picosgemeos: (Seahorse)
Fim de tarde.#pousadadonamarica #pousadas #minasgerais #brasil

On Friday, 11 August 2017, my brother announced on our family’s guesthouse page on Facebook that the business had closed. It was my mom’s lifelong dream and it ran for just over 12 years.

I feel relived and I think my brother and mother do too. It was untenable as a business, especially in Brasil’s current economic crisis. Also, there were two disabled people right in the heart of it (my mom and youngest brother) and it was too much for my brother, who also has his own family.

The online messages from previous guests have been heart-warming and supportive.
picosgemeos: (Montanhas)
Image by Jiri Siftar

I was in Victoria Park this afternoon to say goodbye to a friend who is returning to Brasil for good on the 17th.

We made plans to meet by the entrance gates, near the pond. While I was standing around waiting for her to arrive, two cyclists collided against each other and crashed onto the pavement. One of them was knocked unconscious.
It all happened so fast. Suddenly people were standing around them - couples with children, a woman with her dog, a gardner in a neon jacket. One of the cyclists got on the phone to ambulance services. Tears were pouring down his face, which he kept trying to wipe away as he spoke on the phone. The other guy, face down on the pavement, started twitching. A woman, holding her toddler daughter in one hand and a scooter in the other, leaned close for a good look. The woman with the dog got closer too; the dog, strangely, wanted to move away.

Staff from the café by the pond ran towards the group. A man berated the cyclist that was on the phone. A couple marching into the park spotted the commotion and decided on a detour - to walk past and also take a good look. I felt disgusted. (Was I any better, though, standing slightly apart and watching everything unfold?)

More people from the café joined the circle. I hoped one of them was a doctor. Someone went to the gates to unlock it so the ambulance could come through. Joggers went by, ignoring everything. The woman with the dog took off her jacket so they could put it underneath the cyclist's head. The man in the neon jacket rubbed the man's back, the others gently tried to turn him on his side. His legs kept kicking; I hoped he wouldn't pass away there and then.

Sirens in the distance, a rapid response ambulance car with four paramedics was about to arrive. The man was sitting up now, cradled by some of the bystanders, half of his face covered in blood. As soon as paramedics had their hands on the man, the crowd dispersed.

'Did he fall off his bike?' I heard someone ask me. It was a little old lady, in a pink crocheted hat and black parka coat, with a Jack Russell Terrier by her side.

'No, he collided against another cyclist,' I told her, going into all the details of what had just happened.

'They go so fast,' she said. 'You are meant to go 5 miles per hour but they always go much faster.'

The Jack Russell Terrier had now decided I was a friend and was jumping on my leg. I bent down to pet him and she told me he was called Milo. We watched as a proper ambulance arrived and the four paramedics cut all the clothes off the cyclist and lifted him completely naked onto a stretcher. They then covered him with a grey blanket and slid him inside the ambulance.

'Do you bring Milo to Victoria Park twice a day?' I asked.

'I've got age against me now,' she laughed. 'I take him mostly to a little square near my tower block but if the day is not wet, like today, then I bring him here for a few hours.' Milo had moved away and was now sniffing the café's garbage bins.

She told me she was born in Bethnal Green and lived all her life there and the furthest she had moved was to Bow. She had been 5 years old when the War happened; she and her sisters were evacuated to Suffolk, to live with a woman nicknamed "Nanny". Her parents stayed behind in London but were luckily not involved in the Bethnal Green tube disaster. However, she had a close call in Suffolk. The village they were staying was near the American base and one Sunday, while they were in chapel, they saw smoke rising from the area where Nanny lived. Someone came running in to tell them that one of the American planes had crashed into Nanny's home - the only thing left was a smouldering fireplace. It turned out that during a reconnaissance flight, the plane's engine malfunctioned. The pilot ejected while aiming for the plane to head into the sea but for some reason it turned itself around and crashed into the village.

We spoke of other things - of Victoria Park's old pagoda, of a rumoured murder on one of the park's bridges, of the lads who used to go around with aggressive dogs and who had suddenly disappeared. We said our goodbyes when my friend arrived; we wished each other a merry Christmas. I found out her name was Rita and that she was going to spend Christmas with her son up in Lincolnshire (and of course Milo was going too) but she was very jealous I was flying the next day to Brasil and it was a shame she couldn't be snuck inside a trunk and go with me.
picosgemeos: (Montanhas)

A week from today I’ll be in Brasil, sitting in [livejournal.com profile] marianaseixas’ living room, drinking and chatting to friends. My suitcase will be in her guestroom, packed with wrapped gifts for my family and friends.

