Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Cornwall Part 2: a jolly nice Sunday and Monday

… so we rolled back on down the hill to the cosy B&B after cheap drinks and cheap outfits on display at the local pub where the karaoke was in full swing on a crazy Saturday night in Penzance.

On waking the next morning, I wrote in my diary about the dream I’d just awoken from. I now have no recollection of any of these apparently-once-very-vivid images but I’m so glad I recorded them, because they really are a bit wacko. Perhaps David Lynch would like to use them as a basis for his next movie? Here they are as I wrote them down...

Dreamt about a girl from work playing Dorothy in a sort of funked-up version of
The Wizard of Oz while I looked on in jealousy as a cast member. Talked with the
pocket-rocket (?semi-famous) black chick who’d missed out on the part of the
afro’d lion to someone crapper. Then it was suddenly Nikki Webster who was
Dorothy, and the Director was feeding her drugs in an attempt to get her into
bed. She and I ran down the street of my parents’ place to number 3, which was
owned by Chris and Georgia, the actual neighbours at Claremont St, and they had
a nice lunch- yes, never mind the sex pervert, come eat!- and we had somehow
found time to make a sort of root vegetable bake, and it was somehow deceptive
as the veggies didn’t cover the whole base of the dish, even though it looked
like they did [here I drew a picture of the aforementioned ‘deceptive vegetable
bake’ and wrote: “…lifting up these little discs of parsnip/whatever made us
realise that!”]
… looks like SOMEONE’S been eating too much Cornish cheese.

Anyway, after describing in ridiculous detail my ridiculous dream, I went for a lovely country run and then we took a lovely country train ride to St Ives! Our train companions were a lady and her two very cute grandsons, who were both fairly amped by the fact that the train was GREEN! And green is their FAVOURITE COLOUR! We took our bikes on the train, but abandoned them fairly quickly once at our destination, instead ambling in the *dun dun dunnnn!* sunshine, pasties in hand the size of small children. We sat on a wall that overlooked a boggy, tides-out patch of beach, and Taco waited eagerly for a buggy to get stuck and fling out its contents (child) for our amusement. Kind fellow. The afternoon rain forced us into tea shops for Cornish Clotted Cream Extravaganzas, charity shops for unnecessary clothing purchases, and warm pubs for wine and magazine-perusal. A bit squelchy on arrival back in Penzance, we dried off then settled in for a culturally-enriching night of Snacks From The Supermarket And X-Factor.

The next morning I went for another ‘lovely country run’, which involved a tiny bit more stress than the previous day’s: let it be known that “Nearest one is right down there in the village” are THE most uncomforting words a toilet-needy runner wants to hear, even if it is in a quaint Cornish accent. But enough of my bowel motions!... We rode to Marazion, a town which boasts being the home of St Michael’s Mount- a great big castle on an island on a hill. The tide was in…bummer… but then, quite quickly, the tide was out… YAY!... so we walked across the causeway and wandered around the castle. After a blowy ride back along the seashore to Penzance, and slightly pushed for time (quelle surprise, McEvoy), we packed our goods, pfaffed around deciding what to eat (wouldn’t you know it ended up being a pastie!) then boarded the train for London town. Which, to be honest, is not such a hot-spot to come back to after a long weekend somewhere with clotted cream and ocean and great accents and cheap spirits. It’s just coming home. Hyde Park? Schmeh.

Love Cornish Claire 2.0 xox

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

To Cornwall, dreckly! (or, Part 1: The First 1.5 days of a Weekend Trip to The South West)

As I was going to St Ives
I met a man with seven wives
Every wife
had seven sacks
Every sack had seven cats
Every cat had seven kits
Kits, cats, sacks, wives
How many were going to St Ives?

Two! From a misty London town on a Friday night filled with calm and possibility.

Last week felt like a 'big week' for me at work. It felt full, at times a bit too full, but also productive, for the most part. I felt like I had 'earned' my weekend. A couple of weekends ago, after a similarly 'big week', I sent a message to Taco on Friday after work saying I felt like I'd 'earned' my wine time, but that just earned me a big fat hangover on Saturday morning, and I resolutely decided last week to not reward myself with booze because I was over feeling crap from drinking too much on those rewarding occasions. It was good having a drier week.

I digress. Friday night felt full of promise for a rewarding weekend, and it was a train journey, not a glass of wine, that was going to put some distance between work and my brain. Yay train! We rugged up in cycle-worthy attire (tights and tiny shorts obviously, and also my swanky new Oakley beanie that makes me feel like a London Cool Kid on a Bike, which I'm really not) and rode away from Trentham St with one overstuffed backpack and one excessively heavy sports bag over our shoulders (four between the two of us- count 'em, folks). The man in the shop raised my seat for me that morning, so I was sitting pretty.

Battersea Park Road was filled with people who weren't as free-wheeling as us, Chelsea Bridge was filled with lights that made it feel like Christmas; from here we descended into Otherhalfville. I don't think people in Chelsea fart. Or at least, they keep their fingernails in much better condition than I do mine. Perhaps if I could just nail the non-nail-biting habit I could cross the river and join the SW3-ers of the world... I mean, lit'rally join them... lit'rally.

Hyde Park glowed all misty magic-like as we rode around the edge of it. Taco and I faced the reality (and the apartments) that told us owning a little place overlooking one of the more famous parks in the world, whilst a lovely thought, is not a future likely to befall us. We reached Paddington after a little U-turning here and there (not bad following only a squiggly line courtesy of Google Maps plus London's excellent little blue street signs), me throwing off the 574kg sports bag with significant dramatics as my right ribs cheered beneath my layers.

The night before, upon hearing the price we had paid for the overnight train tickets, and with the two of us slightly in the dark on the matter, Tac's housemate promptly said “Nope you won't be getting a bed.” And he was correct. It was eight hours of sitting-up bliss for us in coach A. After putting the bikes to bed in the front of the carriage, we settled in with books and crisps and coke and chocolate. Somehow, I managed to snaffle a good few hours of sleep, mainly with limbs splayed as far out as possible.

We could see the sea! Penzance was grey at 8am on a Saturday morning. But the grey was different to London: even with a gentle drizzle it felt fresher and quainter and more cosy than confining. Taco took directions to our B&B from a taxi driver at the station, and as we rode along 23 seconds later:

Taco: So which way do we go?
Claire: … did you actually listen to what that guy told you?
T: Not really.
C: Were you just listening to the funny Cornish accent?
T: Yup!

