decorative blue boxes
Friday, November 11, 2005 That name ()

It all started in May 2003 when me and my friend Nick decided to start a record label. A few days after the initial decision I got a text message with list of prospective names, which I proceeded to write on the back of a supermarket receipt and promptly lose. Later on, when we had to chose one, I remembered only three: Basement Bar (which was Nick’s favourite but already taken), Pink Lemonade (which I had added myself and thus was my favourite) and Sprinkled Pepper (which was our shared second). That name came from a Fairground Attraction song (you know, this band that sings that “it’s gooot to beeeeeee peeeeerfect”) called ‘A smile in whisper. It says:

“An orchestra of tiny harps / it’s like pepper sprinkled on our hearts”

You can guess what the label got named; and why, when I thought of keeping a diary of the process of setting up a label, it instantly got named ‘the sprinkled pepper diaries’. I never did keep the diary of course, and we never made a label. Life got in the way too much and after a couple of years it didn’t seem like a good idea anymore. But both names lingered on. Today Sprinkled Pepper is what I call “an (almost) Athenian indiepop collective” –meaning me and some friends of mine, organising a few gigs and parties around Athens and occasionally agreeing on what good music is– and the sprinkled pepper diaries are, well, this.

I’m not sure why I kept the name. I was fond of it, and it was catchy, but it’s not only this. I think I like the idea of the things I write sprinkled like pepper on our hearts.

posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 5:46 pm [say something]
Friday, November 25, 2005 Our Jens ()

(As in, “I think our Jens is falling asleep, it’s time we threw you guys out” – said at 4 am on Sunday morning to a crowd consisting of the support band and his ex-girlfriend, after we have sang songs in Greek, Japanese and Italian…)

One reason I haven’t yet talked about it is that it’s hard to. The memory of Saturday night brings tears to my eyes just now –it was that great– and I’m not the only one to feel this way. Since then I’ve read a review stating he was “wonderful, wonderful”; got three emails along the same lines; and had a couple of people after the gig tell me they could hardly speak. And, in this land of moaners (Greece), I haven’t heard one negative thing about it all. And did I mention it was nearly sold out? We actually made money.

I have never before felt so successful in my life. And to think I didn’t do that much about it. Okay, I did to a fair bit of the organising, but the idea was Lupe’s, and it would never have happened without Chris, Nick, Georgie, Martijn, and of course Jens, who even while touring America was decided not to cancel this show. The funniest thing about it is that back then I was too drunk (on excitement, mostly) to realise how great everything had gone. For a few hours, between, say, 10 pm on Saturday (when I stopped panicking) and 5 am on Sunday (when I finally fell asleep), I didn’t realise, think or even feel anything. I just was.

I don’t know what the best part was.

Perhaps it was when he climbed on those stairs next to the stage and sang an acoustic version of ‘Julie’ to an audience that was almost holding its breath. I know, because me & Chris were singing along occasionally, just the words we could remember by heart, and even though we were rather quiet, I could still hear us perfectly clearly

“… and all your friends are moving to London, while the sherry trees are still in blossom, oooh, Julie…”

Of course it says ‘cherry trees’ but the Swedes have a problem with the ‘ch’ sound and we had fun imagining sherry bottles hanging from trees.

Or it might have been when he said he would do two more songs, and because we should go away happy, he’d do the sad one first and I, almost unable to hold it back, said rather loudly “we’re just happy to have you”. It took my breath away, just how much my words reflected the general feeling in the room – and how Jens smiled (rather shyly).

Or it might have been the fact the he hardly paused between songs, which made the whole thing seem like a party. Just as I had promised everyone it would be. Of course later on Chris told me it was because it was best not to pause the i-pod which isn’t the most romantic reason but perhaps it makes it even better.

Or perhaps it was ‘Higher power’. The last song before the first encore (there were three!), and my favourite one… That Blueboy sample gets me every time. (I’ve always thought ‘So catch him’ is the best song ever, anyway.) I hardly remember much of that in fact, I must have died of happiness by then, having sang my heart out through most of the gig – particularly ‘Black cab’ and ‘Maple leaves’ and ‘You are the light’, I think everyone was shouting along during these… And the boyfriend said he would propose to me there and then if he hadn’t done it already.

