Saturday, December 22, 2007

Up North

It is quite possible to find something awful and beautiful at the same time, to feel love and joy and some terrible, irredeemable loss all rolled up into one tiny ball. Thursday was like that, an exhausting, endurance test of a day that shone with life and connection and even some smiles.

The funeral was a good funeral, a fitting farewell to my friend, not glossing over the loss, not remaining stuck in its black tar. Flowers were wound into the pale wicker of his coffin and candles were lit, a round was sung, and the words here I walk in beauty/beauty is around me/above and below me would have been enough to break through even the most closed of hearts.

But the disbelief at the situation was palpable. Not only myself, but, it felt everyone in the room could not believe that the young man in the photo on our programmes, with his sweet smile and his floppy fringe, was the same man lying before us in a wicker box.

I don't think we ever come to terms with the mystery and pain of someone disappearing forever. But this, so sudden, so senseless somehow, is hard to take. There is something so appalling about seeing a father struggling to speak about his son, who now lies before him, cold as stone. No father should ever have to do this. It feels like an anomaly in the nature of things. But one thing I am learning as I grow older is that senseless things happen to people who don't deserve them all the time, and that it isn't personal, it might be unfair, but our universe wasn't, isn't and never will be a fair universe. It is as it is.

But I can still feel angry about this. I still open my eyes wide and perplexed as I try to make sense of how my friend's life ended so suddenly, when he was so happy, and had so much to live for, so much left to experience and to give. And how my own story of him, and with him, has suddenly ended. I won't be taking up the strands of our friendship and marvelling at the next port where it will be stopping. This is it. This is that final port. The final stop happened when I hugged him on a chilly beach, a blue sky above us some weeks ago. If I thought we might be coming together again to be there at yet another significant time in our lives, I never thought it was to be at his own death, and that I was to be there, waving him off to somewhere I shall not be able to follow. Not now. Not yet.

Funerals are profound things, everyone so raw, so honest, so real. Death makes the best (and the worst) come out in people. It makes people speak truths they would never otherwise say, it makes them open to things they might usually brush over and dismiss. In that way, they can feel like the most real, and therefore, nourishing places to be in, devoid of the usual bullshit. And they can be poetic and beautiful and awe-inspiring.

But one thing I often experience at funerals is the ridiculous way that profundity and mundanity sit side by side. People utter the most profound words, and the sight of a coffin bearing someone you love inside it is enough food for contemplation to last a lifetime.

Yet, for me, there is also this edge of knowing that life in all its mundanity is carrying on. And a certain black humour can arise in me. People fluff up lines, taxis don't arrive and there is always that moment when the pallbearers lift the coffin high into the air when I feel a certain hysterical laughter rising in my throat. It is the uneasiness on their faces that makes this feeling well up in me, and the terrible possibility of what could happen should their hands slip. Funerals contain drama; they act out some mighty cosmic drama that is going on, unacknowledged, around us every moment in our lives. And they also include all the fragility and ridiculousness of it as well.

We spent a couple of nights in Manchester, the five-hour drive seeming too much to contemplate straight after such a day. So, following chilli and cake at the Manchester Buddhist Centre, I wobbled out into the town centre with Bob, like a homing pigeon, heading straight for Afflecks' Palace. Realising the toll that the day had taken on my system, I stood at the top of the building, trying to catch my breath, realising I needed to sit down somewhere calm and not try and follow the footsteps of my past, my days of living in Manchester, right there and then.

We went and had brandy hot chocolate in the Night and Day cafe, a huge, eight foot painting of Ian Curtis on the back wall. Oh Manchester. I was there for seven years, and so many significant things happened to me during that time, one of them being that I met David, and we began both our friendship and our life as Buddhists there. After our drinks, and feeling much more grounded, Bob and I ventured out onto Oldham Street, and spent the next couple of hours trawling the streets we both knew so well (he also lived in Manchester for years), past Dry Bar and Eastern Bloc Records, to Piccadilly, where they'd installed an outdoor ice skating rink.

Manchester's so upmarket these days. It smacks of money in a way that it never used to. Who'd have thought that the IRA obliterating the entire city centre would precipitate such a major transformation of the city. I remember walking as near to the exclusion zones as was allowed, months after the bomb, and staring in awe at the bare skeleton of the city's shops, a ghostly feeling following me through the streets. Now it's all Harvey Nics and art galleries.

Though I'm glad it has been rejuvenated, I can't help feeling that it has lost some of its soul. We wandered all the way down Cross Street, past Albert Square and its huge inflatable Santa, its German Christmas Market, and down past the Peveril of The Peak pub. And what do you know; The Hacienda is now a swanky block of exclusive, trendy, metal fronted apartments, with its own underground car park full of flashy sports cars. Businessmen rest their rich and conservative heads in what was one of the most decadent, ground breaking and influential nightclubs that's ever opened its doors. Oh, the fucking irony.

After staying with some very welcoming and lovely Buddhists in Salford, with the frost wiped from the car windows and some porridge in my belly, we drove home. Back in my flat in Brighton, I am still left wondering what my relationship to the North is, and where my dear friend has gone.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Sunday

It has been a queer and blustery week. The wind and rain have been relentless, ferociously banging on my window, demanding to be let in. I've stolen precious moments of my days snatching at my copy of Wuthering Heights, wrapped up in the book's bleak pages while the storms raged outside, happy and content amid the ravages of Emily Bronte's violent narrative.

Then on Thursday I received some shocking news about a friend of mine. He had been taken into hospital with an infection and was in a critical condition. As the evening passed into the next day, I finally discovered the harsh truth of what had happened - from a sore shoulder all week they had discovered an abcess and the abcess had burst, then blood poisoning. He was in a bad way until Friday morning, and then I got the news on Saturday that he had died. I've been wrapped up in sadness and shock ever since, unable to make any sense of what's just happened.

I've just been standing in my hallway, in fact, looking up towards what you might call heaven, talking to my friend. But as I was standing there, I suddenly came to and realised that actually, heaven isn't up there, just above the sky, and that I was in fact simply staring right up at the leaky hole in my ceiling where a load of dirty water poured through onto my carpet during this morning's storm. I felt silly then, for trying to talk to my friend through a leaky hole in my ceiling, as though he might hear me.

This feeling of silliness has stayed with me. I really don't know where my friend has gone. All I know is that he has gone. Suddenly, shockingly, tragically. And I can't seem to help this crazy reflexive movement in my mind that keeps telling me he is just up there, either in in some white and clean realm looking down on me, or else, kind of whirling through space, making his way towards another life; revisiting the places of his last.

These feelings seem so naive; so child-like and simplisitic, as though I'm desperately trying to map out some unmappable territory, give some kind of clear and sign-posted geography to that which is utterly mind-blowing, devastating and bewildering. I want to know the way to Heaven, or that there is a course through the Bardo, because otherwise, I'm just baffled. Baffled and lost.

But the truth is, it's unlikely that he's just hovering around in the ether watching me go to the toilet and clipping my toenails, waiting for me to strike up a conversation with him. Or that he's in psychic connection with me, floating about the stars. I know I don't want to let him go; I don't want to conceive of him disappearing entirely into thin air. I want at least a trace of him. Somewhere. Keep him alive for my own heart's sake. There are moments when I can feel he is so alive, in the tissue and blood of my own heart, in this heart that beats as his does not. But then, that passes, and I am left in an empty cosmos again.

I can't reduce this life to ash and cinder though, to an equation of atoms and molecules, brain and blood cells. The rubble of life is blessed by something incomprehensible to us all. But, oh, it is all too much to try and put into words, and if I were to even try to begin to talk about God, it would be no easy answer either; it would throw up as many questions as I seek to answer.

My lovely friend had everything to live for; he was healthy, he was happy. He had a family. There was no tragedy brooding in his veins, waiting to leap. He was clever, and he was my age. I was going to go up North and stay with him soon, rekindle the warm embers of our relationship, now that we are older, now that our lives have changed in so many ways, and yet still with all those same characteristics and the same relationship as when we first met, almost ten years ago. He was there in my life in some of the most significant times in my life, and some of my most difficult, as I think, I was in his.

Following the last time I saw him, several weeks ago, I believed he was coming back into my life again, after a break of three years. The storyline in my head said we'd soon be back, continuing the next phase of our friendship, and I was fascinated to see what might unfurl. If I did move up North, he'd be there again, in the middle of another massively significant life-change for me. But he's gone now, absolutely gone, without a trace, utterly removed from this world and from my life forever; the story-line has been ripped from me and try and try as I might, I don't understand how.