We dropped off our bags and, unable to officially check in until 3pm, we headed off with the bikeys to explore Penzance and surrounds. We rode along the coast to Newlyn ('Fish by Post' is a very distinct possibility from many outlets in the region) and on Mousehole (that's “Mao-sall” for those of you playing at home) where we had breakfast at Pam's Kitchen and read depressing stories in the weekend papers. Pam and her friend (not sure which was which) gave us directions to Land's End, the easy way (my ass) being to head back to Newlyn then take the A30. What sounded like a major highway was actually an undulating and often-narrow country road, but undulating was the operative word, and while I'm not one to give up easily in the face of a few meagre &^*$£-off hills, we realised the 10 miles was going to take us a bit longer than initially expected, and the steadily-falling rain and encroaching darkness told us heading back to Penzance was probably a smart idea (Taco calculated this as we rode along and I went “yepyepyepIknowIknowokok” in response). It was only as we sailed back towards town we gave the wind-factor the respect it deserved: the return journey was about 9,875 times easier. So we didn't see the western-most point of England. But by golly our quads got a workout.

We ate awesome Cornish pasties (which would set the lunch scene for the proceeding two afternoons, also). We wandered *charityshopsmumblemumblewhat?nothing*, we checked out a gallery featuring the works of three local artists who all died a couple of years ago. I particularly loved Joan Gilchrist's stuff, most of which was set in Mousehole, but all of which had people and their stories as the basis [the picture at the top is Day Trip to Landsend]. We had a drink at The First and Last Inn; I mean how could we bypass a pub serving “probably the best real ale in town”? And as we sipped away, heard the life story of the “I'm here every morning from 10am” punter. I keep up a vague jollying-along of the conversations in these situations, Taco just lets his mind wander off and eyes glaze over cheerfully. Later in the evening we had a really excellent meal at local restaurant The Blue Snappa and saw a show at the local theatre called 'Pub Rock', which cleverly blurred the line between gig and play. Later at The White Lion, feeling incredibly not-Saturday-night in a turtle neck jumper (God I hate turtle necks), I sipped a Baileys alongside Taco and his Southern Comfort and we marvelled at how far your London dosh can go in a Cornish bar: £3.50 the lot, thanks love.

More (pasties) later...

Cornish-ified Claire xox

Monday, October 24, 2011

There's something funny going on in my brain that's making me feel sad...

It's quite a bit to do with working in an environment that is happy and is beautiful in a lot of ways, but also kind of sucks.

The other day I was involved in a meeting with a family who are just so dedicated to their Mum. So dedicated. But cancer is slowly taking over her brain in a relatively literal sense and they can't let go. And another guy vomited everywhere and concurrently lost control of his bladder while we were moving him; in a moment, vomit was forcing its way out of his mouth with real speed and ferocity, he was also really drowsy, but through the fug of drug- or disease-induced haziness and the violence of projectile vomit, and the slippery wetness beneath him, he was also trying to apologise for not being able to control what was happening. Apologise.

I wanted to be able to be wonderfully in control and help move him with as much ease as possible, but it wasn't particularly graceful. (I also wished along with sedatives and anti-emetics and analgesics, it was possible to put a dose of Dignity in patients' syringe drivers- pharmaceutical corporations: I'll give you rights to that free of charge.) And I wanted, with the family, to feel I was saying things that implied “I fully understand your situation and what is going on for you Mum, but at the same time, I have strong conviction in my clinical judgement and voilà my knowledge...”. But I don't think I really did do that, or say that.

I'm always unsure as to whether I'm doing the best thing, and I'm pretty sure the nurses think I'm a bit of a waste of space at times. And really I feel often I'm not adding anything new to the mix. The nurses and the assistants are so very much the beating heart of the hospice, and I sometimes I feel like a fraud. Walking around in my bright shirt, assuming a sort of self-important walk that is partly to do with the design of the shoes I'm wearing (you know how a pair of shoes can really change the way you walk? Well my Rocket Dog flats impose self-important bounciness), and partly to do with The Fear of Being Found Out: “Ohhh, you don't actually do anything, you make it seem like you have some knowledge base but really just help people stand up and wear flowers in your hair and a smile on your face.”

But then you know what?- the things in my brain making me feel sad?- not cancer. It's not a growing mass inside (or outside) of me telling other cells that were just doing their thing, minding their own business to Fuck Off Thanks Very Much, I'm Taking This Space. It's not gripping me with pain that keeps me awake all night, or nausea every time I think about moving. It's not stopping me from talking, or stopping me from stopping my waste products exiting my body in a socially-acceptable and comfortable fashion. It's not making me unaware of what's going on around me, or unable to get into my own house because of a couple of little steps.

So a little woe-is-me-this-is-sometimes-difficult-to-know-if-I'm-doing-the-right-thing moaning session, whilst being a good way of saying “shh, there, there ego”, or working as a kind of therapy or something, also makes me want to smack myself upside the head a bit, too.

Shut up, Claire. Put your flower in and give someone a hand to stand up.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Better late than never

And yet again she has fallen behind on the blogging front.
(I need to stop starting every single post with some form of that phrase. But at least I'm honest, eh?)

Due to the overwhelming nature of writing something after not writing something for a while, I'm not going to write anything.

But my dear friend Ger, a lovely Dutch fellow I did a bit of singy-songy fun with when I was living in Touzac (almost A YEAR ago now- weird to the power of seventy-five), has sent me a youtube link for some video taken on my last day in the little Frenchy village.

Let me set the scene (and provide the link)...
- It was boxing day
- I was hungover
- The sun was shining
- There were lots of nice people milling around the cafe
- We la-la-la'd the afternoon away. Sometimes sounding good. Sometimes sounding crap.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Rotterdam-London on new old wheels.

I have a new bike! And he's beautiful. And his name's Kev.

