Emotions, feelings…

arms around a vision

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Dublin/Howth: early September; taken on Ilford HP5 Plus 400 B/W film with a Nikon F3.

More photos can be found at pixxy.co.nz.

It was like Christmas had come early when I finally got just under twenty rolls of films developed and scanned last weekend (yes, I still love canned baked beans for dinner).

These photos show the beginning of some really important friendships, and a day spent compromising. I’m terrible in groups. I hate slow-walking and indecisive democracies where everyone is too polite to say and do what they really want. It was early September.

Fast forward a month to Saturday 3rd October.

Around this time I was thrashing Girls Names, Cheatahs, Grooms and Protomartyr’s new album.

I’d dragged some friends with me to Whelans for the Girls Names’ album release gig. It was a pleasant surprise that I’d found a Swedish, French and Austrian girl who all digged the band (and generally “shit Amanda listens to”) enough to fork out for the price of tickets and the copious pints of beer we plied ourselves with. Then I made myself more convivial.

The gig was great, obviously. That’s such a pointless, throwaway statement that seems important to make, yet in saying so, really undermines the point it’s making.

The thrill and buzz of it ended as quickly and concurrently as the short-lived fling I had.

In a press release for their Arms Around a Vision album, Girls Names’ frontman Cathal Cully wrote, “I’m not starving or anything, but I’ve practically been living hand to mouth since I was 22. Most guitar music now is just a playground for the rich middle classes, and it’s really boring and elitist. We’re elitist in our own way, in that we’re on our own and you can’t fuck with us when we’ve nothing to lose.”

That last bit really stuck with me. I’d read that before coming across this interview in which he elaborated on his thoughts and notions around being a “hunger artist”. Sometimes I think I belong in the clump of boring, elitist middle class that he spoke of. And then I think it’s all relative.

I wonder if it comes down to having something to lose, and what that something is. What I have to lose is very different from the next person’s. What I have to lose is… I wouldn’t even know where to begin.

For one, the privacy of no one else quite knowing, and me not enumerating to myself the things I have to lose. But I think I am slowly chipping away at it. Hopefully I’ll reach a point where I can say, what do I have to lose?! with the same badassness and je ne sais quoi that matches my habit of wearing triple leather this European winter.

I have too many ideas that converge and diverge floating around my head right now. I really need to find a vision to wholly throw my arms around. I can’t be the only one.

I can see it from here the end is coming and all the wait, it was for nothing

Glendalough graveyardGlendalough Upper LakeGlendalough

I was about to type, “I just got home from”— when I realised that I’ve actually been home for over two hours.

Nonetheless, I “just” got home from the Chelsea Wolfe concert at the Button Factory. It was the first concert ticket that I’d bought shortly after moving into my apartment on campus. I remember, so distinctly, sitting at my desk thinking, oh but it’s so far away, what if I end up making other, better plans that night? but bought it anyway. I knew really wanted to see Chelsea Wolfe, but I didn’t know what life on exchange was about to be like. It was early September, then. Now it’s the last week of November.

I’m nowhere near ready to leave Dublin and go home. But I think, for once, I may be ready to finally pick up my instruments again and actually do something with them. By the time I get to Auckland, it will have been just over five months since I made any sort of musical sound. I’m dying — to lie, starfished, on the floor and feel the vibrations of my bass delay and loop and swirl around my bedroom. Delay, and loop and swirl around. Delay, delaying, fuzzing, looping, swirl-swirling around.

Every time I attend a great show, I feel as if I forget a little piece of what it was like to exist before the experience. I feel fed, full, brimming with excitement with a sense of having been heavily educated in something. Sometimes I can put my finger on it; often I can’t. Chelsea Wolfe’s voice took me by surprise. I’ve always adored her voice, but I didn’t quite expect it to be… as big and beautiful, yet vulnerable-sounding, with such little effort. It didn’t look like she was trying at all. Then I spent much of the gig wondering what effects the band were using. How the layers were built. What tricks of the trade I could pick up.

I often wished that I could listen to music without the encumbrance of being a musician. Likewise, I wish I didn’t read so much into the politics of power struggles and societal norms in simple, daily exchanges. Give me a layman’s day, please. And so, part-way through stomping down some laid-back triplets in time with the drums, I glanced around the audience. When else does a room full of people pay, queue (or queue then pay then queue again!), stand around waiting, then sway or bop or nod along, transfixed with every sense perked, focused on the same thing at the front of the room? For once, there were only one or two phones waved above heads, taking photos and videos. It was such a nice change from what’s become the norm now, that I almost wanted to take a photo of the lack of photos being taken. I wish this was the default.

today is made of silences and oh, the time between them

Göreme, Turkey: all taken on Kodak UltraMax 400 film with a Nikon F3.

