Twitter Updates

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Life in Chennai # 19: Massages Good and Bad

The vast industry of hair salons, products and marketing is the reverse here in Chennai than in North America in that it is all geared predominantly for men rather than women. Supply and demand of course. Here boys and men coif their hair, spent hours in the salon, strut about town with dramatic moustaches and, ala 1950’s Hollywood, carry combs in their back pocket. Women on the other hand wear their hair long and straight and held back pretty much as is. So 180 degrees to the trends at home. So here there are hundreds of men’s salons (or saloons as they are variously signed, I’m unsure if this is a purposeful marketing ploy or merely a poor spelling), but my female expat friends consistently complain about the inability to get a decent haircut (and risk of trying).

This of course is mostly all wasted on me given my current (and unfortunately permanent) hair style of clipped short, but on the plus, it does mean finding a place is convenient. I’ve become a regular at one just around the corner from me and I usually drop in on my way home. They don’t speak a whole lot of English, but the demands of what I want are pretty simple so we have sorted it all out.

So in I go the other day, sitting down for my usual cut using the clippers with a 1 guard. At most places, the hair cut comes with a 20 minute “relaxation” head massage. I typically skip this to for getting home to dinner a little sooner, but today I decided to give it a go.

And it was...interesting... I really like having my head and face massaged. But I can’t say this was so much a massage as more a vigorous beating. I can’t say it was particularly relaxing either. My guy appeared to be new to the salon (saloon?) and it at first seemed they were just letting him go and do his own thing on me and see what he did. But I later revised his skill level or at least my appraisal of his musical background when he kept excellent rhythm drumming my head in sync to the music video playing on the TV down the row. Realising this made me have to stifle a giggle, which may have just encouraged him. Oh dear. His technique in the end was probably quite good for what it was. It just wasn’t the kind of “relaxing” head massage I was expecting and it left my scalp feeling if not sore, certainly very invigorated.

So I suppose I need to revise my statement and qualify it as I usually like my head and face massaged.

So my massage goes on for quite a while, far longer than 20 minutes. No one bothers to stop him I suppose and I don’t have a watch on. I do actually feel more uplifted and relaxed at the end, but I question how much that has to do with the massage, how much is the aromatic oil he’s used, how much is because I found the whole experience humorous and how much is simply because sitting, closing your eyes and doing nothing for 20 minutes is calming in its own right. I tend to think the actual massage was the least contributor of the four! But whatever, I suppose the results speak for themselves...

For the grand finale of the massage though, he strapped this giant, clunky metal motor thing to the back of his hand. It looked like some oversized ray gun out of a cheesy ancient sci-fi flick. It looked serious bizarre and like a good, heavy weapon in case of a fight, like if the other guy pulls out brass knuckles, you just smile and put this bad boy on and watch his eyes go wide! He turns it on and magic: it turns his head into a vibrator. Killer idea and this, I have to report, is relaxing and very nice on the scalp, face and ears. I’ll keep things PG and will let you make your own obvious leap of imagination to other uses for such an item. If it wasn’t so bulky and didn’t appear to draw enough power to dim the lights for half a block, it would make next year’s Christmas gift craze for sure. I can’t imagine it is that good for the user long term (carpal tunnel syndrome anyone?), but this at least met the promised muscle relaxant. Just glad he didn’t cuff me with his gauntleted backhand for laughing again... :-)

This is not my first experience with notable massages here in Asia though...

Being in India, one cannot go without trying a proper Ayurvedic massage. Ayurvedic medicine is an ancient system practiced here in India. Part of “alternative medicine” from the perspective of the West, it has proved effective when done properly and is very scientific and systematic in its approach. Like most traditional medicines, it focuses on holistic health and cures over targeted and kill-the-bad-bugs Western style. But proper health care aside, it has entered mainstream and mass marketing most fluidly as a questionably effective subset: massage and essential oils – things easily packaged and sold and most importantly things easiest to pretend expertise and credentials of. So proper Ayurvedic clinics are common enough, but everyone and their brother is adding “Ayurvedic” treatments to their spas, soaps, room fresheners, skin creams and you know the drill. It fits bang on into the world’s current obsession with herbal and essential oil additions to everything (many of which probably do have valid therapeutic effects, just not in the uncontrolled or miniscule doses that are in most of the products hawking them). If Ayurveda has not hit North America yet, don’t worry, it will, guaranteed, certainly on the west coast.

