Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Doctor Who?

I will not become a Doctor Who fan.

No. Not me.

I'm turning the TV off RIGHT NOW. This has gone far enough.

I refuse.

I am going to go right over and...

...oh, bloody hell.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Few things..

There are few things from back home that I genuinely miss to the point where I get a little teary about it. Hammocks. Friday Night Fish Fry. Grandma. Taking Grandma out for Friday night fish fry. But now a little light has come back into my life. That's right, our 65 channels of pretty TV include "The Daily Show." Alison and I have watched it and laughed our respective heads off for the past two nights, much to the bemusement of Lisa, who doesn't quite get it yet.

But on a more serious note, the Metro, bastion of comprehensive reporting journalism, tells me that Osama bin Laden might be dead. The mainstream newspapers haven't picked it up beyond the second page, so I was forced to check out Apparently a leaked report from France says that bin Laden may have died from typhoid fever in August.

This is sort of a disquieting idea. Is he dead? Is he still out there? Will we know either way? The disturbing/annoying thing about bin Laden is there's no end to his story yet. Unlike other figures of evil, his legend is continuing to grow. And if he did die--well, what's to stop him from moving into the realm of the mythological? Until his real death becomes no more than a footnote and his symbolism becomes more important. Even Napoleon, caged on Elba, had a coda to his life. I know that bin Laden isn't solely responsible for all the terrorism that's in the world today, but just as he has become a symbol for extremists, he's become a symbol to those who would stop them. We need to capture him, the same way we would capture a battle standard, in order to shake the determination of his followers. I can't stop putting it in perspective of historical figures, but I try to remember that this is a new war. Would we know peace if he was captured? Or is it already too late?

Monday, September 25, 2006

chafing at the bit

I still like my job, I do, but this nine to five I don't know how people can do it. I'm not sure if I'll be working past this Friday, and that would be okay. I've got to find some time (and energy) to apply for real jobs. I talked to Mom and Dad last night, and when I mentioned the company I work for was interviewing people to fill my role full time, they both said, "did you put in an application?" But I don't want to do this full time! It is a really good job, but if I had to do it full time, I think I'd go a little crazy. Just a little. Although the receptionist did give me the "Gone With the Wind" poster that came with today's Independent, so now I have wall candy.

Next week I'm going to be stage managing a show that a friend wrote, yay. Back to black. I think I might still be at the place though--the HR manager dropped a clue today when she asked if I could "cover for the receptionist when she goes to lunch next week." So I might be around then. Which is fine. One week pays the rent, two covers all the bills and three, Nicki gets a green suede coat. Whoo. I need to buy a desk too so I can write upstairs in peace. Right now I'm in the living room with the oh-so-distracting TV. Mm. Pretty. 65 channels and what do we watch? American sitcoms.

Of course, the good thing about working all week is come Saturday you have no excuse not to party hard. This Friday was my roommate Lisa's birthday. I was all excited all week because I thought she was going to cook--she's from China, so when she cooks, it's tradional Chinese food and it is soooo gooood. But, like me she works full time and had no time to cook so we went out to Nando's, one of our favourite places. Saturday night I went out to a birthday party in Covent Garden. Whose birthday was it? No clue. I was the guest of the producer of the Rep, and we sat around all night talking and raising our blood alcohol levels.

Aw, now Lisa has come in here taunting me with a bowl of spicy Chinese food, when all I had was healthy chicken and potato, filling but boring. I need to learn how to cook with garlic.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

It Is Time

Alison is feeling much better: thanks to my careful ministrations, which have included feeding her a veggie-burger takeaway and demanding every five minutes "how are you feeling?!" so I can blog about something more important.

It is the end of summer: actually, it's past the end of summer. And as many of you know, that means one thing and one thing only. It is time to read "Gone With the Wind." For nearly five years now, at the end of every August I carefully re-read the beloved text, making sure that everything turns out the way it's supposed to. Ashley Wilkes, that coward, marries Melanie whom we all have a grudging respect for, and Rhett Butler sweeps Scarlett off her feet. *sigh* I don't read romance novels, but for some reason this one really appeals to me. I suspect it's because of Scarlett. She IS a good role model: brought up in a strict, traditional society, she breaks the mould and alienates herself to be able to support herself in a male-dominated world. Not sure if I agree with her using her looks to get ahead, but I suppose with all the obstacles she has to overcome, she needs every trick in the feminine toolbox.

