strange fire

books. poetry. paganism. feminism. queerness. blog.

holy crap April 30, 2006

Filed under: Uncategorized — andygrrrl @ 5:15 am

I just saw a busker playing fiddle tunes while standing on a tight rope.

I had half a mind to go buy a hat just so I could take it off to him. Instead I took a picture and gave some change.

Bath is lovely (though sadly lacking in dyke bars). It somehow manages to be highly touristy without being completely annoying. Yesterday was Jane’s Day, I took the walking tour, did the JA Centre, even had tea in the Regency Rooms (totally winced as I ordered “Tea with Mr. Darcy”–god Janeites are so fucking corny–but I hadn’t had lunch and sandwiches, scones, and two kinds of cake sounded great). It occured to me during all this that I would probably totally horrify Jane Austen, if I ever meet up with her in the afterlife. But she’d win in the end by making me a ridiculous secondary character in a new novel, and I’d love her for it.

Tomorrow I’m on to Glastonbury, for May Day (with any luck). Should be interesting. Then on to Cardiff, meet up with the folks of Mind the Gap!


you gotta fight for your right April 28, 2006

Filed under: Uncategorized — andygrrrl @ 8:10 am

to paaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrrtaaaaaaaaaaaaaaayyyyy!

So after I pitched my little hissy fit here (it’s finally all sorted out, but I still gotta wait a week before I get my cash) I went out and I got that drink at The Candy Bar in SoHo.

god I love lesbian bars. Best invention ever.

It was surprisingly easy to find, luckily. I probably could have walked there from my hostel. It’s teeny, which I like. Very similar in feel to my favorite Parisian bars, 3W and Bliss Kfe. Very pink. I am so becoming a dyke bartender when I go home, smoke allergy bedamned. So cute. I had enough cash for exactly one beer plus change just in case, so the plan was to have a quiet night, nurse my beer and enjoy the dykespace. Unless I could get someone to buy me a drink. Which I did, but I’m getting ahead of myself.
Really busy for a Thursday night, which I thought was odd, until two latex clad girls came strolling in, and I realized I had managed, on my only night out in London, to come to the only lesbian bar in town that has pole-dancing on Thursdays.
You know I had to see it; how can I pick a side in the Feminist Sex Wars without first hand research? That’s just bad scholarship. I forked over the three pounds (oh, so painful, ouch) to get into the even tinier basement for the show.
Pole-dancing is…interesting. Just as silly as stripping, but it earns more of my esteem because it requires actual talent and athleticism. I mean, I sure as hell couldn’t do all that. Wow. It is impressive, but whether it’s exploitive or not is debatable (duh). Is it artistic expression? I’m not so sure; it’s basically acrobatic stripping. It’s the same kind of moves, just varied in order. Oh, this time she’s going to hang upside down topless before taking off her knickers, oh that’s neat.
The audience was enthusiastic, more or less; I ended up talking to this older couple, 50ish at least, first-timers as well. Very nice English ladies, we swapped coming out stories (mine was a lot easier than theirs, obviously. Thanks, Second Wave!) and opinions on the show.
“Well, it’s very atheletic, ” said Jo “but I don’t find it very erotic, do you?”
Her partner Paula concurred. Paula was more than a little tipsy and kind of spent most of the time inconspicuously grabbing my ass. Which I found hilarious (she was so, I don’t know, sweet about it, if that makes any sense) and I guess Jo didn’t mind. She bought me a drink too.
” But you know those girls aren’t gay,” Jo continued. ” Gay women wouldn’t do that kind of thing.”
Well, I don’t know, I thought. These days, it’s very liberating, apparently, to mimic straight sex culture. I’d actually read about the first dancer in Diva (the British lesbian magazine); apparently she was voted “Best Breasts”. Which is totally true, speaking on strictly aestetic level, you understand.
(Jeez, no wonder my blog was blocked by the computers at the London hostel)
So is it totally hypocritical of me that I put a fake bill in the girl’s garter during her routine? You buy them for a pound, and Jo had three (I got her and Paula to put one in her garter too). It was fun, I won’t deny that, I enjoyed myself. But not without reservations. Do the dynamics of pole-dancing change because the context changes–a lesbian dancer performing for other lesbians, instead of a straight woman performing for straight men? Part of me says yes, but how much? And, on the other hand…I don’t know. I don’t have the time to think it all through right now.
DJ was great, and I ended up talking to a cute black girl from Paris (figures). So it was a fantastic night, on the whole, for cheap, and no hangover either.
And now I’m in Bath. Geeking out on Jane Austen again!