“She said let’s put a plastic bag over our heads
and then kiss and stuff ’til we get dizzy and fall on the bed.
We were in heaven for five or six minutes, then we passed out
and I was so in love I thought I knew what love was all about.”

The funny thing is, I would have probably said yes. Even though I’ve done it already.

posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 6:52 pm [9 people said all this]
Thursday, December 15, 2005 The place I want to be ()

Thursday morning. I wake up at 6.17 or something equally crazy. The alarm isn’t due for another hour, but it doesn’t really matter. I am in Exmouth, I am nervous, and I am excited. More excited than nervous, in fact. Outside it is dark.

Fast forward a bit. 9.15. Me, Martijn and an inordinate amount of luggage are all standing at the entrance of the Owen Buidling of Rolle College, where someone called John is supposed to be looking out for me. Except, there’s no one who could be him around. Time passes. I get shy. Everyone stares discreetly. Martijn is convinced to go up to reception to explain the situation, but no one has seen John, who is not in his office. Neither have they seen Trevor, who is supposed to be teaching a session with him just now. Everyone is very sweet and kind to us so we take seat and wait patiently. This is much aided by the discovery of a plug and a network plug next to the seat. I am quietly checking my email and beginning to find the whole thing fun when someone arrives to take me out to the classroom where John and Trevor and the level two students are. Said someone is very nice and informs me John is a bit forgetful sometimes. I find this rather funny.

When John sees us approaching through the windows he suddenly looks very embarassed. I’m nearly giggling, very happy not to have to answer any serious questions and just to be able to say “it’s okay, don’t worry about it” instead, even though I still say this rather nervously. We slid in quietlly. Everyone stares even more discreetly and I feel very conscious of everything for a while, but it ends before I have time to think about it: what’s being said is too interesting, and I’m drawn in. I forget myself.

Four hours later I head back to where Martijn is sitting, cuddling the laptop with headphones in his ears, and the first thing he says when we’re out of everybody else’s earshot is “you look so happy” — which says more than I can say about those four hours. I was really happy, because I had felt at home.

There’s more to the story: lunch, an interview (but talking about that is almost showing off), Exmouth’s seafront, a couple of delayed trains (you’ve got to love England), darkness, cold, London, Lupe, but the point is this: I loved them, and they loved me back. And so I will become a teacher. And I have a place to be.

posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 1:04 pm [4 people said all this]
Friday, December 16, 2005 Warm corners ()

Friday morning. I wake up after a night of dreaming of children, too excited still, and I’m in London. Or rather, in Hackney — on the wrong side of Stoke Newignton High Street. Grey light is slipping in through the window and I’m starting to realise what everything that has happened on Thursday means.

“Boyfriend! Wake up! We’re moving to Exmouth!”

It sounds as if we’ll be moving today which, for the moment at least, I wouldn’t mind. As everything slowly sinks in I start feeling intensely homesick. I can’t believe everyone I met yesterday is still there, discussing schools and children and reading, and I’m not. But then a smiley Lupe enters the room and my homesickness soon dissolves on a warm room, tea, bagels (with olive oil spread and vegemite) and the company on some of the loveliest people in the world. On second thought, being able to stay in bed all morning isn’t half bad either.

Later on we wander around this Hackney – Stoke Newington place as the sun sets (the sun sets very early), which proves to be very charming indeed, and when we get home we meet the one and only (very sleepy but even more charming) Mark Mononne, who smiles the best smile ever and makes us some of the best coffee I’ve ever had. By that time I have forgotten to be homesick. I’m just in love with the London-ness of it all.

Ps By the way, here is a photo where Exmouth looks like it looked to me last week. Thank you, Richard Clarke, whoever you might be!

posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 2:43 pm [say something]
Sunday, December 18, 2005 Perspective (, )

Saturday morning. I woke up in London once, and I was happy. It felt like such a perfect morning: a long day of leisure stretching in front of us, the sun almost shining, perfect company sleeping in the next room. Martijn gets out of bed for a while, and on the way back I notice him looking at his phone.

“Did anyone text you?”
“Yes, my sister. She asks me if I can call them urgently.”