A week from today I’ll be in T-shirt and shorts, toes cased in flip-flops. I’ll try not to worry about the guesthouse, financial problems, the year ahead.

A week from today I’ll eat pastéis, cheese bread, and toasted French bread with butter, straight from the baker’s.

A week from today I’ll take São Paulo’s subway into the city’s centre, enter a bookshop and disappear in literature.


Aug. 4th, 2015 12:32 pm
picosgemeos: (Montanhas)
#london #bhf #victoriapark #running #10k
With fellow runner [livejournal.com profile] neenaw

It's been now 7 months since I left Brasil and returned to London.

I fly to Canada in 7 days on holiday - it's been over 7 years since I've visited my in-laws and friends there.

I turn 40 in less than two months.

I ran 10K on Sunday for the charity British Heart Foundation (though my iPhone's GPS said it was 9.46k.) It took me 59 minutes and 11 seconds.

I did yoga in my living room at 7am this morning. I then left home and walked past that cat on my way to work - the one I saw on the day my grandmother passed away. It arched its back and stiffened its tail when I lowered myself to pet it. There were bits of leaves in its hair.

From the platform of Hackney Wick Overground station I spotted shirtless builders erecting a condo.

On the train, I listened to Dead Can Dance and saw mystery in the eyes of some of the commuters.
picosgemeos: (Montanhas)
#mg #minasgerais #suldeminas #korggo #corgo #corregodobomjesus #pousadadonamarica

Two days ago, I left for work at 8am (as usual) and walked to the nearest train station to catch the Overground to North London. On my way, I was surprised to find a white and black cat laid out in the middle of the sidewalk. I stopped for a few seconds to pet it. It didn't budge when I stood up and walked away.

In the train, I read a chapter from Rowena Wiseman's novel Repeat After Me. The main character, a teenager called Ivy, had just discovered her grandmother was going to stay with her for a few days - taking care of her while her parents were in America. Granddaughter and grandmother had started off on the wrong foot but, as the chapters progressed, had begun to appreciate each other's company.

Later that same day, on my way home, I found the cat still laid in the middle of the sidewalk. It looked like it was waiting for someone. I stopped again to pet it.

In the evening, while watching an interview with Alan Moore and his wife on YouTube, discussing their collaborative work Lost Girls, I had a quick look at Facebook and found out from an aunt that my grandmother had passed away a few hours before.

My grandmother's wake and funeral took place yesterday, 8th July 2015, in Londrina, Brasil. She was 89 years old.

I called my mother yesterday evening and she told me her mother's death had been very sudden. She had had lunch on Tuesday and gone to the bedroom to take her customary nap. The way she laid down, she stayed; she never woke up.
picosgemeos: (Montanhas)
"There's no need to be an asshole, you're not in Brooklyn anymore"
No Destruction, Foxygen

I've been thinking lately about the cost of living in London and, in particular, how long I can make it here. It seems to be a feeling shared by many in my age group (late 30s, early 40s) who don't own property and live in large metropolitan cities in western countries. Do we rent until the end, or do we try to get a property in a smaller town, with all the advantages and disadvantages that it brings?

In many ways, I've been lucky since my return to London in December 2014. Six days after my arrival I'd found temporary work at a recruitment agency and didn't have to worry anymore about my finances. Then, a few weeks later, my boyfriend and I found a small but decent flat by Victoria Park to rent (not far from where we used to live a few years ago, before I took my sabbatical in Brasil.) It's a neighbourhood I've lived in for ten years, and which I adore, so I was grateful to get a new flat there without much hassle.  But the rent price, the rent prince... We now pay nearly 30% more for a one bedroom flat in a tower block than we did ten years ago for a two-bedroom in the same area.

Changes are noticeable everywhere in London. Dropping out of London's rat race for a year in Brasil was equivalent to me to coming off a drug. I now feel more critical to what I see around me, especially in this part of London.

When we first moved to the Eastend, Victoria Park was abandoned and unused. This community was predominantly made up of working class families.  A young American artist made the news when she was stabbed one early morning while jogging because nobody saw anything. Soon, though, the park began to change. It won a fund for its redevelopment. Its café was rented out to a new owner and a popular organic café was born (one that I admittedly love.) Popular music festivals made their home in the park during the summer. The young artists and hipsters from Hackney cycled down the canal to enjoy it and, before long, the London Olympic was announced next door.

The area had regenerated; my partner and I started feeling at home.

