askygoneonfire: Red and orange sunset over Hove (Default)
I was discussing with a friend the other night the implications of the sentence "I love my country". The main gist of the conversation was that we could not recollect ever having heard a British person say that and suggested that, were we to hear such an exclamation, we'd become extremely suspicious of that person: meaning second guessing their intentions, motivations, intelligence....the works. A notable inclusion to the group of Brits who regularly assert their love (or wish to love, after certain conditions are fulfilled) for 'their' country is the BNP. We really felt that the only implication of making the assertion "I love my country" in the UK - or even just in England - is that such nationalism implies an absolute rejection of a multicultural society and an implicit expression of xenophobia. In other words, the expression of national pride eclipses the motivation for that pride.

We went on to discuss how hard we found it to understand why Americans in particular were so comfortable with that phrase and what it meant to Americans that it doesn't mean to us. We did not reach a conclusion but did hypothesise it relates to the relatively recent emergence of the USA as a nation and that it happened in such a way that the citizens understood the notion of being a part of a single entity. Contrastingly, the UK evolved for so many hundred years that the point at which it became a nation [state] is not just hard to pinpoint but also largely irrelevant to the island's inhabitants; they did not need to state an allegiance in order to ensure national development occured in a desirable and sustained manner. In short, such expressions were and are an organic part of the evolution of national identity but in Britain they are a contrived and Americanised expression of an emotion which is not universally felt.

But that's just a tentative hypothesis.

Tonight was the Last Night of the Proms. I don't think it's an exaggeration to say it's a national institution; the Proms themselves embody the idea of classical music for the masses and in so doing, hit the mark and offers a moment of unity pretty much time. Most distinctive about the music included is that it is largely of a patriotic flavour. Like pretty much everything in Britain, this is a tradition that has been observed for....well I'm going to say a million years, I think that's about get the idea. To give you (= non Brits) some sense of the immediacy of such music upon Prom goers I bring you this little tiddbit of trivia from tonight's broadcast:

At the first Prom performance of Land of Hope and Glory (or, to give it it's proper name; "Pomp and Circumstance March no. 1") it is reported that the audience "simply rose, and yelled".*

And those people, the ones who rose and yelled, were Victorians (!)

Land of Hope and Glory and Rule Britannia are probably the most popular regular components of The Last Night of the Proms. Both feature rather rousing lyrics, such as my favourite; Rule Britannia/Britannia rules the waves/Britons never ever ever shall be slaves. Britons are rarely offered a non-politicised opportunity to consider their nationality, but a song which lauds the historical achievements of an empire than no longer exists seems to sit quite comfortably with us/them. The music itself is the definition of grand and, like all the best [classical] music, washes over you and completely saturates the senses; coupled with the choral power in the delivery of the lyrics I think it is hard not to be swept up in the spirit of optimism and pride that piece contains.  Perhaps then, we Brits can only express pride in our nation through traditional [archaic?] routes, easily dismissed as 'just a song' if anyone raises an eyebrow as you frantically wave a flag and shout "God, who made thee mighty, make thee mightier yet".

I think that really sums up something quite base about an incredible piece of music and how it can touch people. And I think it also says a lot about how national identity is most easily expressed en masse. I find this particularly interesting because the only time I have been conscious of and indeed pleased to call myself British is when I was out of the country during my 6 month jaunt back in '07. Distance from my country of residence (a passive term if ever there was) was the only point at which I was conscious of all the things which could be considered as making Britain worthy of that modifier 'Great'.  The reasons for this are complex but can be summarised as 1. recognising the stark differences in personal and social liberty available in Britain in comparison to certain countries I visited - a slap in the face to the hysteria of British press who assured us that Britain was a dictatorship/police state/no freedom left etc etc.  2. speaking to citizens of other nations and comparing cultural notes and experiences - or having arguments with them about certain 'inalienable' truths.

