The Sprinkled Pepper Diaries Archived
Wednesday, January 30, 2013 I’m in love with a windy day (, , )

It’s windy today. Very windy. Crazy windy. I went out on my bike this afternoon –I have a bike now– and I could barely move into the head wind, even on flat land. I had to let go of the handlebars to catch my hat, which didn’t help. I pretty much gave up on cycling after that, and concentrated on drinking coffee instead. The wind was cold –cold but not freezing– and playful, and the sky was brilliant blue. In England at the end of January, this is gift not to be taken lightly, so I sat and gathered wind and sun until I got too cold, and even a while longer.

I walked home a little lighter than I’d been when I left.

posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 8:30 pm [someone said this]
Saturday, October 1, 2011 Three aspects of my new favourite place, in the last rays of the setting October sun (, , )




posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 8:04 pm [say something]
Monday, September 12, 2011 On experience (, , , )

We sat in my classroom on Friday after everybody had left, and we talked about the verses we say with the children. “I say this verse for myself, too,” I said. “A helper of humankind, a server of holy things,” that’s something I can get behind. And you said that so did you: holy things, yes; god, not so much. And I said, talking to myself almost, with the passion I usually bring to these things: but, but — god is an experience. And you paused to think, and agreed: yes, god is an experience.

It was a good moment.

This afternoon I took a small detour so that my walk home would take me down to the river, and I watched the sunlight and the shadows under the trees dance in the wind. There was no other word for it: they danced. I came home about to burst with gratitude — for the golden sunlight, for the wild winds, for September that brings them together, for having been there to witness it, for being here at all.

After that there was nothing to do but sit and read poetry, half-heartedly and absent-mindedly and distractedly, because after all it was that awkward hour between coming home and having dinner, and my attention span for poetry is as short as my understanding of it can be deep. One thing lead to another, and that, in turn, to this:

You are the deep innerness of all things,
the last word that can never be spoken.

Do read the rest of it. It will only take a minute, and it will help you understand what I mean when I say that it is moments like these — like beads on a necklace, beautiful perhaps in their own right but even more so when strung together — that keep me going.

posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 8:57 pm [say something]
Tuesday, March 15, 2011 On attention, and the sunshine (, , )

I had a perfect little moment today –a moment so lovely that everything was right with the world while it lasted– but I have gone and lost is memory. You see, my perfect little moment was followed by a tiny little disappointment, and my heart got a little stuck on that, as it is wont to do, understandably perhaps but stupidly, too, because all I can taste when I look back now is a subtle blend of embarrassment, sadness, and longing, with none of the happy golden overtones of the magic that had preceded it. And I think to myself, once again: spend your attention wisely and well, it is powerful and precious.

What I do remember, however –what even my fickle heart could not misplace– is the sunshine, the first truly warm sunshine of the year. I was nearly drunk on it, giddy with joy and relief and gratitude, for all winters are long, and I had held my breath for most of Monday, too. And so I sat there, silly, giggling, and grateful, for this life that I have come across and for this job that I have chosen, because although it breaks my heart at regular intervals and it makes me pull my hair out twice as often, it does allow for afternoons spent soaking up the sun and it has, ever so beautifully, filled my life with so much love that wouldn’t otherwise have been there.

posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 9:44 pm [say something]
Friday, March 11, 2011 Remember the magic (, , )

‘Remember the magic,’ I said, and then I disappeared.

I ran off to Greece, where August was a very different experience. Turning leaves and chilly winds where nowhere to be found. Instead there were flowering bugambilias and sweltering days, and although the nights came earlier there, too, autumn seemed to exist in a different universe. But in spite of the abundance of watermelon, or the sand on my toes, or the salt on my skin, or the stars in the sky that greeted me as I lay on the beach at night something wasn’t quite right. I was glad for the plane ride back, and for the rain that fell in London.

And London, oh, London was beautiful — the river mostly, but also the rain. We argued, and I cried, in the rain at that too, and it felt a little like that day from five years ago; except that this time we managed to find our own way out of it, which, I think, is the least we can do after five years. The rain stopped just in time for the sun to come out for a sunset, and for a moment or two the sky was pink and orange and reflected, upside-down, in puddles, and I was happy to be alive.

September came next, the most mixed-up English September I can remember, with sun and rain alternating as if it was spring and not autumn that was on its way. One afternoon early on I stood in the golden sunlight arranging all the desks the school owns by height, giddy with the pointlessness, the silliness and the urgency of what I was doing, and praying that come Monday it would all turn out okay. (It did.) On another afternoon I had a conversation so honest it was almost unreal in a corner of Exeter that is so ugly it is almost beautiful, and I walked away, once again, overwhelmed by the unlikeliness of this life and of its contradictions.

On a third afternoon the rain felt softly on the puddles in the park, each drop calling forth a perfect temporary circle, and I walked through it –an entirely unremarkable park– as it if it was enchanted forest, because the stars and my heart were aligned just right and everything was alive with magic. I thought of Kyra, who once said that the writing, it only happens when we write; of Ian; and of my own words of wisdom; and I concluded that the remembering, it only happens when we remember. And I vowed to came back and to write this down –for you, for me– and to try harder.

It would be nice to be able to say that October was, as a result, filled with magic –it would make for a nice ending– but it would be a lie. October passed me by. There were moments –the first truly cold day, a warm coat and a new favourite hat, all different kinds of fallen leaves against London pavements– but little that made a strong enough impression to have stayed behind. November seemed like it would go the same way, but then something happened. I left the house to get a haircut, I think, and I discovered the most exquisite autumn fog, and I thought to myself, in an echo of something I have thought before, that Exeter looked like a poem about autumn. And in that moment, just like that, I loved this world again.

PS Am I back? Dare I say that this will be continued?

posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 10:22 pm [6 people said all this]
Monday, August 9, 2010 August (, )

And then I blinked, and it was August.

