Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Blogging for Don't DIS

Full disclosure: The ‘Blog for Don’t DIS’ thing was my idea. So yes, in writing this blog, I am doing my job. But that isn’t why I am writing it.

I started working for the Don’t DIS my ABILITY campaign in 2009, recently returned from my Big Overseas Trip and wondering what to do next in my odd little career. Thinking I’d be biding my time as an event manager while studying, I discovered firstly that what I was doing was so much more than events management and, secondly, that I didn’t want to study for a new career after all.

I feel so genuinely privileged to work for this campaign; to spend my days discovering new ways to think about disability, community, education and discrimination; to meet such engaging and thoughtful people; to develop new language techniques for communicating ideas; to have the chance to learn new tools and media for communicating online and off; to discover new Australian writers, bloggers, activists, teachers, musicians and more.

When I tell people about the work I do, they assume I’m then going to wax lyrical about “giving back” and “helping people” and “inspiring change.” But that is not what I focus on. I think people can tend to try and give the impression that they work in non-profits or social justice initiatives out of selflessness…

I don’t want to diminish the real action inspired by campaigning and education, or the genuine passion of the staff who work in these fields. But while I do my job because it’s important, I also work for Don’t DIS my ABILITY because it’s fun, because I learn, because it’s engaging and because I believe people who have been through hardship, people who are from a minority group, people who know what it is like to walk (or wheel) down the street as “other” are just more interesting.

I will leave this position at the end of the campaign smarter, more reflective, more aware and deeply enriched. I have met wonderful people, seen some amazing things and, most importantly for me, had some wonderful conversations.


Monday, 16 August 2010

iphones are ruining our lives

M: Emily, what are you doing?

E: Feeding my fish in my shark tank. It's an app. Just promise you'll make me quit if I ever decide to buy fish coins with real money. I've been tempted...

A: Don't look at me, I paid for the advanced version of iperiod.

M: But iperiod is useful!

A: I'm on the pill, Maeve.

Monday, 2 August 2010


Old Habits:
  • Nail biting
  • Chewing lip
  • Jaw clenching
  • Smiling
  • Talking
  • Being happy
New Habits:
  • Nail picking
  • Putting hands in mouth to adjust plate
  • Rubbing sore temples
  • Frowning
  • Lisping
  • Being angry

Friday, 23 July 2010


Every morning when I wake up, my jaw is locked shut. I can open it, clicking it painfully but it often continues to re-lock throughout my shower and breakfasting, much to my frustration. Throughout the day it clicks irritatingly, until sometime in the evening when - if I am lucky - it calms down.

After years - yes years - of this problem, I decided to mention it to my dentist a few weeks ago. He thought it was due to grinding my teeth at night and, maybe, my nail-biting habit. He was going to make me up a little splint. Then, luckily, in a moment of honesty, I said "...yeah... If I am trying to talk to someone, or drive, or watch TV, and I am not biting my hands, it's really hard for me to concentrate."

Deeming my problem "chronic" he referred me to a specialist.

I have spent the last month trying to stop biting my hands. It's felt like a break-up. My safe little crutch gone, I have developed a number of other twitches: twiddling my fingers, biting the inside of my lips, scratching at my cuticles and so on. But I have kept trying.

Today I went to said specialist and paid $400 to be told:
a) I am stressed
b) I am a classic personality type for teeth grinding / clenching
c) I clench my jaw at night, drawing moisture out of my mouth and placing enormous pressure on the joints
d) I need a plate - 24 hrs a day for 2 months, then at night. It will cost $900. It will cost $125 per weekly adjustments during the first month.
e) The plate will fix the locking. It probably won't fix the clicking as the ligaments have been stretched and may not bounce back.

He talked to me for about 45 minutes about stress and, having never met me before, described elements of my personality in depth, with disturbing accuracy:

"You are a worrier. You are over-analytical. You are a "what if" person, unable to make decisions because you are constantly pondering the options and you know that, once a decision is made you'll go over and over it. You may be sitting quietly and suddenly a decision you made years ago will start to plague you and your anxiety will shoot through the roof. You procrastinate. You are good at talking about what you think, but not how you feel. When a friend has a problem, they can call you and you happily provide sound advice but you are unable to apply this practical reasoning to your own choices."

And it went on..and was kind of intense...

This year I have had two long-term problems come to a very expensive head because I ignored them for years (vocal injury and now this). I think I had better call the podiatrist about my fusion foot before I step off the curb and it breaks...

Thursday, 22 July 2010

Last night, my mother's dear friend Peter passed away after 6 months of pancreatic cancer. Peter was one of Louise's oldest friends, a veteran from the heady days of communal housing, alternative families and queer-before-the-word-queer-was-trendy lifestyles my parents told me about when I was growing up. The years in London, before I was born, were retold as bedtime stories and through the photo albums lining our walls. I idolised the brown-tinged bell-bottomed hippies smiling up at me from English pebble beaches and little share house kitchens.

Peter was closer to Rowan growing up, coaching him in philosophy and Latin. I loved him as my mother's friend but we did not have a close personal relationship, despite running into each other regularly at Queerscreen events and the theatre.