Dear France April 27, 2006

Filed under: Uncategorized — andygrrrl @ 7:35 am


All that good will you earned during my stay? You’ve just blown it completely. Fuck you you lazy ass chain smoking dumbfuck winos. You so don’t deserve to have Paris in your country. Fuck your ridiculously elaborate conversation fillers: je vous en prie! C’est moi qui vous remercie! Just shove it. Thank you sooo much for taking time out of your oh so important nail-filing time to transfer my funds you silly bitch. So you didn’t get all five of my phone messages or my emails? What the fuck’s the point of business card if you can’t contact anybody with the info on it? Oh wait! I forgot! This is France, it’s just there to LOOK PRETTY.

god I need a drink.

I’m going to Bath tomorrow, to starve while I wait for the transfer to go through.


A Tour through Hampshire–In a Letter from a young Lady– April 26, 2006

Filed under: Uncategorized — andygrrrl @ 10:19 am

WHEN Cassandra had attained her 16th year, she was lovely & amiable, & chancing to fall in love with an elegant Bonnet her Mother had just compleated, bespoke by the Countess of —-, she placed it on her gentle Head & walked from her Mother’s shop to make her Fortune.–“The Beautifull Cassandra”

Getting to Jane Austen’s house in Chawton is not what you’d call straightforward. Take the tube to Waterloo station, take the train to Alton, then a bus from Alton to the Chawton roundabout, then walk 15 minutes through disgustingly charming country lanes. If it’s out of the way in this day and age it must have been positively cloistered in its remoteness back in 18whatever.

Today everything went well. The sun came out, for one thing. The birds were singing like it was going out of style. I had a smooth journey all the way, and even missing the first bus out gave me a chance to grab some lunch. The area is quiet and unassuming, grazing sheep in the fields and rabbits scampering around. Even the cars rushing by on the highway sound kind of laidback. And the house just appears, very anticlimatically, around the bend, a little white sign announcing Jane Austen’s House. Aside from that, it doesn’t look all that different from the neighboring homes (there are thatched roofs here, for christ’s sake). Without a sign you might even walk right past it without realizing that some of the greatest novels in the English language were written inside. I pay my four pounds admission fee and pick up a guide, which I don’t really need since I already know all the information inside. The little old ladies who run the place are gossiping about neighbors and family members and respective illnesses, which is so hilariously appropriate that I have to bite my tongue to keep from laughing. I wonder if they realize they’ve just turned into some of Austen’s minor characters.
Here’s her father’s bookshelf with some early editions of her work; a period pianoforte; original letters on display under glass, her topaz cross in a drawer, next the dining parlor, and there it is, The Table, where she wrote and revised her work. I knew it was tiny but I’m still surprised by the size. No wonder pages of Persuasion in the British Library are so small. Squeezed into a corner of the room on a miniscule table.
The house is everything I hoped it would be. Peaceful and lived in, if a bit hallowed as well (This handkerchief was once sneezed upon by Jane’s great-great-great nephew!!). You can see her here, gazing out the window into the street, sitting in the garden, walking down the lane while puzzling over how to get Emma and Mr. Knightley together.
I excercized appalling restraint in the bookshop, but I wanted to get things that I couldn’t find at home or on the net. I would definitely have bought The Confession of Fitzwilliam Darcy if it hadn’t been in hardback (I can’t justify hauling it around the UK). As it is I walked away with bookplates, and music, and Emma Thompson’s set diaries from Sense and Sensibility. And lots of disappointing pictures of myself posing in front of various things.
Then the kindly little old man (who makes me think of Mr. Woodhouse; resemblance to Austen characters must be one of the requirements for the job) gives me confusing directions on how to catch the bus back and I ramble around Hampshire for a bit, getting only a little bit lost.
And now I’m back in London, and I think I’ll have another quiet evening (I didn’t hit the Candy Bar after all), planning out my next move. Thursday will be my night on the town. Despite the fact that Blogger’s being a total ASS, and I still have no word from my French bank, I am thoroughly, utterly content.

Cassandra smiled & whispered to herself “This is a day well spent.”


fate is playing silly buggers with me April 25, 2006

Filed under: Uncategorized — andygrrrl @ 10:36 am

as Douglas Adams once said. This is the fourth time I’ve tried to post, let’s see if Blogger will stop being a dick for once (it must be hanging out with Ricardo and Trevor or something).