So I'm going to carry on talking to David through the hole in my ceiling. Maybe he hears me, maybe he doesn't. Maybe he's there, maybe he isn't. But I'll keep talking and I'll keep him in my dreams and in my prayers, in my meditation and in my writing. In my footstep on the pavement. In the letters that he sent me. In the memory of him on the beach with his daughter, flushed and happier than I've ever seen him. He is ever present, in this way. But once my door is closed and the lights are down, my own sadness reveals the truth of his absence, and from that, there is no escaping.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Friday

I went up to London last weekend. The trip left me simultaneously drained and exhilerated at the same time, as it usually does. There's something inherently exhausting about London; even whilst I am still on the train I can feel a certain kind of tiredness descend as soon as I see the rooftops peeping back at me, the Thames blinking into view.

I feel a wonderful adrenalin comedown just at the thought of all those bodies rushing about in their own personal bubbles, trying so hard not to knock against each other in case they might pop. This small act of vulnerability, this knee-jerk response to the giant mass of human life thudding in all directions, a million beings swarming in their own dreams and poverty, riches and frustrations, I find myself falling inline with almost as soon as I've stepped out of the station.

A slippery ambition coats London streets, and Brighton can feel like a lurching lost soul in comparison, steeped in an opium haze, watching the sea roll in, roll out, roll by. It holds a drink to its lips, lazy ardor running through its veins. Brighton sleeps for days.

On the other hand, London has speed and cocaine running like shuttles through it's blood, and it never sleeps. It naps between the noisy car horns and the fumes, the terrorist threats and the boats going up and down the river taking Japanese tourists to Greenwich. Between the housing estates and the delis with their £4 loaves of bread, indifferent shop assistants with concrete faces and eyes like treacle, Tower Bridge sits, luminous and ever watchful over the skyline.

In fact, I did very little whilst I was there, my reason for going, as usual, to see the people I most love, and to remember who I am again, remember the parts of me that come alive when I am with them on some busy dirty London street. A slightly different Clare. And I never leave without some pang of longing for the busy streets and the caffeinated conversations, the deep bonds with people, and the buildings that rear up, jagged, around the Thames, like a shock, like a broken jigsaw, pieces oddly fitting together, but somehow forming perfect symmetry. London is so beautiful I could weep. And it's a beauty that can't be owned. It is its own mistress; rude, loud, manipulative and slutty, but utterly honest in it's unquenchable, ravaged thirst.

If Brighton didn't have the seafront, I'm not sure I'd still be here. Maybe that's a hasty thing to say, but really, without wanting to sound arty and pretentious, (and no doubt sounding so anyway), of all Brighton & Hove's creative life, the seafront is my real Muse. Whereas London surrounds you like a loud, heaving crowd, this part of Brighton stretches out flat like elastic. It feels like it will go on forever, and you can fade into the blues and greys of the horizon, be swallowed up behind the piers and cast into a cloud of black wings, as the starlings swirl like a lava lamp, taking you with them up into the marbled sky above. It is whirling life, breathless poetry speaking in tongues, it is a windy squawking silence that makes me sigh over and over again until my lungs are entirely emptied.

I wonder where my place is. I think about Syliva Plath, buried up North in Heptonstall. I think about the Moors that surround Yorkshire and Lancashire, and allow myself to be swept up in Emily Bronte and the harsh murderous truths that shout across Saddleworth Moor. I think about Manchester (oh yes, still so much to answer for) and North Wales, my home, that took so much to get away from, that has such a pull, like a magnet that both draws and repels.

How long I'll be in Brighton I don't know, if I will stay South of the border or if I'll return to the place of roots and shadows, love and that pain of growing up somewhere I longed to escape from. The truth is, wherever we are, we always want, at some point, to escape the very things that drew us there in the first place. Like a long-term lover who shows you, because they know you so well, too much of who you are underneath the facade, and so you long to be someone else again, reinvent who you are and what you might become. To cast off the cloaks of habit, come hurtling through the tunnel into a new world, a new self, a baby in a fresh universe full of possibility.

I know enough now to know that whatever you run away from, comes back to you at some point, that we take all our selves with us, wherever we go. But change must happen if we are to be still alive, for the blood to not coagulate in our veins until we become stiff and unyielding, rigor mortis in our brains, hearts like vapour, ever drifting off over tree-tops to somewhere where the grass is greener, then returning with a bump of resentment when we find ourselves still here, in our stilted, safe reality. So I'm thinking of moving; whether or not that involves me packing a suitcase, I still can't say.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

...



I wake up, stretch. I make tea, cross the room, I move back again. Turn on the computer, turn it off again, shut the door behind me, check it's closed tight. Down the stairs, out on the street, through the rain, passing windows with the lamps just coming on in them, past windows with sticky signs in them selling flights to New York, Paris and the Costa Brava. I am happy. I'm on the move. There is a safety in my step. I buy a scarf. I scour the wet streets for the reflection of shop lights. There's a warm fuzzy feeling inside me. I walk home.

But back inside, a familiar feeling, one which usually comes only during the night, when I and the world are fast asleep. It came last night; I awoke abruptly and stumbled, half-asleep to the bathroom. Night-time is when another me emerges from deep inside, a me I don't recognise. A time for blackness to come running, for a cold clammy fog to swallow up what is not yet left of the daylight. Blocking up my throat, swelling my chest, nothing to be seen. My eyelids droop to the pillow exhausted. I become an invisible ghost, meandering through this room, that room, finding every single one of them empty.

These night tremors, night terrors, which boil me in my own fear, disappear with the morning. I'm left with no memory but the feeling of death on my lips. But was it the man I spotted lurking outside my changing room today, unconvincing as he examined the ties, or the charity shop assistant who looked at me and said "A five pound note? For a 50p scarf?" that chased my heart back down that black road that goes from golden to ash; morning turning into an endless vacancy of stars? I am left quite alone then in the mechanics of my life, oiling the cogs, keeping it moving, mending and re-structuring, whilst the pit opening up in my stomach tells me that this destination is to nowhere, no place to finally rest except the grave, where loss is the only thing I can be certain will never leave. I see Mum's hand, inert on the white sheet. I see my father, turned away. I see three little girls, running.

I realised yesterday, as I discovered a tear welling up in my eye whilst I watched a James Blunt video, that I must be pre-mentstrual. There is no other reasonable explanation for such shocking behaviour. Even so, today I put down my pen, curled up on my bed and let myself fall into the absence, into all the things I wish I had in my life, that I will never have, that are gone, non-returnable, no deposit, finished, done with, ended, vanished. And always at the bottom of it, is my Mum's hand, the softest hand in the world. Once it stroked my hair. Now I stroke it in my mind, kiss it lightly and pray for its warmth to stay with me for just a little while longer.

My life is ok. I can't complain. But when a mood such as this takes hold, there's only a bullet or a hatchet that could feel more sharp and more deadly. Outside, it is raining again, as it has been for days, people strapped into their houses as the water pelts down the streets. I am glad for security. I do not feel guilty for wanting what's safe. No, actually, that's far from true. I am perhaps the greatest devotee of the God of Loss. A true believer. But blackness inevitably passes, leaving only a trace of its scent; a cool, musky, damp scent of freshly turned earth.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

No sleep till Moulescoomb..

It's late, and I really, really, should be in bed. I'm sat up in the dark in my pink hooded top, my comfy jeans, and the room is chilly. I'm wondering again, wondering, wondering where it all will end - this mind of mine and this beating chest, these legs of mine that just want to run. Running away from; running towards. My legs go, fast as summer, like a young girl racing to catch the ball that spins through the air in a perfect arch between her parents' fingers.

I run from, I run towards. Across the beach. Through backstreets. Beside car parks. Past bushes and streams. Up mountains. In the rain. Down the front steps. And it's the shadow of the sun on my face that tells me how alive I really am.

I don't feel eloquent. Or articulate. I am back in the world trying to carve out some bread and butter and a way to hold my head up, but... I'd always rather be at home, under the cover of night, communing with the angels and demons that fly around my head. Inside my flat can be a bit of a raucous party, with all the interesting beings that gather there to cause pandemonium and guffawing, who light candles and sing and bring stars out from under their pleated skirts as gifts for me, and occasionally, throw up on my carpet. Evenings here are never dull, that's for sure. We sit together and eat and tell each other our stories. We dance and make love. We fight. We pore over ancient manuscripts. We invent new languages. Especially when I am disciplined enough to turn off Eastenders.

And of course, they all go back to from where they came, whenever guests pop by, or when I am forced out from behind my safe walls into the real world where people stare if you bring out strange creatures, and buses crash if the haloes around you suddenly start singing. No, I go with notepad and pen, a look of efficiency on my face. But tonight I got lost around Moulescoomb in the dark, and, as I wandered around searching for a house number 113 that didn't seem to exist, and waiting to get my head kicked in, I did wonder what the fuck I was doing there. Trying to earn my crust. And that's what it is. 89p, Co-op own-brand white crust. Without butter on. The dryest thing in the Western Hemisphere.

So I come to you, my keyboard and my letters, to cheer me up, and to keep me from falling on the concrete, and the narrow, narrow roads. I pray to you, poetry, like a guardian angel, to keep me always, always, safe at the hearth, in the homes where I belong. Let the creatures guide me across the sea and ice, let the holy ones light up my face when all has gone dark, and let the ones who will never see me, keep warm in their jumpers at night, when the moon has turned her whitest cycle in the reddest sky, for the very last time.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

A Note..