I spent ten days in the Netherlands at the start of this month. Taco came to London at the end of his big round-the-world trip and we had a jolly nice time hanging out again. Presuming that perhaps we might want some more jolly nice hanging out time, I booked myself a train ticket to Rotterdam. Everytime I fly low-cost carriers I vow not to do it the next time I need to go somewhere. Inevitably I forget when the next time comes around, and I am once again wooed by low low prices, forgetting the crap that goes along with them (having to pay if you want to sneeze on the plane, spending as long as you do on the airplane just getting out to the airport, normally having fairly massive delays...). But they didn't trick me into it this time- it was Eurostar all the way, baby! (Well, half-way if you're going to be picky- the trip from Brussels to Rotterdam was on Thalys, the Dutch rail thingy.)

To be honest, the first couple of days of my stay were a mixed bag. Taco will probably be the first to admit that the ups and downs of my emotional and mental state were more taxing than climbing to Machu Picchu. This was the result of a number of things (hormones, impending sickness, new environments, expectations...) However, a few days in I came around to feeling more settled within myself, especially after getting some good countryside runs in, chilling out with some beers, AND... spending some quality time with Claire Stanley and Emma Haywood. To be honest, the fact that we met in Rotterdam was almost insignificant- there was a lot of wandering and seeing and eating and drinking cool things, but the focus was really on blah blah blah blah blah. We hadn't been together, the three of us, we realised, for about 18 months. Which is a long time. So it was good. Those two women are really amazing ones. You done good, Stanley and Haywood parentage- you done real good.

I'd had in my head since booking the train ticket that I might use my own pins to get me back to Ye Olde England. The lovely little hand-me-down bike that Rachel Rai had bequeathed to me on her departure from England had sort of given up the ghost on me. To be fair- it had 2 flat tyres and a bit of a squeak here and there that I hadn't got around to doing anything about, so it probably had more to do with me than the bike itself, but let's not split hairs- we just weren't meant to be together, long term.

Among the lovely Dutch people I met through Taco was Robert. He works at a bicycle workshop that is part of the local Barendrecht OP-SHOP! Here they take bikes that are no longer wanted, fix them up and sell them on. Fantastic. Just what I wanted. So down I toddled one morning to check out the wares on offer. Robert said "There's one that I thought might be good for you..." and 5 minutes later a deal was done. One little ride around on 'the wheel' and I knew we were a match made in Barendrecht.

It felt so great to have my own bike again. That night after dinner, Taco and I went riding for about an hour through the neighbouring villages of Barendrecht. It was nice and warm and still light at 10.30pm, and we rode between big paddocks and stopped for icecream at a snack bar just before it closed, feeling like 15 year olds on a Saturday night date or something. The next day we rode to Den Haag- halfway there the rain came pelting down but we stopped under a bridge and ate a boiled egg, and sheltered in a cute little pub until the sun came out again then continued on our merry way. We met up with Emma and her lovely friend Isabel and saw a dance/music show at 'De Parade'- a festival set-up which felt very much like The Garden of Unearthly Delights in RAdelaide! Holland is unbelievably fantastic to cycle around: there is nowhere where bikes have to compete with cars, normally being given their own cycle path everywhere, or else given respect and space by drivers. Hills are non-existant, signage is great. And even when we did get lost, the Dutch, whilst maintaining their directness, are really helpful and warm in getting little losties back on track.

Having kitted out the bike with a few necessary bits and pieces (repair kit, pump, paniers, lock- and in the process spending more than I had on the bike itself!), I left Rotterdam on Friday morning. I had with me a lovingly printed and translated set of directions that Taco had organised through an online bike route finder. I was totally down with what "schuin links" and "rechstaf" and "knoopunt" were, had sandwiches, and a deadline: The Hook of Holland by 2pm. As expected, I lost myself soon after leaving Taco, but after doubling back on certain sections about three times, and asking about seven different people to point me in the right direction, I was back on track. The ride took me through some canal-side villages, past ponies, and next to big scary highways that I didn't have to deal with because I had a bike path set back in the field. The last section was along the harbour, with sea breeze pushing up against me as the Stenaline Ferry came into sight. It felt a bit weird going through the boomgate for customs and tickets on my treddly, and I arrived with pretty much no time to spare, thanks to my excellent knack for getting myself lost those couple of times on the way. But no matter! I was there. I was onboard. I was... asleep for most of the sail across.

We arrived in Harwich at 8pm. After getting my Welcome Back To England stamp with a bigger smile than I normally get from the Home Office folk (perhaps they breed them happy in the north?), I rode off from the harbour, fairly literally into the sunset, which was donating big smears of pink and orange to the sky. I had done my Googly Mappy research the day before, drawn crappy little pictures in my notebook (iPhones! Pah!) and so had a rough plan and fingers crossed on how to make it to my next destination- the little town of Mistley, about 10 miles from Harwich, to the house of Eileen and Gordan. A few days earlier I'd contacted Eileen through Couch Surfing, and she said they'd be happy to have me for the night, even at late notice. I was quite excited about CS-ing again, as it had been a while. Harwich had a very quaint fishing village vibe, complete with seagull squawks, and the 10 miles to Mistley were excessively pretty- along the Stour River, through lush overgrowth of the nature reserve, past big paddocks of nothing much, all with the pink hue of sunset. Admittedly, there were more hills in those 10 miles than I'd encountered in 10 days in the Netherlands, and old Kev made me walk a few bits of them, but we got there! Eileen and Gordan were so welcoming. We had some chats, some wine, some cheesecake- all the good things in life- and then I hit the (very comfortable) sack to give my bum a rest for a few hours.

... and then she accidentally slept til 11am. But that was OK! A quick croissant and a photo of my hosts, and off I set with lovely hand-drawn maps from Eileen to get me going. Already the English drivers and not-so-friendly nature of UK roads were noticeable, but I managed to follow bike paths to Colchester (England's oldest recorded town!). I bought a map, I bought a helmet. From here a bike path went on to Tiptree. This was mainly unsealed paths and a few times I heard myself chanting "don't get a puncture, don't get a puncture" under my breath. I thought I was out of the woods as I zoomed along a proper road again, but whilst literally this was true, metaphorically, and in terms of my little tubes 'n tyres holding up, this was not the case.