I'm sure I'll have more to say about Scarlett's 17 inch waist in the future (20 inches after three kids) but right now I have to go make myself pretty for a party. I think that's the only problem I have with the copy at the library: the cover is the dishy picture of Clark Gable sweeping Vivien Leigh off her feet, so now when I'm on the Tube it looks like I'm ready a trashy romance novel instead of a piece of 20th century American literature.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

it's the little things...

I was really disgusted by the level of service at the hospital last night--I mean, I know it's free, but when you're in a lot of pain, and all you want is someone to reassure you it's going to be okay, having to put up with people who won't even make eye contact is NOT condusive to healing.

(Should probably start off by saying that it wasn't me who needed to go to the hospital, it was my roommate Alison who is apparently now taking kidney medication, but other than that, fine.)

Alison had been having pain in her side, so we went to the hospital about 10pm to get it checked out--better that than calling an ambulance when her appendix burst. I knew it was going to be a wait (luckily I haven't finished "Years of Victory" yet but I'm not hopeful: Britain has just been expelled from Spain again, and I think that this time Napoleon isn't going to let the Iberian penninsula go lightly.)


where was I? Oh, right, so we got to the hospital, and waited to see a nurse, then waited to see a doctor. Finally after about an hour and a half, Alison goes through the doors to the emergency ward and the waiting room slowly empties. About quarter to two, I finally got tired of waiting and went back to see how she was doing. I asked her, "What's up?" and she turned to the nurse and said "So what's happening?" They had told her they were keeping her overnight for observation, but not why or what they were observing! After the nurse checked her chart and mumbled something about her appendix, they wheeled her out toward the ward. The appendix specialist was coming in the next morning at ten. Surely, I thought, walking behind Alison's wheelchair, surely there is someone here competently enough trained--a nurse even--who can tell her if it's appendicitis or not.

Apparently not. They put Alison in an open, mixed dorm, which was all quiet and mostly dark for the night. My exposure to British hospitals was mostly limited to the opening scene in "28 Days Later" but I was decidedly not impressed by what I saw. The nurse from the emergency room put Alison in a bed, and another nurse from the ward helped him get her bag o' water hooked up. Without saying anything to one another. Not, "This is Alison, she's being observed for appendicitis. Alison, you okay? Have a good night." NOTHING NADA NICHTS NYET. I expected the ward nurse to at least say something--"hi, don't worry, you'll be fine"--but again, nothing, only a mumbled "...gotta taker blud pressure..." Granted, we were in dorm that was full of sleeping people, but a few words of acknowledgement wouldn't have gone amiss. Finally the nurse wheeled away (her only eye contact with me when I finally said, rather sharply, I'm afraid, "Are you done?") and I gave Alison a helpless hug. Her pain was mostly gone by that point, so there was little to do but say good night and leave. I took a taxi back home, barking at the driver a bit louder that I intended when he drove past my house, and was in bed by three.

Alison's fine, she's home now playing Internet, and I'm at work, managing not to fall asleep. (reason number 835 I like this place: free coffffee, tea and COKE!) There are so many horrible stories about the NHS* and jokes about the way it's handled that I thought "surely it can't be that bad?" But it's the same thing as paying tuition for college: Yes, we grumble about the high cost of it, but when it really counts (libraries that are open past five, eye contact) the little things are there when you need it.

*National Health Service: free to British citizens, a publicly owned healthcare system set up after WWII...and badly in need of reform.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006


We finally got our internet hooked up (plus 65 channels of pretty, pretty TV), and, without wishing to sound too dramatic, I feel like we've just got indoor plumbing. Think about it. You know you can go without it, and you adjust to having to go get your water once a day, if you're lucky, but when you finally get that hot and cold tap--you realise what you've been missing.

