossible for me to know what sort of challenges I would face here. I assumed, of course, that living in London would not be the same as the Tourist Experience. I knew I would have to find work, pay bills, live the repetitive day to day dullness that life often becomes. I hoped that my life in London would not, of course, demonstrate even a distant knowledge of that kind of dullness. I pictured myself dressed eclectically, trawling markets for vintage items, discovering perfect coffees in tiny cafes, and even, I admit, making foreign men fall in love with me.
In all of my imaginings I discounted one significant factor. Me. The person that I pictured in the markets, the cafes, in the perfect London that has constant sunshine and no rain, is a person bearing no resemblance to me. She is bold, ingenious, even outrageous. Unfortunately intercontinental living has not transformed me into that unconventional diva who I pictured myself being.
Naturally, London is neither as perfect in reality as in my dreams. But reality, although often disappointing, cannot be exchanged for dreams. And maybe I don't really even want to. London, the REAL London is infinitely more interesting than my dreams make it out to be. Crowded, yes. Dirty, sometimes. Wet, often. But also vibrant, diverse and astonishing. I may be dull but London never is. Could I really exchange any of these experiences that have made London so much my own? The Thames, as large as life, flowing under me as I peer at it from atop London Bridge. The Globe Theatre, though merely a replica of the original, still a significant symbol of London's glorious and artistic history, and Anthony Howell standing a few feet from me on it's stage. The daily walk down Uxbridge Road that is bursting with people from Argentina, Egypt, Korea, Germany, and just about every other country I can name.
Rodin said that "the realities of nature surpass our most ambitious dreams". If London were only as limited as my dreams it would perhaps be rather dull. London is altogether more exquisite, frustrating, enormous, overwhelming, thrilling, confusing and marvellous than can possibly be dreamed.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

The Burrough Market

Places to visit in London: The Burrough Market is a must. Situated underneath London Bridge it is entirely a food market that contains stalls dedicated exclusively to cheese, olives, poultry, pork, olive oil, pesto. There is fresh fruit and vegetable for sale as well as pastries, turkish delight, home-made jams. Almost all of the stalls have samplings available and the vendors are friendly and amusing.
Step over the road for a coffee at Montmouth cafe - the line up is long for a reason. A latte, cappucino or flat white will satisfy all coffee lovers.
Have a random chat with another market-attendor about the preserved pig's head on the barrel by a meat stall. Ask the jam vendor what exactly the difference is between jam and jelly. Walk repeatedly past the same stalls for more samples - the burrough market is a joy for all!

Sunday, June 20, 2010


Trust is something I've been musing over for the last few months, particularly with respect to money.
A few weeks ago I had some money go missing from my purse. After my inital reaction (panic) I started to think about how much money affects me, about how closely I guard my finances, how I worry about every penny I possess, spend, save, use. God has commanded us to look well after the things we have, but I found myself wondering if it's possible to look too carefully after them, whether by holding too tightly on to them we lose something greater.
Lay not up for yourselves storehouses of grain, that's what Jesus said. Instead, lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
I worry quite a bit about the practicalities of going to London. I worry that I will have trouble finding work and accommodation and occasionaly picture myself after a few short weeks, on the streets, in the cold, begging for coins from passers by. Even though I have never been in lack, even though I have lived in constant luxury, the richness of my life has not led me to develop a sense of security in God.
Perhaps this is because I have always had a backup - my parents. And now, for the first time in my life, God will be my only backup. God for who the entire world is his resource.
If I believe that God is going with me to London, maybe I need to step away from my attitude of careful, calculating wariness. In Christian circles we have come to use the word 'faith' so often that it can sometimes seem a little meaningless, but what it means to me, what I see it representing, is a life lived with an attitude of reckless abandon.
Because maybe it is possible to be both realistic AND optimistic. Maybe that's even the best way to be - to recognise the difficulties, but to have such utter confidence in God that those difficulties are not barriers.
Was it merely coincidental that Esther became the king's wife? Or that the Samaritan woman came to the well as Jesus was seated there? Was it by chance that the man placed on the cross next to Jesus was a thief searching for a treasure greater than all he had stolen? When Paul traveled to the churches through Asia Minor, he did not wait for confirmation that he would always have a place to stay and food to eat. He went. He trusted. And God provided.
Abraham drew a line in the sand. He decided to obey God no matter what command he was given - 'becauses he considered him faithful who had promised' (Hebrews 11.11).
This is both the most basic requirement and the ultimate challenge. Do I consider God faithful?
Well. Do I?

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Next Month

It's the first day in June. Next month I move to London. Next month! And who knows what life changes that will bring with it?
London seems like the summation of possibility. It's exciting and a little bit scary not knowing where I'll be, who I'll be with, what sort of person it may all change me into.
It's a strange kind of funny that in the past when I'm panicking and struggling and unhappy I've dreamt of running away, of escaping my life and all of it's pressures. I've dreamt of leaving behind the things, the people even, who make me feel I'm living in a pressure cooker, who suffocate me.
Even though it's me, it's all me, suffocating myself.
And now I'm really running away - but it's not how I always envisaged. Because I'm not panicking, struggling or unhappy. I'm making this very deliberate life change with hope in my heart as well as the fear. And I'm not escaping, not from my life, not from the people I'm leaving behind me. They are the ones who I hold close. I've written about this already I know. But how could I ever imagine that the action of leaving them behind would be to free myself? They are the ones who make me free.
And it's them that make me free to go not the other way around.

Monday, May 3, 2010


The night before last I had a dream that my house burned down as I frantically attempted to gather the items I wanted, needed, not to lose in the flames.
Last night I dreamt I was in London. I dreamt that I wandered about past buildings and through art galleries and tube stations, marvelling, remembering it with excitement akin to that of a small child. Everything was wonderful.
These two dreams, both immensely vivid and full of emotion seem to summarise to me what moving to London means, like two bookends. The first one demonstrates the difficulty of taking with me only a few things, and none of the most important things: the people I love. I have pondered on this over the past few weeks, realising with an intensity that increases as the time gap decreases between now and then, how much it will hurt me to be away from my family, from my friends, from the five extraordinary and magic children that are my niece and nephews. These people, all of them, with who I have relationships that are full of history and love, these are the onesarhat make me want to stay in Adelaide. They are the ones that make me question my decision. Leaving behind friends who are better than any another person could have does seem to perhaps signify some kind of insanity.
But then, when I think about my second dream, the one full of excitement, I know I cannot go back. London will be full of things I remember and things I don't, of new experiences, new people, new life.
What I hope, what I believe, is that these friends so dear to me will not be as distant to me as Adelaide is to London. I hope my llove for them will keep them always close. For how can I do without Pen's sense of humour, Bethany's understanding, Jack's eloquence, Reuben's hugs and the rest? I can't.
I can only find a way to take them with me.