Monday, 16 January 2017

Blue Monday

I don’t know what TS Eliot was on about, because quite frankly, I am pretty sure that January is the cruelest, meanest month going. Or perhaps it just happens to be this one.

As much as possible I have been trying to ignore what is happening outside in the world, to keep a grip on my well-being. More and more I am feeling a terrible pressure, something black creeping into my days. After a weekend of reading and watching the beautiful Mark Fisher who decided he’d had enough last Friday, I can feel this weight in its entirety.

We can tell ourselves it is a lack of sunlight, it makes things a lot simpler, but honestly the news is becoming more and more abstract, to the point where I feel stretched very thin, with a kind of stone in the pit of my stomach. It is beginning to feel as if evil is winning somehow. How have I even begun to think in these terms?

I am sure a few years ago I would have scoffed at and comfortably denounced the idea of good and evil with all its religious connotations and reductionism. Perhaps this is my privilege speaking, I don’t even know any more. I still think that human beings are hugely complex with multifarious motivations, so why do I feel as if there is some kind of dark force at play?

Is it that I am being sucked into the medieval currents that are smashing about at the moment? As a woman I am well versed in the language of oppression, so why should this feel different? I am trying not to be histrionic, I really am, but I can’t help but feel as if the baddies are taking over and honestly, it is hurting me deeply. It is effecting my work and sleep, and I feel as if part of me has been stamped on.

It is hard to admit in public, but I am doing so because I don’t think I’m alone. We are expected to continue as if it’s business as normal, but it isn’t. What we are experiencing is not normal, it is deeply abnormal. We are at the beginning of a period that looks certain to end in total collapse.

All we can do is hope that this collapse will be positive- we need the old structures to break down after all. But at the moment it could go either way. I understand that happiness is a radical act, and I will continue trying for that. But I have to try and understand the fear in these people’s hearts too- the isolationists, the jingoists. I feel compelled to take them on, in one way or another. And if they feel the way that I do now, then I can see why they doubt humanity in the way they do.

All we can do is look out for each other and stay informed. I'm going to keep making stuff even if it makes me feel slightly sick of myself. Hopefully, we will be fine but don't feel you have to pretend it's the January blues- it's not.

Monday, 19 December 2016

Thoughts on turning 40

The things I know so far are mostly related to birth and death. Everything else remains sketchy at best. Birth and death are the things that have had the most profound and genuine effect on me, changing me entirely. After the birth of my daughter I never thought things would get tipped upside down in the same way ever again. I was a new human holding a new human. None of my clothes fit. I wasn’t a punk anymore but I was more punk than I had ever been.

What could be more dramatic than feeling a mouth feed from your body? We spend hours watching science fiction and fantasy and all in one day it becomes a fact of your life, a tiny wriggling thing that lives off you, that needs your words and face to become a person. The shock of it was worse than electric. The shock was- I exist in this way. Even beyond all I’ve ever learnt and nothingness.

So when my Mum died I remembered, yes we do exist. Because she disappeared so I am pretty certain she was here- I do not think she was a magic trick. Since then I have felt death quite strongly, in everything that I do. These words will stay on this page but the fingers that typed them will soon never type a word again. There are songs that I love that I will hear for the last time, a finite number of kisses. I don’t mind.

Mum’s exit was as dramatic as her entrance- it bent time. It took us all out of our bodies and showed us ourselves as we are. Love forced us to focus, to see clearly that we are simply a strange kind of fighting light. I am 40 tomorrow and just as having a child made me older and younger, so I’ll continue. Real love.


Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Many A Weary Foot

This year has been pretty horrible for so many people that I know. Perhaps it is because we are getting older and more fallible, or maybe 2015 had some kind of bad juju attached to it, I don’t know. One thing is for sure though- it was pretty much the worst.

I wanted to write to express my admiration for those friends that had a terrible time- you know who you are. The fact that you all coped as well as you did, while continuing to jump the hurdles of everyday life is incredible to me. The way you are all still laughing at the end of it is even more impressive.