* See Claire, her bike upside down, blood on her hands from tyre-removing cuts, searching for the puncture, patching it with her Dutch puncture-repair kit ("yes I'm sure the ghnoohungoor is what's needed here..."), working away furiously with her little pump, assuring the couple in the horse and cart that "it's under control", and finally flipping little bikey over again, quite pleased with own efforts.*

* See Claire then set off down the road towards Tiptree, her triumphant smile slowly fading at the realisation that THE AIR IS ESCAPING AGAIN! See her eat two packets of biscuits in frustration and defeat set in as she wheels her bike into town as English rain starts to drizzle spitefully.*

It was getting towards later afternoon now, and I felt somewhat worried about getting back to London before it was dark. I was about to find a park and give Puncture Repair Round 2 a go, but just briefly popped my head into the dry cleaning place next to the CLOSED bicycle shop.

Me: "Errm... is he... gone for the rest of the day then?"
Dry cleaning man #1: "Yeah I should say so, if he's closed up now."
Me: "Bummer."
Dry cleaning man #1: "What've you done?"
Me: "Got a puncture and not fixed it properly."
Dry cleaning man #1: "Go on Steve, you'll have a look at it for her, won't you?"

Steve (Dry cleaning man #2) wheeled Kev out the back, then whipped out his tools and fixed my puncture- the thing I'd thought was the hole was actually around the corner from the hole; but it's a lot easier to tell that once you're inside Steve's makeshift workshop and have a bucket of water to check it all out with.

So I was pumped up again! In the literal and figurative sense of the words! I rode on a little further, under the directions of Steve and DCM#1, to Kelvenson, where I got on a train to London. I had hoped to go on a bit further, to Chelmsford, but didn't want to be riding around London in the dark having no way of knowing really how to get home.

Such a good trip! Aside from the ups of English countryside hills and the downs of tyres, there was a great feeling of freedom regained with my own bicycle again, pretty pretty sights and a sense of being buoyed by nice humans in various countries. I'm looking forward to exploring a bit more of the UK with Kev over the summer, and fixing many a puncture in a timely and graceful fashion.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Midweek Musings from an Unemployed Bum

"It's been a very... sensual day... a day of senses..." said Mikhaila to me this afternoon, as we stood in the V&A at one of the 'Please Touch' cabinets, she rubbing a rock while I grasped a small, stone owl statue (and just thinking to myself that doing this was making me feel oddly content.)
"Yes! That's really true!" I replied, and we proceeded to list off some of the lovely ways that our afternoon together had invigorated our senses...

- Cast members of 'Wicked', 'Billy Elliot' and the West End Gospel Choir performing at Victoria
- The streets of Kensington and Chelsea- wide and lined by rows of regal, beautiful, Mary Poppins-ish apartment buildings
- Gold mosaic neighbouring blackened brick in Westminster Cathedral
- John Cleese, shopping for a fancy chair, in Harrods

- The florist we walked past somewhere in South Kensington
- Incense in Westminster Cathedral

- Our shoes on the steps in the V&A
- The man farting in a spacious V&A gallery (and the giggles from us that followed)

- Goats cheese
- Arnott's BBQ Shapes
- Orange chocolate in Harrods (the sweetness of which was only slightly tainted by the offerer's pushiness following our tasting: "So which boxes are you getting? Those ones or these ones? Hmm? Hmm?!")

- A Versace dress in Harrods (my entire London savings in a piece of fabric)
- The cool owl-statue under my hand

I recognise, in part-agreeance with my friend James, that London is, in some ways, not all it's cracked up to be. It's expensive to live in, and it feels too-close-to-home-to-be-excited-by at times because of the cultural similarities.

But then I do things like hang out with Mikhaila and unashamedly take photos of ourselves in front of amazing white-washed buildings with big black iron fences and bright red telephone boxes next to them. Or I put my feet in the sand of the fake beach of the Southbank and drink Pimms with my friend Heidi. Or I watch West End performers on a rooftop at lunchtime, sitting amongst tourists, theatre nerds and business men on their break. Or I sip wine on the top floor of a building on The Strand and look out at The Thames, Big Ben and the London Eye, all three awash with drizzly orange light at 7pm. Or I have a rehearsal for a musical with excited people who love muscials, too. Or I go for a run at 5.30am or 9pm with sun involved in either choice.

And then I think it's also kind of freaking cool.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Friday brain vomit

I've been racking my brain (just prior to Googling whether it's "racking" or "wracking") for the last few days, trying to think of something blog-worthy. Nothing very specific has sprung to mind, so I might be all a bit racked out at the moment.

Perhaps it's just that my brain has turned to mush as I've been taking in a bit more television than usual. Oh, the lure of the British telly. As I write, I sit with a bowl of Pringles and a glass of wine in front of me (cocktail glass, all of the wine glasses have absconded), one woman in a pink tracksuit holding the neck of another woman in a snakeskin, lighting up the screen in front of me. A fairly crazy Friday night, you'll agree.

The other night I watched 'Long Lost Family' and cried.

Bex and I are slightly addicted to 'Waterloo Road': bad script, bad acting, bad-ass fifteen year old boys and that sexy middle aged woman from 'Silent Witness'. It's Wednesday night heaven.

In other news, I've realised it's time to admit something... I have an addiction to dot points. So here, in no particular order, are some bits and pieces from Life At The Moment:

- Next week is my last week at St Christopher's. And I feel sad.
- I play a little bit of the guitar each day. I'm still quite bad.
- Taco is coming to London in less than two weeks and I'm very excited about seeing the lovely Dutchman again.
- Two of the most beautiful girls I know- Emma and Claire- are now BOTH on this side of the world. And by hook or by crook (what a great saying), we'll be The Three Chicas again, for a day, a week, a moment.
- I've been getting up AND going to bed IN THE LIGHT! It gets light before 5am! The sky's still light at 10pm!
- On Sunday I start rehearsals for a little musical I'm going to be in. I'm playing Lucy in 'You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown' with South London Theatre. I have no idea what it'll be like, but dude, I am mega excited about doing a show again.
- Interviews next week for possible future physio work.
- That might end this little update for now. My brain feels really mushy on Fridays. It seems to often end up being a rewarding but bloody busy and often slightly draining day at work. I love it. But chocolate definitely helps get me through the afternoon.

Will be in touch with more comprehensive words, less dot points (actually that I can't promise), and a little more poetry soon.

Lots of love,


Sunday, May 15, 2011

Alrighty folks, so I got back a couple of hours ago from the Superhero Fun Run. And it really was a fun run. Lots of enthusiastic people (including slightly too-excited-for-Sunday-morning personal trainers in charge of leading the warm up), lots of polyester (ineffective heat loss, anyone?), lots of good vibes being spread through Regent's Park by various caped crusaders.