I am announcing my attempt to keep a pledge I've made to myself to write on This Beautiful Hunger more frequently. Announcements are a good thing because then if I start slipping into the old 'once a month' styley postings, someone will hopefully notice and give me a kick up my pretty backside.

I've also recently been pondering the nature of this blog following a comment from the lovely and not-exactly-normal-himself, MadPriest about me, namely, that I was, quote, 'as weird as a weird thing on the top shelf in the weird supplies shop.'

I took this as a great compliment at the time, but, as I've been pondering it since, I realise I have been feeling perplexed, as I rarely think of myself as 'weird', or my writing as particularly weird or eccentric or intense or whatever. This might be because I'm me, and me is always going to feel like the most normal thing in the world, and describing my own inner world is always going to feel as natural and ordinary as going to Tesco's, even if I am talking about death, religion, love, loss, obsession, addiction, romance, sexuality, bicycles etc. Perhaps.

I mentioned the comment to Bob, and cited my recent post about a greyhound as evidence for my utter normalness (are dogs not an exceptionally ordinary thing to write about?) but he pointed out that the post wasn't about dogs, it was about crocheting my own greyhound. So it left me confused.

This is something I do find rather fascinating - what we think of as weird and what we think of as normal. I think I find most conventional and supposedly 'normal' ways of life quite freaky, as I don't really relate to a lot of them, and can feel quite out of place. But I wonder how many other people really do either, if they're being honest, or take the time to think about it. After all, the world is, at best, a pretty eccentric place, and at worst, well, it's off its little rocker.

Obviously I don't want to stop writing about what interests and moves me, else, what's the point of writing in the first place? However, my hope is that if I do blog more regularly, perhaps the length of my posts (usually at least a quarter of a mile long) might decrease, and my subject matter might find more new and interesting avenues to travel down.

And here's how normal I am, I'm about to make my tea (rice, veg and egg) and settle down to watch my new favourite tv programme, Top Gear (yes, that programme about cars and things, made by blokes who smoke pipes and have bad Eighties hair) and then, like, have a bath or summat. See. Normal. Me. Ever so.


Wednesday, October 31, 2007




My friend sent me this the other day, and I have to say I'm well on my way to believing that it could be the remedy for all my dog-longings. Like many of my friends, my desire to have a canine companion has been foreshadowed by the fact that I live in a distinctly bijou attic flat, three floors up. So that means a major trek whenever they wanted the loo, and anything but a drugged, ancient or legless dog would be driven mad by its confining size.

The double blessing of crocheting my own dog would be that it might help solve my financial crisis (I won't be spending any money if I'm perpetually crocheting plus I won't have to pay out any vet fees) and also I get to while away my Winter immersed in crocheting bliss instead of perpetually mulling over tedious existential questions such as where the fuck is my life is going? Handy.

Also, it would mean that I can finally fill the dog basket that lies mournfully empty in my hallway, waiting for some furry fellow to come and grace its sheepskin interior.


A Fierce Beauty



Last night I went and spent money that I didn't have on an evening dedicated to the great Spanish poet and dramatist, Garcia Lorca. I commited this rash act (being, as I am, savagely broke), because Lorca happens to be among a handful of artists who have changed my life, and for whom I would, as they say, lay down on the tracks. So parting with my money to go and see it seemed like a relatively small act of devotion.

Unfortunately, the evening was utter rubbish. It took the most razor sharp of passions, some of the most mortally wounding poetry of the 20th century, and put an old, comfy, pair of slippers on it. Though it makes me sad to say it, it was tragically British.

Lorca lived a relatively short life. He was beautiful and he was homosexual, and in the Thirties, Lorca was Spain's greatest living poet, describing and epitomising a spirit of Spain, a spirit that also manifested in flamenco and in the bullfight. In 1936 he was shot dead by the Fascists both for being a poet and for being a homosexual. He died face down in the mud. He wrote these words:

..there are neither maps nor exercises to help us find the duende. We only know that he burns the blood like a poultice of broken glass, that he exhausts, that he rejects all the sweet geometry we have learned, that he smashes styles, that he leans on human pain with no consolation and makes Goya (master of the grays, silvers, and pinks of the best English painting) work with his fists and knees in horrible bitumens..

I think anyone who creates - who writes, plays music, performs, longs for this state that Lorca describes and that runs through all his poetry, because it contains magic and genius. Or perhaps we don't even need to be an 'artist' to have this longing, in life itself we can yearn for it. But most of the time we are so terrified of it that we want to stick to all the safe roads instead; we seek out the poultice of burning glass, but we don't want it to burn our hands.

As I struggle with my own existence, trying to write, trying to make music that might just have some integrity to it; through the loneliness and insecurity of trying to stay with the process and the wildernesses I often finds myself in, it feels a precious thing to try and keep remembering Lorca.

It's horrid seeing the fear of mistakes and failure embodied in another person's performance, as I did last night; to see all the imperfections rubbed out, and with it, all the lifeforce. It reflects what I myself might become if I begin to let those things rule my own poetry and songs, my performance. And it's sad that those musicians' efforts killed even the possibility of anyone in that audience getting the chance to experience the beauty that Lorca lived, and died for. Better perhaps to stay silent, than to kill the thing you love.

Here is some footage of one of the greatest ever Flamenco dancers, Carmen Amaya, who had left Spain by the time of the Civil War and Lorca's death, becoming a world-wide star. Often dancing in men's breeches and a jacket, she danced steps traditionally reserved for male dancers, and she embodies what Lorca describes as that "mysterious power which everyone senses and no philosopher explains.. a power, not a work.. a struggle, not a thought."

He continues "I have heard an old maestro of the guitar say, The duende is not in the throat; the duende climbs up inside you, from the soles of the feet. Meaning this: it is not a question of ability, but of true, living style, of blood, of the most ancient culture, of spontaneous creation."

By the way, the woman in the first video is Eva La Yerbabuena, who is also incredible.


Tuesday, October 23, 2007

tuesday



Though I'm pretty sure she doesn't know it, it is Mum's birthday today. She is 72. This is a picture of her with my sister and Aunty before her last stroke, looking happy in the sunshine.


by e.e. cummings

if there are any heavens my mother will (all by herself) have
one. It will not be a pansy heaven nor
a fragile heaven of lilies-of-the-valley but
it will be a heaven of blackred roses

my father will be (deep like a rose
tall like a rose)

standing near my

(swaying over her
silent)
with eyes which are really petals and see

nothing with the face of a poet really which
is a flower and not a face with
hands
which whisper
This is my beloved my

(suddenly in sunlight
he will bow,

& the whole garden will bow)



x x x


I've cut my hair again. Happily (and somewhat unusually) for me, I am experiencing absolutely no post-haircut regret. In fact tonight I'm loving it and am, as a result, rather smug.

I'm also thinking again about what is going on underneath all this compulsive haircutting. I seem to be trimming and pruning almost weekly, my hairdo creeping shorter and shorter, its style wavering about, curling and creeping behind my ears, seeking its shape. With each snip of my scissors, I feel like I'm desperately trying to match how I look on the outside with how I feel on the inside.

My appearance has always been massively significant in my world. I have hidden behind femininity and then I have slung it out in fury. I have utilised its powers and I have been crippled by its limitations. I have blundered around confused as to what this thing called womanhood even is. My clothes and hair have always played a vital part in that, from a childhood of boys' clothes and loathsome haircuts to long hair and a precocious, feminine sexuality at thirteen, when I was a loner indie-kid in my uniform of biker boots, black eyeliner and short skirts. By 15, I was a raver, popping pills and returning happily to baggy trainers and jeans and sexless Mambo T-shirts.

I don't think I really felt remotely female until my early twenties. I think I could pretend like I was one, and there was some sort of inkling in that direction, but on the inside, it just didn't match up. I would scour the magazines for pretty girls who felt like a different species from me.

Also, I realise I can also actually recount the entire last ten years purely in terms of what shade of colour I was obsessed with at the time. At 23, I discovered Buddhism, festivals, hippies, meditation, chakras and Reiki. I moved to Brighton where the sun always seemed to be shining and felt like I had escaped from a lifeless, colourless, dowdy, grey cell. During this period I became obsessed with turquoise, silver and baby pink. I painted my entire bedroom bright turquoise and hung glitter balls from every part of the ceiling that reflected the sunlight a thousand times over. I made a large silvery glitterball shrine devoted to Vajrasattva, the Buddha of purification. He was my discoball Buddha. I wore little baby pink jumpers and sparkly blue dresses and I painted my nails silver. Sounds foul, I know, but I still think it was kind of kookily cool. I revelled in cosmic-girly chic, young and vibrant and a world away from how I'd felt for the previous 7 years, which was old; old and grey as the fucking mountains.



