Ramblings: Setting up a new home and those last few weeks

ALISON TOON: Jade baby shower &emdash; Jade's baby showerAh it has all been a bit of a whirlwind these past few weeks, and I have been getting so tired that between work, the commute and trying to make our new apartment into a real home before the baby gets here I haven't had a moment to really write anything down. Although there is a lot to be said... I feel like so much has happened and I need to record it now before I forget due to baby brain, or have even less time on my hands! I know full well that the moment the baby gets here I will hardly have time to sleep let alone anything else!

Between the endless (or what seems to be that way) snowstorms and icy winter days and nights we managed to move a lot of our belongings from the old apartment on Troutman St in Brookyn to the new place in Flushing at the beginning of February. Our moving truck man got stuck in the slushy snow pile outside the building, and tried to put Joey Ramone the howling cat in the back with the furniture, but we managed to make it to our new home without breakages or damages. And what a home! It's big, airy, bright and so quiet. I slept so well the first night and woke up to the sounds of birds singing, not to the sounds of the endless construction on the streets of Bushwick. There were still quite a few of my belongings left in the old place, but my mum and wonderful best friend went to pick it all up for me last week so I didn't have to deal with it. I just don't know if I could have faced any more moving at that point.

Setting up home has been so much fun, apart from the fact that every time we save some money, we end up spending on very important things... Necessary things of course, but the money part is beginning to worry me, as we have 4 weeks left until the baby gets here... I know deep down everything will be fine, but I am taking 2 months off, and am not used to not making my own money and not being financially independent! All for a very, very good cause though, as I will be busy looking after our little Munchie and giving her the best start in life that we can give her. Buying a new couch was the most fun part, turning up at Bob's Furniture and walking around trying all types of different couches, and looking at sectionals as we have the space for one. We ended up going for a lovely coffee coloured one with large pillows and enough room for us to both lie down on it and watch TV on our brand new 42 inch HDTV... Which we ended up getting at a super discount price because someone had messed up on the pricing at Best Buy... There are still boxes and boxes that need to be emptied or put away, but there is no real rush with this. I've been doing one or two a night, and trying to imagine how I would like our home to look like when it is all done. I feel like we are finally really making a home for our family, a place that is ours and no one else's!

I'm still working 40 hours a week, and C. is still at his 60 plus hours, and it's been a little strange for us both as I am now working day times and he is still working the usual night time hours. We are going to have to make real efforts to spend enough time together on this schedule as I spent a lot of the first week feeling a bit thrown off and missing him, even though we live together and work on the same premises. I know he did too. Thankfully we both have Wednesdays off together still and these have become even more important than before. We have been trying to explore our new neighbourhood (we already have found "our" deli and "our" diner), looking for places to eat and shop and hang out. It's been a little difficult with the weather that has limited my movements a lot (on top of the fact that I get tired fast when I am walking now, as Munchie is really growing fast). I love how multicultural the neighbourhood is, how there is a church that has service in 5 different languages on Sundays, that it feels like it's still NYC, but a little quieter and more relaxed than where I lived in Brooklyn before. Then again, I wasn't too happy when I had to get the shuttle bus instead of the subway last week and people kept pushing me, despite the fact that I have a very obvious baby bump. I'm sorry to anyone who got my elbow in their face, but being pushed and squashed makes me do those type of things!

ALISON TOON: Jade and Cesar &emdash; Jade and Cesar


I don't really want to get started on the whole getting up and giving your seat to a disabled, elderly or pregnant person on the subway, but I do want to mention it. I was brought up in countries where this was a normal thing to do. You don't look up, look at a person and look down again, without getting up from your seat. Yes, maybe I chose to be pregnant and ride the subway, but standing up for long periods of time in a crowded subway at this point in my pregnancy actually makes me feel light-headed and faint, and easily able to lose my balance. In any case, it's always other women who give me their seat, never has a man offered his seat, not even when I am standing right above them. I'm not the type to ask for a seat, nor am I going to glare at you angrily to make you feel bad, but people need to be a little more aware. It's quite sad really! The best moment for me was the time I asked a woman to move her bag so I could sit down and was looked at as if I were some kind of cockroach trying to crawl into her personal space. Of course I didn't feel bad ha!

