STEPtember (aka “What the hell have I got myself into?”)

Let’s get the most obvious fact to ever fact out of the way straight up: I loathe exercise.

It doesn’t matter what it is. If it is going to make me sweat or ache or move more than the absolute bare minimum, I have no time for it. There has only ever been one kind of physical activity I have enjoyed to any degree – for those playing at home, it was kayaking – and one of its key traits is that one tends to do it sitting down. I have never experienced, nor do I particularly believe I am personally capable of, any kind of post-exercise high beyond thanking the stars above that it is over and done and I will never have to endure that lost time ever again.

Thus, me signing up for a challenge that involves doing 10,000 steps a day is utterly farcical at best, the stuff of my personal nightmares at worst.

Yet, three weeks ago, I did just that. I put my name down for STEPtember, the annual fundraising event for the Cerebral Palsy Alliance, an organisation that focuses on funding support services, equipment and research into the causes and treatment of the condition.

To be honest, I’m not entirely sure why I did it. Maybe it was because I am quietly sick and tired of everyone saying that if I got more gentle, stress-reducing exercise, it could well be the miracle cure for my mysterious paralysis events, and I want to prove them wrong. Perhaps it was a subconscious desire to lose weight (yuck), or just to see what my body can do (cool). It might have just been a desire to do something nice for other people rather than wallow in my own self-pity for a change.

Whatever the reason, I’ve gone and done it. I’ve committed to a month of reaching 10,000 steps a day, even if I have to do so fuelled entirely by spite. And two days into my “warm up” phase, my regret is palpable. I’ve got my first blister, I’m utterly wrecked to the point of not being able to get out of bed after 5,000 steps yesterday (I worked up from 3,000 steps the day before), and the idea that the month hasn’t even started yet? Hoo boy.

In an extra feat of stupidity, I’ve also committed to adding an extra 500 steps to my daily target for every $500 raised. So that’s a terrifying thought. I guess I’ll soon be discovering how many of my friends are absolute sadists.

But despite all my misgivings and quiet despair at all the decisions that have brought me to this point, I do find myself recognising that despite the world falling to pieces and there being a literal pandemic on, there has been no better time for me to give this a crack. I don’t have any major commitments to take time away from hitting the targets, I’m not going to get any younger, and my previous experience with Love Your Sister has taught me that doing something good for others is the best thing I can do in terms of getting back on track to being a functioning member of society.

Though the next person who tells me “you’re going to feel so good at the end of it!” is going to be strangled with my Fitbit.

You know, once this is over. Because (and I can’t believe I’m saying this) I’m using it right now.

If you want to chuck some dollars in for the cause, or because you want to see me suffer through an ever increasing daily step target, it’s all here.

An old grave in a green cemetery. Poorly photoshopped on are the words: "Here lyes [sic] the body of Noni Doll. DOB to 30-9-2020. Died of Steptember. Aged 30 years."
Above: Me at the end of this. Probably.

Resolutions Rejected: A Toast to Intentional Failure

Here is number three in the series about my 2018 resolutions/goals/things. Yes, I’m just as shocked as you are. You can find the full list of posts in this series here.

3. Go a year without buying alcohol for myself.

This seemed like a fantastic idea. I already had almost no alcohol in the house: just one bottle of wine, and some terrible gin, which I poured down the sink after the latest attempt to drink it. I had recently come around to soda water, which is something I can sip on slowly, unlike every other soft drink in existence, which I tend to gulp down with the kind of gusto that leaves me wondering if there was even in a drink in the glass to start with, I could have sworn it was there a minute ago. And due to my social life pretty much coming to a halt of late due to my epilepsy flare ups, I wasn’t drinking that much to begin with! How hard could it be?

The best thing about this idea was that it allowed for wiggle room. I could drink alcohol given to me, but I couldn’t go out and buy myself a bottle of wine any time just because I felt like it. I couldn’t ask for a drink, but if someone offered, I was allowed to accept if I wanted.

The reasoning behind the idea was simple. I would save money. I would get better at socialising without a chemical crutch. The chances of suffering a hangover would be lessened, and my sleep patterns would probably thank me for it, as it’s hard to stay out until 4am when your evening high is fueled only by carbonated water. The fact that there would be less calories in my life was just an added bonus.

But then I heard about the woes that one of my favourite watering holes in the whole world, The Phoenix, was facing. I’ve spoken about how much I love that little hole in the wall before, and though I’ve not been frequenting it as much of late, it still holds an incredibly massive part of my heart within its dark walls.

Immediately, I was struck with an ultimatum of sorts. Do I stick to my guns and my soda water on a Saturday night, or do I chuck in a few extra bucks via a few cheeky pints? The Phoenix needs its patrons to step up right now, and for me, that would likely mean breaking my little resolution.

I couldn’t make a choice. I wanted to have a bit of both.

So I made a compromise. A few times a week, after work, I will go in to The Phoenix and buy one drink of whatever I like. Whatever it is, I will nurse it while I read a book for a little while, and then I will go home. Any time outside that period, I will not be purchasing alcohol for myself.