Then I started to get a bit of a feeling for some inner sexual power and my real passions and desires. I got into Mary Magdalene and Rilke and Patti Smith and became obsessed with dark purple. My bedroom became a dimly lit shrine with an abundance of Evolution shop netting, Edward Munch pictures and dyed blue roses. My next room was similar, but this time with little sculpture shrines of broken glass around it, a Garcia Lorca poem handwritten around the top of its walls and a huge purple swirling vortex I'd painted on one wall, six feet high. Then I broke up with my boyfriend and painted over the whole goddamn room in coconut and duck egg blue; light, grounded and non-intense colours. I got rid of the broken glass and the Lorca poem with the painful relationship. I was done with intensity.

When I moved into my present flat, the decor and all my clothes went green, right down to my purse. I became a lady, with a wide brimmed hat and a flat full of birdcages and spotty scarves and flowery teacups. I wore polka-dot flamenco skirts and neckties and my boobs even grew, so for the first time in my life I had a cleavage to show off. I liked my new life as a lady. It was kitsch and camp and over-the-top feminine. It suited my newfound curves and womanly figure. I dressed up in frills for festivals with my friend and we sold chocolate energy balls and gave out free spankings to the highest bidder.

I have a certain fondness for retro chic. The Twenties, Thirties, Forties, Fifties, Sixties, Seventies, I love them all (though I'm still not sure about the Eighties). I find it hard being a modern girl. And at present, I am finding it hard being a girl at all. I have largely eschewed the frocks and skirts, the busty tops. My flat is still a haven for birdcages, Venetian masks and flowery teacups, but the flamenco dresses are firmly at the back of the clothes rail. I've taken to wearing more boyish clothes, comfy jeans, shirts, caps, jackets and sometimes, even ties. I feel stronger somehow in these clothes, and less in need of something, even if I'm not sure what that something is. And I have cut my hair off for the first time in my life.

During a lot of this year, I felt like I just wanted to look and feel boyish. I felt constrained by my hips and my curves as much as I felt constrained by my still insistently alive desire for affirmation from men. I wanted to be free from all of it, perhaps a skinny, boob-less boy-girl. Perhaps I wanted to be free from gender altogether, from sexuality, so I didn't have to work out what it all meant and why it was felt complex. On the one hand I began to renew my interest in gender politics and on the other, I was falling for poetic images in Christianity and saints such as St Francis of Assisi.

Although to some people it may seem like a deep contradiction, to me it feels like maybe it was no coincidence that, as I started going to local Queer events where cross-dressing, sexual ambiguity and androgyny are the norm, I also began going to church and following the trail of saints such as St Clare, who defied religious convention by sneaking out of church down a secret passageway to join St Francis and others in a new, radical way of life, as she experienced a holy conversion. In the dark of that night they helped her cut off all her beautiful hair.

There are now days when I wake up and I want to look feminine and definably a woman. It feels good. So when I stood in front of my bathroom mirror tonight inspecting my new self-administered haircut, I suddenly realised why I liked it so much. There was, at last, the start of a synthesis. It was that same synthesis I've been seeking inside myself these last months.

It is a synthesis of different sides of myself, where one does not have to reject the other for its own survival. Where I can feel masculine and feminine, boy and girl, woman and man and all the shades in between; where those words mean everything and mean nothing at the same time. Where my desire is my own, and not something reflected back to me through the half-light of another's desire for me. Where my sexuality is not what my identity hinges on, and men (and women) do not hold the keys to my self-worth. Where I am hard and soft, potent and yielding, receptive and active. It's a place of the hunter and the hunted, the chaser and the chased (chaste), the doer and the doing, the done; the giver, the taker and the giving itself.

When I strip back the layers of conditioning, take off the years of habitual behaviour, the naked sight underneath is a disconcerting one.

The lady and her polka-dot skirts have left the building. There's a strange boy in her place, with very feminine charms and a gentle touch. She is soft as ever, but with a wilful eye. She is the figure in a photo, me at ten years old, pale blue jumper, jeans and Clarks brown shoes.

Last year my mother suffered a massive stroke that left her brain-damaged and unable to speak, eat or move. The strange thing is that I now find that I have almost the same haircut as when I was ten; just as my mother weaves her slow and painful way out of this world. I cut my first fringe earlier this year as she lay looking the other way, out of the window, in a half-trance. Her words, spoken to me regularly from the age of thirteen, have lain dormant in my mind until tonight, yet they were words that always kept me away from the scissors ...Don't ever cut your hair, never cut a fringe, always keep your hair long; such beautiful hair...

Whatever it is I've lost in that beautiful hair as I chop and I snip, is worth it for what I gain, simply from its absence. It's been a lifetime of seeking myself, losing myself, creating identities and shedding skins. The clock ticks, the sea of life surges on, personality unravels to reveal itself in more brilliant colours than ever. The final bed is made; the sheet turned over. The mirror reflects the light shining on it. A bird takes its final breath. I am alone. The bathroom is empty except for one reflection; a face looking back at me. It is nothing I have ever seen before.

Monday, October 01, 2007

500 Acre Wood




This weekend I went to 500 Acre Wood, near Tunbridge Wells. Bob and I set off there in the car, attracted by its name which reminded us of those endearing creatures from a Hundred Acre Wood in the AA Milne stories.

Place names are so interesting; they can be so evocative, and so unlike the place they are actually describing. As we passed through Crowborough, staring at a map I discovered there was an area in the town called Blackness. So we set off up little streets and round bends to find the elusive Blackness in the heart of Crowborough.

However, after much twisting and turning we found ourselves on a road we could not get off, that wound down the hill and straight into Morrisons' basement carpark. We sat there, amused and befuddled. I guess you never quite know where the Blackness will take you.

500 Acre Wood was just that - not too big with trees still relatively young, only just grazing the sky, leaving ample room for the sun to streak through their leaves. Woods are perfect in Autumn, they feel like the right place to be, like going into some kind of protective womb; a shuffling, muffled silence, broken only by the occasional birdsong; full of life that slowly grows and will soon hibernate or drop its leaves.

I love the dappled darkness in there, the soft damp woodyness beneath my shoes, enclosed yet winding onwards, empty, yet full of presence. In woods I always feel like I am in a room full of silent people. I know that they are thinking and communicating to each other and to me in their own way, but no words leave them. I am well aware of the trees here. They say nothing, but speak volumes. I can't help but be in awe.

As we left the wood, we walked out onto a vista of red and green hills, their vision hazy in my eyes, adjusting as I was from darkness to daylight. We stood by a tree and looked up. There were mosquitoes dancing by a branch. I watched as they circled each other in the bright light and I felt my eyes changing, felt myself change, as the world opened its door and let me in.

I remembered then what I always seem to forget: that whatever it is that's making those mosquitos dance, is the same thing that is circulating in everything. That is still there even when the breath has left and the bones are laid to rest. That brought me here in the first place. Oh yes.

I wonder why I can't see this all the time. Why the vision leaves me often when I most would have it near. It seems an inescapable pattern embedded in my fragile human nature, this forgetting.

I've been reading a lot about St Francis lately. It's been stirring up soul in bowlfuls. This is what GK Chesterton wrote about what happened immediately after St Francis' conversion. It resonated, re-reading it after being at 500 Acre Wood.

He went out half-naked in his hair-shirt into the winter woods, walking the frozen ground between the frosty trees; a man without a father. He was penniless, he was parentless, he was to all appearance without a trade or a plan or a hope in the world; and as he went under the frosty trees, he suddenly burst into song.

I know that I horde life. I keep it under lock and key, lest it leave me alone and lacking. And of course, what we horde, what we think keeps us safe, keeps our very souls imprisoned. I think I know what success means, what life means, what it means to gain and what it means to lose. And I am in a sense right. But so wrong. If I could remember it was never mine in the first place, but a gift, for as long as I exist and longer. If I could know that I am never really alone, even in my loneliest days, or that success can't be measured by worldly standards, only the standard of our souls, I think I'd be a happier person.

But then, somehow it seems that we must forget in order to remember again, and keep trying to follow whatever helps that remembering. Bowing the head, clutching the beads, bending the knee, humming repetitions under our breath. Whether it is in a church or in the middle of shopping centres. Whether it's Benedict or Bukowski. Gautama or Rimbaud. Our betraying friend or our most loyal. Venerating the light. Loving the dark.

Words so easy for me to write, so hard to remember. And I am no St Francis under the frosty trees. Chesterton writes a beautiful description of St Francis' asceticism and finally, his death.

It was not a self-denial merely in the sense of self-control. It was as positive as a passion; it had all the air of being as positive as pleasure. He devoured fasting as a man devours food. He plunged after poverty as men have dug madly for gold. ..It is certain that he held onto this heroic or unnatural couse from the moment when he went forth in his hair-shirt into the wintery woods to the moment when he desired even in his death agony to lie bare upon the bare ground, to prove that he had and that he was nothing. And we can say, with almost as deep a certainty; that the stars which passed above that gaunt and wasted corpse stark upon the rocky floor had for once, in all their shining cycles round the world of labouring humanity, looked down upon a happy man.


Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Two Left Feet

Tonight I think I need to confess how I'm feeling. Well, I probably don't need to, but I want to; so forgive me for using you as a kind of therapist's couch this evening. For I am confessing to being a mess.

In fact, it was last night when I realised what a mess I was, as I struggled out into town to band rehearsal, full of some strange flu-like illness, and sat wobbling on a high black stool listening to piano keys clunking and red wine being supped. I felt tears pricking my eyes and a familiar welling up inside. Shit. The penny dropped. I am all over the place.

Then something else happened. Something that rarely happens to me. Instead of feeling upset, anxious, fearful, confused and stupid about feeling a mess, I suddenly was overcome by a feeling of alrightness. Absolute alrightness. And I liked it.

I'm one confused human being at the moment. I wonder if this is why, when I am falling asleep last thing at night, my heart keeps doing little pirouettes in my chest and why my dreams are filled with psychopaths. Why I keep having to trim my hair just that tiny bit shorter. Why one day I wear low-cut tops and the next I find myself in high collared shirts. Why I reel from reading the biography of a saint to writing songs about strange animals to compulsively watching a tv show where women are dressed as men and strap-ons are as commonplace as the next soya-decaf-frappucino. All this might not sound too significant, perhaps a bit drama queeny, if you don't know me that well. Or maybe even if you do. But who I am doesn't add up anymore. It doesn't add up.

Tonight I feel less welcoming of this fact. I feel disarmed by myself. I'm also aware of the fact that I'm going to be back in Wales in a couple of weeks, and I know, deep down, I'm really frightened because it brings the mess of me right back into sharp relief. It brings back how confusing life is, and how hard it is living under the shadow of Mum's state; knowing how I've been blocking it out these last months, because if I didn't block it out, I would have become a mess, and I don't want to be a mess, I want to be ok.

So the mess has to cope with only getting little outings, little forays into the world of Clare. And the rest of the time, it is strictly relegated to the world of dreams.

As usual, there is a good side to this. Whether I let it in or not, the devastation of Mum's condition is working on me night and day. And the price I may pay in sorrow for this, is reaped back through all the cracks that grief shows up in my life. It prises the cracks apart so I can look inside and see what truly makes me tick.

I thought I liked it better when I supposed I knew what made me tick, even if it felt constricting and suffocating, like a silk stocking tight around my throat. Now, I don't quite know what to do with all this air. Or what this feeling is in my lungs. I know too well the sting of life. And how things can fester. But this breath inside me, well, it's equally as terrifying. Such a grave responsibility it is: stepping into one own shoes.

The Jobless Question ...

After having spent my day putting ads in papers and formulating ingenious plans to procure work in as short a time as possible, I finally found the answer ...


Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Wednesday

Looking in from the outside, you might say tonight that I am lucklustre in presence and partially absent of heart, a sleek shadow skulking about the flat whilst the wind gently rattles the windows. But from the inside, I can definitely tell you that the lights are still on and I am definitely home. I just don't want to do any kind of entertaining this evening. I am pyjama-ed and bed-socked. Passers by are most definitely not welcome.

Tonight, all those things that people need to keep them going, all their endearing little idiosycrasies that make them who they are, their quirks of nature, their habits, well, I'd like them to all kindly scuttle away and leave me in my hideyhole, at peace.

Hideyholes are the best, a vital necessity in this day and age where nothing is private, no lines of communication are ever blocked, and people can get a hold of you with the click of a switch just about wherever you are, whenever they wish. Don't we just love all that technology? I know I do. And this post harbours no resentment towards it or towards folk going about their way, in their way. But just for tonight, I want them all to do it somewhere else.

I've spent four solid hours today watching dvds, something I don't actually think I've done since I was a kid, and I'm feeling like a bit of a shameless tv set junkie. You know, it's one of the first signs of a junkie - when suddenly other people become less important, mere side players in the addict's great quest for their own fix and the bliss that ensues.

I tell you, it felt like some kind of divine intervention today when the lady in the Jubilee Library told me that the dvd set I've been chasing had finally arrived back - five minutes before I entered the Library. And when you start bringing God into the equation in such a matter, I think it definitely marks the onset of addiction.

So what else? Well, as we all may have noticed, in one swift and cruel move, winter seems to have arrived, bypassing autumn altogether. Perhaps yesterday counted for both the first day of autumn and also its last. The day had that feeling of summer ending as the first chill of the new season breathed into the sunlight that was still dancing upon the metallic sea. I absolutely love that time of year - frail and filled with poignancy and nostalgia, echoes and fading warmth. Unfortunately, it seems like that might have been it. Today was a bedraggled dog of a day, damp and chilled to the bone, the misery of winter too close on the horizon, etched on people's faces, a lost summer without climax following everybody's steps home.

If I can make some money this winter, I shan't be bothered about its dourness. In fact, I shall welcome it. I have loved my winters in Brighton for the last few years. There's been something so bitterly romantic about them, holed up writing, loving, losing; you know, all the usual stuff. However, significant portions of joy have come from the adventures abroad I plan during winter, because it's then that I can actually afford to travel abroad. Without that, I can see it's going to be a long season, as I haven't got away to any of the places I most yearn to get back to at all this year. And I am seriously pining.

So I can see that without money, life may become an endless trail of trips to the Jubilee Library to get my fill of imagination and excitement, my backside numb from lolling around on couches staring at LA lesbians and New York mafiosi, my eyebrows crinkled and mouth permanently mishapen by all the grimacing I've been doing at the high-octane emotional drama unfolding before my eyes.

Rock n roll. Bring on Episode Five quick.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Sunday

Since I cut my hair, it no longer gets in my eyes the way it used to; it no longer falls down my back in straight lines or spreads across my pillow in the morning. These days, I'm not sure who it is I look like, or who I thought I was before. A new dress, a different pair of shoes, a pair of trousers; a grey felt hat cocked at the perfect angle, and a person can be changed forever. These clothes, this face, my body, are all a mystery to me. My own mirage; the hieroglyphics written here.

Tonight, the world is spinning too fast for me to grab hold of what it's made of or what surrounds it. I'm sitting on the island where I always live, peeking at stars and toying with black holes, wondering which dark galaxy I am heading for next, still not comprehending from where it was I came, still hoping for angels.

Just now, I washed up my things in the sink, switched off the dvd player and came here to this uncomfortable seat to feel my fingers against keys, to feel myself uncoil. The screen becomes for some minutes my lover, my God, the mirror reflecting what I couldn't see otherwise: the lines and cracks, the substance, the light which temporarily blinds me when I am shown it. Damage. Sorrow. Fight. Heaven. And something else I'm not sure I have words for.

Isn't that the struggle and the point of writing? To somehow birth into being what we cannot give a name? And into which letters will it sink itself today? Where is the cadence that will have us all weeping?

Tonight I ache under my ribs with a tenderness that makes me swallow quickly, that makes me fear I'll get cut in two if anyone were to walk through my living-room door right now and show me any more beauty than is already here. Luckily, my front door is bolted.

I'm a slow-moving fish. A rattling train. I whisper too many secrets to myself and wish the world would tell me his. It's getting late, but not late enough. I am genuinely happy for the first time in a long time, and for that I am, as ever, troubled.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Thursday

I've been flailing about lately, as perhap you may have discerned from my recent posts. I could also say I've been a bit in the wilderness, a place without borders or signposts, without a nice cup of tea waiting at home for me, with a few wild animals tracking my footsteps and a distinct lack of fresh water.

I am tempted, as is easy to do, to assume that this is a problem, that something is wrong in me or in my life. To temper this, I find the good old 'New Age' sound bites rising up in my mind. "Follow your heart". "Trust the process". "Everything is a lesson". Oh, to be a New Age writer churning out masterpieces such as "The Little Book Of Wisdom" whilst earning a nice few hundred thousand spondulies.

I digress. I can mock such phrases, but that doesn't stop them from potentially being true. The problem for me, as I suspect it may be for a lot of people who don't feel guided by angels or the will of God, is precisely how to discern exactly what these statements mean. One can follow ones heart, but that doesn't mean it won't lead you straight into a ditch. One can try and trust the process, even if it's difficult, but there's often the niggling doubt that there might not actually be a process going on at all, one may just be in a bit of a mess. On a good day, all is a vast and mysterious lesson from which one grows. On a bad one, well, the word dukkha springs to mind, that is, things are painful and crap, and basically sometimes there can be no reasoning that out. In fact, to try and reason it out is just to try and escape the suffering.

Having said all this, it cheers me up more to think of profound cosmic things afoot in my experience, of processes rising and falling and leading me to a greater understanding of something or other.