 My amazing mother came out for a week to help us with everything and to participate in the baby shower that my lovely best friend threw for me. It was really perfect, as I really don't like being the centre of attention, but she made it into a lovely tea party at the Kings' Carriage House where people I love joined me to celebrate the impending arrival of my little girl. Everyone has been so generous and it is really helping us get ready for having a baby in our home. I have the best people in my life, and I hope I am the same type of friend to them as they are to me. Mum took some wonderful photos of the afternoon that display how lovely (and pink) it really was. You can see them HERE

ALISON TOON: Jade baby shower &emdash; Jade's baby showerSo this is it really... Four weeks left (give or take a few depending on when she decides its time to come out), and I am hovering between stages of feeling elated and intensely nervous. Not about the actual birth which still feels like something surreal that is going to happen but that I have no idea how, but more about afterwards. Am I going to be able to breastfeed easily? Is everything going to be OK? Will I be a good mother?!? Will my baby be happy and healthy?

In the meantime I shall continue to feel content and to breathe through all the mini moments of panic, and just know that everything WILL be OK. Both C and I are happy and healthy and are prepared to do anything to make sure our child is happy and healthy too. And I really really really can't wait to finally meet her outside of the womb, and talk to her little face and tell her how she spent the last month inside me kicking my ribs and making me laugh.

This continues to be the most amazing journey of my life.


For more of my mother, Alison Toon's photos from her recent stay here and more check out her website here: Alison Toon

Ramblings: Ah Jamaica!




 
I’m glad the holidays are over this year, as I really wasn’t feeling into them. I ended up regretting not going out to California or to England to be with my family, but at the same time I knew it wasn’t really going to be possible to take a whole week off, with work shifts needing to be covered, and the idea of planning a trip seemed too tiring. I felt very lethargic and uninspired for most of the month of December, in dire need of a holiday somewhere different and exciting, a new kind of adventure.

I mentioned to my mum that I wanted to go to Jamaica in January and that she should come with me. Next thing I knew we had plane tickets and a hotel room booked for a week at the end of January. All of a sudden life seems brighter again, and I have something to look forward to. A holiday in the sun in the middle of the cold New York winter, a trip to a country that I have always wanted to go to. It always seemed like some type of dream, Jamaica, but now it will finally be coming true. A real holiday, not one visiting family, but a holiday in a place I have never been to. It’s been a while since I have done something like this, as most of my time off over the past few years has been used going to California or England. Don’t get me wrong, I love my family and miss them a lot, and am always happy to visit them, but I miss travelling and creating my own little adventures, discovering places and people, taking photos and being inspired to write new stories and essays and poems.

We will be flying into Montego Bay and staying there for 6 glorious days. It looks like the temperature will be around 84 degrees every day and the ocean is warm enough to swim and snorkel in. I can’t wait to wear shorts again and walk barefoot in the sand with the sun warming my face, feeling free to do whatever I want, whenever I want. I’ve never been to the Caribbean before, and I haven’t been on holiday with my mum for years so it’s going to be a wonderful holiday that we both need so much. The main point of this holiday is going to be relaxation but also adventure; neither of us wanted to stay in an all-inclusive resort for the week – I want to be able to feel safe, but also really see life in Jamaica. I know that safety is important and I doubt I will be as reckless as I was when I backpacked around Egypt in my 20’s; but I want to explore and eat and drink and dance and meet people and collect as many different impressions and stories and photos so that I can use it all at a later date in my writing and photography.

To my delight I also discovered that there is a Jazz and Blues Festival taking place in Montego Bay while we are there. I really really want to go, not only for the artists, but also just for the atmosphere. I love music and I love shows and I love being surrounded by people who love music as much as I do. That coupled with being on holiday in a new and unknown place just makes it all the more exciting! So expect many posts when I come back, full of impressions and feelings and photos and anything else I can conjure up about my trip. I doubt I will write much while I am there as I will be too busy exploring, but hopefully I will be back with a renewed creativity and motivation!

Love Story: Bella the Great Dane

Three and a half years ago, after my sister moved back to California with her dog Fury, my mum was looking to adopt another dog, as her big house on the bay in Long Island felt lonely without one. She had always dreamed of owning a Great Dane, and after some searches found a couple looking to have their dog adopted because they were moving to a smaller place down south and didn’t think they would have enough room for her.