In this crazy country, where summer is at its height when it begins and at its worst when you need it most, August feels positively autumnal. Just to prove this point, the tree across the street has decided to start turning red. The days, too, are suddenly noticeably shorter. I cannot escape the feeling that summer is over, and that before long my holidays will be too. September, with its rush of busyness and inspiration, with its demand for focus and action, with its need for hard work and early nights, suddenly seems just round the corner.

I’m not ready, I tell the tree as I stand by the window. I’m not ready, I tell the darkness as it falls, a little earlier than it did yesterday. I’m not ready, I tell the books I need to read and the plans I need to make and all the things I need to think of. I’m not ready. I need more summer, more idleness, more dreaminess and purposelessness, more time to drift and to just be. I’m not ready.

The tree doesn’t say anything, and neither does the night. The books stare silently. And as I stare back, I know this in my heart: just as surely as I will never be ready, I am as ready as I will ever be.

posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 11:29 pm [someone said this]
Monday, June 21, 2010 Summer (, , )

Summer used to be about watermelon and aubergines; blazing hot days; soft, warm nights that stretched on for ever; crickets that were the soundtrack flickering stars; praying for rain; the sea and the sand.

Now it is about blueberries and broad beans; changeable weather; always carrying a cardigan; evenings that linger on for ever; praying for sun; the green hills and the river.

Welcome, anyway.

posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 9:48 pm [2 people said all this]
Thursday, March 18, 2010 I always thought of you as being one of us (, , , )

I was going to write about early spring, I really was — about sunshine that arrived on the first of March and stayed for three weeks, about freezing nights and warm afternoons, about pink blossom against brilliant blue skies, about the light that woke me earlier every morning, about the excitement of it all, the contradictions in the weather, the smell of daffodils, the promise in the air. I was going to –I even took a photo— but of course I didn’t get round to it in time and now it is too late because spring proper arrived today.

Not on a warm breeze, not on a sunny morning and not in April like I had expected it to but on the unexpectedly warm and gentle rain of a cloudy afternoon in March. Oh, it won’t last; the best seasons rarely do in England; but I wonder sometimes if that doesn’t make it all the more precious. A few minutes of breathing in that unmistakeable smell of spring while watching my class in a gardening lesson were enough for me to be undone with love and longing, washed over by waves of sadness — the love and longing that run through my life like a thread of meaning, the sadness that is as timeless as it is time-specific, a blessed release after winter’s long inwardness and always, always bittersweet.

All this to remind me of my old maxim, that you can spend a winter (or a lifetime) preparing (or praying) for something and the best things will still come round unexpectedly and catch you by surprise.

Ah, the beauty of the way that we are living.

posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 8:56 pm [3 people said all this]
Monday, December 24, 2007 Fragments of another season (, , , )

The funny thing is that I still think of myself as a writer. Because I think of writing nearly every day. Because I think of this blog –of the handful of people who read it and the things I want to put into words and the chemistry that occasionally arises between them– and my heart beats a little faster in gratitude. Because I remember the day that I called it ‘a very nice wall indeed’ and I smile proudly. My little corner of the world.

And so I went to Derbyshire and on the way there I saw the sun setting over fields, between trees and factories, through the mist — and it looked so perfectly round and orange-and-pink, a sight ever so unusual and wintery, that for a moment I just had to hold my breath and be thankful for the six-hour train journey from Exmouth to Derby, without which I wouldn’t have found myself there in that moment in time.

And then I spent two weeks walking through Shipley Country Park, one-and-a-half mile either way, twice a day, always early in the morning and often late in the afternoon, and it was mostly a chore, except for the morning when there was frost on the ground and (what looked like) frozen airplane trails in the sky, or the night when we saw the night sky reflected on the waters of the reservoir and for a moment it looked like it was raining stars. And there was also a long conversation under a tree, and Ilkeston market on a windy Saturday, roast parsnips and sweet potatoes, and a ten-year-old that held my heart like no child has done before — a child that felt ferociously, inexplicably mine, and who said “I want you to stay forever and ever” on my last day. Which still breaks my heart when I think about it.

And yet, I left; of course; gladly even. The words ‘Tiverton Parkway’ on the departures board in Derby station on yet another Saturday morning made my heart rejoice, just because Tiverton happens to be on the right side of the Somerset-Devon border, and Devon feels, strangely, inexplicably like home in a way nothing has before. Back in Devon the rain fell softly as I walked through the big park and the big trees in the opposite direction this time, and I got to sit in the middle of somebody’s kitchen while they were cooking and chatting to me which, really, is not far from my idea of heaven.

And then I went for a walk on the beach and I picked up three shells and I came home to put one on my bedside table, one on a bookshelf, and one in my coat pocket, where they proceeded to spend the following month looking and feeling utterly at home. And the sun shone on some days while heavy clouds weighted down on others, and there was even a day when the wind blew and the sea shone in a metallic blue, and the sky was so grey it made the yellow leaves on the pavement look positively bright. And despite the horribleness of the weather and the sleeplessness of the nights before I bounced down the street in the wind and the rain, almost singing that “we’re everything brighter than even the sun/ we’re everything righter than books could plan”, because there was something that glistened and shone inside me too, something like happiness.

And there came rainy days too, and sad days, empty days, and days full of tears; days of feeling lost in the world and wondering what went wrong and whether I will ever get my happiness back; days when I didn’t even notice the weather. But then the term ended and with this a fine mist descended over Exmouth, turning it into a poem about winter. And on Friday night, two days ago, I stood on the edge of Exeter’s Cathedral Green, and said “I’m glad, too,” to somebody at the other end of an invisible phoneline, and then I looked up, at the Cathedral shining in the light and in the mist, and two things happened: Exeter seemed like the most exciting place in the world, and winter started.

posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 12:43 am [12 people said all this]
Wednesday, September 12, 2007 The end of a summer (, , )

This post has been so long in the making that I have actually forgotten what I wanted to say. Here it is, anyway. And, erm, sorry for the over-a-month-long delay. I will get better at posting one day. You’ll see. Until then, thank god for RSS and/or patient readers.