So how to find something in this life that endures. That's the question. I know it's all going away, every last drop of this life is disappearing with the clouds, never to return. And living with such fragility and uncertainty, and finding the peace and beauty is certainly what I have been taught to do through Buddhist practice, and what I've tried to do, in whatever ways I can, for years.

But right now it doesn't feel enough. I can't struggle with that existential question on my own. My body isn't large enough to hold the magnitude; this 'self' of mine cannot meet nature, time, old age, sickness and death on its own terms, never mind violence, injustice, poverty, cruelty, betrayal, corruption, abuse of power. I am no one woman army. And the fact that we all stand in exactly the same shoes when it comes to facing life and death means we can be guiding lights to each other, unfortunately our relationships made out of the same fragile and delicate material as this life. We can claim solidarity, but we still face the questions alone.

Perhaps it is obvious, where I'm going in this post. This thing that endures, that can hold all life within it; that isn't separate from life or from the people in it; that's in the buildings and the structures of our existence, the hearts and minds and bodies, as it is in the end of them. But is it an unnameable force which is at once there and not there, an emptiness which is full, a fullness which is ultimately empty; the beauty of transience itself? Or is it a tangible, real presence we can call on, we can count on, that has a name and a face; a body and blood?

I don't know. But these are the questions I don't quite know how to put to rest.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Friday

Tonight I cycled along the seafront. It was late and the air felt still, the sea was dense. There was a pressure in my head which made me speed up on the concrete and my mind feel like it was richocetting off the balustrade.

That's alcohol for you. Inhibitions left to the wind. Thought processes unsteady and darting, like a hundred shoals of tiny fish; full with fleeting feeling, reason empty.

I sped along, unaware of how fast or slow I was going, but at the same time, sure of myself. It was then that I saw them, emerging, ghostly from the recessed darkness of the beach; a man and a woman dressed entirely in white, their robes billowing out like they were two brides. As I sped along, a police car cruised further up the seafront to where more men and more women were dressed in white, emerging from the dark sea. It was a strange sight, stranger still for I remembered then that I'd seen them here before.

In the pub tonight, we spoke, as we always seem to do, of religion and spirituality, each of us, it felt, desperately trying to gather some truth in for ourselves, each of us missing some part of ourselves that we were trying to find, yet telling others that we had already found it.

I shirked at my own feelings on meditation and Buddha and God and finding inner peace. Almost ten years on, I have to ask the question, have I found it? Have I got those answers which seem so integral to positing oneself to others as a 'spiritual' person? No, the questions just get harder. The more I learn, the more and more I get out of my depth and then am forced to swim.

The inner peace I sought in the past, well, now it seems fanciful. Because peace to me used to mean the end of all this tiring, endless shit. But it doesn't. The endless tiring shit goes on and on, for as long as I go on and on, for as long as the world turns in its sleep.

So the question has become one of, do I want reality, or do I want comfort? I ask myself over and over this question, and I still can only answer: both. I want reality and I want truth, but I want that truth to be palatable, not painful. In the words of that great band, Of Montreal, I want my film to be beautiful, not realistic.

But nine times out of ten, reality whoops my ass, so to speak. I was told for years that the only way to happiness is to 'be here, now'. And I can talk like a jaded old thing, but the truth is, they are right; but the question remains, well, how much do I really want to?

I felt blessed by seeing those strangers in their white robes; glad they weren't in their houses tonight watching TV. Glad for the fact that they seemed so strange and unearthly in this all too often one-dimensional world, where spirit is absent too much of the time. And I'm glad I am cycling, using my legs, using my lungs. I want to cycle more, so that my legs ache and I am caught for breath, so that I am finally worn out with effort. Perhaps that is what they talk of when folk talk of peace; it is when you are finally done with trying, and the wind catches in your throat as you breathe it in.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

The Grass is Always Greener on the Other Side of The Moon ..

We made a routine out of sitting by that cliff edge. We nipped back and forth from our tent as though the cliff, the seamless sky and the sea below it were simply the corner shop or the loo.

I lay back and looked. He was constantly naming stars and constellations, happiest to sit and gaze up. I was constantly discovering all the things I still feel I need to do in my life, things that I probably never will, but somewhere still hold a light to, hoping that one day ... when I'm rich, when my life is different, when I've completed the training, when I'm older and more settled, when I win 35 million on the Lottery.

And we would scuttle back to the tent and sleep or wake or giggle, and then we would be back there again, lying back, gazing upwards, him naming constellations, me discovering yet more things that I still want to do in my life and possibly never will. The list became endless ...

I must go up in a space shuttle and orbit the Earth. I have to fly to the Moon. I want to go to Mars as well. I want to be a rockclimber. A mountaineer. Go paragliding. Own and fly my own bi plane. Do formation dancing whilst strapped to its wing. I've got to climb Everest before I die. I will one day go to Antarctica. Can I live without having stood at least once amongst penguins and ice? I must understand all religions. I want to be wealthy. I must become Enlightened. I want to know Christ; journey to France to live alone with nothing but the clothes on my back. I want to be a mother. I will be a writer. How far off is that journey in a tour bus? What about the record deal? Can I build that home in the desert with my own hands? Will I ever really know what it is like to live as a drunken poet, willing to sacrifice all decency? Where is that great movie script inside me? How can I live to the end of my days without knowing what it's like to be a man? Is there any bird that could bear my weight on its back as it flies across whole continents? Why can't I write a PHD on Quantum Physics? Why do I still think stars are little candles in the sky? Why does my head explode when he tells me that the star I'm looking at isn't a star, but is actually a whole galaxy which itself contains millions upon millions of suns just like our own sun in it, and it is 2.5 million million light years away, with each light year itself being the equivalent of 6 million million miles away?

This cliff edge is strong. It's pulling me out towards the fulmars and the black-backs. Then it's taking me further, out into the inky mass of blackened planets, to where my craving meets my soul and both explode in starlight. These dreams are not the work of idle moments. They live in me like a constant heart beat; most of them since I was a child. Back in those days, so much was fantasy, an unattainable goal. These days it is not always easy to know what is far fetched and what's real. The moon landing or the record deal. The bi plane or the novel. The Big Bang or the Holy Spirit. However, craving, and the vision it brings does not usually possess me as much as it has on this cliff top; on this strange and beautiful cliff of longing.

I look at him. He has some secret I cannot yet discover. He simply watches and looks, his nose edging upwards towards the wings that pass above him. If I could be so content. If I could sit and remember it is all here now - the moon, the stars, the space shuttles and the backs of birds. My dreams are always of travelling, of flying, of taking off, or else they are of being struck down, struck by a lightning bolt that illluminates everything. Do I dream of angels? Yes, sometimes; as much as I dream of dirty bars. Is it here, now? Of course it is.

I like it here. There are no signs of a normal life lived here in these parts. We are happy. Him and me. At the edge. Both of us dreaming, in our own ways.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

thursday

Enough is enough. That's something, ironically, I often have to say to myself a number of times before I finally believe it myself. Today, as I pulled the lid from the old pan of pea soup that's been lying in wait in the corner of my kitchen and I swear I saw something move in there, I realised, enough is enough.

The stench of it was an amalgam of shit and vomit. It fizzed and spluttered as I poured its remnants down the sink, trying desperately not to breathe through my nostrils, gagging at the merest hint of the smell. And I couldn't help thinking somewhere, my life has got out of kilter here, I shouldn't be pouring half alive green sludge down my plughole, I shouldn't be ignoring the hair on the carpet until it looks like it is growing a second rug on top of it. I shouldn't find myself wearing the same socks for the however-many-days running because I haven't been able to face the launderette. But I have, and now I realise, enough is enough. Somewhere, in the midst of my life, I've been losing myself.

And as for the technology which has been bringing my life to a halt and corrupting all simplicity and grace in it, well, it has to stop somewhere. I find myself these days unable to exist without checking emails at least several times a day, but worse, without checking the various 'friending' and networking sites which I find myself having joined.

Although I know it's a valid way of keeping in touch with friends near and far, a way of getting my music out there and making connections for gigs and poetry submissions, I find that recently, instead of using that way, I'm posting people UFOs and aliens, and getting into needless arguments because of stupid privacy settings on my goddamn Facebook profile. Technology has become another thing to get addicted to, to become enslaved by; a way of keeping out the cold, of plugging the silence with noise and chatter; of not, finally, having to be alone.

I've got to cut this clutter out. And, yes, here I am, on my blog, writing when I could be outside in the cold damp air, feeling alive, taking in the waves across the sea, feeling the seagulls swooping over me, treading the pavement towards some form of rest and recuperation for my soul. However, this blog is one place I have no trouble justifying using, in fact, I cast it aside far too easily for more inane forms of communication.

Out, I need to go. Further than the seafront, further than the shore, further than where the horizon meets the deep, wet blue. I can't live for long unless I can penetrate the blue itself, go further, to where clouds swallow me and the air is frozen. It's not enough, this place; this city; this land; with its concrete walls and its TV sets, its motorways that always lead somewhere; its cups of tea to warm my hands against the winds that blow in from a cold, uncertain future.