I read somewhere once that allowing yourself to cheat a little bit on massive resolutions can help you keep them overall, so maybe this is for the best.

So should you find yourself in Civic on a weekday afternoon, pop into the friendly little Irish bar on East Row, pull up a pew and join me for a bevvie and a book. It’ll be nice to have the company.

EDIT 26/1/18: You can donate to the Phoenix’s GoFund Me Page here. They’re a little over $30,000 short of their goal, but more importantly, over $40,000 has already been raised to help keep their doors open.

Making My Brain My Bitch

This is the second in a series about my goals for 2018. The fact that I’ve gotten to a second entry is likely as surprising to you as it is to me. You can find the full list of posts I’ve written on this theme here.

2. Get my epilepsy in check.

You don’t have to have read much of this blog to know that my brain is a bloody mess. Epilepsy, depression, just being generally scattered and forgetful: it’s not a particularly ordered thing to live in.

Since I started tracking my seizure patterns again in August 2017, I have had 15 seizures, including two this morning. That doesn’t count the number of times I have lost feeling or the ability to move my limbs or extremities for no apparent reason.

Something needed/needs to change.

This year, I’m going to try to get better sleep. I’m going to be as compliant as humanly possible with my medication through the use of Webster packs. I am taking notes on every seizure, and fighting for extra tests just in case. I’ve been able to negotiate a part-time work arrangement so that I have time to rest mid-week and I can reduce my stress levels.

The effect of these steps and sacrifices remain to be seen. I have a neurologist appointment and ambulatory EEG in February which will hopefully offer some more answers.

Until then, I’m just here at home counting milestones – seven days, thirty days, three months – hoping that it will all pay off sooner rather than later, and I can go back to living a life that I feel comfortable in.

Ten Thousand Little Words

This is the first in what I hope is a series of posts about my goals for 2018. Knowing my tendency to start these things and never follow through, I am incredibly skeptical that any of them will come to fruition (including the completion of this series), so I expect you to come into this entry with the same frame of mind.

1. Write 10,000 words a month.

I have tried NaNoWriMo twice now, and both times have been an absolute failure. I wasn’t even trying to do it properly – both times I had an idea that I had already started working on. The second time, I wasn’t even reaching for the full 50,000 words. Instead, I set myself what I thought was a more suitable goal of 20,000 words on top of what I’d already written (from memory, about 3,000 words). A month on, and I’ve reached 10,000 words of varying degrees of quality on what I believe may be no more than a novella. At this stage, I don’t really care. I just want the damn thing finished.

My last job was a “creative” one, writing advertising for radio. I’d spent my entire life working towards it, but after ten years of work experience, study and working in the industry, I was sick of the job. I was writing for the local street press, and it was scratching my itch to write, but it didn’t feel particularly creative. I had a short story sitting in my To Do pile, and my major project to finish, but nothing was coming to me anymore. I was thinking up ideas in the shower, or dreaming amazing things that set my mind alight with possibilities, but I wasn’t putting any of it on the page. It just stayed in my head, and I did nothing with it.

When I had The Seizure That Turned My Life Upside Down in March 2016, I lost the will (and the ability) to work on anything. I tried to keep my column up for BMA, but it wasn’t giving me the same pleasure it used to. It had become a chore. I thought about blogging again, and did a few times to try and get my anguish out, but it felt hollow and narcissistic. I needed a new project, a new drive, and a new job that wasn’t going to wring all my creativity into 30 second chunks for a wage that was almost half the average wage for the city I lived in.

I achieved the third thing on that list last August. I’m now working for significantly more money, in a (very) challenging job, surrounded by the kind of work culture I could never have dreamed of in the radio industry. The people I work with are incredible, the support I’ve had despite my significant health challenges over the last few months have been beyond my wildest dreams, and I’m learning new things all the time. I’m so incredibly lucky to have stumbled into this organisation. (For a number of reasons, I won’t be sharing the name of my employer here.)

But what about the other two? That need for a project and for that drive to move me forward in terms of my writing?

That’s why I’ve set this goal. Broken down, it works out to be a little under 350 words a day. It doesn’t matter why I’ve written them, what they’re about, or whether I intend to publish them. They just have to exist on the page.

Just 350 little words. Or 2,500 a week. However it happens, a total goal of 10,000 a month.

Even if I only achieve it in January, I’ll be happy with that. Because hell, it’s a start.

And I’ve got 616 words to prove it.

Let’s Start At The Beginning – Blog Carnival 2014

You Can Do This

I’m not good at making plans. I’m someone who lives so much in the present that I’ve found myself at a point where I don’t know where to go with my future.