Or, too many things to celebrate:

  1. Seeing Rose Melberg — and seeing Ian see Rose Melberg. You don’t get that look of awe and wonder on people older than five nearly enough these days.
  2. Bean-and-tuna salads, good crisps, Alexander McCall Smith books and late evening train rides to the West Country.
  3. And light falling almost horizontally on the fields of Wiltshire making everything look green and golden.
  4. And the world suddenly looking like a better place.
  5. Seeing Rose Melberg again, this time on a soft, warm Oxfordshire night, in a smelly, dirty Oxfordshire pub which played some sort of metal on the radio downstairs — the sort of place where I could have sworn nothing magical ever happens.
  6. Midday train rides to the West Country, with fluffy white clouds and bright blue skies and bright green hills and fluffy white sheep.
  7. Ten years of twee bedroom sadness, in the form of the Sinister mailing list, which, once upon a time, changed my life.
  8. The picnic to mark this occasion, which was very much like Sinister Picnics Of Yore used to be: weird at first, fun after a while, wonderful by the end.
  9. Tales of Jenny songs performed live at said picnic, and me running off (sort of) in the middle of a conversation to listen to them.
  10. And Pines’ songs, of course. (Always Pines’ songs. Even though I missed the best one by walking down the hill to the toilet.)
  11. And Visitors songs, too, under the tree, with Tim taking drags off his cigarette between verses, looking all shy and I-wasn’t-ready-to-do-this-guys.
  12. And staying out alive till the last of the sun.
  13. And the view from the top of Primrose Hill, with the moon rising on one side and the sun setting on the either.
  14. Kris‘s writing about it all, which nearly made me cry.
  15. The realisation that all this was so wonderful mostly due to people I met after I stopped going to picnics.
  16. The realisation which follows from the one above: that I’ve not only grown out of Sinister but into it as well.
  17. The fact that this somehow seemed highly significant at the time. It said something about my inner world’s local coherence.
  18. Staying up after the picnic in Tim’s living room, with the window half-open and April Dreams England on the cd-player.
  19. And the moment we both started singing along to ‘Service station’, so effortless and sweet.
  20. Kind London friends who invite us over to their colourful flat and cook us lunchon a Sunday when we are sleepy and hungry and poor and outside it is sweaty and hot.
  21. The last train of the day to the West Country, even though it was too cold and you couldn’t to see a thing out of the window past Didcot (and there’s not much point in looking out of the window before that).
  22. A year of Puffin-and-Daisy in England — or, rather, in Devon, our place of sea winds and low rolling hills and wide open skies, for which we have fallen completely.
  23. Celebrating said year with organic food and pop friends who have also been transplanted to the West Country, some a long time ago and others even more recently than us.
  24. The Taunton skyline out of Rob’s window, of trees and a church tower against a darkening sky.
  25. The last train… only kidding. It wasn’t much fun this time.
  26. The release (finally!) of the Occasional Flickers record, about which I will have to write more one of these days.

Or, in other words: the end of a summer that, just before its end, turned out to be rather lovely after all.

posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 3:38 pm [11 people said all this]
Tuesday, June 26, 2007 I suppose I won’t grow out of indiepop after all (, , )

This should have been written and published right after the ‘These are the things that make these days worth living through’ entry below. In essence, it is the third, most important, and possibly last instalment in the ‘April dreams England’ series — in other words, the exploration of what this gig meant to me. But life got in the way and so it ended up being written for the Spiral Scratch all-dayer fanzine, which, according to my copy at least (#147), was distributed to 250 people. That, come to think of it, is probably my widest audience ever; but, just in case you weren’t there (say you live in another country or something): there you go. Oh, and the strangest thing? Kieron, who seemed to be the only other non-Spiral Scratch person who wrote for said fanzine, also talked about growing out of indiepop. Go figure.

We are sitting outside the Plant – two sixths of The Visitors, one half of the Pines and the Foxgloves, the boy behind and me. The Plant is a cafe in Exeter’s Cathedral Yard –a fine place to be– and the day is strange, hot and cold at the same time. There is a low grey cloud hanging over us and the promise of better weather in the air. We’re theorising about pop music in a way that makes the words ‘High Fidelity’ pop to mind, a way that makes me grin on the outside and giggle on the inside. And then Tim mentions ‘that part of folk that is the closest to pop’ and how hard it is to find it — and that’s when I say it. I tell him I’ve been looking for that for a few years now because “one day I’ll grow out of indiepop, and I’m afraid I won’t have anything to listen to” then. My attempt to explain this controversial statement is very soon abandoned because it only seems to make the questioning looks worse.

The concern that I will grow out of indiepop has been around for a few years. Since 2005, to be precise: the year that answered both my burning questions within the space of a few months, leaving my head spinning and rendering the songs about holding hands and hoping for a kiss irrelevant. (The questions were “will I find someone to spend my life with, and will I deserve them?” and “what can I do to leave a sweet mark on the world?” and, in case you are interested, the answers were “yes, and, trust me, that will be the least of your worries” and “how about being a teacher?” respectively.) I clang on to the few songs that still resonated — primarily the Lucksmiths, Pipas, the Pines, and the occasional song here and there that wasn’t about being young, lost, and waiting for love, along with the occasional song that was about these things but which I seemed to love too much to give up — and I worried. Because even though so much had changed, one thing had stayed the same: I only really liked indiepop.

Later on on that same evening, after Tim and Joe have played a set of three Visitors and ten Pinefox songs to an audience of five Visitors fans, one lonely-but-excited Pinefox fan and approximately fourteen bemused-but-interested kind strangers, I am standing in the corner fiddling with CDs and headphones and buttons, and Joe walks up to me. “Nice music,” he says, “I like it” — or something to that effect. I think I am playing the Razorcuts, or the Siddeleys, or otherwise something equally trademark: “This?” I tease, “it’s indiepop!” Because another thing that emerged from the aforementioned conversation is that those two don’t seem to be the sort of people who will readily identify themselves as indiepoppers. “The one you’ll grow out of?” he retorts and I am left smiling even though you can claim I have ostensibly lost. I like it when people remember what I say — and I like it even more when they use it appropriately.