Here is me in some of my garb. It's London so no-one really gets that excited when you take the tube in green tights, red hotpants, sequinned shoes and a lot of floral crap pinned in your hair. But I felt pretty happy. I decided to go as a Happy Hulk of sorts, given that the St Christopher's shirts were lime green. There were costumes given out at the event, too, so I added a bit of Super Girl to my outfit. This fit nicely with my sentiments of doing this run not only for the wonderful St Christopher's, but also for The Ladies in My Life. Allow me a moment or twenty seven of cheesiness to just mention a FEW of the women I thought about while I was running today...

* Nanna, who did a lot of work for Mary Potter Hospice- I've been thinking about her a lot since working at St Christopher's. I hope that, beyond a mutual love of leopard print, bright lipstick and excessive amounts of clothing, some of Nanna's compassion and care have seeped through to me.
* Maureen McEvoy, my Mum, a dynamic tour-de-force of love, inner strength, optimism, doing too much, committment, being the person I probably used to be a bit scared I'd become but now hope I get close to becoming.
* Grandma, the most loving woman you could ever meet.
* Paddy McEvoy, my emotional mirror, the very epitome of awareness of others, instigator of my feminist ideals, radiance and joy.
* Maura, Bernie, Aine, Monica- McEvoy women are the best kinds of women. Fiery, honest, appreciators of good food, giving.
* Jane Stanley, who's had a bit of crap stuff come her way, but still manages to be this incandescent, warm woman (and, conveniently, decided to love an amazing man called Muzz just so that I could be provided with a best mate.)
* Emma Haywood, Claire Stanley, Catherine Muir- the three uni girls who cemented in my heart a place as the best friends one could possibly hope for. I remember a night at a house party sitting on couches underneath fairy lights, professing oodles of love for each other- that's the general feeling that sums up my feelings when I think about them.
* Linda Martin
* Lyn Skobourg
* Naikim Um, my Phnom Penh friend, sister, coffee mate.
* Luisa Cosia
* Lucy Markiewicz
* Raluca
* Rachel Rai, my soul sister of the stage.
* Amy Klar
* Veronica Ziesing
* Suzanne Abimosleh (Shnoogy to me)
* Maggie Moore
* Bernie Burke + The Burkettes Rachel, Claire, Lucy... amazing, wholesome, fun and glowing women.
* Ali Bell
* Belinda O'Callaghan
* Mum's sisters (remembering one of the most touching moments of my life when, on the night of my 21st birthday, amidst preparations for Nanna's funeral, 4 women bundled slightly-sooky me up, dressed me in Nanna's clothes and sent me off to dinner with my friends.)
* Bek Menzies
* Nanna Quick
* The St Chistopher's allied health lasses: Jenny, Kate, Lorna, Frances. I couldn't have asked for more beautiful ladies to be in a team with for these past few months.
* Paula Williams
* Ruth Quick, more beautiful and kind each day.
* Sister Judith- Saint Aloysius was so great for me.

...There are a lot more ladies doing their thing in my heart/mind every day. But I only had 10 kilometres this morning... So I'd better go out for another run now!

Thanks again to everyone for your support. St Christopher's has touched me and given me more direction in terms of the type of physio I want to be. I'm really happy to, with your help, be able to give a bit back (aside from my compulsive trips to the charity shop!)

Love Claire. xoxox

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Got mulah?

This post is a bit of shameless sort-of-self-promotion. I'll write something big and heartfelt soon, because I'm definitely feeling the drive, especially after reading magnificent Maggie's enthuasiastic "Yay writing!" post.

But no form of web-based promotion is safe from me at the moment, as I'm trying to round up a bit of dosh for St Christopher's Hospice, where I currently work as a physio. The work they do here is phenomenal. There is so much care for every patient in there, and I feel really valued and cared for, too, as a member of staff. It's a fragile and beautiful thing, palliative care, but they have the artform mastered. There is happiness, beautiful gardens, humour, sing-a-longs, support, cake and lots of laughter, despite the fact that a lots of patients and families involved with St Christopher's have been handed some serious burdens to deal with regarding life expectancy.

The organisation really relies on donations to keep it going. I'm finishing up my work there in a little over a month's time now, but I'm wanted to show as much support for them as I could, so I'm doing the Super Hero Fun Run on May 15th. It's no London Marathon, as Paddy commented, by the time the 5km is over I'll probably just be feeling warmed up, BUT I get to dress up, thus combining my love of sportiness and silliness.

So if you'd like to chuck a couple of dollars in my metaphorical tin (100% of which will go to the hospice), go to the fundraising page at:

It's a worthy cause, I assure you. Check out the webpage here:

Thank you folks.

Back with more words soon. And hopefully a big mug of tea and some biscuits.

Love Claire xox

Sunday, April 17, 2011

London Living

A few things about life here so far...

Found! : Good coffee in London. On first taste, I almost had tears in my eyes, such was the surprise and the satisfaction. Grind Coffee Bar: you done good. You done real good. (Get a life Claire McEvoy, you pathetic soya-sipping, laptop-tapping yuppie.)

I'm living in a lovely pad in Southfields, in the south-west. There was a bit of online searching before I found this little gem though. I feel like there's a bit of an art to writing 'looking for a housemate' ads... and this isn't it (from

i have a great flat in east london am i looking for a flatmate to share with me.its a 1 bedroom but theres loads of space.ideally this place would suit a woman.if u r working,single and looking for a great place to stay come and check this place out.the rent is negoitable and can be discounted if ur a good cook.pls ring or leave a text.aca.thanks.

err... pass...

The London Beast (hand-me-down from the lovely and sadly-missed Miss Rai on her departure.) She's rusty, she's slow, but she has some floral decor going on, and brings a whole lot of joy.

Making the most of arty goodness as offered by the city. Shoes the Musical was amazing.

Borough Market Fridays- excellent for blowing whole wads of pay on things like basil.

Lots of lovely visitors, including the luminescent Emma Haywood, and gorgeous little cousin Tess.


Chilled Claire xox

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Spoon Fed Loneliness

It's amazing how sometimes, in the busiest of places, you can feel lonely. London is a bit like that for me. To be fair, that's mainly because I've spent a lot of time wandering the city by myself here. But there's something beyond that. Even with friends around me, I feel like the general vibe pulsing out of the city is one of Each-To-Their-Own.