Yeah, we’ve been down this road before, but hear me out, just one last time. (At least, I hope it’s the last time…)

I am currently working on a plan like nothing I’ve ever done before. Okay, it’s kind of like something I’ve done before, but it’s different. It’s going to need organisation and plotting and vision and the kind of drive and work ethic that I’ve seen so many of my friends apply to their creative projects but has always eluded me. It’s a new project that I’ve only told a few friends and family about. I’m not quite ready to tell everyone the details yet, but it’s something that has been bubbling away in my brain for a good few months.

Now I’m finally ready to start putting my back into it.

To be honest, it’s not the ideal time to be starting seriously on something like this. I’ve been pretty emotionally fragile lately, and I’m pinning a lot of hope on this being something that drags me out of my funk. If it doesn’t, I’m going to be in quite a spot of bother, but optimism is the key right now.

I don’t know how I’m going to fit it around the fact that I really need to clean my bedroom and my bathroom, make sure I’m feeding myself decent home-cooked meals rather than buying fast food on the way home, or maintain the kind of social life I rely on to make sure I don’t slip into feeling completely isolated in the way that has been slowly creeping into my heart lately. I don’t know how I’m going to budget it around some of my newer financial commitments, or how I’m going to fit it around the fact that I really do seem to need a lot of sleep at the moment. Like I said, this is an endeavour fueled by hope that I can do it, with the occasional burst of I need this to work so that I can get a little bit closer to doing what I want to do full time as a booster.

I’m taking a week off work at the start of August to go home and spend some time with my family, but I’m hoping that it will also be a good time for me to get up and get some work done on this. I want to have the bare bones all laid out by the end of August so that I can start saving for and purchasing the equipment I’m going to need to make this thing work.

Right now, I’m marking out my process, the steps I’m going to have go through in order to get on the right path for this to work. I have to set up a work space and allocate the time I’m going to give to this, whether it be small chunks on weeknights or an extended period once a week on a Saturday or Sunday. I have to do an inventory of the resources I currently have, work out what I need to buy to fill out the rest of my requirements and start looking at the financial options I have to acquire them. I need to start looking for guides and mentors who’ve done this before who are going to be able to help me. I need to start plotting out the format, the progression of thoughts and phases of development. I need to see if I can actually turn this into some kind of business plan, but even if I can, that’s a long way off.

These are all things I’m not used to, and I’ve never really done before. Until now, I’ve always flown by the seat of my pants. I’m trying to totally change the way I work through things, and it’s a shift that I have to make in order to get this thing to work in the way I want and need it to.

My mum has always been keen on planning-related sayings. Fail to plan and you plan to fail. Proper planning prevents poor performance. She’s rattled them off to me a bunch of times, but it’s only now that I’m in enough of a career rut that I’m really starting to see just how important it is sometimes to get past just planning a day or a short term project with a deadline that finishes once it’s completed. For the first time in a long time, I’ve started thinking about longer term goals and how I’m going to reach them. This is me starting to play the long game, with 6 month and 12 month and 5 year goals and all that other stuff that I have always thought to be a pile of wank. Unlike back in high school, when the decision had to be made swiftly and securely, I now know myself well enough to understand what those goals are, how realistic they are and just how I can go about achieving them. I have more knowledge, more contacts and more resources than ever before, and now if the time to use them.

It’s new and it’s scary, and I’m almost inevitably going to fuck it up. But planning is not only necessary to the execution of this idea, it’s one of the core concepts behind it. I’m making a new adventure for myself, but this time I’m not just running blindly into the woods in the hope that I’ll find the things I’m looking for just by flailing around.

For the first time, I’m leaving home with a map. It won’t be perfect, and I’m sure I’ll fall off the trail from time to time, but the idea of being my own personal cartographer is intriguing and challenging and just what I need right now.

I can’t wait to see where it takes me.

*****

It’s taken almost a year for me to get there, but this blog post marks the end of my contributions to Alexandra Neill’s Blog Carnival collaboration project. THEY SAID IT WOULD NEVER HAPPEN. (“They” = me.)

If you want a refresher on what Blog Carnival was, this is where you need to click your mouse.

Charting Success – Blog Carnival 2014

From "Before I Die".
From “Before I Die”.

I’ve been trying to work out how to write this blog entry for months. Literally, months. It seems like a simple enough premise: write about something I’m good at.

It should be simple, but it’s actually really bloody hard, for a number of reasons.

The first is that I am enough of a self-doubter that I initially couldn’t think of anything that I was good at that wasn’t actually a negative trait. I’m very good at procrastinating. I’m really good at forgetting things. My ability to make a mess is really, really impressive. These are all (not necessarily) secret talents of mine, but none of them are things I want to crow about from the rooftops.

The next thought I had was just to ask someone what I’m good at, but that felt like false modesty. I should know what I’m good at! I shouldn’t need someone to tell me, and even if I do, it would sound like I was fishing for praise if I was to ask. So that was quickly ruled out.

Finally, I saw down and scribbled down dot points about things people had complimented me on lately. None of them were particularly grand, and none of them were really anything I felt I could wring a sizable amount of words out of. So, I just left it and tried to ignore the fact that despite my best intentions, I was still stuck on this one topic. So close, yet so far.