Uh oh. That doesn’t good. I don’t have time to worry about it though because he calls straight away — and starts crying soon afterwards. I don’t speak Dutch, so I spend the ten, maybe fifteen, minutes of the phonecall holding his hand. Staring at the blanket and wondering what has happened. Who has died. How I will ever console him — and how I will ever console if it is the baby. Then he hangs up.

“My dad has left my mum! He has a girlfriend.”
“Oh that’s good then!”

I didn’t really say that, but I was close enough. It did feel very good. Not for all the sober reasons with which I came up later (it was time something changed, and they will all be better off in the long run, find themselves, become stronger, learn to rely and believe in the right things — believe me, I know: my dad’s a lot worse) but for the mere fact that they were all alive. Healthy. No one had accidently run over an old lady while driving home, no one’s house had burned down and the baby still intended to join us in a few months.

Disrespectful as may sound, I still think it’s good.

posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 12:25 am [say something]
Sunday, December 18, 2005 Will you marry me? (, )

If the rest of Saturday (the post-phone call part) was a roller coaster, Sunday was just plain nice. (Even though I felt sick for half of it.) We had breakfast with our hosts in a diner, went to Spitafields Market with my cousin and to a free gig in a pub with the “aforementioned boy” from Wednesday’s post, and Martijn was impeccable through most of it. The perfect boyfriend I used to think I had. It felt so great that I joked I’d send his dad a Christmas card, thanking him from the bottom of my heart for helping my boyfriend grow up.

It felt particularly great because it promised that Monday –the day of our ‘anniversary’– would be as great. I suddenly felt I had a lot to celebrate.

I say ‘anniversary’ because it’s not, technically, the first day of anything. We fell in love gradually, over the internet: it took longer than a month, and even though there are a couple of day –nights– that stand out in the process, they never felt the right days to celebrate. We first met in London, on a Friday –December 10th– and the world stopped turning for a few seconds on that day; and yet that didn’t feel like the start of something either. I settled on the following the 12th –the following Sunday– because it was a day we spent entirely together (riding buses and wandering around, mostly) and it was as happy as fairy-tale ending, as easy as playing out.

And because at the very end of it –at 3 am on Monday morning, in fact, but let’s not be too strict about it– in a very cold and nearly empty Victoria station, while waiting for my train to Gatwick airport, Martijn told me about his grandparents: how they were over eighty, still together, and still in love. How his grandad wrote his grandmother notes saying “you’re the sweetest of them all”. And how he wants to grow up to be just like them.

I could see what he was saying but I could hardly believe it.
“I can’t imagine what that is like”
It was true. I couldn’t imagine it. I had no idea what it could be like.
“I’ll show you!”
I still couldn’t believe it.
“I mean, I will show you my grandparents, at least. If you want to.”
That was all he could say to stop himself from blushing wildly, and it didn’t work.

posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 11:29 am [2 people said all this]
Tuesday, December 20, 2005 Anniversaries, autism and the kindness of strangers (, )

And then Monday came, and I woke up way too early. Again. I tried to fall back to sleep for an hour but it obviously wasn’t working, and it wasn’t much fun either. The sun was threatening to shine (again); Lupe was about to walk into the room smiling (again: she’s great like that); and if we got out of bed, into the shower, out of the house and into the bus to Waterloo early, we’d probably have time to go on the London Eye. Which, if you asked me, was an excellent idea.

“Boyfriend! Wake up! It’s Monday!”

Except boyfriend mumbled something grumpily, turned around sulkily, and the day went out of the window. It wasn’t as simple of course, nor as straightforward. I don’t abandon my intentions of having a happy Monday just because Martijn doesn’t feel like getting out of bed when I want him to. Most of the time, I don’t even mind. On the other hand, it’s pretty hard to celebrate an anniversary if you don’t have a boyfriend. And what I’m trying to say is that on that day, I didn’t.

Now, for you to understand the tides that shaped our London weekend –that shape our lives– I need to tell you something. And that is: Martijn is –as I put it– somewhat autistic. By somewhat I mean he is pretty mildly affected; so mildly, in fact, that it had gone unnoticed until recently. Or, well, almost unnoticed. He was considered strange, but no one thought it was a big deal (and then he went on to become a mathematician, and so he was surrounded by people who were often even stranger). And, well, really, it wasn’t a big deal. Except if you started adding all the little things up, joining the dots. Or looking under the surface. Or asking hard questions. Especially, asking hard questions under stressful circumstances.