Anyway, back to my story, when I was in Mahabilapuram some months back, an area with a lot of tourist influence, I figured my back and neck were tight and I should try ones of the Ayurvedic massages that was being advertised up and down the street. So I made an appointment and later that day found myself on a table, literally drenched in aromatic oils and absolutely naked being worked on by a Keralan guy who claimed extensive credentials. No bothered by Western modesty, many Asian massages are done completely without clothes. Good thing I’m not shy about such things as I had not had warning going in.

Now maybe I’ve got too vivid an imagination or maybe I’m just too into touch (and am mildly ticklish besides), but I find full-body massage – and doubly worse here being oiled and naked – as entirely too much stimulation to ever fully relax. I mean come on! I may not be turned on by this mildly homoerotic fantasy, but seriously how does anyone handle these things without having to concentrate on igloos and icebergs?

Oh well, the massage goes well enough after a spell. I stop alternating between wanting to squirm and giggling at myself for it and the work on my tight shoulders and neck did what I had hoped to ease tension from bad ergonomics at work and too little exercise. I don’t have any background or prior experience in Ayurveda so I can’t vouch for its authenticity or whether it did anything more than a regular massage, but for a good deep massage, it was worth the paltry cash outlay. After, he gives me a bucket of mud stuff to get all the oil off with and a place to shower and I leave feeling slightly like I should want a cigarette or something. ;-)

A couple months later I get another massage, this time at the fancy spa in my 5-star hotel in Udaipur, with the usual little towel and a pretty Filipino masseuse, and I decide that I am just not wired for the full body massage thing as a relaxation tool. Just too much for me. The only exception maybe being Thai massages because in my experience there is just no way to feel sexy once you are doused in tiger balm and the slight woman has tied you into a pretzel and dug into deep muscles you didn’t know existed.

And that, I’m sure, is far more information than you needed to know about me, but I figured it was worth sharing for the story! ;-)

Monday, August 27, 2007

Photoblog #2: Vancouver's Playground

Telling stories of my adventures to a friend the other day I suddenly really missed my crew in Vancouver and just how much and how well we took advantage of Vancouver’s incredible recreation potential. So I thought I’d do a quick photo blog of some of my favourite memories and what fun looks like back home.

But rather than the best shots, I thought I’d pull up some of my best and humorous memories of these trips.

Normal is a highly subjective term and adventures are what you make them. Vancouver’s rugged and varied playgrounds, while close-by, aren’t necessarily convenient to get to. Long hikes in through deep forest, steep slopes. Conditions challenging enough for one of my friends to have inventing a bushwhacking scale (B1=trail to B5=you have to use roots and bush to physically pull yourself upwards). And the weather sucks half the time (and the other half it’s raining). But some of my happiest times have been spent with these people, whether at ocean-side campfire or alpine cook stove, under the stars or a tarp, following trail or temporarily unsure of our exact whereabouts (aka absolutely lost). Whatever the situation, we’re having fun, or if not exactly then, well, we laugh about it later. :-)

1) Cold, what cold?
The boys unjustifiably happy in their lovely matching size XXL down jackets. Where Tim finds these things is beyond me. This is us winter camping and ski touring. Yes, those parkas are necessary. Yes, those are shots of whiskey they are drinking. Yes, it is breakfast time. Things you do when it is 40 below zero. All for the chance of some great turns and fresh, light powder (a rarity on the wet West Coast).

This weekend was one adventure after another. We came in at night after a week of cold, light snow. No one had been in for a while and making fresh tracks with our skins skiing into camp was magical and moving was fine despite the cold, the night air crisp and stars vivid. No having a destination in mind, we had skied a hour further along the trail above this field before turning back and camping here. It was a chilly night in the sleeping bags and all our warm clothes on, but restful...until our friend Wilson inexplicably tramps into our campsite at 3 am. Where the Hell did he come from?

So earlier that evening Wilson had forgotten his poles and had returned, angry, to Vancouver to get them with plans to follow us in and meet up with us in the morning. But unbeknown to us, upon retrieving his poles he had turned right around and followed our tracks up, alone except for his 2 dogs, at 1am. Skiing by headlight, he didn’t see our camp and followed our tracks all the way up the trail…to where they suddenly stopped dead in the middle of nowhere. You see, when we had turned around, we had simply turned our skis 180 degrees where we stood and glided back down. But to Wilson, tired and in the middle of the night, it appeared they just ended. With much swearing that can be imagined, he dug himself a snow cave and crawled in to get a nap. It was well below -40. After an hour he figured what we had done and came back down to find us. More swearing and yelling and some shifting around in the tents and another par for the course.