I don't think it is a great stretch to suggest that most citizens of the United Kingdom are conscious of** the freedoms they enjoy and the comparatively high standard of living available, in theory, to all.  And I believe it is this...conditional satisfaction (but not adoration) of/with their country which is what Prom goers wish to express in their raucous renditions of the aforementioned songs - rather than the inevitable crushing defeat of their naval enemies, for example.  Perhaps most illustrative of this is that the National Anthem gets nowhere near as raucous a response, nor as much audience participation when the opportunity to sing-along arrives as Land of Hope and Glory or Rule Britannia do. Our national pride is discerning, it is not focused on a figurehead and it is far from absolute.  Which is, this humble blogger wishes to propose, why we are so unwilling to express anything near as unequivocal as 'love' for our nation.

If anyone wishes to answer the question "What does the phrase 'I love my country' mean to you?" I'd be extremely interested to read it.

* One assumes they yelled out their delight, rather than expressions of displeasure.
** although I would not argue they are satisfied with them, nor should we ever be.

askygoneonfire: Red and orange sunset over Hove (conor)
You could be happy and I won't know...

Is it too late to remind you how we were
But not our last days of silence, screaming, blur...

For the tiniest moment it's all not true
Do the things that you always wanted to
Without me there to hold you back, don't think, just do.

It's funny really, the way songs can make everything come rushing at you. I've written about this before, I know. And tomorrow I am starting another NaBloPoMo which this month means I'll be writing to prompts, so you can at least be assured I'm unlikely to write about it again, but I wanted to do a bit of a free writing blog post, working from an audio prompt*. So here we go...

And miles from where you are
I lay down in the cold ground
and I pray that something picks me up.

That's where I arrive, after that first lyric. Pick me, oh god please let something come and pick me up and return me to that place. Make the line "you could be happy and I won't know" a lie, make it something I create not respond to.

Increasingly though it's not her arms I want to be delivered back to - just someone. I miss that intimacy. Indeed I miss it so much I had a very confusing evening with my ex on Saturday where we fell back into a coupley-intimacy we rarely shared when we were actually going out. But then copious amounts of wine spritzers (yes, really. And no, I've never drunk one before) will do that for you.

In my dreams I keep saying "I love you" and then turning around to find out who I have said it to. Not once has it been Ali. Friends, family, acquaintances, strangers. But not once has it been her.

All of this is probably particularly confusing because the last week has been spent in a manic haze. The end of this period of nervous activity was bookmarked in the usual manner - I slept for an inordinate amount of time. Saturday night I went to bed at 1am, slept until 3pm, got up for 2 hours, napped for an hour and a half and then went to bed at 11pm - bringing the grand total of hours I was awake on Sunday to 6 and a half. An unremarkable 11 waking hours continues the trend today.

with a name I've never chosen
I can make my first steps as a child of 25....
just because I'm sorry
doesn't mean I didn't enjoy it at the tim

It's coming to that - I'm none of the things I wanted to be - would have chosen to be, but it's time to try and dismiss that nagging feeling of being some how displaced from my own life and attempt to forge ahead with what I have. I have contradictory feelings of regret (I regret I regret things I regret I regret anything, I regret nothing...)but there simply isn't time to sort through them. Somehow I need to just step out of the place I have been in for the last year and a half.

I realised the other day that I really do want to stay in Brighton and the move back to the East Mids if I don't get a job by September is a second choice, not a first one. But part of taking this step as who I am not who I want to be is going to be sucking it up and doing that if that is what is required to move closer to some of my longer term ambitions.

I've waited here my whole damn life
And I've forgotten what I wanted
Maybe I can do it
If I put my back into it

I am so saturated in regrets these days that I find it near impossible to look forward. But increasingly I am recognising that is what is holding me back. Or at least, I think it is a big component.

I've got one thing coming up next month - the ArtFor Pride exhibition - and I really want that to go well. I've got one painting sketched out to do on Wednesday and I'm hoping to get a couple of others done in the next few days as I have some holiday from work and apparently the weather is going to be shit so holing up in my attic room and getting on with it is a really appealing prospect.

It's the longer term which it remains difficult to envision. I need to let go of how things ended with Ali - no amount of self flagellation, soul searching or in depth analysis of the dynamics of our relationship is going to provide me the answers I was once convinced I would eventually find.

