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The Pumpkin Eater

I just finished reading ‘The Pumpkin Eater’ by Penelope Mortimer. The book holds up well more than fifty years later. She was a fascinating person, too.

Here are some of my favourite passages from the novel:

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“I have arguments with myself.”

“About what?”

“Between the part of me that believes in things, and the part that doesn’t.”

“And which wins?”

“Sometimes one, sometimes the other.”

***

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***

So we were back at the beginning again. There was no end. You learn nothing by hurting others; you only learn by being hurt. Where I had been viable, ignorant, rash and loving I was now an accomplished bitch, creating an emptiness in which my own emptiness might survive. We should have been locked up while it lasted, or allowed to kill each other physically. But if the choice had been given, it would not have been each other we would have killed, it would have been ourselves.

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***

I seemed to be alone in the world. My past, at last, was over. I had given it up; set it free; sent it back to where it belonged, to fit into other people’s lives. For one’s past grows to a point where it is longer than one’s future , and then it can become too great a burden. I had found, or created, a neutrality between the past that I had lost and the future that I feared: an interminable hour which passed under my feet like the shadow of moving stairs, each stair recurring again and again, flattening to meet the next, a perfect circle of isolation captive between yesterday and tomorrow, between to illusions. Yesterday had never been. Tomorrow would never come.

***

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Point Reyes Lighthouse

Point Reyes Map

Recently, a yearning for a Sunday adventure took me to one of the most remote parts of the Bay Area: the Point Reyes Lighthouse. I followed in the footsteps of Sir Francis Drake who landed at Point Reyes in 1579, albeit in a 20-year-old Honda Accord instead of the ‘Golden Hind‘.

Point Reyes Lighthouse

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Point Reyes Lighthouse

About Point Reyes

The Point Reyes Lighthouse sits on the western-most point on a peninsula that juts out from the mainland in Marin County. This natural feature, as well as the extreme weather conditions (according to the National Parks Service, Point Reyes is windiest site on the California coast and the second foggiest place on the North American continent), has long made it treacherous for ships sailing in and out of the Bay. So the Point Reyes headlands was the perfect place to build a lighthouse.

Point Reyes Lighthouse

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I drove for what seemed like an eternity, winding around foggy, desolate landscape, the way I’d always imaged the wild moors of Yorkshire to look like from ‘Wuthering Heights’. I couldn’t see a lighthouse, even when I reached the car park. I found it curious that the lighthouse was not visible at all from the road — any other lighthouse I’d visited was visible for miles, standing tall on a headland. I parked the car, walked a few hundred metres, and suddenly the little huts with red roofing appeared below.

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The lighthouse was constructed in 1870, perched on rocks well below the top of the headland. The reason it was built down the incline was due to the thick blanket of fog usually enveloping the coast (particularly in the summer months), and so by building the lighthouse below the natural fogline, it enabled ships a greater chance to see the beacon and thus have a better chance of navigating the waters.

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The internal mechanisms of the lighthouse were constructed in France in 1867, and shipped over to the US the long way round – by way of Argentina. The lighthouse station also housed a fog horn that guided ships in addition to the lighthouse. It took a while to construct the lighthouse and associated buildings, and the first official night of operation for the station was December 1, 1870.

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Point Reyes is so remote, even in the age of horseless carriages, that moving out here to be a lighthouse keeper certainly would have been an experience. Just a glance at the logs for 1888 reveal incredibly difficult work and long hours. Even though the lamp would only be lit between sun-up and sun-down, the keeper (and his three assistants) would be working around the clock doing all manner of other jobs. They would clean and service the lamps of the lighthouse, make and fix machinery parts, investigate shipwrecks (notably called “barks”), endure bad weather, and plenty of delivering coal, painting and cleaning the lamps of the lighthouse.

The keepers dealt with insubordination and frequent personnel changes. There is evidence in the logs kept by the keeper of assistants refusing to work until sunset, others failing to be diligent about the upkeep of the fog horn, and many going AWOL when they were supposed to be on duty.

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Another keeper [from Point Reyes Station], as he was transferred to East Brother Light, made final notation in his log “Returning to USA”.
A log entry, January 30, 1889, read: “The second assistant went crazy and was handed over to the Constable in Olema”. [Source]

It was such a hard, undesirable station to be posted to, yet one keeper loved it so much he ended up staying for 24 years.

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In 1975, an automated service replaced the role of the lighthouse keeper. But the horn still echoes out into the blue expanse of the Pacific Ocean during the day and into the fog as it rolled into shore in the later afternoon.