So when I heard Peter had cancer, and last night when I got the message from Louise, I cried mainly for her, and for his family: two adult children, close friends and ex-lovers, and his lovely partner Rubens.
The past 5 years have not been easy to Louise. She has lost two brothers, the gorgeous Ingrid - another old friend, and two weeks ago, a treasured colleague. When life was hardest, Peter was there in ways only he could see she really needed. While others asked questions, imposed their own agendas and expectations, Peter took her to the opera and on picnics. Astoundingly intelligent, he talked to her about books and philosophy, not divorce and death, and he reminded her who she was and how much joy she could find in the world. He has been a true friend, and I know she will feel the loss of him daily.

Sometimes it feels like death is skirting the peripheries of my life, slowly circling closer. This big bad that frightens me so deeply, edging its way into my life, spiralling inwards, each time hurting that little bit more. I am terrified - cold and terrified - about the moment it will be not a mother's friend, or a cousin's father, but a sister or a close friend of my own. I am terrified that, unlike Louise - who is so much braver than she realises - I will completely crumble.

My mothers and their friends have taught me all I know about family. They have flaws, but you could never accuse them of disloyalty. Teresa told me yesterday how she happily skyped her first girlfriend from uni, Sydney to London, across oceans and what must be more than 35 years. They taught me that once you love someone, you should hold on tight. Some people don't like this little habit of mine - especially ex-girlfriends - but I have no plans to change. Once I'm yours, you're stuck with me, whether you like it or not. I make mistakes; I've hurt friends and I've of course been hurt by those I love. But I am still striving for friendships like my mothers maintain; epic romances really, with people they know so well and so deeply, but are still able to be suprised by and in awe of.

Peter farewelled Louise last week saying, "Enjoy everything, Louise." It's a pretty perfect piece of advice and one I want to heed. It's also something I couldn't do without my family and friends. I'm thinking about them today, and also about Peter.


Thursday, 8 July 2010

Sleeping my way to a better me.

Att: Customer Service
Ford Motors Australia

To whom it may concern,

I recently had the immense fortune of hiring a Ford Mondeo for a road trip I took through the USA's South West. It was Springtime and the wildflowers were in full bloom, but the weather was colder than expected and so I found myself looking at my little tent with trepidation. As the night air grew frosty on my first night in the stunning Yosemite Valley, I decided my Australian constitution wouldn't cope with the open air and I promptly set about creating a little bed in the passenger seat of my Ford.

I admit I was skeptical about the night ahead. I am not a fan of overnight travel, due to the typically uncomfortable seating of most transportation. An intermittent insomniac, I envisaged a sleepless night followed by a quick tent pitch or a flutter of the eye lashes at one of my travel companions in the hope that they might want to share body heat.

I awoke the next day, shocked and amazed. I had slept like a proverbial log. I felt more rested than I had in months and I bounded joyously from the car, refreshed and alive. I spent the next two weeks sleeping in the Ford Mondeo passenger seat and I had the best two weeks of my life. It was so comfortable that my insomnia was cured.

The night after I had returned the vehicle, I lay restless and devastated in my bed. I awoke the next morning with a familiar ache; the back pain that had disappeared for two blissful weeks had returned tenfold now that I was back in a regular bed.

I have spent years buying fancy mattresses, paying physios, doing back exercises and tossing and turning in vain. But two weeks in the passenger seat of a Ford Mondeo and all the pain was gone.

I truly believe that if I were to spend every night sleeping in such a seat my life would be greatly improved.

As such, I ask you whether it would be possible to purchase a passenger seat from a Ford Mondeo, or better yet whether any factory spares would be available in Australia - for donation, so that I may install the seat in my bedroom and sleep my way to a healthier, happier me.

I look forward to hearing from you at your earliest convenience.

Warm Regards,

Saturday, 5 June 2010


Fuck. Gone in a moment. I scream, terrifying these white bread swear-jar owning hikers who clearly think I am mad. They don't want to know the answer when they ask if I am ok.

I have said numerous times, in those repeated traveller engagements, that I'd rather lose my passport than my photos, my identification rather than my memories. Travelling alone, my camera is my companion, my little keeping box. In moments of solitude I take it out, to record a moment, to share a joke with myself, to make solid the beauty I've found in a little corner of the world just discovered, to fill my hands when they feel restless. It measures my learning, as I develop skills in the manipulation of the little dials, tactile as they click into place adjusting aperture, shutter speed, and other new words in my vocabulary. My camera is heavy around my neck, marks me tourist, makes me feel safe as an outside observer, excuses my gawking and wonderment.

Sitting on a little perch halfway into the Grand Canyon I clicked a button by accident and, in an instant, lost New York and Yosemite. Hiking out, sobbing, rapidly dehydrating, depleted and angry, where moments earlier I had been on top of the world. I was crying for the lost little rectangles, but also for the days to come when I knew I'd be characteristically self-critical, going over and over my mistaken fingers. And already, as I trudged uphill (faster than perhaps ever before), I was cataloguing the losses, imprinting them in my head, a different kind of memory card.

Memory is my obsession and losing it one of my great fears. In my mind, I quantify these little pieces of experience I am amassing; they are building something - someone - and the camera holds it all together.

I have given myself those well-practiced middle class children-dying-in-Africa, it-could-be-worse speeches. And of course I know it could bloody well be worse, I'm not an idiot. But sometimes always remembering "the less fortunate" can take away from one's right to just feel sad for a moment, or a day or two.