2) Trips '05 - Olympic Park - 02When the trail isn’t hardcore enough, just add weight.
Hiking in to Olympic Park, Washington early in the season over the Canadian May long weekend. No, you don’t have to hike with such huge packs. We were only going in for 3 days, but as this was not a strenuous trek, we were determined to replace that by living it up. You see we were hiking into a site with natural hotsprings. Mmmnn, hot springs! Campsite comforts carried included a giant 25 ft square tarp to build our own little world out of the rain (you can see me carrying it), 2 boxes of wine to pass the evening in the hotsprings, gourmet food for dinners and plenty of warm and cozy clothes. We did go for a hike one day, but otherwise spent lost of time either dry in camp or wet in the sulphur-smelling steam.

3) They call this skiing? The Great White North...Trips '05 - Mt Baker - 05Sally and Ros carrying their skis up to the snowline at Mt Baker. Yes, you can ski in June in Washington State. But as you can see, the snow doesn’t start exactly at the base...But the work is worth it and hey, it certainly keeps down the crowds.

But if it all seems utter folly, here is all the nice snow looking the other way:
Trips '05 - Mt Baker - 04No we didn’t ski the icefield in the foreground. But we did play in it on a previous trip to practice our crevasse rescue skills – like a big 3-D puzzle. We didn’t make the summit of Baker this day, but I had been up there before. Skis are definitely the way to go though, way easier going up and way faster coming down.

4) Trips '05 - Sechelt Inlet - 04 - Paul's UmbrellaCan laziness and a sense of humour be said to be the mother of invention?
Why open an umbrella when in the spray a foot off the ocean? Why not? He’s trying to use it as a sail. He brought it all the way from Vancouver just to try this. And even funnier, no one else commented when we packed it in the boat. Actually, it worked quite well, at least in one direction. The good thing about sea kayaking is the weight and form factor are not as much issues as with backpacking. So if you want a jug of juice or cans of peaches, or an umbrella, got ahead and stuff them in.

5) Trips '04 - Tetrahedron - 34Sloped roof + snow = ski run. Duh, obviously!
Skiing and snowshoeing in Tetrahedron Park, we stayed in the great cabins maintained by the Tetrahedron ski club. There are 4 in the park, this being the furthest. It hadn’t been used in a while and we had to dig out the bottom storey (it is the second storey balcony you see in the shot) before embarking on some play trying to ski jump off the roof.

Nothing beats staying in an alpine cabin with a group of friends, playing cards, drinking lots of tea and shooting the shit by candlelight.

This little adventure was livened with Tim lit the counter on fire and Sally, being a “safety first” kind of guy, emptied the fire extinguisher over half the cabin. Let me tell you, fire retardant, while working well, makes one hell of a mess. Took us a couple hours to get the place clean and involved wrangling anything that wasn’t bolted down outside into the snow. We mailed the club a nice donation when we got home...

Other adventures included Binty (the dog) falling through the ice in the lake, Binty falling into a deep hole in the snow, Caleb getting caught in his harness and sliding down half the hill on his back, very creative and ambitious (but successful, more or less) route-making.

6) Trips '06 - Tofino in June - 02 - Wilson taking a breakHardcore surfing in Tofino.
Wilson showing us how it is done. In all seriousness though, this is really the life. We’ve got these surfing weekends down to a fine art. We spend our days on the beach, one surf in the morning, a nap and lunch, then another surf or 2 as the day and waves progress. Then dinner of fresh seafood over the fire and Coleman stoves. The campsite has hot showers to take off and put on your wetsuit and fire pits to keep you warm. Eat plenty of good food and drink cheap canned beer. Invite your friends. Repeat as necessary.

We’ll surf summer or winter. Winter is better waves, sometimes snow, always rain, no crowds and really, once you’ve got the wetsuit on, you’re fine.

7) No, I’m not scared of heightsTrips '06 - Climbing the CamelThis was a great day climbing. What more can I say?