Hemmed in by fog, Point Reyes felt like the most remote location I’ve ever experienced.

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Happy 4th!

Today is the 4th of July. Independence Day.

I woke this morning, cooked myself patriotic pancakes (purple ones, a combination of the distinct lack of red and blue food coloring), then took a long, meandering wander along the canals.

I watched people BBQ on their back decks, clothed in red, white or blue (or a combination of both), proudly flying the Stars and Stripes from their second stories. And really, you couldn’t have asked for a more glorious day here in the Bay Area. No one does patriotism quite like Americans.

Listening to:
Anthonie Tonnon’s new album Successor.
Eating:
Purple coloured pancakes with Canadian maple syrup
Drinking:
Chai
Doing:
Doodlin’ for ‘Murica.

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It’s a beautiful day for doing as much or as little as you wish. This year, it’s low key. I plan on spending the rest of the day in a food coma, only rousing for some night filming for a new short film I’m working on.

Happy Birthday, ‘Murica!
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Life in Black & White

This weekend is all about colour and pride here in SF, but lately, I’ve been drawn to working in black and white a lot. I’m enjoying seeing life in contrasts.

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And here’s one recent weekend’s adventures, called ‘Pierre (& Cozette)’.

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Viewing the City Through the Eyes of Jean-Pierre Jeunet

Last weekend, I went to see May’s installment of Midnites for Maniacs. A live drag show booked out the Castro Theatre, so the M4M crowd found a new home for the evening in the Mission. The Roxy Theatre is the oldest remaining cinema in San Francisco, with a woman selling tickets in the box out the front and one stall in each of the bathrooms and one person behind a vintage candy bar selling small batches of popcorn.

It was an evening devoted to the work of French director Jean-Pierre Jeunet. I’d not heard his name prior to last week, but now I’m a big fan. This was my favourite M4M double bill by far, and Jesse showed two of the French director’s films: Amelie (2001) and The City of Lost Children (1995).

Whilst I was not a fan of The City of Lost Children, Amelie is certainly one of my all-time favourite movies. But it was great to see them back-to-back to study his style, composition and narratives. I love that he uses many of the same actors in his movies. I even returned home to watch his first movie Delicatessen that, like Amelie, has a phenomenal musical score (especially this — it’ll stay in your head for days!) . All three are related, aesthetically, and it was interesting to hear Jesse’s discussion of each film.

So when I found myself wandering around the city the other day, I was still thinking about Jean-Pierre Jeunet and his characters. I wandered up and down the hills, lost in thought.
How would Amelie see the city?
Or Miette?
Or Louison? Julie?
How would Jean-Pierre make his characters see the city?

This is how I think Jean-Pierre Jeunet would see San Francisco.

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Three Things

I could wax lyrical about loving three day weekends (and I do!),  but here’s three other things:

1. Remembering to Look Up

I have been riding to and from this one particular BART station for years, and yet I have never taken the time to look up. I finally did this week and saw a beautiful glass dome allowing natural light to illuminate the platform. I love beautiful moments like that.

2. Eurovision Final

Being in the US, I have heard nothing (NADA) about my beloved Eurovision Song Contest. But the final starts in about 30 minutes and I’m going to be tuning in online to watch the single greatest event of the year.

This year, Australia is competing (SO EXCITED!) to celebrate the 60th Anniversary, though it’s not the same without the sass commentating of Julia Zemiro and Sam Pang (or even the UK’s Graham Norton). I can’t count myself a fan of Guy Sebastian, but I will be so proud to see him on stage, competing. For Australia. In the Eurovision Song Contest. If I thought I was proud to see Jessica Mauboy sing last year whilst they were tallying the votes, I know this is going to blow last year out of the water.

Lee Lin Chin, the most bad-ass newsreader in history, will be reporting the results on our behalf. Just thinking about her potentially saying,” Vienna, this is Australia calling!” but with a bad-ass twist, gives me goosebumps!

I’ll be proudly flying the flag for Australia and Sweden, as always. Oh, and for Conchita. Aber natürlich!

3. Midnites for Maniacs

Tonight is a special Midnites for Maniacs here in San Francisco, and Jesse Hawthorne Ficks will be playing one of my favourite movies: Amelie. It’s part of a Jeunet Brothers double bill with Amelie and the City of Lost Children. Even though this isn’t at the famous Castro Theatre, you can bet I’ll be there, armed with my Junior Mints.