Sometimes it's hard to bear the crushing weight of this sky we all live under. Sometimes, we must break up into pieces in order to let it touch us; to feel the grace of emptiness; the perfection raging in our souls. I feel like a woodland animal hunting out a warm burrow and some food. Like all of us, I need a shelter. And I am dreaming everyday of God, hoping for a glimpse of what brought me here.

Monday, August 13, 2007



I've been having email contact with the
Poor Clare Colletine Community lately, whom I spent almost twenty years growing up next to in North Wales. I initially emailed them because I visited their Convent earlier this year when I was home to see Mum in the nursing home, and the experience affected me deeply; it was very healing. It's been lovely to have the contact with them, and keep up my connection with St Clare and St Francis, and feel there are presences and people out there who are praying for Mum, for all my family really. It makes holding the hugeness of our situation easier to bear.

Today, they sent me some pictures, which was touching, and I've included them in this post as it was St Clare's Day on Saturday.



Here is the dormitory where she lived and died.



And here's a picture of Mum before her last stroke, opening presents on her 69th birthday. I haven't been able to look at photos of her for a while now, it's been a bit too much to take. So it's good to look again, and see her in all her loveliness and with her hair in plaits.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Barbarism Begins At Hove






The Smiths have influenced me more than possibly any other band I've listened to in my life, and Morrissey has been a muse of mine since before I was even in my teens. I never got to see them live, which is a significant regret, considering the force and elegance of Morrissey's performances and the almost maniacal fervour of their audiences.

There's a violence, a bravery about Morrissey, and something so primal, so achingly tender in his writhing and his crooning; something so perverse and contradictory in his gyrating nakedness and his saintly detactment. Everything laid bare, yet totally ambiguous. All this raw, sweating, complex humanity, this bizarre sexuality; it's like watching some kind of brutal boxing match, or an ancient pagan rite. Morrissey would detest this analogy, but to me he's a bit like a Spanish torreador, whipping the bull and the crowd into a frenzy before the blades go in. Numerous people have said The Smiths were miserable, wet and poncey; but they never realised they'd missed the point entirely.

It's very hard to describe Friday night for me without putting it in context. When I was eleven, although pretty grown up for my age, I was only just starting to discover music. I wore frilly white blouses and navy-grey kilts, an outfit I had swapped to from the battered jeans and geeky blue jumper I'd lived in up to that age - the age when I decided, enough was enough, I now wanted to look like a girl, be a girl, instead of being the odd, boyish thing I'd felt like up until then. I was tired of not feeling like I fitted into one gender or the other. So I grew my hair, became pretty, longing to be normal.

So the first time I saw Morrissey on Top Of The Pops, I was repulsed, as he flailed around the stage with flowers in his back pocket, a pale cardigan and bare chest. It took another year before any kind of interest in what Morrissey had to offer my psyche manifested. And it was purely, it seemed, by chance. Bigmouth Strikes Again had just come out as a single, and I hated it, hated The Smiths and all they stood for. Then, one evening, in my bedroom, I could hear my sister had the radio on; it was the John Peel Show. Then I suddenly heard these lines floating across from her room to mine: " I dreamt about you last night/ And I fell out of bed twice./ You can pin and mount me/ Like a butterfly"

I strained to hear the rest of that song, and was instantly converted. From that point on, I was obsessed. I bought all their LP back catalogue, got a load of Oscar Wilde out of the library and developed a rather frightening obsession with the Moors Murders. I gave up eating meat. This meant flushing the chicken off my Sunday dinner down the loo when my mum wasn't looking, or feeding it to the dog, or even throwing it out of my bedroom window onto the flowerbed below, as my Mum refused to let me become vegetarian.

When The Queen Is Dead came out that year, I played it to death and memorized every line, every word. Moving into my thirteenth year, I became fully immersed in teenage gloom. I dropped out in school, lost all my friends, became the class 'weirdo' (writing "Free Myra Hindley" on your Rough Book isn't the kind of thing to endear you to your classmates). I watched Andy Warhol films late into the night, took my first trip to Whalley range in Manchester, and got stoned on my sister's boyfriend's homegrown cannabis. I read more poetry that year than I probably have done in my whole life since. I wrote songs and poems. Lots of them. I drew. I played along to 'Well I Wonder' on my guitar. I discovered Buddhism. I self-harmed. I became intrigued by The Occult and Aleister Crowley. I tried desperately to Astral Project. Just all your regular teenage things.

I don't hold Morrissey or The Smiths responsible for this remarkable shift in my psychology. Or for the intense depression I kept falling into. Or for my plummeting exam results at school. In fact, looking back, it seems that, along with the books I read and the films I watched; my late night thinking sessions, Morrissey's voice coming out from my stereo was one of the things that actually got me through at least those two years of painful teenagedom without seriously fucking myself up.

I wonder how many other people who have a love for The Smiths have a similar kind of teenage tale to tell? The Smiths have always taken flack from the more superficial critics; it has been said that they promoted self-obsession, pretension and introspection. But The Smiths were never a refuge for the weak and navel-gazing. They showed strength and dignity. Yes, they attracted the shy, the geeky, the ones confused about their gender or sexuality. The clever ones who saw too much. But more than anything, they just stood up for what was human.

Morrissey was like the tall boy with the big feet who stood between you and the class bully, the one who wanted to smash your face in because he thought you were a wimpy weirdo just because you couldn't play football or you never got off with anyone at the school disco. The Smiths were for those who were sick and tired of hearing corporate shite on Radio 1, who didn't want anymore shoulder pads and perms, who needed a light to shine out in those dark, dour days of Thatcher's Britain.

November Spawned A Mozzer, was an entire evening dedicated to Morrissey and The Smiths, a night where die-hard fans could indulge their somewhat strange devotion to him and his music. This night was strictly for fans only. The ceiling was laced with Morrissey bunting, the walls covered in images of his naked torso; a TV played interviews with him, and a massive screen above the dance floor showed him in concert. Gladioli were handed out. There was even a 'best Quiff' Competition, with a John Betjamen book as prize.

To outsiders, it would have simply looked like madness. But far from being some kind of embarrassingly cringey tribute night, it was very touching. Almost everyone sang along, whether unabashed with their friends on the dance floor, or quietly to themselves, pints in hands, or in some corner. These people, undoubtedly having spent night after night in solitary communion with this music, were suddenly together. There aren't many opportunities in life to sing along with a crowd of people, the words "I am human and I need to be loved, just like everybody else does .."

When they played "I Know It's Over", I remembered what that song meant to me when I was 13. I'm not 13 anymore, but standing there, it reminded me how I'm not an altogether different creature from the one I was back then. And I'm glad for that.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

tuesday




She's gone! Five weeks to America and who's knows all that shall come of it. The dearest, sweetest Jo in all of England has embarked on the biggest journey of her life in years, and is now, I imagine, gracing the folk of Seattle with her loveliness as I write.

Let it be known, she shall be sorely missed! And I expect photos of pancake stacks and gas stations and those long, long roads ..

I accompanied the girl to the airport, as she accompanied me, a year or so ago, when I flew to New York, and I saw her off at the Departure Gate before scuttling off for a cry outside the pyjama rail of the La Senza underwear shop. How funny to be the one saying goodbye, waving off, before getting the little train back to Brighton, back to my own life, to my own life which is itself changing, though I can't always see it..

A wonderful thing about someone close to you following their dreams and taking that chance is how it rubs off on you. For me at the moment, my way is not of long flights and travelling overseas alone towards some destiny, but it is of admitting my dreams and following them, even in the knowledge, the painful knowledge, that they might well lead only into dust and vapour. And it is admitting that I can't do it alone, that I need people and I need love. Solitude has been necessary these last four years, but now it is time to dive back in; ok, perhaps still with armbands on, but diving in nevertheless. The waters are cold and deep, but so alive; kicking my legs through the milky blackness.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

wednesday

Chocolate pie with whipped cream. Oh my sweet Lord, it is all I can think about today. As soon as a free moment enters my day, there it is, its gooey, chocolatey, whiteness gleaming back at me in full, sensual, naked glory.

You may think I'm dramatising my craving a little for effect. I wish. I've been stuck at my computer all day, writing advertorials and restaurant reviews, the kind that involves lots of ringing people up and no actual eating of any restaurant food. What kind of job is that? It sucks. And though I am a) Taurean, and thus astrologically pre-disposed towards all puddings that are-naughty and involve chocolate, and b) prone to transfering my deep needs for love/sex/mothering onto any foodstuff with the word 'indulgent', 'creamy', or '70% cocoa' on the label, I can safely say that today's longing is strictly medical .

Having just started my period today, my hormones are kicking in to provide me with not only a feeling like I am mainlining valium into my brain,(not that helpful when in the midst of working to a deadline) but also that if I do not eat chocolate pie, and if it is not laden with the largest dollop of thick whipped cream that is possible to spoon on in one go, I will not be responsible for my actions. Everytime I shut my eyes, the sweet squishy image there reminds me that this is no idle threat.