Londoners are in marathon mode. Out the other evening, bounding along on a runner's high, I saw lots of fellow jog-a-loggers. There's often this really nice thing between runners; it's a sort of nod, sometimes just a glance, of acknowledgement. (It doesn't really happen with someone who's obviously newish to running, because generally then there is no eye contact- all of their energy has to go into doing this stupid activity and the resultant facial expression is just pain, or something like an uncomfortable poo.) If a couple of devotees catch each other's eye, the flash is often there, and it says “This is pretty awesome, hey? You feeling the endorphins? I'm feeling the endorphins. Ohhhh yeeeaaahhhh. Have a great run!...”, or something along those lines.

It's hard to get that here at the moment, though, because everyone seems to be looking at their watches all the time. I understand that as a runner there's this constant want to push yourself and do a bit better or a bit more, and for those people gearing up for the marathon there's a hunger rumbling inside of them that can only be nourished by statistics. But the beauty in the run for me is losing the sense of time, and being liberated from constraints. This is especially good for me, as I'm someone who is always a bit conscious of trying to do x, y, z in a finite period of time. So if I can run with my only aim being freedom from that awareness of time... well, it's a good thing for my brain/soul/heart/general well-being.

On that subject of being emotionally attached to pieces of equipment, can we talk about iPhones/Pads/Precious Bits? Bloody hell. I know I know- they're pretty. And such a lovely compaction of everything you could possibly need into one little pocketful of fun. It's kind of cool and very convenient to be able to step out of the house and not even have to think about how to get to where you want to get to, but seeing so many people enter, sit on and exit the tube without once glancing up, I just have to ask...
  • Where's the fun? Sometimes it's nice to get a bit lost. Or stumble across things by accident. Or find yourself in a dark alley... well, scratch that last one.
  • Where's the spontaneity? I suppose most technological advances in recent times have contributed to this change- remember when instead of being able to just go: “Where are you? Yeah just walk down the mall, I'm outside Borders in a blue checked shirt with a penguin on the back: see me? See me...?”, you actually had to arrange stuff? And commit to stuff?
  • Where's the interaction? (See also: The Rise of the Self-Checkout and Subsequent Fall of the Checkout Chick)

(I was going to also question the whereabouts of the book, but then I remembered you don't need paper any more, because you just read your book on your screen thingy. Whatever- I like dog ears.)

Just to end off this little soliloquy on solitariness...

I attended a manual handling course the other day. The overriding feeling I came away with was a sad sense of healthcare becoming more about business and less about care. I completely understand the need for guidelines in relation to lifting heavy loads, and even agree with the concept of the No Lift policy, given the huge percentage of healthcare workers who have suffered debilitating injuries as a result of not keeping their own health in mind. BUT it's the degree to which this has to be taken. A (paraphrased) quote from the instructor of the session:

Instructor: “You might see little, old, 60kg Mary start to fall and think 'Oh no!', but you have to remember that by the time little old Mary gets close to the floor, she's got the same amount of force built up as a small motorbike... so instead of thinking 'Oh no!', you need to see Mary for what she really is... essentially a small motorbike... would you try to stop a motorbike from falling?”
Us: “No.”
Instructor: “So why would this be any different, really?”
Me: “Because motorbikes can't cry?”

Meanwhile, look at what Amsterdam had to offer on our first day back in not -15 degrees about a week ago!

Monday, March 7, 2011

So nice getting back into this, my favouritest foodie site of all:
Made a pretty good galette last night thanks to Deb and her sexy site and pretty pictures.

I miss performing.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Why I just can't eat meat right now

I love JSF so much. His fiction, which I have discovered since being away, makes me laugh/cry/hold my hand over my mouth and then to my heart. I would strongly recommend Everything is Illuminated and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. They are beautiful examples of contemporary literature.

I read his latest, Eating Animals, about a month ago. In the middle of meat-laden, sausage-fest Finland, my stomach lurched and my mind raced as once again his writing drew me in, this time with exposing facts about the factory-farming industry of America.

I've never been a huge "I Love Steak" person, but have always eaten a fair amount of meat, and particularly enjoy a nice piece of fish. My mouth waters at the thought of Salt and Pepper squid from Yingers on Gouger St.

The problem is that for the most part, the nice piece of fish isn't really so nice. I know our standards in Australia when it comes to farming are no doubt better that beefy, porky America(ns), but the fact remains that a lot of the time, 'free-range' doesn't really mean free-range, whole species are being wiped out of the ocean for the purposes of putting a pretty piece of pink flesh on top of a ball of rice, and we're eating stuff that's been modified to benefit our tastebuds and our hip pockets at the expense of being strong and healthy as animals themselves.

And aside from this, the book really raised the question of why, really, we do it. JSF questions whether "because it tastes good" is reason enough to justify slaughtering animals. And it's hard to argue with this. I've really probably always known this, but to be honest, it's the social aspect of eating that is the main thing that makes the decision to say "No thanks" quite hard. And I do like a bit of the old being social.

But look, it's not great for me, animals, the environment, the trends of our eating in Western Society. And I just don't really need it in my life.

So there you go.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

On snowy beauty, why it may have been responsible for a touch of pneumonia, and why, in the end, that's probably a good thing given an impending retu

Sometimes I'm a little bit worried about the concept of going back to a proper job/real life/boring shit/Not Backpacking And Travelling Around Doing Things That Make Me Happy But Don't Necessarily Contribute Hugely to Society. Will I be stuck in rut-ish-ness for the rest for life? Will I accidentally just get married and have kids and then all of a sudden be seventy two? Will I suffer a slow, horrible death by deprivation of sunshine and smiles (thank you Britain/Britons)?

… I am being slightly over dramatic here, but there is some basis of truth in my hyperbole. Faced with the approaching, inevitable return to The Workforce, I am a bit scared. Whilst my months of travel have no doubt instilled in me some new skills (card-dealing, improved haggling, evading train fares, saying “cheers” in at least seven languages), brought new, amazing people into my life, and given me some obligatory, wanky sense of self-contentment, I still doubt my knowledge and abilities in the realm of Physio. I'm kind of scared of my own profession.