The camera allows me to share it all, my little forays out into the world, the ups, downs and footsteps. I don't go easy alone. I like telling stories. My photos type captions as I take them. They aren't just pretty scenery, but also punchlines, thoughts, quirks and tales. Some moments I feel alone don't feel real til they are shared. And while I know there is a lesson here in owning my alone adventures, I still feel sad - weeks later - about these lost stories, lost chances to make someone I love laugh or think or shake their head and roll their eyes at me.

So, if you're still with me, here are a few of my 700 lost moments:

In NYC...
Squirrels. So Many Squirrels.
Subway underpass slanting in Queens, sharp light hitting street art beneath the bridge and a man leaning out to look for the train.
Anna, old friend, living it large in NYC, in photos she deemed ugly and I deemed delightful (losses she may be pleased about actually...): in front of a shop named Anna; together, reflected in multitudes of tiny octagonal mirrors (or were they hexagons?) pulling practiced same-crazy faces; aiming her own camera on the Brooklyn Bridge; trudging through Central Park; pulling faces on the subway; pretty in candlelight at vegetarian Korean; looking up at theatre posters she may someday be written on; mouths agape over ice tea bottles - a little crazed after hours in the Met; faces squished together in Times Square.
The Brooklyn Bridge is crumbling sepia, rusted flakes on the suspension arching towards the pillars, Manhattan in the distance.
A series of ridiculous jackets in Williamsburg thrift stores, humoured by a new friend taking happy snaps of me in green corduroy.
A woman in a park with a hot pink bouncing ball that matched her shirt.
A field of bluebells in the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens; I stood for sometime finding the right setting to recreate the exact shades of blue and green.
Chronicles of my romp through the West Village with a round and lovely man named James: Stonewall and statues for my people; borscht and blintz in a Jewish dairy; the Friends building, taken for my sister; Christopher St Pier in slanting afternoon sun; and my first glimpse of the Statue of Liberty.
Bani, my funny little host in Jackson Heights, napping on the subway home, zebra print tights against bright orange plastic, cap falling into eyes.
James Spader, looking sharp, moments before I squeaked my ridiculous confession.
Catherine Zeta Jones, caught smiling despite the influx of fans, one sobbing woman crying "I LOVE YOU CATHERINE" - glad she isn't me.
The Bill of Rights, posted on the back of a toilet door in the Brooklyn Academy of Music.
The Guggenheim shot at angles that make its white circular look like a take away cup against the bright blue sky.
Knish. Vegan pizza. Bagels.
Four boys, slouch-shorted surfer types, standing in a line, stock still, contemplating art: specifically, a large canvas (seemingly built for this moment) painted one shade of grey green.
The highline, industrial parklife with a view, and an old French companion; smiling bilingual fun over coffee and crazy flavoured felafel.
Polite American signage: with <3s for some letters; much please and thank you; a 'Voluntary Quiet Zone' on the Staten Island ferry.
So many artworks and objects shot for friends who love them: Georgia O'Keefe and Monet for my mothers; Mondrian for Emily; a statue of Sappho (large feet, sensible shoes) for, well, so many; more Rodin for Viv and other little pieces of famous I won't see again.
Paparazzi waiting for Sarah Jessica Parker, shot so I could mock Louise about her love of Sex and the City. A bakery that apparently features in same: see above for reasoning.
A bridal shop in Flushing, Queens.
Rollercoaster at Coney Island which I rode, fighting that day's melancholy with breathtaking falls.
Old men and young professionals playing boules together in the sun in Bryant Park.
The Dinner Party by Judy Chicago at the Brooklyn Museum: close up on figures that resonated and on two names on the historical panels that accompany it: Maeve and Grainne. Writ large in this epic feminist memory keeper.

And in Yosemite...
Squirrels. So many squirrels. A squirrel posing pretty next to a blue jay. A squirrel reaching for Hermann's hand, hoping for food we didn't have (clif bars already eaten).
Our First Meal, bean and tofu stew that looked like dog food but was delicious post-hike.
Me, thumbs up and smiling above an American flagged 'Marsden for congress, Marsden for you' sign (possibly the loss I feel the hardest)
Tumbling waterfalls, cascading wonder, sharp granite beauty and a little sign that warned against swimming or creeping too close with the simple "If you fall, you will die."
A series of me and Morgana, running leaping and escaping into empty fields and sunsets.
A pile of junkfood purchased just after we had been discussing what a healthy road trip we'd had thus far: guacamole flavoured chips, twix ice cream, butterfingers and Morgana's hideous 'artificially flavoured strawberry shortcake ice cream.'
The Mariposa Grove of towering sequoias (pronounced not as I thought), mammoth ancient trees in deep red and cute moments standing under them. Snow falling gently, captured only as little blurs on the lens.
Terrifying winding drive into night time, dirt road, wondering if we'll find a camp, blank fields and mining towns. Deliverance country, we say.
Wildflowers and windfarms.
The sunset through the windscreen, behind our driving faces, across the steering wheel and through the windows: big beautiful sky, shared with new friends.

And finally...
My feet hanging over the edge on a little perch halfway into the Grand Canyon where I pressed the wrong button on my camera.

Weird stuff I do when I'm alone.

I spent Wednesday night camping at a clothing optional Californian new age spa.