On the internet there is a lot of stuff written about how awful the Human race is. It’s true. But what is also true is how kind, clever and intuitive we can also be. So many people have been kind to me this year.

I am not a popstar and this is not an awards ceremony, but I would like to thank my boyfriend Dan above all. He sat through hours of upset and planned a three week trip to Japan, which was instrumental in shaking me out of myself.

Which is the key really- looking outside of ourselves and our own problems. Whenever I’m around someone who is really unhappy I see that they are blinkered to those around them. Grief is interesting in this respect- I am not sure I understood it until it happened to me- the same way that having a child changes you.

Cynicism is easy because so many people are blinkered in that way, but it’s not their fault, it is just pain. Always be kind and keep your eyes open.

I have decided that 2016 will be better for everyone. More witchcraft I know, but perhaps we are all tough enough to punch through wood etc now. I hope so.

Thursday, 8 October 2015

National Noetry

Poetry isn't dead / actually it is.
From a comms perspective
its a v effective marketing...
Ah, I hadn't finished.

Poetry, it seems to me,
(from a comms perspective) is
like putting a wild animal in a zoo
in the interests of conservation.

All those eager poetry apostles
trying too hard to make a case,
a minor flurry in a niche field.
Damn... I keep doing that.

Hilarious haikus on Twitter-
occasionally writing in a notepad,
soulless and oblivious
to the beauty of the world.

Am I thick or is everyone else
confused too? It bored me stiff.
Why can't that person just say
what they mean? I quite like it.

I wish I had time to decipher
what they're going on about,
leg cocked with one arse cheek
perched on the edge of a desk.

It means very little to me.
That's why you're a Poet.
I like poetry but am a bit of an idiot.
Eating dough in a polythene bag.

In times of crisis, people are
unable to think in long-form.
Diminished and finished-
JUST AWFUL. Who made it up?

Like Joni Mitchell, the second
worst teacher I ever had. Twitter
will be fun though, the lyrics to
Alanis Morissette's Ironic, a squid.

Rain on your wedding day-
a free ride when you've already...
the good advice that you...
Who would've thought.

'Hey lyrics are
poetry too’. Overall you've got
something here. I just wish
my typing fingers would behave.

Written using Facebook comments replying to the question 
'what does National Poetry Day mean?'

Thursday, 21 May 2015

Dream House

My Mum died a few months ago and I am still trying to make sense of it- she was a whirlwind and one of the most complicated people I have ever met, but her aliveness was very apparent, she was sort of robust and angry and had an appreciation for the absurd that meant talking to her could elicit all kinds of strange emotions. That all of that has disappeared is confusing to say the least.

Yesterday I watched Grayson Perry’s Dream House and it made me cry like a big baby. The story behind the project is all about the trajectory of a fictional Essex woman’s life, whose house, incidentally, is 10 minutes drive away from where my Mum lived in real life. The owner of the dream house Julie was inspired by the life of ordinary Essex women, who have battled through failed relationships, infidelity and childbirth.

Grayson could pretty much be talking about my Mum, Maggie- a nurse who gave her life to other people, often with little in return. The inside of Julie’s house is decorated with tapestries depicting moments of her life- she was an outgoing, colourful girl who had her heart broken and eventually died by getting run over by a pizza delivery bike in Colchester, the town I went to school and college in and where my daughter was born.

Having only very recently cleared out my Mum’s house, bagging up her clothes, throwing away most of her belongings and finding photographs of her life that I have never seen before, the idea of biography and how it relates to personal space are very much in my mind. Watching Dream House had a real effect on me, it is a shrine that has been built to the resilience of women, reminiscent of the Taj Mahal in both style and intent.

Grayson Perry has said that he has a difficult relationship with his mother, and I would be lying if I said I didn’t. He built the house to try and fix this, as if Julie was the woman he wishes his mother had been. At the time of her death Julie was happy, having found love with the man who, in the story, was the one to build her the house. It is ornate and beautiful, decorated with tiles that have a kind of Sheela na gig figure on them.