I was watching a documentary a few days ago about women getting plastic surgery. (up until about two hours ago, our choices were fairly limited) Most of them gave the same reason, "I'm not doing it for anyone, I'm doing it to feel better about myself!" This made me think about what makes people feel good. I'm already, thanks to Susan's lectures on ageing stage-makeup, more aware of the places in my face where the lines are going to be, but most of the time I don't really care. What makes me feel better about myself, is being useful and productive--see entries below. I don't know where I got that attitude toward my self-worth from, instead of basing it on my looks. I suspect I got most of it from my parents, but then I have to wonder if maybe I didn't succumb to a LITTLE media pressure: there are a lot of stereotypical women out there who want to be just like the faces in the magazines, but then again, there are a lot of stereotypes of the fat friend who has a "great personality." And is damn smart. And you better not forget it.

So, I've been working for a large--strike that, huge international building and investment company, which will remain nameless in case I have to bitch about co workers in the future. How big, you might ask? Well, they OWN the Chrystler Building in New York, and their main offices are in Rockefeller Center. I am working in a lovely reconditioned building. From the outside it has a stately Victorian manner, on the inside it is steel and glass, based around two courtyards. I am on the eighth floor, so when I look out I can kind of see the sky, and a bunch of nasty rooftops. Ah, London. To get to work I have to pass a veritable who's who of theatre streets: Kemble Street, Garrick Street, etc. I don't exactly work FOR anyone, and I don't exactly work WITH anyone, but all the people who sit around me are friendly and helpful. I am support to six managers, so I arrange their travel, do their expenses, file their folders, book meetings, schedule their calendars, things like that. It's a little intimidating, because I've never done it before, but at the same time, once you learn it, you remember it.

I've only been there for three days, but already I feel like, "is this my life? am I really working in London?" Obviously, I don't want to do this forever--and luckily this will work out perfectly with me stage managing a show in a week's time. My goal is to live off of money I earn and try not to touch my savings. We'll see if that's possible. Of course, I've already spent my first paycheck on office clothes, but isn't that always the way things go? Right now we're in the middle of a heatwave (courtesy of Hurricane Gordon) so I can get away with no coat, but I'm going to need a new one soon. I say "need" I mean "I saw this green suede coat that cried when I walked away from it..." No place like London.

And, I have about four shows that I want to see. SEE, as opposed to SM for a change. If any of you are in London, here's my list: Eden's Empire, Amadeus, La Traviata and Caroline, or Change. The last is the musical I've been RAVING about for two years and it's going to be HERE at the NATIONAL with TONYA PINKINS who should have won that Tony, damnit. I'll be sure and tell her that when she comes out of the stage door where I'll be waiting... :)

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Two Down, One to Go...

I had resigned myself to a pleasant writerly Friday yesterday, when the phone rang, and I got work for the next two weeks. I actually went in for four hours yesterday to see what I'll be doing. I suspect I may be in slightly over my head, but, eh, if there's one thing I'm good at, it's faking it. Just be cheerful and pay attention! I'll be office support for a huge building company that's located in, if it's not exactly theatre, at least I get to boast I work in the West End.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

remembering to breathe

Thanks everyone for those comforting words of wisdom. I always seem to be at the library at the height of my freaked-out-ness, so naturally that's what my blog is all about. I am feeling a little better today, mostly because I am remembering all my inspirational mottos and Queen quotes, which is calming me down.

I'm also more upbeat because I was writing last night. I thought, "well, all summer you werewhinging about not having enough time to write, well, here's your chance." So I decided to revisit an early piece that I had started and never finished--only I couldn't find the original script! We're talking pre-laptop, so I suspect somehow it didn't get transferred. Luckily I could remember most of the scenes, if not the dialogue, so I set about recreating them. And getting really pissed off because they were too good! Basically the main character is supposed to be really stupid in the beginning, and get smarter, so I figured that would dovetail nicely with my own development as a writer--only now there is no bad opening writing, only good first copy. damnit. Never thought I would lament my clumsy penstrokes of yesteryear. Oh well.