You see, when I am alone I like to do random shit I wouldn't normally do. It started in Norway when I stowed away on a cruise ship and sailed off into the midnight sun, sitting pretty in the jacuzzi. Note that 'stowed away' is code for paid a reduced fee and slept on the cafeteria floor. Anyway, this little solitary adventure went very well and began a series of little moments, some I share, some I don't, where I do things just for me. While I am away, I hike, I wear a bikini (sometimes), I stop drinking coffee, and - as of yesterday - I stay at clothing optional Californian new age spas.

Long story short, I picked up a flyer for Harbin Hot Springs at the Calistoga Visitors Centre, helped by two friendly plastic surgeryed women. I felt like a little rest and relaxation after my road trip and something needed to be done about my feet. Desert + walking = dry and icky.

Result: unexpected. The saronged lady with cracked lips at the gatehouse took my membership fee and camping costs. "We ask a fee because we are a clothing optional facility." Riiiight. I smiled sweetly and set off with my map.

Old and young, fat and thin, gay, straight, trans, families, hippies, hipsters and me. All naked or in varying degrees of undress. Plunging in and out of hot and cold spas, these tattoed, tan line free new age sorts debated psychology, their fellow spa goers tattoos and how the place had changed over the years. I roamed at first, not quite feeling like I belonged but not feeling like an outsider either.

I adjusted to the nudity. I relaxed into the walk from spa to towel, uncovered and anonymous. And I booked myself into a scrub and wrap - one of the most relaxing 90 minutes of my life. Oh Martine, you lovely German wonder. I sat and read, drank in the sun, made a little salad for one in the communal kitchen and trotted around the gardens.

The temptation was there to judge or laugh at these people - privileged lot - some reliving the 60s and some of that new age genre of pop-psych where being a hippy is about self-love not free...

But I didn't want to. I let myself enjoy this funny little departure from my day to day, my comfort zone. I sat in the spa and watched the stars. I don't do much alone, and travelling alone can be odd for me. But sometimes the alone is awesome.

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Ode to New York: A Poem in Three Parts

everything whole wheat toasted with scallion cream cheese, tomatoes and cucmber
jalapeno with spinach artichoke cream cheese, tomatoes and peppers
egg with sundried tomato, tomatoes and peppers
everything pumpernickel toasted with jalapeno cheddar cream cheese and tomatoes

promises, promises
room for cream
a behanding in spokane
fuerza bruta
a little night music
vaginal davis speaking from the diaphragm
next to normal

molly shannon
christopher walken
sam rockwell
catherine zeta jones
angela lansbury
james spader
kerry washington
chloe sevigny

Maeve's Guide to Southern Cuisine

1. Take an existing food item and play about with the spices a bit.
2. Make it bigger.
3. Add more meat. Or crumb it.
4. Fry it.
5. Include consistent ingredients over time and venue.
6. Rename it.
7. Voila: Regional Specialty.


I sit and eat my last meal, vegetarian fajitas and a melon smoothie, while the man at the viva mexico table cloth next to mine cheers loudly at the football on the screen. Twenty days and I have barely scratched the surface of this crazy nation.

From Mexico DF, massive, bubbling, teeming, with the grandeur of a mediterranean capital, the feel of Bangkok and Eastern European behemoth apartment blocks, crumbling like their communist counterparts on the other side of the world. Epic murals in the Palacio de las Bellas Artes passionately advocating a nationalistic, anti-capitalist politic, oozing history down colonial hallways, the details explained to me by a funny guide who was well informed about art, but more than a little bit racist. The highlight of the explanation: 'see there. that is a black man. they are very good at music and sports and the women they think they are good lovers. the white women, they love the black men.' Totally relevant to the works of Diego Rivera and Rufino Tamayo. The houses of Frida Kahlo, worth the pilgrimmage, but sadly lacking in her work. The casa y estudio, most disappointing with Rivera's house kept as was and hers turned into a little gallery showing someone else's work. Damn sexist history.

Arriving amidst Semana Santa, holy week, and experiencing the madness of celebration at the mammoth Basilica de la Guadelupe, where my kind and clever host Beatriz discussed with me the class system of her city and we bought giant cups of cordial and stared at the worshippers as they paraded through the square.

This in contrast with a small church in San Juan Chamula, Chiapas. I stood in that Church for sometime. The marble floor coated with drying pine needles and flowers, small clearings spread by individual worshippers who light the hundreds upon hundreds of small candles that light the space and fill it with a waxy smell that reminds me of my bedroom after I've fallen asleep with the candle lit. In various stages of prayer, children clung to to prevent escape, men and women kneeled on the floor, chanted, rocked back and forth, and presented offerings of home made liquor and coca cola.

No priest stood at the front and I was able to walk slowly through and around the people, following the path of the other pale voyeurs, peering into the cabinets lining the walls, at the many manequins dressed regally and labelled saints. Stoppedin my tracks, seemingly unashamed of my gawking I stared, transfixed as a woman clutched a chicken by its legs to ensure it did not escape and waved it over her young son's body. He seemed disinteressed in the blessing he received and, like a crying baby at a baptism, he protested by hitting the chicken intermittently. Waving ritual complete, she ay the chicken in her lap and calmly, deliberately, killed it, rubbing the pink and phallic neck firmly with the heel of her hand til it broke, then watching as the head flopped about. Still a little bit alive, she placed it in a plastic bag.