In the end, I gave up on writing about something I was good at. Instead, I just drew a brainstorming chart and decided to let that do the talking.

IMG_0670

 

In conclusion: I appear to be good at writing about not being able to write about being good at something, and brainstorming charts.

 

tumblr_mbjfbwVzvW1rbavngo1_500

The End.

*****

This blog is the latest in a series of really, really late additions to Alexandra Neill’s Blog Carnival collaboration project. And by god, I’m going to get them all done eventually, mark my words.

While you’re waiting on the next installment, why not read what some other (more timely) folks had to say on the matter:

If you want a refresher on how Blog Carnival works: this is where you need to click your mouse.

Creative Bravery – Blog Carnival 2014

Click for source
“Creative Block” by Elize Vossgatter

Back in August, I was invited by the wonderful Alexandra Neill to take part in her Blog Carnival project, along with a bunch of other writers who are much cleverer and more consistent with the whole writing thing than I am. That project was meant to last the whole month, and reach across five topics. I fell off the wagon after one, and now we’re in the back half of October and I’m writing the second one. Good work, me.

It wasn’t that I didn’t try to write it. I think I took four goes at it, knowing exactly what I wanted to talk about, but with no idea how to go about it. The topic was “Something That Scares Me”, and this thing left me so scared (and more importantly, ashamed) that I couldn’t bring myself to confess it.

It was such a stupid thing that I feel like a moron not being able to share it. It’s something I really struggle with, and I’m trying really hard to get over it, but things keep getting in the way: working full time, stress, exhaustion, procrastination, laziness, a total failing in terms of willpower, fear of the fear itself…

I am afraid of doing things, making things, being creative, having adventures. It’s such a stupid thing to be afraid of, especially when I consider the joy that comes from actually doing it, but the elements of the fear seem endless, and the excuses come in equal number. Yet at the same time, I am terrified of being ordinary, being boring, sacrificing my life to a day job and not doing and making the things my heart wants to. It’s a particularly uncomfortable position to be in.

A little over a week ago, I turned 25. For a number of reasons, that milestone held a lot of dread for me, especially as it crept closer and I realised just how few of the things I’d wanted to achieve had actually come to fruition. As I write, I realise that I’m even afraid to confess that they are things I want to do, but here are some of them:

I’ve never been published by a publication that will pay me for my work. I’ve left four novels unfinished, and never finished editing the only one that I did finish. I’ve never played in a band. I’m yet to live overseas. I’ve never made a short film that was any more than a glorified slideshow. I’ve not made any wonderful pottery,made a sculpture or fixed something mechanical, or learned how to ride a bike, or how to drive a car. I never got to be a radio announcer or program producer. I can’t do a handstand or a cartwheel or rock climb. I’ve never tried stand-up comedy. I’ve never learned how to swing dance or any of the Latin ballroom styles. I never learned to juggle. I’ve never acted in a role beyond the chorus, and I haven’t even done that since I was in high school. I’ve never organised a successful public event or gig. I’m painfully aware of all the things I want to do I haven’t done yet, and I feel like I am running out of time to do them.

Writer's Block II
“Writer’s Block II” by Drew Coffman

That’s what scares me: all those things left undone. As I get older, I feel like my potential is ebbing away; any talent I may have is disintegrating like muscles atrophying, and every day that ticks by makes me more anxious about what I’m missing out on. I’m surrounded by wonderful, clever, driven, creative, fantastic, unbelievable people (some of whom I am lucky enough to call friends, some of whom have just been rad enough to let me hang in their presence) who inspire and intimidate me in equal measure. They are musicians, writers, filmmakers, event-organising magicians, public relations wizards, actors, models, photographers, poets, circus performers, artists and so much more. I could ask them for help, but I’m paralysed by the thought of revealing that I want to do what they can do because I know that I’m never going to be as good at it as they are. I feel that I’ve left it too late.

I’ve missed plenty of opportunities by not being brave enough to take them, and it’s only been in the last 12 months that I’ve actually started acting on some of them, like writing for BMA, getting stupidly obsessed about a movie and doing insane and wonderful things as a result, putting together a murder mystery party for my friends, sorting out my medication regime and preparing to get clearance to go and get my L’s. But there are so many more things that I’m shoving down and hiding, so many more things that I want to do. It’s not that I don’t have the time or the energy; it’s that I am just too lazy and too afraid of making the changes to my life that I need to in order to do them.

So I find excuses: I don’t have the equipment, I don’t have the time, I don’t have the brains or the creativity, I don’t have the energy. Excuses are easy, but they don’t bring me the rewards and peace I’m looking for.

Often I find the core reason for my apprehension is incredibly simple. I don’t know where to start. It’s hard to get the ball rolling at the best of times, and it’s even harder to ask people how to start. It feels like there’s this implication that starting is easy. You just do the thing! Simple! Make like Nike and just do it!