And yes, loyal readers, never fear, I have not forgotten that I am still in beloved London. I recently signed up for a study-day at the National Maritime Museum, just something to look forward to. The topic? "Sex, Crimes and Passion in Nelson's London." Some things will never change.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

back to our regularly scheduled programming

The frustration/anger/uncertainty I'm feeling at not being able to find a job is boiling over into my life in a bad way. I should be doing theatre--I should be stage managing my friend's show--but because I'm no longer a student, it would cost me £34 every week just to travel to rehearsals, which, because I have no job, I cannot afford. If I do get a job, I won't get paid because I have no bank account, and I cannot get a bank account until I can prove my address by having bills come in my name. But will a British gas company accept an American debit card? I can't look for a job because we have no internet at our house, and getting it installed has become a campaign on par with Napoleon's 1798 expedition. at least he got to land in egypt. My visa is going to expire in five months, and I will have no money to move to a nice place with theatre. I'm going to end up working in an office for the rest of my life. I need chocolate covered peanuts. I'm so worried, I'm grinding my teeth again.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Today is September 11th

I look back across the five years, and I see a nineteen year old girl on her way to a class. She has no idea that her world is about to change, no idea that the friend who is pulling her aside asking her urgently "Have you heard?" is about to tell her something that will alter the course of her life forever. She doesn't read the newspapers yet--but she will. She's never heard of the Taliban, or al-Qaida, but soon the words will become familiar. She's never spoken to someone of the Muslim faith, or been the minority in a group of people. She will. I look back at that nineteen year old, and I have to wonder how much of the Me sitting here is the natural process of growing up. Or how much of my personality today was shaped by the rude awakening of five years ago? Would I be as interested in politics, or have such a passion for different world views? The papers say that September 11th defines my generation. I'll agree with that and go one further, that it deliniates the moment when I grew up and realised there was a big ol' world out there.

Five years ago the opening to my journal entry of that night started out simply "I'm scared." It was the fear of uncertainty, not for any physical reasons, but the fear of what will happen next, of loneliness. These emotions wax and wane, but they are no longer unfamiliar.

"It is some small comfort that we can look back and draw parallels between the past & today's problems, which leads to the idea that we are not the first to feel frightened, angry and confused and thta we shall not be the last. We may not be united by religion, democracy, politics, but we are all one in our anger & frustration. Once we recognise that it is our FEAR that unites us, then perhaps we can start to come together, even if it is only as fearful children, clutching each other in the dark." (Aug 12)

I wrote this on the front of a Tube map after reading yet another book about the Napoleonic wars, something that nineteen year old would never do. It's easy for me to look at her and smile at her naievety and overwhelming optimism, but I wonder if she would see the same thing about me. The world is smaller now, yes, but it is also more familiar. In no way am I trying to co-opt the pain some felt that day, only to say that it laid a dividing line across my life that I can look back and see to this day.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

I want the spoils, but not too fast...

Yesterday I helped out at a rehearsed reading put on by the same company that did The Representative. I think that's what I needed: a little dose of theatre, Susannah's overwhelming cheerfulness and Kate's blunt encouragement ("you're not unemployed! you're an out of work writer, yeah? don't listen to your parents!") And a little mass murder. This play was about the Armenian genocide that took place during the first World War and it's interesting because Turkey, the country that perpetuated it, flat-out refuses to admit that they had anything to do with it. I think it went fairly well, and it was lovely to see some of the people from the Rep again. So yes, I'm much better today--it helps that I'm venturing out sans ibuprofen, but I still can't carry heavy things for long distances.

I'm settling into my new place, slowly. Forget everything you picture about London, this is just a heavily commercial, residential area, with lots of working class people and no things of historical value in sight. Well, except for the Victorian water mains. Which are currently being replaced. Right outside my window. Loudly. No chance of sleeping in here. I feel like I've moved to another city, almost. The best part about this area is the library, which is where I am now. It's just a solidly good resource for this area. And for me, since I've been starving for some fiction ever since I turned in my last books at Goldsmiths.

