Friday, November 30, 2007


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.