Bella arrived one Sunday afternoon in March 2009. A pure breed blue Great Dane, tall even for this species of dog, super skinny and extremely skittish. When her original owners left her at the house all she could do was run in circles around the couch and pee with fright whenever we tried to approach her. My mum spent months and months coaxing her out of her frightened shell, making her feel at home and safe, training her to walk on a leash (in the three years of her life she had never walked outside of a backyard on a leash), and trying to understand why she was so scared of everything. Ever tried to hold a scared Great Dane on a leash when the wind ruffles something in a bush, or a car honks suddenly? It’s like trying to hold down a bolting, non-broken colt. They jump in the air. High. Taking all of their 100+ pound weight with them. We realised that Bella had not been treated well, probably abused, and never loved and cared for in the way that she should have been. There were days when I know my mum was near to giving up, but she never did.

Three years down the line, Bella is a happy, 150+ pound dog who now lives in California with my mum, sister and brother, Fury and the fat cat Muffin. She is much loved and cared for, and spends her time following my mum around the garden, sleeping on her bed right by my mum’s desk while she is working and demanding cuddles and hugs whenever she can. There is not a sweeter, more docile and gentle dog in the world. I spent a lot of time with her on Long Island before my mum moved back to California too. I taught her to run in the snow after the blizzards at the end of 2010, let her use my bed as her own when I wasn’t in it, taught her how to jump on the couch and watch Lost with me, even though she wasn’t really allowed to, and helped my mum teach her that it was OK to be happy and be loved, and that she didn’t need to be scared of anything anymore. I obviously don’t get to see her much anymore, a couple of times a year when I am able to go and visit my family in California, but she always remembers my voice, always follows me around like a devoted friend, and always looks up at me with those big eyes full of love. It’s amazing what a lot of love and caring can do for an animal. It makes me happy to think that although her first three years were probably full of pain, fear and abuse, at least the three years after that were full of love and happiness.

A few weeks ago the vet diagnosed Bella with bone cancer. It started in her back leg, and although it hasn’t travelled to her lungs or other organs yet, it will. There is nothing anyone can do but make her feel comfortable until she is not comfortable anymore. Painkillers and muscle relaxers, and a lot of help walking around, as the lump in her leg is growing and jumping up on couches and running around aren’t really options anymore. From talks with my mum and the rest of the family I gather that her condition is worsening quite fast, and it breaks my heart to think that I may never get to run around the garden, cuddle her or just talk to her again. It breaks my heart even more to think of what my mum is going through right now, because even though she is putting on a tough face, I can hear her heart breaking across the thousands of miles that separate us. 

My mum, who also happens to be a wonderful photographer, has been documenting Bella’s life in our family from day 1, and it’s amazing to see how she has grown and changed over the years, from the skinny, scared shell of a dog, to the big, happy, mischievous dog that she is now. The collection of photos that she has put together can be found HERE. The first page also contains Bella’s story in my mum’s words.




"Little" Bellington - giant dog with a heart of gold <3>

Photography: Back To Film

WaitingYellow LilyWalking down the hillWaiting to be fedTwo Pink LiliesStark Morning
Split beach & waterSmiling FlowersSan Francisco houseSailing BoatRock and BayRed gladioli
Purple HeadPink RosePink LilyPensiveOpen your armsMum
Look outLanternsLagunaJapantown SFGolden Gate under fogFoxgloves
Back To Film, a set on Flickr.

It had been a while since I picked up the old Canon AE-1 and took it out for a stroll, mainly due to the fact that I can't always afford to develop film nowadays, and I probably won't again for a while after this... This is a collection of photos taken last year and over the last few days, taken from three rolls of film.

Grainy, overexposed, direct sunlight, colourful, portraits, candid shots, water, flowers, people, San Francisco, Lake Tahoe... For some reason I ended up with a few images that are split, containing half of the first frame and half of the second. Although not purposely, I know exactly what I did to make this happen, and they actually ended up looking pretty cool, so I may try it again sometime.  The best surprise was the picture of Charlie and Deej, taken last year when Thought Forms were on tour with Portishead - I had totally forgotten I had taken it!


Music Review: Marillion at The Fillmore, SF


 I was blessed growing up with young parents who had amazing tastes in music. While other kids my age were listening to pop music, I was doused in artists such as Tim Buckley and Michael Chapman, Bob Dylan, T-Rex, The Sisters of Mercy, Joy Division, The Clash, David Bowie, The Jam, to name a few. We never really had that much money so I just have to assume that record shopping for my mum was just the same as CD shopping was for me in my teens - a lot of browsing and choosing very carefully; saving up just to buy that one coveted album, sometimes making a mistake and sometimes being blown away by something new and amazing.


