the mouse

it was after work some weeks ago, and i’d skipped out at 4.45pm on friday with plans to meet my cousin and her daughter for a special dinner at the oxo tower. they were visiting from california, and it is a rare treat when a member of my family is both wonderful and kindred enough to warrant meeting up with…and also passing through london.

i wandered out of work into a blaze of april sunshine – a treat of a warm, dry day at this time of year – sun peeking through a few fast-moving clouds interrupting bright blue sky. with an hour until i was meant to meet them for our sitting, i thought about a gin and tonic, and given i was due to fly to asia for five weeks in just under 24 hours, a little celebratory sunshine tipple seemed just the thing.

i crossed blackfriars road at the busy southwark street crossing, battling the brisk wind that constantly blows down then up again from the huge glass building where i work. and then the raft of militant cyclists pouring up and down the cycle lane. i skipped past the mad hatter (the only victorian hotel pub within striking distance still standing in the midst of a glass uprising) and a mini-waitrose supermarket and found myself on marigold alley: a small, brick-lane pedestrian alley that connects upper ground to the thames path.

there was a dark-haired man wearing a messenger satchel slung over one shoulder, stopped just ahead, peering at the ground, and below him, a small creature barely moving. approaching, it became clear this was an injured rodent – a tiny field mouse with a broken leg.

the tiny mouse, which may have been a baby – note to self: brush up on murine anatomy and life cycle – was attempting to crawl helplessly across a small patch of the brick. above, yet another modern glass office building and in front a sliver of ‘garden’ consisting in the main of pebbles intersown with a handful of tufty sweeps of urban feathergrass.

the gentleman says he thinks the mouse’s leg might be broken, but it seems ok if not for being on the hot bricks. maybe if we could get it into the landscaped bit, it would fare better.

i don’t want to touch him though, the man says gently, with a tinge of guilt.

no, maybe for the best not to handle him, i agree.

simultaneously, and without speaking, the man begins rummaging in his messenger bag and i flick through the assortment of books, headphones, papers and printed travel documents in my canvas work tote, finding a couple papers i deem unnecessary in relation to the mouse’s life.

here, it’s a script but it should work. the man points a messy staple of papers at me and i wonder if he must be an actor on his way to a reading at the national theatre or somewhere in soho. maybe, like me, he’d taken a detour to walk along the riverside for a few glorious minutes in the london sun, and here we’d found ourselves, caring for a despised animal.

we work in tandem, putting the mess of script and papers down in front of the frightened creature, trying to delicately coax it onto its life raft.  finally, the mouse aboard, we hover in a silently coordinated dance, each holding a ream of papers, the mouse at the centre, walking quickly but unmovingly to the strip of landscaped pebble garden.

we gently lay the mouse down in the shade of the glass high-rise and breathe a paired sigh of some kind of relief. maybe it would be ok. then we stand there awkwardly for a couple of minutes, watching the mouse inhale, nose around and then and bobble carefully along the rockery.

well, hopefully he’ll be alright, i say and i am really hopeful.

yeah….well…thanks. sorry, and…thanks for your help, he says, pushing the mouse script back into his satchel.

it was nice being a saviour with you.


the telemarker

it was your head.
cocked glasses, aquarian smile
bag dropped casual-like on a desk, too old for the skater look
you were affected but smart and god i loved it
the boy with the arab strap comes on now
and instantly i’m there
11pm, 2004, october something. we took apart
and rebuilt
an old VCR on the wood slat floor
of your house on…
, oh,
what was the name of the street
and how funny i can still smell you
feel your mouth on mine
in the pagosa springs
, but was it hazeldine road or linda vista?
where i left you, no you left me.
where you dressed as the crocodile hunter
jumped off your roof on tequila and who knows what.
where you let me sleep over and then bought breakfast
while your girlfriend was in denmark.