The last five days have been surreal. I’m in London, surviving on what money my parents’ have lent me, I haven’t heard back from my French bank counselor person (though I’ve called her twice and emailed her), I’ve been existing in alternating states of panic and bliss, which will wear you out quicker than sore feet will.
Obviously my number one problem is money. I don’t know what I’m gonna do. Being flat broke in London is not quite as fun as being flat broke in Paris, mainly because I don’t know the city as well as I do Paris. In Paris I feel comfortable enough to go out on my own at night carrying only metro tickets and some cash. However, all the museums in London are free, thanks to the Queen’s Golden Jubilee thingy. As a result I’ve dropped my flirtation with radical anarcha-feminism in favor of monarchy and divine right. God save the Queen!
I’m in a hostel right across the street from the British museum, where I stumbled on a life sized statue of Anne Damer (the heroine of Emma Donoghue’s Life Mask). I’m in freakin’ Bloomsbury, which is enough to make me faint from sheer delight. Sitting in Russel Square trying to picture Virginia Woolf there. Also did the British Library, where I promptly passed out from It’s All Too Muchness: Persuasion!! Middlemarch! BEOWULF! The last entry in Scott’s journal before he freezes to death in Antartica, “For God’s sake look after our people.” Beatles lyrics!!
Today was book browsing (but not buying, I’m being very good. A heavy suitcase will keep a girl in line more than a bank balance will). The Occult Bookshop, Quintos, Oxfam Books, and Waterstones, the largest bookstore in Europe. This afternoon I did the National Portrait Gallery, where I said hello to Mary Wollstonecraft, Jane Austen, etc, and rounded out my Life Mask tour by viewing the busts of Fox and Eliza Farren that Anne Damer sculpted.
I’m pretty exhausted. Trying to work up the energy to check out the girls in The Candy Bar tonight (I can afford a drink). Part of my exhaustion is due to my inexplicably snagging myself a French girlfriend for a 24 hour period my last night in Paris. Friend of a friend of a friend, literally, and my first butch too. Suffice to say I had a little too much fun Saturday night, and we spent most of Sunday inventing new makeout spots and seeing how many old ladies we could shock on the metro. So after 8 months of trying I can finally scratch “French girls” off my To Do list.
In short, when I’m not feeling a constant low-level anxiety or sheer happiness, I’m feeling frazzled. Maybe I should just cool it and come back to London at the end of May.
I better get off the damn internet now; I’m going to attempt to go to Chawton tomorrow to make my Jane Austen pilgrimage.


Paris in the springtime April 22, 2006

Filed under: Uncategorized — andygrrrl @ 2:26 am

If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young woman, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a movable feast.

Paris in the springtime. Hands down. Fall is nice, and winter is good too; and of course in the summer it’s a complete headache. But Paris in the spring is so freaking lovely that it’s got me quoting Hemingway, fer gawd’s sake, even though my bank hasn’t transfered my earnings to my American account which means I’m running out of cash right quick (I’m going to have to call them up and yell at them. There’s a reason why when people say “France” the words that jump to mind are “romance”, “wine”, “art”, etc, and not “organization”, “pragmatism”, or “work ethic”.)

But even being strapped for cash in Paris has an air of bohemian adventure to it (until you get hungry, that is). How very…Henry Miller of me. I sat in the Jardin du Luxembourg yesterday, exhausted from a nightmarish train ride (see the complaints above), but the sun was shining and the lilacs blooming and children were playing Red Light Green Light, which in French seems to be “Un, deux, trois, soleil!” I sat under a tree and finished Mes mauvaises pensées.

…I’m alone in the city and I’m alive, you see, at the Place de la Concorde, I’m alive, the Tuileries arcades, I’m alive, Place de Vendôme, I’m alive, Place des Victoires, I’m alive, I have a bond of love with Paris; I’m dazzled: the chestnut trees, the Louvre, the Seine, the towers; I’m dazzled by the words “I’ve found the heart of Paris.”

I’m not too sure about the sense of s’etourdir, but you get the idea. It’s more beautiful in French.

I spent too much money on books, as usual. Bought magazines at Violette and Co, which has replaced Les mots à la bouche as my favorite queer bookstore, because Violette is lesbian-run, for women. Said hello to the cats in Shakespeare and Co, and stumbled across a new favorite, The Abbey Bookstore, hidden away in the Latin Quarter; it’s run by a friendly Canadian man who offers everybody coffee. It’s organized according to the French system, that is, books are shelved where ever there’s space, it’s like a cramped maze of genres and authors all mixed up, and you literally step over books to peer at others that are piled into precarious towers. I made an amazing discovery there; a pristine 1890 edition of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s poetry, in red tooled leather, with the pages still uncut. Which means in the last 100 years, no one’s ever read it. It’s the most depressing thing I’ve ever seen.

And now I’m off to buy up the rest of Nina Bouraoui’s work. God, where am I going to put them all? And where am I going to get the money???


gone away to be happy at Bath April 19, 2006

Filed under: Uncategorized — andygrrrl @ 11:38 am

and London, Dublin, Edinburgh, Berlin…

[/obscure Jane Austen reference]

Thanks for all your comments on the previous post, folks. It helps to be listened to.

I’m leaving on Friday morning for what is essentially a month-long supersized literary geek-out in Britain (three words, my friends: “Jane Austen pilgrimage”.) I’ve been waiting my whole life to do something like this. Let’s hope I don’t run out of money. Posting will be erratic at best, I imagine (mostly along the lines of “yes I’m still alive” and “OMG Chawton is awesome I luuuuuuuurve Jane Austen!!”)

And now I have to pack.