There's no doubt I picked up lots with the couple of months of work in Phnom Penh, but there was definitely an element to my work there that enabled me to justify gaps in my knowledge or abilities according to me being “from The West”. The cultural and economical differences that influence how things are done in Cambodia probably made it easier for me to accept when I felt a bit below-par. But now, looking at working as someone “from The West”, and this time in The West... well, there's a whole lot of new doubts and scary thoughts that come into my mind. There's the old adage of “fake it till you make it” in regards to establishing a career, and I suppose I often still feel like I'm faking it. My Mum, other physios, nice people who think I'm a nice person will all me that all physios, all working people in general feel this, even when they've been working for eons, even when they're considered specialists in their field.

That doesn't change the fact that I feel bad when I can't remember the origin and insertion of teres minor.

But to say to potential employees, who are beginning to receive Claire McEvoy PT CV.doc in their inboxes: “Look, I might actually be a bit shit at this physio business. Like, there are other things I'm better at, and there are definitely people who are better at the physio thing than me, so if you've got someone else on file with more letters after their name, or more PD stuff on their CV, you could probably go with them, actually!”... well that might not go down so well for me on the gaining-employment-and-therefore-having-some-money-to-eat front. And there is a certain degree of bullshitting involved in job applications. As I'm writing official-sounding introductory emails to people, I always find myself doing this little pompous head-shake, and saying my “yours sincerely” out-loud as I type it, in a la-di-da sort of voice.

But there are some things that make me a good physiotherapist. So I have to focus on those things, don't I? That's what I have to pump up my applications with, as opposed to inner monologue phrases of “sometimes I don't really care for this job and sometimes I'm sort of making it all up as I go along.” I am good at talking to people. I care about how people feel. I try hard to make patients (/clients/humans) feel better if I have means of doing it, and I try to do it with a smile for the most part. I have a large capacity for empathy.

And if we're talking about respiratory physiotherapy, and the patients I might find myself assisting working in this field, it's my empathetic capacity that has definitely come along in leaps and bounds over the past few weeks of travel.

… What a segue, McEvoy. What. A. Segue...

About a month ago now, Simon and I were in Switzerland. After a couple of days in Zürich, we decided we should have some Alps adventures before going on through to Italy, where there was unlikely to be much snow in which to frolic. So, on the advice of our very helpful host Jens, we took a train to Bergün. It's a tiny town (population 500) in the middle of Switzerland, and it was fairytale wonderland on the snow front. We were too cold and tired to be bothered dedicating much time to being good shoestring-ers and seeking out the cheapest possible accommodation, and so landed in probably the cosiest, most “eee!”-inducing place we've been in- the hotel Piz Ela ('wing mountain', for those of you playing at home). Soft beds; plush, spotty carpet; a little table-and-chairs set up by the window with a crocheted cloth; a complimentary bottle of bubbly water and actual glass glasses (total deal-sealer, right?). We jumped around like little kids for a decent chunk of time.

Bergün is tiny, yes, but well known amongst snow-loving Swiss types for it's sled run. To get in on this action, all you need to do is hire a sled in town, jump on the train, and go on to the next village. Then you get off, jump on your sled, and cruise on down five kilometres back to Bergün. Being the bad-ass kids we are, we decided we'd do the run at night. So at around 8pm we were on the train, Michelin Man'd up in our layers, and not looking quite as pro as the others on the train with us- decked out in their sexy, colour-coordinated snow-worthy suits and shoes that didn't cause them to slip all over the place (Claire, meanwhile, is wearing her bloody excellent lace-up stacked-heeled boots, and men's thermal pants over the top of her other pants).
The first five minutes or so of the run down saw us cruising at, I don't know, five kilometres an hour or so. The sky was clear and the stars were bright, the cold blew in our faces gently, but our many layers did their job. We stopped to take some photos of the beautiful snow-touched trees on either side of us, and document our first real snow experience of the trip. It really was a beautiful night.

We then hopped back on the sleds at a little crest, and here began the screaming. All of a sudden our speed increased to what was handily shown to us on a little screen somewhere along the route to be in the vicinity of 50 km/hr. I had that sort of half-crazed laughter thing going on, which was an outward expression of the slightly conflicting emotions residing within me at that moment (“This is AWESOME!” and “I think I might DIE!”). Then I crashed into a snow bank. It was a fairly spectacular crash: a hairpin bend that I knew even my finely-honed toboggan-driving skills weren't going to see me around; I tried to put on my brakes (ie. digging your heels into the snowy ground)- that resulted in a lot of ice in my face, and a relatively classy dismount from the sled as it hit the bank and I was airborne for a few, beautiful seconds. Simon pulled up behind me, laughing quite loudly but, like a true friend, inquiring in between gasps of laughter after my well-being. Anyway, he got his because five minutes later, me having reached the bottom of another hair-raising slope, I had to wait longer than expected for Simon, and he informed me when he eventually pulled up next to me that he had snow in most of his bodily crevices having survived an even cooler-looking crash than me.

So we made it to the bottom, nothing broken, and felt very cool. In both the metaphorical sense of the word, but also quite literally- my hands had never been so cold. We got back to the hotel and warmed up and ate food and all was well.

Except then I woke up in the middle of the night in a pretty furious sweat. It was that kind of delirious fever where I couldn't tell whether to laugh or cry or sing at the top of my lungs (this has helped with previous midnight fevers). The next morning, the sheets were a messy tangle of sweaty cotton and my body felt a little exhausted, but okay.

Long story short, this sort of set a pattern for the next week or so. During the day I was alright (although my energy levels and motivation were slowly creeping down), and at night I'd wake up throwing my clothes off, sweating profusely, and feeling generally pretty horrible. Poor Simon suffered almost as much as I did, being constantly awoken by my “*grrrooaaaaan*... sorry, it just feels better if I make a bit of noise... *grrroooaaaan*...” and, being a lovely friend, always offering his assistance (this was most likely met with a sickness-inspired “No! Just leave me aloooone! *grrrooooaaaan*...”).