In 1985 my mother was looking for a new record and came across Misplaced Childhood by a band called Marillion. The record artwork inspired her to buy the album, and that started a 27  year love story that is most likely to continue until they decide to retire from music. I think I see Marillion somewhat as part of the background music of my childhood, a band that I would never really listen to as a personal choice, but would enjoy whenever my mum played them. About 6 months ago they finally decided to tour the US again, after 12 years of not touring here, so my mum decided to buy us all tickets, and also to fly me over from NYC for a vacation that coincided with the show. She also managed to win meet and greet passes, as well as a couple of photo passes for myself and her. Bear in mind that she has waited about 27 years to see them live as she was never able to see them before for multiple different reasons, so this was all pretty huge for her.


Not only was I blown away by an absolutely tremendous live show, with a setlist that spanned their entire catalogue of 17 albums, but seeing the anticipation and happiness on my mother's face all through-out the night was totally priceless. She is still grinning today while uploading her photos, and I am trying to write this so that I can not only do the band, but her, justice as well. There really is something special about going to a show where you really don't know what to expect, and walking away feeling like you have been pulled and tossed through a musical magic house. Magical just because for nearly 3 hours I felt like I was hearing an old friend play for me, while simultaneously it was as if I was seeing a band with completely new ears and eyes. H (Steve Hogarth)'s voice rips over the crowd and soars through the air - from the moment he appeared on one of the side balconies for the first song, til the end of the third encore, where finally he let the audience do most of the singing. While H is a purely natural performer, at times reminding me of Peter Murphy in the way that he is so expressive with his whole body, the rest of the band are just as energetic and expressive in their own ways. Guitar tunes that are emotional, going from light melodies to incessant screams, pounding drum beats, eerie keys and beautiful bass lines, surrounded by that voice that fills the entire venue = Jade music heaven. And the rest of the audience seemed to think the same way too!!


In addition to all of the above - it was my first time at The Fillmore in San Francisco - what an awesome venue! I want to work there (although that would mean moving to San Francisco, and I don't think I could leave NYC just for a concert venue). There are original concert posters framed all around the walls of the upstairs auditorium - from the 60's to today's date. I wanted to take a load of them home with me and hang them in my apartment. Gorgeous psychedelic artwork. I don't know if they do it anymore, but apparently there was a tradition where they would give the audience free copies of the posters when they left the show. Really cool idea.


All in all a really wonderful experience. You can see the rest of my photos HERE, but for a lot more, and much, much better photos (as my mother also happens to be one of the best photographers I know), check out my mum's gallery HERE (link also below). Now I'm going to get her to listen to Spiritualized so that she can join me next time I see them, and experience them live in the same way that I experienced Marillion last night.

Setlist:
Splintering Heart
Cover My Eyes
Slàinte Mhath
The Other Half
Fantastic Place
The Great Escape
Easter
Afraid of Sunlight
Power
King
Sugar Mice
Man of a Thousand Faces
Neverland
Encore:
The Invisible Man
Encore 2:
This Strange Engine/Ocean Cloud
Encore 3:
Happiness Is the Road

More information:
Alison Toon - Marillion at The Fillmore photo gallery
Marillion.com
The Fillmore

Photograhy: California Garden

Yellow to RedYellow LilyWebVegetablesTomatoesSunlight on the Rose
SunflowersSquashSquash FlowerSoft LilySmiling FlowerRose and Bee
RedRed VelvetRed and YellowPurplePlumsPink Roses
Pink LilyOrangesOrange LilyOleanderHydrangeaHerbs
California Garden, a set on Flickr.

Back to colour today! My mother has an amazing ability to take any garden and turn it into a beautiful area full of colour and comfort. I first saw this new house in California when she moved back here about a year and a half ago, and it was pretty bare apart from the pool, some grassy areas, trees and oleander bushes. When I came back last July she had already done some work on it, but now, a year later, the place is looking stunning, all types of flowers everywhere and a huge vegetable garden in one section, with everything you really need to survive (beets, lettuce, carrots, zucchini/courgettes, radishes, artichokes, beans, squash, pumpkins, tomatoes etc etc). If you also include meat as a staple, there are a bunch of wild turkeys strolling around the place, and unless they get eaten by the coyotes they are fair game if you can catch them.
The garden is part English, part French, part American, part Secret Garden. Oh and did I mention that there is a little creek running alongside it and the property is surrounded by trees? Pretty paradisaical for a city property! I love coming here to relax and rest.

You can see more about the actual gardening process on my mum's blog HERE.