Saturday, May 22, 2010

Don't need a ticket for my destination any more

Earlier in the month, I met up with a bunch of old friends. Because we live largely all over the place these days, there hadn't been a proper chance for everyone to get together for, as the Irish would say, the guts of six years.

The gang, it's probably worth pointing out, is all blokes (with a couple of exceptions) and I've never been treated in any other way than as one of the boys.Within three minutes of arriving in the bar, I'd been asked if I threw bigger tantrums than the kids; when I was going to 'do more pointless books', and teased about living in a place called The Old Shoe Shop: 'trust you, with your romanticised view of the countryside...'

Maybe there's something warped about being away for a long time and then meeting up again, but far from making me want to throw one of the tantrums they remembered so well, the whole evening had me grinning for a week.

These particular mates can say whatever they like; they've earned it. As unmarried, childless males they've bought books on parenting issues (and read them) because my name's in there. Several of them have talked me off a number of hysterical ledges. Others have travelled thousands of miles so that we can sit and chat. They remember my birthday; and when I got married, they threw me a stag party. There were shots, there was cross-dressing, and there was a lot of banter. It was ace. My point is, it's the sort of collective friendship that ends up being like a family. Slandered and libelled; it's part of what makes it great to be back home.

(This one is sort of in response to two memes. Alice asked me a while ago what my five favourite songs were, and even further ago than that, Laura tagged me for my favourite-ever song.)

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Things I learned when out running last night

1. Eating a pork chop the size of your head an hour before you head out to your new running group isn't necessarily the best idea in the world. Even if it's from the local butcher. That lack of chemicals probably makes the protein harder to digest.

2. Iowever much I try to deny it, I'm obnoxiously competitive (yeah, yeah; cue amused shaking of heads from the rest of you who knew this already. Slow learner here). It's a GROUP RUN, Sarah. That doesn't mean you need to win. There is no 'winning'.

(This is the first time in 13 years of regular running that I've joined a running group; partly because we're new here, and it's an obvious way to get to know people/good routes; and partly because I've applied to run the London Marathon next year and so I'll damn well need to keep at it...)

3. If you have the build and pace of a Shetland pony, you should not try to overtake the racehorses. Or even the Shire horses. Muppet.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Vote, Vote, Vote for Nigel Barton

The last election I got really involved in was in 2004: the Kerry:Bush US Presidential campaign. After four years of (at best) accidental, (at worst) stolen Republican rule, everyone and anyone with a blue-beating heart was desperate for change. These were the pre-Obama days (although this was the campaign that first got him noticed nationally) and change wasn't as talismanic then as it became in 2008. Change back then just meant, 'not Bush'.

My fabulously hippy, island-dwelling, Bug-driving boss gave us all Election Day off on condition that we would spend it canvassing. This being the US, he was very carefully to be non-partisan in this suggestion; this being an independent publishing house in Seattle, it was an absolute shoo-in that every single one of us was off to fight for the Dems.

Being a foreigner in a desperate election is simultaneously liberating and disenfranchising. Liberating, in the way that many things about being the foreigner are liberating, you have a certain amount of emotional distance from the situation. But if you're living as a 'native' rather than a 'tourist', by which I mean, hanging out with the locals (rather than in some peculiar expat enclave); working; paying taxes; it's incredibly frustrating to want change and not be able to tangibly effect change. And yes, I mean 'effect', not 'affect', grammar nerds.

So I did what I could, and I did it as sincerely and as desperately as it could be done. I went to Nordstrom and bought the VOTE!!! t-shirt in case being confronted with my boobs was likely to sway anyone to the polls (this is pre-kids; said boobs were not unimpressive, if I say so myself). I called our local branch of the Democrat Party and offered my services. And I spent election day in the local office in a sterile office park, dialing my way through a list of numbers and asking each person if they'd voted today and who they'd voted for (none of the British squeamishness about this being 'too personal' a question).

It was a strange feeling; a sense of utter urgency, and a need to be DOING something, dammit. Americans, I think, are inherently more politicised than the British. Whether that has to do with British disinclination to talk about such things, or the American democracy (with a small d); but it was actually really energising to be around.

Everyone (well; everyone in our uber-liberal gang of pals in uber-liberal West Coast Seattle) was so desperate for a Democrat win that you could feel the vote being pulled there, inch by inch.
It was like a tug-of-war with a really stupid, but far-bigger-than-you person on the other side. And, to be honest, Kerry was never the best candidate for the Dems; he was essentially a spoiled rich kid just like Bush, and a bit dull. But he was the best of a mediocre bunch, and so we got behind him and we fought.

All of which brings me to how utterly, nerve-wrenchingly thrilling it is to be back in Britain for the first decent election it feels like we've had since (in my voting time, at least) 1997; and in reality, for absolutely ever. It does feel a bit like that 2004 campaign, in the sense that neither poor beleagured Gordy (though as the girl who always falls for the drummer in the band, he does have a certain appeal) or Slick Nick Clegg really have the Obama-appeal. The real emphasis for voting here is 'anyone but Cameron'. But that vitality, that sense of unity, the urgency of it all, and the huge amount of sheer energy it's bringing to the country, is really, really interesting. And it's good to be home for it, where I have a vote.

Now: fingers crossed, and off to the polls we go.

PS Nigel Barton is, in essence, Dennis Potter's alter ego. I know, I know; any excuse to slip in a reference to the Forest...