I recently wrote a travel article on Göreme/Cappadocia for OTwo Magazine of the University Observer. The article and my photography can be found on pages 5 and 32:

I’m on the brink of something. Of an epiphany. On the edge of the edge, a couple steps away from leaping.

Being on exchange for only one semester is an intense experience. You’re condensing life-changing events and perspective-challenging friendships into just over a quarter or maybe a third of the year. Since I set foot in Dublin on September 1st, I’ve fallen in and fallen out with people,* involuntarily adopted an increasingly-brave mouse in our kitchen, and played a shitton of hockey. And that’s only the superficial stuff that happens between class ending and night falling. I won’t be the first nor last to have abused my circadian clock and dear old liver, but unlike seemingly everyone else on exchange, I’m actually having a very academically-challenging semester. I decided to take two Masters-level courses (as opposed to all undergrad normal courses) because I’d rather be excited and challenged by my courses, rather than having an easier but far more boring time. On top of this, I’m supposed to be writing my honours dissertation, but nothing is coming out. That’s the problem with choosing a very current, on-point, grey area to write about, I guess. That’s why I chose it. That’s why I’m a masochist.

I think I’m just in a very different place from most people on exchange. The European Erasmus students are mostly here to have fun — party hard, improve English and maybe go to class. They will return to their home universities after this, and student life will continue. Meanwhile, once I’m done here and with my dissertation, I’ll be done with undergrad, finally. I’ll be done. And everything changes. That’s terrifying, albeit exciting and something I’ve been looking forward to for a long time, until it’s just around the corner. It sounds cliché and repetitive but I’m really glad I came to Dublin. This is completely irreplaceable — even the most gutting, bottomless downward spiral of lows.

*Okay, the latter was more a subtle social exit rather than a fall-out, but that reads way better!

Another tease will come along with everything I don’t want






Richard Wilson’s 20:50 at the Saatchi Gallery is my favourite room in London.














London: all taken on Kodak UltraMax 400 film with a Nikon F3.

Tomorrow, I’ll have lived in Dublin for three whole weeks. Not including any holidays I leave the country for, I’ll be in Ireland for 110 days; all up, 155 days away from New Zealand.

Until this year, I have never travelled so much in such a short span of time before. It’s been a jam-packed tumultuous ride. And even though it’s not for very long, I’m glad that I finally have four walls to call  “my room”.

I arrived in London on August 12th, ditched my suitcase, and spent the next three weeks hopping around on a bit of an odd itinerary. Along the way I picked up a cold, which turned into a traveler’s cough through a shitton of second-hand smoke at a music festival, then developed into bronchitis by the time I arrived in Dublin. I caught up with old friends and made new ones. I saw my favourite metal band from ten years ago, and have a newfound obsession with Jamie xx’s In Colour. (I’m digging his new-and-improved live set — so far, no one else has made me dance like that before.)

It’s strange and scary how easily we can make a new place “home” for a while. I had only been to London for a couple of weeks earlier this year, but the city felt so strangely familiar. During my five short days in London, I had developed little routines and habits already. It was sobering to realise that I didn’t hesitate between the train and tube at Liverpool Street station, when all the tourists around me were flipping out their maps and apps, standing in the way. After flitting around Europe, London and my mate’s flat had felt like “home”. And indeed, it will very likely become “home” for a while, probably in the next handful of years or so. It’s just such a strange feeling, to have made “homes” out of so many eclectic places, in such a short space of time.

At the moment it feels like I’m the only exchange student intending on “doing uni”. I have to write my honours dissertation whilst I’m here, and I’d like to do better than barely scrape a pass in my courses. I’m trying to get involved in campus life like I never have before, and I’ve thrown myself into uncomfortable situations that I never would have back home (where is home?!). So far, that has manifested in the form of reading pretty out-there poetry to a group of people at a Lit Soc event, and I also plan on trying out camogie later this week. I had a lengthy and rather intimate chat with a gallery owner whilst perusing art galleries alone, and even befriended a sort-of-lost American on the street, who then bought me a beer.

I have too many rolls of undeveloped film and a backlog of research to tend to. I’m feeling excited but exhausted, displaced and distracted, and utterly, thoroughly alive — yet surreal. This playlist is called “september”, but I’ve had some of these songs on repeat since late-July. It doesn’t encompass the hip hop and dancier aspects of the past month or so, but is otherwise fairly representative of my headspace. I need to learn to be happy and content in little, small ways, without being crippled by the fear of stagnation and complacency. Here’s to trying to keep on trying things.