you are still a fire in my throat
but i can’t recognise your old house
on street view

i wanted to fix you
with skiing and a steve earle soundtrack
we huddled close on a stranger’s couch in
a new-build adobe santa fe house.
a stroll around the plaza, the bull ring
i let you smoke
and the smell of red wine linger next to me
we went to bed separately that night
and i think now i was good at being confusing back then.

you needed space
and you went to taos and this was before smartphones
and texting and the constant on.
it was a three-hour drive.
i was thinking of your crow’s feet all the way up the rio grande gorge
past velarde, embudo station, the turn off to truchas.
we drank barley wine
on high bar stools at eske’s – conveniently
tiny enough for three pints of arm-brush butterflies –
and drunk-drove to the strokes,
windows down
rocky mountain nightwind
swirling us round for one last nite.

years later, an awkward dinner at chama river
you tell me about your new wife
new kid
and i smile and i am happy for you
and we drink beer again, not the same,
and pretend
we were not a thing
back then.

cat shadow

welcome back

for so long and so many reasons, i have been away from this blog. largely, professional writing can strip your creative juices for producing anything personal. i was sharing all of my best and most interesting anecdotes in paid work, leaving little left for this humble space.

then, apple went and deleted mobileme, and so my beloved former website went down with it, leaving me to completely redesign this space. i decided (rightly) to go with wordpress and transform what was formerly my basic gypsytracks blog into a full fledged portfolio and website. and i love it.

a lot has happened since our move to london last year. i got my UK residency. we’ve been on several international trips. i was invited on a weeklong blog adventure to wales last autumn, and fell completely in love with that country. and, i suppose most importantly, i gave up my freelance life and took a position a few months ago as editor of the rather fantastic travel guide hg2 | a hedonist’s guide to. it was a huge transition but i am really loving it. although unfortunately, between my commute (commute!) and many daily tasks, it leaves little time for personal blogging. i hope to change that.

so, for now, please enjoy the photo of the cat shadow, which i snapped at a cozy little pub in reading several months ago.

cat shadow

the daily shoot

i’ve decided to start doing the daily shoot. this is in an effort to practice my photography with a bit more structure and to learn to use the manual settings on my camera to take pointed pictures that revolve around a theme. the above photo was snapped about half an hour ago out my back window. today’s theme is “blue”. that’s it. just take a photo where most of the shot is encompassed in blue. i do realize that taking pictures of the sky is a bit cliche, but also that one of my recurring motifs seems to be sunflares. and i quite like all the busyness of the power lines and clouds that break the picture up. [tweetmeme]

money or life?

it’s 6:47 pm. i am sitting in havana tapas bar on georges st. eating a spanish omlette and dousing myself with a glass of chilean cabernet, my third this evening. i’ve spent the greater part of the afternoon here, drinking wine and working on writing projects and generally pondering my recent decision to do freelance writing full-time. i am too broke to afford this meal; in fact, the mere buying of this meal may actually mean that i can’t pay my rent on october 16, but i am not unhappy.

my latest forays into finding a “real” job in dublin have been unsuccessful three times over. the lowest point of recent times was actually applying as a checkout girl at Lidl. for those unfamiliar, Lidl is the european grocery equivalent of wal-mart – dirty, crowded and cheap with bad, VERY bad lighting. i actually become ill whenever i go into Lidl (which i do a lot recently to buy the cheap bread and €1 frozen pizzas that i’m currently living off of, spanish omlette aside) from the crowds and “ethnic smells” and general mayhem inside. (i can get away with saying “ethnic smells” because i am a degreed interculturalist now). what’s worse? Lidl hasn’t even called me back. i can’t even get hired for Shit-Checkout-at-Bad-Immigrant-Grocery-Store-Job.

i love freelance writing. if i was really honest with myself, that is what i would want to do full-time, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week (okay maybe 8 hours a day, 5 days a week).

i do not love being broke. first of all, i am a wine drinker. i need wine to function (that might be a stretch) and my boyfriend is also a wine drinker. a good 13% of our conversations actually revolve around wine, and it’s a good thing he actually has a paying salary because we like to go to wine bars and buy nice bottles of wine. often. being a wine drinker in dublin is not cheap, mind you. ireland is not a wine culture – people here prefer the pints. so, we spend a lot more money on wine than one would in italy or france or napa or even new mexico. but we like our wine.