But it’s terrifying to start. I’m not brave. A friend of mine has a tendency to call people cowards in a comedic fashion during his shows, but every time I hear him say it, it hurts because in my case I know it to be absolutely true. And once you start, where do you go then? When you have no known end to the process, how do you go about stepping through it? I try to think about it and my brain struggles to comprehend it. Where is the reward when there is no set end?

Maybe I’m not cut out to be a creative after all. Perhaps I peaked at sixteen, when I finally finished that shitty novel that now sits on my external hard drive, taunting me with its blatantly uninformed, teenaged angst-filled nonsense. Perhaps there was a catalyst that beat all the boldness out of me and made me so scared of what people think of me. Maybe I just got older and my brain stopped being malleable and free and I forgot how to just go with the flow. Maybe my brain never had the ability to process it in the first place.

Whatever it is, I need to shake it off. It’s not useful in any way. It’s just making me feel bad, and in the last few years I’ve come to be fed up with feeling bad. I want to feel good.

And that means that somehow I have to work out how to start. It means I need to figure out how to keep going.

I need to get to work.

Click for source

Postscript: after I wrote this, I realised that my tagline for this blog is, “Let’s do the things that scare us.” I’m not sure if this is irony, or just completely appropriate. Either way, it’s worth noting, don’t you think?

*****

The theme of “Something That Scares Me” was also covered by the following Blog Carnival writers:

If you want a refresher on how Blog Carnival works, or want to join in: this is where you need to click your mouse.

A Return to Life in the Sunshine – Blog Carnival 2014

Last year, I took part in Potentially Problematic Opinion Month, which was in its second year. This August, PPOM is taking an extended break, and has been replaced with the Blog Carnival! There’s a bunch of really brilliant folks writing on a cool topic each week: Alexandra Neill (who came up with both PPOM and Blog Carnival, because she’s just that clever), Lizzy at Hum Drum Plum, Britt in Boots and Jess from What I Think About Books.

And you can join in too! For the full list of topics and deadlines (which are really just a rough guideline – this post is already a week late!), you can click here. Come on! It’ll be fun!

For the week commencing Sunday August 3, we were asked to write about something that makes us happy. This is mine.

*****

When I sat down to write about something that makes me happy, I went through a couple of ideas. Initially, I thought I’d write about the way certain smells make me feel wonderful, but instead of writing something for Blog Carnival, I ended up with something else that was good, but didn’t feel quite right for this project. I thought maybe I could write about music, but it felt too broad and too obvious. As the Sunday deadline came and went, I began to worry that I wouldn’t be able to write anything at all, not because there was nothing to be happy about, but because there was too much, and so many of the specific things were obvious, or I’d already crowed about them to the point of saturation. I really couldn’t tell which I should focus on.

So I’m going to tell you about something broad that is making me happy: the way I live now.

Before July last year, my life was an absolute shambles. I’d spent the better part of a year unemployed and living with my parents in Dubbo. My self-esteem was crushed; I had experienced a marked decrease in appetite, a constantly black mood and a severe reluctance to get out of bed before 4pm. I had spent most of my savings travelling to see friends in an attempt to put a little bit of light back into my daily existence. I was a wreck.

A little over a year on, everything is better. I’m living in Canberra again. I’ve thrown myself quite heavily into the arts scene here (as a punter), and have met tons of fantastic people as a result, who have inspired me to gradually increase my own creative output. I’ve had a number of magnificent adventures in a number of wonderful places with my amazing friends, and am planning many more. I have a job that is steady and I’m doing relatively well at, with work that I enjoy in my chosen field. I’m writing a regular local music column for BMA, I’m writing on my blog more often, and I’m practising things that I can show people that could end up being kind of cool. My favourite pub is open again and I have plans.

There are still plenty of hiccups to overcome: my financial situation isn’t that great (if there was a Spending Olympics, I would be at the top of the medal tally), I still struggle with my emotions and really horrible thoughts sometimes, and I’ve still got a few months to go seizure-free before I can go for my doctor’s clearance to learn to drive. My family and I are still grieving for my grandfather. My knees and ankles hurt sometimes, and my shoes wear through far too quickly. But these are all things that will heal with time and/or hard work. They are commas, not full stops. I will keep going.

A little over a year ago, none of this was conceivable to me, but here I am. I know that I have been incredibly lucky. I know that this luck could run out at any time. But I also know that I am going to enjoy every second of it while it lasts, and I will do my best to make these sun-filled days last as long as I can, because I have tasted their sweetness, I am hooked and I never want them to go away again.

I know I will keep going, because right now, I am happy.

*****

This week’s theme was also covered by the following wonderful human beings:

If you want a refresher on how Blog Carnival works, or want to join in: this is where you need to click your mouse.

Noni Did NZ: Putting It Down On Paper

IMG_0567 There’s been a common theme running through the last bunch of posts: my trip to Wellington back in June. This is the final entry in that series. You can find the rest here. Be prepared for a whole bunch of madness and joy, because even though it was just a week, it was everything a girl could wish for in a holiday.

