29 May 2008

Blog Refocus : My Expat Life

I had originally started blogging to keep you abreast of my life abroad while showcasing my writing when applying for gigs. But then I thought to myself, why the heck would any publisher want to read my personal ramblings?

Since I started my excursion into the blogoshpere (or the world of blogs for my lay readers), I have come to realize how unfocused and perhaps confusing this blog may have been. So, I have started two other blogs to focus on my other passions and missions in life and have decided to narrow the focus of brittuniainmancunia. This narrowed focus will follow a more personal vein; where I am at on my writer's journey, the ups and downs of expat life, and the richness of my experiences here in England.

If you are interested in what I am intrigued by and knitting at the moment, please take a look at http://brittknit.blogspot.com/. There I will be reviewing and commenting all that there is in the online and offline knitting world and give you a glimpse at what projects I have going. I already have a few posts up and am committed to it being an interesting, useful, and interesting resource for the reader base I am building.

My writer's blog, www.brittbreu.blogspot.com, is still a work in progress. I am filling it with sample articles on a variety of subjects in a broad spectrum of styles and voices, as well as with links to pieces I have already published (also works in progress!)

If you are following my blogging, I want to sincerely thank you for your support and encouragement. I would also like to encourage your comments and suggestions on how I can improve my writing or the blog itself. Are there any topics you would like to read about? I value your input.

19 May 2008

On the End of the Third Decade

This is the most expensive cocktail I've ever drunken.
It was a Bajan Mojito and cost 9 GBP/$18 USD!

Well, if you must know, I do feel older on my 30th birthday. But that is due to the simple fact that I partied like a 20-something all weekend long: three consecutive nights of drinking, dancing, eating and very little sleep. One of my best friends came down from Glasgow to visit and along with my DH, we stayed up until midnight to toast my birthday last night. And now it is time to have a nice, relaxing 'me-day' on my bday. I am surfing knitting sites, deciding how to spend a gift certificate to yarnmarket.com, gloating over my superb gifts (handmade bag, a Lush honey gift box, The Splendid Table's How to Eat Supper cookbook and fielding phone calls from well-wishers and lost floral delivery drivers. But I digress.

Aging is really not a scary thing for me at this point in my life. My visiting girlfriend remarked about how calm I actually seemed to be about turning 30. Unlike one of my female roll models, I do not feel compelled to spend a week in bed lamenting my inevitable demise (I would only consider such a course of action to sleep off the partying I did this weekend). I decided to embrace it rather than fight it which may sound easier said than done. Considering I spent the majority of my twenties feeling lost while searching for viable life skills, meaning in life and my identity, I can now say how much better off I am now at thirty. I know who I am, I know what and who is important to me and I know that I am solely responsible for creating the context of in which I live my life. It is empowering; it is refreshing; it is invigorating. Thirty is the departure point from the uncertainty and self-doubt of my twenties.

      Lisa at the Wheel of Manchester
Happy Birthday to me! It has been a great beginning of the second third of my life. Off to revel in all my birthday glory.

15 May 2008

UEFA Cup Comes to Manchester: Musings on Football Fanatics

With golden intentions to take a much deserved break from writing, I decided to head into the city center yesterday. I packed my notebook to brainstorm and record my observations while sitting in some outdoor cafe, my camera to snap a few shots of the Manchester that I see and my knitting gear for the Absolute Knitters biweekly meeting at 8th Day on Oxford Road. I rambled down to Gatley where I got on the train (which I now prefer over the bus as it is cheaper and much faster) to go to Manchester Piccadilly. Why are there men in blue soccer jerseys boarding the train in my little village? I had conveniently forgotten the Glasgow Rangers were playing Zenit from St. Petersburg in the Uefa Cup Final that evening. Since I had already spent two quid on my train fare and I hadn't done anything to refill my creative springs in more than a week, I bravely decided to make my journey into the city despite the imminence of football fanaticism…

I am really no stranger to all this European football madness – I was in Germany for the 2006 World Cup where I experienced it from all sides: backyard barbeques with the television rolled out onto the patio, over packed pubs where the air was still thick with cigarette smoke, the frenetic energy engulfing the Allianz Arena in Munich as the Germans beat Sweden 2:0 in the first 12 minutes, the adrenaline rush of the fans pouring through the cities after a successful round of penalty shooting, and the final crush of defeat. For three weeks, soccer became my personal religion. So, how bad could these fans be? Little did I know that Rangers fans are the poster children of sports hooliganism. Oh, the cultural lessons we must learn when living in a new country!

Encountering this apparent madness as an outsider is such a revealing experience. When I arrived at Manchester Piccadilly, the station was infectious with the excitement and chanting of The Bears (Ranger's fans) who all seemed to be already generously liquored by noon (How many cans of cheap lager can you guzzle before lunch?). Many a palette of beer met an untimely demise at their hands. Walking down from the station, I had to watch myself in my favorite black and white gingham ballet flats as not to step on shards from broken bottles or the steadily growing puddles of the backwash beer leaking from discarded half liter cans. When I realized the sheer insanity of what was happening around me, I made a beeline to get out of the city centre. 