A voyeur. Large and intrusive. I found it hard to develop a solid response to this place. In traditional Christian churches I feel free to judge and criticise religion, but when the religion is unfamiliar, a mingling of ancient Indigenous rituals and introduced Christianity, to criticise can be to colonise, or so it felt. Lengthy debates followed with a German named Bee who I met that day.

In Oaxaca, the beautiful Pueblas Mancomunados, a collective of Zapotec villages who run a successful ecotourism network for intrepid travellers. Hiking their homeland cloud forests, village to village, amazed my body could make it post office-job-limb-crunch and thrilled by soaring horizons, local knowledge of medicinal plants and wildlife so stunning and unique, descending from pine forests, through oak to lush river fringing moss and bromelia. From the home cooked meals of the comedores, making blue tortilla, drinking such fine hot chocolate, to a night of luxury with my fellow hikers - Mexican gastronomical haute cuisine at El Teatro Culinario in Oaxaca City.

The vegetarian organic wonderland of San Cristobal, hippy town in the highlands of Chiapas, ringed by Zapatista communities I knew so little about. The thrill of discovering a small cinema screening a docco on my first night so I could be better informed. And that universal artform of revolutions - the murals - adorning walls of checkpoints when I travelled through the Chiapas countryside. The devastating knowledge that so many of these revolutionaries lost loved ones fighting the government for ridiculous wants like land, health, education and basic human rights.

Palenque. Beautiful ancient Palenque. And Agua Azul, a water wonderland of falls and currents no theme park could build. Pumping my arms against the flow to reach the edge of a waterfall and stand beneath it, my sore muscles pummelled, my bad mood that day erased.

And the tourist hub of Yucatan where I got lost in Walmart for an hour and had a panic attack soon after. People don't tell you that the biggest danger to peace of mind when travelling can be just that - your mind - struggling daily to make decisions, take in more knowledge than is available to you in a week at home, communicating with new person after new person and questioning all that you have done thus far. If one more fellow tourist says 'you are only here for __ weeks / days?! But you can't do ANYTHING in that time,' I may hit them. Hard.

But Mexico, that country an American official warned me was crazy, soothed my own madness, delivering up charming and talkative hosts, Manolo and Erick, crystalline beaches, private cave pools, ocean paradise and a reprieve from loud mouthed, sun burnt Westerners (including myself). I will come back one day. But for now, I will just feel full. Of fajitas, art, history, natures, people, religion and - of course - cerveza.

Thursday, 22 April 2010


Heaven is stepping off a collectivo on an empty piece of highway and trudging down a path to a deserted stretch of Carribean; creeping down rocky path to swim in my first cenote, a deserted, mangrove circled peace and quiet; alone save for brush breaking wildlife sneaking closer (the dirty perves) and little fish that nibble my ankles in a pleasing food chain reversal.

It is returning to the beach to snack on carrots while I read then wading into the Carribean, sea blinding clear and shallow turquoise. Palm fringed sands like a dream, but barely another in sight. It's knowing that there are no trees like this in Cancun, where the tourists pay big for their piece of behemoth Hilton. Schadenfreude.

It is hopping off the bus at Cenote Dos Ojos and wandering up to the dive centre, splashing out on a snorkel so as to tour the cave depths of this mammoth network of tunnels and towers, shining fish and deep passageways I can't reach; scooting under the surface when an American afraid of bats declares 'you know the best part will be telling people I did this.' Knowing how wrong she is. Holding my breath to forge deep through a tunnel and emerge triumphant, only to realise I narrowly missed smashing my skull on the cave roof. Laughing.

It is fending off Decision Panic when the cabanas I head for are closed, only to land on another stretch of perfect sand. Diving under the blue so I can hear nothing and emerging to watch the thunder clouds roll in, fascinated by this pale turquoise ocean and indigo sky, like a house paint sampler; colours I have never seen side by side.

Heaven is tucking into an overpriced salad and beer at a candle lit, sand floor restaurant, while the black outside takes shape only beneath a lightening strike, and thinking that my most stressful day at work paid for this.

Sunday, 18 April 2010

from palenque with love

I wonder what will be left of our great cities in years to come, when ours is the ancient. Churches and houses of parliament, galleries and perhaps the foundations of our skyscrapers. Twists of metal and plastic; my mothers' ornamental plates, broken apart; your iphones, smashed to pieces.

What new age hippies of eras to come will wander down George St, stand on Gowings corner, where Supré today sports neon, and say 'Wow, I can really feel the power of this place.'

Will my touristic ancestors mosey the crumbled ruins of the QVB on some cliché journey of self-development, while their mothers receive postcards with pithy sentiments about disruptive tour groups and monkeys?

I close my eyes and try to imagine Palenque, this great city so named by the Spanish, as it once stood, bricks deep red and Mayans wandering, ruling, fucking, worshipping, eating and sleeping. I amble up temples and sporting arenas and wonder what it would now look like if the same effort had been put into constructing houses as these tombs and pyramids.

I was told to get a tour here and so, concerned about time, I took that advice. But, after comical mechanical disasters, we arrived late and 2 hours at Palenque was not nearly enough. I returned today to take my time in the sun, sit beside waterfalls and clamber down forbidden jungle paths, rest atop monuments, listen to the birds and discuss life, love, travel, anxiety and tattoos with a barefoot German yoga teacher called Gita.