8) And you thought being voted off the island was bad!Trips '04 - Mt Wedge - 15The behind-the-scenes they don’t show you in the hardcore magsTrips '04 - Mt Wedge - 21Route? What route? Sally trying to make out where we came through this maze on the way up. He doesn’t exactly inspire confidence up front there does he... ;-)

Climbing Mt Wedge north of Vancouver in a late season October day, the lower glacier was bare and a maze of route-finding. You’d have to go 40 feet sideways and back in order to move 10 feet forward. It was great fun. And you can’t beat the beauty of the area. Wedgemount Lake below is a popular hiking and camping spot, reachable in a long daytrip on a solid trail.

9) Trips '06 - Currie-Wedge Traverse - 19 - Tim and dogs towards Lesser WedgeDogs don’t go in straight lines.
The pups are a regular feature of many of our trips. This trip we had three, nearly one per person. Missy (short for Mischief), the little runt Siberian Husky in the foreground is the most trouble. She’s fine as long as she’s pointed the way you want to go, but if she gets behind you and going back, it can take an hour to catch her. Taz, a wolf-sheppard cross, is her older brother up ahead. He’s great, loyal and strong. But he is absolutely chicken with water deeper than his knees and is nearly as stubborn as his owner, Willy. Caleb (out of frame) on the other hand will plough through anything – snow, water, sand – and will happily even jump cliffs if Tim calls him to. He’s only balked at descending a slope once and to be honest, I wasn’t so keen on it either.

I make fun of them, but I love the pups. They can come on any trips that don’t involve crevasses or vertical terrain. They usually carry their own food and water. Now if only we could get them to bring us liquor like the St.Bernards...

10) Trips '04 - Mt Rainier - 64Truthfully, we only climb mountains so we can glissade down...
Tim boot-skiing down Mt. Rainer. Yes, we climbed Mt. Rainier and I am showing you a blurry pic of boot skiing…these are the fun moments I remember!

Climbing Rainer is a funny venture: you basically climb at night and sleep in the afternoon. We’d get up ungodly early, have a quick breakfast and then climb until noon, have lunch then nap. We’d get up, have dinner, arrange gear and go back to bed. We’d then get up at midnight or 1am and do this again. Friday AM to low camp, Sat AM to high camp. Sun AM to the summit and back to high camp. I remember it being really hard to sleep during the day with the sun on the tent, the wind rattling the door and you’re at altitude (we live at sea level remember) suddenly.

Another funny story from Rainier. So the group next to us gets up an hour earlier and leaves and we find it strange they’ve taken their tent, but figure maybe they wanted the safety. When we arrive back at camp later that morning, we see them all huddled over a large crevasse. We watch them for a while as we unpack our gear. Suddenly one guy appears out of the crevasse towing their tent! It had been extremely windy that night and between when they left and we got up the whole tent, gear and all, had been pulled off its stakes and blown down the slope, thankfully into a reachable crevasse. Funnier still is this was not the first tent rescue we saw that weekend.

Glissading by the way is the technical mountaineering jargon for sliding down the hill on your butt. It is nearly as fun as boot skiing (and easier) except your bum usually gets wet unless you’ve got really good waterproof pants.

OK, so these are the fun, the humorous and the slightly crazed. If you were hoping for the sweeping shots, I’ve put together some sets from my Flickr photos you can browse (, but since my mom at least doesn’t have the bandwidth to browse Flickr, here is a sample of a few of my favourite shots and memories of the adventure part of our trips:Trips '04 - Mt Rainier - Camp 2High camp, Mt.Rainier. One of the most stunning locations I’ve made camp.

Trips '04 - Mt Rainier - 27Mt. Rainer. You don’t have to go to Alaska or the Himalayas to find big glaciers

Trips '05 - Garibaldi - 21 - Todd & our playgroundTodd surveying the route ahead, deep in Garibaldi Park. One of my favourite shots. Garibaldi is a wilderness playground of glaciers within an hour or two of Vancouver.

Trips '05 - Garibaldi - 31 - climbing ParapetSummitting Parapet in Garibaldi Park. It is not as long as it looks, we came down off Isosceles to the right. Actually, the day was longer than it looks, but amazing.

Trips '06 - Tantalus - 18 - snow ridge on Tantalus N ridgeSnow ridge on Tantalus

Trips '04 - Joffre Group - 27The sun setting the ice-crystal clouds glowing above Joffre and Matier

Trips '04 - Joffre Group - 36Coming back down onto the aqua coloured Joffre Lakes.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Life in Chennai # 18: Sleep well, eat well

You just have to laugh. Good thing I can generally sleep through anything.