Fleeing wasn't as easy as I thought it would be. Every man out there had his beer goggles on and there were a few guys that tried to chat me up along my way out of the city. I actually did stop to talk to one, a certain 'Bongo', who said he directly spotted me as not being English (and therefore interesting?). He told me he was from Glasgow. Ya don't say? I would have never known. Then he mentioned his trip to Florida. Good for you, Bongo. Next time, mate, try Seattle, Portland or Vancouver. He wanted to give me 'a wee kiss on the cheek' and I painfully obliged so he would just let go of my hand. Yew. Ranger cooties. My sanity was restored from the all the crazy blue shirted men (and women) when I ducked into the Cornerhouse to check out their magazine and book shops. I bought myself a copy of the 'Sloth' edition of Cabinet, then crossed the street over to 8th Day where I was finally free of the epidemic plaguing the streets of Manchester in the quiet sanctuary of the cafe. Somehow, in retrospect, I did manage to refill my artistic spring with many observations (hence this post). All was not lost; too bad the Rangers did.

The city had actually welcomed fans by setting up several viewing screens for fans without tickets on several of the larger squares in the city centre. The public drinking ban was lifted - a Carlsberg tanker truck was parked conveniently at Piccadilly Gardens, the main public viewing zone. Unfortunately, the screen broke later that evening causing all sorts of drunken upheaval. It was said that the city was besieged by nearly 100,000 fans who were to spend millions. One Rangers fan spent nearly 1500 GBP and flew from northern Australia where he works just to spend a whole 27 hours in Manchester and see the game. If this man's dedication says anything, than it is safe to assume that every Rangers fan from all corners of the United Kingdom descended upon Manchester yesterday.

Rangers fans left the city of Manchester in shambles. Granted the City Council did not plan well enough for the onslaught expecting them – there was a marked lack garbage bins and public toilets. But police (and a police dog!) were injured. Someone was stabbed. There was a river of urine reportedly flowing down one city street and vomit on every doorstep. Following soccer is a good time, but does it really have to be taken this far? And if it allowed to go this far, then why aren't the effects and such an aftermath being managed for? One would think that someone would have figured out how to by now.

09 May 2008

Dumping the Pump

Let me just do something I have refrained from doing for the nearly ten years I have been automobile abstinent:  stick out my cyber tongue at all those people upset at the high prices at the pump. I will also applaud all of the citizens of cities like LA and Boston who are 'dumping the pump' and taking the subway to work for a change. 

I for one am over the moon that gas is going to $4 a gallon in the US. People are finally getting out of their cars and turning to public transport - a service that in many parts of the States is severely underfunded hence underdeveloped and thus underused due to lack of demand. Maybe this dramatic increase in the price of gas and the subsequent turn to public transit for relief will remind people that there can be life without the automobile. 

I know, I know, some parts of the country are remote and you have to drive to get 'anywhere'. That unfortunately is the mentality of our nation. It is a huge inconvenience not to be able to get where you want or need to go. You've lost your sense of independence - I got it already! But let's face it, you are totally dependent on a set of wheels and expensive and toxic black sludge that is destroying peoples' lives in other parts of the world (you should see how bad the Nigerians have it and that country is the world's third largest exporter of petroleum. Did I forget to mention all the crazy bloodshed in the Middle East...) and lest you forget, our environment.

And just to make you think another little bit more about my argument today, which I am assuming you are aware of but conveniently forget on a daily basis as you put the key into the ignition, I want you to consider what the word 'automobile' really means when you break it down to its etymological roots. 'Auto' is a prefix coming from the Ancient Greek and means 'self'. 'mobile' is clear - it is an English suffix which implies transport or a vehicle. Based on its own etymology, the automobile is inherently selfish, folks! 

Look, people, I don't have all the answers, but if it is one thing I know, we are going to have to find a solution to live together and in healthy symbiosis with this planet. And there is a solution there. But before we find it, we really have to find the courage to examine our lives and admit how selfishly we really live. And that goes for our entire lifestyle - of which the car is a large part.  A solution means one small person at a time making one small choice and re-managing one's life for a new set of circumstances and maybe even new 'conveniences' (more time, more exercise, less stress, more cash, cleaner air, a higher quality of life?).

So, my car-loving Americans and all you other automobile enthusiasts, have a good, long think. What is the small difference you are willing to make? Many small difference equals one large difference. Drive less. Get on that bus or that train. Create the demand public transit to increase its service. In the grand scheme of things, what you do and the choices you make matter. And while you are at it, stop buying bottled water please.

07 May 2008

Previous Entries..but not from this blog

I just spent two and a half days reading through the last nine weeks of my 'Morning Pages', the daily journal entries assigned in Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way. Every morning before I do anything, I write three full pages of rants, reflections, and revelations in a Mead Composition Book knock-off I bought at a loonie store. One piece of the additional weekly homework for this week (9 of 12) was to read through every boring, tedious, embarrassing, but somehow empowering and enlightening page. 

We are asked to write down all of our insights, procrastinations and complaints and highlight them in the journal. Funny enough that all of my complaints and procrastinations repeated themselves over and over and over like a broken record throughout those pages. On the other hand, the only progress I seemed to be making was fleeting and nothing I could hang on to - well, not like I can hang on to my complaints. I would have and journal insights, feel really great about it and then promptly forget the flash of inspiration and enthusiasm I had experienced the next day. 

Contrary to my expectations, that was the whole point of the exercise. By journaling my mental spews and incessant whining, I was able to see the repetition. Surprisingly, the repetition of all that junk let me look at it then and now all from a lot of different angles. Even more surprisingly, the insights I did have were all completely unique and still rang true like the day I wrote them. I needed to here the broken record to sort out all those thoughts and fears and to remind me that they are not productive, empowering or any longer needed. I was meant to see the master list of insights as a booster shot against of the virus called defeat which so many writers and artists before me have fallen prey to. It was like Cameron knew I would need to leave myself a trail of creative development breadcrumbs for that critical moment where I loose my steam and feel tempted to throw in the towel. Such a clever lady, such a clever program.