Then it slowly became apparent that there might be something missing. A deeper understanding of things perhaps. Confidence in the ability to make sound decisions based on feelings and judgement. Instinct. The boy himself sometimes. I’d ask a question and get an answer that corresponded to another question. Or an answer that sounded right but somehow wasn’t. It’s not hard to tell when someone’s heart isn’t in what they are doing, is it? Martijn’s heart wasn’t in being here in this world a lot of the time.

It was frustrating as hell.

It still is, for that matter. Especially if it is 365 days since we first met, and I like celebrations. Even more so since approximately 300 out of said 365 days have been long, and hard, and I still like celebrations. I longed for something to celebrate. I wanted to look back at it all –the train station story, the year– and say yes again, and again. But the sun was shining, we were in London, off work on a Monday and we had a bit of money to spend — and I didn’t have anyone to say it to (metaphorically, but still very tangibly so), even though I tried. (Believe me, I tried.)

So I shouted. First on a bus that went to Old Street instead of Liverpool Street, then, soon afterwards, on a street in Shoreditch. Then, later on, on the empty upper deck of a double-decker bus through Oxford Street. (Oddly, that was kind of fun. At least, it felt like we were in a film or a book.) Then on Oxford Street. I ended up (later on still) crying desperately, unconsoleably, against a pillar just off the corner of Oxford and Orchard street, wishing I could find a way to stop. Find something –anything– that would make that wrecked day, that trying (beautiful, but trying) year seem a little better. Something that would rearrange things in my head just enough to make them look a little brighter.

So I cried. Until some random driver who was waiting for the lights to change shouted “excuse me” out to Martijn (who had been standing uselessly on my side, at a loss for something to do) and handed him some napkins. It was so unexpected, so sweet, so touching, and so much like a television commercial, that I just had to stop crying and start laughing. Which did the trick: it got the day going again. We looked around a shop or two, caught a bus for a long bus ride, had a panic attack in an organic supermarket (when I discovered I had to come up with a new idea for something to cook in 15 minutes – and it had to be greek, sweet and vegan), and ended up baking a cake at midnight, which was crazy but fun and made my memories smell of cinnamon and cloves and orange peel.

It didn’t save the day. It definitely didn’t save the year. It didn’t change the fact that what we have is not exactly a relationship but rather fragments of one tied together on a string, with lots of empty space in between. It didn’t make it any easier that there doesn’t seem to be much I can do about that. But it kept me going, and there must be a reason for that. It might be that I am, by definition, an optimist, constantly thinking that things will get better tomorrow. It might be that I am stubborn, and I don’t like to take no for an answer. Or it might be because those fragments of a relationship are just about perfect, and it would break my heart to let them go.

Or it might just be that I do believe in love.

posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 9:50 pm [3 people said all this]
Friday, January 13, 2006 Say yes to everything (, )

I made a Friends of the Heroes cover today. It was the first one I’ve done in a while, and it took a very long time, but I’m proud of the result and it making it made happy, and that’s all that matters sometimes, right? I also made the contents page, and, while doing so, listened to St. Christopher’s ‘Say yes to everything’ at least a hundred times. (It wasn’t really a hundred times, more likely twenty or so, but they felt like a hundred.) Each time the drum beat sent a shiver down my spine; each time the chorus made me want to cry.

‘.. and, surely, you will say yes to everything”

Really, the song is not much more than a love song — though a great one at that: there’s a good description of it on ‘Little Hits’ (and I think you can download it from there too, by the way)— but the reason it brings me close to tears doesn’t have to do with being in love.

At least not with this sort of love.

The line ‘say yes to everything’ brings me back to a spring morning when I was fifteen or sixteen. I was standing at the schoolyard during an all-too-short break. Trying to read some photocopied notes the teacher expected us to have studied by the next period, walk down some steps and enjoy the glorious weather at the same time. It was sunny, and windy, and that wind was just soft enough and strong enough to make my soul turn somersaults with happiness. In fact it was distracting me a whole lot but still I managed to read on. I think we were studying Odysseas Elytis and that the notes were meant to be analysing the main themes in his poetry. Then again, I’m not too sure, which goes to show how much I learned: not much at all. But that doesn’t matter.