That night we ride back home on the last bus, a double-decker that we have mostly to ourselves, through surreal-looking empty country roads. In the morning we ride back on a train packed like the beach on a bank holiday Monday because the promise of better weather has been fulfilled, and the day is warm and sunny and windy — in other words, perfect. In fact it is the best day of the year so far, weatherwise and otherwise, inside and out. We wander around Exeter — the boy Think Small, the Pinefox, Alistair Fitchett and me: a cafe, the Cathedral, the Cathedral Yard, Northenhay gardens. We talk of pop music and poetry, Lloyd Cole and literature, and somehow these seem to stretch all day. They blend with the sunshine and the haze, the odd questions and our awkward answers and our sudden, instant happiness.

But it is the evening that changes my mind. Because as it rolls around and Alistair leaves to catch a bus the rest of us roll down the hill, back to the green grass of the Cathedral Yard, armed with three bottles of beer, a bag of crisps, and the aforementioned happiness, discussing the relative sadness of the line “I loved you / well, never mind” — and the bells of St Steven’s begin to ring. They ring and ring all through the evening, as the light changes and the temperature drops and the people go home, the same three-chord song for hours on end. You’d think it would sound boring, but it doesn’t — it sounds heavenly — and the repetition only makes it more precious. I feel elated, honoured to be in the presence of something rare, on such a perfect day at that too!

And so I gather up my courage and look at Joe’s guitar case and ask him if he can play us a Cat’s Miaow song. It turns out that he can, and he can play us a lot more besides. And so we drink the beer, we eat the crisps, we talk about love and our favourite Magnetic Fields songs, and we sing. In perfect harmony for a moment or two — within, and, perhaps, even without. When we finish ‘The luckiest guy on the lower east side’ a random stranger claps. For a while it seems like I am living in a charmed world, where what is around corresponds to what is inside.

The time to dash to the bus station comes too soon, and so we dash. Saying goodbye breaks my heart, and so my heart is broken. But it is happier than it has been in a long while, too — as happy as it was when we stood with Pipas on the rocks overlooking Athens under brilliant blue skies, and I felt like we were about to discover the treasure at the end of the rainbow — because I have found a part of myself I haven’t seen since, and it is the part that I know and love the best. And so, as we walk away into the sweet-smelling spring air, where the bells are still ringing, I make a face and I tell my husband: I suppose I won’t grow out of indiepop after all.

posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 10:10 pm [5 people said all this]
Thursday, June 7, 2007 A picture of me (, , )

It is hard to take a photo that defines someone.

But I suppose this one comes pretty darn close.

Taken by Will, on a Bank Holiday Monday, in Budleigh Salterton.

posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 5:48 pm [3 people said all this]
Wednesday, April 18, 2007 These are the things which make these days worth living through (, , )

[You might want to go and read Alistair’s and Martijn’s reviews of this first, if you haven’t already.]

What you have to understand is that I feel responsible for this gig.

I asked Joe (who is half of the Pines and also of the Foxgloves) to come down to play because I’ve secretly been truly in love with his songs since I first heard them. He asked Tim to come down to play with him for reasons that weren’t clear to me until this afternoon, when Tim got off the train full of stories about supporting Talulah Gosh in this very venue and rushing to catch the last bus too many times to count. It was only then that I realised that the Visitors were actually from Sidmouth, the town a few miles east of Budleigh Salterton. They lived here: they wrote their songs and performed them and went to gigs and got drunk and were hangover on Sunday mornings, all right here in Devon. The very idea seems difficult to grasp, somehow. What do you mean the Razorcuts played in the Arts Centre too? I know they probably only played to a dozen or so people, but that doesn’t make it sound any less impressive. Quite the opposite. It gives me hope that the First Division will one day be legendary too.

For the moment things aren’t looking all that promising. Alistair’s C is right when she says that the whole thing has a refectory feel about it. Joe and Tim play to a row of mostly empty tables while all around people walk, talk and drink, casting only the occasional glance our way. The occasional puzzled glance, I have to add. Why are these nervous-looking people playing a gig at the corner of the bar? And why is this small bunch of happy-looking not-quite-kids-anymore looking at them so intensely? What’s the big deal? And so I feel a little bad.

To me, of course, every little bit is perfect, has been from the start: Joe saying that ‘this is a song about roads, the roads between us and the people we’ve left behind, the people we’re yet to meet, the people we love’ at the beginning of ‘Second hand’, for example, or Tim’s smile when he bravely launches into the first song (the Visitors’ ‘Bliss’). But I’m starting to wonder if I’ve only put this on for myself, to hear these songs that I love to bits played live and get yet another chance to sing along to them, and whether I should have put everyone else through the trouble just for this. Surely not. How selfish of me.

And then, wouldn’t you know it, they launch on another Visitors’ song, and as Tim sings ‘all the old songs that I’ve known and loved for years / playing quietly from someone else’s radio’ something stirs inside me, and as he goes on pictures of Devon in the summer unfold effortlessly in my head, and everything starts to fall into place. The song builds up beautifully and the performance is faultless too, even if it is only me thinking that and I’ve never really paid attention to it before, so what would I know? But it does, to me anyway, and as it draws to a close (‘leaning from my window shouting into the dark I don’t love you, I don’t love you, I don’t love you!’) I find I’m leaning forward from my chair, nearly falling over. And suddenly it’s alright. Even if no one else cares, it’s alright.

But of course they do. People seem drawn into the strong imagery of ‘Oil Fires’ that follows and they laugh at the bittersweet wryness of ‘Do you have to stop writing to start living?’ — because, how could they not? It’s wonderful! And I smile. My heart is lifted by the sight of others appreciating the wonder that are these songs, songs that have been major hits in my front room, songs that I keep so close to my heart, the songs that have brought us all here tonight.