Somewhere in Italy the fevers went away (hurray!) and a slight cough took their place (quoi?!). I thought it was sort of tickle that would just bugger off eventually, but with each day, my assurance (to myself/Simon/whoever we happened to be staying with) that “I think it feels better today” became less and less convincing. It really began to feel like something was stuck in my right lung, and my hacking cough (particularly impressive in the middle of the night or just after a run) couldn't shift it. It was around Rome that stuff started coming up with the coughs that wasn't a particularly pleasant colour, and by Sweden, it was obvious the lung sewage wasn't going anywhere, regardless of the level of my dedication to getting it out. My abdominals were also feeling pretty worked out, but not in a sexy, cool way; and the right side of my chest had begun to hurt with most breaths I took. After a particularly unpleasant run one morning, I got back to the apartment we were staying at with the feeling that someone had poured molten lead into my lungs, leaving me with about 3cm at the top of them to get on with the old job of breathing. It was not a nice feeling.

For any Australians planning on doing some European adventuring anytime soon, may I suggest Sweden as an excellent spot to get violently ill and in need of a doctor? Thanks to the handy dandy internet, I was able to ascertain that for whatever reason, Sweden and Australia have a sort of reciprocal agreement when it comes to public medical cover. This meant that I paid about $15 for a visit to the doctor which, for travellers from most other countries would have seen them around 150 buckaroonies out of pocket. So that was nice. As were the antibiotics.

And can I just say that snow makes a fantastic receptacle for phlegm? In the last couple of weeks I must have expelled hundreds of millilitres of the stuff, and, burying my disgusting lung excretions with its pretty, powdery whiteness, the snow has quite literally softened the blow of my grossness.

As I alluded to earlier, I think these last few weeks, my first experience of a real, live chest infection inside my body, should really be able to go down on my CV. Whether due to stupidity at my part on not keeping warm enough that night on the sled run in Bergün, my backpacking body just feeling tired and a bit fed up on the immune front, or by some higher being from the realm of Ha Ha Ha Let's See How You Deal With This On Your Holidaying, a chest infection was sent to me. But despite the pain involved, I can only look at it in a positive light: this is respiratory physiotherapy Professional Development in action!!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Alive. Currently coughing up chunks of lung but alive.

Remains of panna cotta, Bologna.

Let's not even talk about how long it's been between bloggings.

I'll just say I'm jumping back up behind the reigns of the blog cart and will blog off into the sunset once again.

What was my last report? I think it was waaaay back towards the start of Touzac times, and was basically along the lines of "wah wah wah I'm homesick."

OK. MAJORLY quick run through of the few months following my little sad face...

- 2 months in Touzac. At times driving me slightly nutty with its small town-ness, at times being chilled and exactly what was needed. Lots of lon long runs through French countryside, fellow (naughty) nannies from Australia, lots of wine, singing songs with lovely older men folk who welcomed me into their band lovingly, improved French. Craziest Christmas ever. I got a bit emotional. And a bit drunk. And a bit sick (the homesickness had decided to return, and felt like being physical.)

- An amazing week in Paris with fellow Aussie and beautiful new friend Steph. Our first Couch Surfing experience, staying with the amazing Eric in his little Parisian apartment, eating cheese and snails, watching movies, and playing many card games. Seeing Damien (petit frere) for the first time in 8 months and spending some awesome sibling time together. Catching up with the French family I lived with on my French exchange many a year ago.

- Amsterdam! A few days wandering and hanging out with Marty (who lives there) and meeting up with Mr Simon Gibbs.

- Berlin! With Marty and Simon. Markets, slushy snow, excellent food, Absinthe, a couple of nights in our friend's apartment, photobooth photos, an excellent new secondhand shirt, a cool cool vibe.

- Munich! Got there in a big van- first RideShare experience, met a beautiful Berliner named Raluca and blah blah blah-ed all the way to Munich (that's 6 hours of blah-ing.) Couch Surfed with David the beautiful Munich/Georgian man who gave up his bed for us, wore lederhosen, remarked that Simon looked like a junkie and made us eat lots of German meat.

- Zurich! RideShare again, this time in a.... silver JAAAAAG. Amazing little dynamo 65+ woman travelling with us who was extrememly enthuisiastic about Swiss knives and supermarkets. Couch Surfed with the very energetic, very happy and very helpful Jens, who also took me along to his running training session which was tough but good, and let me see some Swiss forests at night (and almost slip on my ass several times.)

- 2 amazing nights in Bergun, in the south of Switzerland- a tiny town of 500 that was fairytale-snowy, and has a 5km toboggan ride that we did at night and squealed for most of the way down. I got some weird sickness thing which involved me having super crazy fevers overnight, but at least we were staying in the most gorgeous little room imaginable.

- Tirano! Just over the border and into Italy. A beautiful little town. The Italian food obsession began with that first night: pizzocheri (regional specialty pasta- like grey fettucine) drowning in melted cheese and vegetables, a mammoth calzone for Simon, delicious wine and beautiful waiters.

- Lecco. a town by Lake Como. I was sick still. Didn't see much of it. Wasn't that impressed. The town appears to be run entirely by teenagers. And groups of teenagers can be a bit scary, to be honest. They make me feel like I'm definitely not cool enough for school. We ate some good pizza though, and had a bloody good breakfast in a B&B that was way too clean and stark.

- Bologna. Step down from ritzy overclean Lecco B&B to fairly dingy dingy hotel that was stinky. But that's OK. Ate in an amazing trattoria that's been going for over 60 years. I had this plate the size of three of my heads (and my head's already pretty big, remember) filled with grilled vegetables and cheese, and Simon and I desperately soaked up the last flavours on our plates with bread, before marvelling at the panna cotta before us: it seemed to be able to wobble so it almost fell... BUT NEVER DID. It was smothered in an almost-black berry sauce. The only photo I got was of the (licked-clean_ plate after it was completely finished (and that's saying something). We did our washing at a laundromat, we drank lots of coffee, we indulged our materialism with shitty shops and cheap clothes.

- To Lucca! (we stood in the train station at Bologna and just clicked on ticketing options randomly until something relatively close-by and cheap came up... and we're so glad we found Lucca.) A beautiful walled-in city. Cobbled streets, something in the vicinity of 30 churches in a very small area, lots of little marcellerias and pasticcerias and sexy old women and cord pants on old men and sunshiiiiine.

We're leaving for Rome tomorrow.

Distinct lack of artistry involved in that post, but something inside me feels at peace now at least I've got some of that out! The art can now return!

Side note: excellent thing making me really happy at the moment- sending postcards. If you'd like one, comment and leave your address or send it to me via email.

Claire xox