Thursday, 15 April 2010

oh I do wish things would stop going right

I have nothing to blog about. Things are trotting along rather nicely; what is a self-decrecating chronicler of embarrassment and disaster to do? I have been trying to court catastrophe, but it's just not working for me. Examples of the efforts I have gone to in order to entertain you are as follows:

Adventure 1: Hiking
Risks: Fitness level, crazed fellow tourists who kill me or provoke me to kill them, lost in woods a la Kanangra 2002, fitness levels, fusion foot (in which my bones are growing together where they should not), death from smoke inhalation due to open fire in cabana left alight while sleeping, did I mention fitness levels?
Result: It was awesome. The hikes were challenging but totally manageable (about 12-14km per day). We stayed in cosy cabanas with open fireplaces in the Pueblos Mancomunados, a collective of Indigenous villages who have formed a successful community ecotourism organisation in the Sierra Norte. I was convinced that I was to die of smoke inhalation in said cabana which led to an amusing slapstick-esque routine in which I would get out of bed, open windows and leap back under the covers then Julie, quite cold at 3000m, would leap out, shut them and hop back in to her bed. All this repeated til we slept. And did not die. The scenery was varied and beautiful, we learned loads about local flora and medicinal herbs and stuff, we saw woodpeckers, we ate like vegetarian queens, the hot chocolate made Australian hot chocolate taste like dirt and wee and water, fusion foot only hurt on the very last day AND my fellow travellers were absolutely lovely. So lovely in fact that they too value fancy food and we celebrated our success with a visit to a super posh Mexican restaurant that was all fusiony and did a degustation with black bean cappuccino. BLACK BEAN CAPPUCCINO.

Adventure 2: Night Bus
Risks: Had been told horror tales of drugging and burglary, do not sleep well in transit and often tiredness can lead to lost belongings (Pierre Cardin watch, Norway, 2008) and falling over, generally have misfortune of sitting next to large, smelly, talkative people who carry stereos on bus and play them all night.
Result: Best night bus experience ever. I had a seat to myself, fellow passengers were silent, I took enough melatonin to knock out an albino horse and slept like a little baby, only waking up when people got off to check none of them made off with my precious belongings.

Adventure 3: Travelling solo
Risks: Going slightly mad, being kidnapped, falling over in a forest and no one hearing a sound!
Result: Look, it's not all roses, sometimes I get a bit lonesome (cue country music) but mostly it's pretty sweet. I decide what I do and when and early in the morning, I eat breakfast with appallingly bad table manners, when no one else is watching. I did have an unfortunate and terrifying run in with a middle aged, painfully tanned German woman in a g-string who creeped creepily toward my bed in the middle of the night at a hostel. It turned out she was seeking the source of a smell she believed to be my shoes. It was her towel on the end of her bed. Lesson learnt - no more hostels.

Adventure 4: Eating lots of Beans
Risks: Farting and diarhoea.
Result: When I fart, I pretend it was someone else.

So you see, I am at a loss. I have met other travellers who have been walking in the hills only to be surrounded by Zapatista rebels and held for half an hour with little information supplied (seriously!). But I have had no such adventurous madness myself. I plod through the days, learning lots, climbing hills, sitting quietly and finishing novels, eating yummies, writing postcards (none of which I've sent yet...), learning to use my camera well, investigating side streets and back alleys for street art and colourful corners, thinking thoughtful thoughts and hoping something out of the ordinary happens so I can write about it wittily and have you all think I am awesome. But it's no good.

There is only one solution: I shall run about town dropping banana peels in the hope that I'll slip on one, break something and be taken to a Mexican hospital in which I can't comunicate with the staff (my Spanish is still restricted to discussing food, bus tickets, costs for internet usage and shop opening hours). They will mis-interpret my injury and amputate a limb or somesuch and I will awake confused and shocked and staring into the eyes of a concerned nurse who realised the error but was ignored in the heat of surgery by the arrogant doctor (damn doctors, they never respect nurses!). Guilt-stricken the doctor will pay me off and I will use the bribe to fly myself and the attractive nurse (who has short hair and wears sensible shoes) to some exotic location where, slowly but surely, she will coach me in the use of my prosthesis and we will fall desperately in love while watching sunsets over the Carribean and sipping cocktails and doing physiotherapy and swimming with dolphins and stuff. I will sell my self-penned story to some trashmag, only to have a world renowned editor with a penchant for trashmags pick it up, decide I am totally witty and stuff, and commission me for a book. Book complete, and royalty cheque deposited me and my nurse shall travel the world, attempting to court disaster in order to inspire book number two.

Now if you'll excuse me, I must go buy some bananas.


Thursday, 8 April 2010

am changed woman.

Everyone knows than when westerners travel they have grand revelations and change and stuff, right? Sometimes these changes are evidenced by alterations to appearance: weight gain or loss due to beer or exercise; darkening in skin colour (occuring, no doubt due to a greater synchronicity with the local people of the nation one is visiting and not at all due to sun burn); overnight tattoo additions (complete with hepatitis if ya lucky); hickeys acquired via grand romances that last 3 days and that earnest look / clothing with spiritual themes which demonstrates one's greater understanding of the world and its varied cultures.

Well, I am here to tell you that I too have undergone great change in the past week. So that you may recognise me on my return (providing that I return and don't run off to join some hippie cult in the jungle) I have compiled a list of these Great Revelatory Alternations to my Being.

NB: Photographic evidence to support the below shall appear once I can find a computer that successfully uploads.