Nowadays, you have to take a moment to check the paths in the park before you start running - there are joggers and cyclists everywhere. And they are all so busy with their iPods and conversations, you could be easily run over.  And they are not the students and artists from yesteryear - they are money people in expensive sports gear who bought up everything because, I assume, they don't want to live in Canary Wharf, which is just down the road, or in Chelsea, because they can't afford it yet or because the Eastend is just too cheap to ignore and, in their eyes, a good long term investment.

#victoriapark #london

I don't blame these rich people for wanting to live here - if I could, I'd buy a place too! But the problem is that rent has now gone up, to reflect the price these wealthy people are willing to pay.

My boyfriend recommended I check out Benjamen Walker's Theory of Everything podcast. It's a funny, thought-provoking listen. Benjamen's latest podcasts will resonate in particular with New Yorkers: the series, "New York After Rent", looks at the rapid commodification of NYC since 2008 - the year of the financial crash but also the year Rent, the musical, came off stage. His main theory is that Airbnb is all to blame and he peppers his podcasts with some funny stand up such as the one by performer Penny Arcade ("We all came to New York to escape the popular people in high school... and now they are here, and everywhere!") Penny also makes fun of all the cupcakes being sold in NYC. She calls it OCD, Obsessive Cupcake Disorder. The Big Cupcake has supplanted the Big Apple, she says, and New York is no longer the place outsiders go to reinvent themselves - it's the place where the ordinary go to replicate the places they come from. The latest podcast also has a melancolic essay by writer Tim Kreider, who talks about being exiled to one of NYC's less popular neighbourhoods and still having to share a flat with a roommate as a 40-something year old.

Meanwhile, down the street from us in London, an old estate agency has shut down. A few days ago I noticed some signs going up on its store front - coffee signs. Now I've noticed a wooden counter being added, leather sofas and a sink. Another cafe will soon join the many that recently popped up around Victoria Park. We'll never run out of cupcakes.

picosgemeos: (Montanhas)
The Wake (And what Jeremiah did next)The Wake by Colm Herron

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Brasil is the largest Catholic country in the world. Like other Catholic countries, we celebrate our dead by throwing a wake for them, where family and loved ones gather - usually around an open casket - to spend the night in contemplation of this life and what lies beyond. Wakes for us - as for the Irish Catholic, our cousins across the pond - are a chance for neighbours to socialise, gossip and pick over the life of the recently deceased. In my town, there are people who won't miss a wake for the world, even if the deceased is somebody they didn't know.

In the case of Maud Abilene Harrigan, not much loved but recently deceased in Derry, Northern Ireland, there's a severe lack of anyone interested in holding her wake. When Jeremiah Coffey's mother decides to wake her in order to show up the neighbours, the stage is set for a list of characters to cross his path during a long night, including the ex-girlfriend, Aisling, who left him for another woman.

Colm Herron brilliantly sets the Coffey home like a stage, where the town's drunks, priests and do-gooders rub shoulders and share gossip. There's something in this of Mike Leigh's theatrical humour. The dialogue is sharp and witty. When Jeremiah has an incident with his clothes and locks himself in the bathroom, I was reminded of Leigh's "Abigail's Party", with its painfully awkward characters who create a comedy of manners and satire on the society that houses them.

Herron's black humour leaves no stone unturned. One second Jeremiah is blasting the church, the next he's turned his bitterness on lesbians. Does Maud stand for Northern Ireland? The dead "body of politics" on the kitchen table that the Irish stand over, squabbling and arguing about? Is Maud, the neighbour nobody wanted to have, a symbol for Catholics and Protestants? The second half of the book is about Jeremiah trying to get back his ex-girlfriend, entering her world of queer rights and street protests. The threat of violence looms over each hill, with Catholics marching perilously close to Protestants. Maud's wake is perhaps a foreshadow of the conflict in this divided society, but as readers all we can hope is that Jeremiah finds some love with Aisling and manages to carve some sort of happiness.
picosgemeos: (Montanhas)

Spring has arrived early in our part of Brasil.  In fact, we didn't really have a winter.  Unusual for us, we lit our fireplace only twice this winter - we didn't even need to buy extra firewood like previous years.  Farmers and locals that we talk to point out this strange weather pattern, how many years ago they used to have severe winters, awaking every morning to fields covered with frost.  Nowadays, when I get up at 6am to prepare breakfast for our guests, all I see are flimsy white clouds floating beneath the mountains, heralding another scorching day.

I decree the arrival of spring because of the reappearance of bugs in our breakfast room.  When I arrived in Brasil, December 2013, I had to spend a good chunk of each morning sweeping them out before I began laying out breakfast.  When temperatures dropped, they disappeared.  But they are now back and suddenly it feels right to unpack the summer clothes that were stored away, to return to the swimming pool.