And when Tim announces ‘Goldmining’ (‘this song was last performed twenty years ago, in this very venue’) somebody who was actually there twenty years ago cheers and I know for a fact that I’m not the only one who cares. They finish off with ‘We’ll never be cool’ –a song with major indiepop-hit potential– and I sing along like I did those nights in Dorking, back where it all started, convinced of the same old thing. We’re really the coolest of them all.

posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 2:23 pm [someone said this]
Thursday, April 12, 2007 Cause the little words say everything that I need but there’s still a thing or two (, , )

As you probably don’t know but perhaps do I have developed an interest in drawing trees this spring. There is a sweet, heart-warming story behind how this happened but telling it is not what I intend to do tonight. Tonight I want to talk about the bus ride from Exmouth to Exeter, or rather about the trees contained within.

The bus ride from Exmouth to Exeter takes a long time: forty, perhaps forty-five minutes to the train’s twenty-five to thirty. The fare is more expensive, too (£4.50 to the train’s £3, which can be reduced to £2 with a student railcard). Still, I take the bus sometimes. Partly because I just like buses, especially double-decked ones (and, even more especially, needlessly doubled-decked ones) and partly because it gives a slightly different picture of the south-east Devon countryside, and it is one that I love.

Another thing to take into consideration is spring, and how fast it has arrived here in south-east Devon; it’s funny; I always wait for it all winter long, and when it does come, it’s always unexpectedly. So, even though there had only been a couple of weeks between the last bus ride and this, the changes were impressive to say the least. Brown trees had turned pink, sometimes even fuchsia — a plum colour, nearly. Green fields had turned yellow — ‘a dash of yellow’ someone said next to me. The flowers in the flowerbeds had changed colours too, hyacinths replaced by tulips perhaps, like in the one I walk by every day on the way home.

All this to try and explain this: there is an imaginary line of trees that I would like to draw, joining Exmouth and Exeter through Lympstone, and Topsham. (It is the line that is imaginary, not the trees; the trees are what I would like to draw.) Sitting on a bus as it zips by past them, even at the not-quite-zipping speed in which it does it, I feel a pang of regret — a longing — and every tree I will never get round to drawing reminds me of a friend I never got round to having.

All those colourful could-be’s but were-nots.

posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 10:19 pm [say something]
Sunday, April 1, 2007 April dreams England (, )

(You can start with the numbers.)

Two friends. One idea. Twenty songs, and thirty days to write them in. (One month: April). Another month, or two, to record them in — in a flat or two. Twenty songs that make up one album, and which were, thereafter, set out to wander the world in the form on a handful of cassettes. A handful of cassettes which were destined to circulate among a number of people only slightly larger than a circle of friends for years. Years that, if you add them up, make seven. Seven years in which those twenty songs amounted to little more than someplace-or-other’s best kept secret, until they resurfaced one misty April night in Exeter. But I am jumping ahead of myself here.

(And you can go on with the adjectives.)

It is criminal, really. In a fairer world ‘April dreams England’ would be Matinee Recordings’ long lost masterpiece, and I would be happy. Because ‘April dreams England’ contains some of the most evocative, delicate, exquisitely-crafted songs I have ever happened to come across. Because the First Division are masters of pop and poetry. Their songs capture the essence of a moment with an intensity that can take you by surprise. They portray the loves, longings and regrets of those who are half-outsiders, and half enchanted by the world; those who are sour and sweet, torn between books and life, and, all the while, nostalgic for the present.

(Or you can put it differently.)

The First Division consist of members of the Pines and the Visitors playing poetic pop songs about ‘life in England, outside London’ in a way that will have you believe they are the long lost link between Lloyd Cole and C86. They are going to present those to the world for the very first time at the bar of the Exeter Phoenix, on Friday, April 13th, at 8:00 pm.

It’s going to be great — and it’s going to be free, too.

More colourful version:

posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 4:00 pm [someone said this]
Saturday, March 17, 2007 Sometimes he is so funny (, , , )

Thursday night, and Rob and I are sitting on the beach —or, to be precise, on the steps that lead to the beach. It’s the sort of thing you dream of* doing when you dream of moving to Devon. We’re watching trains go by on the other side of the river and talking about songs about sandcastles, when Martijn calls to say goodnight — quite naturally assuming I am at home.

“Is Rob still there?”
“Yes. He is still here. On the beach. With me. Are you jealous?”

Meaning, are you jealous we’re on the beach in Devon when you’re in your room in Oxfordshire, about to go to bed because you have to get up early tomorrow morning’? Except Rob gets it a little wrong.

“Martijn, it’s not what you think it is!”
“Oh, damn. And I thought you were just sitting there, talking.”

*If, that is, you are the sort of person who moved to Devon because they had been dreaming of it — and not the sort of person who had never given the place a thought before they discovered their dream course was situated there. And never gave it a second thought after that until the find themselves in a soddy ‘holiday home’ on Morton Road. But that’s a whole different story.

posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 6:52 pm [say something]
Tuesday, March 6, 2007 More (, , , )

I’ve been unwell. Unwell, and buried under a pile of difficult things to think higher than me. And in a way, I’m still under it (in another way, I always am). But today the sun was shining properly –it was warm– and the wind was more playful than cold and I felt alive more than I felt like crying. I wanted to go out and draw trees more than I wanted to crawl under the duvet and hide for the rest of the week. And I wanted to write more than I wanted to stay silent.

And, of course, as it happens in such cases all the things that had been waiting inside me —waiting for a chance to be talked about— rushed out all at once. And, as it happens in such cases, they all got stuck at the door. Currently they are arguing with each other about what I should write about. The way the indiepop community still seems to be the best place to make friends after all these years? Athens and how my memories of it occasionally come back to haunt me? Or that old, half-forgotten project on ‘the beauty of the way that we are living’ and all the things that make me want to pick it up again? The opening lines of the poem Joan gave us and how they describe a land I sometimes visit in my dreams?