Although, they don't have Gone With the Wind here...and it's been more than a year since I read it. Might have to break down and buy another copy...hmm...

Friday, September 08, 2006

First day in a new place...

I'm a little depressed today. After moving yesterday, I woke up today to the most excruciating back pain I've had in years. Managed to make it to the ibuprofen bottle and get things under control, but bending over is still a problem. Got out of the house and went to the bank to set up an account--only to hear that I needed to have a bill with my name and my address on it. The contract we signed wasn't good enough. Registered with a couple more temp agencies. The good thing was I signed up for a library card, so at least I'll have stuff to read and access to cheap movies. But I'm beginning to get disheartened in general. I want to do theatre, damnit. damnit. Last night a friend called asking if I would overhire as a stage hand for two weeks, £20 a night, but I told him I had a gig on Saturday--so he said he'd call me back and he NEVER DID. aaaargh. I HATE WHEN PEOPLE DO THAT. If you've found someone else, FINE, just let me know. I'm just not cut out for this freelance stuff. It wouldn't be so bad, but it hit me today in Sainsbury's all over again how expensive it is to live, full stop. I'm just frustrated that once again it's Friday and I've STILL got no job.

And it's funny too: because Wednesday, with nothing to do but wait for the movers, after I had my interview, I sat down and banged out twenty pages of a new script. Which may be pretty good, but because I'm feeling so worthless, the chances of it being finished any time soon are close to nil. I'm supposed to be a writer...I am a writer. I'm just not a mailer-of-scripts, a rehearsed-reading, a submitted-second-draft kinda girl. Mysterious.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

expecting the best

Registering at a temp agency:

Was it the dazzling word count (102 WPM)? The stunning credentials? The firm, confident handshake and eye contact? The fact that the woman interviewing you also thought that New York was "too high?" Tell us Nicki, what WAS it about your interview today that gives you high expectations?

Aah, well, it must have been the moment when I looked out the window--directly at a plaque noting that Lord Nelson lived in the house across the street in 1798.

I can't get away from him. *sigh*

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

open mouth, insert foot

I guess I really need to learn to shut up and count my blessings. After my last post, I recieved no less than TWO pieces of mail from the home-side of the planet, AND I got three invitations to go out drinking tonight. Top it all off, I'm going to be registering with a temp agency tomorrow, so hopefully the next post will read "employed."

Last night, Alison, Lisa and I had a cheese-a-thon, which involved us watching really, REALLY bad movies and eating copious amounts of cheese and cheese-covered items. For some reason our films had a Jack Nicholson does the sixties theme. "Head," (stream-of-consciousness bad), "Psych-Out" (screamingly bad bad), and "Tommy" (not even Roger Daltrey going for a swim in his tight jeans can redeem this movie bad) The best part was we had it in our new apartment. No, we haven't moved yet, but Lisa hauled her laptop up to Wood Green and we turned on the electricity and played house. I'm very excited about living in London like a proper person and not living in a student dorm. yayyy...

Monday, September 04, 2006

Windy Sunday

Since the library was closed yesterday I went back to Greenwich for some park time. Yes, I visited the new Nelson exhibit at the NMM, but I also enjoyed a stroll along the Thames and browsing through the market. I'm ready for all these tourists to go home though. It was sad, because I'm not sure when I'll be getting down to Greenwich again: not exactly easy to get to from where I'll be living. I'll have to find someplace North to hang out, although, I don't think they used to build ships up there.

After three weeks of cold and drab, the weather has conspired to turn nice. Right now what I mostly want to do is curl up in the sun and enjoy it, but I'm keeping busy. Cleaning, packing. I went to throw out a bag of garbage yesterday and noticed that the top layer was empty cookie packets, which suggests to me that I might be slightly more stressed out than I'm willing to admit. Not having a job is wearying. Not so much for the money--also just something to do to get me out of the house. There are so many people here! Yet I feel like I hardly know anyone. I will have been here for a year in just a week, and if I left tomorrow, I don't think anyone would notice. Then again, I could just have been left alone for too long with my thoughts. Too much philosophizing and dead admirals make Nicki a broken record of boringness. Maybe I should get another degree...