1. Am now animal whisperer - I connect on a deep level with Mexico's wildlife. I first suspected I may have a spiritual connection to my CS host's dog when she sat next to me and reached out her little paw to take my hand. Likewise the four cats living in the house (yes, host was a lesbo) took to both me and my luggage like we were long lost lovers. They gathered around me like I was a fairytale princess, reaching for me with outstretched arms as I ate my dinner. Perhaps in a past life I was a Mexican street pup or feline. "This doesn't make you an Animal Whisperer!" I hear you cry. "These are but domesticated pets!" Well, this is what I thought til I met the Squirrel. I was near Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera's abode in San Angel when I turned away from this great piece of artistic history to spy a squirrel running along a wire. With glee I took some happy snaps, but it ran away (it was probably appalled by the way that sites related to Kahlo are so dominated by Rivera paraphenalia that one would think she never painted a thing! I agreed with the Squirrel wholeheartedly, but a rant on the male domination of history is for another day). Anyway, (and here is where it gets creepy), what must have been that very same Squirrel appeared in Jardin Bombilla mere hours later. This time when I took out my camera it RAN towards me, came right up to me and then posed for my photos in a tree. AM. ANIMAL. WHISPERER.

2. I hike now. Well, I am hiking tomorrow. For three days. At altitude. In the cloud forests of the Sierra Norte. And I am definitely not nervous. I definitely did not ask the bemused woman at the hiking company to point out all the uphill bits on the trek. And I sure as hell didn't check whether I could take a short cut tomorrow if my period pain plays up (I can actually, but she just volunteered that information, as I wouldn't dream of asking). I can confirm that at no point have I panicked and had terrifying flashbacks to the hiking disasters of Outward Bound 1996 or Norwegian Hill 2008. Nor did I consider updating my will in case of cliff-based accident. Incidentally, if an accident were to occur, I would like everything to go to the animals of Mexico (see point 1). So, in conclusion, I am now fit and sporty and hike-y and I'm defying gravity and nothing's gonna bring me down, bring meeeee doooowwwwn. Hmm. Must remember not to break into show tunes mid-hike...
As an aside, it's times like these that I wish I was being followed by a camera crew who could film said hike and edit it together into inspirational montage a la The Biggest Loser or Mighty Ducks.

3. I'm getting married. I was thinking, earlier in my trip, as I ate some plain tortillas, that I was now of an age and class that I could enjoy Mexico's cuisine in a different way. While I spent much of Europe munching on bread and peanut butter, I think in this fair nation, it may be worth checking out some of the classier establishments. And so it was that I set off for Saks Restaurant, Lonely Planet in hand, in search of promised vegetarian Mexican classics. (will neither confirm nor deny not actually knowing that Saks was a classy establishment, nor arriving inappropriately attired and grubby from day of sightseeing). You know what is awesome? Taking yourself on a romantic dinner date; sitting joyously at a well set table, taking as long as you want to order without anyone getting annoyed, slowly sipping a corona and reading your book while consuming chile poblano stuffed with beans and cheese with tomato sauce and avocado. Did same at a Oaxaca restaurant last night.* And so it is that I have decided to propose to myself. Possibly soon (in case of hiking accident), or maybe at some romantic location such as Mount Rushmore or Vegas.

* After I had completed my cactus taco, another solo adventurer arrived seeking a windowside table such as my own. Her disappointed face when told that they were reserved inspired me to offer the short-haired French woman a seat at my table. We chatted for a while and she let me know she would be going on a 3 day hike in the Sierra Norte leaving tomorrow. Despite her use of the phrase "my ex-boyfriend" I decided meeting her was a sign... See point 2.

Monday, 29 March 2010

'it's that time again' or 'stuff you get if i die'

Avid followers will recall that I am convinced that overseas travel leads to instant death. My mother, Teresa, who should know better, told me today about a friend of a friend who got attacked on a bus in Mexico and had all her things stolen. I was exchanging all my life savings at the time. The bonus of this rather distressing interaction was that I remembered it was time to update my will.

This REPLACES The Last Will and Testament of Ms Maeve Marsden Esq.


Money shall be shared equally between my siblings and Anna Martin (because she's my wife)*.

* Mim Spring shall receive sufficient funds to help kickstart Mim's Sorbet, providing that if she sells it out of our backyard, the venue must be called Maeve's Backyard Bar. And Kate must sing our theme tune.

Amy Coopes shall receive anything practical I own for the purposes of:
a) being intrepid
b) frustrating Nic with middle-aged lesbian fashions.
Items including but not limited to kick-ass tent, self inflating mattress which does not self inflate, ugly walking shoes.

MollyPenny can have whatever they want because secretly I love them more than most people.

As per previous will, Laura Joseph can have my skull. And some bones. These should be fashioned into a skull and crossbones shaped shrine which must remain in Laura's home forever. Oooh, it can be a feature item at the Hell Party. She can also have her DVDs back. And some of mine as commission.

As per previous will, the ovaries are still going to Cameron Power. However I feel I lacked vision here and really he should get my uterus as well. He could get it transplanted for ease of babymaking. Baby shall be called Maeve 2.0.

Danielle Warby has requested that I not die. As such, if I do die, she must design a t-shirt with a picture of me on it and a speech bubble saying "I told you so." She can also have my pink soccer ball because someone told me once that she likes soccer. And she can have my jewellery for that jewellery making hobby we trawled the Blue Mountains in preparation for. And my china cat collection.