Or, perhaps, how sometimes every raindrop that lands on my window feels like a kiss on my soul, and I don’t hate the rain anymore.

posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 8:26 pm [someone said this]
Thursday, February 22, 2007 Staring at the sky (, , )

It seems so long ago now since I took this photo, and the weather was like this. Tonight it’s pissing down with rain again in Exmouth.

sky, airplane, trail, Exmouth beach

posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 8:48 pm [2 people said all this]
Tuesday, January 30, 2007 Colours (, , )

Once upon a long ago a boy took me for a walk on a beach somewhere in the middle of England, where the sea was brown — nearly as brown as the sand, it was. The rest of the day was blue and red against a grey background of clouds and winds and middle-of-winter blues: those were the colours of the buildings and of my hat and of my heart, and, on the bus ride home, of the blurry world outside the raindrop-stained windows. And in its own quiet, understated way this day became one of the best things in my life — a little like watching the rain from that train station shelter in Kalmar was (what I called ‘the living equivalent of a poem’ back then) but mostly like nothing else in the whole wide world.

Last Sunday I took the same boy on a walk on the other side of the river from here in an effort to bridge the gap that not talking for most of the time in between had created. The sea was a hundred different shades of blue, and, when we came back, my heart was a hundred different colours too.

And so now I am as in love with Dawlish as I was with Cleethropes all that time ago. And, somehow, this is all that I could have asked for.

posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 5:30 pm [say something]
Thursday, January 18, 2007 Even if I say so myself (, , )

Martijn has often said that the golden rule of blogging is never apologise for having been quiet — or something like that anyway. It is true that there are few things that are as boring as bloggers’ excuses and explanations, but even so, I want to say something that sounds suspiciously like an excuse or an explanation. When I am not writing it is more likely that I have too much to say than that I have nothing to say. Having too much to say means I need to write a long entry; writing a long entry means I have to be in the right mood and find the right amount of time; and those two tend to not come together very much. Having nothing to say, on the other hand, means I can idly sit down with the laptop and write ten lines about any old random thought that has happened to catch my fancy on any given evening.

On a completely unrelated note, tomorrow we have to go for a short walk and come back with a small story about two or three things that we really saw having a conversation with each other. Things that are alive are preferred but we are not forbidden from using the odd fencepost or bus ticket. My first reaction when I heard this was along the lines of “oh god no, not more stories” and “that sounds hard” until I remembered I have already written one of those:

“Ever since colours have had names, the days of the week have had colours and me, I’ve had a reason to be.”

So I went back and read it and I marvelled at myself for ever having forgotten about it in the first place — and I nearly fell in love with it, too. It’s not as well written as it could have been, by any means (I remember I was in a terrible rush that evening) but even so, it’s pretty good.

posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 9:30 pm [say something]
Saturday, January 6, 2007 Turning (half-)English (, , )

I was walking down Portobello Road this morning afternoon, moaning under my breath about the tourists. Apparently, I am not a tourist anymore. And the proof? Not only did I, without having to think about it, say ‘sorry’ whenever I so much at touched a stranger, but I felt offended when they didn’t say ‘sorry’ back.

That is from the same girl who found all this sorry-ing a little ridiculous three months ago. You’ve got to laugh.

posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 2:36 pm [someone said this]
Saturday, December 30, 2006 Today the sun came out for a minute or two (, , )

And what did I do but grab a camera?

The top of my Christmas tree, a window with raindrops, a patchy sky

Some people say that Christmas Trees look their best in the dark but I quite liked mine with the blue-sky background. It started to rain again soon after that. In fact “pissing down with rain” would be a more accurate description of what is happening outside our windows… And, try as I might, I don’t think I can bring myself to like winter.

Feel free to tell me how wrong I am, and why. I’d like to like it, honestly, I would.

posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 5:10 pm [someone said this]
Wednesday, December 27, 2006 Another one of these things I see when I look up (, )

Of course once I go and write that the grass is greener we go and have an argument in the middle of the night two days in a row which makes me wonder. (It also makes me tired and grumpy, which is probably the main reason why I wonder.) But it’s the way things go, isn’t it? I go and write I don’t mean to go silent and what do I do then but go silent, buried under a pile of homework taller than myself, and before I realise it it is Christmas and I seem to need some time off the computer to wander around Totnes when it is freezing cold and bake gingerbread biscuits. Totnes, by the way, is very beautiful. It makes Exmouth look plain in comparison. Which, in a way, is another reason why I love it. Little, grey, out-of-the-way and somewhat run-down Exmouth, looking charming only if you are looking at it from the right angle.

church spire birds

posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 11:28 pm [say something]
Friday, December 1, 2006 Self-portrait with husband on Exeter High Street (, , , )

posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 8:41 pm [someone said this]
Thursday, November 30, 2006 Sometimes I look up and I see the most wonderful things (, , )


posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 7:26 pm [4 people said all this]
Monday, November 27, 2006 Raindrops and rainbows (, , )



posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 7:32 pm [say something]
Saturday, November 25, 2006 Advent Fair (, )