In slow motion the blast is beautiful

I think my Romantic inclinations are at least partly responsible for turning what was, in the end, a disastrous relationship, into something tragically beautiful. I rewrite my own history as some sort of tortured artist who creates the apotheosis of her academic career as the defining, life-giving relationship crumbles unacknowledged around her ears. Falling into a pit of alcoholism and despair in the face of a betrayal she rewrites as a refutation of everything good and pure in the world.

Except it wasn't that.  It was mundane, and yes, hurtful and distressing, but mundane.  Why is it that I can only understand my own history by writing it down and translating it into something more than the sum of its parts?  I need to learn how to make my life and my actions worth more because of their objective value rather than because of the value I can impress upon them through the smokescreen of forcing them into a neat narrative.

* Snow Patrol's Final Straw and Eyes Open.
askygoneonfire: Red and orange sunset over Hove (conor)
Determined. To find the place in the world that rightfully belonged to me. Carve it into my shape.
Believed that love was special and unique but could be found in more than one place.
That love was beautiful because it hurt and was messy and ugly.
Young. Conscious of and reveling in my youth.
Believed in the inherent goodness of people and my ability to see people for who they were.
Fearless... Of the big things. Terrified of the minutae of life.
With a sense of belonging. Alienated at times, but always surrounded and integrated with the world; my friends, my family close by.
Glorious in sleep. Painfully productive and invigorated by insomnia.

I left little pauses, so you could repeat after me.
askygoneonfire: Red and orange sunset over Hove (Default)
Conversation with my housemate led me to scramble under my bed and pull out my travel box. Therein I found the picture of me hugging a koala. And I found the photo of you and your koala.

I opened my travel diary. Let the pages flick through my fingers. Let them stop flicking quite at random. Do you know where it stopped? On the day we collected your resized ring from the jewellers. Monday 7th May 2007. We went to the Chinese Gardens, right in the centre of sydney. There was a Russian waitress. Like every Russian we met whilst travelling she was rude and angry. We went for an engagement dinner. It was at Cafe Otto, just down the road from our YHA hostel. We tipped 11% and were their best customers all night.

Has she bought you a ring yet? Are you planning a date? Do you still think of me? Still miss me. You must feel something, you still read your friends page, but there's only me and Chris on it.

Are you hoping I'm happy or still miserable? I'm still in love with you, I don't know what that makes me. Stupid, probably. Honest too, I said I'd never stop loving you. It's been 1 year and almost 3 months.

Valentines Day was hard. I thought of you. Of how happy you were when I showed you into our rose petal strewn bedroom. Did she do something better? Did you feel your heart swell?

Tell me you still care about me. Even a little bit. Send me a text or an email, pretend you accidently sent it to the wrong number/address. I won't reply. It'll be like it never happened. Much like Monday the 7th of May 2007.

A Letter

Feb. 3rd, 2010 10:02 pm
askygoneonfire: Red and orange sunset over Hove (askygoneonfire)
Dear Mum,

When I was 8 you told me mixed race relationships were acceptable, but you didn't think they were ok, because the people would inherently be too different. And their lives would be too difficult.

When I was 14 you told me you liked David Bowie until he "said he was a bisexual" then you didn't like him anymore.

In the two conversations we've had in the last two days I've revealed to you that I have a girlfriend, and that she's black.

You quietly hated my last girlfriend. I always assumed it was because she was my *girl*friend. Perhaps it was, partly. Tonight I learned you can overcome al of those ideas. You're happy for me, really happy for me.

Thank you. I know I wasn't any of the things you expected from a daughter. I know I'm not like anyone else in the family, I never have been. I'm wilful, and argumentative, and opinionated, and stubborn. Actually, stubborn is genetic. But I'm the first girl on either side of the family to run at life like this. You've been forced to change your opinions on a lot of things because of me. And you're 60, how many 60 year olds find themselves being made into liberals? I'm so proud you were able to adjust to me, given I sure as hell wasn't going to adjust to your ideas about the world

Thank you for being happy for me

Your daughter.


askygoneonfire: Red and orange sunset over Hove (Default)
a sky gone on fire

August 2017

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