*****

It’s become customary these days to document holidays in an entirely electronic fashion. Photos on Facebook and Instagram, running commentary on Twitter, post-adventure blogging… Apart from the occasional physical souvenir, usually in the form of something bought from a dodgy street stall or a purchase from an incredibly kitschy tourist shop, most of our memories are stored solely in the cloud and in our heads.

I’m usually even worse than this. I rarely take photos at the best of times. The vast majority of photos of me from the last five or so years are highly posed, highly self-censored selfies taken on my Macbook in moments of boredom, vanity or intoxication.

This is in part due to a longing to just experience life rather than constantly stopping to remind myself to document it; I prefer to do things without the filter of a lens. I very rarely ask for photos to be taken of me, so I often don’t have images to remind me of the people I’ve met or proof of the places I’ve been. Many times I have become great friends with a person over a number of years and marvellous times, only to never have a photo with them to remind us of just how brilliant we were. This makes me quite sad; I’d love to have something a little more concrete than just memories to look back on.

Other times, my reluctance or inability to remember to take a few shots comes from the fact that I have an uncanny ability to be absolutely terrible at taking photos that aren’t underwhelming, grainy, poorly framed piles of crap. A lack of practice means it’s simply not top of mind, and when it is, I’m so underwhelmed that I tend to not bother the next time.

When I was preparing for my trip to Wellington, I knew it would be the week of a lifetime. I didn’t want to leave anything unremembered. I’ve already had a taste of how fragile memories can be: a major seizure in 2012 left me with significant short and long term memory issues for the better part of a year; I forgot what had happened at the previous Christmas, and still struggle to recall a lot of things that should be treasured personal memories from that time.

The logical progression from that was to simply post everything online as I went, but I didn’t really feel the need to fill people’s Facebook feeds with a progression of photographic updates, and reading back through old tweets is constantly being made more difficult by Twitter’s scrolling function and new profiles. On top of that, I wanted somewhere to put all the little things I inevitably pick up: bus tickets, interesting labels, flyers and the like.

So while I was waiting for a train in Sydney before heading off on my trip, I picked up an A5 size notebook and began to plan how I would document my trip. There was probably about 300 or so pages in it, but due to my tendency to forget to write in diaries, I figured I would be lucky to fill a third of that.

Instead, I got to the point where I had to pull out pages in order to avoid splitting the binding. With all my photos printed and pasted in, this is how fat my journal got:

Photo on 2014-08-10 at 11.07

Almost every night of my trip, I took at least an hour to write down all the wonderful things that had happened, planning where I would paste photos, bus tickets, email screenshots and newspaper clippings. I scribbled terrible stick-figure drawings and scrawled memories across unlined pages. It was a remarkably therapeutic process, allowing me the chance to run over just how much fun I was having, and to plan what I might do the next day.

IMG_0532I documented everything I could, and tried to make everything as colourful and fun as my experiences. I bought new pens and stickers and collected all the What We Do In The Shadows related bits and pieces I could find to make sure I could do it all justice.

IMG_0536

IMG_0537I even grabbed a Te Papa flyer that was written in Italian just so I could stick in something with pictures of the general exhibits – all the ones in English were only for the special short-term exhibitions.

IMG_0539

One of the things that I really enjoyed about the free-form manner of my scrapbook was when I got to draw stupid little bits and pieces to fill in spaces that I might have put photos that I had forgotten to take, or just for the hell of it.

IMG_0548

Initially, I tried to keep all my bits and pieces in chronological order, but I quickly realised that there were photos and stories that I hadn’t accounted for while allocating space in the narrative. This is why there are two parts to my scrapbook: the initial narrative that I filled in while I was away, and a very sizeable appendix, which I have been working on ever since.

The appendix is a strange mish mash of written souvenirs and bits and pieces that didn’t necessarily fit into the story of my trip, but were memorable all the same. From the itinerary I wrote myself before leaving Canberra (which I left at home) to the map of Wellington my mum gave me before I left (which I kept in my suitcase the entire trip), there are a lot of quirky bits and pieces that I still needed to preserve, even if they didn’t make it into the first half.

IMG_0556

There were a lot of bus tickets.

IMG_0558

And some things that simply defied explanation.

IMG_0562

When I got back, working on finalising my scrapbook really helped ease the post-trip blues.It gave me an excuse to relive my trip regularly, bringing a little light to each day, and keeping the fire in my belly for a return visit. I still flick through it every couple of days now it’s almost done, just as a kind of emotional safety blanket, and it definitely in my top three things I will take with me if there is ever a fire in my house.

As of yesterday, my scrapbook is officially finished. All of the spaces I had saved in the main story section have been filled, and there’s only a handful of photos left to put into the appendix (non-essential, but they’re going in because I just happen to have some printed copies). In a book I was sure I would get nowhere near filling, there are only eight pages left blank. Maybe one day I’ll ask Taika and Jemaine to pop their signatures on the last page. Either way, this little chapter has finally closed. I’m back in the real world again.