It is now 4.19. I note that my first cravings began at 1.40pm. I feel the way one does when one first falls in love with someone who you know is just plain bad for you, but your rational mind is powerless to intervene. That damn Kylie Minogue song keeps returning to me, "I just can't get you out of my head.. you're all that I ever think about ..". Sure. Every night, every day, just to be there in your arms .. oh dear.

Surely it is not right for a pudding to hold such power over me? To tantalise me, its pale-brown filling wobbling ever-so-slightly? Its crust, crumbling under the firm touch of my finger. The swell of cream, burgeoning over the side of the plate like wild sea foam crashing against hard rock. It is not right, I tell you.

The truth is, today, I am a victim of my female biology.

Now bring me pie. Please!!

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Pea soup for the soul

In my new and recent bid for healthy living, I have not only purchased a video, The Crunch - The Latest, Most Effective Way To Flatten Your Stomach for 59p from Barnardos, and almost severed both my knee joints and done temporary damage to my nether regions by cycling at top speed just about everywhere on my new friend, Jeopardy, but I have also been making healthy, vitamin packed soup. In fact, the same soup, for the whole of the last week. Pea soup has, as all things are wont to do with me, become a bit of an obsession.

Up until last week I didn't actually own a fridge with a working freezer compartment, instead having one with the equivalent of Antarctica at the top. Having waited one year (yes, that's ONE YEAR) to get my lovely companions at my letting agency to supply me with a new one, finally I arrived home one day to find another fridge plonked unceremoniously in my hallway. Unfortunately upon perusal I discovered that (oh, why was I not surprised by this) the new fridge was broken in exactly the same place as the old one, ie, the freezer door had bust. Twats. However, thanks to Bob's handywork, some superglue and a hacksaw, a new freezer door was finally installed, allowing me untold new pleasures, such as the buying and storing of frozen peas.

One happy byproduct of making pea soup is that I get to indulge my little pecadillo of munching on handfuls of peas straight from the freezer as I go about my business. I remember, growing up, that my sisters and I were all big fans of frozen peas, helping ourselves to huge bowlfuls of them from the freezer, eating them like sweets. In fact, my sisters and I developed several unusual eating habits in our youth, such as munching raw Supernoodles straight from the packet and eating a variety of baby foods from glass jars. However, the chief favourite in our house was Farley's Rusks, sometimes whole, sometimes mashed. Ahh, heaven. I only grew out of eating baby food in my twenties, at about the same time I stopped blagging half-fare tickets on train journeys.

My diet was relatively restrained in my youth compared with my sister, who, apart from the raw noodles and baby food, seemed to exist almost entirely on a diet of nail varnish, Wagon Wheels and plastic forks, which she devoured with relish. No plastic cutlery was safe in her clutches, and my mother regularly complained of my sister eating up the last of her best shade of Rimmel.

Anyhow, his latest batch of soup is mighty fine. Nutritious, thick and hearty, and an amazing colour, I'm in pea heaven.

Other news - well, apart from the fact that Charlie is STILL in the Big Brother house, despite the fact that she has shown herself to be The Spawn of The Devil, so foul-mouthed and manipulative she is, and that Liam has been wearing a gimp outfit in the BB house all day as part of one of their tasks, I've been having another unsuccessful trawl of poetry sites on the Web in the hope of finding poetry I can relate to and respect. There seems, however, to be an overload of male 'poets' who seem to think that writing about shagging in lifts and going down on hairy women makes them somehow the enfant terribles of the poetry circuit. No one seems to have told these boys that simply obsessing about what one does, or would like to do, with ones penis does not make one Charles Bukowski.

Ok, I'd better go, my book is calling and my arms are sore.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Saturday

The fucking rain does not stop raining and the fucking streets do not stop streaming with all this dirty water. It's British Summertime and the umbrellas are out, I'm sitting inside my flat with a hangover, with a comedown. Saw a couple of unmemorable folky/indiey musical acts last night in the most uncomely surroundings, improved only by black and white wall paintings that depicted a blind man chasing another faceless man in a top hat. I drank pear cider, brandy and tequila, talked Big Brother and wobbled home on my bike in the early hours. It's forecast storms for 40 days and nights or something like that, and we may well be in Noah's Ark by the end of the month if we go on this rate, or in some other equally technicoloured Biblical disaster epic.

So what's new pussycat? I'm grumpy. Have written at least five beginnings of songs, none of which have proceeded past that point before I've given up. I've considered doing many things, done none, lay down, got up again, lay down, got up and trawled YouTube, felt depressed because I'm a girl, not a boy, because I'm unknown, not famous and because people say I'm powerful and I feel weak. I thought about how come female singer/songwriters with beautiful voices and pretty lyrics about the confusions of being a sensitive woman full of longings make me want to gag, and I tried to write a song about it but didn't get past the fourth line. Hoped to God that at least if all else fails and ruins in my life, I shall at least not end up singing songs like that.

I lay on my bed this afternoon, looked back at my life and saw nothing of value, nothing at all. For a few minutes I regretted all of it, saw nothing in the future because it felt like all that I am is nothing compared to all that I'm not. Oh that terrible place, the one we all strive so hard to stay out of falling, where there is only blackness coming in.

I feel better for it though - for the descent, for that sacred act of despair. I actually feel quite cheerful now. I can see the lovely joke of it all again and feel plugged into a bright source of electricity. When I love how messed up it is, life becomes a shining, brilliant thing. Still keeping up a grumpy front but am not really, I've got a cup of tea in my hand and am happy to remember such things in life as cake, penguins and disability carts, and that songs such as this exist, and that they always, always, make me smile.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

tuesday

These days are dark days, or perhaps light days with the curtains half-open, semi-shut. These days I am leaping from a tower into blackness, or I am rolled up in bed, clutching sheets and blankets.

I'm not sure where I begin or where this story is going, my life's ebbing away and only just beginning. I'm on the right road, but quite lost. I have achieved, and the future spreads out in front of me like an empty plain. I fear I'm a failure.

These words bluster what I want to say. Focusless at the moment and yet driven, I'm almost crazily heading towards some destination. I want to pack up my flat, get the hell out of here. I want to go mad at some festival. I want to walk a dog in the moonlight, by the River Adur. In short, I'm confused.

I get these spells from time to time, in fact, they can stretch on for months. The only real remedy perhaps is to get out of the flat, go walking, do something, anything, to stop the ceaseless mind-chatter, the compulsions, the laziness, the swirling head that takes over.

I feel like I have been dropped from a great height and have landed, splat, on a vacated hillside. All is possibility, and therefore, all is frightening. Too much possibility scares me, but stasis and stagnant boggy fields, empty of flowers, scare me more. I'm running scared, scared of my life, of what I might become if I put my mind to it, of what I might fail to become, if I don't.

I'm reading a book on Harry Crosby, who founded the Black Sun Press and who was found shot dead with his lover in a hotel room in New York in 1929. When they found his body, he wore a black flower in his lapel and his toenails were painted bright red.

I am very afraid of a character like Harry Crosby, and of course, fascinated. I find it hard to conceive of a life without drama and gunshots, excess and vision. But in truth, either my skin and my bones are thinning or I am simply becoming more aware of how sensitive I am to life's madnesses. I can't abide betrayal anymore, I can't abide mind-expanding drugs, or even hangovers, I can't do illicit sex, or even perversion and it feels as though I am turning into a moralist, a radical feminist and an evangelist. Am I simply too long lived to not see through all this junk, or am I getting frailer? Who knows, but though I feel stronger in ways I never thought I was, I also feel more delicate than ever, a china cup who wants warm liquid inside her, without the cracks, without being dropped to the floor. I want no more smashing.

Oh, this is a strange post. There is so much to tell about the facts and figures of my life, but for some reason, here, I want to keep it secret. Change is afoot, but in which direction, God only knows.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Wednesday

I cycled into town today, mist billowing towards me. I have had a complicated relationship with my bicycle, Jeopardy. It has been fraught, to say the least. I am feeling now, however, that we are finally beginning to understand each other, rather than simply tolerating each other, or at worst, forming what can only be described as a dysfunctional bond, based on mutual dislike and mistrust. I have to admit, I haven't been very caring towards her.

These foggy days, I love them even more than those ones which are pumped with sunshine and crisp blue skies. Today, the sea looked like snow. The West Pier was even more spectral than usual, rising up out of the frosty waves like a black demon. On days like this, it is possible for me to believe that I could be living in any age, the world stilled into a black and white photograph, all modernity vanished.

On days like this, it makes me cry to think about leaving Brighton.

Friday, June 08, 2007

News

I finally have a Myspace! In fact, I now have two, one for my songs and my band, which I have in fact named after this very weblog, and one for my poetry. So do check them out!

www.myspace.com/thisbeautifulhunger
www.myspace.com/clarefdavies