Volunteering at the Community Law Centre // you’ve got no feeling, I want my blood hotter

Saatchi Gallery, London; taken on Ilford HP5 Plus 400 B/W film with a Nikon F3.

Surprise! Lawyers aren’t all money-hungry sharks and some of us care.

For the past week I’ve been volunteering 9-5 at the community law centre as part of my community placement.* It’s been… a really interesting experience, to say the least. Basically my role is to research and draft legal opinions/advice on specific questions or areas of law that our clients are having problems in. Over the past four days I’ve had to become familiar in all sorts of things, ranging from parenting orders to the effect of family trusts on healthcare subsidies, to Canadian pensions in New Zealand, to the Property Relationships Act. I think tomorrow I need to look into a restraint of trade…

In other words, I’m helping to dish out free legal advice. I’m supervised, but not very closely. And that’s the thing that really gets to me. It also bothered me over summer when I clerked at a major corporate law firm — people are trusting me to get my research right? My word on what the current position of the law is, isn’t really checked?! I do not feel anywhere near qualified enough to be doing this. Which is the other point that terrifies me — I’m in the last year of my degree! Am I ever going to “feel qualified enough” to be doing any of this?

These feelings weren’t so pronounced during my summer clerkship because I was dealing with things that involved a lot of money. Everything was at arm’s length. But now I’m helping people whose lives, families, and often livelihoods are directly at stake. These people qualify for free legal advice because of their financial (and geographical) circumstances. They need our help because they can’t afford to be paying (or paying much) for it. That thought terrifies me, so I’ve been throwing myself at these tasks whole-heartedly all week. But frankly, I’m exhausted. I don’t know how the full-time solicitors do it. Day-in, day-out, also with comparatively little pay.

I feel like half if not more of us go to law school, thinking, hoping, to one day do some “good”. We don’t really have any idea what practical, realistic form that this “good” would manifest itself in, but on some level, we intended it. And sure, we’re in it for the supposed employability of our law degrees, the intellectual challenges, the masochistic buzz you get at realising you’ve written yet another 10-20k words. But I often feel that no one really stops to think about what doing “good” with our law degrees is going to look like.

Those of us who haven’t or couldn’t land a grad position at a “big corporate”** joke about it as being a catch-22 type of blessing in disguise — if you got a job, great; if you didn’t, don’t worry, you get to do something “Good”! There’s a moralistic tinge to all this that I simply couldn’t shake for the longest time. But now that I’m doing something that is undoubtedly “good” in every sense of the word, and is actually directly affecting people in society, I’m not sure if I’m cut out for this at all.

When you’re on the phone to a mother who oozes concern and anxiety over wanting the best for her child, it really wakes you up, even on just five hours’ sleep. When you recognise that someone is basically wasting your time because their silly monetary ventures didn’t go their way, you kind of want to slap them across the face with their stupid debt. You wish you could say, okay, but someone else is in shit, through no fault of their own, they need my time more. When your hourly analysis of self-worth revolves around how viable your, uhh, “creative” interpretation of some statutory provision (you hadn’t heard of until said hour) is… it’s tough.

It’s been a long, rough week but I’ve been glad to do it. I’ve got another full day tomorrow, but I was thinking that I may consider returning to do a few hours here and there, after exams. Maybe. It’s at this point that I wonder — why do people love to hate on lawyers so much? No one seems to quite hate on musicians in the same way. We’re kind of just there for entertainment. No one is expected to be doing any form of “greater good” through the arts. If you can, that’s amazing. If you don’t… well aren’t artistic pursuits quite a selfish, often-introspective venture? But no one ever chastises us for that. So why, society, why do you all view lawyers as money-hungry sharks?

For the record, sure, I have some “plans” based around completing my degree and employment in my immediate future, but I don’t have a grand 5-year/10-year plan. I went into my music degree because I wanted to challenge the crap out of myself and learn a shitton of things, and I went into my law degree for the exact same reasons. I’ve come to realise that I’m definitely in neither worlds for the supposed prestige or perceived glamour, nor am I on a “greater good” crusade. And there is absolutely fucking nothing wrong with that.

*Full disclosure: I’m doing community placement in lieu of a 3,000-word paper, because I’m already writing three other ones this month.
**Second disclosure: okay, I did indeed land a grad position at a “big corporate” firm for next year.

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