In addition to items previously bequeathed, Sally Shrubb can have my tea cups. But she must say something offensive and un-PC to anyone who drinks out of them in my honour.

Beth Allen can have all my clothes. And can live in the knowledge that if she'd said yes, we would have married and enjoyed a sexless romance of trading baked goods for clothing.

Emily Spencer can have my teeth, which she should fashion into a multimedia art exhibition to raise funds for orphans getting access to dental care. She can also have my computer so she doesn't have a panic attack every time hers breaks. She should email Archie Panjabi and bring her to my funeral as her date and should make out with her as close as possible to my lifeless form.

Phoebe Meredith, now sole owner of Blackcat Productions inherits the madness. It seems some days she can read my mind, so as such, I don't need to bequeath. She knows what she gets.

Annabelle Taillandier can have any food in my cupboards and she can also have my large French / English dictionary. And my copy of Harry Potter in French. She should wear her little hat and happy pants to my funeral and is only allowed to speak Spanish for a month after my death. She should give a eulogy in Spanish also. And should write it on a piece of paper that she subsequently loses and has to run around looking for in a panic.

Those Gleeson sisters can have my little sister as she will need some new mischievous sisters to argue with.

Viv McGregor can have my scrabble sets. All three. She must play against Amy Coopes once a month and must beat her or else Amy gets them.

Ali Benton can have my large book about horses.

Siobhan Towner
can have all my stockings. And can she please sing 'Poor Unfortunate Souls' at my funeral. Jess Maynard should sing 'Dream a little Dream' and Anna can sing do an HSC-style monologue about life and death then sing 'New York, New York' in a new york accent. The entire troupe can sing a medley of songs while I am wheeled off to be cremated, including, but not limited to, 'Light my Fire,' 'Eternal Flame,' 'We didn't start the fire' and 'Beds are burning.' Tim Hansen, get arranging.

Lisa Bowen (and thus Kate Duffy) can have my my Australian passport for Lisa. She will need to gain some weight, have a shortening operation and a nose job but then she is welcome to my identity in order to remain in Australia!

...hmm. Conundrum. If Lisa takes my identity, will she need all my things so as to prove she is me? In which case the rest of you get nothing! Oh. Damn. That's it then. Kate and Lisa get the lot.


Sunday, 24 January 2010


This past week I have suffered a very distressing loss of voice. After a couple of nights out and a foolishly lengthy rehearsal last Sunday, my voice rudely departed. Not due to tonsillitis, but over-use and, I have discovered, swollen and strained vocal folds. Despite my amusement at the regular use of the word ‘folds’ throughout the week, I am pretty miserable. My voice is my greatest tool – for communicating and of course for singing. Without it, I feel extremely sorry for myself and I find it impossible to really engage in social situations.

This experience has made me realise two things:

1) Kids should learn sign language. We have schools teaching second spoken languages all over the country. When travelling those languages are useful and I think learning languages does wonders for children’s grasp of English grammar, but why not Auslan? It makes so much sense. Firstly, and most obviously, because then everyone could communicate with people in Australia who already use sign language. But that should be obvious. The other reason is that sign language has applications when spoken language is not able to be used. Not only when self-promoting, over-confident singers damage their voices, but also in loud venues, in open-plan offices (think of the peace and quiet!), on film sets, in libraries, when talking behind people’s backs, across crowded rooms…the list goes on. Our bodies can communicate without speech and clever people have developed a structured language, with its own grammar and vocabulary and we don’t learn it unless we choose to specialise and pay for community college or similar. Sign language in schools: make it happen.

2) I do not take care of myself or my passions. I have known I was singing “wrong” for some time. It hurt some days and I push too hard, arrogantly proud of my “belt” and big volume, secretly aware that it couldn’t be good for me (nor my amusingly titled folds). But I didn’t check it out because I didn’t want to be told there was a problem and didn’t want to be told I had to stop. I was lazy and stupid with something I value and now, and for the next year I imagine, I am going to have to unlearn my errors and retrain my voice. It will be ok – usable and better than some people’s best for our performance on Tuesday. And, if I do my exercises and hibernate I’ll be in good form by our Mardi Gras show. In the meantime I will be absent from society and I will have to learn to be a quieter person. I am not good at quiet. I am currently hiding in West Wing and tea but I am going to have to expand my repertoire of distractions. I’ve heard books and hot chocolate are good too. A week without singing – not just rehearsals, but also that incidental happy, pottering in the kitchen singing – and I am truly miserable, prone to bursting into tears and not too pleasant to be around. I need to do this. The exercises that make me sound like a dying puppy, the expensive appointments with the attractive speech path (teehee, she says folds) and the solitary rest. See you in June kids.


The Blurb

For maevegobash: yeah, I just like thinking/writing/talking about myself. That's what blogs are for, right? For vegepalooza: I have been vegetarian for 25 years now - so that's always for me. My mothers cooked a storm up in the kitchen and I am carrying the torch filling my friends bellies at every opportunity. I love food and want to share my recipes, tips and tricks here to encourage creative vegetarian eating. There will also be a lot of vegan recipes for my friends with more willpower than me (sorry kids, I just love the cheese). Anyway enjoy, feel free to criticise and most of all Happy Eating!