i am also a traveler. the better part of my writing skill and inspiration come from traveling. being broke does not lend itself to traveling, either. i would kill to be in spain eating an actual spanish omlette right now, rather than the dublin, havana bar version of it (which is actually quite decent), but alas, i am not. at the moment, i could not afford a plane ticket off this rainy island if i wanted to. here again, i am lucky to have a boyfriend with a real salary who will gladly foot the bill to places like brussels, to where we are going in 2 weeks time.

there is also that pesky business of a residence-or-work visa hanging over my head. the other day, i spent nine (count them 9!) hours at the immigration bureau along with loads of africans and indian families with crying babies trying to get my student visa changed into an “i’m a desperate american looking for work” visa. after 9 hours, my number wasn’t even called, so i gave up and went back 2 days later. now i’ve got 6 months until march 19 when i will be unceremoniously kicked to the fuckin’ irish curb, if you get what i’m sayin’.

so, i’m optimistic! these things work out, right? seriously people – if you ever want a reality check and a blow to your dignity (not that you would???), i’ve got one word for ya: emigrate.

leprechaun in alabama?

this really deserves it’s own post.

i’m really not sure what my favourite part of this video was. the “amateur sketch” was certainly a highlight. i had to concur that the lady’s conspiracy theory that the alleged leprechaun was actually just a misguided crackhead was probably pretty accurate, given that the event took place in the hood. but probably the best part was the guy in fatigues showing off his magic flute, passed down through 1000’s of years from his great granddad.

“i want da gold. gimme da gold. i want da gold!”

excellent tv. excellent.

dissertation drain

it’s official. i now know more than anyone else that has ever lived on the subject of irish public discourse about the beijing olympics. i know statistics. i know numbers. i know opinions. i even know media coverage. obviously, i really could not have been happier to watch that thing take its short fall into the project drop box next to the main office in the school of applied languages and intercultural studies at dcu last monday afternoon.

in the week and a half since i submitted my dissertation, i have done several things. the first thing was to begin sorting out the end of my book, which i am still working on with hopes of having it to my publisher by the end of the month. if i haven’t yet blogged about getting a publisher, apologies. like i said… dissertation drain, and all that.

the second thing i did was drink heavily, which was really no change from any given day during the writing of the dissertation except that the small nagging feeling of procrastinatory guilt had finally disappeared. it was replaced by pure emptiness, which was both relieving and slightly disconcerting.

the third thing i did was commence the inevitable freak out over being 27, jobless, penniless and threatened with deportation if i don’t somehow come up with a brilliant, all-encompassing plan that will earn me at least enough money to pay my rent, buy bill dinner and a pint for …well… everything, and last but not least, allow me to stay in this country. no small feat, let me tell you.

what have i done to try and counter this unending feeling of total fear and despair, you ask? hm. well, first i drank heavily and did that a few more times and kept doing it all the way up until, well, now. i also sent out about 3,486 CVs to just about any job i could see listed and several that weren’t (so if i end up frying cod in the chipper or peddling chewing gum at the local SPAR, don’t be surprised). i also had several very good sob sessions with just about anyone that would listen, including a very scared nigerian man on a bus in glasnevin. finally, just to edge up my confidence once more, i emailed “please take me under your wing” schpeels to at least 6 different phd programmes in the hopes that one might take pity on the poor yankee girl and let her stay.

where does all of this leave me? …. i have no bloody clue! if anyone knows of a job opening or possible phd programme or a pyramid scheme i might undertake or a militia i could join, just email me at

to sum up: it is pouring down rain on this southside dublin day – a day in which bill and myself had planned to drive to the “sunny” southeast for a day of beach ‘n’ beer in waterford. shaping up to be more like brolly ‘n’ bed with wine at the guesthouse, instead.