Today we went to the South Devon Steiner School‘s Advent Fair, where we saw and did some wonderful things. We got a bit lost on the way, and saw a bit of Newton Abbot. We took a long time finding a place to park because there were so many people there. We wandered around the grounds a lot. We chased the two toddlers around a lot, too. We admired the lovely and expensive things at sale in the classrooms. We bought a book, and roast chestnuts. We had Indian food. We got rained on (again). We admired some more things on sale. We saw a rainbow. We had coffee and wheat-free, sugar-free apple buns. (They were lovely. No, really.) We bought two raffle tickets. (I had a feeling. I don’t usually buy raffle tickets.) We took some photos. We wandered around the grounds a bit more. We sat down for a while. We met so many people we knew that we started to feel at home. We had more apple buns. (I told you they were nice.) We chased the toddlers a bit more. We got a bit more wet, and also cold. And then I went and won what could be desribed as the second prize: a basketful of organic chocolate and art supplies, complete with a voucher from a toy shop, a mandarin bath fizz-ball, a handmade honey-tangerine-and-calendula soap, a candle, and a teddy-bear. (I told you I had a feeling! I had two tickets out of four thousand, and there were thirty prizes. I was seventeenth, just as I was beginning to lose faith.) I walked away rubbing my eyes in disbelief, handing out chocolate. (It’s not sugar-free.) On the way back we stopped at the aforementioned toy-shop (where I exchanged my vouchers for sixteen beeswax crayons), the toddler fell asleep clutching the teddy bear and we didn’t get lost. It was great.

posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 10:20 pm [say something]
Friday, November 24, 2006 Long lost tape II (, , )

[Long lost tape I]

In the months that followed I played that tape a lot. (They were rather happy, intense, creative months, while also being long and dark, and they changed my life.) And then, one crazy April night while it was snowing and I was talking to a friend who had suddenly rang my doorbell after months of not being in touch, I accidentally taped over it.

Oh, the sense of loss when I realised. I got over it, of course, over time I even forgot about it; but every now and again I thought back of that night and quietly cursed myself. Damn. Damn. Of all the tapes in my bedroom, why did I have to pick that one? I had asked David to make me another copy, of course, and he had said yes, but then he never quite got round to it and then we lost touch, and that was the end of that. I gave up on the idea of getting hold of those songs again and I started telling this story instead, and the tape acquired legendary status in the story of my life.

And every now and again a phrase or a picture from these songs would come back to me, like a flashback from a different life, and I would feel haunted for a minute or a day, and long to listen to them again. Three and a half years and the intensity of that feeling still surprised me. It was clear that I had to do something.

posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 8:23 pm [someone said this]
Wednesday, November 22, 2006 Three weeks in November (, , )

tree before

tree after

posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 9:04 pm [say something]
Tuesday, November 21, 2006 Updside-down (, , )


posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 9:32 pm [say something]
Monday, November 20, 2006 Long lost tape I (, , )

David and I walk down a dark street in Dorking singing “we’ll never be cool, we’ll never hang around in the right place / we’ll never be cool, not with your mind, and my face”. Even though, to be honest, we thought we were quite cool, in our own, uncool way.

That was the autumn of 2002: on retrospect, one of the happiest times in my life. (One of the very few trouble-free times in my life.) David was my boyfriend, and he was sweet. Dorking was, and still is to the best of my knowledge, a town in Surrey (and not something English people do). The song was (surprisingly enough) called ‘We’ll never be cool’. David had it on tape, a tape given to him by someone, possibly the person who wrote the song or perhaps a friend of his? I can’t remember. What I do remember is that after he played me that tape once, he had to play it again and again because I fell in love with it. We made a copy of it before I left for Greece, on flight with a long layover in Prague. Back then I had a walkman, which explains why I ended up listening to the Foxgloves on a bus though Czech suburbs. The bus was supposed to take me to a metro station, from where I could catch a train to the centre, where I would walk around for an hour or so. Except the whole town had been flooded just a few days before, the metro wasn’t running, I couldn’t find the replacement bus service, I was tired, and I decided to go back to the airport and wait. Thus, these are my only memories of Prague: the grey, run down buildings in the twilight, how poor everyone looked, the songs.

My other memory of that night is of the plane flying low over Thessaloniki at 2 am. The streets were empty, the streetlights were flickering in the mist and the whole thing looked gorgeous. We nearly flew over my flat. I took a taxi from the empty, deserted airport back into town and crept into my room, then crept out to carry the stereo back in. I set it up on some cardboard boxes, connected the speakers hastily and went to bed, the images from the songs moulding into my dreams.

posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 9:29 pm [someone said this]
Friday, November 17, 2006 Archetype, universal, personal interpretation, living, impossible, feeling life (, , )

We have been exploring the concept of an image at school lately. (As you may, or may not, know Steiner education has a lot to do with imagination and teaching through pictures.) Trevor asked us to resist the urge to groan while he unveiled the question he wanted us to think about.

“What are the essential ingredients of a picture?”

It takes a good teacher to know what you will want to do before you want to do it. I was impressed, and I did my best not to groan to honestly it was rather hard. It was made easier from the fact that he was groaning himself. A good sense of humour is also rather essential, don’t you think?

Neither not groaning nor laughing made the question any easier to answer, however. I spent some very frustrating twenty minutes trying to come up with some way of approaching something that looked like an answer. Did I say it wasn’t easy? A picture is such a basic thing you can’t quite define it. Can you define a thought? Can you define a thought without thinking? Can you define a picture without using a picture? Doesn’t that half-defeat the point?

In the end me and the girl I was discussing it with ended up with this: A picture is something you can perceive, something that you can retain in your memory, something that you can pass along, something that appeals to feelings rather than the intellect, and, finally, something that has a life of its own. It was pretty good even if I say so myself. Other people seemed to have approached it from a different perspective so in the end we ended up with a very interesting list of words.

Sometimes lessons make me want to cry, like songs do.

posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 9:43 pm [2 people said all this]
Thursday, November 16, 2006 The door to the alley next door (, )


posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 9:10 pm [say something]
Monday, November 13, 2006 A passing shower or two (, )

I’ve been trying to do homework today. (Monday is a non-contact day at my course, which we should, apparently, use either as day to visit schools, or as a ‘welcome study period.’ I seem to use it to lengthen my weekends and retain my sanity, except for the times when deadlines loom close and a study period does indeed seem welcome.)