It is hard to say what matters, that’s why I keep going off in tangents. It is hard, because there’s not much to say. I just read the phrase ‘a constant affirmation of life’. That’s all. And perhaps my heart missed half a beat, and perhaps it didn’t. And the wind kept on blowing, and I walked down the steps with my friends, probably moaning about something or other. It could be homework, or teachers being stupid. (They were.) And something in the back of my head whispered, quietly: Yes. Yes. That’s it. That’s what you do.

You say yes to everything.

Now I am older; wiser; and I spent half my evening looking in books, my Minstrels folder and the back of my head for a quote to use on that contents page. It was frustrating and I couldn’t find anything, because that’s what happens when you already have an idea in your head. Nothing else fits. Except I couldn’t use that something, because the book that contained it was in my parents house, 550 kilometres away, and you can’t quote someone on what you more or less remember they said, can you?

You can’t. But I wanted to quote Bert Hellinger. He had said something about how he can stay calm in the face of everything, because he accepts the bad things he comes across as a part of life. And then, when he sees something beautiful, he acknowledges that as a part of life too.

(I did find a quote in the end, by the way, but that’s a story in itself. Perhaps some other time.)

posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 1:30 am [2 people said all this]
Tuesday, January 17, 2006 But he should have come out and talked (, )

Huffy Henry hid the day,
unappeasable Henry sulked.
I see his point, — a trying to put things over.
It was the thought that they thought
they could do it made Henry wicked & away.
But he should have come out and talked.

I came across this poem today. My head was cloudy when I did, it was late morning, early for me, lonely, sad – my first reaction was this doesn’t make any sense. I was straining my eyes to read it, my mind to accommodate it, and it wasn’t giving me anything back. What a waste of time, I thought. At the same time, somewhere within me was moving, shouting: I know this! I know it. You know it. It is this.

And yes, it is this: a metaphor for life with an autistic boyfriend. (Or, as I first typed: a boyfriend on the spectrum. One of us has been reading about this a lot, and it isn’t him.) Martijn hasn’t been diagnosed, so I’ve no idea how severely affected he’s supposed to be. Definitely not much, not much at all; and at the same time, quite a lot. Then there’s also the question he asked: “what do they measure? How well you can cope, or how hard it is for you to do so?” Which is a good point. He appears to be coping nearly perfectly; he isn’t. It is simple as that.

Equally simple is the fact that took me a year to realise (daft, daft me): autism, even a mild case of Aspergers, is not something that occasionally causes some problems. It is something you live with through every day, every minute. It’s not something that might cause the odd misunderstanding or ignite the odd argument. It is always there. Behind every thing I say or do and how it is perceived; everything he says and how it is expressed; everything he does and how it comes across. It defines how much he feels he is there, present in his own body, in this world of ours. It defines how much he feels there is a world out there.

(I’m not saying he doesn’t know it is there; but knowing and feeling are two different things.)

All the world like a woolen lover
once did seem on Henry’s side.
Then came a departure.
Thereafter nothing fell out as it might or ought.
I don’t see how Henry, pried
open for all the world to see, survived.

You shouldn’t explain poems, and you can’t, or I can’t, so I won’t. But I wanted to tell you how the idea of a “huffy boy hiding the day” is all too familiar. And I see his point. God knows I do. (Usually; I do run out of patience sometimes; in fact, I usually end up running out of patience, but that’s a different story.) I’ve no idea what “trying to put things over” is supposed to mean, but, to me, it means “tried to change the world, rearrange it, so that it fits him better.” And yes, yes, it is the thought that this is somehow possible (if I only knew where he got it from) that makes my Henry “wicked and away.” (‘Wicked and away’ is the best possible description of the other side of that sweet sweet boyfriend of mine.) But he should have come out and talked. And then things would have got so much better. Like the always are, when he does. But somehow he just can’t seem to do it.