But with my little green book, I know I can go back to that wonderful, ridiculous week whenever I like. What a wonderful comfort that is.

IMG_0554

Noni Did NZ: Grog and Grub

IMG_0362
You may have noticed that I went to Wellington a while ago, probably long enough ago that I should have stopped banging on about it by now. I’m almost done, I promise. But if you want to read about some of the magnificent things I did and have already written about, you can find them here.

This is the penultimate post in this series. I promise that it will be over soon and we can all go back to (ir)regular programming.

*****

This post was initially meant to be a part of my post about my favourite Wellington places, but when I was editing what was already a 2000-plus word post, I figured I should probably cut some of the things on my list. Unfortunately, there was nothing at all I wanted to cut.

After a while, I noticed that there were a number of places on my list that had something in common: they were places where one would eat or drink. Thus, this highly uneducated guide to Wellington’s feeding stations and watering holes was born.

I have to say, I really was impressed by the various eateries that the Kiwi Capital had to offer. I don’t think I had a single dud meal in the whole week I was there. Not only was the food absolutely delicious, the cafés themselves were something to behold as venues.

Here’s a little something about each of my favourites:

Mucho Mucho Cafe

On my first proper day in the city, I wandered and wandered looking for somewhere to have breakfast. Due to a highly questionable encounter with an “Eggs Benedic” in Newtown a few days before, I was keen to make sure that I was going to get the best possible start to my day and my trip.

I can’t really remember what made me turn into this cafe instead of any other, but I was immediately impressed. The room was vibrant, the music wasn’t too loud, and there were already a handful of locals in there breaking their fast. And by gosh, it was tiny, but that just added to its charm. Seriously, it was freakin’ adorable.

An interesting thing I noticed: table service isn’t that common in Wellington. Most of the places I ate, you had to order at the counter. It caught me off guard a couple of times, especially in this case, but it was no biggie.

I ordered French Toast with banana, bacon and maple syrup. I think it may have had a fancier name on the menu, but I’ve forgotten what it was. All you need to know is that it was DELICIOUS.

If you’re in Wellington’s CBD, turn down Taranaki Street and grab a bite here. Not only will you get a fantastic feed, it’s a great way to introduce yourself to the strange fascination that the city seems to have with Cuba… but more on that later.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The General Practitioner

IMG_0357

When you first see The General Practitioner on the corner of  Willis and Boulcott Streets, it immediately commands your attention. Like so many parts of Wellington, it looks like it belongs in a fairy tale or a Disney movie. Straight away, I pulled out my iPod and took a photo, which led to the story on the left. The memory of that conversation still makes me chuckle.

The chairs out the front were how I worked out that it was some kind of eatery, but I think I would have walked in anyway, just out of curiosity. It was just so intriguing!

I ordered a fancy sounding fish and chips and a Tui, because their billboards are so incredibly wonderful/offensive/I saw them on the internet a bunch of times, that I simply had to try one to see whether the beer was worth all that advertising.

From the first bite, the meal was absolutely amazing: crisp, not too much salt, and the sauces alongside were brilliant as well. The fancy dish it was served in was a bit of a pain to negotiate, but everything else was so wonderful that it was easy to forgive. Thanks to some impeccable timing (I arrived just before the lunchtime rush), I even managed to get a seat near the window. Some would say that a view that consists mostly of an intersection is less than desirable, but I found it fascinating, with plenty of other interesting buildings to catch my eye, and lots of Wellingtonians buzzing around on the street below.

IMG_0356As for the Tui? Well, it was okay. Actually, it was entirely underwhelming. I finished it, but I can see why they advertise it so heavily – it’s not good enough that I would buy it off merit alone, especially since my trip led me to a much nicer example of what Kiwis can brew.

Either way, if you’re in Wellington, visiting The General Practitioner is definitely something I would prescribe. (Oh dear. That line was terrible. Sorry.)

Enigma Cafe

I ducked into Enigma Cafe on Courtenay Place at about 2pm on Thursday for a late lunch. I wasn’t expecting much, but when I walked in I found a brilliant space with dark walls and a feeling that this is where all the cool kids probably hang out. Thankfully, there was a good mixture of different kinds of folks, so I didn’t end up feeling too out of place.

I took a while to choose what I was going to order, but I finally decided on the gnocchi with mushroom and bacon.

10414047_527011587405363_334688054_n
AND OH MY GOD. IT WAS AMAZING.

Right across the week I spent there, Wellington constantly treated my taste buds with beautiful flavours and delightful places in which to consume and savour them. Everything was wonderful and delicious and just magnificent. So basically, if you’re in Wellington, don’t skimp on meals – you’ll have no idea what kind of joys you’re missing.

Now we move on from beautiful food to brilliant bars… And trust me, Wellington has plenty, but I’ve managed to whittle it down to the three (well, four) most notable.