Whether my own Mum was happy at the end is an unknown to me, she seemed to be- but as I say, she was a very complex lady. What I do know is that she had an ordinary life, with highs and lows. Her capacity for love and joy was enormous, although she didn’t always connect with that part of herself. Perhaps that is the best that anyone can hope for- a good life is full of curiosity, wherever that takes you.

As I have said about a million times since my Mum died- the death seems like the easy part. Personally, my grief has centred around whether her life was lived in the right context, whether she was happy and if she made good choices. Sometimes things happened that weren’t her choice, but she did her best at trying to understand- because she was a human being. Also, she was never boring, which is very important- Mum never ever lost her sense of humour.

Within grief comes the urge for a narrative, I have been trying to write and rewrite in my mind exactly what has happened- throughout Mum’s life and mine. In some strange way this house has become part of that story, and seems almost to have been built for me. In the background is the Estuary near to where my Mum grew up, and also close to where we had her funeral.

Grayson Perry said that he had built his house for all the women from Essex, to celebrate their struggles, and this touched me enormously. It seems to me that it is a space for acceptance and reconciliation, which is the ultimate goal of grief I think. I have some way to go with all that, I am still sad and confused but I know that things will get better, because I am surrounded by love, and that is the real answer to everything.

Friday, 26 December 2014

The Eternal Round

In December 2004 I was living in a converted cotton factory on Shacklewell Lane. I was drunk mostly and when I wasn’t drunk I was working in a job that I hated beyond measure, doing market research for an IT magazine that no one wanted. I was drunk, unable to change my situation, dissatisfied and aimless- with a vague notion that I was a bit like someone from a F. Scott Fitzgerald novel yet much less interesting. Quite frankly, I was bored- the kind of gnawing boredom that permeates everything. I would cry when I watched musicals and on one particularly terrible comedown felt like killing myself while watching an aeroplane fly through the dawn.

Modern malaise. So what? The Tsunami passed me by the same way September 11th did, I had no grip on the world around me. I saw the images and they went through me, I couldn’t connect with it- depression is a different kind of horror. Living in a permanent state of crisis makes it hard to be empathetic, my immediate life was far enough away. 

 It was in this state that I was watching TV one morning, and saw a programme that was asking different religious leaders what meaning the Tsunami had, how could we make sense of it? They started with some Bishop talking about how we can see it as an opportunity to love each other more, to help out neighbours in times of hardship. Another guy came on to talk about perspective. One by one these big shots came on, telling us how to feel. I watched with one eye, the other in my cornflakes, until one particular man spoke. He was a Buddhist and when the presenter asked him the question he just said:

 ‘None. The events are entirely meaningless.’

These words changed my life. And it wasn’t so much the content, because I’d read all that- we all do, when we’re 15. It was the way he said it, and the contrast between the other answers and his. It was the calm in his voice, the lack of posturing and his matter of factness that got me. The events are entirely meaningless. 

I started going to the Buddhist Centre in Holloway Road to do a course on Buddhism and to take part in group meditation. It was OK, not my thing really- a lot of the people there were pretty annoying if I’m honest, but it was a shift. I learned about the Eternal Round and saw my situation more clearly that I had before. I slowly gave up drinking and started to look for people who didn’t rely on booze to become who they thought they were. A few years before I had made a song with a friend that I thought was pure and good so I went to a payphone and called him, with the wind rustling the trees.

Well I hadn’t seen Danny for a long time but we decided to try and make some more songs. He was getting better too and this common ground was a tenet for us as well as a difficulty, but what came out of the story was beautiful Flora. Our daughter made me a nicer person, more real and connected than ever before. Flo and I have lived together for nearly nine years and she has taught me how love works, that I don’t live in a film or a book but in my own meaningless life- which is so much more interesting than either of those could ever be. 

Monday, 15 September 2014

Next Gen Thread Memes

I made these after reading a very snarky Facebook thread about the Next Generation Poets. All those commenting were poets themselves and not at all bitter in any way.