The arrival of spring probably means the end of local werewolf stories.  These are stories I've been hearing since I was a child, and that have circulated in this community probably since its inception.  Stories told around fires at night, when electricity still hadn't arrived here.  Stories shared by neighbours during the day, when they couldn't account for the bloody killing of all their chicken.  Stories that have grown in shape and size, much like their subject.

The villain of a popular soap opera recently said: "I was born under a full moon, on a Friday 13th. Nothing can stop me!" Well, it is exactly a person born under this kind of conditions that turns into a werewolf  (and maybe that's exactly what will happen to this villain - it's not unheard of in brasilian soaps.)  Everyone is certain of one thing: the werewolf in this town is black ("black as the night").  He/she looks like a giant dog and, at first, that's what witnesses think they are seeing.  It's only when the werewolf begins to move that they realise they are dealing with the paranormal. Another interesting fact about our local werewolf is that many claim to know who he is: they point the finger at a man with very long fingernails who lives in a squalid house with his mentally ill brother. Somebody started the rumour, most certainly because of the long fingernails, and now everyone looks at him with suspicion. [1]

I've asked my employees what they think of the werewolf stories and they all believe it.  Some claim to have seen it or have neighbours who have made that claim.  One even told me a story that sounds like an urban legend: that a mother with her child was walking home one night when, suddenly, she noticed she was being followed.  The dog was black and terrifyingly large. Fearing for her baby, who was wrapped in a blanket, she picked up her pace.  She soon realised the werewolf was following her and that she was in danger; she began to run.  She felt the creature behind her leap and snap at her; it took hold of the blanket and pulled. She held tight to her baby and managed to escape, arriving home.  She realised however that the baby's blanket had been torn.

When her husband arrived, she told him of their ordeal. The husband said nothing but smiled.  And when he smiled she saw bits of the baby's blanket stuck in his teeth...

[1] There's something to be said about how a small community can turn on its own - usually the one that is slightly strange, mentally ill, etc. Luckily this particular community hasn't gone as far as lynching or burning...
picosgemeos: (Montanhas)
I decided to go for a bike ride today, timing it with the start of the Brasil vs Mexico game.  I knew this would give me empty streets (emptier than usual) and a lower risk of falling on my face in front of an audience.

10 minutes in and I was dying.  I tried going up a hill that leads out of town and had to stop halfway.   My strength wasn't there.  So I turned back and glided past homes blaring the game, letting myself explore the town's small streets. Every house had an open door, families gathered around the television. Was this the case across the country?  Millions of people stopping what they were doing to watch the game?  I counted a few exceptions: the guy cutting down stalks in a field, the man on a wheelchair on his porch, the three boys playing football, the two teenagers playing pool at a local bar.

I returned the bike to my brother 25 minutes into the game's first half and set out on foot, warmed up and ready for a long walk. I tuned into Expanding Mind's latest podcast - an interview with philosopher Michael E. Zimmerman on Nietzche, Religion and Deep Ecology - and kept my eyes on the distant mountains.

This time, I mastered the hill and left the town behind.  Suddenly, a black dog approached me. I think she wanted to be my friend. She'd race to the front, enter the fields to check on the cows bordering the dirt road, then sit, watching me as I approached. Once I was by her side, she'd trot for a few moments beside me before dashing ahead again.

She reminded me of Ian McEwan's short novel Black Dogs, except that she wasn't as threatening as the dogs in that story. She abandoned me after a while but, on my return, she joined me again until I reached a bridge and faced calves herded by a boy on a horse.  I got home just as the game ended as a draw.

Today's ride was the first time in my adult life I took off on a bike by myself. It was a new and yet familiar experience, as if I was a child again.  My brother later told me I can build my strength up in no time - I just need to go for bike rides every day and in two weeks I'll be fine. It's a new challenge I'm willing to embrace.
picosgemeos: (Montanhas)

I've been reading a lot lately about fanfiction - articles on what it is, how it came to be and where it might be going. For research purposes (ahem), I'm also reading one or two examples of it. [1] It's probably all Margaret Atwood's fault.  She shouldn't have encouraged me in response to my tweet that I wanted to write some fanfic based on her dystopian sci-fi world, MaddAddam.

Is there any major cultural work that doesn't have a fandom and, consequently, fanfic and fanstrations? (I've just made up this last word as I don't know what people call fan illustrations.) At first, I couldn't find anything related to MaddAddam, the final book in Atwood's trilogy, but as soon as I looked back to the first book, Oryx and Crake, I came across illustrations, stories, and even movie trailers.