I happen to live a couple buildings down from a temple. OK, rewind that. In Chennai, that is like saying you live a couple buildings down from a Starbucks on the West Coast (if you can throw a rock in Vancouver and not hit a coffee shop, a sushi joint and a yoga studio, then you’re inside). Here, as a function of the diverse and personalized nature of Hindu worship and a simple matter of population, there are temples pretty much every few blocks, from tiny roadside shrines to sky-reaching monuments.

So, anyway, the good-sized temple I live beside started marking an auspicious time and started doing pooja (worship of the Deities of the Hindu religion). At 4am. Over the loudspeaker. 5 days ago. From 4am to 10pm, solid. Friday, Saturday and Sunday. I think they skipped parts of Monday for some reason, although maybe I just stopped noticing. Which is remarkable, because we’re talking loud. But break or my imagination, they were back at it again this morning for day #5, (although with a later 6am start). So hearing and experiencing what their pooja is cool and I have absolute respect for the varied Hindu traditions, but to be perfectly frank, I am not sure why it has to be done over the loudspeaker where I cannot turn it off. I assume everyone at the temple can hear just fine (although maybe not anymore), but over the speakers, it projects like they are piping the broadcast directly into my flat. And of course not being a morning person myself, I cannot fathom why anyone or any god would require anything at 4am. It is simply wrong, wrong, wrong! Not better black and white you’ll ever get out of me! ;-)

Truly, I wish I could share it with you though! My parents caught a piece over the phone the other night, but it is hard to convey with words. It is actually louder inside than out on the street, maybe some weird acoustic thing. I tried making a recording on my camera’s video mode, but it didn’t do it justice. But to give you an idea, it is like waking up on the couch with the TV on super loud because you fell asleep watching it drunk. Or for those who perhaps that example doesn’t resonate, it is like going about your day with a really loud stereo going, always. We actually had to shout over breakfast!

Ahh, India. The first morning, being unexpected, it was a bit annoying, but mostly, I find it just another amusing example of the hundreds of little things you just cannot take for granted here. On the plus side though, I was a real keener getting to work early on Friday. I wish I understood more of what was going on. My housemates and close colleague at work all coincidentally being Christian, they haven’t been much help and what little they’ve explained I’ll withhold so as to not make myself even more ignorant than I already am. Actually, now knowing a little Tamil, I expected to understand more of what was being said, but it was either too esoteric or most likely just too garbled by the low quality amplification. There have been sections of leading prayer and reciting verse, sections of rhythmic chanting and many sections of various kinds of music (no hip hop though unless I missed that set while at work on Friday). I’m not a super fan of traditional carnatic music, it takes a certain appreciation, but much of it was nice; some I noted would have been great with a nice funky base line. I liked the drum sets though. I suppose I shouldn’t really call them sets – it isn’t like they were down there with a DJ spinning (of course I shouldn’t assume…) – but the term works so bear with me.

As I started with, thank God I can sleep with pretty much anything going on. But one side effect was that I had some seriously fucked up dreams as my brain tried to incorporate the external stimulus, especially the chanting segments. I wish I could remember them better, but they always fade, just leaving that slightly disturbing residue of memory that my brain had been just mixing things that ought not be mixed, like coming in to find your 6-year old trying to bake cookies for the first time (does anyone else remember that horrid game show “just like Mom” that was on when we were growing up?).

Of course living with noise and inconveniences is a common adaptation for the most of us who now live in cities and apartment buildings the world over. Chennai is no different in this respect than Chicago or Calgary or Copenhagen. Perhaps garbage trucks bang bins (surely on purpose) in the back alley at 5:30am, maybe trucks grind gears along the nearby thoroughfare, or you have one of those neighbours (I’ve been one of those neighbours) who’s stereo base pounds through the walls 24-7. Dogs bark all night at whatever dumb-ass things dogs bark at, police sirens carry for miles and some jerk’s car alarm is going off, again, but we all somehow get along with the babble of cooking, shrieking and different tastes in music and TV programs carrying through the walls.

Here is no different, although of course we’ve got our own unique quirks. The newspaper wallah and a host of others I cannot identify by their distorted cries carries through the windows as soon as the sun is up. Traffic here produces a wider range of racket with the constant cacophony of beeps, squeaks and horns. The custom (requirement?) here is to have an audible reversing sound on your vehicle, which is usually some blaring, repetitive ring-tone like song. Everyone has ring-tones. But on the plus side, almost no one has car alarms, so major score on that one; the reversing sounds, which I despise, only last a minute (or 2 depending on the ability of the parker and the sketchiness of the space they are attempting). There are different urban bird and animal sounds, but not any more of them and nothing exotic. No monkeys or anything cool, although the peacocks made quite a raucous when I was staying in Jaipur last month. But all in all, I actually live on a quieter street than I have in times past: the concrete walls are much more soundproof than Western construction and I usually sleep with the overhead fan which does a good job in dulling most into its white noise.

