Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Where You End

I feel like I’ve moved into a hotel, albeit one that is weirdly furnished with my own possessions.

I think it’s the fact that I can sit in the armchair and put my feet on the pillow at the head of the bed; or how everything smells of chilli in the evening and tastes moist after my shower in the morning.

I’ve been compressed.

And despite the appearance of mementos on the wall, of my favourite records, of books I’ve yet to read and those I want to read again it doesn’t feel like home.
Instead it almost feels as though I’ve been jettisoned into here and left in a heap as reality sped off on its way down to Sussex.

Sunday was the first day when I didn’t have to be running around moving heavy boxes or sweeping or cleaning; it was the first day in about two months when there hasn’t been some utterly unpleasant task to undertake and the heaven’s open. Unimpressed I decided to stay in and try and get some writing done, try to grapple with my silent muse.

It’s difficult. There’s a theory (or I could just be inventing this as I go along) that writing is predominately about asking questions. The writer asks questions of himself, of his characters, of his understanding of the human condition and of his readers’ empathy and they in turn ask questions of the writer and of themselves. If it’s working well, that is. But there is just one question that keep pounding away in my mind.


I’ve asked time and again, but she won’t tell me. Or rather, she says that it’s something relatively trivial which causes me to protest and she’ll sigh, shake her head and whisper:

“Yeah, well. It isn’t really that anyway.”

Like blood from corn the truth won’t yield.

Perhaps I should try and forget her, move on, but it doesn’t seem that easy. Of course, it doesn’t help that I’ve moved onto Harefield Road where, almost to the day, ten years ago we would have walked, hand in hand, on my first visit to her in London from Brockley station to the student halls of residence on Wickham Road.

As someone more than a bit interested in history my own past lingers a bit too close to the surface sometimes. It keeps defining me even when I need to reinvent.

By Sunday afternoon the claustrophobia was starting to bite. Six hours in a space smaller than my old lounge and I wanted out. I stepped out into the rain, jacketless, and let the streams of water cascade down. They plastered my hair to my brow as my t-shirt become instantly heavier. I took off my glasses and looked up into the maelstrom; the cold thumlp of droplets hit me in the face and felt cleansing. I meandered aimlessly in tight circles around the drive, the fresh air inflating my lungs, the rain flushing through my eyes, down my face and lingering on my lips. Feelings can be misleading, though, and this wasn’t the final scene, but perhaps it was a start.

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

Here and there.

I’m halfway between two lives at the moment. Pre and post breakup. Half of me exists in a time and space where I’m alone in a tiny studio flat in Brockley with the half of my possessions that I’ve already moved. The other half still exists here, with Beck, in a space where as I type a version of this she can sit on the floor and make giant insect wings out of aluminium wire and tissue paper and we can chat perfectly happier.

In some ways it might be easier if we were throwing things at each other, in other ways it wouldn’t. I can’t read her anymore, which is odd. I can’t tell how well she’s acting, if indeed she is. I wonder how long it’s been since I could see into her. I didn’t notice when it happened, obviously.

This split existence, though, means there’s no stability inside my brain. Instead, it teeters on the edge of absolution for nothing. In the process of dividing and then packing up my life I find my attention span shattered. I can’t focus on anything for more than half an hour at a time. Writing has to be done in quick-fire bursts. I read a few chapters or half an article here and there. I get bored with cooking or cleaning or packing. I even half-drifted off driving the other day, and I think it’s because everything seems so futile. There is, for at least a part of me, no future. This is the end, so why bother?

If life was a work of fiction, a movie or a novel, I’d be slipping into the epilogue. Coming out the night would either be the poignant moment of reflection, of possibility, or the beautifully balanced final line that encapsulates all of life in six syllables.

Except it isn’t. Life is real and it just keep limping along.

I need to hurry up and start again properly so I can get back to all of me existing in the same point of reality.

And more pertinently, I need to find where I’ve accidently packed the fucking power cable for the laptop. This post might make it; it’ll a race of me versus the battery – both pretty much fading now...

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

Once Upon A Time

There’s an expression and I think it might be a bit of a Midlands thing, but I’m not entirely sure: To be on your tod. As in: “My ex-girlfriend spent the weekend in what was once our house gathering up her possessions and now she’s gone away again, leaving me sitting, amongst half-empty shelves and cupboards on my tod.”

I.E: alone.