The rest is a lot less straightforward, less appropriate even, but it still rings uncannily true. The world did seem on his side when he was young, and his family tended to put the blame on everyone and everything else when he couldn’t do something, never on him. Until he grew up, that is, and things inevitable changed, and he found himself in adult world that worked in ways he didn’t quite understand. “Nothing fell out as it might or ought.” How he survived through this, confused and alone –and unaware of this– I do not know.

What he has now to say is a long
wonder the world can bear & be.
Once in a sycamore I was glad
all at the top, and I sang.
Hard on the land wears the strong sea
and empty grows every bed.

But then one happy day he met me, and I was in love with the world. Desperately, passionately so. I got excited about everything from maple syrup on pancakes to clouds in the sky. I lived in my senses: a change of weather had the effect drugs allegedly have. The world was my lover. (“Once in a sycamore I was glad all at the top, and I sang.” My, did I love singing up there.) And so, through a long, long and confusing, confusing and disheartening, disheartening and occasionally desperate year it suddenly downed on my Henry. There is beauty in this life, and it’s worth being in love with it. And what he has to say now is, indeed, a big, “long wonder” on what “the world can bear and be”.

I’ve no idea what “hard on the land wears the strong sea” is supposed to mean, but perhaps it has to do with the tide, and how it comes and goes. Like morning comes, “and empty grows every bed.” Which means that things happen in time. And, in time, we will get through this.

Now, I’m sure John Berryman had none of these in mind, and would probably freak out were he alive to read this, but I don’t mind. So: thank you, John Berryman. And thank you, Clock’s Loneliness, too.

posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 5:01 pm [2 people said all this]
Monday, February 13, 2006 At least you’re not fighting with another boy
or, sing a song with the Triangles and one with the Snow Fairies
(, )

I think I’m at least four posts behind on the books thread, probably a lot more. There’s a whole series of posts (on the relative merits of 2005) that I just didn’t do, not to mention all the day-to-day posting I could have been doing. And there’s a long story, entitled ‘anniversaries, autism and the fifth boy’, that I intended to write and post on the 19th of January, which was nearly a month ago…

When this sort of thing happens you can imagine me buried under a pile of unpleasant books, exam stress, endless, pointless family arguments, a lot of parental unpleasantness and a tonne of uncertainty about the future. A lot of looking for the boyfriend inside the boyfriend too; sulking, shouting and wondering; trying to understand why things happen. Like this:

We’re visiting a friend of mine at the restaurant where he works, and I am telling him all about my troubles. If this were my day off, he says — I interrupt: it is not our day off, we’re always off, or always on, depending on how you look at it — if I could leave this place anytime, he says — yes? — then I would go out, have a nice meal and get drunk and forget about everyone and everything. I translate to the boyfriend (said friend’s English isn’t very reliable so we were having the conversation in Greek) who is quietly, patiently sitting next to me and working (i.e. thinking of some very abstract, very complicated mathematical things) and what does he reply but:

“I’m not very hungry.”

You know, some times I have it in me to explain that this is not about being hungry but about having fun, getting drunk, ignoring the fact that we might not find a taxi home because of the snow, seeing what being crazy and careless feels like for a change, whatever — some others I don’t. Most times in fact I don’t even realise I need to explain, not for a few hours at least, so that’s where sulking, shouting and wondering comes in.

And then some laughing. We’ll make it through.

Because I think I’m doing okay. Despite everything. In fact, considering it is February, that is, the absolute rock bottom of any given year for me, and that the past year has strangely seemed to be the hardest one so far I’m not just doing okay, I’m doing brilliant. You know, I even smile when the sun is shining. And this got me dancing in the bus stop the other day. The boyfriend told me he had known about it since October. When I asked him why he had kept it a secret all this time he replied “You don’t read my blog!” (He is right by the way. They do sound like what I had hoped the Polyphonic Spree to do.)

One of the next songs to come on was by the Snow Fairies, and I have known it since October.

“- Every day we fight…
– I wouldn’t call it a fight.
– Every time you cry…
– Oh, there’s tears in your eyes for me.
– At least you’re not fighting with another boy!
– When I saw you last night…
– I have forgotten all of it!
– I couldn’t think of the words I wanted to say.
– I saw them all in your eyes.”

posted by Dimitra Daisy @ 4:07 pm [say something]
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