Boogie Wonderland/Alice

Source: Jinx In The Sky
Source: Jinx In The Sky

I touched briefly on the wonder that is Boogie Wonderland in my What We Did At The Premiere post, but I need to mention it again because it really is a place that should not exist, but I’m very, very glad that it does. Mirror balls galore, a flashing dance floor, and excuse me while I put my radio voice on: all the best hits of the 70’s, 80’s, 90’s and Noughties!

Oh my. So much kitsch in one room. It made me very confused and very, very happy. Be sure to jump into this nonsensical retro indulgence if you’re ever in Wellington. It needs to be experienced to be believed, trust me.

But if you head out to the toilets, you will find another door to another bar. This is Alice, where the walls and shelves are adorned all kinds of bits and pieces from Lewis Carroll’s classic books, the music is eclectic (I honestly heard “Business Time” by Flight of the Conchords come over the speakers and I couldn’t hold in my giggles), and the cocktails are delicious and sometimes served in teapots.

Jane and I settled in for some “White Rabbits”. They were freaking delicious.

Photo by @powderkeig
Photo by powderkeig

One Wonderland in Wellington would have been enough, but two right next door to each other? Well, that’s just spoiling me!

Havana

IMG_0476

On the Friday night, I was on the hunt for some live music. At the exhibition launch where I started my evening, I met Vanessa (well, for the second time – we’d also met after the premiere), who told me that she was actually playing a set at a bar called Havana, just off Cuba Street. (Hmm, funny that.) I told her I was planning on doing some general wandering, but I’d see if I could make it.

The wandering was pretty uneventful, save for meeting this guy. I strolled up and down Cuba Street, stopping into a few little bars that seemed like my kind of place, but they were all pretty full, and not particularly appealing to the solo traveller. (My criteria were that there had to be somewhere I could sit without awkwardly jumping in on another group; decent music, live or otherwise; a reasonable drinks menu and preferably a friendly enough crowd to find folks who would adopt me into their fold.) There were plenty I would like to visit again (namely Laundry and The Rogue and Vagabond – I intend to spend more time in both on my next visit), but none of them seemed right for me at that moment.

This little shrine was set up in the hallway that led into the main bar.
This little shrine was set up in the hallway that led into the main bar.

So I kept walking up to the far end of the street, trying to remember Vanessa’s directions to Havana. I wandered down one dodgy-looking side street, then another, until I finally stumbled across this little house nestled in among some more modern, less friendly looking buildings. I walked up the passage to the front door and was let in my a lovely gentleman and was met by one of the most beautiful bars I have ever seen, and my gosh, it was busy.

It was at this point that I really began to come to realise just how much of an influence Cuban culture seems to have had on Wellington venues, most notably along… ahem, Cuba Street. From cafes like the aforementioned Mucho Mucho Cafe, right through to Laundry and (obviously) Havana Bar, there is a lot of iconography that harks back to that island in the Caribbean. It really is a little bit odd when you think about it, and incredibly kitschy, but it is also kind of nice and brings a lot of colour to those bars and cafes that choose to buy into it.

When I arrived, Vanessa was up in a corner, serenading the crowd. (Holy dooley, the lady’s got pipes!) I waved, then grabbed a cocktail from the bar. It was delicious. Knowing there was nobody there for me to talk to, I squeezed through the crowd into the garden area out the back, found myself a seat and got to work on my scrapbook as I sipped my drink. A few people came over and chatted with me as I cut and pasted and scribbled, and it was just really nice. I’d love to head there with friends next time I’m in town; the vibe was lovely, with beautiful decor throughout. Havana Bar is definitely worth the detour.

Concrete

Jane and I hung out at Concrete on the Saturday night, and to be honest, it was quite underwhelming. But you know what? I simply have to share this with you.

IMG_0504

This is their bathroom. Notice anything missing? Like, I don’t know… Taps?

It took me far too long to work out what how to get it to work. Initially, I thought it might be the silver things, so I tried pushing on them. Nope. Maybe it was a sensor under the top shelf? No, still too logical.

Let’s take a look at it from another angle, a little bit closer.

IMG_0505

Nope. I’ve still got nothing.

Seriously, all I wanted to do was wash my hands. How on earth was I to go about it with no taps? Did I have to utter some kind of Lord of the Rings incantation? Sacrifice my first born? Telepathically compel the water to begin flowing? I was completely stumped.

Until I noticed the little round notches in the bench top. Here’s the same photo, except the “taps” are now circled in red.

IMG_0505_edit

Seriously…

Apparently, this incredibly stupid piece of “design” managed to win a ton of architectural awards, which is proof that architects are either completely insane, or have a terrible sense of humour.

*****

Ridiculous bathrooms aside, Wellington is full of interesting, unique, intriguing and delicious places to eat and drink. It’s definitely worth the time, money and effort involved in getting out there and sampling as many of them as you can. Ranging from the sublime to the silly, there’s certainly something for every taste.

(Oh god. That was terrible. Sorry. Again.)

Next time: Putting It Down on Paper – why the scrapbook beats social media.