Anyway, I’m going to tell you a little story:

“Once upon a time there was a young couple who loved each other very much. In public they were rarely all over each other, never seeming to just have eyes for each other, but in private they occasionally bordered on the nauseating. They had cutesy names for each other (albeit with a hint of the surreal – ‘My little sweet potato,’ ‘angel-toast’ etc, etc.) The man would often make inanimate objects, like vacuum cleaners, talk to the woman. He’d spin elaborate tales about endearing trees marooned on mountainsides. In short, he’d be very silly to make her laugh and then he’d laugh too and they’d look at each other and think about how much they were in love.

Despite how happy they were together occasionally one would have to go and leave the other behind. One of them would have to go away for work, or to see family or friends when the other had to stay at home for some reason and they were both a bit silly and overly melodramatic about being abandoned, but really they didn’t mind because they knew the other would be coming back.

Plus, they’d be on their tod.

Don’t you know what a tod is?

Well: A tod is a creature about the size of a Shetland pony. They are very furry (and a little smelly to be honest, but in an oddly enchanting way) with a big bushy tail, long droopy ears (like a donkey) and a bit trunk (like an elephant) and they have kind eyes and a wry grin.

Oh and they can fly, which makes solo international travel quite cheap, if a little chilly at eight thousand feet.

Whenever the man and the woman were forced to separate for prolonged periods of time then their tod would be there. Often they’d sit on the tod, but that was for convenience because the lounge in their flat wasn’t very big and the tod would inadvertently obscure the TV screen.

And the tods would be very considerate to their owners who missed their beloved enormously. The tods would comfort them with cups of tea (sometimes with a chocolate digestive or a custard cream) and smiles of encouragement.

When the couple were together the tods lived in the cupboard under the stairs, but they were quite happy. They had bales of straw to sleep upon and plenty of sausages and mash (their favourite) to eat. And every so often the tods would be able to help their owners even when they weren’t alone. The tods weren’t supposed to do this. Tod law was very strict about it, but these two particular tods were exceptionally fond of their owners and keen to please.

“What shall we have for tea tonight?” the couple would ask. (Invariably the answer to this would be sausages and mash, but then the couple liked that too.)

“Which dress shall I wear?” the woman would wonder. (Often the tods would recommend the purple one which flared out at the bottom because that was their favourite.)

“Where are my car keys?” the man would question. (Usually where he’d left them and the tods would dutifully pick them up with the long trunks).

The couple thought that they had a tod each, but since they were identical, only identified by the colour of their hats (one lime-green, the other lilac) they’d often play a joke on the couple and swap hats for both the tods loved the man and woman equally.

Then one day, quite unexpectedly, the woman announced that she no longer loved the man and was running away to the seaside. The man was surprised and upset and they exchanged cross words until the woman went around to a friend’s house for a cup of tea. The man clambered into the cupboard under the stairs and sat down on the warm straw and said:

“Well, old tod, it looks like it’ll be you and me a bit more than usual now.”

The tods looked very sad and nuzzled the man affectionately, breathing their warm sweaty breath into his ear as they knew he liked.

After a while the man went off to find some whisky to drink and the tods looked at each other and made distressed little whinnying noises.

For not only did the tods love both the man and the woman equally, and had both long ago forgotten which they originally belonged to, but the tods also loved each other. Whilst they didn’t want to abandon either the man or the woman in their hour of need they couldn’t bear the idea of being separated from each other.


The tods spent all night thinking hard, trying to come up with a solution, a way to get the woman to love the man again.

But they couldn’t.

So, in the morning when the man and woman sat down to an awkward breakfast the tods shuffled towards the table in unison and spoke up.

They explained how they’d fallen in love and now they wanted to elope to Gretna Green on a tandem and get married.

First the man and the woman were surprised and then they were upset. They hadn’t expected to lose their tods as well as each other. Now they really would be alone. But after a while they decided that it would be unfair to split the tods up after so
long together.

So the woman made the tods some tuna sandwiches for the journey and the man checked that the tyres were properly inflated on the tods’ tandem and then they waved the tods off as they cycled away, bound for Scotland.

“Maybe they’ll find another couple to help,” said the man.

“I hope so,” said the woman. “That’d be nice.”

And they looked at each other, both wondering how it had come to this. Neither broke their gaze until eventually the man smiled ever so slightly and then the woman turned away and went back inside the house.

The end.”

Trail run for possible alternative career as deranged children’s writer. Normal service, of a sort, resumes shortly.