Actually, being woken up repeatedly at early hours to singing and chanting reminds me (other than residence at University, of course) of a funny story of living in Vancouver during the 2002 FIFA World Cup. I was living with my girlfriend at the time just a couple blocks from a major downtown intersection, high up on the 15th floor. The World Cup was in Korea and Japan that year and games therefore were at crazy hours of the night Vancouver time. And every day for 2 weeks straight we were woken up at 4, maybe 5 in the morning to the sound of some group or other having an impromptu parade down Robson Street cheering and honking and waving their flags wildly. The honking would start and I’d blearily get up and lean my head out the window above the bed. “Who won?” she’d ask sleepily. “Italy, I think”; “Brazil today”; “Korea again” (they did particularly well that year and have a sizable population in the city). It didn’t matter who won – such is the diversity of the city – every morning without fail the nationals and supporters of the winner would suddenly sweep out from wherever they were managing to watch the game at that hour and parade down the street. It was like it was choreographed. On the plus side, we kept up on the standings. It is a fond and fun memory, no less in the telling. Such is city life, in all its randomness and bother. So I suppose I can be easy on the temple.

But there are other funny noises to deal with this week. We’ve got a cricket holed up in our kitchen and he’s been going solid for a couple hours now. I’ve gone in there to see if I can find him, to tell him, “sorry little guy, but I can pretty much guarantee there are no girl crickets living in our kitchen. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news. I appreciate your commitment and all to being the coolest, suavist, cricket in the yard, but man to man: they aren’t coming dude. Give it up.” Of course I couldn’t find the bugger so he’s still there. I hope he finds a way out. We had one living there for a couple weeks back in January and never could find where he was hiding.

Bugs and creatures are another thing you mostly have to get used to here in India. I suppose it is the climate as well as the fact that we’re rarely living in a sealed environment (our apartment actually has an open-air window to a central shaft running down the middle of the building, a peculiar, but common design element here so all the apartments are open to each other, though grated, and to the outside). So things find their way in pretty regularly and many just decide to stay and set up shop. I’m generally unfazed by it, although I do admit I jumped and shrieked like a kid trying to capture a giant cockroach that flew into my room one night. I know they are more scared of me and can’t do me any harm, but it is all their fast skittering and flying about! Leslie thought it all very funny, but she’s about as resilient as anyone I’ve met with this stuff. You get used to all sorts of things though and very few of the bugs are actually a bother (except mosquitoes of course).

We’ve got geckos. They’re cute. I talk to them. We have a new little one scurrying around that I sometimes surprise when I come out to go to the bathroom. I try to shoe him out of my room, but figure he is fine living under the fridge if he wants. Not like we can do anything about it anyway. They just wander in and out. And I figure they eat bugs so points to them.

We go through phases of having ant problems in the place, again coming in from the outside. They are mini ones, very common here. I don’t mind them except when they occasionally get into my dinner left out on the table. I don’t figure they’ll harm me though. You have to compromise some. Several of us living here have concurred on there being an ant quota. So if I open my dinner and there’s, say, less than 5 ants checking it out, fair game; above that it gets dicey. On the other hand though, there is no “5-second rule” for dropped food here. With nasty microbes and general grime here, if it hits the floor, it’s DOA.

And that’s the basics of shared living here. It isn’t the most pristine place I’ve lived long term and it isn’t the quietest, but it isn’t the sketchiest or loudest either. At university our decrepit place had mice and millipedes and at one place or another I’ve had the excitement of having a squirrel or bird or bat make its way inside and freak out (my cat particularly enjoyed having the bird around…and around and around). I’ve lived near a fire station with neighbours who had a rock band, the one living there being the drummer. And unlike good friends of mine, I haven’t had bed bugs or fleas. Everyone’s got their horror stories.

So give a cheery hello to whatever critters share your space with you while you eat your cornflakes and give your shared wall, floor or ceiling a couple good bangs just for a chummy “nice to know ya” to your neighbours. I’m sure they’ll appreciate it.