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Ye Jacobites by name, lend an ear...

It's hard to believe that a week ago I was up in the Highlands of Scotland...where to begin?! For starters, the Highlands are the most beautiful country I've ever seen, aside from some bits of Wisconsin, and the friendliness of the Scots was definitely welcome after the brusque Londonders I've come to know and love. We set off for Glasgow on the train, and arrived to discover that the Rolling Stones were playing--which meant that there were no rooms to be had in the city. Nevermind! We rented a car and drove for several hours looking for a place, before finally finding a room about an hour north of Edinburgh, in a little city called Glen Rothes. The next day we set off for St. Andrews, another little town on the east coast. I dragged mom and dad to the castle and the cathedral there (although they didn't climb the tower with me) before we took off again, this time for Aberdeen. The roads in Scotland are well-kept, but VERY narrow and very twisty. Add to that the famous Scottish rain, and more than once I was wishing Dad would put some room between him and the car in front. (I also had to remind him from time to time to drive on the left...) After Aberdeen we headed north again, into the Highlands proper, toward Inverness, another good-sized town on the north part of the country. Here we stopped at the battlefield of Culloden, where Bonnie Prince Chairlie made his last stand against the forces of George II. All that I knew about the prince was that he escaped "over the sea to Skye" from a song I learned in eighth grade, but at the little museum I learned how this was the end of a series of conflicts, and the way of life for the Highlanders, as the wearing of tartans and playing of bagpipes was outlawed. On the way out I resolved to take up the bagpipes again--but rest assured, my chantor is still in Green Bay, so I won't be subjecting you to any renditions of "Awa Whigs Awa!" any time soon. (Dad also bought me a CD of songs from that time period, so now I have all these great Scottish tunes on my iPod. "Belt on yer broadsword and fight fer Prince Chairlie!")

After Aberdeen we took a long, beautiful sweeping drive down Loch Ness and Loch Lommond, through the heart of the Highlands. It was misty, which only served to make the greenness of the hills all the more startling. I have never seen happier sheep or cows, grazing mightily upon the hills. But you never got tired of it, somehow, around every corner was a new breathtaking vista, each more beautiful than the last. That was the day Dad let me drive the car for awhile. It was easier than I thought it would be (well, it was an automatic...) the hard part was keeping my eyes on the road. We stopped for the night at Fort William, a little touristy town on Loch Lommond, where we had the best meal so far--served to us by a man who was closing up shop in a week to go and raise racehorses in America. What a weird world we live in.

We came back to Glasgow and did a little shopping and sightseeing before catching the train home the next day. That night I dragged Mom and Dad to see "the Canterbury Tales" on the West End--I couldn't let them go without seeing a show! And the next morning I had to say good-bye. It was wonderful to see my parents again, and I was really depressed on the train coming home. It was so exciting to see familiar faces here in London, and now it just feels like the daily city again. Never thought I'd think of London as ordinary! Next time--I'm going home to see THEM.

Since I've come back, things have been busy. My flatmates found us an apartment in north London, so I'm moving on Thursday. I'll have a double bed (yay), a bathtub (yay), and my own washer and dryer (yayyyyyyy), all for £300 a month. Don't do the math. Meanwhile, I'm looking for a J-O-B. Everyone keeps reassuring me "it'll happen!" but the problem is as long as I don't have work, I keep agreeing to do little theatrical things for friends (for free) which means less days I could be working or looking for work. I need to keep up with the theatre to meet people and be hired, but I need to find a job so I can continue to pay for my theatre fixation. It's a problem.

Meanwhile, it's September! When did that happen? And I'm not setting off for school again. Weird! I will be moving though, so that should help. I am determined to have a grown up bedroom, which means no postcards blu-tacked to my walls, so if anyone wants some mail, send me your addresses, and I'll send you a card.