I thought the essays in Fic: Why Fanfiction is Taking Over the World particularly interesting and even eye-opening. They look at Harry Potter fandom (the first biggie), Twilight, Supernatural, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and what it all might mean. They discuss controversies I had no clue existed: that people like the author of Fifty Shades of Grey (known to you and I as E. L. James; known to them as Snowqueens Icedragon) broke unspoken fanficdom rules by profiting from their work.  I was also surprised to find out that Naomi Novik cut her teeth with Master and Commander fanfic before securing a lucrative publishing deal with her Temeraire series.

This other collection of writings is a good introduction to Wattpad, a site based in Canada that's starting to amass the most fanfic and original stories out of all sites out there. Some of its more popular users have already been snatched by literary agents and big publishing houses. It seems to be a good place to share fiction though I've already learnt that anything too long, demanding too much attention, is not popular...

I've been thinking a lot lately about my own writing - about this year of living in Brasil and how I could be usingmy spare time to work on stories and novels. The main thing I'm taking away from all these thoughts on fanfic is that it's OK - it's OKAY! - to indulge in these types of stories because, at the end of the day, it's all writing - it's the honing of craft, it's the learning of what audiences want from a type of story, it's (mostly) healthy communication with the outside world. Whether you want to put that sort of writing under your real name is another story...

Have I ever written fanfiction?  No, not that I can remember.  I did write some Dynasty, Dallas and Agatha Christie pastiches when I was a kid, but the characters and settings were all my own. It sadly never occurred to me that I could steal those beloved characters and bend them to my will.

Would I write any fanfic today? Well, I've been toying with a few ideas. One is based on the TV series Revenge (I'm just waiting for its 3rd Season to conclude so I can use the cliffhangers as writing prompts); one is a horror story involving One Direction (think Hostel meets 70s horror Race with the Devil ); and one is a love story of sorts set in Atwood's dystopian world.  I'm lucky to already have a few Beta readers willing to help - even design book covers for my stories! Atwood's incentive a few months ago was somewhat crippling because it made me jump ahead of myself and worry about something polished that I'd have to eventually share with her, and which would exist as a solitary example of MaddAddam fandom.  But all these articles on fanfiction, and the examples I've read so far, have made me realise that it's writing meant to be dished out quickly and pulpy, more for the fun of it than anything else.

[1] I can't seem to stop myself from reading this creepy One Direction fanfic where girls are sold to rich men, becoming their Baby Dolls. One ends up in Harry Styles's mansion. Reminds me a little bit of The Stepford Wives crossed with The Handmaid's Tale.
picosgemeos: (Montanhas)

When I can, I try to go for walks in the morning, after preparing breakfast for our guests. Sometimes I listen to an iTunes playlist on shuffle, sometimes a podcast ("The Sound in My Head", "Expanding Mind", "The New Yorker Fiction Podcast"). Today, I listened to a lecture by Mary Beard on "The Public Voice of Women" given to a London Review of Books audience. I think the lecture may have been given at the British Library.

My brother's German Shepherd Lelo likes to accompany me on these walks.  Six laps in total, equivalent to 4.800 metres. I enjoy Lelo's company but today I decided to sneak out and avoid him: he barks and runs after any motorbike, nearly knocking off the riders. I don't want to be there when he causes an accident. He's also got a thing against chickens and cats.

So I walked on my own, freezing slightly even though it was sunny, picturing myself in that British Library auditorium. Temperatures have dropped these last few days, reminding me of what a friend from São Paulo recently said: Winter is much worse than Summer in Brasil; we don't know how to cope with it.

I walked past tractors and builders working on a construction site, a mechanic's shop, stray dogs, horses, cows, birds picking over scattered corn. I walked past other walkers and to some I said "good morning".  I walked past our gardener collecting this morning's milk, my great uncle having a chat with my mom's cousin.  I walked past one of my mom's god-daughters having a loud conversation with her family and, finally, I walked past our guesthouse, six times.

Again, I'm amazed that I suddenly find myself living in a small town in Brasil, when only a few months ago I lived in London.  12 years in the UK's capital suddenly brought to an end... a temporary one I hope. When I first started listening to Mary Beard's lecture, I thought it might remind me too much of my London life and, consequently, depress me for the rest of the day.  But its effect was actually the opposite: I forgot the world around me and paid attention to her descriptions of antiquity and works of western civilization art. I became engrossed in her arguments. I even carried on listening to the lecture as I showered afterwards.

"What was that music you were listening to?" one of our employees asked me later. "Did you not hear me call you?"


picosgemeos: (Default)

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