Can you can tell from my tense of choice how well it went? I have to write ‘my music biography’, which is, I’m sure you’d agree, a lovely idea (as is the teacher who asked us to do this); except an appropriate title for mine would be ‘A not-so-short history of disappointments: why I can’t play any instrument whatsoever and I can’t sing all that well, either’. It has been surprisingly hard to write, and working on it has proved to be rather depressing. It’s a necessary step to get to a better place, I know, but combined with yesterday’s post, the composition of which had similar effects on me, it has left me wishing for a day out. Oh, how I long to go shopping in Totnes! (Exeter would do just fine too.) Or walk along the Thames, watching the leaves twirl in the autumn wind! (Except that involves four hours on the train either way, which is a bit too much.) Or have a fun day at school, that would do too: a bit of school experience, art, a long talk on something interesting, a sunny lunch break…

Instead, it seems that it will be cloudy tomorrow, with “a passing shower or two” (doesn’t that sound nice?) and we have double anthroposophy. I need to think of something nice, and fast. And drink a lot of coffee tomorrow.

posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 10:10 pm [say something]
Friday, November 10, 2006 O is for the Hardware Shop (, )

hardware shop

posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 7:34 pm [2 people said all this]
Monday, November 6, 2006 British-ness too (, )

And one very talented 13-year-old, it seems… I think Google looks very pretty today!

posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 9:33 pm [4 people said all this]
Monday, November 6, 2006 English-ness (, )

My first thought when I first set foot on England, in the summer of 2001, was “it’s just like in the books!”. It was so much like the books, actually, that I felt I had stepped into one. It’s a funny thing, visiting a country whose culture you have been studying while growing up. The feeling faded with time as I got used to things, and I had in fact completely forgotten about it. (These days, when people ask me how I find moving to England, I don’t know what to say because it all seems so natural, exactly like what we were expecting it to be.) I remembered it yesterday for a moment when I caught myself thinking “so this is what a Bonfire Night is like!”, comparing descriptions from books to my own experience.


After the fireworks, we went to a beach party.

posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 8:59 pm [someone said this]
Sunday, November 5, 2006 Cooking and thinking (, , )

It seems that we don’t get on well with weekends. They tend to go wrong a lot in our house. I have to say I’m not very fond of them just now: they’re too full of bad moods and not full enough of all the things we have to be doing. (Homework, cleaning the house, emailing people — that sort of thing.) Apart from sulking, arguing, and being upset, I seem to have done only two things: cooking, and lying in bed looking back at the week.

That last one is definitely my favourite. I love having the time to go over what happened — rethink a thing or two, focus on a detail I have missed, dwell on the happy moments, figure out what was important and hold on it, get rid of what doesn’t matter any more. I don’t think I can get enough of this sort of time. That is how I grow up, how I get to know myself, how I find my way through life — it’s priceless. (Perhaps I do like weekends a bit after all.)

As for cooking, well, since Saturday afternoon, in attempt to get through as many vegetables from the box as possible, I have made: cauliflower soup, beetroot leaf salad, beetroot pasta, pancakes, a no-name-in-particular salad, sesame and pumpkin seed bars, and cabbage with bacon and onion sauce. Out of these I had only tried the pancakes before. No wonder I feel like I’ve spent the weekend in a kitchen!

posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 6:37 pm [say something]
Saturday, November 4, 2006 Another thing I love about Exmouth (, )

church top

posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 10:42 pm [say something]
Thursday, November 2, 2006 The best thing about England is the weather (, , )

Nobody had warned me about it. Really. They all talked about rain and the wind and the humidity, and did I mention the rain? Somebody said it rained every day for a month after they moved to Exeter. It wasn’t the most exhilarating of concepts. I was prepared for a lot of greyness, for being miserable and missing the sunshine and do you know what I got instead? I got the loveliest autumn of my life. Not that it doesn’t rain, it does, and sometimes, like last week (and the week before, and part of the week before that too) it rains a lot; but when it doesn’t the air is crisp, the sunshine bright and the colours on the leaves brighter. The sea glistens and the chill in the air makes me feel alive in places I had forgotten I owned. I thought only spring could do this to me; and yet the realisation that autumn can do it too feels more like remembering than like a discovery. For years I’ve said that we used to get autumn in Greece when I was young (back when we had four seasons instead of the two and a half we they seem to get now) without really knowing what I meant, but now I do. Autumn used to be like that, sharp and beautiful and distinct. And, somewhere in the back of my mind, I remembered that.

I nearly cried tonight, walking home from university in the last light of the day. There was a fine mist in the air and the way the shapes of the houses seemed so clearly defined against it and the sky made my my over-tired, over-excited and vaguely frustrated soul turn somersaults in delight and amazement. Somehow, it felt like a miracle. A quiet, understated, yet utterly remarkable miracle.

posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 10:03 pm [3 people said all this]
Wednesday, November 1, 2006 Funny time (, )

It’s been a funny day. I’ve been feeling slightly out of place for most of it. A funny feeling, a sense of something not being quite right. To be honest it makes me want to cry but then again I think I’m just a little too tired. My days are so full of thoughts and impressions and people and impressions and words and did I say impressions? From the morning walk to university, full of sunshine, to the three lessons (they are too hands-on to be called lectures) full of ideas and things to think of and things to feel and things to work on and from the two breaks full of people I care more about every day, to the walk home, cold and full of swirling yellow leaves, my head is full of pictures, conversation fragments, and impressions — did I say impressions? I have to admit I’m more than a little overwhelmed.

Such a strange thing to be me, really. I’m overwhelmed by things most people don’t even seem to notice, and the things that linger in my head, the things that come out of my mouth — they always seem to be that little bit out of place, not quite aligned with what everybody else seems to be thinking of or talking about. And, sometimes, that gets me down, and I start wondering what I am doing wrong. And then I to sit and stare at a screen for hours on end while I try to make sense of my thoughts and play the same song over and over again when really it would be best if I just went to bed and closed my eyes and told myself stories until I fell asleep. Which is what I am about to do.

(This is not exactly the tone on which I had intened to start this series of posts, of course, but it’s okay. I’ll be back soon, and I have a lot more to say.)

posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 9:47 pm [say something]